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Australian art | John McDonald

Australian art

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Kathryn Del Barton: The Highway is a Disco

January 20, 2018

A friend in Melbourne thinks he’s found the key to the mysterious pictures of Del Kathryn Barton: Smarties. His theory goes that in the formative years of childhood Del had a desperate, unrequited desire for Smarties. As a result she has been compelled forever after to fill her paintings with these small, brightly coloured lollies. … More


Songlines

January 12, 2018

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters is a show with a story – one of the oldest ever told in this country. It’s an R-rated tale of seven sisters being pursued by a lustful man who first appears in the Pilbara and follows them across the deserts of Western Australia to the very heart of the … More


Gareth Sansom: Transformer

December 30, 2017

Invited to nominate a masterpiece for a Radio National interview, Gareth Sansom decided to talk about Ingmar Bergman’s movie, The Seventh Seal (1957), which he first saw when he was 18 years old. Decades later he was still thinking about the film, making it the subject of large-scale paintings in 2007 and 2013. The Grim … More


Ray Hughes 1946 – 2017

December 15, 2017

With the death of someone truly unique it seems the only words that leap to mind are clichés. I’m already counting the number of times I’ve heard that Ray Hughes, who died last week at the age of 72, after a bout of pneumonia, was “larger than life”, a “legendary” art dealer. Such epithets may … More


Tarnanthi 2017

November 2, 2017

Constitutional recognition for indigenous Australians is another one of those issues the government would prefer not to think about. Its proponents say it’s a matter of basic human rights but this term has been so weirdly politicised in recent years there are people who interpret a call for rights as opening the door to anarchy. … More


Sculpture by the Sea 2017

October 27, 2017

Sculpture by the Sea is 21 years old and everyone is invited to the party. From the moment the show opened last week the walk from Bondi to Tamarama was crowded with sightseers, school groups, and tourists speaking a confusion of languages worthy of the Tower of Babel. Cameras and mobile phones were clicking relentlessly. … More


Fred Williams in the You Yangs

September 21, 2017

Last year the Geelong Art Gallery held an exemplary survey of Arthur Streeton’s paintings made in Victoria’s Western Districts from 1920-32. The exhibition was a swansong for retiring director, Geoffrey Edwards. This year the gallery has marked the arrival of new director, Jason Smith, with a show of comparable importance: Fred Williams in the You … More


Sydney Contemporary 2017

September 15, 2017

It was both pleasing and wryly amusing to learn that sales at this year’s Sydney Contemporary Art Fair topped $16 million. For a commercial gallery sector feeling unloved and unvisited this figure represents a resounding endorsement. Nevertheless, before breaking out the champagne it’s worth putting that achievement into perspective with a glance at Day One … More


Jenny Watson

September 8, 2017

One imagines teachers at the Julian Ashton Art School sending their pupils across the road to the Museum of Contemporary Art, to see Jenny Watson: The Fabric of Fantasy. For the traditionally-minded it’s an object lesson in how not to make art. If there are any cynics among those students, they might say: “…nevertheless, it … More


The Public Body.02

August 18, 2017

Our age is one of unprecedented permissiveness and militant puritanism. Pornography of every description is available at the click of a keyboard, small children are sexualised in a manner that would have been inconceivable to our grandparents’ generation. Yet Newton’s third law applies in psychology as well as science: for every action, there is an … More


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