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Sydney Morning Herald Column

Spowers & Syme

January 24, 2023

Spowers & Syme may sound like a firm of accountants, but we’re dealing with an entirely different order of creativity. Ethel Spowers (1890-1947), and Eveline Syme (1888-1961), were groundbreaking Australian artists at a time when women found it difficult to make any impression on an art scene dominated by self-confident and self-serving males. A touring […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Aotearoa Art

January 17, 2023

A handful of big international art fairs are obligatory annual destinations for the world’s major collectors. Only among the second-tier fairs is there real competition, as cities compete to attract wealthy art tourists looking for something a bit different. All these fairs dream of getting the world’s über-galleries to participate, but the real interest lies […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

2022 and Beyond

January 2, 2023

There’s been plenty to think about in 2022, including war in the Ukraine, a looming global recession and floods along the north coast, but if one had to nominate Australia’s most momentous event of the year it would have to be the change of government. Whether this was equally momentous for the visual arts remains […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Alexander McQueen: Mind Mythos Muse

December 26, 2022

“I don’t see fashion as curing cancer or AIDS – or anything else for that matter,” said Alexander McQueen. “At the end of the day they are just clothes.” This statement, like so many others uttered by this prodigiously talented designer, testifies to the contradictions that defined his career and character. For McQueen (1969-2010), fashion […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Sydney Modern Revisited

December 13, 2022

“Campus” is word of the week. It seems to be a particular favourite of Art Gallery of NSW Director, Michael Brand, who kept using the term during the Sydney Modern launch. “My vision,” he writes in the book associated with the new gallery, “has been for the Sydney Modern Project to transform the Art Gallery […]


Film Reviews January 27, 2023

Tár & Babylon

Last week I thought Michelle Williams was unbeatable for Best Actress at this year’s Oscars, but after watching Tár, it’s hard to see Cate Blanchett coming second. Todd Field’s film about a musical genius who falls for the seductions of fame and power, is a classic Faustian tale. Blanchett’s Lydia Tár doesn’t exactly sell her […]

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One Week in the Pilbara

January 7, 2023

“What do you think of the Pilbara?” asked the hotel manager in Newman. “A lot of red dirt?” The immediate answer was: “Yes. A vast, seemingly endless expanse of red dirt, criss-crossed by trains carrying identically formed hillocks of iron ore. The trains stretch for kilometres at a time. You see them on the horizon, […]


Nicholas Harding 1956 – 2022

November 11, 2022

When Nicholas Harding was awarded the 2022 Wynne Prize for landscape, one sensed it wasn’t simply a vote for a single painting, but for a lifetime’s achievement. This is not to detract from that winning canvas, Eora, a vast bushland scene, almost 2 by 4 metres – a scale that might have intimidated most artists, […]


The Archibald Prize 2022: Blak Douglas is the winner

May 14, 2022

Politics is never far away from the Archibald prize, but it’s often that nebulous strain called “art politics”. This year, with the winner being announced in the middle of a federal election campaign, it was always going to be hard to keep attention focused on the aesthetics. Blak Douglas (AKA. Adam Hill), proved to be […]


Peter Powditch: Remarks at a Memorial Exhibition

May 13, 2022

I feel like a bit of a fraud opening Peter Powditch’s memoral show, when so many other people in this room knew him a lot better than I did. – I didn’t ‘get’ Peter’s work at all when I first encountered it and didn’t meet him until some time after I’d first written – rather […]