The National at AGNSW

Art Free
A still of a young First Nations boy playing as a woman hoses him
Photograph: Abdullah M I Syed and Gallery Sally Dan Cuthbert | detail, Currency of love, 2016-20, Abdullah M I Syed

Time Out says

The Art Gallery of NSW offers a breathtaking snapshot of contemporary Australian creativity in this ambitious biennial exhibition

UPDATE, June 28: As of June 26, the Greater Sydney region including the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong is under a compulsory two-week lockdown until 11.59pm on July 9. Many events in Sydney have therefore been cancelled or postponed until after this period.

From the moment you set foot in the Art Gallery of New South Wales outpost (AGNSW) of this year's spectacular Australian art biennial The National, your eye is immediately drawn down into the belly of this beast of a show, curated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art specialist Erin Vink and Asian art expert Matt Cox.

Melbourne-based artists Wona Bee and Charlie Lawler draw you in with their haunting work ‘Regenerator’, a suspended row of seven charcoal circles that conjure up the ghostly trace of the bushfire season’s aftermath, but also hint at new life caught in endless circulation. This powerful piece hands over to Judy Watson’s sky-blue tapestries ‘clouds and undercurrents’ hanging over the escalators. A powerful way to reclaim the atrium’s open space, they create a beautiful focal point glimpsed from many spots below.

Two astounding installations take up space in the very best way in the AGNSW exhibition. Justin Shoulder’s glorious inflatable installation ‘Aeon+: Titan Arum’ depicts a primordial soup-like scenario where inflatable creatures flail as if emerging from their mother’s womb, all bathed in fluctuating pink and purple hues. It’s mesmeric, and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll catch one of the fabulous LGBTQ+ artist’s live performances in the space.

We also love Torres Strait Islander artist Alik Tipoti’s knowing wink works ‘Dhangal Madhubal’, depicting Southern Cross-adorned creatures, including a shark hanging from one gallery space ceiling. Also check out First Nations artists Betty Muffler and Maringka Burton’s large-scale linen work ‘Ngangkari ngura (Healing Country)’.

Abdullah MI Syed’s small-scale but big-impact gold leaf-adorned cotton works making up ‘Currency of Love’ and Phaptawan Suwannakudt’s bold Thai script-traced works are also fab. And make time to sit down and lose yourself in video works by Australian-Balinese photographer and filmmaker Leyla Stevens, who just won the Blake Prize, and the mesmeric ‘Darling Darling’ by Gabriella Hirst.

Here’s our guide to what you can see elsewhere in The National.


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