Gallery Visit: AGNSW March 2013

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Elioth Gruner – Spring Frost – 1919 – AGNSW

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 - The Memory of Nature - 2012 - partial view

Janet Laurence – The Memory of Nature – 2012 – partial view

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.

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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.

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