Maree Clarke: Ancestral Memories
Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung woman Maree Clarke is passionate about reviving and sharing elements of Aboriginal culture that have lain dormant, or have been lost entirely due to colonisation. A multidisciplinary artist, Clarke has designed this exhibition to bring together 30 years of her photography, printmaking, jewellery, video, glass sculptures and more. One highlight is her larger-than-life necklaces; made from river reeds, galah feathers, kangaroo teeth and echidna quills, they hover from the ceiling in ghost-like fashion. They’re joined in mid-air suspension by dramatic glass eel traps. A large-scale, 60-pelt possum-skin cloak – handmade by Clarke using traditional techniques and commissioned especially by the NGV for this retrospective – hangs above another glass-encased possum-skin cloak, this one from the 19th century. It’s an incredible opportunity to see the precise diagonal and circular patterning used by Clarke’s ancestors, brought back to life.
Until October 3 at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.
Patricia Piccinini: A Miracle Constantly Repeated
Patricia Piccinini fans won’t be disappointed by this out-of-the-ordinary immersive art experience. It opened in May as part of the cancelled Rising festival, but the season has been extended to January 16. Featuring dozens of Piccinini classics – such as a long-clawed couple embracing tenderly in bed, and a sweeping meadow of creatures resembling white orchids – plus plenty of never-before-seen pieces, this is the kind of show you might expect to see in a pristine, white-walled gallery. Instead, the works are installed throughout the aged, paint-peeling rooms of Flinders Street Station’s barely known third level. The show-stopping main event is the old ballroom, which has been transformed into a psychedelic disco of sorts, complete with bulbous coloured glass, wacky mirrors and neon lights. Meanwhile, a life-size sculpture of the artist herself – or mother nature, perhaps – looks over it all from the balcony above. Check out our gallery here.
Until January 16, 2022 at Flinders Street Station Ballroom.
French Impressionism From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The NGV’s latest international exclusive is French Impressionism From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. And, despite a lockdown-delayed opening, it’s the piece de resistance of the gallery’s 2021 program. Years in the making, it’s a result of close collaboration with the curators of the US museum, which holds one of the most prized collections of impressionist art in the world. More than 100 masterpieces – including 79 that have never been exhibited in Australia before – from the late 19th century have landed in Melbourne and are now gracing the ground-level gallery walls of NGV International. In true blockbuster style, this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition ends with a climax. An oval-shaped room holds 16 iconic Monets, portraying poppy-covered fields, undulating meadows and breathtaking beach scenes. The room itself emulates the gallery he helped design for his famed Water Lilies at Paris’ Musée de l’Orangerie. It’s a rare opportunity to see one of the most beloved, revolutionary art movements revisited afresh – and punctuated by scene-setting soundscapes and light projections.
Until October 3 at NGV International.
Nabilah Nordin: Birdbrush and Other Essentials
At Heide, Birdbrush and Other Essentials is the first solo exhibition at a major museum for emerging Melbourne-based artist Nabilah Nordin. She has created a playful, fantastical world of delightfully absurd sculptures, made using non-traditional sculptural materials. Each piece resembles something or other, in a nonsensical way – be it the spine-looking figure with tree-trunk legs, or the gangly, green octopus-like creature with filled-stocking limbs (draped over a clothes horse). Nordin brings the show together with an eclectic mix of painted rags and random debris. They’re placed on the artworks, around them, underneath them, and a few are stuck to the ceiling.
Until October 17 at Heide Museum of Modern Art.
John Nixon in the Lyon Collection
The abstract and non-objective works of the late John Nixon came to the attention of passionate art collectors Corbett and Yueji Lyon more than a decade ago. Since then, the Lyons have been diligently collecting Nixon’s pieces and, through this process, constructing a story of his lifelong commitment to experimenting with colour, light and form. Thirty-five of the prolific artist’s works are displayed in this exhibition, from hand-sized, single-colour square blocks in yellow, pink, grey and more, to much larger, flatter, brilliant examples of geometric abstraction in eye-popping orange. The galleries are expansive to say the least and give ample breathing space so that each piece can be encountered separately, or in glorious clusters. This is also the first retrospective-style showcase of Nixon’s 50-year career since his death from leukaemia in 2020.
Until 19 December at Lyon Housemuseum Galleries.
Karen Black: Arepo
Karen Black, a prominent Sydney-based artist, is best known for her theatrical, colourfully abstract paintings. But if you don’t know her by name, you might remember one of her works is featured prominently in Troye Sivan’s Flack Studio-designed Melbourne home, which recently made a splash in Architectural Digest. Arepo, Black’s latest solo exhibition, features a number of double-panelled paintings in her signature bold, colour-clashing strokes. Think royal blues and pinky reds, ochres beside turquoise, and layer upon layer of thick paint smeared expertly to form abstract yet somewhat distinguishable body parts. Black had a long career in costume design for theatre and opera, which shines through in her latest works. The back and front of a stage, the characters, the drama, the spotlight – they are all there in the lines, colours, shapes and textures.
Until 21 August at Sutton Gallery.
Alana Kushnir is the founder of Guest Work Agency, a curatorial practice and legal and advisory firm for artists, collectors, commercial galleries and arts organisations.