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.
“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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Japanese artist Miyanaga Akira’s “Realtime” at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne – April 2017 – the museum show marks the first time Japanese artist Miyanaga Akira has exhibited in Australia
- “Who’s Afraid of Colour?”: 118 Aboriginal women artists at NGV Australia – March 2017 – “Who’s Afraid of Colour?” showcases the work of female Australian Indigenous artists at the National Gallery Victoria
- “The You Beaut Country”: influential Australian artist John Olsen at National Gallery of Victoria– January 2017 – National Gallery of Victoria holds retrospective on John Olsen, one of Australia’s greatest living artists
- Australian curator Aaron Seeto appointed new Director of Jakarta’s Museum MACAN– November 2016 – Museum MACAN will open in March 2017 with an exhibition of works from its collection
- Vanghoua Anthony Vue: finding a place between Hmong and Australian cultures– October 2016 – Art Radar catches up with artist Vanghoua Anthony Vue to talk about the influences of biculturalism in his work
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