Australian art

Sculpture by the Sea 2013

November 9, 2013
Bert Flugelman, Semaphore, 2000, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2013. Image from Instagram.

It was not the best of times, it was not worst of times. The 17th annual Sculpture by the Sea (SxS) features the usual mix of pieces that might be described as ‘serious’ sculpture, and others that are little more than gimmicks. It has become a familiar recipe but seems to go down well with … More


Australia at the Royal Academy

September 28, 2013
John Olsen, Sydney sun (King sun) 1965, oil on three plywood panels, 307.0 h x 412.5 w x 4.0 d cm

Australia at the Royal Academy of Arts in London has echoes of Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster movie of 2010. Like that overblown, incoherent concoction, the one-word title of the RA show suggests this is all you will ever need to know about Australian art. It presents itself as a definitive statement. Kathleen Soriano, Director of Exhibitions … More


Party time in London

September 21, 2013
Sidney Nolan, 'Ned Kelly', 1946, Enamel paint on composition board, 90.8 x 121.5 cm

For the long-anticipated show of Australian art at the Royal Academy the opening night was always going to be a joyous affair. The problem is that nobody looks at the art at an opening. Having already spent hours inspecting this exhibition I felt like a party pooper when people gushed: “Isn’t it wonderful!?” No, it’s … More


C.J.Pyle & J.D.’Ohai Ojeikere; Mary Tonkin; Six Artists, Seven Days

August 24, 2013
C. J. Pyle, Carbonique, 2011, ballpoint pen, paint and graphite on LP jacket sleeve, 31 x 31 cm

After many years of exile from the high church of contemporary art, Ray Hughes is now thinking maybe there is a God. His faith has been momentarily restored by a visit from Chris Dercon, the director of Tate Modern, London, who came to Australia last month to deliver a lecture sponsored by Kaldor Public Art … More


One week in Darwin

August 17, 2013
Gulumbu Yunipingu, Ganyu-the universe, 2008 (detail)

Darwin will always be a frontier town, but at this time of year it is the most cultured place in Australia. Enjoying a brief window of perfect dry season weather, the Darwin Festival has become a keenly anticipated event, with a lively mix of local and international acts. Because the Northern Territory is the heartland … More


Kevin Connor, Ricky Swallow & ‘Found’

August 10, 2013
Kevin Connor, Evening light (Liverpool Street west) with courthouse and cat, 2013, oil on canvas, 193 x 203 cm

Kevin Connor’s paintings aren’t pretty but they are attractive, having the peculiar magnetism of anything done with no thought of an audience or a peer group. This only begins to seem like a virtue when one thinks of all the art made as part of a career strategy, or by those who want to be … More


Peter Rushforth

August 3, 2013
Vase c1991, tenmoku and jun glazes, was resist decoration, (h)28cm, d)26cm

Pottery today is in a paradoxical position. Alongside the wraparound videos, sculptural installations and performance works favoured by the contemporary art museums it seems decidedly unsexy. Yet stand in a gallery in front of a great pot and it is hard to think of anything more sensual, more engaging, more reflective of the human hand … More


Sydney Moderns

July 20, 2013
Herbert Badham, 'George Street, Sydney', 1934

When an artist calls a work A Painted Picture of the Universe it means he’s thinking big. It’s rather a grand title for a small abstraction, even if it did take Roy De Maistre 14 years to complete this cosmological fantasy. De Maistre (1894-1968) is one of the central figures in Sydney Moderns: Art for … More


Philip Wolfhagen

July 13, 2013
Phillip Wolfhagen, Past the dead wattle no. 1’, 2009, oil & beeswax on linen, 46 x 49cm

To appreciate the art of Philip Wolfhagen one must be tolerant of repetition. Few Australian artists are more devoted to the serial approach to painting: fastening on to a particular motif, making small changes in colour and tone on successive canvases until the theme is exhausted. For Wolfhagen’s fans the process is mesmeric, for his … More


Jeffrey Smart 1921-2013

June 22, 2013
Jeffrey Smart, Cahill Expressway, 1962, oil on plywood, 81.9 x 111.3 cm

Although he assumed an imposing stature in his later years, Jeffrey Smart was a grafter not a dasher. A careful, methodical craftsman, he had little respect for painters such as Sidney Nolan who might produce dozens of canvases in a week. For Smart a painting had to be constructed with the same care that an … More