Arts – Visual Arts

The Milk of Dreams

by
07 June 2022

The 59th Venice Art Biennale is an invitation to imagine. After the pandemic caused the event to be postponed for just the third time in its 127-year history (the other two instances being the two world wars), there was hope at the beginning of the year that this would be ‘the Biennale of rebirth’, marking a return to some kind of normal. Amid widespread global crisis, this could easily be dismissed as an optimistic goal ...

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Queer

by
29 March 2022

We all know that emancipatory drives in the late twentieth century dislodged the hegemonic politics of social normativity through the movements of second wave feminism, civil rights, and gay activism, but it’s worth remembering that some rights took longer than others. Homosexuality was only fully decriminalised in Australia in 1997 (Tasmania being the last state to do so); same-sex marriages were not legalised until 2017.

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HG60

by
01 March 2022

Australia’s regional galleries hold rich collections that demonstrate a powerful communal need to collect and display art. Victoria’s regional cities, in particular, are notably well endowed with public art collections and handsome buildings to house them. The gold rush towns were at the forefront in establishing public art galleries: the first, in Ballarat, was founded in 1884; Bendigo followed in 1887. There are now nineteen of them fairly evenly positioned across the state – between one and six hours’ drive from Melbourne – from Warrnambool (1886) in the south-west and Mildura (1956) in the north-west to Bairnsdale (1992) to the east.

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The Grainger Trap

by
24 February 2022

Australians might be forgiven for thinking that the history of classical music – as an art form with origins in Europe – is something that happens elsewhere, that we are little more than observers (and listeners) of a tradition that is essentially the property of others. Melbourne-born Percy Grainger (1882–1961), however, presents us with an unambiguous claim to being a classical composer of lasting historical significance. And yet his music is also not performed, or celebrated, here with anything like the frequency and enthusiasm that it is overseas.

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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 View From Here

Art Gallery of Western Australia
by
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
by
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
by
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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