Toni Ross

  • Gemma Smith

    In a recent interview, Sydney-based artist Gemma Smith was quizzed regarding the “trappings” of high modernist abstraction salient in her work. Hinting that the repertoire of twentieth-century abstraction may seem anachronistic these days, the interviewer asked, “Do you ever wonder if you were born in the wrong era?” Smith’s unequivocal response: “No, of course not . . . There are still so many possibilities, even for abstraction.” Over a twenty-year career the artist has backed up this claim, finding ample scope for variation within a compendium of nonrepresentational idioms ranging across

  • Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran

    In a relatively short time, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s faux-primitive, mostly ceramic sculptures incorporating painting, graffiti, and other media have made a big splash on the Australian art scene. His recent exhibition included seven mixed-media ceramic sculptures arranged on eye-catching, neon-yellow flooring and a single bronze set on a translucent pedestal on the gallery’s original floor. The pieces recapitulated the interbred cultural references of the artist’s previous work, which range from multisexed Hindu gods to internet porn, emoji faces, and the naive expressivity of art brut.

  • “The Housing Question”

    Housing justice is currently a hot topic in Australia and other developed economies, where great national wealth exists alongside growing homelessness, unaffordable rents, diminishing availability of social housing, and domestic property prices that far outstrip average incomes. The three-person show “The Housing Question,” curated by Julie Ewington, included a major collaborative work by the veteran Australian artists Sherre DeLys, Helen Grace, and Narelle Jubelin, along with individual works by each artist, all addressing the theme of housing from personal, historical, and social-justice

  • “Just Not Australian”

    Co-organized by Artspace and Sydney Festival, “Just Not Australian” featured works by nineteen Australian artists and collectives of varied heritages. All were concerned with what it means to be cast as “un-Australian,” a politicized slander applied to any group, person, or act said to deviate from supposed norms of national identity. Over the years, opportunistic politicians and media commentators have mobilized the phrase to demonize targets varying from asylum seekers and striking workers to cricket cheats and the veils worn by Muslim women. For many of the artists in the show, contemporary


    Curated by Clothilde Bullen, Anna Davis, Daniel Mudie Cunningham, and Isobel Parker Philip

    In 2017, three of Sydney’s major art institutions collaborated to stage the first of three biennial editions of The National, thus beginning to repair an absence in the city of large-scale surveys of Australian contemporary art. The 2019 iteration will showcase new and commissioned works by emerging and established Australian artists based in homeland cities, nonurban regions, and remote Indigenous communities, but also abroad. Sixty-five artists’ works are to be presented in three distinct exhibitions

  • Yvonne Todd

    Yvonne Todd hit the New Zealand art scene in the early 2000s, and from the start she has been celebrated for bringing a touch of perversity to the traditional photographic genres of portraiture, still life, and landscape. Using a large-format camera, she deploys the slick artifice of studio portraiture and product photography to create images at once glamorous and sinister, generic and oddball.

    Todd’s recent exhibition, “‘Choux’: Still Lifes, 2006–2018,” presented eight still lifes. Such works have not garnered quite as much attention as the artist’s glamour portraits of young women. The latter

  • Anne Zahalka

    Anne Zahalka broke onto the Australian art scene as one of a number of talented women artists who rode the wave of postmodernism in the 1980s. Her early work combining photography and appropriation is typically viewed as debunking stereotypes of place, identity, and culture, and as showing photographic verisimilitude to be a theatrical construct. One of Zahalka’s best-known early works refigures the Australian modernist Max Dupain’s famous black-and-white photograph Sunbaker, 1937, which highlights the impressive musculature and oiled skin of a male surfer soaking up rays on Sydney’s Bondi Beach.

  • Grant Stevens

    The title of Grant Stevens’s latest solo show, “You have within you right now everything you need to succeed,” has a familiar ring at a time when self-optimization and positive thinking have become de rigueur in the pursuit of life mastery. Since the early 2000s, the artist has explored images, sounds, and texts of media culture and the internet like a sociologist unable to disentangle himself from the phenomena he scrutinizes. Believing collage to be one of the most significant legacies of modernism, Stevens updates this technique, along with appropriation and quotation, in works focused on

  • Mikala Dwyer

    The Art Gallery of New South Wales has given Mikala Dwyer license to transform five of its spaces with her eye-catching installations made of every imaginable material—manufactured, found, or handcrafted by the artist. Titled “A shape of thought,” the show reaffirms Dwyer’s tendency to configure thinking as a crossbred, chaotic thing that miraculously hangs together in each installation. The coexistence of contradictory thoughts channeled by painting, sound, video, performance, and especially sculpture is an organizing principle of her art. Her works suspend ontological divisions between

  • Jenny Watson

    Since her first solo show in Melbourne in 1973, Jenny Watson has been one of Australia’s most notable expressionist painters, able to invest images and text with psychobiographical vitality. “Jenny Watson: The Fabric of Fantasy” was the most comprehensive survey of the artist’s work to date, including more than one hundred drawings, prints, and paintings with collage and mixed media from the 1970s to the present. Assembled with intelligence and empathy by curator Anna Davis, the show traced the development of Watson’s distinctive idiom through all its phases. 

