Arts – Visual Arts

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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NGV Triennial 2020

National Gallery of Victoria
by
04 January 2021

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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Arthur Streeton in retrospect

Art Gallery of New South Wales
by
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

TarraWarra Museum of Art
by
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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Tim

Museum of Old and New Art
by
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

TarraWarra Museum of Art
by
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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