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Australian art is any art made in Australia or about Australia, from prehistoric times to the present. This includes Aboriginal, Colonial, Landscape, Atelier, early twentieth century painters, print makers, photographers and sculptors influenced by European modernism, Contemporary art. The visual arts have a long history in Australia, with evidence of Aboriginal art dating back at least 30,000 years. Australia has produced many notable artists of both Western and Indigenous Australian schools, including the late-19th-century Heidelberg School plein air painters, the Central Australian Hermannsburg School watercolourists (most notably Albert Namatjira), the Western Desert Art Movement and coeval examples of well-known High modernism and Postmodern art.
Australia has many major art museums and galleries supported by the national, state, and local governments, as well as many university and private art museums. Prominent national and state art museums and galleries include the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, the National Museum of Australia, the Canberra Museum and Gallery, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Others include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, the South Australian Art Gallery in Adelaide, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin, and the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth. A significant amount of colonial artwork is held by the National and State libraries.
Ku-ring-gai Chase - petroglyph carved into Triassic sandstone.
Aboriginal Australians are believed to have originated in Australia as early as 60,000 years ago, and evidence of Aboriginal art in Australia can be traced back at least 30,000 years.1 Examples of ancient Aboriginal rock artworks can be found throughout the continent - notably in national parks, such as those of the UNESCO listed sites at Uluru and Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, and the Bradshaw rock paintings in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Rock art can also be found within protected parks in urban areas such as Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney.234 The Sydney rock engravings are approximately 5000 to 200 years old. Murujuga in Western Australia has the Friends of Australian Rock Art advocating its preservation, and the numerous engravings there were heritage listed in 2007.56 Rock Art Research is published twice a year and also covers international scholarship of rock art.
In May 2011, the Director of the Place, Evolution, and Rock Art Heritage Unit (PERAHU) at Griffith University, Paul Taçon, called for the creation of a national database for rock art.7 Paul Taçon launched the “Protect Australia’s Spirit” campaign in May 2011 with the highly regarded Australian actor Jack Thompson.8 This campaign aims to create the very first fully resourced national archive to bring together information about rock art sites, as well as planning for future rock art management and conservation. The National Rock Art Institute would bring together existing rock art expertise from Griffith University, Australian National University, and the University of Western Australia if they were funded by philanthropists, big business and government.
In terms of age and abundance, cave art in Australia is comparable to that of Lascaux and Altamira in Europe,9 and Aboriginal art is believed to be the oldest continuing tradition of art in the world.10 There are three major regional styles: the geometric style found in Central Australia, Tasmania, the Kimberley and Victoria known for its concentric circles, arcs and dots; the simple figurative style found in Queensland; the complex figurative style found in Arnhem Land which includes X-Ray art.11 These designs generally carry significance linked to the spirituality of the Dreamtime.12
William Barak (c.1824-1903) was one of the last traditionally educated of the Wurundjeri-willam, people who come from the district now incorporating the city of Melbourne. He remains notable for his artworks which recorded traditional Aboriginal ways for the education of Westerners (which remain on permanent exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre of the National Gallery of Victoria and at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery). Margaret Preston (1875–1963) was among the early non-indigenous painters to incorporate Aboriginal influences in her works. Albert Namatjira (1902–1959) is a famous Australian artist and an Arrernte man. His landscapes inspired the Hermannsburg School of art.13 The works of Elizabeth Durack are notable for their fusion of Western and indigenous influences. Since the 1970s, indigenous artists have employed the use of acrylic paints - with styles such as the Western Desert Art Movement becoming globally renowned 20th-century art movements.
The first artistic representations of the Australia scene by European artists were mainly "natural-history art," depicting the distinctive flora and fauna of the land for scientific purposes. Sydney Parkinson, the Botanical illustrator on James Cook's 1770 voyage that first charted the eastern coastline of Australia, made a large number of such drawings under the direction of naturalist Joseph Banks. Many of these drawings were met with skepticism when taken back to Europe, for example claims that the platypus was a hoax.
