Royal Academy of the Arts, London
21 September – 8 December 2013
by Dr JANET McKENZIE
London has long been a cultural centre and remains an important destination for Australian artists, representing at once a cultural connection and a personal pilgrimage in terms of respective familial identities, since Australia began to be colonised by the British in 1788. A strong cultural relationship has continued in spite of Australian society becoming significantly less British and very much more multicultural over the past 30 years. Indeed, the most significant phenomenon in Australian culture, which has no parallel anywhere in the world, is the role played by its indigenous population. Australian Aboriginal culture today represents a continuum from ancient times 60,000 years ago.
Australia represents an ongoing dialogue between individuals and place. As Prince Charles, the patron of the exhibition, has observed: “Each work is a deeply personal response to Australia’s unique environment;”1 and Thomas Keneally, one of Australia’s greatest novelists and playwrights, explains that it is to all of the Australian artists represented in this exhibition that we owe a great debt for orienting us so expertly: “Those who struggled to read the heart [of the country]. They have shown us the track.”2 For when Australians first saw Australia there were two reactions: the enthusiasm of the Enlightenment and what Keneally called “a form of outrage at what a gross affront the place was to the sensibility of the old world”. Keneally’s generation struggled to reconcile the dichotomy: “I was torn in my heart between these two reactions.”3 Scholarly and altruistic in concept, this collaboration between the Royal Academy and the National Gallery of Australia seeks to negotiate multiple histories and, in the process, allows the injustice of colonial attitudes to indigenous races to be recognised and played out in a contemporary setting.
The first exhibition of Australian art at the Royal Academy was as long ago as 1923. In 1961, the Whitechapel Gallery in London staged the key Australian art show, organised by Bryan Robertson: Recent Australian Painting, which featured 111 works by 55 artists, including Arthur Boyd, Russell Drysdale, Sidney Nolan RA and Brett Whiteley. There followed a larger show still at the Tate in 1963, but there has not been a sustained interest in Australian art, excepting that certain commercial galleries have represented Australian artists, most notably Marlborough Fine Art, Fischer Fine Art until the early 1990s and, more recently, the Rebecca Hossack Gallery.
When Australian art arrived in Britain at the Whitechapel Gallery in the 60s, its appeal lay to a great extent in the fact that the artists represented painted landscape, and they did so in a way that an ancien regime would find refreshing: images of a vast, largely uninhabited continent in contrast to an industrialised Europe, a heroic, romanticised vision. One might have expected that with individuals such as Robertson and Sir Kenneth Clark championing Australian contemporary art, and later Peter Fuller, the narrative would have been sustained. Alas, the 70s were a period of individual exhibitions but little comprehensive representation. It was not until the 1988 Australian Bicentennial shows, The Angry Penguins at the Hayward Gallery and Stories of Australian Art at the Commonwealth Centre, London (Australian art in British collections) that Australian art was presented as such.
Increasingly, individuals from Australia have represented their country at international art fairs and biennales such as Documenta, ARCO, Basel Art Fair and the Venice Biennale, and artists and commentators from all over the world attend the Sydney Biennale, but no regular exhibition of Australian art has taken place in the UK. Face Up Contemporary Art from Australia at the Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum for the Present, Berlin (2 October – 4 January 2004) displayed the wide range of art produced in all media in Australia, reflecting dramatic changes that have taken place there on all levels. No longer predominantly European, Australia has an art world that is both vital and varied. In fact, it has been transformed in the past 20 years due, very largely, to changes in immigration laws and the ensuing multiculturalism. As a consequence of the expansion in art practice to include land art and body art, a climate developed where it was possible for white Australia to interact more meaningfully with Aboriginal culture.
Australia at the Royal Academy has only to be encountered for a moment to gauge its monumentality in terms of scale, scholarship, range and cultural import. The exhibition spans more than 200 years, from 1800 to the present, and features the work of 146 artists with more than 200 works: paintings, drawings, photography, watercolours and multimedia. Yet the media have given a mixed response: even Brian Sewell in the London Evening Standard exceeded his usual cynicism and vitriolic critique, when he stated that: “Examples of contemporary Aboriginal work are so obviously the stale rejiggings of a half-remembered heritage wrecked by the European alcohol, religion and servitude that have rendered purposeless all relics of their ancient and mysterious past. Swamped by western influences, corrupted by a commercial art market as exploitative as any in Europe and America, all energy, purpose and authenticity lost, the modern Aboriginal Australian is not to be blamed for taking advantage of the white man now with imitative decoration and the souvenir.”4 Such is one knee-jerk reaction in London.
