The visit to the Art Gallery of NSW with the Sydney OCA-ers was brief and – for me – unfocused. I wasn’t there with a purpose, and these notes are about some small observations.
Elioth Gruner’s Spring Frost of 1919 is a gentle favourite at the gallery – a bit of a biscuit tin painting but the morning light is beautifully captured. It shared a room with Janet Laurence’s The Memory of Nature, 2012, an installation of glass, mirrors, plants, seeds, taxidermied owls, tulle, wood and bones…
Janet Laurence is an important contemporary Australian artist whose work reflects on the fragility of nature. I was interested to see these works placed next to each other, as it is not an obvious pairing, but I think it worked well. Both are physically about light, and thematically about the rhythms of nature, and I think they work well together.
Another pairing that drew my attention is the very obvious but – I suspect – irresistible hanging together the two Archibald Prize-winning portraits of Margaret Olley, by William Dobell in 1948 and by Ben Quilty in 2011.
I’m not a huge fan of the Archibald but I’m a huge fan of the interest and fascination it generates each year. There’s something very Sydney about it, and I’d be sad if it disappeared.
I wanted to mention these works because I don’t know much about painting but I’m fascinated by great chunky blobs of paint that Ben Quilty excels at. I love the meatiness and the economy. It was great to be nice and close to the work, I felt like licking the canvas.