Despite Banks' suggestions, no professional natural-history artist sailed on the First Fleet in 1788. Until the turn of the century all drawings made in the colony were crafted by soldiers, including British naval officers George Raper and John Hunter, and convict artists, including Thomas Watling.15 However, many of these drawings are by unknown artists. Most are in the style of naval draughtsmanship. Most of these drawings were of Natural history topics, specifically birds, and a few depict the infant colony itself.
Several professional natural-history illustrators accompanied expeditions in the early 19th century which includes Ferdinand Bauer, who travelled with Matthew Flinders, and Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, who travelled with a French expedition led by Nicolas Baudin. The first resident professional artist was John Lewin,15 who arrived in 1800 and published two volumes of natural history art. Ornothologist John Gould was renowned for his illustration's of the country's birds.15
Harriet and Helena Scott were highly respected natural history illustrators in the late 19th Century and were largely forgotten until the 2011 exhibition Beauty from Nature: art of the Scott Sisters at the Australian Museum in Sydney.
Art in Australia from 1788 onward is often narrated as the gradual shift from a European sense of light to an Australian one. The lighting in Australia is notably different to that of Europe, and early attempts at landscapes attempted to reflect this.
Conrad Martens (1801–1878) worked from 1835 to 1878 as a professional artist, painting many landscapes and was commercially successful. His work, though, is regarded as softening the landscape to fit European sensibilities.15 Martens is remembered for accompanying scientist Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle.
Another significant landscape artist of this era was John Glover.
A few attempts at art exhibitions were made in the 1840s, which attracted a number of artists but were commercial failures. By the 1850s, however, regular exhibitions became popular, with a variety of art types represented. The first of these exhibitions was in 1854 in Melbourne. An art museum, which eventually became the National Gallery of Victoria, was founded in 1861, and it began to collect Australian works as well as gathering a collection of European masters. Some of the artists of note included Eugene von Guerard, William Strutt, and Louis Buvelot.
The colonial art market primarily desired landscape paintings, which were commissioned by wealthy landowners or merchants wanting to record their material success.16 Knut Bull (1811–1889) was sentenced to fourteen years transportation in 1845. After serving a sentence at Norfolk Island, he arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1846. In 1849 Bull was permitted to work as an artist. By 1853 he had received a conditional pardon. Bull created historical paintings such as The Wreck of the George III in 1850, and he is noted for his scenes of early colonial Hobart.
The origins of distinctly Australian painting is often associated with the Heidelberg School of the 1880s-1890s. Artists such as Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, and Tom Roberts applied themselves to recreating in their art a truer sense of light and colour as seen in Australian landscape. Like the European Impressionists, they painted in the open air. These artists found inspiration in the unique light and colour which characterises the Australian bush. Some see strong connections between the art of the school and the wider Impressionist movement, while others point to earlier traditions of plain air painting elsewhere in Europe. Sayers states that "there remains something excitingly original and indisputably important in the art of the 1880s and 1890s", and that by this time "something which could be described as an Australian tradition began to be recognized".
Key figures in the School were Tom Roberts,18 Arthur Streeton (1867–1943),18 Frederick McCubbin,18 and Charles Conder.18 Their most recognised work involves scenes of pastoral and wild Australia, featuring the vibrant, even harsh colours of Australian summers. The name itself comes from a camp Roberts and Streeton set up at a property near Heidelberg, at the time on the rural outskirts of Melbourne. Some of their paintings received international recognition, and many remain embedded in Australia's popular consciousness both inside and outside the art world. Jane Sutherland (1853–1928), noted for her En plein air technique, was a student of McCubbin.
Preliminary plan for Canberra by Walter Burley Griffin (1924)
The early twentieth century saw some Australian artists making their careers in Europe. These include impressionist John Peter Russell, bohemian painters like Hugh Ramsay, Rupert Bunny (known for his sensual and allegorical portraits) Agnes Goodsir, printmaker Hall Thorpe, a religious man who intended to make spiritually uplifting work, and sculptor Bertram Mackennal, who is particularly well known for his rendition of Circe the Greek magic goddess. Mortimer Menpes was a protégé of James Abbott McNeill Whistler and is today noted for his memoir Whistler As I Knew Him.
