12 Australian exhibitions to add to your diary

Covid has taken its toll on more than just our physical health. It’s been a little hard (actually, really hard) to experience arts and culture through the last couple of years and we’ve missed it so much, how it buoys us. Sparks us!

Right now, we are seeking out exhibitions in larger spaces, masking up, checking in and social distancing and to our surprise, actually enjoying having a gallery experience that’s quite a bit less crowded. So for the sake of art and our souls, we’ve put together a little list of exhibitions we’d like to see this year. This is just a tiny taste of what’s on offer around this beautiful country of ours right now and up until June this year. Enjoy!

 Marri diramu: balam dugurrba, Danie Mellor

Marri diramu: balam dugurrba, Danie Mellor


Birds and Language
Wollongong Art Gallery
Closes 13 February 2022

Curated by Madeleine Kelly, this exhibition brings together Australian artists who explore the language of birds. The works are speculative; they suggest a radically different approach to understanding and presenting the colours, forms, sounds and behaviours of birds and reimagining humanity’s relationship with non-human life.

Nearly three years in the making and curating, the show brings together a brilliant bunch including Glenn Barkley, Barbara Campbell, Fernando do Campo, Eugene Carchesio, Ashley Eriksmoen, Emily Floyd, Liam Garstang, Danie Mellor, NOT, Bilinyarra Nabegeyo, Djawida Nadjongorle, Raquel Ormella, Debra Porch, Marie Celine Porkalari, Joan Ross, Laurens Tan, Hollis Taylor, John Tonkin, Jenny Watson, Louise Weaver and John Wolseley.

It’s a truly special show and we highly recommend.

 Meet me at the River by Dani McKenzie

Top: Meet me at the River, Dani McKenzie / Above: Always Blue, Dani McKenzie


Dani McKenzie Close to Home
Olsen Gallery, Sydney
9–26 February

Dani McKenzie’s practice stems from an interest in the culture and history of vernacular photography as a private inventory, the ways in which we identify with such photographs, and how these processes of identification might be reassessed through contemporary painting. Mining through pre-existing images of the past in order to open up new possibilities - new images, new meanings - in the present, the paintings can be seen as instances of instability that are both strange and familiar. 

McKenzie graduated from the National Art School, Sydney in 2016. Whilst at the NAS she received the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award for both BFA (Honours) and MFA degrees. She was also awarded the highly sought-after Onslow Storrier Residency at La Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, which she undertook in 2017. She’s definitely one to watch!


Found and Gathered Rosalie Gascoigne / Lorraine Connelly-Northey 

Image left: Rosalie Gascoigne 1993 (detail) by Greg Weight / Image right:
Portrait of Lorraine Connelly-Northey (detail) by Jules Boag


Found and Gathered
Rosalie Gascoigne / Lorraine Connelly-Northey

National Gallery Victoria
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Fed Square
Closes 20 Feb

Continuing the popular series of paired exhibitions hosted by NGV, this is the first exhibition in this series that focusses on the work of two women, bringing attention to the shared materiality at the heart of the practices of Rosalie Gascoigne (1917–1999) and Lorraine Connelly-Northey (b. 1962).

Both artists are known for their transformative use of found and discarded objects to create works of art that challenge our understanding of the landscape, and Country.

Gascoigne is as well known for her late career change to artist (she was 57 when she had her first exhibition!) as she is for her textural works assembled from items that she collected, including corrugated iron, feathers, wood and wire, as well as her distinctive wall-mounted pieces formed from retro-reflective road signs and soft-drink cases. Gascoigne moved to Mount Stromlo Observatory, a remote community on the outskirts of Canberra in 1943. Describing the area as being ‘all air, all light, all space, all understatement’, the surrounding region where Gascoigne regularly searched for materials which greatly inspired her artistic practice. In 1982, Gascoigne was selected as the inaugural female artist to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale.

