Day 145: The Tardis Art Gallery of New South Wales

Today was hot, hot, hot and Sydney has a lot of free museums and galleries so I decided to visit them.

First stop, which I began to realise might be the only stop, as the galleries extend underground rather than above ground, was the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Definitely bigger on the inside.

After two hours there including a very comprehensive free one hour tour of the major art works that the Gallery holds, I realised I’d only seen a quarter of what was displayed here.

Free art gallery tours have definitely been a great way to understand more about Australia’s history as well as seeing some beautiful artworks.

The tour guide seemed to think that my decision to head for a coffee meant that I was leaving. No, I just needed a pit stop before continuing.

So, some highlights… though these are just my highlights rather than the highlights. There is so much in this Gallery.

Everyone will take away something different.

Some of the works are incredibly hard hitting, some are beautiful and some are funny.

First off, these paintings by Aboriginal artists.

The second and third photographs show the first works to be prepared using traditional methods in art galleries.

Some Aboriginal elders had concerns that artwork that had spiritual meanings should not be displayed to outsiders.

The bark paintings were some of the first works to be displayed in an art gallery rather than a natural history museum.

The third shows Pukumani Grave Posts.

When someone dies, a post is carved and painted. A ceremony is held around it to help the spirit pass on. These were carved from iron wood, rather than blood wood and painted using different materials to those used for a ceremony, to ensure that these were recognised as art and not appropriation.

The first photograph is by Uta Uta Tjangala and is a painting of the desert from Jupiter Well to Tjukula. It reminds me of the way Van Gogh painted the night sky.

These two, by John Brack who was from Melbourne, represent every day life and sights…

… while this: Noel Counihan’s At the start of the march was painted during the Depression.

In happier times, Charles Meere painted Australian Beach Pattern and I did a double-take because this looked very similar to Soviet art 8 saw in galleries in Moscow.

With Australia Day rapidly approaching, there is a great deal of discussion about colonisation and its impact, and sitting in the corner was Captain Cook.

Sculpted in stainless steel by a New Zealand artist Michael Parekowai, it’s not the traditional representation of the explorer.

His feet don’t touch the ground because he never actually set foot in Sydney. What’s he thinking about? His legacy? The impact of his actions?

It’s a beautiful statue and the gallery has placed it looking out of the window over the military harbour.

There are several works by the Australian artist Ben Quilty and I particularly liked this one, though I had to stand with my hands behind my back.

His technique is to clag the paint onto the canvas and it sticks up from the surface. It is really tempting to run your fingers over it.

I don’t know how kids cope. They don’t manage to keep their hands of Captain Cook as the fingerprints all over his legs show.

Quilty recently visited Greece and saw a tidemark of life jackets washed up on the beach. Each one had been bought by an asylum seeker/refugee desperate to cross the sea. Each one had failed – cheap and unsafe products.

The painting below was intended to reflect this tragedy and make links to asylum seekers who take their own lives while in Australia centres waiting for their applications to be processed.

His other activities included working with children in Syria and as a result there are 300 drawings of their in the gallery. These capture their daily lives.

Unsurprising that anyone would want to leave really.

This painting by Khadim Ali is a very literal interpretation of the demonetisation of refugees and asylum seekers.

Back to Quilty… The Gallery also includes these vast Rorschach style paintings where he again clagged on the painted then squished blank canvas against it to create a mirror image.

Obviously, I am clearly familiar with the technical artistic language to describe his techniques.

I loved this painting of a river bank.

I and then there was this…

The original Puppy by Jeff Koins was 12.4m high and stood on the Sydney Harbour. I really chuckled when I saw this, though I was less happy when I saw this…

I kept expecting it to move.

“Imagine walking around here in a night,” said the guy who was in agreement with me on the creepiness of this exhibit.

I’d rather not. I can see me having nightmares tonight.

The last exhibit I’m going to mention was the Acts of Kindness by Michael Landy.

He asked Sydney residents to share their stories of incidents of everyday compassion and generosity. He mapped out each of the example and created a huge jigsaw showing the locations across the city of where these had all occurred.

A genuinely great way of showing a city as a great place to live. I can see a mental wellbeing project in this.

Categories: Australia, Mental Health, Public Health, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Much to admire. I liked the way they had Cook looking out over the military harbour. The manner the life jackets were grouped made me think of Auschwitz. Chilling. Lots to appreciate and contemplate in this gallery


    • It was a brilliantly done series of exhibitions. I hadn’t thought of that Auschwitz angle but yes… a very very powerful painting.


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