Arthur Streeton was a plein air painter who continued to be highly successful in the first part of the twentieth century. The romanticist view of Australian rural scenes was shared with Hans Heysen (1877–1968), an artist famous for his luminous watercolour paintings of River Red Gums, won the Wynne Prize nine times from 1904 to 1932.18
Leading up to World War I, the decorative arts, including miniature, watercolour painting, and functional objects such as vases, became more prominent in the Australian arts scene. Norman Lindsay's (1879–1969) watercolours of bacchanalian nudes caused considerable scandal around the turn of the century.19 One famous drawing, Pollice Verso (1904), caused his first scandal, as it depicted Romans giving the thumbs down to Christ on the Cross.
Art deco made its mark in advertising posters, architecture and consumer goods, as well as fine art. In 1934 the ANZAC Memorial in Sydney's Hyde Park was built and featured the sculpture "The Sacrifice" by Rayner Hoff (1894–1937). The decorative art deco arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge embody Australian fondness for the fashionable modernist style. Australian Beach Pattern, Australia's most iconic art deco painting, was completed by Charles Meere in 1940.17 Modernism in the fine arts, however, continued to be a fledgling movement in the 1930s.
Max Dupain, Sunbaker, 1937
Olive Cotton and Max Dupain went onto successful photography careers after studying with the early modernist photographer Harold Cazneaux. George Caddy documented "beachobatics" and other aspects of Sydney beach culture.
Australian art pottery makers of the thirties were Newtone Pottery, McHugh Brothers, John Campbell and Sons, L.J. Harvey and his students, Braemore Pottery of Waitara, Marguerite Mahood, John Castle Harris, Bendigo pottery, Gwen Watson, Una Deerbon, Klytie Pate, and Reg Preston.
After World War I, early proponents of modernist art in Australia were cubist influenced Grosvenor School of Modern Art print maker Ethel Spowers (1890-1947), Roy de Maistre (1894–1968).17 and Margaret Preston, and the post-impressionist Grace Cossington Smith. European Modernist art had fierce critics such as Norman Lindsay, who wrote for the nationalist publication The Bulletin, and the idiosyncratic teacher Max Meldrum. Ironically the Max Meldrum-led Australian Tonalism movement, which rejected modernist art and promoted a unique form of painting in accordance with Meldrum's theories of art, has since been recognized as a precursor to Modernist forms of art, including Minimalism, and art historian Bernard William Smith noted that Meldrum is perhaps the only Australian artist to develop and practice his own fully formulated theory of painting.20 Meldrum's student Clarice Beckett was rediscovered in the 2000s.
The term "Angry Decade" was coined by art critic Robert Hughes to characterize the tumultuous period from 1937 to 1947, when mostly Melbourne-based artists responded to the horrors of war and "laid a common ground of myth, attitude, and symbolic technique".
Sidney Nolan, a prolific painter who emerged during this period, became Australia's most internationally successful painter of the immediate post-war period. He is famous for his images of the 19th century bush ranger Ned Kelly, however his subject matter varied throughout his career allowing him to revisit earlier themes as mature painter. His reputation as a major twentieth century painter has survived.
Lesser talents were Social realist painters Noel Counihan, Victor O'Connor, and Polish refugee Yosl Bergner portrayed Melbourne's working class and the plight of urban Aborigines. Expressionists Arthur Boyd and Albert Tucker were prominent members of the modernist Heide Circle, centred at the Heide property owned by art patrons John and Sunday Reed.22 Tucker is remembered for the Images of Modern Evil series of paintings depicting local women prostituting themselves to American servicemen. Other artists who spent time there were Joy Hester, John Perceval, Laurence Hope.
Hester is known for her intense, evocative Love series of works on paper. Equally intense is Perceval's Boy With Cat 2, a painting of a cat scratching a child's face.
