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The visual arts of Australia include Australian Aboriginal art, Colonial, Landscape, Atelier, Modernist and Contemporary art. Australia has produced many notable artists from both Western traditions and Indigenous Australian traditions. The importance of most non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal art tends to be social and archival rather than innovative, for example, the sacredness of the land is a uniting theme to be found in both histories of Australian art. Australian art helps to inform the history of Australia since European exploration. It is also a popularly used form of self-expression. The place of art in Australian society opens up a discussion with a diversity of opinions, some of the notions it ranges across are virtuosity, fashion, socialising, hobbies, intellect, politics, entrepreneurship, investment, technology, identity, education and economic development.

Rock art

Rock art can be found all over Australia. The Sydney rock engravings, approximately 5000 to 200 years old, are just one example. Murujuga in Western Australia has the Friends of Australian Rock Art have advocated its preservation, and the numerous engravings there were heritage listed in 2007.


The first descriptions of Australia by European artists were mainly "natural-history art", depicting the distinctive flora and fauna 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, so until the turn of the century all drawings made in the colony were by soldiers, including British naval officers George Raper and John Hunter, and convict artists, including Thomas Watling. 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, including 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, who arrived in 1800 and published two volumes of natural-history art.

Ornothologist John Gould was renowned for painting many pictures of birds.

As well as natural history, there were some ethnographic portraiture of Aboriginals, particularly in the 1830s. Artists included Augustus Earle in New South Walesmarker and in Tasmaniamarker.

William Light (1786-1839) was the town planner for Adelaide. His plan is remembered today as Light's Vision.

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. Another significant landscape artist of this era was John Glover.

S. T. Gill (1818-1880) documented life on the Australian gold fields.

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 huge variety of art types represented. The first such was in 1854 in Melbournemarker. An art museum, which eventually became the National Gallery of Victoriamarker, was founded in 1861, and 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.

William Piguenit's (1836-1914) "Flood in the Darling" was collected by the National Gallery of New South Wales in 1895.

Walter Withers (1854-1914) won the inaugural Wynne Prize in 1896.

The beginnings of Australian art are often popularly associated with the Heidelberg School in the 1880s. The Heidelberg school focused on achieving a truer account of Australian lighting conditions than had been achieved before. 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".

Some of the key figures in the School were Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton (1867-1943), Frederick McCubbin, and Charles Conder. 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 Heidelbergmarker, at the time on the rural outskirts of Melbournemarker. Some of their paintings received international recognition, and many remain embedded in Australia's popular consciousness both inside and outside the art world.

Nature loving artists of previous generations are numerous, however some of the more idiosyncratic examples were Merric Boyd (1862-1940) and Sydney Long (1871-1955). Long's early paintings were influenced by the symbolists, art nouveau and partly by the Heidelberg School.

20th century

In Australia, Edwardian architecture is known as Federation architecture.

Hans Heysen (1877-1968), an artist known for his luminous watercolours of River Red Gums, won the Wynne Prize nine times from 1904 to 1932.

John Peter Russell (1858-1930), an Impressionist of this era was not closely associated with the Heidelberg School.

Bertram Mackennal, (1863-1931) was the greatest Australian sculptor of the early 20th century.

In 1912, Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937) won a contest to design a new city to be the capital city of Australia.

George Washington Lambert was a wartime artist (World War I).

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) works caused considerable scandal around the turn of the century. One famous drawing, Pollice Verso (1904), caused his first scandal, as it depicted Romans giving the thumbs down to Christ on the Cross. In 2003, Robert Hughes described Lindsay's work as mediocre in his book "Goya". Lindsay's children's book The Magic Pudding was very successful in Australia. Norman Lindsay and landscape painter Ernest Buckmaster were critical of the influence of modernism in Australia.

Popular illustrators of children's books were May Gibbs, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and Dorothy Wall (1894-1942).