Lorraine Connelly-Northey was born and raised at Swan Hill in western Victoria, on the traditional lands of the Wamba Wamba people. Much of her work is inspired by her maternal Waradgerie (also known as Wiradjuri) heritage. Connelly-Northey gathers and uses materials often associated with European settlement and industrialisation and repurposes them into sculptural works that reference traditional weaving techniques and Indigenous cultural objects. Through her work, Connelly-Northey explores the relationship between European and Indigenous ways of being and draws attention to the dynamic and resilient ways that Aboriginal people have been, and continue to be, custodians of Country.

This is a major display of more than 75 wall-based and sculptural works held in the NGV Collection and from major public institutions and private collections. It’s an important exhibition that highlights each artist’s unique and significant place within Australian art. We loved!


Peter Sharp, Fowlers Gap, 2015, oil on wood, 30x40cm (image detail)

Fowlers Gap, 2015, (detail), Peter Sharp


Accidental Tourist
Shoalhaven Regional Gallery
Sat 05 Feb – Sat 26 Mar

One of Australia’s early adapters of the contemporary abstract landscape oeuvre, Sydney artist Peter Sharp presents forty ‘plein air’ paintings selected from his practice over the past thirty years.  These works reflect the artist’s travels around regional and remote Australia and have become part of his ‘toolkit’ for larger abstract works. In situ photographs of the painted view illuminate the artist’s process of capturing the essence of the landscapes with which he engages.

With subject locations as diverse as Fowlers Gap Broken Hill, Dog Fence near Tibooburra, Darling River Western NSW, Bay of Fires Tasmania, Royal National Park and Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Sharp hones in on the textures, objects and colours that make and give these places their unique character, while exploring the very notion of landscape.

Peter Sharp is Senior Lecturer at UNSW Sydney and is represented by Liverpool Street Gallery. This exhibition is a Manly Art Gallery and Museum touring exhibition.

 Sally Stoneman, 'Echos III, IV and V', Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe 2020. Photo Clyde Yee

Sally Stoneman, 'Echos III, IV and V', Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe 2020. Photo Clyde Yee


18th Annual Sculpture by the Sea
Cottesloe Beach, Perth, Western Australia   
4–21 March 2022

Sculpture by the Sea is a well-known event over here on the east coast, but did you know the WA version is now in its 18th year? Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe is staged on the beautiful Cottesloe Beach, with the exhibition featured from the sea wall all the way along the sand towards North Cottesloe and on the surrounding grassed areas creating a beautiful sculpture park.

Each year the exhibition showcases around 70 artists from all around the world including big names and lesser-known emerging artists – some commissioned by the organisers - and presents alongside the exhibition, an eclectic public access program and educational aligned events. For out of staters, there seems to be a promise for travel to WA in February. Fingers crossed.


Parrtjima, a festival in light – Sky Country Alice Springs, Northern Territory

Parrtjima, a festival in light – Sky Country Alice Springs, Northern Territory

Parrtjima, a festival in light – Sky Country
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
8–17 April 2022

‘Stand on Country and truly understand its meaning. Parrtjima will help you find your place in the story.’

This is an arts heavy festival so we’ve included it in our list because, well, it’s one of the most magical and inspiring arts and culture events in Australia each year. And it is an art exhibition inspired by Country.

This year’s Parrtjima Festival discovers the desert sky above Arrernte country in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) and cherishes the symbolic values of Arrernte people and how they have always been connected to sky.

This year’s theme ‘Sky Country’ draws on the idea that everyone has their place in the universe, with an emphasis on the elements of sky, air and wind.

Parrtjima Curator Rhoda Roberts AO said ‘Sky Country’ is an important part of the ecology and philosophy of aboriginal culture.

‘We honour our land, our water, our culture, A lot of people haven’t heard of ‘Sky Country’. We thought it would be a really nice introduction to Central Australia and Parrtjima.’ – Rhonda Roberts

‘Stepping on the red dirt people feel grounded but with a new gaze upwards under the majestic night skies of Central Australia, ‘Sky Country’ is also a discovery of the constellations.’