Notable artists of the forties (other than those surrounding John and Sunday Reed) were expressionists William Dobell, Russell Drysdale, painter and stage designer Loudon Sainthill and cubist Godfrey Miller.
The inner Sydney creative type was lampooned in Kylie Tennant's novel Time Enough Later.
Research, (1956–59) by Tom Bass
The Australian cultural scene of the 1950s is best remembered for the Dadaesque Dame Edna Everage's satire of "nice" postwar suburban Melbourne. Prominent Australian artists were the Archibald winning traditionalist painter William Dargie and landscape painter Albert Namatjira. Iconic oil paintings of the decade include John Brack's bleak urban visions Collins Street, 5pm and The Bar.
Wolfgang Sievers (1913–2007) had arrived in Australia in August 1938. He specialised in architectural and industrial photography. In 1946, Helmut Newton (1920–2004) established himself as a fashion photographer in Melbourne. Mark Strizic,24 (born 1928, Berlin), migrated to Melbourne from Zagreb, Croatia 1950, was another major portrait and architectural photographer from the late 1950s to the present day, noted for his documentation of many buildings that have now been demolished. David Moore (1927–2003) was a photojournalist.17 His 1966 photo Migrants Arriving in Sydney, originating from a commission by National Geographic, is one of the most famous works of modern Australian photography.25
Russell Drysdale (1912–1981), a painter of outback scenes, represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1954. Drysdale, William Dobell (1899–1970), Eric Thake (1904–1982) and the cartoonist Paul Rigby (1924–2006) helped to shape the visual archetype of the plain, hearty Australian.
Mid-Century Abstract Painting and Sculpture in Australia
In the 1950s Scottish expatriate Ian Fairweather (1891–1974) settled on Bribie Island, South-East Queensland, and produced semi- abstract calligraphic paintings of village scenes and the human figure influenced by the arts of China and Indonesia.26
European abstract art and the American Abstract expressionism was an influence in artists Erwin Fabian, landscape painter Fred Williams, Sam Atyeo (1910-1990), Ralph Balson (1890–1964), Stacha Halpern, John Passmore, Desiderius Orban, Carl Plate (1907–1977), Margo Lewers, Frank Hinder, Kenneth Rowell, Inge King, Nancy Borlase (1914–2006), William Rose, Tony Tuckson (1921–1973) Tom Gleghorn, Ann Thomson, Stan Rapotec, Clement Meadmore (1929–2005), Norma Redpath (1928-2013), Ian Sime, John Olsen, Peter Upward, Yvonne Audette (1930-), Howard Taylor. Meadmore became a well-known artist in New York. Tuckson's work is featured on the cover of the 2006 edition of the prestigious McCulloch's Encyclopedia of Australian Art. Dutch abstract painter Jan Riske emigrated to Australia in 1952. Erica McGilchrist had studied in Europe and developed an abstract style and became a nationally prominent artist, although in an interview with the Woman's Weekly magazine she noted she received more moral support than financial support, as Abstract Expressionism had quickly gone out of fashion.
El Alamein Fountain by Bob Woodward, completed 1961
In 1964, art critic Robert Hughes called Robert Klippel "one of the few Australian sculptors worthy of international attention". The statement cemented his international reputation, but he struggled to win acceptance in his own country.27 Invigorated by the rise of abstract expressionism and the New York School, Klippel moved away increasingly from traditional sculpture and produced his first junk assemblages in 1960. He began incorporating machine parts, pieces of wood and industrial piping into his works.
Abstract Expressionism and Pop art arrived but were not as commercially successful in Australia as in the United States where there was the lost generation of figurative painters and scene painters. In a protest against abstract expressionism, the Antipodeans group exhibition of 1959 postured that Australian figurative artists were being marginalized by the imported American style. The artists were Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, John Brack, Robert Dickerson, John Perceval and Clifton Pugh. Other figurative artists of the 1960s were Margaret Olley, Justin O'Brien, James Gleeson, Ainslie Roberts (1911–1993), Jeffrey Smart,28 Donald Friend (1915–1989),15 Lawrence Daws, Jacqueline Hick (1919-2004), Anne Hall (b.1945).
