Art Essays

Kushana Bush – Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney

Published January 26, 2019
Kushana Bush, 'Hark'

Artist: Kushana Bush

Lives: Dunedin, New Zealand


Represented by:Darren Knight Gallery, 840 Elizabeth St. Waterloo, Sydney (no Melbourne representation)

Her thing. Small, exquisite paintings that echo Mugal miniatures, but with contemporary themes.

Our take.Kushana Bush’s paintings can’t be fully appreciated with a quick glance. Like the Mugal miniatures they resemble, her gouaches are packed with tiny significant details that repay the closest scrutiny. Growing up in a house hung with Japanese prints and Indian paintings it was only natural that Bush should explore similar territory in her own work. Along with Indian and Japanese art she has also been inspired by medieval illuminated manuscripts and the eccentric paintings of Stanley Spencer. It’s all fair game for an Anglo-saxon kiwi with a distinctly sub-continental name.

There are many bigger, more spectacular works in this year’s APT, but Bush’s pictures have been extremely well received. This may be partly because of the surreal humour to be found in each crowded composition. In Hark, what looks at first like the scene of some ancient battle or massacre slowly surrenders a host of anomalous details. One of the prone bodies has a bandaid on its left buttock, another is wearing a T-shirt with a small Nike logo. There don’t seem to be any weapons apart from a long-handled broom and an umbrella. The battleground appears to be covered in heavily patterned linoleum.

Can I afford it?

With Kushana Bush it’s more a question of availability than affordability. Her style is so slow and painstaking she only completes 5-10 paintings per year, so supply is strictly limited. There are five works in the APT display, the largest being Hark, at 55cm by 68cm, while the smallest is In signs, at 41cm by 54cm. All five pieces have been acquired for the permanent collection of the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art. With such a slender output one would imagine that Bush’s prices are pretty steep, but her all-time record is only $11,000, for In signs. So if you really, really want one, you’ll need to put aside at least $10,000, contact Darren Knight and stake a place in the queue.

Where can I have a squiz?

9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 24 November, 2018 – 28 April, 2019. (or