Lloyd Rees (1895-1988) moved from Brisbane to Sydney. His drawings and paintings of Sydney Harbour featured a sinuous line that was to be repeated in the work of Brett Whiteley (1939-1992). By this time, women's artworks started to attract wider attention, such as the modernist oil paintings of Clarice Beckett (1887-1935), Hilda Rix Nicholas and pastels of Florence Rodway (1881-1971), the watercolours of Thea Proctor or the paintings of Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984), who painted the Sydney Harbour Bridgemarker as it was being constructed.

After World War I, modernist art began to make its presence felt in the Australian art community, causing considerable controversy between its practitioners and detractors (though this is probably an oversimplification). Abstraction from 1919 was initiated by Roy De Maistre (1894-1968) and Sam Atyeo (1910-1990).

1921 saw the founding of the Archibald Prize, Australia's most famous art prize, for portraiture, though defining portraiture has always caused controversy - most notably in 1943 when William Dobell's highly figurative portrait of an artist friend won the prize and was challenged in court on the basis that it was a caricature, not a portrait.

Max Dupain (1911-1992), whose images were of bronzed (often nude) Australians, dazzlingly lit beaches added to the mythological connection of white Australia to its coastline. Harold Cazneaux (1878-1953) created memorable photographs of Sydney in the 1930s. In the 2000s, George Caddy's (1914-1983) photographs of beachobatics taken during the thirties and forties have been rediscovered.

Works of watercolour or pastel on paper have for many years been less marketable than oil paintings on board or canvas. . Janet Cumbrae Stewart (1883-1960) was internationally recognised as one of the best pastelists of her time, but is little heard of today. In the 1930s and 1940s, with the opening up of Australia's interior, mutual influence between Western and Aboriginal culture extended to the most prominent artists. The most famous of these are the watercolourist Albert Namatjira (1902-1959) and the oil painter and printmaker Margaret Preston (1875-1963). Namatjira is associated with the Hermannsburg School. Preston was taken seriously as a key innovator of an "Australian" art of her time and still is. Namatjira's art was seen as Australiana until it was rediscovered in the 90s and celebrated as a cogent artistic vision. The watercolorist Kenneth Macqueen (1897-1960) was a contemporary of Namatjira. Macqueen mostly painted pictures of his farm in Queensland.

In 1934 the ANZAC Memorialmarker in Sydney's Hyde Parkmarker was built and featured the sculpture "The Sacrifice" by Rayner Hoff (1894-1937).

Australia's most iconic Art Deco painting, Australian Beach Pattern was painted by Charles Meere (1890-1961) in 1940.

Social realism in the forties and fifties involved Noel Counihan (1913 - 1986), Herbert McClintock (1906 - 1985) and Roy Dalgarno (1910 - 2001).

The abstractionist John Passmore (1904-1984) was part of the inspiration for the artist Hurtle Duffield in Patrick White's (1912-1990) novel The Vivisector (1970). In 2003, Passmore's friends Elinor and Fred Wrobel converted a pub into the Passmore Museum. It is one of the few museums in Australia dedicated solely to one artist's life and work. Passmore was a teacher of John Olsen (1928-), an innovative and original landscape painter.

Painter Godfrey Miller (1893-1964) was influenced by the writings of Rudolf Steiner.

In the 1940s a new generation of artists began experimenting with styles such as surrealism and other techniques. James Gleeson (1915-2008) eventually became recognised as Australia's most significant surrealist painter. Robert Klippel (1920-2001) a surrealist influenced sculptor who was influenced by industrial settings. Klippel also collaborated with Gleeson.

In Melbourne Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) and Albert Tucker (1914-1999) were prominent, and a number of artists spent time at Heidemarker, a house in Heidelberg - the site of the Heidelberg school several decades before. Amongst the artists who spent time there were Joy Hester (1920-1960) and, most prominently Sidney Nolan (1917-1992), the best artist of the immediate postwar period, whose iconic Ned Kelly images are probably better known than the artist himself. The effect of the Ern Malley poetry case, its cover illustrated by Nolan, also reflected around the art world.

