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contemporary art | John McDonald

contemporary art

Katharina Grosse

February 2, 2018
Katharina Grosse at Carriageworks

There’s a certain Guinness-Book-of-Records quality about Katharina Grosse’s installation at Carriageworks. On opening night everyone kept asking: “Is this the biggest painting in the world? Is this the biggest painting ever made in Australia?”, and so on. My short answer was: “I don’t know, but I’ve never seen a bigger painting anywhere.” A quick Internet … More


Hyper Real

January 25, 2018
Ron Mueck, 'Pregnant Woman' (2002)

Hyper Real at the National Gallery of Australia is one of those exhibitions that must have seemed like a great idea at the time. Realism may appear to be the most obvious approach to making art, but it has been the exception rather than the rule throughout different cultures and epochs. The Seated Scribe of … More


Kathryn Del Barton: The Highway is a Disco

January 20, 2018
The many faces of Del Kathryn Barton.. 'In another land'

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


Gareth Sansom: Transformer

December 30, 2017
Gareth Sansom, 'The Seventh Seal (i) (2007)

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


NGV Triennial 2017

December 23, 2017
Ron Mueck's 'Mass' takes up an entire gallery

Melbourne has long been envious of the Sydney Biennale, which has just announced the artist list for its 21st iteration in 2018. At the opening of the inaugural NGV Triennial this week there was much talk of the one-and-only Melbourne International Biennial, held in 1999, under a title that in retrospect sounds a little tragic: … More


Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow

December 15, 2017
Yayoi Kusama in front of her painting 'Life is the Heart of a Rainbow'

Yayoi Kusama has been the most hyperproductive of artists, but old age seems to have inspired even more prodigious feats. At 88-years-old her annual output of retrospectives, surveys, commercial exhibitions, public art projects and self-penned publications is mind-boggling. Most artists would feel pleased if they achieved as much during an entire lifetime. It helps, of … More


Xu Zhen

December 8, 2017
Xu Zhen's 'Eternity-Buddha in Nirvana' gets installed at the National Gallery of Victoria

In 2009 Xu Zhen decided he would “set aside his identity as an individual artist” and become a corporate entity. For the next four years, MadeIn Company (as in “Made in China”) would produce a dazzling variety of work for international museums and galleries. In 2013, its booming success encouraged the Company to release its … More


Pipilotti Rist: Sip My Ocean

December 8, 2017
Pipilotti Rist, tripping without drugs

“I will always be grateful to popular culture,” Pipilotti Rist told an interviewer in 2001. As a recent video clip by Beyoncé shows, popular culture should also be grateful to her. Pipilotti Rist: Sip my Ocean, at the Museum of Contemporary Art reveals the many and various ways this remarkable Swiss multi-media artist embraces popular … More


Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium

November 17, 2017
Robert Mapplethorpe, 'Self-Portrait' (1985)

It may be the acid test of political correctness but it should be possible to dislike Robert Mapplethorpe’s work without being viewed as homophobic. Mapplethorpe often said he didn’t wish to be known as a “gay artist”, but he is such an icon for the LGBT community it’s virtually impossible to dissociate his work from … More


Gerhard Richter

November 10, 2017
Gerhard Richter, Ema (nude on a staircase) the 1992 photoprint

For decades Gerhard Richter has been one of the world’s most successful living artists, with work in museums and leading private collections all over the planet. The current record price for one of his paintings stands at US$46 million. Now comes the the biggest test of a long and distinguished career: Can he make it … More