A visit to the Art Gallery of NSW


On the morning of the third day of our holiday in Sydney we decided to visit the Art Galley of new South Wales. It’s located in The Domain on the road to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and close to the Royal Botanic Gardens. The Gallery has a good collection of Australian art as well as an International collection. There was also a temporary exhibition we thought we’d like to see.

We were particularly taken with the paintings by indigenous artists. During my previous visit these were relegated to the basement gallery but I was glad to see that although there was still a good selection there, there were a good number displayed in the main galleries devoted to Australian art in the main galleries on the ground floor.


Most of the works by indigenous artists were contemporary pieces painted using the traditional techniques but using modern materials. Here’s a selection of some of my favourites.

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It was also interesting to see works by other Australian artists, most of whom I had little previous knowledge. Here’s a selection

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Here’s some works by a contemporary Australian artist Mikala Dwyer from her exhibition A Shape of Thought.  Some rather weird and a little scary, others interesting, particularly the balloon like objects

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Here’s some works by contemporary artists

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There were several galleries showing pre-21st century works by Australian and International artists. Some were of interest but they  largely lesser works. I did rather like this little sculpture though

"Veiled female bust" by Agathon Leonard

The temporary exhibition we decided to see featured a selection of works from the Rijksmuseum. Report to follow.

In the grounds at Chatsworth

Here’s a few more photographs that I took in the garden and grounds during our recent visit to Chatsworth

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Autumn colours were very evident





Besides the Beyond Limits exhibits, there are a number of permanantly sited contemporary sculptures in the Gardens.

We reckoned that this piece is by David Nash


A quick Google revealed that we were right. It’s called Oculus Oak and was only installed in October last year (2015).


We came on it by accident and as we are both fans of David Nash it was a pleasant surprise.


This work (Forms that Grow in the Night (2009)) is also by Nash, but we had seen it during our previous visits.


We hadn’t seen this retriever before, thoughDSC00853

Walking. Madonna (1981) by Elisabeth Frink


and Richard Long’s Cornish Slate Line, an attractive work by another favourite artist.


I don’t know who created this sculpture of a wild boar – well sited in the woods near one of the small lakes.


Outside the gardens in the grounds of the estate, walking back to our B and B we passed this bench. It was built by younger members of the Derbyshire branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA) using dry stone walling techniques.


Last year there was a different bench in this location. It seems that building a bench is an annual event as part of the Chatsworth Country Fair.

A little further down the path we could see a structure out in the field – in fact we’d spotted it in the morning while we were making our way to the house and gardens from our B and B. So we went to have a closer look.


It’s a sculpture made from oak and lead, by Tim Harrison entitled Pegasus

Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-1979

Uncommon Ground is a touring exhibition of works drawn from the Arts Council Collection. It’s showing at the Longside Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture until the middle of June, so we took the opportunity to visit while we were over at the YSP the other Saturday.

The YSP’s website tells us

In the late 1960s artists on both sides of the Atlantic turned away from the enclosed space of the gallery and went out into the landscape to forge a new form of art. This art was made in radically new ways often using earth, water, sun and even fire as raw materials, and went under several names: land art, earth art, process art, and conceptual art. Drawing largely from the Arts Council Collection and supplemented by important loans from artists and major public institutions,Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966 – 1979 takes a fresh look at the art of this period and considers what was particular about the way land art developed in Britain.

The exhibition featured works that reflected the main aspects of the movement – moulding the landscape itself, using materials taken from the environment, creating a temporary impression and even walking.

We’ve seen numerous works by Richard Long, Anthony Gormley, David Nash and Andy Goldsworthy over the past few years and have become “fans” so it was interesting to see the early examples featured in this exhibition. And, as is often the case, there were works by artists who I’d never heard of previously and so I was able to make some new discoveries.

The works were very well displayed in the Gallery. The long view of the parkland through the windows which extend all along one side of the building really complemented them and provided an appropriate context – almost like an exhibit itself.

No photographs were allowed in the gallery, so the following pictures of some of my favourite works on display have been sourced via th’Internet.

This is Fallen Tree (1979) an early work by Anthony Gormley, best known for his figurative sculptures based on his own body.

The work was created by taking slices from a tree trunk and then arranging them in a spiral starting at the centre with the smallest piece and then working outwards, increasing in size.

It reminded me very much of the work of Richard Long, one of whose works, Stone Circle (1972) consisted of stones laid out in a circle

Stone Circle

Richard Long made his mark (literally) with A Line Made by Walking (1967) he walked back and forth along a straight line in the grass, leaving a track that he then photographed in black and white.