Some of the artists who migrated from Europe from the 1920s to the 1950s were: Danila Vassilieff (1897-1958), Sali Herman (1898-1993), Desiderius Orban (1884-1986), Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack (1893-1965), Joseph Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski (1922-1994), Inge King (arrived 1951), Judy Cassab, Henry Salkauskas (1925-1979) and Eva Kubbos. They brought with them influential ideas about art.

Wolfgang Sievers (1913-2007) 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 Melbournemarker. Eileen Mayo (1906-1994) spent a decade in Australia before moving to New Zealandmarker in 1962.Mark Strizic, (born 1928, Berlin), migrated to Melbourne from Zagreb, Croatia 1950, was another major portrait and architectural photographer from the late fifties to the present day, noted for his documentation of many buildings that have now been demolished.

David Moore (1927-2003) was a photojournalist.

An art centre was established at Ernabella in 1948.

In the 1950s Scottish expatriate Ian Fairweather (1891-1974) settled on Bribie Islandmarker, South-East Queensland, and produced calligraphic paintings influenced by the arts of China and Indonesiamarker.

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.

George Johnson, a paragon of the Melbourne geometric abstractionist joked about in David Williamson's Emerald City (1987), held his first exhibition in 1956.

Bob Woodward's El Alamein Fountainmarker (1961) showed the public that small scale modernist public sculpture could enhance the appeal of inner city areas. The public sculptures of Tom Bass and Bert Flugelman had mixed reactions.

The aspects of Australia's landscape depicted by artists continued to widen, with the suburban landscape brought to attention by John Brack (1920-1999). Bohemian-minded artists were attracted to cities like New York, London and Paris. Vali Myers (1930-2003) appeared in Ed van der Elsken's book of photography, "Love on the Left Bank". Brett Whiteley (1939-1992). Twice winner of the Archibald Prize, he returned to Australia in the 1970s after spending time in London, Italy and New York and, amongst many other subjects, pushed the horizon to the top of the canvas and produced an array of landscapes of Sydney and particularly its inspirational harbourside. Currently Whiteley is critically ranked alongside artists such as Michael Johnson, Ken Unsworth, Colin Lanceley and Gareth Sansom.

Richard Larter arrived in Australia in 1962 and started a long career in pop painting. Many of his paintings were of the female nude. Also Mike Brown (1938-1997) and Peter Powditch were Australia's early pop artists.

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. Vivienne Binns exhibition of paintings at Watters Gallery in 1967 was notoriously genre defying and established her position as a contemporary of the Feminist art movement.

Charlie Numbulmoore painted his famous Wandjina spirit figures in the late 1960s.

The photographer Lewis Morley, already famous for his photos of Christine Keeler and Joe Orton, emigrated to Australia in 1971.

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' which has become possibly Australia's most recognisable style of art worldwide. Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (1932-2002), Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra and William Sandy are some of the best known Papunya artists.

The 1970s saw the introduction of the government funding of Australian arts. Artists from socially diverse backgrounds continued to establish themselves. In the same decade a multicultural broadcaster (Special Broadcasting Service) was established and University degrees were fee free. The Sydney Opera Housemarker was opened in 1973. The National Gallery of Australiamarker (opened in 1982) acquisition of the Jackson Pollock work Blue Poles (1952) was controversial due to the expense.

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.

Figurative artists popular since the 60s were Ainslie Roberts (1911-1993), Jeffrey Smart , Charles Blackman, Robert Dickerson, Donald Friend (1915-1989) and among the critics, George Baldessin (1939-1978).

Performance artists of the 70s included Ken Unsworth, Mike Parr, Mike Kitching, Philippa Cullen, Ivan Durrant and Jill Orr.

David Aspden (1935-2005) and Sydney Ball were stars of the local color field painting scene.

