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

After Utopia

September 5, 2015
IAN WOO, We Have Crossed The Lake, 2009, acrylic on linen, 194 × 244 cm. Courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

Irony has never been a big feature of life in Singapore, but perhaps it’s catching on. Of all nations on the planet, Singapore is arguably the closest thing to a social laboratory, where economic and cultural programs are dreamt up by a paternalistic state and broadly accepted by the population. This centralised control has made … More

William Delafield Cook (1936-2015)

May 15, 2015
William Delafield Cook, A haystack, 1978

In an article of 1979, Bryan Robertson, a curator who did much to advance the cause of Australian art in London, wrote that William Delafield Cook’s paintings seemed to have “no discernible ‘Australian’ qualities.” Yet Cook, who spent much of his career living and working in Britain, remained devoted to the Australian landscape, never showing … More


May 2, 2015
Deirdre Bean, Image 1: 'Cape Helles', 2014, watercolour on paper and vellum. Image 2: '303 inch British Mk VII', 2014, watercolour on paper and vellum. Courtesy the artist

There’s a lonely stretch of hillocks: There’s a beach asleep and drear: There’s a battered broken fort beside the sea. There are sunken trampled graves: And a little rotting pier: And winding paths that wind unceasingly. There’s a torn and silent valley: There’s a tiny rivulet With some blood upon the stones beside its mouth. … More

Anzac Evolution

April 25, 2015
Image courtesy James Compton

Looking at Australia in the years before and after the First World War, one feels like asking: “What went wrong?” There was so much happening in those early years of nationhood, so many glorious ideals forged in the war itself, that the post-war years can only be seen as a lost opportunity. Constitutional historian, Helen … More


April 18, 2015
Luke Sciberras, 'Along the
Gallipoli Peninsula', 2014, oil on board, 60 x 84cm

When George Lambert travelled to the battlefields of Gallipoli in February 1919 he found a landscape transformed into “a perfect rabbit warren’, riven with trenches and littered with bones. “The jackals, damn them were chorusing their hate, the bones showed up white even in the faint dawn, and I felt rotten,” he wrote. “The worst … More

Michael Schlieper (1947-2015)

April 18, 2015
Michael Schlieper, 'But What's Behind It?'

Artists with superior technical abilities are often studies in disappointment. When you can paint like an Old Master it is depressing to see the kind of stuff that turns up in Biennales and public collections. Neither can one un-learn abilities that have become second nature. It’s a predicament that breeds fatalism. Michael Schlieper had all … More


November 22, 2014
Ross Laurie, 'Walcha II', (2013).

French poet and essayist, Paul Valéry, said that drawing required “a sustained act of will” – but any child can pick up a pencil and draw with pleasure. The act of drawing, which keeps growing less definable, is both simple and hard. Simple because anyone can make a mark, hard because it requires unstinting practice … More

Salon des Refusés 2014

August 9, 2014
Nick Stathopoulo, Ugly, Portrait of Robert Hoge, acrylic and oil on linen

So much has already been written about Sydney’s $9.3 million public sculpture proposals that I’m in two minds whether to comment or leave it alone. Nevertheless, it’s an issue that won’t go away. It’s depressing that the very idea of a city council spending money on art brings out the philistine in a large proportion … More

Bigger is Better

November 8, 2013
David Hockney, Yosemite I, October 16th 2011. iPad Drawing printed on six sheets of paper (71 3/4 x 42 3/4 inches each), mounted on six sheets of Dibond, 143 1/2 x 128 1/4 inches overall. © 2013 David Hockney

David Hockney broke all previous attendance records at the Royal Academy of Arts last year, with his show A Bigger Picture. The RA tells us that 650,000 people crowded through those galleries to see a show largely devoted to landscapes of Yorkshire, the artist’s birthplace. It sounds hard to believe, until one sees David Hockney: A Bigger … More