Notable commercial galleries and gallerists of the sixties were Macquarie Galleries, Kym Bonython, Frank Clune, Australian Galleries, Watters Gallery, Rudy Komon, Chandler Coventry, David Jones Gallery. Anne Von Bertouch (1915-2003) established the Von Bertouch Galleries in the New South Wales city of Newcastle in 1963, believed to be the first commercial gallery outside a capital city in Australia.
Richard Larter arrived in Australia in 1962 and started a long career in pop painting,17 with the female nude being the subject of many of his works. Larter is one of the most innovative of all Australian painters and is known for his social comment and Pointillism. Peter Powditch and Mike Brown (1938–1997) were early Australian pop artists.17
Psychedelia in 1960s Australian art was not common. A famous example is the cover of the Cream album Disraeli Gears (1967), created by Martin Sharp. Vernon Treweeke was briefly a star of psychedelic painting.29 Psychedelic drawer Vali Myers was another noted bohemian artist.
Definitive events in the late 1960s included the exhibition of Hard Edged Abstraction The Field at the National Gallery of Victoria, featuring several prominent painters who would later switch to figuration, Gunter Christmann, Janet Dawson, Peter Booth and the celebrated Los Angeles muralist James Doolin (1932-2002). Indigenous painting art was still considered an area of anthropological interest, rather than as contemporary art. Charlie Numbulmoore was painting his famous Wandjina spirit figures, The Power Institute of Fine Arts was established in 1968 with Elwyn Lynn developing the collection, eventually leading to the establishment of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and John Kaldor facilitated Christo and Jean-Claude's wrapping of Little Bay in Sydney.
Fusion of Surrealism with Abstract painting
The fusion of abstract painting and surrealism was originally a Melbourne phenomenon in the 1940s and 1950s, in the paintings of Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Ian Sime, Erica McGilchrist and Ken Whisson.
The 1960s rise of trendy hard edge painting touted as intellectually advanced art was unsatisfactory to many. Painters like Brett Whiteley, Gareth Sansom, Asher Bilu, Judy Cassab, Jan Senbergs, James Clifford (1936–1987),30 Donald Laycock, Shay Docking (1928-1998), John Montefiore (1936-2011) concentrated on developing idiosyncratic styles. Experimental filmmakers took visual arts beyond the confines of painting in the 1960s, they included Arthur and Corinne Cantrill, Albie Thoms, Paul Wikler and Ubu Films. Prominent artist filmmakers of this era were Garry Shead, George Gittoes and Daryl Hill. In the gallery scene an eclectic anything goes approach emerged by 1970 with the establishment of Gallery A. Newcastle's Rona Scott-Abbott (1934-2006), whose retrospective was at Maitland Regional Art Gallery in 1978, was coeval of pop surrealism. She also practiced theosophy themed abstract painting.
Increasing Popularity of Surf Art
John Witzig is recognized for his surf photography from the sixties onwards.
The Man With The Light in His Eyes, Portrait of Joseph Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski by David Beal
In a literary depiction of a great Australian artist, Hurtle Duffield in Patrick White's novel The Vivisector (1970) was a painter in the mold of the male genius modern artist, and to some artists the central character of The Vivisector did not realistically describe the life of the contemporary artist. White's interest in art collecting covered Early Australian Moderns such as Clarice Beckett and Roy De Maistre, through to a few Australian Abstract Expressionists to the contemporary artists Reg Mombassa, Brett Whiteley, James Clifford, John Davis and Max Watters. White was a fierce critic of the Sydney establishment and his taste in art clashed with theirs, in keeping with Robert Hughes's dismissive assessment of prominent Australian painters in the mid-sixties, however White donated much Australian art to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and is seen as one of the gallery's most important benefactors.
Critics of the canon of Australian art such as Charles Green and Susan Rothnie have viewed the seventies as an ignored decade of some change and seminal art that deserves reinterpretation.
Installation artists of this decade included Jutta Feddersen, Kevin Mortensen, Rosalie Gascoigne (1917–1999), Ti Parks and Tony Trembath.