The Fred Williams (1927-1982) exhibition "Fred Williams - Landscapes of a Continent" was held at the Museum of Modern Artmarker in New York in 1977. Williams is now regarded as one of the best painters of the Australian landscape.

Oliffe Richmond, a very talented mid-career sculptor and colleague of Henry Moore died in 1977. Moore's links with Australia have been documented by the curator Nick Waterlow.

Neo-Expressionists of the 80s were Peter Booth, Jenny Watson, Davida Allen, Jan Senbergs, Ian Smith, Salvatore Zofrea, Pasquale Giardino and Peter Walsh (1958-2008).

The 1980s saw an art market boom of colonial and now mostly forgotten contemporary artists. Some flourished without the need the for government funding. Some artist's careers survived the art market crash of the early 90s, and most who did not were relatively young. Elderly folk artist Pro Hart (1928-2006) was embraced by the general public. He established a gallery in Broken Hillmarker and sold works to HRH Prince Phillip and to the White housemarker in the United States.

Ken Done's work has featured on the cover of the weekly Japanese magazine Hanako for over ten years, and in recent times Done has also become involved in the movement toward a new Australian flag. 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 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.

Mambo Graphics is famous for the surfwear screenprint designs of Richard Allen and Chris O'Doherty.

Redback Graphix produced some striking didactic poster art in the 80s and 90s.

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). On the serious side, cultural historians in Australia joined the global vogue for writing about Car culture and roadside memorials.

Macquarie Universitymarker Sculpture Park was established in 1992, featuring around 100 sculptures, situated in a suburban corporate park near bushland, the sculpture park is surrounded by brutalist architecture and the grotesque beauty of the Australian bush.

Ian Burn, the leading conceptual artist, died in 1993. He was one of the few Australian artists to contribute to a new international art movement (Art and Language).

Sculpture by the Seamarker began in 1996 and became a major sculpture show in Sydney's eastern beachside suburbs. An antecedent to this was Christo's wrapping of Little Bay in 1969.

Some contemporary artists working with semi abstracted shapes and patterns of nature include Anne Judell, John Wolseley, Geoffrey Bartlett, Brett Whiteley, Hossein Valamanesh, Fiona Hall, Marion Borgelt, Janet Laurence, Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006), Guy Warren and Andrew Rogers.

Some depictions of angst and human suffering in the late 20th century were:Peter Booth's dystopian expressionist paintings.George Gittoes drawing and painting the anguish of the Rwandan Genocide.Steve Cox's Criminological paintings of youths and men lapsed into and out of True crime.David McDiarmid, Peter Tully and society photographer William Yang used their art to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic. (Epidemic levels within Australia). Figurative painters Nigel Thomson (1945–1999), Stewart MacFarlane and Fred Cress explored the seamy side of urban Australian life. Their styles were akin to cinematic Black comedy. Tracey Moffatt's series "Scarred for Life" treated psychological suffering in a camp but heartfelt way. Bill Henson's unsettling depictions of teenager's suburbia were grim depictions of revelry.

A grunge art movement occurred, mainly in Sydney in the 90s. It included Destiny Deacon , Nike Savvas, Hany Armanious and Adam Cullen, amongst others. Cullen's works evolved out of an unfortunate place he calls "Loserville". There had been a proto-grunge music scene in the eighties with bands such as Lubricated Goat and The Scientists. Another angry artist was Gordon Bennett, whose paintings were of white Australia's mistreatment of aboriginals. Many artists chose distinctly more cheerful subject matter but they did not earn the esteemed reputation of Margaret Olley, a painter of still life floral arrangements and domestic interiors.

