australian modern masterpieces from the art gallery of new south wales

Modern learnings

A week or so ago, I was lucky enough to get to check out the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s upcoming exhibition, Australian Modern Masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

The exhibition has since opened, and so I thought it would be timely to let you know about the other great complimentary events that are going on at the gallery as part of this exhibit. These film screenings and lunchtime recitals will help you to really get into spirit of this impressive stage of Australian art, to learn a bit more about the colourful characters who were working in the art world at this time.


Film screenings
Celebrate Australian cultural expression with special movie screenings on the wall of the gallery Function Hall. Bring a beanbag and enjoy a glass of wine as you experience some Australian classics. Free screenings – donation requested for supper. Presented by the Art Gallery of Ballarat in partnership with Ballarat Film Society.

A Son is Born and The Picture Show Man
Saturday, 22 October at 8pm
This double feature brings together a 1946 family melodrama featuring Peter Finch and John McCallum with the nostalgic 1977 nostalgia piece The Picture Show Man, starring John Meillon.

Between Wars
Thursday, 27 October at 8pm
This 1974 feature is one of the few Australian features to range over the socio-political landscape. It stars Corin Redgrave and Judy Morris. It will be proceded by shorts including the 1985 The Drover’s Wife.

Heritage and Squizzy Taylor
Tuesday, 22 November at 8pm
A homegrown gangster classic, this Simpson Le Mesurier film starring Jackie Weaver was released in 1982. It pairs up with Charles Chauvel’s second sound feature from 1935.

Lunchtime recitals
Explore different aspects of 20th century Australia with these special lunchtime events. Entry by donation. Presented by the Art Gallery of Ballarat in partnership with Bronwyn Blaiklock, Ballarat Writers Inc and the University of Ballarat.

Eric Christopher Perry and Bronwyn Blaiklock
Friday, 18 November at 12.30pm
Join tenor Eric Christopher Perry and pianist Bronwyn Blkaiklock as they explore a diverse range of Australian song and piano music, reflecting the cultural movements in the Australian Modern masteprieces exhibition. They present sample elements borrowed, adapted and created in a unique soundscape.

Nathan Curnow – The Angry Penguins
Friday, 25 November at 12.30pm
Join award-winning poet Nathan Curnow for readings from the 1940s ‘Angry Penguins’ era, including the notorious Ern Malley poems -the literary hoax that aimed to discredit the Australian avant-garde.

Sheridan Palmer on Bernard Smith and Modernism’s Tradition
Wednesday, 9 November at 12.15pm
Dr Sheridan Palmer, who is writing a biography of the notable Australian art critic Bernard Smith who is known as the father of Australian art history. In this talk she discusses the importance of Bernard Smith as a major player in defining the history of Modernism, that extraordinary cycle of stylistic changes and ideologies in which new codes of behaviour, dress, architecture and politics redefined culture and ostensibly freed modern life from its traditions. This talk will be repeated at 6pm, when wine and cheese will be available.

Text taken from Art Gallery of Ballarat promotional brochure. Full details of all upcoming events can be found on the gallery’s website.


I’m hoping to get to the Nathan Curnow – Angry Penguins session myself. Well worth a day trip, as is the exhibition itself. Please treat yourself!

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A modern masterpiece

I’ve not long ago returned home from a quick trip to Ballarat, where I was lucky enough to have a sneak-peak at the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s upcoming exhibition, Australian Modern Masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Modern Masterpieces is an incredible collection of pieces from the superstars of modern Australian art. Carefully curated and thoughtfully arranged, the show includes works from the likes of Margaret Olley, Margaret Preston, Arthur Boyd, John Brack, Grace Cossington Smith, William Dobell, Donald Friend and Sidney Nolan, John Olsen and one of my favourites, Brett Whiteley.

“This exhibition provides a unique insight into the history of Australian modern art from the 1910s to the 1970s, recognising the extraordinary ability of Australian artists and the pivotal role they played in capturing the lives and moments of Australians in recent times.” 

Image: Jeffrey Smart

I was incredibly impressed by the calibre of the works included in this show. The Art Gallery of New South Wales has been incredibly generous in providing some really stand-out pieces, which have been skillfully blended with works from Ballarat’s own stella collection. The show also includes a piece from the collection of the Newcastle Region Art Gallery, which is where the exhibition will move to next.

I was entranced by Dobell’s wistful portrait of Margaret Olley (1948) – the piece made all the more meaningful for Olley’s recent passing. This portrait marked Dobell’s re-entry to portraiture, and won him his second Archibald Prize. The sensitivity behind this portrait is obvious, and it is beautifully whimsical and just a little cheeky.

There are a number of really haunting pieces in the exhibition, such as Drysdale’s Sofala (1947) and Boyd’s The Mockers (1945). Jeffrey Smart’s more recent work The Listeners (1965) is stunning and more than a little ominous.

The absolute highlight for me personally were the Brett Whiteley works, inparticular the inclusion of Remembering Laotse (Shaving off a Second) (1967).

...with Director, Gordon Morrison

We have a print of this piece at the end of our hallway at home, and it’s a favourite. The image is for me at once confronting and comforting, and the handwritten text included in the top left-hand corner of this work on paper, delivered forcefully by pointed finger is both a warning and a reassurance:

Remembering  Laotse …….

He is to be made to dwindle (in power)
Must first be caused to expand
He who is to be weakened
Must first be made strong
He who is paid to be low
Must first be exalted to power
He who is to be taken away from
Must first be given
This is the subtle light
Gentleness overcomes strength
Fish should be left in the deep pool
And sharp weapons of state should be left where none can see them!!!

In my humble opinion, this piece is in its own right worth the trip to Ballarat and the (very affordable) cost of entry to this impressive exhibition.

Australian Modern Masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales will open at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North, on 5 October, and run until 27 November 2011. Check the gallery website for full details, and for some great tips and discounts regarding travel and accommodation.

Further, Rushcrowds currently have some special offers (including free tickets!) – well worth checking out here!

I can honestly say I loved this exhibition, and I’m hoping to get back at least once more before it closes. I can highly recommend it, for both locals and others who feel like a trip to one the best regional galleries around.

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