“Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s” at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

The exhibition highlights the diverse time of growth in Australian art in the 1990s.

Art Radar takes a look at some of the highlights from the exhibition featuring more than 100 works and ephemera from the museum’s collection and beyond.

Installation of "Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s" at the National Gallery of Victoria. images by Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

“Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s”, installation view at the National Gallery of Victoria. Photo: Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

“Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s”, on at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) until 1 October 2017, explores diverse cultural phenomena. Ranging from grunge to techno, identity politics to cyborg culture, the exhibition features over 100 works in various media from the NGV Collection. It will also track the development of artist run spaces and collectives from the decade through on loan ephemera.

Installation of "Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s" at the National Gallery of Victoria. images by Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

“Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s”, installation view at the National Gallery of Victoria. Photo: Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

NGV Director Tony Ellwood comments:

”Every Brilliant Eye” will explore the complex cultural landscape of Australia in the 1990s, highlighting both the increasingly diverse approaches to art-making of that decade, and the artists’ innovative use of emerging technologies.

Installation of "Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s" at the National Gallery of Victoria. images by Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

“Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s”, installation view at the National Gallery of Victoria. Photo: Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

The exhibition takes its name from an album by Australian rock band Died Pretty and follows on from the 2013 “Mix Tape 1980s: Appropriation, Subculture, Critical Style” exhibition at the NGV. Placing the iconic pieces next to lesser-known items, the exhibition aims to draw unexpected parallels and bind the objects into “loose groupings that share common conceptual, ideological or material concerns”.

Installation of "Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s" at the National Gallery of Victoria. images by Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

“Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s”, installation view at the National Gallery of Victoria. Photo: Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

The 1990s were a period of great change with social and political events such as the Gulf War, the AIDS crisis, the establishment of the World Wide Web and the landmark High Court Mabo native title ruling. With increased globalisation, Australia looked regionally for economic, social and cultural connections. This approach was supported in the cultural sector, with the establishment of initiatives such as the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in 1993.

Installation of "Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s" at the National Gallery of Victoria. images by Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

“Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s”, installation view at the National Gallery of Victoria. Photo: Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

In this time of change questions of identity were a common theme artists investigated in their work. As Jane Devery and Pip Wallis state in their catalogue essay,

In Australia, this new global situation engendered a cultural shift that saw increasing numbers of artists examine questions of identity, hybridity and multiculturalism. The influence of post-structural cultural theory gave rise to queer theory which sought to remove static categorisations of bodies and identities.

Jane Devery and Pip Wallis, Curators, Contemporary Art, NGV at "Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s" at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 2 June – 1 October 2017. Photo by Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

Jane Devery and Pip Wallis, Curators, Contemporary Art, NGV at “Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s” at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 2 June – 1 October 2017. Photo: Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

However, economic hardships also impacted the arts sector, leading to an increased role of the artist collectives and artist-run spaces. These artist led initiatives formed dynamic, new and independent networks that were not afraid of pushing boundaries.

Another key theme in the exhibition, perhaps related to the rise of artist-run spaces, was the development of a closer relationship between artists and their audiences. This can be seen in the rise of relational, participatory and performance practices of the time.

Here Art Radar highlights a few of the key works that can be found in the exhibition.

Highlights

1. Constanze Zikos

Born in Greece in 1962 and arriving in Australia four years later, Constanze Zikos draws upon influences from ancient history to modernist painting and popular culture. The work Fake Flag (1994) explores concepts of identity, as many of the works in the exhibition do. Through inclusion of symbols from other cultures to create the iconic Southern Cross, the work highlights the multicultural aspects of Australia. The layers of everyday materials – enamel house paint and laminex adhesives – create lurid colours and patterns that are typical of Zikos’ fascination with surfaces as well as his interest in geometric abstraction.

Constanze Zikos, 'Fake flag', 1994, thermo-setting laminate, enamel paint, crayon, metallic and plastic self-adhesive tape on composition board, (a-h) 198.1 x 262.2 cm (overall). In the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, purchased, 1999. Image courtesy the artist.

