The 10 artworks to check out at Sydney’s mammoth The National

Nabilah Nordin has gone from near obscurity to fast-growing institutional darling.Her work is also available at Melbourne now at the National Gallery of Victoria and fantastic form At Bundanon, a prime location has been secured in the front office of AGNSW. Nordin’s sculptures are self-consciously experimental, using vivid, striking colors and unusual materials. A work by AGNSW, disciplinemade of colorful balloons embedded in epoxy resin.

Nabilah Nordin's Corinthian Clump, 2023, Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Nabilah Nordin’s Corinthian Clump, 2023, Art Gallery of New South Wales.Credit: Misterling

Nordin has an idea with many different variations. The idea is to systematically reject traditional ideas about sculptural form.Six of her works at AGNSW form a collection called corinth plexusAn interesting response to the harsh neoclassical aesthetic of the Walter Vernon gallery entrance, she puts the geometric elements of the building first, messes them up, and glues them together to form a new random incarnation. The game relies on the constant enrichment of the artist’s imagination, constantly coming up with forms that break the unspoken rules of art—like having to make a sentence without using a vowel or two.

Pierre Mukba

Pierre Mukeba holds a special place in Australian art as a representative of the African diaspora, gradually integrated into all aspects of life in this country. Mukeba was born in the Congo and spent time in refugee camps in Zambia and Zimbabwe before coming to Adelaide in 2006.His vivid, brightly colored paintings are enthusiastically received by private and public collectors, making him a figure in the the whole country.

his job, last supper and sheges, Adapting a biblical story as a group of Central African wanderers. The theme is universal, the figures are reminiscences of the artist’s origins, the medium is a floating calico supported by offcuts of Dutch wax fabric, a recognized symbol of Africa. Like many artists in exile, Mukeba finds himself caught between two cultures and turns to the one he knows best. The appeal to local audiences lies in catching glimpses of this alien reality and accepting it as part of the new global world we all live in together.

Reco Reni

exist what do we want , A tri-channel video of just under three minutes, Reko Rennie conjures up a strange, unsettling scene of Aboriginal people training in martial arts under the tutelage of a tough-looking Aboriginal man teacherThe goal, as chanted at the end and flashed on the screen, is “no more cops killing our mobs”. The message is that everyone wants peace, love and understanding, but if necessary, they will fight for what they believe to be justice.

The movie has an aggressive edge that ruins any good emotion. Rainey’s martial arts students are like the Panthers, ready to fight violence with violence. If Rennie’s aim was to make us aware of the impact of police brutality, he might only succeed in alarming his audience.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Aura by Hoda Afshar, 2023, Museum of Contemporary Art.

Aura by Hoda Afshar, 2023, Museum of Contemporary Art.Credit: Ana Cucera

Hoda Afsha

Hoda Afshar is another artist who seems integral to contemporary surveys, justifying her claim to fame with one thoughtful body after another. As a photo-artist from Iran, she is acutely aware of the political currents that underpin everyday life, even in a country as complacent as Australia.her series Keep (2020) Filmed on Manus Island, bringing visibility to refugees who have been archived and forgotten by the Australian government.

the series halo At the MCA we’ve assembled images of 2020, scoured from the internet, that remind us of pandemics, bushfires and other major events. Afshar separates detail, renders it in grainy black and white, and presents it in a manner that echoes the famous exhibition human family (1955), pieced together by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It’s an ironic reference, as the human “family” today is completely divided, even though we’ve never been more connected.

Diana Georgette

Diena Georgetti’s work is an extended meditation on one of the perennial problems of the modern artist: how to remain original. Her solution is to browse art history freely, borrowing and recombining subjects in digital collages, then painstakingly transforming them into a painting—or so I understand it. Unlike most artists, she doesn’t have a signature style, as each collection looks like it was created by a different artist.

Paintings by MCA – part of the series People’s Community – Presents a mixture of abstract and schematic images from the 1950s and early 1960s. I can’t identify the specific paintings, but each canvas has a vintage feel to it. Stylistically, the photos take us on a trip through a time tunnel where everything gets a little chaotic. Turning a corner and seeing this series, it is heart-stopping, as if leaving the realm of contemporary art and stumbling into another era.

carriage factory

Naminapu Maymuru – White

Is Carriageworks always empty, or does it feel emptier than most because of the huge interior space? Either way, Naminapu Maymuru-White’s bark paintings of small stars, grouped together on one end wall, suggest a larger space than a gallery.The subject of another brilliant artist, Maymuru-White, from Yirrkala, Gulf of Carpentaria, is miniavior as we know it, the Milky Way.

