Australia- Royal Academy Review

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‘Four Panels for a Screen: Loquat Tree, Gum and Wattle Trees, Waterfall, Picnic in a Gully’ – Grace Cossington Smith- 1929

I approached the Royal Academy with low expectations for this exhibition, I’d just been to see Paul Klee at the Tate Modern and was, sadly, completely underwhelmed. Not for me.

Upon walking into this exhibition I knew it was going to be a different experience by the immediate impact of the show. You’re greeted by ‘Approach to Mundi Mundi’ by Shaun Gladwell, an 8 minute and 30 second film of a biker making his way into the distance. The Australian landscape is immediately evident and it’s a strangely soothing sight to see, the modern adventurer making his way into the classic landscape.

Indigenous Aboriginal art awaits in the next room, which was the art I expected upon hearing about an Australian exhibition. Whilst it was amazing to see, it wasn’t anything that shocked me. As the exhibition continued, I began to realise there was a whole treasure trove of art that I’d never even considered before, but that it was going to be a show of ups and downs.

The artwork evidently has a strong connection to the landscape, and it’s really what holds the exhibition together as the artwork spans styles and decades. I loved the different textures of the work and the unique approaches from artists to the geography that inspired them.

It’s a hard feat to include a continent’s work in one show, and the critics for this reason have been fairly unforgiving at this attempt, calling the exhibition near cringe worthy with the tricky mentions of colonialism and underlying tones within the art. Perhaps it was a bit too courageous to condense a country’s art into a few rooms.

However, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the exhibition, there were some real gems and it was fascinating to be introduced to a selection of art I’d not come across before. It’s definitely the exhibition to see this season, but be prepared to have to make your own journey through picking out the best of the bunch in a sometimes disjointed show.

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Fire’s On- Arthur Streeton – 1891


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