Louise Bourgeois: Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day?

Louise Bourgeois’s most famous works are these huge, imposing bronze sculptures. Perhaps the most famous is her spider Maman, representing her formidable mother, Josephine. One of these nine-metre-tall, 10-metre-wide spiders has taken up residence at the entrance to the south building at the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of its major summer exhibition. Standing beneath Maman would be enough to get a sense of Bourgeois’s complicated relationship with her mother, and to grasp the artist’s exploration of family, motherhood, sexuality and mortality, but venture into AGNSW’s north building and you’ll gain a far deeper understanding of her seven-decade career. She worked across multiple mediums, including writing, painting, sculpture and textiles. Curator Justin Paton has divided the collection into two spaces: Day and Night. In the Day section, there are textural sculptures such as The Good Mother: a kneeling figure with thread coming from her breasts as if she’s feeding children. In the Night section, the gallery’s former oil tanker space is filled with the artist’s larger works – including an oversized mirror that glints in the near-total darkness, and the 1993 Arch of Hysteria, a headless gold figure arching dramatically as it hangs from the hips. It’s like the underground gallery was made for these dramatic works; it’s spectacular.

Until April 28 at the Art Gallery of NSW, The Domain. Ticketed

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Salote Tawale: I Remember You

When there’s a lot going on in artist Salote Tawale’s life, she likes to sing. It’s why for this solo exhibition she built a karaoke room, decorated with plastic vines and a cheap disco light, at the back of a structure made to look like a typical Fijian home. Two working microphones are primed for visitors to pick up and sing, and as you follow the lyrics on the screen you’ll notice Fijian-Australian Tawale is the star of every music video. She’s even wearing the signature boy-band look of white T-shirt and chain necklace for her karaoke instrumental version of the Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way. The videos are the culmination of 15 years of filmed works, all chopped together. The replica Fijian house has corrugated iron cladding, woven mats and a plywood figure of a faceless “aunty”, inspired by women Tawale remembers from her visits. Then there’s the almost 14-metre-long bamboo raft, decked out with a bike, a barbeque and cooking utensils. Tawale imagined a life living on a bilibili (raft) like this, floating between two homes, Australia and Fiji. Memories like that are behind every object in I Remember You, which taps into a process of identity formation – not only for individuals but also for collectives within the Pacific diaspora.

Until January 28 at Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh. Free entry

Tacita Dean

At the Museum of Contemporary Art’s extensive showcase of British artist Tacita Dean, you could easily lose an entire afternoon floating serenely between dark partitioned rooms watching her atmospheric and mesmerising 16mm and 35mm films. In fact, if you plan on seeing all of the artist’s films in one visit, you’ll need to allow at least 3.5 hours based on the clip durations alone – and that would mean missing out on her jaw-dropping chalk drawings Chalk Fall and The Wreck of Hope. They depict England’s White Cliffs of Dover and a glacier, respectively, both disappearing before us due to the effects of climate change. The works tower over you and appear to leap off the blackboards with urgency; they’re a must-see in our eyes. The exhibition – the largest of Dean’s works in the southern hemisphere – charts the artist’s fascination with nature, people and impending loss. Her most recent work is a film installation, Geography Biography, in which two film projectors tick away in full view. The ticking reminds us that this is an antiquated form, something fleeting like her images. Dean describes this one as an “accidental self-portrait” – but to truly understand this artist we suggest joining one of the upcoming free curator talks (running on January 28, and February 4 and 11 at 2pm).

Until March 3, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, George Street, The Rocks. Ticketed

Kandinsky

Vasili Kandinsky is one of the great innovators of European abstraction; he was interested in the idea of synthesis across all art forms, and in his practice he ascribed meaning to various colours, shapes and figures. The colour blue, for instance, represents spirituality, white is “pregnant with possibility”, and a horse and rider motif represents the artist and his work. This is particularly clear in some of his earlier paintings, such as Blue Mountain, painted between 1908 and 1909. It’s one of the first paintings on display in the AGNSW’s exhibition of the Russian modernist’s work, and as you weave your way through the different stages of his career, you see the development of his abstract style from recognisable figures to lines, triangles, circles and curved lines, as in the dynamic Composition 8 (1923). Running alongside the Kandinsky exhibition is Point and Line to Plane by Desmond Lazaro, inspired by Kandinsky’s book of the same name. It’s an all-ages space, so don’t be shy. Take a spirograph, play like a child, then return to the exhibition to grapple with Kandinsky’s paintings once more.