Richard Long, ‘A Line Made by Walking’ 1967

The idea of creating art by walking, where the act of walking itself can become a work of art but where the artist leaves a mark on the landscape in some way, some more ephemeral than others, was, and remains, a trend in Land Art. A number of examples, including A Line Made by Walking, which we had seen before, were featured in the exhibition. The act is usually recorded in some way, usually by photographs, but sometimes by leaving a mark on the landscape – sometimes temporary (although often photographed to record for posterity) or more permanent, like the piles left by Richard Long on another of his journeys that was featured in the exhibition.

Another aspect of Land Art is the use of materials taken from the environment. This is typified by David Nash, the master of using wood harvested from “wood quarries”. There were examples of his work on display, including Silver Birch Tripod, 1975.

and Ash Dome a ring of 22 growing ash trees into near Nash’s home in North Wales, bent to form a living dome.

An early work by Tony Cragg, New Stones – Newton’s Tones (1978), took materials from the environment too, but in this case they’re pieces of plastic waste recovered from the Rhine and displayed in the order of the colours of the rainbow.

Andy Goldworthy also uses materials from the landscrpe, in many cases for on-site installations that use  only the materials available on site such as rocks, leaves, branches, snow and ice. These works are often ephemeral, eroding, decaying, crumbling or melting and the only evidence for their existence are the photographs that he takes. There were several examples in the exhibition including Snowball 1979

There were several more permanent works by Roger Ackling, who used sunlight to burn patterns into wood or paper, creating primitive photographic prints. One example was  ‘Night and Day’ (1 hour), 1977.

There were films too. Sometimes constituting the work itself, like Dereck Jarman’s A Journey to Avebury 1979, or a record of an event, like the Anthony McCall’s  Landscape for Fire II, 1972.

Photographs featured quite heavily in the exhibition – sometimes to record ephemeral works, as a record of an event or to show dramatic landscapes (I found the selection of photographs Sea Horizons by Garry Fabian Miller of the Bristol Channel under different conditions particularly affecting – pity about the reflective glass that made it difficult to view them properly). But they were used in other ways too. An example of the latter was John Hilliard’s Across the Park 1972. This is a series of pictures where a single shot is cropped in different ways providing very different interpretations of the same scene. Very clever, I thought and demonstrating how images can be manipulated and how “truth” depends on editing and perspective.

The exhibition provided a good opportunity to explore the origins of Land Art. It was particularly interesting to be able to see early works by artists we like, to see their early ideas and the beginnings of trends that they developed further during their career or, in some cases, abandoned to take other directions.

Visual art or poetry?


There’s a small exhibition of works by Richard Long showing at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester at the moment. It only consists of four works – two constructions made from stone and two of his “textworks” painted on the wall of the gallery.

Richard Long’s work is very much linked to the landscape. He creates sculptures from stone (like the two on display at the Whitworth) and sticks and paintings made by daubing mud on the wall. He is also renowned for his “land art” where the works are created within or on the landscape itself, in many cases simply by walking through it.

Another aspect of his work are the “textworks” where he uses words to record observations, thoughts and feelings, and facts, and related to epic walks that he undertakes. These works are then transferred to the wall of galleries where he is exhibiting.

The two textworks included at the Whitworth are “A day’s walk across Dartmoor following a drift of clouds” which consists simply those words written in sky blue capitals on the white wall of the gallery. (We’d seen this before during our visit to the exhibition of his works at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield  last year) The more interesting work for me was "An eight day walk in the Cairngorm mountains Scotland 2007” (shown above).

To help us understand the world, it is often helpful to categorise, to put things in “little boxes”. But sometimes this doesn’t work as things are not always that simple and can fall between the boundaries, occupying more than one box. I think that Richard Long’s textworks are like that. They are words and can be considered in many ways to be poetic. (For me this is particularly true with "An eight day walk in the Cairngorm mountains Scotland 2007” ) . But they are painted on the wall and so are visual art as well, especially as the structure of the text has been clearly thought out. So in this work the pyramidal structure of the words is reminiscent of one of the stone cairns he would have encountered on his walk.

Visual art or poetry? Both, I think.


Other examples of Richard Long’s textworks can be seen on his website here.

Crazy paving, Willow twigs and a china clay waterfall

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We finally got over to the Hepworth Wakefield yesterday to see the Richard LongArtists Rooms” exhibition which is taking place until 14 October. There are works from the Tate, the National Museum of Wales and a private collection as well as two new site-specific commissions. It was as good as we expected.

One thing about Richard Long is that the titles he gives his creations are pretty clear cut – typically describing their form or shape and what they are made of.

In room10 there were three works

Cornish Slate Ellipse, 2009 is constructed from irregular blocks of a pale grey slate laid out in a random, but deliberate, structured, pattern.


