The National
Here’s a little tip no one else will give you before you head to this biennial exhibition of Australian contemporary art: do some reading. The best contemporary art is wrapped in clever layers of metaphor and meaning, and only when you come armed with the knowledge to unravel it will you get the most out of your gallery visit.

If you do, you’ll already be thinking about the negative connotations of rope when you see The Tender at the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW), a mesmeric performance choreographed by First Nations dancer Amrita Hepi. When you watch Tara Marynowsky’s Coming Attractions at Carriageworks you’ll know the artist spent hours scratching an entire reel of 35-millimetre film by hand. And when you pause at TOT by Koji Ryui (also at AGNSW) you’ll look past the assemblage of besser block, sand, PVA and found objects and see a shrine, a futuristic machine, or even the letters from its namesake rearranged as shapes in the sculpture.

The National is on at Carriageworks, Art Gallery of NSW and MCA until June 23, 2019, the-national.com.au

2018 Wildlife Photographer Of The Year
A 10-year-old captures two pipe owls huddled in a waste pipe in India. Deep in China’s Qinling Mountains a Dutch photographer takes an intimate portrait of endangered golden snub-nosed monkeys, and while on the Tellico River in search of freshwater life, an American photographer sees a water snake clamped in the jaws of a giant salamander. From the crisp action shot of mud-rolling dauber wasps captured by Australian photographer Georgina Steytler, to the shocking image of a group of Crabeater seals crammed onto a melting ice floe in the Antarctic, the 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year award is filled with 100 awe-evoking snapshots of the natural world.

The 2018 Wildlife Photographer of The Year is at the Australian National Maritime Museum April 13 until August 25, 2019. sea.museum/whats-on/exhibitions/wildlife

Sculpture at Scenic World
The cool autumn air has set in, which means it’s time to head to the Blue Mountains for delicious weather. For the eighth consecutive year the Katoomba rainforest will be transformed into an outdoor sculpture garden for Sculpture at Scenic World. Expect a mix of interactive installations and cleverly concealed artworks by over 25 artists on the 2.4-kilometre Scenic Walkway that winds through the lush Blue Mountains rainforest.

Sculpture at Scenic World is on at Scenic World, Katoomba from April 12 to May 12, 2019. sculptureatscenicworld.com.au

Hot Blood
Step into the world of 23 contemporary Chinese artists of the post-passport generation. Not bound by gender, identity or place, their artworks shock, confront and push against the structures of traditional Chinese culture. Be immersed in a kaleidoscopic temple brought to life with animated deities and a Japanese electro pop soundtrack, and then squirm in front of a sensual video work centred around a dead fish. Finally, be drawn into a single woman’s search for a sperm donor in a country where IVF is not allowed until after marriage.

Hot Blood is at White Rabbit Gallery, Chippendale until August 14, 2019. jnprojects.net/exhibitions/hot-blood

Dobell Drawing Prize
Drawing is still at the heart of most artists’ practices, and this biennial prize celebrates the medium in its most contemporary form. Sydney-based artist Justine Varga has taken out this year’s prize with Photogenic Drawing, snagging $30,000 in the process. Tony Albert’s Old Sins Cast Long Shadows was highly commended and has some harmfully stereotypical pop-culture characters cleverly embedded in the work. Wendy Murray has forgone the canvas entirely and illustrated her entry on the gallery walls.

The Dobell Drawing Prize is at the National Art School (NAS) until May 25, 2019. dobell.nas.edu.au