ABR Arts Visual Arts


Kelly Gellatly
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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Trent Parke: WW1 Avenue of Honour

A. Frances Johnson
08 February 2021

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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In Giambattista Battista Tiepolo’s The Banquet of Cleopatra (1743–44) – a jewel in the NGV’s collection of eighteenth-century art – a dining table shows the Egyptian queen Cleopatra facing the Roman consul Mark Antony, her hand elegantly clasping a pearl earring that she is about to drop into a flute glass filled with vinegar, which she will subsequently drink. In doing so, the sheer value of the pearl will make Cleopatra the winner of a wager as to which of the two could stage the most extravagant feast.

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'Streeton' (AGNSW)

Julie Ewington
17 December 2020

The purpose of a retrospective exhibition is to reconsider, to come to fresh insights. Streeton, now at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, is the largest exhibition of the painter’s works since his 1931 lifetime retrospective, which was also at AGNSW (the current offering is only twenty works shy of that show’s massive total of 170). It’s a feast, one that enables us to reassess the great man’s art. And like all good retrospectives, it questions older certainties.

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Looking Glass: Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce

Saskia Beudel
11 December 2020

Just inside the first large gallery space at the TarraWarra Museum of Art is a wall-size photograph of a cemetery in a palette of muted greys. The graves are homogenous, modest, tilting with age. Scattered among the headstones are sun-bleached plastic flowers and concrete teddy bears clasping empty concrete vases. In front of the photograph stands a mortuary table bearing blackened glass objects.

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Rayne Allinson
24 April 2020

‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,’ wrote the seventeenth-century writer Blaise Pascal. As many of us are discovering, doing nothing alone in a room is a surprisingly difficult and demanding task. Even in these unusual times, when we are being asked – or in some cases, legally required – to stay home and do as little as possible, we are bombarded with suggestions as to how we might fill this sudden excess of time. We can stream a classical concert, watch sea otters floating in distant pools, binge-watch the latest drama series on Netflix, try out ballet fitness routines in our lounge room, or (my chosen method) try to learn the ukulele. And then what? As Pascal knew (even without the benefit of YouTube or TikTok), the easier it is to distract ourselves, the more restless we seem to end up feeling.

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Assembled: The Art of Robert Klippel

Patrick McCaughey
10 March 2020

TarraWarra Museum of Art’s (TWMA) summer exhibition Assembled: The Art of Robert Klippel can only reinforce his reputation as Australia’s foremost modern sculptor. Yet he lacks the public reputation of his contemporary painters – John Olsen, Fred Williams, John Brack, and so on. Klippel (1920–2001) is known largely, if not exclusively, to the world of art. This exhibition may right that historic injustice. Thoughtfully curated by Kirsty Grant, it brought the three basic streams of his art – the drawings, the metal sculpture, and the monumental wood works of his final phase – into a crisp and clear narrative.

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Feedback Loops

Diego Ramirez
02 January 2020

Feedback Loops, curated by Miriam Kelly, brings together artists from Australia and abroad to look at how those born in the 1980s negotiate identity and new media. Neither Gen X nor Millennial, this generation is known as ‘Xennials’ or ‘The Oregon Trail Generation’, in reference to The Oregon Trail (1985), a computer video game that was popular at the time.

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A Place to Paint: Colin McCahon in Auckland

Julie Ewington
18 December 2019

New Zealander Colin McCahon is the greatest postwar artist of the two antipodean countries. Hands down. In his own country, McCahon (1919–87) is a household name, and the exhibition A Place to Paint: Colin McCahon in Auckland at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, and the associated publication of Justin Paton’s McCahon Country (Penguin Books), celebrate his centenary. Surprisingly, though, many Australians don’t know McCahon’s work.

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Alison Stieven-Taylor
11 December 2019

Water. Life on earth can’t exist without it, but beyond the perfunctory, how often do we think about this essential element or about our relationship to it? This is the question at the heart of the blockbuster exhibition Water at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Through literal and allegorical renderings about water in its various incarnations, the exhibition invites contemplation on the ways that water impacts our lives, as individuals, communities, and more broadly as co-inhabitants of an increasingly fragile planet.

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