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Cross Currents: Focus on contemporary Australian art

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


17 Sep 2007 to 26 Nov 2007


Vivienne Binns, Elisabeth Cummings, Debra Dawes, Stuart Elliott, Dale Hickey, Butcher Cherel Janangoo, Hilarie Mais, Helem Maudsley, Rosslynd Piggott, Tobias Richardson, Gareth Sansom, Davis Stephenson, Michele Theunissen, Karl Wiebke, Djirrirra Wunungmurra, Ah Xian

Curator: John Stringer

MCA curatorial liaison: Rachel Kent & Russell Storer

about the exhibition

Cross Currents: Focus on contemporary Australian art was the third in a series of MCA exhibitions presenting the work of Australian artists from around the country. Like its predecessors Meridian (2002–03) and Interesting Times (2005), the exhibition had an emphasis on established artists who have a sustained exhibiting career of a decade or more, with each artist represented by a substantial work or body of works.

This exhibition featured painting, sculpture and photography by sixteen artists spanning the breadth of the country, from Yirrkala in the Northern Territory and Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia to Tasmania, as well as the urban centres of Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. Apart from coincidences of nationality and era, their work had relatively little in common. Philosophic affinities however made it possible to identify two key tendencies: artists who surrender themselves to some kind of cosmic or collective order and those who are driven to create in search of their own identity.

For many artists a sense of spirituality is attained through restraint and adherence to carefully planned structure. In the simple geometry of the square or grid, artists of the twentieth century discovered a stable ideal, whose uniform proportions suited the pragmatic structure of modernity. A number of works in this exhibition referenced the grid, from the hermetic structures of Hilarie Mais, to the photographs of David Stephenson, to the densely textured paintings of Michele Theunissen. Other geometric designs derived from traditional forms such as fishing traps, as in the work of Djirrirra Wunungmurra, and woven textiles, as in the work of Vivienne Binns.

Other artists were more involved with imagery and representation. The discipline of landscape painting was evident in the work of Elisabeth Cummings, while urban life defined the uninhibited canvases of Gareth Sansom and the disturbing sculptures of Stuart Elliott. Interiors and still life were reflected in the works of Dale Hickey and Helen Maudsley, while traditional motifs and techniques were taken into new directions in the works of Janangoo Butcher Cherel and Ah Xian. The evolving aesthetic of these artists celebrated individuality and provided an appealing metaphor for this exhibition, which aimed to avoid stereotypes and applaud originality.

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