The Observer’s temporary reviewer could only behold testosterone in Shaun Gladwell’s iconic work – rather more the gap-year mentality than cultural curiosity where the viewer is deemed superior to the artist irrespective of qualification; Rachel Campbell-Johnston’s piece in the Times on the other hand was a balanced appraisal. Waldemar Januszczak, in the Sunday Times, described the Aboriginal work as "tourist tat", calling Frederick McCubbin’s The Pioneer (1904) “poverty porn” and labelling John Olsen’s Sydney Sun (1965) “a cascade of diarrhoea”.5 One of the artists in the show, GW Bot, observed the immediate critical response: “It seems to me that the critics are looking for something heroic which neither the landscape nor the history are – they seem to be missing the feel of the landscape, the intangible spirit, which the show captures in many manifestations.”6
Jackie Wullschlager, in her Financial Times review “Australia at the Royal Academy: dreamtime meets the incomers”, more plausibly identifies the apparent dichotomy in the Aboriginal works that open the show: “To western eyes, the overlapping concentric red circles of Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra’s Kalipinypa Water Dreaming, the patterns of coloured dots and feathery white cross-hatching in Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula’s A Bush Tucker Story, and the shimmering pink/purple ridges of Timmy Payungka Tjapangati’s Sacred Sandhills look like bold abstract compositions. Painted in 1972, all show extraordinary affinities with contemporary 1970s western art – the elegant austerity of minimalism, innovations of land and body art, influences of identity politics, anthropology, environmentalism.”7 Wullschlager goes on to explain the true manner by which the works came into being in the isolated community at Papunya where artists had no contact with western art. Her erroneous appraisal of Gordon Bennett’s work, however, is offensive. She describes it as an attempt by the exhibition organisers to include: “less convincingly, in politically correct trivia: Gordon Bennett’s Possession Island, a Captain Cook illustration in Aboriginal dot style.” She laments the absence of “acclaimed contemporary sculptors Ricky Swallow and Ron Mueck. Their exquisitely crafted still-lifes and portraits exhibit true tragic sensibility, the power of time rather than place – universal not local concerns. This show remains finally, insistently, unnecessarily provincial.”8
As an exhibition of land and landscape, Swallow and Mueck’s still-life and portrait works are, as a matter of course, not included, but to dismiss Bennett’s courageous and profound career is wholly ignorant, leading to a complete misreading of his work. Bennett was raised unaware of his indigeneity as a child. Ian McLean observes: “Bennett’s success as an artist derives from his understanding that at the heart of trauma is its resistance to representation. In forbidding its own representation, trauma corrodes the moral fabric of society. This aesthetic rather than political problem is the major ethical issue of modern times. Thus Bennett’s paintings are not a catalogue of crimes, they do not appeal to ‘white guilt’ for sympathy and recompense, nor are they simply a postcolonial history lesson – as some critics believe. Rather they create an opening to a field of representation that is prohibited.”9
Questioning is Bennett’s stated objective; he has brought issues of European supremacy and the dispossession of Aborigines into focus. The use of traditional dot painting is combined with the dot screen of photomechanical reproduction. He also uses mass media cartoon images and graffiti-style graphics, a visual shorthand, somewhere between “writing” and art, and affiliated, too, with the deeper socioeconomic relevance of their work. Bennett points out that he never set out to make political art, and has changed his work in stylistic terms throughout his career, in order to resist stylistic categorisation.
The British reviewers in the past week remind one of the furious response to Roger Fry’s Post-Impressionist exhibitions in 1910 and 1912 that introduced Van Gogh, Cézanne and Matisse to Britain, the intensity of which is still abstruse. Perhaps to employ Keneally’s historic observation in respect of the 18th-century British response to their new home – “a form of outrage at what a gross affront … to the sensibility of the old world” – sums up the response in London to the body of complex and unfamiliar art practice in the Australia show. Is this an affectionate loathing, or fury that Australians have separated themselves in terms of their own identity? The gross affront now, implies betrayal with the intensity of an acrimonious divorce, where Januszczak has morphed into Sir Les Patterson.10 Barry Humphries will find much to comment on in his farewell tour, Eat, Pray, Laugh!, in London later this year.
