Sidney Nolan

Sidney Nolan: Myth Rider

TarraWarra Museum of Art
by
20 December 2021

This is a beautiful, thought-provoking, and timely exhibition about the enduring power and relevance of myth to humanity. In fact, visitors get two exhibitions in one, in the way that TarraWarra Museum of Art does exceptionally well: with contemporary art speaking back to Australian modernism – the original core of the museum’s permanent collection.

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The British Museum’s connection with Australia goes right back to 29 April 1770, when Captain Cook landed at the place he called Botany Bay because of the large number of plant specimens gathered there by Joseph Banks, one of the Museum’s most influential early trustees. As a polyglot public institution dedicated by Act of Parliament (1753) to allowing any citizen to study and understand the whole world, past and present, the British Museum was a magnet for generations of Australian colonists visiting and revisiting the imperial capital, especially artists. This was as true for Arthur Streeton, Fred McCubbin, George Lambert, Bertram Mackennal, and Rupert Bunny as it was much later for Sidney Nolan, Fred Williams, Brett Whiteley, and many other twentieth-century Australian artists. No doubt it will continue to be true of those members of future generations of Australians who visit London.

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Handsomely illustrated, beautifully produced and authoritatively written, Gavin Fry’s monograph on Albert Tucker aims to establish him as an important artist within the Australian twentieth-century canon. Fry begins his introduction with the statement that Tucker ‘was a man who inspired strong feelings and his work likewise required the viewer to make a stand. Many found his work difficult, some even repellent, but the artist and his art demanded attention. Equally gifted as a painter, and possibly more so as a draughtsman than his contemporaries Nolan, Boyd and Perceval, Tucker belongs with this élite who revolutionised Australian painting in Melbourne in the 1940s.’ But is this really so? Was Tucker really so much better than his contemporaries, or even as good as them?

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