Building on the innovations of photomontage 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 (Carl Plate, Richard Larter, James Clifford (1936-1987), Ivan Durrant, Tim Maguire, Susan Norrie , Annette Bezor, Robert Boynes, Kristin Headlam, Ken Johnson, Julie Rrap, Louise Hearman, John Young, Lindy Lee, Lyndell Brown and Charles Green, Philip Wolfhagen, Leah King-Smith, David Wadelton). Those artists found limited but enthusiastic audiences. Experimental film and video was documented from the 1970s by Arthur and Corinne Cantrill, and they were interested in surrealist films. Two decades later contemporary Australian artists such as Patricia Piccinini, Tracey Moffat and Bill Henson were artistic leaders primarily using photography, using techniques of drawing, Scenic painting and Chiarascuro respectively. Julia Ciccarone circumvented the trend with her Trompe-l'œil paintings. In the world of Rock music, Richard Lowenstein was creating similar graphic effects using grainy overlays, as he did for the Hunters & Collectors video "Talking to a Stranger" (1982).

Aboriginal artists using western medium such as Emily Kngwarreye (c.1910-1996), Rover Thomas (c.1926–1998) and Freddy Timms have become known internationally and Emily Kngwarreye is regarded as a "genius" by curator Akira Tatehata.

Expatriate artists made their mark in Britain. Leigh Bowery (1961-1994) was a performance artist working in London, famously called "modern art on legs" by Boy George. Ron Mueck became know for his oversize lifelike sculptures. Marc Newson is a particularly successful industrial designer.

In the 90s, one of the most iconic experiments with form in Australian visual culture was the La traviata scene from the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in which a drag queen wearing a long train of billowing silver fabric rides atop a bus. In the 2000 Sydney Olympic Opening Ceremony, there was a focus on kitsch imagery including foam kangaroos riding bicycles.

Renzo Piano's Aurora Placemarker was built from 1996-2000. The twisting structure of Aurora Place complements the design of the Sydney Opera House.

Sculptor Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) was increasingly well known for her assemblages of cut up wood, most distinctively cut up road signs.

Social Theory, Postmodernism and Cultural Studies were greatly influential in the nineties following the establishment of new universities under the Hawke and Keating governments. Throughout the nineties, humanities course offerings were homogenised and fine arts and communication studies typified the push for the vocational humanities. In the fine arts, many contemporary artists were already reworking themes covered by the earlier postmodern artists. Some of those themes were Semiotics, Consumerism, political power, feminism, postmodern appropriation, dead white males, the body and the distinction between high and low culture. Howard Arkley (1951-1999), Juan Dávila, Imants Tillers and Guan Wei, an artist of the post-Tianamen Square Massacremarker era, were well known in the 90s and into the new century. Tracey Moffatt was arguably the most celebrated Australian contemporary artist of the 1990s. Stelarc is one of the country's most prominent performance artists and was known for his transhuman pieces in the 1990s.

The late Arthur Boyd donated the Shoalhaven River property Bundanonmarker to the Australian people, and this property became a new focal point for artists in residence. Artist residencies began there in 1998. Michael Leunig the cartoonist followed Arthur Boyd's prolific lyricism.

Early 21st century

After the Dot com crash, the art market experienced a boom until the Global financial crisis of 2008-2009. A few art dealers and commentators had gone on the public record calling the art market boom the harbinger of a recession, and expressing doubts about the veracity of some of the "investment art" and "blue chip" claims made by vendors of work by highly regarded senior artists and obscure artists alike.

A number of Australian artists have recently been official war artists for the Australian War Memorialmarker such as Wendy Sharpe and Rick Amor for the East Timormarker peacekeeping mission; George Gittoes in Somaliamarker; Peter Churcher in the “War on Terrorism”, and Lewis Miller in the 2003 Iraq War. Gittoes is also a documentary maker.

In the first several years of the 2000s there was a flurry of interest in the work of William Robinson, an established artist whose work has been a favourite with collectors since the 1980s. Like Margaret Olley, Elisabeth Cummings in her early work and Cressida Campbell he is influenced by Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). Cressida Campbell is a promising mid-career artist, also influenced by Margaret Preston, but not to the extent that Criss Canning is.