Perhaps the scale of the exhibition is a problem, there simply being too much visual and cultural information for British critics to absorb – too much homework. Australia’s historic relationship with Britain in terms of genuine cultural dialogue has not extended to the engagement with social change, particularly race relations, since the 1980s. Australia’s population now stands at 23 million; it has quadrupled since 1918 and since 1945 has received seven million immigrants. One in two Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas. It is not the country that the British knew and loved as long as it won the cricket.
Humphries is well-known as a comedian and entertainer of genius; what is less known is his scholarship in the symbolist and decadent art of the 19th century in Europe and Australia. His preview of the Royal Academy exhibition for The Spectator enables the viewer to understand its starting point in European colonial terms. He describes art from that period:
“Australian landscapes from the colonial period and late 19th century diffuse a feeling of isolation, melancholy and exile. The most famous Australian painting in this exhibition is The Lost Child by Frederick McCubbin. It illustrates powerfully what has been described as ‘colonial fear’. To its early settlers, Australia still seemed like an inimical place at the world’s end, where people vanished or were swallowed up in the terrible vastness of the land. The lost child and the theme of being alone and forsaken in the bush was pervasive in our early art and literature, and in the days of the convicts it seemed kinder to make the rejects of society disappear rather than to overcrowd the prisons and overwork the hangman. Australia became the oubliette of Britain.
“Australian artists were themselves lost in the bush for several generations. They had to interpret a landscape for which they had no references; the boscage of Barbizon, the Arcadian glades of Fragonard and the cosy pastoral vistas of the English watercolourists just didn’t work with Australian subjects. Central European painters took up the challenge of the Australian landscape with more success, as will be seen in the great panoramic works of the Swiss-Russian Chevalier and the Austrian Von Guerard, who captured the loneliness of Australia.”11
The entrance at the top of the Royal Academy’s august staircase is marked by a large screen showing Gladwell’s Approach to Mundi Mundi (2007), a majestic and hypnotic work that makes art historic reference to Nolan’s iconic image of Ned Kelly riding into the landscape, in which Kelly represented the artist’s relationship to society and the wider world. In Approach to Mundi Mundi, it is the artist himself riding a motorbike into an out-of-focus flat terrain to denote the mysterious character of the Australian landscape that cannot easily or quickly be comprehended or deciphered. Gradually, the rider extends his arms in a cruciform position, which also recalls the figure in Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Gladwell’s work projects the human figure in perfect balance with the land, an uplifting image in contrast to the dystopian image presented in the film Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981). As Gladwell’s biker travels along the same highway in South Australia as Mad Max, the artist’s symbolism remains ambiguous: the biker represents freedom; with his outstretched arms, he can be seen at once to embrace the land, command it or surrender to it. As a performative drawing, he is following in the respective footsteps and brush of Richard Long and Paul Klee, the latter of whom Gladwell likes to quote: “Drawing is like taking a line for a walk.” The paradoxical stillness of the moving image creates an extended present moment recalling, “the Aboriginal idea of past, present and future as one”. His evocations of “marking, possessing and confronting unfamiliar territory”12 can be seen to represent the multifarious paths, both physical and spiritual that characterise both Aboriginal and colonial responses to the land. Exploration, the navigation through alien lands by colonists and thereafter waves of migrants is a characteristic of Australian art and the new culture established through the ongoing quest for a personal and national identity.
