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Barnaby Smith

Barnaby Smith is a critic, poet and musician currently living on Gundungurra and Darug land. His writing on art, literature, film and music appears regularly in Art Guide Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Quietus, Metro, Australian Book Review and others. He records music as Brigadoon and released the album Itch Factor in 2020:

The Wife

ABR Arts 30 July 2018
Björn Runge’s The Wife features several claustrophobic and tense scenes that take place in the back of a limousine driving Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) and her novelist husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce) through the snowy streets of Stockholm, where Joe is accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature. In one, Joan says to him, ‘Don’t thank me in your speech, I don’t want to come off as the long-suff ... (read more)

Mary Shelley

ABR Arts 02 July 2018
The two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) has given rise to a predictable slew of new reflections and reappraisals offering a twenty-first-century context to this seminal work. None was written with more erudition or acuity than Jill Lepore’s essay for the New Yorker, which emphasised both the novel’s potential as a poli ... (read more)

Barnaby Smith reviews 'On Patrick White' by Christos Tsiolkas

August 2018, no. 403 25 June 2018
The Western world was well into the swing of our proverbial digital age when Patrick White passed away at his home on Martin Road in Centennial Park at the age of seventy-eight in 1990. Yet, as Christos Tsiolkas suggests at the outset of this taut and lively meditation on Australia’s greatest novelist, Patrick White is often perceived as a relic from a long- forgotten and irrelevant era, a twent ... (read more)

Gauguin: Voyage de Tahiti

ABR Arts 28 May 2018
Paul Gauguin’s storied journey to Tahiti represents one of the great exotic odysseys in modern art. In 1891, in a fit of frustration with the superficiality of the Parisian art world and a city that was ‘rotten, filthy and disgusting’, as Gauguin’s titular character puts it, Gauguin left his young family and journeyed to the proverbial South Seas in search of the raw poetry of wilderness, ... (read more)

Human Flow

ABR Arts 13 March 2018
The unspeakably upsetting image of the three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach inspired a number of visual or artistic responses after it went disturbingly viral in 2015. Among the most high-profile, and certainly among the most provocative, was Ai Weiwei’s. The exiled Chinese artist recreated the scene for his own black-and-white photograph, in which he lies face down ... (read more)

Namatjira Project

ABR Arts 04 September 2017
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this review contains images or names of people who have since passed away. On display in the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane is a series of thirteen paintings by Vincent Namatjira, great-grandson of Albert, titled Albert’s Story. Each painting shows an important moment in the life of the seminal painter, who died in 1959. One ... (read more)


ABR Arts 05 May 2017
In 1980, Brett Whiteley completed his famous portrait of Patrick White, Patrick White at Centennial Park 1979–1980, disagreements over which caused a terminal rupture in the friendship between the two men. Of his intentions for the painting Whiteley said, ‘Could I make a vision of the feeling of his literature plus how he lived, and the complexity of him as a person, his humour, his bitchiness ... (read more)

Barnaby Smith reviews 'The Bricks that Built the Houses' by Kate Tempest

September 2016, no. 384 24 August 2016
Kate Tempest's début is the expansion of a story she threaded through her 2014 album of protest hip-hop, Everybody Down. In its transformation to novel form it has become part love story, part state of the nation, part existential treatise. This much-admired spoken-word artist's venture into prose is a compelling attempt at capturing the restlessness and anger of disenfranchised 'millenials' (Tem ... (read more)

Barnaby Smith reviews 'List of the Lost' by Morrissey

December 2015, no. 377 27 November 2015
Like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, Morrissey is among the relatively few figures in popular music deemed worthy of serious academic attention. Scholarly theses on Morrissey are common, dissecting the poetic cadence and social relevance of his remarkable song lyrics, from The Smiths' self-titled début album of 1984 to more recent solo albums. It is not surprising, therefore, that such a 'literary' ... (read more)
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