CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today CLICK HERE

The Australia exhibition in London

PUBLISHED: 09:49 04 December 2013 | UPDATED: 17:11 04 December 2013

'Ned Kelly' (1946)  by Sidney Nolan

'Ned Kelly' (1946) by Sidney Nolan

Archant

This new exhibition at the Royal Academy in London features a richly diverse array of work - from Aboriginal art painted on bark, via paintings by convicts and colonists, to an iconic image of Australia’s greatest folk hero, Ned Kelly

Australia is both an ancient land and a new country and these contradictory factors are celebrated in this exhibition. It starts with a contemporary work, ‘Approach to Mundi Mundi’ by Shaun Gladwell (2007), chosen by Kathleen Soriano, one of the exhibition’s curators, to deliver “a contemporary punch to set the visitor right into beating heart of Australia with its big skies and endless horizons.” Gladwell’s piece is a film of a biker, seen from the back, arms outstretched as if flying, moving along a single tarmac road cutting through a dusty red landscape devoid of habitation. Yet

Aboriginal art is an important aspect of this exhibition. Intense, complex images reflect the indigenous people’s harmonious relationship with the land, the elements of sky, land and water and the ancient belief of the Dreamtime. This instinctive understanding of the land contrasts dramatically with the early settlers’ take on Australia as a dangerous land that would either bite, sting or spear them.

Life in the penal colonies in the late 1700s was tough; early settlers were too busy surviving to worry about capturing their new homeland on canvas. Thomas Watling, a convict and illustrator, found time to paint the nascent settlement of Sydney, which appears little more than a village. It wasn’t until the 1830’s that the British public saw images of their new colony, when the British landscape artist John Glover settled in Tasmania. He sent back to his Bond Street gallery 68 paintings of the pastoral paradise with which he had fallen in love.

For most 19th century settlers the reality of life in Australia was less bucolic. This is poignantly portrayed by Frederick McCubbin’s triptych ‘The Pioneer’ (1904). The first panel shows a couple after they have arrived by wagon at their new settlement in the woods; the wife sits on a log, no doubt wondering what she has let herself in for. In the second a newly built log cabin is in the background and the wife is holding a baby while her husband rests from chopping wood. In the final panel, he is looking at a rough wooden cross on a grave, but in the distance a city can be seen, indicating his future.

Struggle is replaced by hope in Grace Cossington Smith’s work ‘The Bridge in Building’ (1929). Even though this is painted in the same year as the Great Depression, her radiant palette reflects a modernising Australia with a bright new future, as the Sydney Harbour Bridge is erected.

Continuing this positive theme is Charles Meere’s ‘Australian Beach Pattern’, (1940). The painting portrays a beach scene - athletic physiques abound and families are enjoying a health and happy outdoor lifestyle.

Perhaps the most recognisable image of the whole exhibition is Sidney Nolan’s ‘Ned Kelly’ (1946). Nolan painted 27 stylised paintings of the infamous 19th century bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang, four of which are featured in this exhibition. The image of hero and anti-hero Ned Kelly in his homemade armour, on horseback, against a sundrenched landscape, was used as a backdrop in the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. It is a truly arresting image that burns into your mind’s eye as fiercely as the Australian sun.

The sun is a constant contributor to this exhibition. The European palette of blue and green in the early paintings of the coast is soon outshone by the golds and reds of the sun-baked interior, inhabited immemorially by one group of artists and painted so recently by another.

Australia runs until 8 December 2013 at the Royal Academy in London. For more details visit royalacademy.org.uk or call 020 7300 8000

0 comments

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 13:11

The guide to Dorset’s best firework displays and bonfire events happening in 2018

Read more
Mon, 11:34

From festive light switch-ons and Santa’s Grottos, to German Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Dorset this season

Read more
Mon, 11:27

Dorset villages are some of the most beautiful in England – think winding lanes, thatched cottages and a cosy pub or welcoming tea room. We suggest ten of the prettiest villages to visit in the county

Read more
Monday, October 1, 2018

Autumn is a great time to brush up on your gardening knowledge with the help of some experts, as well as see some well known gardens in a different light

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

Follow in the footsteps of the Romans on this lovely walk that takes in rare habitat, ancient woodland and glorious views

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

This challenging coastal walk rewards your efforts with spectacular views along the Jurassic Coast

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Marine photographer Steve Belasco shares some very special wildlife moments

Read more
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

TravelSupermarket has uncovered the top 25 most popular UK beaches on Instagram after analysing hashtags used for over 1,100 beaches and Bournemouth comes out on top

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ride + Stride, Dorset Historic Churches Trust’s annual fundraising event, is a great way to explore and support some of the county’s more unusual places of worship

Read more
Monday, August 6, 2018

This easy level walks takes in an ancient village described as The Mother of Bournemouth and Throop Mill of the River Stour

Read more
Friday, July 27, 2018

Martin Clunes and his family have called West Dorset home for over two decades. Here he shares some of their favourite local places

Read more

From paddling on the Frome to admiring one of the best vistas in Dorset, Adam Lee-Potter’s beloved home town just keeps getting better and better

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

Butterflies, buzzards and beautiful views sum up this lovely summer walk around Piddletrenthide and Plush Hill

Read more
Sunday, July 8, 2018

Visit Dorset reveal their favourite lesser-known local beaches to explore if you want to get off the beaten track this summer

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search