Unfinished Business at ACCA
The title of ACCA’s new show alludes to the ever-evolving nature of feminism. It’s never finished, and there is no single feminism. Nor is it as simple as a first, second and third wave. It’s an ever-expanding ripple of ideas that talk back to and react against each other. A lot of the work on show reflects a sense of urgency and its roots in protest. The first piece we see is a collection of protest-style posters embracing the contradictions contained in these walls, with slogans such as “Feminism is for everybody” and “Feminism by indifference”. Elsewhere, there are Fuck dresses by Ruth O’Leary, hanging dresses plastered with slogans such as “Fuck god”, “Fuck pussy” and “Fuck Horace Walpole”.
There’s a huge amount to see here. Six curators have pulled together more than 80 artists working across five decades, from an archival film by director Gillian Armstrong to a photograph taken within the gallery space during installation of this show. Over the years, feminist perspectives have evolved, branched out and clashed. The whole story can’t be told, but this is a lively analysis.
ACCA is closed on Mondays and public holidays.
Four shows at NGV Australia
Even in the midst of its huge Triennial, the NGV isn’t resting on its laurels. Over at NGV Australia in Federation Square, it’s shining a spotlight on four very different Australian women. Helen Maudsley’s show, Our Knowing and Not Knowing, speaks in an abstract language of jagged angles and repeated figurative symbols – hands, scrolls, wine glasses, roman pillars – in largely lilac, Joan Miró-esque plains. Del Kathryn Barton’s The Highway is a Disco is a colourful world all it’s own, covering old and new work full of sexuality, desire, grief and fairy tales. In Palace of the Republic Louise Paramor’s playful sculptures recall East German architecture and Ikea-esque plastic kitchen appliances. And although Mel O’Callaghan’s huge, singular video work Ensemble isn’t busy and bright like the others, it’s powerful. In the French countryside, three silver-clad firemen walk into shot with a firehose and open spray on a lone man. The man struggles valiantly against the intense pressure.
NGV Australia in Federation Square is open every day except Christmas Day.
Jenny Watson: The Fabric of Fantasy
Childlike paintings of little girls with horses may not exactly scream ‘punk rock’, but that’s exactly where Jenny Watson’s approach comes from. In the 1970s she painted in a photorealistic style. When punk rock hit, she became involved in the scene and the punk approach – that technical skill shouldn’t override artistic vision – bled into her work.
This retrospective takes us backwards through her career. The most recent work is consciously naïve. A self-portrait of the artist as half-skeleton; another where she looks into the flank of a horse and sees her own reflection. She often uses diary-like text to offset the images. Some hang from pink walls. It’s childish and scrappy, but with an uneasy air of adult experience. “Finished painting is not something I’m particularly interested in,” she says. “I want the footprint of how it was made to remain obvious.”
Heide is open through the Christmas and New Year period, only closed on Mondays.
Wallace and Gromit and Friends: The Magic of Aardman
For a counterpoint to all the serious stuff happening around town, don’t miss ACMI’s look at the creative process of Aardman Animation. Inventor Wallace and his stoic dog Gromit are pop culture icons, as is Morph, Chicken Run and practically everything else Aardman has been involved in over the years. My favourite is Creature Comforts, in which mundane vox-pop chatter is brought to life by claymation animals. It says it all about Aardman: mischievous, clever and very, very British.
This unmissable exhibition looks at the history of the studio and the artistry behind the painstaking claymation process, complete with full-sized sets, props and films. At the end of the show, you get a chance to make a little claymation of your own. Mine wasn’t very good.
ACMI is open every day except Christmas Day.
All the Better to See You With
This show all about fairy tales, specifically how they evolve and mutate over the centuries through countless retellings, rewritings and reconstructions. They reflect the politics, anxieties and morality of the times. This huge exhibition, across three floors, presents a range of hyper-imaginative, colourful works offering up fairy tales as everything from utopian visions to acidic nightmares, and includes some extraordinary prints and illustrations.
Australian Amanda Marburg photographs plasticine sculptures in macabre tableaus. Broersen & Lukács’ video work Mastering Bambi removes Bambi from the landscape entirely, leaving a haunting forest. In Dina Goldstein’s photos, Disney princesses are unceremoniously dumped into contemporary working class America. In an unnerving take on The Little Mermaid, our heroine screams silently underwater as her voice is stolen. Top it off with an uncanny and unnerving Patricia Piccinini sculpture on the top floor, and there’s plenty to think about, far beyond the imaginative pleasures of these centuries-old folk tales.
The Ian Potter Museum is closed from December 23 until January 2.
Fred Williams and Rosemary Laing
Two artists, decades apart, reflect on the Australian landscape at TarraWarra this summer. Rosemary Laing’s photographs are about our sense of belonging in a strange land. As recent migrants, most Australians are perpetually out of place. Laing’s choreographed photographs depict built, introduced objects in the natural world. Wooden house frames jut out of the ground. Bits of red furniture, the colour of desert dirt, spread across the ground on an open plain. A stream of red textiles flows through the bush like a river.
Next to Laing’s photos are paintings by Fred Williams. By 1974, Williams was one of Australia’s most prominent artists. These works, all from that year, show him branching out, trying new techniques, expanding his colour palette and engaging with the land in new ways. TarraWarra Museum of Art, in the midst of a beautiful landscape of its own, is the perfect place for it.
TarraWarra Museum of Art is closed Christmas Day, and then open every day from Boxing day until Australia Day.