Stars have guided generations of Arrernte people across their homelands and reading the sky helps Aboriginal people understand their place on Country.


Sarah Lucas eating a banana

Sarah Lucas, Eating a Banana, 1990 – Sadie Coles


Project 1: Sarah Lucas
National Gallery of Australia
Closes 18 April 2022

While you are visiting the NGA for Know My Name (more on that exhibition below), you should also check out Sarah Lucas’s latest show curated by Peter Johnson.

Project 1: Sarah Lucas brings together recent bodies of work by Lucas who is one of England’s most influential and unapologetic artists. Slightly lesser known than her contemporaries in the Young British Artists Movement (Brit Pack) Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin et al, Sarah has been quietly plugging away for the past 30 years, transforming everyday materials, such as vegetables, cigarettes and stockings through sculpture, photography and performance. The human body recurs in her practice as a site of potential desire and failure, exploring the ways in which gender and sexuality are performed.

Lucas is known for her use of crude and humorous imagery, and this exhibition explores the representation and experience of gender and confronts the realities of bodily existence. The exhibition features two recent sculpture series, including new works from the Bunny series she has been making since 1997. A new series of bronze sculptures depicts similar figures that incorporate both masculine and feminine elements, challenging gender stereotypes and humorously playing with conventions of representation.

Lucas’s sculptural work is exhibited alongside rarely seen images of the artist’s first self-portrait, Eating a Banana (1990), which will be reproduced to more than seven metres high – covering the exhibition walls from floor to ceiling.

Top: Edith Amituanai, Aotearoa New Zealand b.1980 / 501 tattoo (From ‘ La’u Pele Moana (My darling Moana)’ series) 2021 /

 Above: Pala Pothupitiye, Sri Lanka b.1972 / Kalutara Fort 2020-21

Top: Edith Amituanai, Aotearoa New Zealand b.1980 / 501 tattoo (From ‘ La’u Pele Moana (My darling Moana)’ series) 2021 / Above: Pala Pothupitiye, Sri Lanka b.1972 / Kalutara Fort 2020-21


The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT10)
Queensland Art Gallery
Closes 25 APR 2022

For this landmark tenth edition, QAGOMA’s Asia Pacific Triennial looks to the future of art and the world we inhabit together. It’s rich with stories of how to navigate through time and space, reimagine histories and explore connections to culture and place.

‘The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT10) includes 69 projects with new and recent work by emerging and established artists and collectives, together comprising more than 150 individuals from 30 countries. It includes works of art that are by turn highly personal, deeply political, and full of joy.

Women playing knucklebones, terracotta, Capua, Campania, Italy

Women playing knucklebones, terracotta, Capua, Campania, Italy

Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes
National Museum of Australia, Canberra
Closes 1 May 2022

Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes is not promoted as an art exhibition per se, but you know those ancient Greeks….they certainly made A LOT of art! This is one of those shows that we are very lucky to have here in Australia so we highly recommend the delve. Exploring competition through sport, politics, drama, music and warfare, the exhibition is illuminated by more than 170 objects on loan from the British Museum.

Explore and celebrate all things Greek by taking an audio tour or attending special events including the museum’s Agora Greek cultural festival and performances by Luka Lesson of Agapi & Other Kinds of Love.


Julie Dowling The Elements: O-thero (Earth) 2008 Courtesy of the artist and Niagara Gallery, Melbourne and Yamaji Art, Geraldton. Photograph: Christian Capurro © Julie Dowling

Julie Dowling The Elements: O-thero (Earth) 2008 Courtesy of the artist and Niagara Gallery, Melbourne and Yamaji Art, Geraldton. Photograph: Christian Capurro © Julie Dowling


Buxton Contemporary Gallery, VIC
Closes 8 May 2022

Curated by Hannah Presley and Samantha Comte, Observance brings together six First Nations women with strong culturally led practices. Offering a selection of works that delve into the ongoing impacts of colonial violence, these artists share their experiences of generational grief for family, language and Country. These challenging narratives, including accounts of slavery and servitude, sit alongside empowering works that reveal living, breathing connections to culture that have been maintained throughout all time.

