Australian artist

Louise Hearman

October 15, 2016
An image of Untitled #1279 by Louise Hearman

Smokers who have become desensitised to the horror photos on cigarette packets may be surprised to find the same images exquisitely rendered in paintings at the Museum of Contemporary Art. In a survey of Louise Hearman’s work, a glass case in a side room offers an insight into the strange, unsettling pictures found in the … More


LOUISE HEARMAN: AGAINST THE GRAIN

October 14, 2016
Untitled #1118, 2005, oil on composition board, Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Michael Hawker, 2009

I think I surrendered obediently to the secret laws which led me to form, as best as I could, and following my dream, the things into which I have put my entire being.[1] Odilon Redon, To Myself Like Des Esseintes, the antihero of Huysmans’s cult novel of 1884, Against the Grain (À rebours), Louise Hearman … More


John Olsen: The You Beaut Country

October 7, 2016
John Olsen, 'Where the bee sucks, there suck I' (1984-86)

John Olsen has always been larger-than-life – a quality that has fostered both adulation and irritation. In the 1950s when he was still searching for a direction, Olsen did some thinking about the nature of art. “If it’s not a game there’s something wrong,” he concluded. According to his biographer, Darleen Bungey, this would become … More


Harold the Kangaroo: A Preface

August 19, 2016
Harold Thornton in front of The Bulldog coffeeshop in Amsterdam. He painted the whole facade of the building, depicting the adventures of the owner’s Bulldog. The painted facade can still be seen today.

Lord Byron gave the name ‘Harold’ a Romantic association in his famous poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1818), and Australian art had a true Romantic hero in Harold ‘The Kangaroo’ Thornton. Like many heroic figures Harold was largely unappreciated in his own country, although he became a Bohemian celebrity in Amsterdam. This book is an important … More


Guy Warren

April 29, 2016
Guy Warren, Bathers (2), 1957

Guy Warren is the best proof that a positive attitude is the secret of eternal youth. Having just turned 95, Warren seems as vital as ever. I’ve known him for about 30 years and he hardly seems to have changed. He’s still painting and drawing, still driving, still alert and articulate. He’s one of those … More


Bill Henson: Oneiroi

April 8, 2016
In one image, the model drinks from an ancient gold cup. Photo: Bill Henson

Bill Henson has good reason to reflect on the differences between ourselves and the ancient Greeks. In a culture in which sexual relationships between men and boys were accepted as a normal rite of passage, it would have been unthinkable to vilify an artist for merely portraying the nude bodies of teenagers. In his new … More


Lloyd Rees

March 17, 2016
Lloyd Rees (1895-1988), Port Jackson fig tree 1934, pencil. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of Dr James Vincent Duhig, 1949.  © Lloyd Rees Estate/Licensed by Viscopy, 2015

This weekend sees the launch of the 20th Biennale of Sydney, the most high-profile event in the Australian art calendar. As usual I’ll devote two columns to this mega-exhibition, but in the meantime there is one very different show that has waited a little too long for attention. Lloyd Rees: Painting with Pencil 1930-36, at … More


Destination Sydney

January 22, 2016
Brett Whiteley, The balcony 2', (1975). AGNSW collection.

Destination Sydney is an inelegant title. It may be that Australian audiences only respond to the most banal and descriptive titles but that’s no reason for making shows sound like tourism initiatives. At the risk of coming across as a snob, I can only describe it as vulgar. Complaint registered, I’m happy to record that … More


Tom Roberts: Bailed Up

January 14, 2016
Tom Roberts, 'Bailed Up' (1895, 1927)

Tom Robert’s Bailed Up has been described by historian, Patrick McCarthy, who has written a book on the painting, as “probably Australia’s best known work of art”. The chief competition for this imaginary title would be Roberts’s other popular masterpiece, Shearing the Rams (1890). Few would dispute Roberts’s status as the pre-eminent Australian painter of … More


Tom Roberts

December 10, 2015
Tom Roberts, 'Shearing the rams' (1888-90)

After a winter or two of discontent the National Gallery of Australia is once again open for business. It’s not that one hasn’t been able to visit this renowned institution, it’s just that nobody seemed to be doing so. With a scandal over looted Indian art, and a James Turrell show that ran for no … More