Amongst the art, architecture, travel, opera and adventures, I like nothing more than to find a curious nugget of history that starts me thinking. Tucked into a short passageway in Parliament House in Canberra is an old painted banner in a frame. It’s a bit worn and faded, and its subject matter a little obscure – until its context is revealed.

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The Ned Kelly Series


‘Ned Kelly’ (1946) Sidney Nolan (NGA)

We’re still on the subject of art, and still in the National Capital. The NGA has another treasure I want to tell you about before we leave it: the iconic series of paintings that Sidney Nolan made on the dining room table at ‘Heide’, the home of his patrons John and Sunday Reid in 1946-47.

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Blue Poles


Jackson Pollock’s ‘Blue Poles’ in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

While this blog is on the subject of art, and Canberra, and the National Gallery of Australia, it should pause for a moment to consider “Blue Poles”, the centrepiece art work of the Gallery. This big painting, 4.9 metres long and 2.10 metres high, was painted by Jackson Pollock, the slightly notorious American Abstract Expressionist, in 1952. It was also the subject of political controversy when it was purchased by Australia in 1973.

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National Portraits


Sam Jinks ‘Untitled (Baby)’ (2007)

Australia’s National Portrait Gallery began its life in 1999 housed in the Old Parliament House Building in Canberra, moving to its shiny new purpose-built home in 2008. Its centrepiece is John Webber’s “Portrait of Captain James Cook RN” (1782) but the collection has expanded to included all kinds of portraits of all kinds of Australians. The display changes, with about 450 examples from the Gallery’s large holdings on show at any one time. You can view all 1775 portraits on the Gallery’s website.

Here’s a tiny sample of my favourites from a recent visit – just to whet your appetite. Continue reading

The Nation’s…Architecture


High Court of Australia Building, Canberra

Australia Day has just passed for 2015, indicating that the summer holidays are over and the year can really begin. As an Aussie theme seems appropriate, and I recently made a visit to The Nation’s Capital, here’s a few thoughts on three imposing “National” buildings in Canberra — a small selection amongst many, but neighbours, planted just a few minutes’ walk apart in the so-called “Parliamentary Triangle”.

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The Light Fantastic (Revisited): James Turrell



One of James Turrell’s ‘Ganzfelds’

Still on the subject of art ‘blockbusters’, in Canberra at the National Gallery of Australia they’re staging a retrospective of work by Californian artist James Turrell. There’s been lots of hype in the media about it…something seemed vaguely familiar…yep, I had seen Turrell’s work before, but instead of a massively promoted ‘blockbuster’, the exhibition I saw was down a seedy Kings Cross side street in London, at the Gagosian Gallery. I blogged about it at the time. Continue reading

Pop to Popism


On a recent hot Saturday morning (30+ degrees C), I decided on a trip to a place that has excellent air conditioning, good coffee, and lots of art: Sydney’s NSW Art Gallery in The Domain. Apart from the cool and the coffee, I wanted to check out this summer’s so-called “blockbuster” exhibition. The title is Pop to Popism — it sounded promising. Continue reading