Art Gallery of South Australia

Clarice Beckett: The Present Moment

Art Gallery of South Australia
by
13 April 2021

Bells and whistles are common enough, in both form and content, in contemporary exhibitions. This time they are actual, sonic: a soundscape of birdsong, a Melbourne tram bell, clopping horses’ hooves floating through Clarice Beckett: The Present Moment, which is at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) until 16 May. It’s lovely, subtle, complementing a revelatory encounter with an artist whose work is, through Tracey Lock’s enchanting exhibition, about to become far better known.

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Desert Country by Nici Cumpston with Barry Patton & Yiwarra Kuju by National Museum of Australia

by
November 2010, no. 326

During the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) held this August in far north Queensland, the city was buzzing with the visit of many of the country’s leading contributors to contemporary indigenous arts and culture. I ran into some of the most significant visual, performing and literary indigenous artists and arts professionals, many with hereditary links to the region, such as internationally renowned artists Vernon Ah Kee, Ken Thaiday Sr, and Daniel Boyd, and leading arts advocates, mingling with emerging artistic practitioners.

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Encompassing installation, sculpture, drawing, photography, and the moving image, Patricia Piccinini’s fifteen-year survey exhibition of sixty-five works at the Art Gallery of South Australia coincides with the period of her exploration of issues surrounding genetic modification/manipulation in the biotech era. Piccinini’s investigations are, as the exhibition’s title suggests, cautionary tales.

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One of the notable things about living in a small country is that you can enjoy many first-rate second-rate things. Given the post-Renaissance domination of the visual arts by painting, prints have for a long time been driven into a supplementary role by artists, historians, and the market, and, as a result, have tended to be treated as minor works, curios, or historical illustrations. Because, moreover, Australia was a far-flung colony of the British Empire for much of its modern history, treated by its masters as ancillary to ‘the main game’, this situation mitigated against the acquisition of many exceptional paintings. Australians bought prints instead. State galleries acquired staggering print collections, from Dürer through to Rembrandt, Piranesi, Blake and Goya to the present. As its subtitle suggests, A Beautiful Line: Italian Prints from Mantegna to Piranesi showcases one important local collection, in Adelaide. Running the gamut from Renaissance to Rococo, the exhibition presents 135 prints ranging from the iconic to the obscure, culminating with works by such luminaries as Canaletto and Giambattista Tiepolo.

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