Arts – Visual Arts

Sidney Nolan: Myth Rider

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 View From Here

Art Gallery of Western Australia
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07 December 2021

The opening weekend of The View from Here at the refurbished Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA) happened to coincide with the Perth International Jazz Festival. The city was abuzz with crowds enjoying long delayed sunny skies and free open-air jazz concerts. Scaffolding had disappeared from AGWA’s façade just in time.

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Matisse: Life and spirit

Art Gallery of New South Wales
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07 December 2021

This exhibition, alive with colour, is a gift to our grey summer. The Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) was already crowded at 10.30am on the first Sunday; our umbrellas were bagged, our raincoats cloaked. Matisse: Life and spirit, drawn mainly from the exceptional holdings of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, is the first dedicated Matisse exhibition in Australia for twenty-six years. The Gallery carefully says this is the ‘largest collection of work by Matisse to be seen in Sydney’, but that understates the appeal of this lovely exhibition. It offers an incisive, intelligent, and thorough introduction to Matisse that is essential viewing; its generosity and subtlety will repay multiple visits. (I wish I were a kid again, could see Matisse for the first time.)

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Frederick McCubbin (1855–1917), otherwise known as ‘The Proff’, was only a sometime plein-airiste at the Box Hill artists’ camp. He never made it out to Eaglemont and Heidelberg, as curator and historian Anna Gray has shown, debunking mythic accretions of place around the venerated so-called Heidelberg School. Boxhill/Lilydale, laid down in 1882, was McCubbin’s trainline of choice. He was also a studio artist given to creating a tightly controlled narrative mise en scène. As Andrew McKenzie has revealed, McCubbin built a faux grave in his backyard at his home in Rathmines Street, Hawthorn, dragooning his wife, Annie, to play the female mourner for Bush Burial (1990). The bearded elder was possibly John Dunne, a picaresque character whom McCubbin purportedly accosted on a city street. Artist friend Louis Abrahams played the young male mourner. The young girl is not identified. Nor the sorrowful dog.

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Linda McCartney: Retrospective

Art Gallery of Ballarat
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15 November 2021

As the author of Rock Chicks: The hottest female rockers from the 1960s to now (2011), I was excited to plunge back into the world of rock and roll to review the Linda McCartney retrospective that is currently showing at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. I’ve also written about Paul McCartney and John Lennon, so am quite familiar with these lads from Liverpool.

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Doug Aitken: NEW ERA

Museum of Contemporary Art
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04 November 2021

This splendid exhibition is named for Doug Aitken’s three-channel video NEW ERA (2018), which revisits Martin Cooper, the elderly American inventor of the mobile telephone and his first call on the device in 1973. The video is set in a mirrored hexagonal room at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, its multiplying reflections fracturing and confounding place and time, wrapping around visitors. The work neatly encapsulates American artist Doug Aitken’s interests: how do humans and their technologies sit in the natural world? Importantly, how do we use these technologies to see the world we live in, to make it meaningful? The idea recurs throughout Aitken’s art and writings; it is manifested in the mirrors that incorporate us in his works.

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French Impressionism from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

National Gallery of Victoria
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01 July 2021

Given that the NGV has postponed Melbourne Winter Masterpieces 2020: Pierre Bonnard until 2023 due to the pandemic, and that international borders will remain closed for the foreseeable future, it is a relief that this major exhibition has gone ahead, notwithstanding a month-long delay because of the latest lockdown. We are indeed fortunate to see Impressionist works from a renowned international museum like Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. French Impressionism, an exhibition of more than one hundred works, features Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cassatt, Sisley, Morisot, and Caillebotte. It includes seventy-nine works never before shown in Australia.

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Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings

Art Gallery of New South Wales
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24 June 2021

Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings is attracting steady crowds at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). Perhaps enthusiasm is too ebullient a word for the pervading mood of reverence, but clearly Hilma af Klint’s newly minted reputation preceded her. The humming scrutiny is silenced in the famous double-height space in Andrew Anderson’s 1972 building: ten enormous abstract paintings, each more than three metres high, surround viewers in an installation not unlike the temple that the artist originally planned for them. Remarkably, The Ten Largest were painted in 1907, part of The Paintings for the Temple project between 1906 and 1915 that eventually comprised 193 paintings. This ambition and scale were not seen anywhere else at that time: the phenomenon that is af Klint is rewriting the history of modern art.

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Hilma af Klint

by
07 June 2021

Ever since experiencing my first séance at the Victorian Spiritualist Union in the mid-1960s, when I made contact with my godmother and uncle, I have been fascinated by the supernatural. Over the years, I have visited fortune-tellers, astrologists, clairvoyants, and others claiming to have psychic powers. For the most part, these have proved a lot of generalised mumbo jumbo, but a few claims have been remarkably accurate. In 1989, I was amazed when a London clairvoyant told me she had a message from Father: ‘I’m sorry for the way I treated your mother and left the family, but now she’s married to another very difficult man.’ How could she have invented this?

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Slow Moving Waters

TarraWarra Museum of Art
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19 May 2021

Given the subject matter and ethos of the 2021 TarraWarra Biennial Slow Moving Waters, it is fair to assume that it was conceived as an immediate response to the period we have just endured and the global, national, and local impact of the pandemic. Yet it was initially scheduled to open in 2020 and delayed because of Covid-19 and Melbourne’s two extended lockdowns.

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