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National Gallery of Victoria | John McDonald

National Gallery of Victoria

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The Field Revisited

May 25, 2018

No exhibition of Australian art has been more mythologised than The Field. Indeed, its only historical competition might be the 9 by 5 Impression exhibition of 1889, in which artists such as Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton scandalised Melbourne by calling themselves “Impressionists”. The Field proved equally controversial when it launched the new St.Kilda Road … More


Kathryn Del Barton: The Highway is a Disco

January 20, 2018

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

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

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


Xu Zhen

December 8, 2017

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


The House of Dior

October 13, 2017

Christian Dior was never one to boast about his achievements but he had very clear ideas about the importance of fashion. “I have always seen my profession as a kind of struggle against all that is depressing and mediocre in our age,” he once said. It’s a statement any couturier would be happy to own. … More


Hokusai

September 1, 2017

If ever an image deserved to be called “iconic” it is The great wave off Kanagawa (1830-34), by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Everyone knows this famous print of two boats menaced by a monstrous surge of water that reaches out like a hungry predator with a hundred talons. This was exactly the way the picture struck … More


William Eggleston: Portraits

June 1, 2017

In By the Ways, an off-beat documentary about William Eggleston, there is a sequence in which the photographer answers questions from an unseen German interviewer. Straining after profundity the interviewer asks: “Do you understand your work as an expression of your existence?” There’s an agonising pause, then a response in Eggleston’s southern drawl: “Probably.” Eggleston … More


Bill Henson

May 25, 2017

Walter Pater famously opined that all art aspires to the condition of music, but Bill Henson is an artist who views the boundaries between art, music and literature as completely porous. In his case one might go further and blur the lines between painting, sculpture and photography. No photographer is more skilled at creating images … More


Van Gogh and the Seasons

May 13, 2017

When Vincent Van Gogh shot himself in a field near Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890 he was on the verge of a successful career. The tide had turned against Impressionism, which was felt to be too dry and rational in its methods. Up-and-coming critics such as Albert Aurier were championing the role of the imagination, and saw … More


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