NGA Visual Arts, Motherwell, Natori Shunsen, Contemporary Photography

Review: Visual Arts
Several exhibitions at the NGA

237644-1Our public galleries are places you should visit often, and not just for the big blockbuster exhibitions.

There are many other exhibitions, especially collection exhibitions, that are a wonder to see and enjoy.

There are three great examples at present at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra. Combine that visit with the exhibition, Arcadia, at the National Portrait Gallery and the exhibition from the Power Collection in Sydney now at the National Library, and what a visual arts experience just waiting to happen.

At this point I have to clarify that usually I take a few photographs of the exhibitions to illustrate my posts. Unfortunately the NGA does not allow photographs to be taken anywhere anytime inside the building.


Robert Motherwell: At five in the afternoon

At the NGA till 6 October 2014.

95837I have to state up front that I had not paid a lot of attention to the works of Robert Motherwell. Till now. Having visited the exhibition out of curiousity, I have been back two more times to engage with these sumptuous works.

The great thing has been , which may not be good news for the NGA, each time I have been in to see this exhibition, there have been few people there.

Unfortunately (for me) last time there was a couple who just could not stop talking aloud to each other about anything and everything. Their noise occupied the air space to the extent that I left and returned a little later to view the exhibition in a more peaceful atmosphere.

102589click here for more on this exhibition. I stood in front of a couple of his prints for quite a while and admired the simplicity of them. (more seating would be nice!)

Likewise his cut-outs are just so beautiful. I could not see a catalogue but of course there are plenty of books on Robert Motherwell. But please go and see the real thing while you have the chance and allow time to return and to soak it all in.

The exhibition is in the downstairs project gallery. It’s a collection exhibition. And it’s free to visit. I would love to show you a photograph of the exhibition – but! not allowed.

Recommended: Rating 9/10


Stars of the Tokyo Stage: Natori Shunsen’s kabuki actor prints

At the NGA till 12 October 2014.

213580I have no recall when I first fell in love with these japanese prints. The images have been with me all my adult life and I suspect they often influence the photographs I take.

Click here for the online information.

So from that short statement you will have deduced that I like this style of Japanese prints. A Lot! I really enjoyed visiting these works again. There are a lot of them so your first visit may be a bit overwhelming. Solution? Return and enter through the other entrance and take your time.

193852I highly recommend the catalogue for this exhibition. It is beautifully illustrated book and easily well worth the small price of $29.95. There are six short and well illustrated essays followed by extensive print by print information on the works.

This exhibition is in the upstairs project gallery – and again – it is free. So absolutely no excuses.

Recommended: Rating 9/10


 Photography Gallery
Gifted artists: Donations by Patrick Corrigan AM

At the NGA till 12 January 2015.

203778Towards the front of the NGA in the Photospace Gallery there’s a selection of some wonderful contemporary photography by artists of the last decade or so. The collection has come to the NGA as a gift from a collector. There’s some really good stuff here. Being 24 works by  20 photographers.

Click here for the photospace gallery – note because of the silly URL linking, the contents will change in 2015.

There’s an online gallery – click here. If you have the slightest doubt about the strength of good photography, then take in this exhibition. Most of the works seem to from the period late 1990s to around 2009. I think the majority of the artists in exhibition are women.  I knew of most of the artists but have been very pleasantly introduced to a few that I had not previously enjoyed.

One was Gayle Slater, Artist-Photographer. She does not have much online so I have stolen these couple of images from an awkward website for your enjoyment:

gayle-slater238768There were more, such as these two photographers. Selina Ou and she has a website which is definitely worth exploring – click here.






237488Mari Hirata is another of my finds. She has a website, but for some reason access to her galleries is very slow. Lots of shoe movements but not much else.




There’s lots more to say about many of these wonderful photographs – but you need to see them for yourself. Over to you.

Recommended: Rating 9/10


So there you go, along with a stroll through the spectacular NGA collection floors and galleries of international and Australian art, you now have three more good reasons to get to the NGA soon. So do not just wait for the next big blockbuster, go now while the gallery is quiet and take in these collection exhibitions. They are really that good!

And then wander over to the National Portrait Gallery to see Arcadia – click here.

Coffee? The Portrait Gallery coffee is delivered not very hot (not good); their food has become very ordinary at high prices (very bad); but still the outside spaces are a nice place to meet.

The NGA has reasonable food (OK) and their coffee is OK. Their large inside and ground floor cafe is always a good place to meet and chat. The front outside cafe by the front door has reasonable coffee but is served in silly takeaway cups (not good) and there’s no real food (not good).

The NGA should think again next time they re-build. They need to move the main cafe from downstairs on the north side of the building and insert a new structure by the front door with big doors that open out on warm days. The old cafe could then become more gallery spaces.

For the moment that temporary outside cafe by the front door is very successful and points to the need for something more seriously architecturally designed to suit the space. And if designed correctly, it could be open any time without worrying about the gallery security.

I strongly suggest the next director makes it a priority to get rid of that silly new pond thingy by the front entrance and insert a decent coffee cafe/restaurant into that open space. Maybe the new cafe should incorporate a few sculptural pieces especially commissioned for the space and therefore enhance the entrance to the whole gallery.

Want good coffee at these galleries? On the day I visited last week: not good at Portrait Gallery. Sort of OK at NGA.


Paul Costigan, 16 August 2014

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