As an appropriate departure from previous surveys of Australian art, the exhibition opens with a superb room of large recent Aboriginal paintings. The land is pivotal to indigenous culture as the Aboriginal curators Wally Caruana and Franchesca Cubillo state: “The land is a spiritual entity, packed with a symbolic meaning and totemic associations that are the subjects of an art that is fundamentally religious in character … The Dreaming is Aboriginal cosmology, it concerns the genesis of the universe, the creation period when the ancestors established the laws of nature, science, religion and society. Dreaming … is a constant reality that governs, informs and sanctifies people’s lives. It underpins people’s identity and their relationship to the spiritual and physical worlds, and to their traditional lands.”13
Traditionally, geometric and abstract designs were part of sacred ceremonies in the form of sand painting and body art; ceremonial objects carved and patterned conveyed centuries-old sacred information. Painting using natural pigments for ceremonial purposes continues: portable works on flattened bark or canvas are available for sale and to travel. John Mawurndjul has transformed Kaninjka bark painting from Arhnem Land into an art of exquisite reflections and shadows. Three of his superb works are included in the show: works that invoke the spiritual power of ancestral beings who are manifest in the land. Mawurndjul has infused traditional bark painting methods with fine cross-hatching, an allusion to the significance of social change, ongoing interaction and an awareness of western art techniques. He has created a visual poetry that defies precise definition. His bark painting has its roots in traditional religious ceremony and it continues to be a container of knowledge, much of which is sacred. Made up of grid-like structures, his images depart from the work of his father and brother by employing elaborate cross-hatched designs known as “rarrk”: “I always think of new ways to paint, I always look for something different. My work is changing. I have my own style”.14
Each region and Aboriginal clan possesses special designs and symbols to distinguish them from others; hereditary rights determine subject matter and iconography. The impetus to create art for a wider audience that could assert individual identity and to reassert the ancient culture under grave threat started in central Australia in the 1970s with the introduction of western materials. The Western Desert art movement, which originated in the small community of Papunya, around 250km west of Alice Springs, started after Geoffrey Bardon, a local schoolteacher, encouraged the children there to use the motifs and symbols of their own traditions. The senior men of the community took the opportunity to paint a mural on the school wall. They began to make small paintings as well of their ancestral stories or Tjukurrpa on a range of surfaces. Painting provided a relief to the hardship and dire poverty of their lives. In spite of their meteoric success over 30 years, the first decade of the community’s life was met with certain resistance and little market success. Papunya was itself a mixed community drawing on Aboriginal people from their traditional lands, including the Pintupi, Anmatyerre, Luritja, Aranda and Warlpiri. Through the 80s, more artists became involved, each bringing to the works on canvas, their own language, their own traditional stories. The range of imagery is varied, complex and sophisticated. During the decade, as the movement flourished, other artist’s communities were also established, including Utopia, Yuendumu and Balgo, with organised marketing of their works. Papunya Tula has been the most distinctive and successful of all the groups.
Papunya Tula formed in 1972 “at a hellish, dysfunctional settlement forcibly created by racist government policies”.15 The settlement had been officially opened in 1960 under the conservative government of Robert Menzies, which held that Aborigines were not ready to live as “white Australians” and had to be re-educated to hasten their “advancement”. In practice, this meant that Aborigines were removed from their traditional lands. Their language was suppressed, as was their art and culture. The same policy involved the forced removal of thousands of Aboriginal children from their parents, and their dispersal into government institutions or church foster homes. The reality of the “Stolen Generation” was only uncovered as late as 1997 when the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission presented Bringing Them Home, the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families. The report was a chilling and public revelation of the systematic attempt at social and biological engineering by the forcible removal of indigenous children in Australia since early colonisation.16 Most white Australians were ignorant of the shocking conditions under which Aborigines lived.
The case of Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910-96) is central to the emergence of Aboriginal art in a contemporary context. Her painting Anwerlarr Anganenty [Big Yam Dreaming] (1995) is the largest work in the show – around three by eight metres – with swirling patterns of vegetation created in white against a black ground. Kngwarreye belonged to the Woman’s Batik Group at the Utopia Ranch in the eastern desert (north-east of Alice Springs) in 1978. She started painting in the 80s when she was in her 70s. Her career lasted only 10 years, but “she rapidly established herself as one of the leading artists in the renaissance of Aboriginal art at that time”.17 Painting in the eastern desert region is an almost all-female activity (as opposed to senior men). Emily’s art was instrumental in the 70s and 80s in dispelling many patriarchal obsessions about Aboriginal art. The Australian community generally accepted that Aboriginal art and religion were the exclusive domain of men. Early anthropological writings tended to separate the “secular” or “profane” pursuits of women from the “sacred” rites of men, which in turn were made manifest in their art. As a consequence, the early art activity for women was limited to the decoration of food-gathering sticks, and they were not given access to art materials such as canvas. Their work was confined to craft objects that accompanied their main activities in relation to the female duties of breeding and cooking. Female anthropologists were instrumental in seeing through the prejudiced perceptions and instigating projects such as the Batik programme, which in turn led to some of the most remarkable Aboriginal art of the past 20 years.18 Kngwarreye emerged as the central figure when the group first used acrylic paint on canvas in the late 80s. She was 86 when she died in 1996, and is arguably one of the most important artists to have emerged in the last part of the 20th century. In the last eight years of her life, she produced more than 3,000 works on silk, cotton, paper and canvas.