    Watson’s early works show a young

  • The National: New Australian Art

    It’s been nearly twenty years since Sydney hosted a substantial survey exhibition of contemporary Australian art. The National: New Australian Art offers welcome relief from this inexplicable drought, with three key institutions joining forces to showcase new work by forty-eight emerging, midcareer, and established artists, with further editions planned for 2019 and 2021. 

    Although no overall theme prevails, commissioned catalogue essays by Sunil Badami, Daniel Browning, and Helen Hughes characterized ideas of nation and Australianness as contested and always under construction. Blair French’s


    With a career spanning five decades, Jenny Watson is one of Australia’s most acclaimed painters in the expressionist idiom. Her signature large canvases often combine spidery text, sketchy images, and collage, and recall the self-conscious naïveté and coloristic virtuosity of works by Paul Klee and Marc Chagall. Watson’s expressionism is deeply informed by autobiographical themes from her youth, and is shaped by a whimsical, feminist perspective. This major survey, which is accompanied by a catalogue, includes work from the late 1970s to the present, encompassing the artist’s


    Assembled by Artspace executive director Alexie Glass-Kantor and curator Talia Linz, “THE PUBLIC BODY .01” was the first of a three-part exhibition series that will take place at yearly intervals. Edition one focused on contemporary artistic representations of sexualized bodies, and included works by seventeen artists from Australasia, the United Kingdom, China, and the United States. With thoughtful selections, the curators managed to create a fresh, celebratory, and provocative show on a familiar theme.

    Although the works ranged from performance, video installation, photography, sculpture, and

  • The National: New Australian Art

    Since the demise of Australian Perspecta in 1999, Sydney has sadly lacked a large-scale biennial exhibition devoted solely to Australian contemporary art. The National: New Australian Art, a joint venture between three major Sydney art venues, promises a remedy. The debut edition will feature a total of forty-nine established and emerging Australian artists exhibiting recent or newly commissioned works, encompassing painting, video, sculpture, installation, animation, sound, and performance. Pieces by Erin

  • Linda Marrinon

    Linda Marrinon has been exhibiting for over three decades. Fresh from art school in the early 1980s, she saw her pictorial works swiftly embraced by an Australian art scene flush with the spirit of postmodernism. Back then, her practice combined cartoonish social types, childlike text, and jokey invocations of late-modernist abstraction, often infused with a wry feminist humor. Her current work is less easy to match with contemporary art trends.

    In the late ’90s, the artist began transferring her facility with comic-strip drawing to three-dimensional art. At the same time, she embarked on a

  • the 20th Biennale of Sydney

    For her first outing as a biennial artistic director, Stephanie Rosenthal (chief curator at the Hayward Gallery, London, since 2007) has adopted the words of science-fiction writer William Gibson as the show’s title and theme: “The Future is Already Here—It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed.” But there is more to Rosenthal’s conceptual repertoire than this warning that not everyone has equal access to the technological advancements of our time. A number of traditional Sydney Biennale venues have been rebadged as fictional “embassies” or “safe spaces for thinking and conversation.” For example,

  • Angelica Mesiti

    The chilly elegance of Angelica Mesiti’s The Colour of Saying (all works 2015) confirms a marked evolution from her formative years in the Sydney art scene of the 2000s. For much of that decade, Mesiti was one of the Kingpins, a four-woman troupe known for its hilarious, high-camp parodies, live and filmed, of heavy-metal, rap, and hip-hop music videos. These works combined low production values, popular-cultural references, and a hyperactive performance aesthetic. Mesiti’s recent solo efforts seem a world away from these delirious assaults on taste.

    The Colour of Saying is a three-part video

  • Pat Brassington

    Pat Brassington’s recent show came in the wake of a thirty-year retrospective of her work that toured Australia starting in 2012 and running through this year. The Sydney event was a more modest affair, largely devoted to recent work: her 2013 series “In search of the marvellous” and four photomontages from 2014. Although Brassington emerged in the 1980s with a practice attuned to postmodernist appropriation and psychoanalytically informed feminisms, her method owes as much to modernist traditions such as Dada montage and Surrealism. Indeed, these days the artist is often described as Australia’s

  • 19th Biennale of Sydney

    The Nineteenth Biennale of Sydney may be remembered more for a boycott by participating artists than for the curatorial vision of artistic director Juliana Engberg, who subtitled the show “You Imagine What You Desire.” It is the blackest irony that the curator’s vision of art “imagining a world beyond the prosaic grounded life” should be ambushed by the festering political controversy surrounding Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. The target of the artists’ protest was the Biennale’s sponsorship by Transfield Holdings, a shareholder in Transfield Services, which runs Australia’s offshore

  • 19th Biennale of Sydney: “You Imagine What You Desire”

    For this iteration of Sydney’s biennial, Juliana Engberg, one of the more consistently adventurous curators working in Australasia today, will assemble an eclectic, intergenerational cast of more than ninety artists from thirty-one countries, nimbly mixing unabashed romanticism with social reformism. Expect a strong showing of Australian artists as well as names from afar—among them, Roni Horn, Stan Douglas, Tori Wrånes, Wael Shawky, and David Claerbout, with new works unveiled by Tacita Dean, Pipilotti Rist, and Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Meanwhile,