Toni Ross

  • Archie Moore, Family Tree, 2021, conté crayon and blackboard paint on MDF. Installation view. Photo: Zan Wimberley.

    Archie Moore

    The work of Archie Moore addresses the histories and politics of race. These themes are personal for the Brisbane-based artist, who was born in 1970—the son of an Aboriginal mother and a white father—and brought up in a small Queensland town where racism was a fact of life. The artist’s recent show, “The Colour Line: Archie Moore & W. E. B Du Bois” was made in response to curator José Da Silva’s invitation to make a work in dialogue with the handmade data visualizations produced in the late 1890s under the guidance of African American writer, activist, and sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois. These

  • Natalya Hughes, Woman I (Me from here), 2018–19, acrylic on polyester, 76 × 57 7/8".

    Natalya Hughes

    The title of Natalya Hughes’s latest exhibition, “The Landscape Is in the Woman,” borrowed Willem de Kooning’s words from 1953, the year when his first “Woman” paintings were exhibited. The recall of de Kooning’s fearsomely sexualized female bodies hacked out in Abstract Expressionist style might suggest yet another feminist critique of his portrayal of women as objectifying and aggressively misogynistic—a reproach that since the 1970s has become orthodoxy. While Hughes’s show was patently informed by such views, she describes her artistic conversation with this canonical modern painter in more

  • Gemma Smith, Margin, 2020, acrylic on board, 54 × 46".

    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, Blue Standing Figure, 2019, mixed media, 78 3⁄8 × 39 3⁄8 × 33 1⁄2".

    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.

  • Helen Grace and Narelle Jubelin, The Housing Question, 2019, HD video, color, sound, 27 minutes 8 seconds.

    “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

  • Karla Dickens, Never Forget (detail), 2019, mixed media (panels, clockwise, from top left: Bottom Feeders III, II, IV, and I, all 2018, acrylic and collage on board, each 23 5⁄8 × 18 7⁄8"). From “Just Not Australian.”

    “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, Sand Forms, 2014, C-type print, 34 × 40".

    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, Flocking flamingos, 2018, pigment ink on canvas, 39 3⁄8 × 59”. From the series “Wild Life in the Age of the Anthropocene,” 2018.

    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, Happiness, 2018, 4K video, color, sound, 5 minutes 29 seconds.

    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 Additions and the Subtractions, 2017, mixed media. Installation view. Photo: Mim Stirling. From the series “The Additions and Subtractions,” 2007–.

    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, The Key Painting, 1987, oil and gouache on cotton, 48 3/8 x 70 7/8".

    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