Sunday, July 5, 2009

Intensely Dutch AGNSW

Attended a corporate function and viewing of this exhibition (thanks to Paul of 10 group and who kindly asks me to these things from time to time) at Sydney's Art Gallery extraordinaire. Henrik Kolenberg introduced the largely non-arty crowd to the rationale behind the exhibition - post war modern Dutch paintings, displaying both the huge influence of a short-lived art movement, COBRA (stands for COpenhagen, BRussels, Amsterdam the place of origin of the artists forming the group). It is an attempt to show that Dutch art consists of more than Rembrandt and Vermeer and was actively engaged in the freedom of expression that swept the world post WWII. It's an interesting exhibition, and well hung (according to artist, not time line) considering the variety of styles on show. However, it's not an easy exhibition...most people respond to the bright colours of COBRA but don't like the darker works. Typical German/Dutch concerns about order are most obvious in Riske work - an artist who was recently located by the curators in an apartment in Riverwood in the South Western Suburbs of Sydney. His thickly applied paint, seemingly squeezed from the tube directly onto the surface was intriguing and attracted a crowd of people discussing how it was done. The same happened with a large, Cadmium Yellow and white painting that was more like a sculpture, apparently made using resin with the paint, but appearing more like cement and requiring a metal brace to hold it upright against the wall. For my money, de Kooning wins hands down, with Karel Appel's Expressionistic swathes of colour a standout, especially the painting at the entrance to the exhibition. How did he get that red????. I liked not knowing what it was and seeing all the possibilities in the painting, but the title - something like Tuscan Hills Afternoon- made me see it for what it was - a hillside drawn with a quick line at the top third of the painting, with three trees which slashed across most of the length at almost regular intervals. I admit to being a little disappointed. Anyway, the exhibition is really worth seeing as an education and to pick which work reminds you of which Australian Artists - John Olsen gets the most comparisons, either because we know his work better than most artists or because he was in Spain around the time (or just after) a lot of this work was painted, and so may have been influenced by similar work seen in Europe. Until August 23. The work above is by Benner.

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