Northeast of Arnhem Land, where the stars are easier to see at night, these paintings allow us to contemplate a panorama broken up into smaller segments. Simple and straightforward, Maymuru-White’s photographs are among the most engaging in the exhibition. Although the Yolgnu people have their own stories about the universe, the experience of stargazing and seeing patterns in the sky is common to all people of all ages. If you have any doubts, check out the story of the Seven Sisters, which began among the stars and echoed independently across civilizations from Scandinavia to Persia to China to Australia.

Installations at Carriageworks, left to right: Bamugora by Susan Balbunga, 2023; Milŋyawuy – Celestial River by Naminapu Maymuru-White, 2023; Women Pull Stars Out of the Ground by Katie West Shaped Stakes and Turning Them into Vana (Digging Sticks), 2023.

Installations at Carriageworks, left to right: Bamugora by Susan Balbunga, 2023; Milŋyawuy – Celestial River by Naminapu Maymuru-White, 2023; Women Pull Stars Out of the Ground by Katie West Shaped Stakes and Turning Them into Vana (Digging Sticks), 2023.Credit: Jan Wimberly

elizabeth day

Maybe it’s the challenge of those soaring ceilings, but Elizabeth Day went to great lengths to cover one of Carriageworks’ walls with wool ripped from old clothing.exist The Flow of Form: There Are Causes Beyond Causes (1797 Parramatta Gaol), Carriageworks RedfernDay recreated phantom images of the facade of the old Parramatta prison in quilts or tapestries, covered in tufts of thread.

The sheer scale of the work gives it a sense of drama, while the colorful strands mimic an Abstract Expressionist canvas. Day, who has worked with people in prisons and mental institutions for much of her career, has taken the opportunity to write an essay about the many lives lost behind closed doors. Each unraveled garment suggests an anonymous person, far from friends and family. Reminiscent of a “broken thread” in a relationship during the day, all of these colors hide a heavy melancholy.

Campbell Town Arts Center

damn it

Since coming to study in Sydney from his native Indonesia in 2000, Jumaadi has appeared in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad. He has worked in a variety of media, making paintings, drawings, cutouts, puppets and videos. However, his subject matter remains rooted in his birthplace near Yogyakarta, using everyday life and folklore to create magical scenes.

Jumaadi’s pictures have a strong graphic quality and mystical symbolism; for example, a large field of tree stumps, each with an eye. This seems to suggest that nature is watching every depredation we do to it. His largest work at Campbelltown is a black wall decorated with white cut-outs featuring trees, people and animals. We’re looking at a story told in sign language, a language that delights in ambiguity.

Julian Martin

Julian Martin has long been a mainstay of Melbourne’s art program, making the leap from the so-called outsider art world to the mainstream. His pastels are equally adept at bridging the divide between abstract and representational art. Each painting begins with an observation, which is then distilled and transformed into a solid block of color. Yet these seemingly abstract works retain a sense of object that hovers on the edge of recognizability.

Martin is an artist with a highly idiosyncratic style. In this exhibition, a group of his small works show his color skills, with obvious emotional changes. Despite being exhibited since the late 1980s, Martin’s work has been relatively neglected by major institutions. The Campbelltown show should have galleries watching closely.

Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan Another Country with Fruitjuice Factori Studio (the juncture between the two being a comfort zone), 2010-2023, at Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan Another Country with Fruitjuice Factori Studio (the juncture between the two being a comfort zone), 2010-2023, at Campbelltown Arts Centre.Credit: Misterling

Isabel & Alfredo Aquilizan with Fruitjuice Factori Studio

The Aquilizans were already well known in Australia before moving to Australia in 2006. Since then, the couple have built gigantic installations at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and elsewhere out of cardboard and various scrap materials. Drawing on Filipino folk traditions, their work is always entertaining and often created in collaboration with amateurs and would-be artists.


Aquilizans installation at Campbelltown, coherent narrative, including an upturned boat, an overstuffed wardrobe and a large cross inlaid with wood and cardboard. Their collaborators Fruitjuice Factori Studio are their five children, Miguel, Diego, Amihan, Leon and Aniway, who were reunited with their parents after three years of separation due to the pandemic. The work is both a multilayered reflection on immigration and family reunification.

The National 4: Australian Contemporary Art On view at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until July 23, at the Museum of Contemporary Art until July 9, and carriage works and Campbelltown Arts Center until June 25.

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