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22 May 2014 / leggypeggy

More biennale and the Art Gallery of NSW

The Art Gallery of New South Wales was the second (and only other) Biennale of Sydney venue we got to last week. I’ve already written about Cockatoo Island.

I hadn’t been to this gallery for ages and ages, and it was great to see the contemporary biennale exhibits as well as the special Afghanistan: hidden treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, which is on show until 15 June 2014.

The Afghan works are breathtaking and I’ll cover them separately, so today’s post is limited to the biennale and a selection of other works permanently held by (or on loan to) the gallery.

Biennale works
We first came upon a series of 19 photographs of people in their birthday suits—but elaborately embellished. Created by Deborah Kelly with support for probably 100 collaborators, this work is entitled No human being is illegal (in all our glory).

Each work measures 2.1 x 1.12 metres. They are displayed in a long, narrow corridor so it was impossible to photograph the collection in its entirety.

One of my favourites was We all need forgiveness by Bindi Cole of the Wadawurrung people. Each panel of this video and sound projection was revealed over time, with each person saying the words I forgive you. The cycle lasted several minutes, and the exhibit was popular with many.

My other favourite was Majority rule by Bidjara artist Michael Cook. This series of seven black-and-white photographs uses the same Australian Indigenous male protagonist over and over again. The photos reminded me of the sometimes used, and often denigrating, expression of ‘but they all look the same’.

There was a little bonus/task at the end of the biennale exhibits. The task—we were asked to complete a survey. The bonus—we’re in the draw to win two tickets to anywhere in Europe compliments of Etihad Airways. We can dream!

Other works
Margaret Olley is one of Australia’s best loved artists. A prolific still life painter, she died in 2011 at the age of 88. Remarkably, she was the subject of two Archibald Prize winning paintings; the first by William Dobell in 1948 and the second by Ben Quilty in 2011. Both were on display side-by-side, with Quilty loaning his to the gallery. They are so entirely different.

I have a special reason for loving Olley and her work—she was the queen of mess. The Sydney Morning Herald even used her as an example in an article of mess versus tidy. Her Paddington home was described as a ‘masterpiece of mess’ and the clutter was typical of her eye for still life.

As a permanent tribute to her talents as well as her mess, part of Olley’s home studio has been painstakingly dissected and reassembled at the Tweed River Art Gallery in Murwillumbah.

There are also some fantastic Aboriginal bark paintings and graveposts. The thunder spirits was painted by Munggurrawuy Yunupingu from the Northern Territory in 1961. The graveposts were completed in 1958 by six Tiwi artists from Melville Island.

And finally is Brett Whiteley’s The balcony 2 of Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I should have added the other day to my blog post on the harbour and bridge. While I haven’t seen the harbour from that balcony, I have stood on the edge of the front yard of that house in Lavender Bay and gazed down on the water. I promise to go back and take you there.

In the meantime, check out my cooking on page 32.

The balcony 2 by Brett Whiteley

The balcony 2 by Brett Whiteley


Leave a Comment
  1. turkeytonorway / May 26 2014 6:08 pm

    By the way Deborah Kelly, who did the first artworks, is a sydney local and good friend of my hairdresser.


    • leggypeggy / Jun 13 2014 1:05 pm

      Thanks Libby. I love it when the world gets smaller.


  2. suchled / Jun 9 2014 9:59 pm

    I wonder if you can explain the “Illegals” pictures. This word will one day go down as one of Australia’s low moments. Just an opinion.


  3. Good Food Everyday / Jan 5 2015 2:05 pm

    Another great post 🙂


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