RA Magazine Autumn 2013
Issue Number: 120
Editorial: Broad horizons
The title of the Academy’s sweeping survey of Australian art this season is simply ‘Australia’, allowing interpretations of the exhibition to be as wide and open as the country’s outback. From the works of the first colonial settlers to those of immigrant modernists and Aboriginal painters, such as Uta Uta Tjangala, the art on view does not represent a single vision of a nation, but instead just some of its sheer plurality of perspectives.
As the most significant presentation of Australian art ever to be mounted in the UK, the exhibition will no doubt challenge British preconceptions of both the country and its culture. Events, auctions, publications, broadcasts and parallel exhibitions on Australian art coincide with the RA show, prompting a wide-ranging conversation about Australia this autumn and stimulating debate about the country’s changing relationship with Britain.
Uta Uta Tjangala, 'Old Man’s Dreaming', 1983. Art Gallery of South Australia. South Australian Government Grant 1984/© Estate of the artist licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd.
In his masterful article, Peter Conrad treads a path through the diverse work on display by focusing on one theme: landscape. Australian art history arguably becomes, in Conrad’s words, ‘a slave of geography’, in which the central subject is how Australians have related to their country’s extremes of environment. The power of such art to shape lives is made clear in a piece by British-born novelist Alex Miller, who reveals how an image of the outback by Sidney Nolan had such allure that he emigrated to Australia. The strength of Miller’s passion for Nolan is matched by painter Timothy Hyman RA’s admiration for Honoré Daumier, the 19th-century French artist who is the subject of a major survey at the Academy. While Daumier’s acerbic caricatures of the French establishment marked him out as a satirist, his radical paintings of Don Quixote, street entertainers and the poor of Paris, Hyman argues, offer more to today’s artists than works by Manet, Daumier’s contemporary whose work was met with such acclaim in lat year’s exhibition at the RA.
Hyman brings his artist’s sensibility to his analysis of Daumier, especially his understanding of the processes and possibilities of painting. Other Academicians also write vividly on art in this issue: Tom Phillips appraises the Swiss artist Paul Klee, while Ann Christopher celebrates the life of her fellow sculptor Academician Ralph Brown, who died earlier this year. The sculpture of Bill Woodrow comes under the spotlight in a show in the RA’s Burlington Gardens space, while at the Queen’s Gallery, Academicians take centre stage as their gift of works on paper to The Queen on the occasion of last year’s Diamond Jubilee go on display. Friends of the RA come closer together with the Academy’s painters, sculptors and architects from this autumn in the Keeper’s House, a new set of social spaces in Burlington House that open in September for both art lovers and artists. Located in a former grace-and-favour house for the Keeper of the Royal Academy, a new restaurant, bar and garden – added to renovated existing rooms – mean that the fine arts of relaxing and socializing have a new home at the Academy.
– Sam Phillips, Acting Editor
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