The exhibition conveys the manner in which Australian colonial artists sought to understand their alien environment by describing it and thus asserting their place within it. Waves of migrants since the 18th and 19th centuries – from Europe and more recently from Asia – have continued to assert their identity by relating themselves to the land, to make their place part of their persona and identity. An overwhelming reminder of the experience of hundreds of thousands of Europeans who were sent or chose to settle in Australia can be “felt” in the galleries of colonial art. An atmosphere of abandonment pervades the work by artists, some of whom who were removed from their own lands during the Highland Clearances in the late 19th-century. In a contemporary social science context, we recognise that forced migration (war, political strife) and cultural diaspora isolates individuals. The dispossession of Gaelic communities in the 19th century led to settlement in Australia by significant numbers of Scots. White settlement of Australia, as we have seen, led to the destruction of Aboriginal culture and the dispossession of Aborigines from their land. These issues have been and continue to be addressed in the visual arts with international and political implications, for present and future migration, and for the sustainability of cultural expression and identity at national and community levels. Danie Mellor’s work, An Elysian City (Of Picturesque Landscapes and Memory) (2010), interrogates the dichotomy between the built environment, which is ultimately doomed to decay, and life lived in harmony with nature, which is self-sustaining.19 What is disappointing in media responses in London to date is the failure to identify with these quintessentially human and environmental issues and their pertinence to globalisation and to marginalised communities the world over.
Boyd and Nolan created iconic images of the landscape and, even though they both chose to live mostly in England for 30 years, their works remained quintessentially Australian. The work of Boyd flourished in close proximity to museums in Europe where he studied the Old Masters and worked collaboratively with poets such as Peter Porter; he inhabited the long-cultivated, mysterious landscape of John Constable’s Suffolk and lived for periods in Italy. It was by returning on a regular basis to Australia, where he absorbed the marvellous and unique environments of the Shoalhaven River and the high plains near Canberra, that he reasserted his position as one of Australia’s most profound and inventive landscape artists. The Australian landscape had formed the backdrop to his early works in Melbourne and for the rest of his life he juxtaposed classical mythology and Biblical narratives onto the Australian bush, to create images of abiding universality. Throughout his highly prolific career, the Australian landscape represented his life-blood. The exhibition shows a highly original response to wartime in Australia in The Mining Town (Casting the Money-Lenders from the Temple) (1946) with art historical reference to Breughel’s Tower of Babel (c 1563) and literary reference to James Joyce’s Ulysses, where a coffin falls from a hearse. Pitched against the landscape of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne, Boyd is asserting the universality of human experience. The searing work from his Caged Painter series: Paintings in the Studio: ‘Figure Supporting Back Legs’ and ‘Interior with Black Rabbit’ (1973-4) was made in his London studio after a residency at the Australian National University in Canberra, and the artist confronted a range of distressing issues from vivisection to the role of the artist in society. A distressing work of self-loathing, it is one of the largest and most important works in the show for the manner in which Boyd is navigating the role of art in a post-colonial society, of irresolute cultural dilemmas.20
Nolan also settled in England, becoming a Royal Academician, and, like Boyd, had established a powerful relationship with the Australian landscape while a young man. Nolan captures the contradiction that many Australians feel towards their country, awe in the face of its violent past, and a tremendous love for the unique and beautiful environment. Nolan painted characters that epitomised Australia in an original and varied manner. Yet he did not allow himself to be weighed down by his nationality. In all of Nolan’s imagery, the theme of failure is pursued – perhaps inadvertently, at first. His identification with tragic figures as a way of characterising Australia’s pioneering spirit, and the hardship endured, produced great and visionary works. A mythology evolved in Nolan’s treatment of the convict Ned Kelly, the ill-fated explorers Burke and Wills and the first world war soldiers who fought and died in the disastrous campaign at Gallipoli. Australians are reluctant to give praise, except for certain sportsmen who are almost deified. Failure is easier to identify with. Ironically, it was Nolan’s time in the army, which took him to rural Australia, that had a liberating effect on his work. Furthermore, the work he produced in the Wimmera while in the army, and then the exuberant works that followed, represent a turning point in the depiction of the Australian landscape. Nolan had painted landscapes before 1942, but the Wimmera paintings are his first and consistent attempt to come to terms with the continent’s landscape.