Until March 10, at the Art Gallery of NSW, The Domain. Ticketed

A Blueprint for Ruins

White Rabbit’s latest exhibition is all about the abandoned spaces and displaced people in China’s ever-growing cities, which are developing at such a pace there are buildings pegged for demolition before they’re even completed. A Blueprint for Ruins centres on the casualties of development – the forgotten spaces and the memories woven into each structure. One of the featured artists, Hu Weiyi, writes: “It’s as if every abandoned building, about to disappear, is attempting to sing its last note, and eventually they will come together to form a requiem for an era.” All the artwork is from Judith Neilson’s private collection of 21st-century Chinese art, and this exhibition includes bronze objects reminiscent of artefacts from an excavation site; a detailed picture of a metropolis so crowded with infrastructure it’s like a Where’s Wally? picture book; and a vision of sand mounds – artificially constructed – that looks like part of the set for Dune. It takes over all four levels of the Chippendale gallery with artworks that beg us to look at the cost of rapid urbanisation and its undercurrent of violence.

Until May 12, at White Rabbit Gallery, 30 Balfour Street, Chippendale. Free entry

Jonathan Jones: Untitled (Transcriptions of Country)

Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones often makes art in response to history. In the first exhibition at Artspace in the newly transformed Gunnery building, a collection of objects – including painted emu eggs and yellow paper daisies, embroideries of Australian plants, and historical portraits – speak to the way objects, plants, ideas, stories and Indigenous cultural practices translate when they’re taken from their homeland. Jones worked with a number of collaborators, including Gadigal elders Aunty Julie Freeman and Uncle Charles “Chicka” Madden, to consider what’s been lost due to colonial trade and transportation, but also what remains. Jones’s particular lens for Untitled (Transcriptions of Country) was the early-1800s French expedition led by Captain Nicolas Baudin. It was an expedition that amassed countless plants, animals and Aboriginal objects, which ended up in the Chateau de Malmaison in France. Many of them were lost or forgotten after the death of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Until February 11, at Artspace, 43–51 Cowper Wharf Roadway, Woolloomooloo. Free entry

New Dog Old Tricks

Archibald Prize winner Julia Gutman, Jason Phu and Melbourne-based Nadia Hernández are three of 10 artists specially commissioned to think about how we perceive “man’s best friend” as a key to physical and emotional worlds in this colourful and warm-hearted exhibition at Ngununggula, in Bowral. There’s a playful sculpture of a dog walker by Indigenous artist Billy Bain, paintings of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with his pal Toto, a log of wood on a chain, Gutman’s fabric collage of a friend being comforted by her hound, and fictional pups inspired by the world of Futurama. There are also famous art companions, including one of Jeff Koons’s balloon dogs, on loan from private collections. Plus, your four-legged friend is welcome too. On January 20, the gallery will host a dog show, with a doggy ball pit and pet portraits on offer to capture your buddy in art form.

Until February 4 at Ngununggula, 1 Art Gallery Lane, Bowral. Free entry

Miwatj Yolngu – Sunrise People

Stories of land, water and sky are central to the art practices of 13 Yolngu artists – including Dhambit Mununggurr and Djakangu Yunupingu – whose works are currently on display at Bundanon. The artists all hail from the Yirrkala Community in east Arnhem Land – “one of the most exciting and dynamic artistic communities in Australia and the wider world”, says Bundanon CEO Rachel Kent. It’s a place where using the materials of the land, such as painting on bark or sculpting larrakitj (memorial poles), is an important aspect of honouring ancestral storytelling and knowledge. Mununggurr’s paintings, for example, use a vivid cobalt blue to depict secular narratives with a deep understanding of Yolngu lore. But there’s also resourcefulness; artworks use salvaged printer cartridges, scrap metals, digital animation and repurposed dance boards. On January 20 and 21, the gallery is hosting a weekend of Yolngu song and dance performances ($10), which you can book into before you visit.

Until February 11 at Bundanon, 170 Riversdale Road, Illaroo. Ticketed