Tapestry revivalists include John Coburn, Sidney Nolan, Margo Lewers, Mary Beeston, Jutta Feddersen. The Australian Tapestry Workshop was established in 1976.
Magic realism in photography
Notable photographers of the seventies are Peter Dombrovskis, Ingeborg Tyssen (1945-2002), Rennie Ellis (1940-2003), Carol Jerrems (1949-1980), Paul Cox, William Yang, Fiona Margaret Hall, Philip Quirk, Nicholas Nedelkopoulos and Grant Mudford.
Building on the innovations of photomontage, photorealists and artists such as Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), Man Ray (1890–1976), Gerhard Richter and Richard Hamilton, urban Australian artists were fascinated by the creative nexus of photography and painting. Painters combined painterliness with the look of photography (Annette Bezor, Ken Searle, Carl Plate, Richard Larter, Ivan Durrant, Robert Boynes,30 Patricia Moylan, James Clifford.)
Early Environmental art
Artists founded alternate practices apart from commercial galleries and art museums. Performance art and interactive art in communities throughout Australia saw the development of public art and community projects. Vivienne Binns project "Mothers' Memories Others' Memories" at UNSW and Blacktown was a ground breaking participatory project. Other artists around Australia, such as Anne Newmarch in Adelaide were involved in these kinds of practices.31
The Australian Women's Art Register was established in 1975. The painter of interiors Margaret Olley, whose style of painting had previously gone out of fashion, was rediscovered in the seventies.
Introduction of Acrylic Paints in Aboriginal traditional painting
In 1971-2 art teacher Geoffrey Bardon encouraged the Aboriginal people of Papunya to paint their Dreamtime stories on canvas, leading to the development of the Papunya Tula school, or 'dot art' is a recognizable style of art worldwide. Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (1932–2002), Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra and William Sandy are some of the best known Papunya artists.17
Psychedelia and science fiction art
Practitioners of brightly colored naive painting were Virginia Geyl, Douglas Stubbs (1927-2008), Max Watters. Upon seeeing some of Erica McGilchrist's work in this style artist-critic Robert Rooney referred to it as "cosmic corn". Donald Laycock's paintings of multicolored constellations would anthropomorphise into a female nude. Max Watters' scene paintings of the Hunter valley consisted of textured brushwork in psychedelic colors, giving his paintings a feeling of otherworldliness. Other psychedelic artists of the seventies include Harold Thornton (1915-2004) and Vernon Treweeke who sometimes used flying saucer imagery.
In 1979, science fiction and fantasy illustrator Mark Salwowski (b. Britain, 1953) opened TimeWinds Art Gallery and Studio in the Sydney suburb of Bondi Junction.32
The Dictionary of Australian Artists had been the outcome of a project begun in the 1970s at the University of Sydney under the leadership of Bernard Smith and funded by the Australian Research Council. Its development continued after his retirement in 1981 by Joan Kerr (1938–2004),33 who brought a new standard of inclusiveness to a work that had concentrated on mainstream figures.34
Ken Done's work has featured on the cover of the weekly Japanese magazine Hanako for over ten years. In 1999, Done was asked to create a series of works for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies programs of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Done and similarly Pro Hart became role models for artists who aspired to commercial success. Done's success is primarily as a designer of mass market goods, but he has gone on to be a painter, mainly of scenes of Sydney Harbour.
Markets like the Paddington Markets in Sydney's eastern suburbs was a place for artists to get a foothold in the market for affordable art.
Communication and Visual Semiotics
One commercially successful artist of the eighties was Reg Mombassa (Chris O'Doherty), whose surreal, darkly comic cartoons were featured on one of the country's most popular brand of surf wear. Mombassa's Australiana themed drawings typified a concern with accessibilty and social engagement.
Similar to the work of Mombassa, the socially concerned Redback Graphix produced some striking didactic poster art in the 1980s and 1990s, raising awareness of drink driving, sexually transmitted diseases, racism and workplace harassment.
