Lightness and clarity
by Christopher Menz
The initial idea was for a new front door at the National Gallery of Australia. At least that is how Ron Radford, director of the Gallery, presented it to the one thousand or so guests in his remarks at the official opening of Andrew Andersons’ and PTW Architects’ Stage One ‘New Look ...
The Mondrians in Paths to Abstraction 1867–1917, Terence Maloon’s beautiful, refined exhibition held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from June to September this year, and the Gauguins in Ron Radford’s more spectacular Masterpieces from Paris that closed at the National Gallery in April, were drawcards. We last saw a group of Mondrians in 1961; Gauguin had never been properly seen in Australia. The exhibitions and the related books together amounted to a superb and very up-to-date two-part lesson in the history of modernism.... (read more)
What to do with Whiteley? Forget the gutsy audacity and visual energy; in Bernard Smith’s estimation he was ‘egocentric, pseudo-profound and self-pitying’ (Australian Painting 1788–2000). Smith could not abide Whiteley’s ‘incapacity for detachment’; his cult of personality, poured into every last crevice of his work. With the hegemony of the social and theoretical construction of art, the actual person of the artist has been an increasing problem for art critics. Whiteley’s work, driven by personality and fuelled by sensation, is easily viewed as a romantic indulgence.... (read more)
‘I kept thinking: if his face looks like this, what must his balls look like?’ David Hockney’s assessment of the craggy countenance of W.H. Auden is clipped and convenient, but I suspect Auden would have been far more interesting on the subject of sitting for Hockney. Given the concentration and quality of the encounters between English portrait painters or sculptors and their subjects, it is slightly odd that more writers have not published accounts of the experience of sitting for their portrait.... (read more)
For some sixty years Donald Friend kept a diary, making his final entry just days before his death in 1989 at the age of seventy-four. The National Library of Australia published them in four massive volumes between 2001 and 2006. They were intractable. You needed an axe to cut through the stream of consciousness which flowed from an uncensoring pen ...... (read more)