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painting | John McDonald

painting

David Hockney

August 4, 2016

“Los Angeles is an acquired taste,” says David Hockney, although he admits he fell for the city on his very first visit in 1964. After growing up in Yorkshire, Hockney was excited by the “eroticism” of L.A. It was like nothing he’d seen or imagined. To a young, gay artist from Britain’s gloomy north it … More


Degas

July 28, 2016

Degas had a dread of publicity and an intense dislike of journalists. “Those people trap you in your bed,” he grumbled, “strip off your shirt, corner you in the street, and when you complain, they say: ‘You belong to the public.’” Almost a hundred years after his death, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834-1917) has become public property … More


Jenny Sages

July 28, 2016

“As artists we’re not nearly as interesting as writers,” Jenny Sages once confessed. “We’re all just finger painting, but when someone gives me a sentence I can remember, it triggers something very strong inside me.” In one of her new works Sages quotes a poem by Anna Akhmatova, the words picked out in tiny perforations … More


Frida and Diego

July 22, 2016

When 22-year-old Frida Kahlo married 42-year-old Diego Rivera in August 1929, her parents described it as the union of a dove and an elephant. This may have been a fair description of the newlyweds’ physical attributes, but Diego was also an elephant in terms of his public profile while Frida seemed as quiet as a … More


Archibald Prize 2016

July 15, 2016

For a severe case of cultural vertigo try spending three weeks in the museums of Europe gazing at portraits by Rembrandt, Rubens and Beckmann, before hurrying back to Sydney for… the Archibald Prize! If travel broadens the mind it’s a positive disadvantage when it comes to appreciating the charms of this great Australian institution. Faced … More


Sally Gabori

July 8, 2016

Indigenous art is never purely “abstract” but it comes mighty close in the works of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori (c.1924-2015), the subject of a eye-opening retrospective at the Queensland Art Gallery. Gabori’s paintings may refer to Bentick Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where she lived until the age of 24, but to call her … More


Telling Tales

July 1, 2016

At the 1986 Adelaide Festival I attended a couple of evenings with American actor, Spalding Gray, who sat on a bare stage and delivered monologues. It sounds like a recipe for boredom but Gray’s performances were spell-binding – a revelation as to the power of simple, unadulterated story-telling. In tribal cultures the role of story-telling … More


Whistler’s Mother

June 3, 2016

In the recent Head On photo festival, one memorable picture showed a side-on view of a dominatrix in a shiny black jump suit sitting in a curved chair. On the grey wall behind the sitter was a framed photo of a muscle-man’s torso covered in leather straps. It was Whistler’s Mother for bondage fiends and … More


Arthur Streeton & Kevin Lincoln

May 27, 2016

“If we so choose we can yet be the elect of the world, the last of the pastoralists, the thoroughbred Aryans in all their nobility.” These words were penned by J.S.MacDonald in the special Arthur Streeton Number of Art in Australia, October 1931. At the time MacDonald was director of the National Art Gallery of New … More


Jan Senbergs

May 12, 2016

There is one painting in Jan Senbergs: Observation – Imagination at the National Gallery of Victoria that should strike a chord with every true artist. The Swimmer (1995) shows a small figure battling his way through dark, choppy waves, with no shoreline in sight. It conjures up those moments in the studio when inspiration disappears, … More