Constanze Zikos, ‘Fake Flag’, 1994, thermo-setting laminate, enamel paint, crayon, metallic and plastic self-adhesive tape on composition board, (a-h) 198.1 cm x 262.2 cm (overall). In the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, purchased, 1999. Image courtesy the artist and the National Gallery of Victoria.

2. Marco Fusinato

Marco Fusinato (b. 1964) has several works in ”Every Brilliant Eye”, including a number of speed paintings using only the colour red. As reported in the exhibition, Fusinato said (PDF download) of his work that he “always 
used one colour to eliminate imagination, decoration, narrative and any decisions about composition […]. The intention was always to get from point A to point B in the most direct manner, using the most elementary means, as quickly as possible.” Also a musician, he is well known for experimental improvisations with electric guitar and other electronics.

Installation of "Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s" at the National Gallery of Victoria. images by Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

“Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s”, installation view at the National Gallery of Victoria. Photo: Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

3. Gordon Bennett

Gordon Bennett (1955-2014) was a prominent member of the Australian art scene who gained recognition in the 1990s, especially after he won the Moët & Chandon Australian Art Fellowship in 1991. His work Interior (Abstract Eye) (1991) investigates postcolonial questions of identity and history, as does much of his work in this period. He uses appropriation as a method through which to draw attention to challenges of representation from both Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal perspectives.

4. Leah King-Smith

Leah King‐Smith (b. 1956) also tackled questions of representation through her 1990s photographic work involving indigenous Australians. As she observed (PDF download) at the time,

This photo- composition series is essentially about renewing people’s perceptions of Aboriginal people […].By re‐placing the Koories in my work, I am showing my concerns about how the original photographs, and those generally
of Indigenous peoples in the nineteenth century, are evidence of the cultural bias of the civilisation which produced them, and […] generate an inaccurate version
of the presence of Aboriginal people from this point
of view.

Installation of "Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s" at the National Gallery of Victoria. images by Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

“Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s”, installation view at the National Gallery of Victoria. Photo: Tom D Watson. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

5. Patricia Piccinini

Patricia Piccinini (b. 1965) was born in Sierra Leone and lived briefly in Italy before migrating to Australia in 1972. She is well known for integrating the relationship between nature, science and technology through her surreal sculpture. In the 1990s she drew inspiration from the genetic engineering debate and reflected upon the idea of designer babies in her 1995 Love Me Love My Lump series. In Psychogeography (1996) she develops these questions through photos of an actor carrying a surreal life form. Piccinini blurred the lines between reality and fantasy, asking the audience to see results of genetic engineering and the technological advances as a positive and creative possible future, rather than something to be feared.

Patricia Piccinini, 'Psychogeography', 1996, printed 1998 from the 'Psycho' series 1996, in The mutant genome project 1994, type C photograph, 120.6 x 258.4 cm (image), 126.9 x 278.8 cm (sheet), ed. 1/6. In the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Optus Communications Pty Limited, Member. © Patricia Piccinini.

Patricia Piccinini, ‘Psychogeography’, 1996, printed 1998, from the “Psycho” series 1996, in “The Mutant Genome Project” 1994, type C photograph, 120.6 cm x 258.4 cm (image), 126.9 cm x 278.8 cm (sheet), ed. 1/6. In the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Optus Communications Pty Limited, Member. © Patricia Piccinini. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Victoria.

6. Rosalie Gascoigne

New Zealand-born Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) used everyday materials in her work in order to capture the open spaces and the silences of the countryside. In the work Clouds III (1992) she used weathered and painted composition board to evoke the transience of clouds, reflecting on the metaphysical quality of the clouds in her solid material objects.

Claire Wilson

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Related topics: new media artinstallationpoliticalmuseum shows, feature, events in Melbourne, Australian artists

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