Figurative art is often influenced by Magical realism, for example: Janet Dawson, Daniel Boyd, Joanna Braithwaite, Julie Dowling, Eugenie Lee, Anwen Keeling, Anna Platten, Peter Simpson, Tim Storrier, Brian Dunlop, Cherry Hood, Kate Bergin, Zai Kuang, Graeme Drendel, David Keeling, Vincent Fantauzzo, Elizabeth Kruger, Anne Wallace, Ross Watson, Tom Alberts, Bill Leak, Steve Lopes, Lucy Culliton, Nigel Hewitt, Taring Padi artist Aris Prabawa (influenced by pop surrealism but a magical realist) and Paul Cox. In 2006 the Art Gallery of New South Walesmarker held a show of photographers working with magical realism in the 1970s, featuring work by Robert Ashton, Robert Besanko, Kate Breakey, Ian Dodd and Victoria Fernandez.

Expressionism is a style practiced by some of Australia's best known artists, with Arlene Textaqueen , William Robinson, McLean Edwards, Margaret Woodward, Adam Cullen, Kevin Connor, Euan MacLeod, Nicholas Harding, Ben Quilty, Wendy Sharpe, Del Kathryn Barton, Jun Chen, John Bokor, Margarita Georgiadis.

Winning entries for the Archibald Prize are usually jealously disputed. Examples of impressive artists winning regional awards are Dennis Nona in 2007 winning best visual artist at the convergent The Deadlys Award, and Peter Gardiner winning the Muswellbrook Open Art Prize in 2009. The tradition in drawing is and always has been strong, evidenced in the work of Anne O'Connor, Maria Kontis, Alexander McKenzie, David Warren, Del Kathryn Barton, Vernon Ah Kee and Shane Gehlert. The Jacaranda Drawing Award and The Kedumba Drawing Award are two of the most respected prizes for drawing.

Abstraction is still widely practiced, with painters Aida Tomescu, Sally Gabori, Marie Hagerty, Karl Wiebke, Dale Frank, John Firth-Smith, Jon Plapp, John Peart and sculptors John Nicholson and James Rogers being among the most accomplished. MOP and Sydney Non Objective spaces are strongholds of non-objective art.

Joe Furlonger and Robert Juniper were praised for their landscape paintings. Louise Hearman applied her distinctive moody style to paintings of roadways. Richard Woldendorp became more widely known for his aerial photographs of estuaries. John Olsen continued to be the most prominent non-Aboriginal living painter of the Australian landscape, and there were few other examples of contemporary landscape paintings hanging in the major public galleries.

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.

In 2006, the newly updated McCulloch's Encyclopedia of Australian Art featured an extensive section on Aboriginal Art. Inclusion in the encyclopedia is dependent on the artist being included in a public gallery and or having won an art prize of note. The practice of carpetbagging has damaged the reputation of the Aboriginal art market and recently there has been the introduction of a royalty system for all Australian artists. Previously, the Australian Commercial Galleries Association was formed to promote ethical standards across the art industry. Aboriginal art has also suffered from critics tending to compare it unfavourably to western ideals and standards. The art buying public has generally ignored these critiques.

Tommy Watson, Kathleen Petyarre, Gloria Petyarre, Paddy Bedford (circa 1922 - 2007), John Mawurndjul, Minnie Pwerle, Ningura Napurrula and Dorothy Napangardi Robinson are some of the most eminent Aboriginal artists. Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri (circa 1920-2008), Regina Wilson, Angelina Pwerle, Abie Loy Kemarre, Sarrita King, Ian Abdulla Helen McCarthy Tyalmuty and Brook Andrew are also quite popular.