The works in this exhibition consider our shared histories and responsibilities. Through videos, paintings, sculptural installations and text-based works, Observance directly challenges skewed historical narratives that have endured, asking audiences to acknowledge their own role in these unresolved histories.

Featuring Buxton Collection artist Julie Dowling (Badimaya) with Karla Dickens (Wiradjuri), Julie Gough (Trawlwoolway), Lisa Hilli (Gunantuna, Tolai people, Papua New Guinea), Betty Muffler (Pitjantjatjara), Angela Tiatia (Samoa).

Observance is presented with Turbulent Water, an exhibition featuring Rebecca Belmore, member of the Lac Seul First Nation (Anishinaabe).


Left: Zhu Yiqing, Xue Yongjun, Made in China - Chinese Flag 2, 2009, oil on canvas Right: Chen YanYin, 1949 - The Young Pioneers of Communist China, 2010, bronze Image Courtesy: White Rabbit Gallery

Left: Zhu Yiqing, Xue Yongjun, Made in China - Chinese Flag 2, 2009, oil on canvas Right: Chen YanYin, 1949 - The Young Pioneers of Communist China, 2010, bronze Image Courtesy: White Rabbit Gallery


Big in China
White Rabbit Gallery
30 Balfour St, Chippendale
Closes 22 May

This one is on our list just because we LOVE this gallery and visit every chance we get, and we have heard great things about this current show.

‘Capturing our imaginations en masse. Making it big in an Eastern country used to be a second choice for Western rock stars. Despite its multitude, the Chinese opinion was once considered inferior to established Western tastes. Yet China’s fast-paced transformation has turned the nation into a global powerhouse. These days companies, brands, and even nations from around the world all scramble to win the favour of Chinese consumers.’

What does it mean to make it Big in China? It is no easy feat to captivate the attention of over a billion wandering eyes and minds. How do we draw the focus of so many unique individuals and make them move in unison? Artist Xu Zhen® shows visitors how it’s done by transforming into a kind of snake-charmer – mesmerising viewers with his colossal, dancing, twisting Corinthian column. Tang Nannan submerges audiences with mountainous waves until they become, as the Zen saying goes, simply one drop in an endless ocean. And Lin Yan humbles and unites visitors as mortals under her vast, textural sky. These artists express the idea that it is not simply brute force that drives a nation and its people. Rather, it is the grand and overarching narratives, outstanding creativity and unique art practices that have the power to move a population en masse.


Anne Wallace, She Is, 2001, purchased 2002 © Anne Wallace

Anne Wallace, She Is, 2001, purchased 2002 © Anne Wallace



Know my Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now – Part Two
National Gallery of Australia
Closes 26 June 2022


Part Two of Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now opened in its entirety last June, following a gradual transformation from Part One. If you missed Part One, there’s even more reason to check out the second instalment of this beautifully curated show. And take your daughters!

Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now showcases art made by women. Drawn from the National Gallery’s collection and loans from across Australia, it is one of the most comprehensive presentations of art by women assembled in this country to date.

Told in two parts, the exhibition tells a new story of Australian art. Looking at moments in which women created new forms of art and cultural commentary such as feminism, Know My Name highlights creative and intellectual relationships between artists across time.

Know My Name is not a complete account; instead, the exhibition proposes alternative histories, challenging stereotypes and highlighting the stories and achievements of all women artists. Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now is part of a series of ongoing gender equity initiatives by the Gallery to increase the representation of all women in its artistic program, collection development and organisational structures and is curated by Deborah Hart, Head Curator, Australian Art and Elspeth Pitt, Curator, Australian Art, alongside Yvette Dal Pozzo, Assistant Curator, Australian Art.

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