Worlds of the West

“Out of the West”
National Gallery of Australia, until April 1.
Reviewed by Anni Doyle Wawrzynczak

THIS exhibition of curated work from the NGA collection can usefully be tackled in two visits, conveniently divided as it is between the ground floor Orde Poynton Gallery and the first floor Project Gallery.

Upstairs, are works from pre-settlement 1820s to the 1930s, many from The Wordsworth Collection, acquired by the NGA in 2010 and comprising important early prints, watercolours, objects, furniture and paintings.

The splendid “Panoramic View of King George Sound, part of the colony of Swan River 1834”, is a thrilling glimpse of the early Edenic cultural and ecological environs surrounding Albany.

Also here, is a fascinating collection of WA Goldfields jewellery, and some marvellous examples of caricatures exploring the founding of the West in less than complimentary terms.

Truly stunning are a fall of fabric, with a bold, modern print that repeats large, deep-red, globulous flowers, and a printed dress, both by the NZ-born artist Kathleen O’Connor, who lived in WA from the age of 15 to 30 and then in Paris, from where she frequently travelled home to Australia.

Downstairs is a collection of works from 1940 to the present day. There are some fine prints, some arresting modernist paintings and some terrific sculpture. Among the latter is the monumental “Everyone No 1” (Rodney Glick, 2009), whose blonde-haired, blue-eyed, four-armed model celebrates an amusing, cross-cultural divinity.

The young at heart will delight in “A lot of bright ideas” (James Angus, 1994), where manipulated filaments within scores of incandescent light bulbs irregularly flash various tiny symbols, including kangaroos, miniature maps and ice creams.

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