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Sydney Morning Herald Column

She-Oak and Sunlight

May 4, 2021

Do we really need another survey of Australian Impressionism? It’s been 14 years since the National Gallery of Victoria’s previous overview of the field and one wonders what new breakthroughs have occurred since then. In 2007 it still seemed a novel idea that we might call this group of artists “Impressionists” in place of more […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

The National 2021

April 20, 2021

Conceived as “a celebration of contemporary Australian art”, The National has been a strange beast ever since its inception in 2017. One of the problems of this event – a biennial collaboration between the Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Carriageworks – is that it has occasionally seemed to be a […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Dobell Drawing Prize 2021

April 19, 2021

If anyone should know about drawing it’s Guy Warren – he’s been doing it for about 90 years, although he only began taking lessons in his teens. When I spoke with Warren last week, as he was closing in on his century, he related drawing, and art in general, back to prehistoric times. “Making a […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

William Yang: Seeing & Being Seen

April 5, 2021

William Yang is a Sydney institution but a Queenslander born and bred. Last week he was reclaimed by his state of origin for a retrospective at the Queensland Art Gallery that allows us to read one artist’s career as a tale of social evolution. Even allowing for the wrong turnings of the present day, over […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Clarice Beckett: The Present Moment

March 30, 2021

On a rainy day in Sydney it feels completely appropriate to be writing about Clarice Beckett. She was an artist for whom the ideal atmospheric conditions were overcast, a bit misty. Her work is all about the weather. As a subject it couldn’t be more commonplace but it transports us into a realm of indistinct […]


Film Reviews May 7, 2021

De Gaulle

Charles De Gaulle was an imposing figure, both physically and morally. Standing at 196 cms, he was a man almost everyone looked up to. As leader-in-exile of the French Resistance, the head of the provisional post-war government, and the nation’s dominant political figure of the 20th century, De Gaulle enjoyed an unshakable power and prestige. […]

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Film Reviews

Academy Awards 2021

April 30, 2021

It’s a sign of how radically the world is changing that China has remained silent about Chloé Zhao winning Oscars for Best Film and Best Director for Nomadland. One might expect that a movie about a class of poor Americans living in mobile homes would be highly congenial to a regime that wants to portray […]

Film Reviews

Promising Young Woman & Sound of Metal

April 23, 2021

In preparation for this year’s Academy Awards I’ve already reviewed six of the eight films nominated for Best Picture. Today I’ll take a look at the two that remain. I don’t know why it’s taken so long to catch up with Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, as it’s one of the most talked-about films of […]

Film Reviews


April 16, 2021

Herman J. Mankiewicz was the kind of character Hollywood couldn’t make up. On the contrary, it was Mankiewicz who made it up for Hollywood. Once the highest-paid scriptwriter in the business, ‘Mank’ is said to have worked on 95 movies, although he spent much of his time fixing other people’s scripts and often went uncredited. […]

Film Reviews

The Trial of the Chicago 7

April 9, 2021

This year’s Academy Awards is shaping up as an unusually open event. From the eight nominees for Best Picture there are three by female directors, three more made for streaming platforms, with only a limited theatrical release. The directors are French, English, African-American, Korean-American and Chinese-American, with only three fitting the standard white male template. […]


The Past Returned in a Perfume Bottle

April 22, 2021

A small, brown, glass perfume bottle with a neat gold trim is causing excitement at Sydney’s Jewish Museum. This piece, recently donated by heritage consultant, David Logan, becomes the first artwork in the museum that was taken from a Jewish private collection by the Nazis and subsequently restored to its rightful heirs some 80 years […]


Cultural death by a 1,000 cuts

April 17, 2021

Should we be surprised the Berejiklian government is contemplating a sneaky cut to the operating budgets of major cultural institutions? By now we’re accustomed to those familiar patterns of secrecy, lack of transparency, and the reckless disregard for both public and expert opinion. The rule is: “We know best, so suck it up.” For a […]


Guy Warren 100 not out

April 14, 2021

Australia’s oldest artist, Guy Warren, is getting tired of being asked: “What’s the secret of a long life?” His answer is very simple: “You just have to keep living.” When Warren gets down to detail he says it’s a matter of “good genes, good luck and a whiskey every night.” Beyond that he doesn’t know […]


Monet: Larger & Lighter

April 2, 2021

There are worse ways to spend an hour than being surrounded by gigantic projections of Impressionist paintings while listening to the greatest hits of the Belle Époque, but don’t imagine that Monet & Friends – Life, Light and Colour is an art exhibition. This audio-visual extravaganza is a spectacle with one foot in the past, […]