It’s similar to the South Bank Circle that’s currently on display in the Tate Gallery in Liverpool, although, as the title describes, its elliptical rather than a circle. As the blocks are near enough the same height, the work is almost two dimensional.


The second piece laid out on the floor in room 10, Blaenau Ffestiniog Circle, 2011, is different. Not just because it’s a circle rather than an ellipse. The stone is more colourful with veins of red (probably iron oxide) running through many of the blocks. The individual blocks are also much more irregular in shape and height and had a “rougher”, less finished appearance. As a consequence the work was much more three dimensional .

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I thought it was a more interesting work due to this variability in shape, height and colour.


The third work in gallery 12, Water Falls, 2012, had been created especially for the exhibition. A large black rectangle had been painted on one of the walls, extending from the floor to the ceiling. On this, the artist had painted swirling patterns at the top and the middle using a thin slurry of china clay. Drips of this slurry extended down the walls



Some of the slurry had hit the floor and bounced back upwards creating a denser region of clay at the bottom of the wall.



Somerset Willow Line, a work from 1980, had been installed in Room 7. This consists of a large number of willow twigs, about a foot long, laid out in a seemingly random pattern on the floor to create a long narrow path.


It was an interesting work although I agree with the review on the Aesthetica Magazine blog about the lack of contrast between the willow twigs and the mid grey coloured floor spoiling the effect, at least to some extent.


Also in Room 7 there was a “text work” inscribed along one of the walls


I thought this was much less interesting than the other works on display.

In the smaller Room 8, there were a photographs of a number of his works created in situ in the “wild” and a couple of books he had made where the pages had been dipped in river water or mud which had been allowed to dry out creating some interesting patters and effects.

I find his works interesting but also I find them calming. They appear simple but have layers of complexity in the way they are constructed. At first glance the stones, twigs and patterns of paint appear as if they have been laid out randomly, but they have clearly be laid out quite deliberately. This can be seen on the video of Richard Long installing the works which can be seen on the Hepworth’s website.

I also noticed something when I was looking at the photographs I took during the visit (photography was allowed in the exhibition – a pleasant change) after I downloaded from my camera during the evening. They were colour photographs, but as the materials he works with a predominantly grey, black and white or pale coloured, and the walls and floors in the gallery are light grey, it almost looks as if I’d taken monochrome shots.

Visiting the Hepworth involves a trip over the Pennines – a 75 minute drive over the M62. But it was well worth it to see this exhibition.

There’s an interview with Richard Long on the Guardian website here.

Crazy paving?

There’s an exhibition of work by Richard Long at The Hepworth Wakefield at the moment. It’s on my list of places to visit, but I’ll need to get a move on as it finishes on the 14th October.

In the meantime I was pleased to be able to see one of his works while we were visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last Saturday. Red Slate Line, a work created in 1986, has ben installed on the south bank of the  Upper Lake, an area of the estate that wasn’t accessible until earlier this year, to coincide with the Hepworth exhibition.


Like many of his works, it’s an arrangement made from stone laid out in a way that can appear random but is very deliberate, creating a distinct shape. In this case it’s made of red slate from the border of Vermont and New York State in the USA.  Mathematically, a line has only one dimension, so this work is, strictly speaking, a long, thin rectangle. It looks like a path of “crazy paving” although it’s not laid flat, the individual pieces of slate overlaying and overlapping.

The line runs down a slight drop towards the shore of the lake, which looked very attractive on a sunny, late summer afternoon.


I first encountered Richard Long’s work at the Tate in Liverpool where one of the exhibits in the LA Piper Series: This is Sculpture exhibition is this piece, “South Bank Circle”  originally created for his 1991 retrospective at the Hayward Gallery at the South Bank Centre in London.The circle, which is two metres in diameter , is made up of 168 pieces of Cornish slate. The work’s title relates to it’s original location on the south bank of the Thames. Now it’s in Liverpool it’s actually on the north bank of the Mersey.

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Image source: Wikipedia

What has always intrigued me about these works is that they are moved around and that must change how they are arranged. It must be impossible to position the pieces of stone in exactly the same positions in relation to each other, and this would be particularly difficult where the ground isn’t flat, as is the case at the YSP. And I doubt that the artist is always present when his works are installed at their new sites. So it was interesting to read these instructions from the artist on the Tate website about the “South Bank Circle”

The pieces may be assembled in a wide variety of configurations within the defining form of the circle. Long has specified that every ‘stone’ should touch the stones adjoining it, so that they all become ‘”locked” together, and stable. The longest stones (and also the thinnest and smallest ones) should be placed within the work and not around the edge. There is an equal density of stone throughout, and overall the work should look balanced and circular’

I guess similar instructions must be provided for all his works, including the “Red Slate Line” and those in the Hepworth exhibition.