Arts – Visual Arts

She-Oak and Sunlight

National Gallery of Victoria
by
05 May 2021

I have frequented too often the gift shops of Australian Impressionism. Back in 1985, I mooned over David Davies’ Templestowe twilight scene before purchasing the corresponding tea towel (for my mum), Fire’s On placemats with matching coasters (for my dad), and lost child mugs (for my siblings, only one of whom took offence).

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The National 2021

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
by
27 April 2021

The National 2021: New Australian Art, conceived in 2017, is a biennial survey exhibition to ‘address the specificities and nuances of what it means to make art from and for an Australian context at this point in time’. It is a joint initiative of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia (MCA). In its first iteration, the ethos of collaboration – not just between these three major Sydney art institutions but between curators, artists, and writers – was writ large.

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Nice is Different than Good

The Art Syndicate
by
26 April 2021

The works of New York artist Gregory Uzelac are currently being exhibited behind a set of nondescript, graffiti-laden doors on Sydney’s Bourke Street. The exhibition, titled Nice Is Different Than Good, has an underground feel to it. The art is presented on tarpaulin and pizza boxes, alongside traditional canvas. In each piece, neon-hued paint has been splashed about in shapes that are abstract, confronting, and occasionally reminiscent of Wassily Kandinsky.

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With its title, William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen, an exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery, signals two prongs of the politics of vision: the power of the gaze and the importance of representation, an apt framing for an artist who has been invested in both for more than fifty years. As a substantial and generous retrospective, curated by Rosie Hayes, it threads together the distinct but connected themes of Yang’s practice: queerness, particularly the queerness of gay men; Chinese-Australian identity and experience; the Australian landscape; and the art, film, and literary scene in Sydney.

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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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Joan Mitchell: World of Colour

National Gallery of Australia
by
15 March 2021

The American Joan Mitchell is one of a legion of celebrated twentieth-century artists with a ghost presence in this country. Since her death in 1992, her vibrant, energetic paintings have become increasingly appreciated, and now her star is rising again. This year Mitchell is the subject of a major retrospective in the United States, which will also be seen in Paris in 2022. The National Gallery of Australia’s current exhibition is part of the year-long Know My Name suite of projects. An outcome of the NGA’s long relationship with master printmaker Kenneth Tyler, Joan Mitchell: World of Colour, led by emerging curator Anja Loughhead, is the first exhibition anywhere to focus solely on Mitchell’s prints, which were made in two concentrated bursts with Tyler, in 1981 and again in 1992, just before the artist’s death.

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The Business of Photography

Chau Chak Wing Museum
by
11 March 2021

Few exhibitions about photography are premised on something other than the resulting image. The Business of Photography: The 19th century studio in NSW at Sydney University’s new Chau Chak Wing Museum makes an intriguing step back from the cased daguerreotypes, carte de visite, and collectable stereo cards of the nineteenth century. It invites visitors into the places of these images’ latency and the jostling personalities that brought them into being. Curator Jan Brazier has put together a playful show that tracks the photography studio from mid-nineteenth-century itinerant operations to early twentieth-century industrial powerhouses. It highlights the tension between the boosterish egos and financial precarity that shrouded these businesses in colonial New South Wales.

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Botticelli to Van Gogh

National Gallery of Australia
by
04 March 2021

It is hard not to marvel at the logistical challenges that must have faced the production of the National Gallery of Australia’s current blockbuster exhibition, Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London. Amid a global pandemic that has effectively brought international travel to a halt, the NGA has made it possible for Australians to view some of the most important paintings in the history of Western art – paintings only ever seen in London. Without having to board an aeroplane, this exhibition transports the visitor to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, which is currently closed. Visitors to Botticelli to Van Gogh are given the precious opportunity to stand – socially distanced, of course – in front of sixty-one works by artists such as Titian, Hals, Velázquez, Turner, and Monet.  

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TIWI

National Gallery of Victoria
by
01 March 2021

Today, our screen-filled lives both encourage and condition us – through our collective, incessant scrolling – to dip in and to consume; a modus operandi or malaise that affects both exhibition-making and the viewing habits of audiences that are increasingly enticed and rewarded by contemporary art as spectacle – art that is immersive, often participatory in some way, and that looks great on Instagram. TIWI, the major survey of Tiwi art at NGV Australia, stands in stark contrast to this phenomenon. It invites us to slow down in order to absorb the stories, connections, and extraordinary sense of cultural continuity that reverberates across the exhibition. It is at once a celebration and a joy to experience.

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Postwar memorial gardens can be found the world over. Gardens scholar Paul Gough has noted how planted memory is an essential aspect of future remembering; gardens create inclusive spaces that rely on participation and careful nurturing to ensure that memory stays ‘alert, relevant and passed on from generation to generation’. The dedicated memory garden at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance is a site of ritual remembering of equal importance to sites such as Anzac Head in Turkey. Gough argues that the front can be symbolically transplanted. Objects, seeds, letters, and small packages of soil were often bought home, particularly where bodily remains could not be retrieved.

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