Don’t miss the exhibition of Australian art at London’s Royal Academy – organised with the National Gallery of Australia it runs until 8 December 2013. Go. If you can’t get there to see it in person, at least watch this video and treat yourself to the spirit of this show.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I visited this Piccadilly art institution for a show named, simply, ‘Australia‘, but I definitely hadn’t expected this display of paintings, photographs and videos to be quite so moving. The first major display of Australian works in the UK in half a century, it is a concentrated history and geography lesson, an uplifting travelogue of sorts and an enlightening look at the landscapes, people and culture of this mighty continent-sized country… not merely an exciting array of artworks.
Having worked on lots of Australia projects at Smith HQ with Victoria-born designer Nick Bugeja, we thought we’d doff our caps to his motherland with an afternoon of culture in the capital. ‘I really enjoyed being able to walk in time with Australia’s art heritage and seeing it twist and evolve with different periods,’ Nick told me. ‘It was really touching to see so many iconic works assembled in the same place; some of which I had seen individually, part of a separate collection or only in art books. I’d love to see it again.’
We paused, awestruck, in front of stunning large-scale traditional Aboriginal art as well as acclaimed pieces by the derivative dreamtimers; we admired watercoloury takes on this dramatic terrain from European colonialists, and were suitably wowed by bold Seventies’ creations such as Brett Whiteley’s Big Orange (Sunset).
Traverse sun-kissed outback expanses by motorbike, climb the hills around New South Wales, follow a modernist Ned Kelly on horseback and see Australian city life through modern-day eyes. Just make sure you allow yourself lots of time to linger in each and every room at the RA. Only one problem. ‘Australia’ may have you wishing you could see these subjects and settings in their original coordinates. No wonder Qantas was happy to support the show.
‘Australia’ is at Royal Academy of Arts, London W1. Tickets: adults £15.50; 12–18 year olds £6; children under 12 are free.