The past 20 years has witnessed art production as a unique means of asserting cultural pride and the need to inform Australian society at large of the value of indigenous culture. Artists such as Drysdale, Noel Counihan and Boyd as early as the 1950s created profound images of Aborigines identifying with their tragic plight; over the past 20 years, white Australians have sought to understand the way the indigenous population has survived. George Alexander captured a central theme of the Face Up exhibition in Berlin, 2004: “Contemporary Australian culture remains haunted by both its European past and its indigenous past, and a good deal of Australian art draws energy from this misalliance. Orphaned from ‘Mother England’, and without the birthright entitlements of the indigenous people, we have to make do with a makeshift, synthetic identity, for non-indigenous Australians, Australia may not be our first home, but it is our first ‘elsewhere’. Only in the act of making art, art as a combination of belonging and not belonging, can we make up Australia.”21
Such is the multicultural nature of Australian society today, the home for people from every nation in the world, including at present 800,000 refugees, that to study the complex and diverse art produced there, is to study contemporary global culture. For many artists, the landscape is emblematic of the human spirit. The spiritual is sought, through an affinity with place – issues that allude to the unknowable, mysterious aspects of life, to transcendence. There are many lessons to be learned from this extraordinary exhibition.
1. HRH The Prince of Wales, “Foreword”, Australia, Royal Academy of Arts/ National Gallery of Australia, London, 2013, p9.
2. Thomas Keneally, “Dead Heart/ Live Heart”, ibid, p34.
3. Ibid, p34.
4. Brian Sewell. London Evening Standard, 19.09.13.
5. Waldemar Januszczak, Sunday Times, 22.09.13.
6. Email to Janet McKenzie 23.09.13.
7. Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times, 20.09.13.
9. Ian McLean, “Judgement Day: The Art of Gordon Bennett in Perspective”, Australian Aboriginal Art, Issue 2, June 2009, Sydney, p133.
10. Sir Les Patterson, the creation of Barry Humphries is the Australian Cultural Attaché to the Court of St James. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Les_Patterson
11. “Barry Humphries: in praise of Australian Art”, The Spectator, 31 August 2013.
12. Kathleen Soriano, exhibition text.
13. Wally Caruana and Franchesca Cubillo, “Country: Aboriginal Art”, AUSTRALIA, op.cit., p43.
14. John Mawurndjul, quoted by Judith Ryan, “Tradition and Transformation: Ochre Art Forms of Arnhem Land,” Land Marks, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 10 February – 11 June 2006, p103.
15. Charles Green, ‘”Papunya Tula”, Review of Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Artforum, New York, 12 January 2000.
16. Peter Read, A Rape of the Soul So Profound, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1999.
17. Nicholas Usherwood, “Introduction”, You Beaut Country, A Selection of Australian Paintings 1940-2000, Agnews Fine Art, London, 2001, no pagination.
18. See Janet McKenzie “Utopia: the genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye,” National Museum of Australia, Canberra 22 August-12 October 2008: Studio International: http://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/utopia-the-genius-of-emily-kame-kngwarreye
19 Conversation with Danie Mellor, Edinburgh 20.09.13
20. Janet McKenzie, Arthur Boyd: Art and Life, Thames and Hudson, London, 2000.
21. George Alexander, “Rosemary Laing”, Face Up: Contemporary Art From Australia, Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof Museum for the Present, Berlin, 2003, p104.
Michael Andrews revisited
If there was ever a clearer purpose and definition of the respective rationale behind the division of Tate works into Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the present retrospective of the painter Michael Andrews is a reassuring touchstone
Aboriginal Women as Ambassadors of Art and Culture
The story of the Australian Aboriginal batik projects in five distinct desert communities in the 1970s and 1980s reveals a series of ironies, which enable contemporary Indigenous art in Australia to be better understood. The works themselves are superb, as the exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia reveals, indeed they are breathtaking in their cultural association, their aesthetic power and their technical skill.
Sidney Nolan: A New Retrospective
This is the first major retrospective of Sidney Nolan's paintings since his death in 1992. It presents an opportunity to unravel something of the artist's enigma and evaluate his contribution to Australian culture.
Utopia: the genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye
The exhibition 'Utopia: the Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye' at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra was first planned for Japan, where it was shown in Tokyo and Osaka earlier this year. The opening in Osaka in February took place soon after the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, at his first opening of parliament as Prime Minister - the 42nd Parliament of Australia, on 13 February 2008 - made his historic apology to the stolen generations of Aboriginal people of Australia. Long in the waiting, the Director of the Museum of Australia described Rudd's statement as, '... a defining moment in Australia's history'.