Like their overseas counterparts, Australian artists of various generations have taken up the conveniences of the digital revolution with artist blogging, photo sharing sites, Modding and street art that is shared over the internet. A generation of teenagers has posted homemade manga on DeviantArt, and MySpace Australia held its first art competition in 2008. Talented and unrepresented photographers often find their way onto Flickr and similar sites. These practices emphasise the difference between connoisseur evaluation and market evaluation as conceptual art did, although those types of evaluation are not mutually exclusive. The Art Life blog put paid to any doubts that the Australian art world would have a Blogosphere of its own. Aboriginal Art Blog takes a look at the introduction of the royalty system and the art market ( Escape From Woomera, a mod appeared in 2003. Starey Oh (aka Oleh Witer) announced his intention to exhibit his art on Second Life.

Leading potters and glass artists include Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, Merran Esson, Thancoupie, Marea Gazzard, Peter Rushforth, Noel Hart, Klaus Moje and Cedar Prest. The ceramics scene in Australia is generally scholarly, restrained and less parochical than in other categories of Australian contemporary art. Studio glass artists tend to be more individualistic in comparison to potters.

Artists who could be loosely defined as working within the goth mindset are Dean Home, Warren Breninger, Godwin Bradbeer, Ricky Swallow, Amanda Marburg, David Noonan, Irene Hanenbergh and Brook Andrew.

Digital media artist Linda Dement challenged the entrenched tradition of the bad-boy artist. Tina Fiveash continued to satirise gender stereotypes. Juno Gemes brought a sleek look to contemporary social documentary, rather than the established gritty style.

While there has been Australian involvement in the major video game Bioshock (2007), and special effects in major films like The Matrix (1999) and House of Flying Daggers (2004), artists in the broader field of New media have striven to redefine their practice. On 27 October 2008 in The Australian, Rosemary Sorensen's article on the National New Media Award quoted curator Jose Da Silva on Natalie Jeremijenko:

She's one of the great Australian artists doing amazing things and recognised internationally but somehow overlooked back home.

In the realm of the most ephemeral visual art, major Pyrotechnics displays have steadily become more sophisticated since the Bicentennial celebrations of 1988.

Cultural exchange between Australia and its neighbours has been facilitated by political leaders. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono commented on the importance of this at the 2007 APEC summit. For a number of years, Dadang Christano has made art about his Chinese Indonesian experience, while a younger cohort of Australian and Indonesian artists held the GANG festival in 2006-2007. Painter and printmaker Dean Bowen has won art prizes in Japan.

Pop Surrealists of recent years are Chris O'Doherty, Adrienne Gaha, Ben Frost, Steve Smith, Emily Hasselhoof and Shane Gehlert. In the 1980s, "lowbrow" (derog.) artist Ed Roth's (1932-2001) illustration had been used for the cover of The Birthday Party's album Junkyard (1982) and Western Australian pop surrealist John Paul was treated as a fine art painter. Street Art in Melbourne's laneways includes a mixture of styles.

Installation artists: Fiona Hall, Guan Wei, Nike Savvas, Zanny Begg, Fiona Foley, Scott Redford, Asher Bilu, Justene Williams, Mimi Tong, Lauren Berkowitz, Tony Trembath.

Performance art: Jeremy Hynes

Adaptive re-use


Like the larger art markets in the northern hemisphere, fraud is a problem in Australian art. There is no public database of known fraudsters to date, although they are known to come from Australia and China. In addition to the growing number of faked paintings of artists including Minnie Pwerle, Charles Blackman and Robert Dickerson, sometimes galleries and art dealers are impersonated over the internet. The major commercial art magazines have websites with the correct links to their client's websites.

In popular culture

Films Plays Novels

List of artists

Art museums and galleries in Australia

Australian visual arts in other countries

The museum for Australian Aboriginal art "La grange" (Neuchâtel, Switzerland) is one of the few museums in Europe that dedicates itself entirely to Aboriginal art.