Public galleries wanted to be taken seriously internationally and new art was exhibited at the Australian Perspecta at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the Biennale of Sydney which were a combination of genuine star artists and products of the ivory tower.
The most famous performance piece of 1988 was Burnum Burnum's planting of an Aboriginal flag on the white cliffs of Dover in the United Kingdom. Burnum Burnum (1936–1997) was an Aboriginal rights activist protesting the lack of legal recognition of Aboriginal ownership of Terra Australis prior to British settlement.
The proliferation of Australia's big things developed an ironic cult following, and Maria Kozic took the joke a step further with her schlock billboard "Maria Kozic is BITCH" (1989).35 On the serious side, cultural historians in Australia joined the global vogue for writing about Car culture36 and roadside memorials.37 In public art there was the introduction of sculptural features on concrete noise barriers along freeways.
Some depictions of angst and human suffering in the late 20th century were: Peter Booth's dystopian expressionist paintings, 38 Punk subculture-inspired Steve Cox's Criminological paintings of youths and men lapsed into and out of True crime.38 David McDiarmid (1952–1995), Peter Tully (1947–1992) and society photographer William Yang used their art to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic.3940 (Epidemic levels within Australia). Figurative painters Fred Cress (1938–2009) and the filmic Nigel Thomson41 (1945–1999) and Stewart MacFarlane364243 explored the seamy side of urban Australian life. Their styles were akin to cinematic Black comedy. Bill Henson's unsettling depictions of teenager's suburbia were grim35 depictions of revelry.
Australian Network for Art and Technology
1988 saw the establishment of the Australian Network for Art and Technology.
Hornsby Water Clock, 1993, by Victor Cusack
A grunge art movement occurred, mainly in Sydney in the 1990s. It produced an array of aesthetic practices included Destiny Deacon,29 Nike Savvas, Hany Armanious, Peter Gardiner and Adam Cullen, amongst others. Cullen's sad clown aesthetic evolved out of an unfortunate place he calls "Loserville".4445 There had also been a proto-grunge music scene in 1980s Sydney and Melbourne with bands such as Lubricated Goat and The Scientists. Another angry artist was Gordon Bennett, whose paintings were of white Australia's mistreatment of Indigenous Australians.22
Aboriginal artists using western media—such as Emily Kngwarreye (c.1910-1996), Rover Thomas (c.1926–1998) and Freddy Timms—have become known internationally. Emily Kngwarreye is regarded as a "genius" by curator Akira Tatehata.46
Leigh Bowery (1961–1994) was a performance artist working in London, famously called "modern art on legs" by Boy George. Ron Mueck became known for his oversize lifelike sculptures. Marc Newson is a successful industrial designer.
Howard Arkley (1951–1999),48 rediscovered culture in suburbia. Juan Dávila specialised in sensationalised statements about social hipocrisy. Guan Wei, an artist of the post-Tiananmen Square Massacre era, delved into geopolitical issues of the Asia-Pacific. Tracey Moffatt was arguably the most celebrated Australian contemporary artist of the 1990s, her work involved the slickness of advertising and accurately diverse artistic representations of women. Stelarc is one of the country's most prominent performance artists and was known for his technology inspired transhuman pieces in the 1990s.
The 2000s was characterized by the selling of tangible objects and was a shift away from the textual and conceptual nineties, with the dematerialization of the art object viewed as a curatorial double standard pushed in Australia by careerists since the 1960s. Dissatisfaction with bad writing in art magazines was well known a window of opportunity opened for some art sellers to use speculative Advertorial. With the economy booming as a result of financial market deregulation, there was a large quantity of retrograde art sold in the 2000s, although a few artists successfully married conceptual art with commercial art and there was a sense that some contemporary art made in Australia was as good as contemporary art made anywhere else in the world, at a more affordable price.
