The News Line Saturday August 24 2013 PAGE 7
AUSTRALIA - PREVIEW
Royal Academy of Arts
Main Galleries 21 September- 8 December 2013
Admission 14 UK pounds; concessions available; children under 12 free; Friends of the RA go free
BY A GUEST REVIEWER
IN September, the Royal Academy of Arts will present Australia.
It says proudly that this will be the most significant survey of Australian art ever mounted in the UK.
Focusing on the influence of the landscape, Australia will span more than 200 years from 1800 to the present day and will feature over 200 works, including paintings, drawings, photography, watercolours and multimedia.
This ambitious exhibition will bring together works from the most important public collections in Australia, the majority of which have never been seen in the UK before.
The story of Australian art is inextricably linked to its landscape. An ancient land of dramatic beauty, a source of production, enjoyment, relaxation and inspiration, yet seemingly loaded with mystery and danger.
For Australian artists, this deep connection with the landscape has provided a rich seam of inspiration for centuries.
In 1948, the Australian artist, and Royal Academician, Sidney Nolan (1917- 92) said of his iconic Ned Kelly series that it was 'a story arising out of the bush and ending in the bush'.
He believed strongly that an understanding of landscape was central to his work, giving meaning to place, and commented that he found 'the desire to paint the landscape involves a wish to hear more of the stories that take place in the landscape'.
The exhibition will map the period of rapid and intense change; from the impact of the first settlers and colonisation on the indigenous people to the pioneering nation-building of the nineteenth century, through to the enterprising urbanisation of the last century.
Reflecting the vastness of the land and the diversity of its people, early, as well as contemporary Aboriginal art will sit alongside the work of the first colonial settlers, immigrant artists of the twentieth century and the work of some of today's most established Australian artists.
The exhibition will include works by Aboriginal artists such as Albert Namatjira (1902-59), Rover Thomas (c.1926-98), Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910-96) and a number of artists from the Papunya Tula group of the Western Desert.
Nineteenth century European immigrants such as John Glover (1767-1849) and Eugene von Guerard (1811-1901) will also feature, as well as the Australian Impressionists whose paintings relied heavily on the mythology of the Australian bush: Arthur Streeton (1867-1943), Tom Roberts, (1856-1931) a student of the Royal Academy Schools, Charles Conder (1868- 1909) and Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917).
Early Modernists such as Margaret Preston (1875- 1963), Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984) and Roy de Maistre will hang alongside the leading twentieth-century painters: Arthur Boyd (1920-99), Albert Tucker (1914-99), Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-99), Fred Williams (1927-82), Brett Whiteley (1939-92) and Sidney Nolan RA
The exhibition will end in the twenty-first century with internationally recognised artists such as Bill Henson (h.1955), Gordon Bennett (b.1955), Tracey Moffatt (b.1960), Fiona Hall (b.1953) Shaun GIadwell (b.1972), Christian Thompson (b.1978) and Simryn Gill (h.1959) who will this year represent Australia at the Venice Biennale.
Highlights will include Frederick McCubbin's The Pioneer, 1904; four paintings from Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly series, 1946; Rover Thomas' Cyclone Tracy, 1991; Emily Kame Kngwarreye's Big Yam Dreaming, 1995 and Shaun Gladwell's video Approach to Mundi Mundi, 2007.
Judy Watson has been commissioned to create a new sculpture for the Royal Academy's Annenberg Courtyard that resonates with the themes of the exhibition and with the context of its British setting.
Australia aims to evoke a sense of the distinctiveness of the Australian landscape whilst considering the art historical developments and contributions of Australian art across the last two centuries.
It will show how in the nineteenth century an exploration of national identity allowed artists a freedom to define themselves, away from the rules of the European tradition.
That focus on the landscape and its complex, deep-rooted connections to national identity, has continued in the work of Australian artists to the present day.
The exhibition is organised with the National Gallery of Australia and has been curated by Kathleen Soriano, Director of Exhibitions, Royal Academy of Arts, Dr Ron Radford AM, Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and Dr Anne Gray, Head of Australian Art at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Australia is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring essays by Wally Caruana, Franchesca Cubillo, Anne Gray, Deborah Hart, Ron Radford, Kathleen Soriano and Daniel Thomas.