Australia at the Royal Academy

Contemporary and Old Art Reviews

Australia at the Royal Academy

Postby jasperjoffe » Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:34 am

http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/australia

I don't mind the colonial stuff, neatly rendered paintings of things the newcomers hadn't seen, sometimes the naïve (unskilled) artists caught the freshness better. The aboriginal paintings were disappointing, have seen a lot better, still nice contrast to the figure guys. The contemporary stuff was the usual ragbag of nonsense a video something about "politics" and systems ho ho, a brett whitely was ok but he's dead. Then in the midst of this mildly interesting survey, bam, is Sidney Nolan, like seeing the red earth for the first time, it's quite amazing how different really good painting is to the humdrum, it looks like he's inventing the medium, and it's joyful, funny, expressive, new. There we go a pearl amongst swine, or something. Nolan tell stories, sees people, horses, trees, clouds, armour vividly and paints them with the heavy burden of skill and history thrown off for a bit.
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Re: Australia at the Royal Academy

Postby CAP » Tue Sep 24, 2013 1:18 pm

There was an exhibition of his Ned Kelly paintings at the Irish Museum of Modern Art Nov 2012 > Jan 2013.

I'm sure it thrilled our Irish massive. 8-)

Here's a rather sniffy Australian review of 'Australia'. :ugeek:
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Re: Australia at the Royal Academy

Postby CAP » Wed Nov 20, 2013 11:55 am

Lotsa reviews for this one though - mostly mixed or really negative. Still - 'no such thing as bad publicity or a bad review', they say. But I think the idea of an exhibition encapsulating a nation or continent is a bit silly. And what do people really expect? A succession of waves of Europeans apply their training to a local situation - not surprisingly the stuff looks second-hand a lot of the time. Even when Australia exports its brightest students to the northern hemisphere's cultural hubs, the results are not that different. It's exciting for Australians, but Australia is not that exciting for the rest of the world. And what do we actually expect of Australia? A nation barely more than a hundred years old, with a slightly longer history of British template colonialism. I mean it's hardly going to come as a surprise, is it? In the fifties and sixties a handful of Australian artists found favour in London (principally because of Lord Clark's patronage of Sir Sidney Nolan) but that's because there was enough interesting figurative painting there (Bacon, Andrews, Freud, etc) to find some potential alliance. By that stage the Australians were not so much parochial followers as fellow travellers. Brett Whitley comes on the tail end of that - the 'boy wonder' heavy touted by 'family friend' Hal Missingham, director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales - he had connections too.

Is there a pattern here, do we need to join the dots? Well not much follows after that - there is no equivalent Aussie group to the RCA Pop artists, what Pop artists Australia soon has are not exported and Australia soon is besotted with hard-edge Minamalist abstraction and Oz steadily shifts its cultural alliances to New York and Greenbergia. Mind you there are a steady stream of British artists that quickly inveigle their way into Australia's cultural heirarchy, and they too are Greenbergians to a man or woman. And after that, by the 70s and 80s, there's the odd show in London of figures like Fred Williams, who spent something like 30 years as a student at Chelsea, and understandably the work is just a little cautious, a little plodding. Nothing against Chelsea of course, just saying, there is such a thing as staying a student too long. By the nineties there are Aussie artists around, like David Noonan, Patricia Piccinini and Ricky Swallow, but no one really thinks about them as Australian - they're just colourful individuals, to a greater or lesser extent. But their art isn't primarily about being an Aussie.

In that sense, Australian art has moved on from nervous nationalism to anonymous global hustle. No one would be worried by that if the artist was French or German or British and if they just shuffled in and out of New York, Beijing or Berlin - you'd just say they were 'contemporary'. And there quite easily could be an exhibition of contemporary Australian artists who we may have seen here and there - like a Susan Norrie or Sally Smart - and it might be testiment to Australia's training, ambition or determination, but the art itself has moved beyond invading an undefended landscape. Australia's art administration would have to make the kind of leap its artists made thirty years ago.

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