Interest in Materials
Ricky Swallow represented Australia in Venice in 2005. Swallow became known for his wooden carvings of skulls and constructions of bicycles. Artists making lifelike models has been a growing trend, and Patricia Piccinini's biotech showstopper The Young Family was publicised in 2003. A counterpoint to this is artists making crude models, wallowing in the materials used for their construction. Soft sculpture in Australian art may be traced back to Jutta Feddersen in the 1970s.49
Significant contemporary Indigenous Australian artists include Angelina George, Helicopter Tjungurrayi, Polly Ngal, Lofty Bardayal Nadjamerrek, Bronwyn Bancroft, Barbara Weir, Naata Nungurrayi, Kathleen Ngale, Danie Mellor, Shorty Jangala Robertson, Jimmy Baker, Tommy Watson, Kathleen Petyarre, Gloria Petyarre, Paddy Bedford (aka Goowoomji) (circa 1922 - 2007), John Mawurndjul, Minnie Pwerle (c.1915-2006), Makinti Napanangka, Ningura Napurrula, Nurapayai Nampitjinpa (Mrs Bennett), Dorothy Napangardi Robinson, Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri (circa 1920-2008), Regina Wilson, Angelina Ngal, Abie Loy Kemarre, Sarrita King, Ian Abdulla, Helen McCarthy Tyalmuty, Wintjiya Napaltjarri, Josepha Petrick Kemarre, Tommy Mitchell, Willy Tjungurrayi, Richard Bell, Cowboy Lou Pwerle, Brook Andrew,17 Ken Thaiday. Anna Price Petyarre is one of the more dynamic mid-career painters. Issues of the artistic bandwagon, fair pay for artists and provenance have exacerbated the post-GFC downturn in commercially available Western and Central Desert painting, which is widely seen as one of the most important contemporary art movements.
Leading ceramicists and glass artists include Mitsuo Shoji, Greg Daly, Avital Sheffer, Jenny Orchard, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott,17 Merran Esson, Thancoupie (1937–2011),50 Marea Gazzard, Peter Rushforth, Noel Hart, Klaus Moje, Pippin Drysdale, and Cedar Prest. Janet Mansfield (1934-2013) was an internationally recognized publisher specializing in ceramics.
New Media art, or Media arts
(For new media, see article: New media)
How Stuff is Made by Natalie Jeremijenko
Developments in new media left artists with the task of making meaning in the wake of new technology.
A phrase evoking Transdisciplinarity, new media art in the 2000s was frequently associated with video art, game art, modding, interactive pieces and scientific visualization. In 2008, the website australia.gov.au stated Australian organisations ANAT (Australian Network for Art and Technology) and SymbioticA are both part of an international network of artists' programs in science and industry research lab, the Artsactive network, which promotes integration of artists into science contexts and scientists into art contexts.
Contemporary landscape painting
Janet Dawson, Max Watters, Elisabeth Cummings, William Robinson, Philip Wolfhagen, Louise Hearman, Guy Maestri, Peter Simpson, Ross Laurie, Jason Benjamin, Steve Lopes, Patricia Moylan, Mandy Martin, Angelina George, Joe Furlonger, Clem Millward, Richard Wastell, Jason Cordero, Lucy Culliton, Tim Burns are just a few of the many contemporary painters concentrating on the Australian landscape.
Winners of the lucrative Glover Prize for landscape art in recent years are are Janet Laurence and painters Rodney Pople and Joshua Foley.
- Age of Consent (1969) dir. Michael Powell (director).
- Lust and Revenge (1996) dir. Paul Cox.51
- Sirens (1994) dir. John Duigan.
Australian novels about artists
- Harland's Half Acre (1984) David Malouf.
- The Vivisector (1970) Patrick White.
- The Sitters (1995) Alex Miller.
- Miles Walker, You're Dead (1999) Linda Jaivin.
- Prochownik’s Dream (2005) Alex Miller. Allen & Unwin
Novels with an artist as a main character
- The Spare Room (2008) Helen Garner
- Time Enough Later (1945) Kylie Tennant.
- Riders in the Chariot (1961) Patrick White.
- Prelude to Christopher (1934) Eleanor Dark.
- Death of a Painter, Georgio Morandi, The Wasps (to Edwin Tanner) Gwen Harwood
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