Australian artist

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


Country & Western

November 13, 2015
William Robinson, 'Shaded pool Carnarvon', oil on canvas, 92 x 122cm, 2008, Rockhampton Art Gallery collection

As Country & Western: landscape re-imagined tours Australia, it will leave a trail of disappointed music fans. The title seems to promise some mystical conjunction of landscape painting and Slim Dusty. In reality it’s all landscape. At the S.H.Ervin Gallery there is not even the sound of a guitar twanging in the background. It makes … More


Robert MacPherson

September 19, 2015
Robert MacPherson
Mayfair: Bethonga Gold, for B.T.O's 1995-2006
National Gallery of Australia

If Robert MacPherson (b. 1937) were a character in a novel he would test the reader’s credulity. It’s hard to believe in the idea of a conceptual artist raised in a Queensland country town, who left school early to work in a cannery and then as a musterer at a cattle station. By the age … More


William Dobell: Painter in Paradise

July 4, 2015
WILLIAM DOBELL,
'Head of Kuta girl' (1953)
oil on hardboard, 45 x 34 cm.
Private collection

Although he was one of Australia’s best-known artists, William Dobell (1899-1970) was inordinately sensitive to criticism. After the notorious court case over his Archibald Prize win of 1943, Dobell withdrew to his hideaway in Wangi where he suffered from a series of nervous complaints. He broke out in severe dermatitis and at one point lost … More


Trent Parke

April 25, 2015
Trent Parke, Australia, born 1971, Swan, Adelaide, 2007, © Trent Parke/Magnum Photos

Death and the photo are close relations, as every click of the camera records a moment that will never be repeated. What we tend to admire in a photographer is the ability to transcend this inherent morbidity, to take the stuff of everyday life and shape it into something strange and marvellous. No photographer could … More


Shaun Gladwell

March 14, 2015
Shaun Gladwell, Untitled (Wanderer above the sea of fog) (Detail), 2014


Watching the inexorable rise of Shaun Gladwell over the past decade makes me feel like the only teetotaler at a drunken party. After absorbing many hours of video, I still don’t get it. When everyone was gasping about Storm Sequence (2000) – a slow-motion film of Gladwell on a skateboard, I thought it was stupefying. … More