See also


  1. * ABC Online 10.02.09 Pilbara Rock Art not Affected by Mining Emissions: Study
  2. Phillips, Yasmine: World protection urged for Burrup art. 13.01.09 [1]
  3. James Gleeson, Australian Painting. Edited by John Henshaw. 1971.
  4. Elder, David F: Australian Dictionary of Biography, Light, William 1786-1839 [2]
  5. McCulloch, Alan McCulloch, Susan McCulloch & Emily McCulloch Childs: McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art Melbourne University Press, 2006
  6. Alan McCulloch, Golden Age of Australian Painting: Impressionism and the Heidelberg School
  7. Alan McCulloch, Golden Age of Australian Painting: Impressionism and the Heidelberg School
  8. Alan McCulloch, Golden Age of Australian Painting: Impressionism and the Heidelburg School
  9. Alan McCulloch, Golden Age of Australian Painting: Impressionism and the Heidelburg School
  10. Alan McCulloch, Golden Age of Australian Painting: Impressionism and the Heidelberg School
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  14. Davies, Alan, Loader, Cumming, Leong, Thomas, Ngo, Caddy: Bondi Jitterbug: George Caddy and his Camera. State Library of New South Wales, 2008.
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  32. Catalano, Gary: The Years of Hope - Australian art and art criticism 1959-1968. Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1981
  33. Crawford, Ashley: Artist had love of the landscape and penchant for the surreal The Age January 26 2009
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  78. Mousoulis, Bill: Melbourne independent filmmakers: a web resource

Further reading

  • Australia Council report. Don't Give Up Your Day Job: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia. 2003 [43346]
  • Australian Art Collector's Guide to Aboriginal Art Centres [43347]
  • Cosic, Miriam: Fabric of the desert revealed in new creative form. The Australian 5 January 2009 [43348]
  • Cullen, Max and Marianne Latham (producer): Artist profile: Dean Bowen. Sunday, Nine Network. (Televised Current Affairs) 19 July 1998 [43349]
  • Drummond, Peter (Producer) : Five Australian artists (motion picture). Melbourne : Cinevex Film Laboratories (production company), 1979.
  • Frost, Andrew: In art, it's a long way to the beret. Sydney Morning Herald 18.09.08 [43350]

  • Isabel Hogan and Shirley Kennard: Auntie's artist who gave us that squiggle (orig. in Sydney Morning Herald, 27 September 2001) Milesago - Obituaries- Bill Kennard [43351]
  • Kabov, Valerie: Renaissanceaic (e-newsletter) 2008
  • Knox, Sara: The serial killer as collector. in Acts of Possession: Collecting in America, edited by Leah Dilworth. Rutgers University Press, 2003. ISBN 0813532728
  • Loxley, Anne: Retro perspective, Sydney Morning Herald, January 8, 2003. [43352]
  • McDonald, John: Visual Art, Spectrum, Sydney Morning Herald, 2005-
  • Meacham, Steve: Art Prize just a lot of old Archibalds, Arts Review, Sydney Morning Herald, 8/9/06 read in full More Archibald
  • Murray-Cree, Laura and Drury, Nevill (eds): Australian Painting Now. Thames & Hudson, 2000. ISBN 0-500-23773-5, ISBN 978-0500237731.
  • Rothwell, Nicholas: Creativity feels the crunch. The Australian, 16.01.09 [43353]
  • Sorensen, Rosemary: Beyond the Frozen Image, The Australian, 27/10/08 [43354]
  • Sydney Morning Herald with Erin O'Dwyer, 2.4.2009 : Treasures Looted and Sold Online [43355]
  • The Art Life (Blog) What's Wrong With Peter Timms? 13.07.2004 [43356]
  • The Art Life (Blog) A Life in Oil 10.03.2005 [43357]
  • The Artswipe (Blog) The Artswipe is BITCH 23.02.09 [43358]
  • Westbury, Marcus: Not Quite Art, Series 1 (television series) 2007

Representative Organisations

External links

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