Is Landscape Painting History?

Alexandra Sasse landscape painting in North Melbourne Australai

Seeing the world as more than a backdrop or stage-set for unfolding narratives is the basic premise of landscape painting. It requires sensation rather than symbol to be the dominant motive. This is at odds with the corrosive didacticism of much academic art which looks for the obvious moral in every artwork. The recently set up Hadley’s Art Prize – a $100,000 prize for an Australian landscape painting, is a case in point.  It has been called a landscape prize when what they really require is history painting, and a certain kind of history at that.

Hobart hotel owner Don Neil has launched one of Australia’s richest art prizes, with an annual $100,000 award for landscapes…. and this year invites artists to address the theme “history and place”.

Artist and curator Julie Gough, who is one of the judges, says the award encourages artists to think beyond European concepts of landscape as depictions of sublime nature. “History is about story, and the entrants have to consider that as much as things such as vegetation and landforms,” says Gough. “It will be interesting to see how people push that theme.”

The Australian 27th Jan 2017

And here is Ben Quilty, judging the 2017 Glover Prize for Australian landscape painting and commenting:

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Why You Will Love ‘La La Land’

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as Mia and Sebastian in "La La Land"

There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. Oscar Wilde

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as Mia and Sebastian in "La La Land"
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as Mia and Sebastian in “La La Land”


Films about backing one’s dreams appeal to us all. This one comes with a disclaimer in the title: La La Land is where dreams become reality; it’s not the real world. For most of us, there is compromise and complication, along with a large dose of the basic machinery of life. But even in La La Land, (is it a play on Los Angeles/LA?) success is not without cost.

The opening scene – a traffic jam in LA transformed into an exuberant dance sequence involving hundreds of people and cars – sets the mood.  In this film, writer and director Damien Chazelle has managed to simultaneosly sustain optimism and probe doubt, intermingling a love story with two creative journeys.

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Why I could never agree with John Berger

Image courtesy of Verso Books


Berger’s ground breaking Ways of Seeing was a cultural tour de force. It remains highly relevant today. But I have never been able to agree with most of what he said.

Growing up in an outer Melbourne suburb, I was blissfully unaware of Berger whose book was published when I was about 11. What I was aware of was the painful ugliness of miles of new suburban housing and the almost visceral reaction I had to the destruction of bush, re-routing of creeks and bulldozing of apple orchards in our neighbourhood.  This left me with a life-long appreciation of beauty, and a consequent resistance to any philosophy that told me I couldn’t have it, or it didn’t exist. I had seen it, and I had seen it destroyed.

So Berger and I were never going to get along, as for him, concepts like beauty are merely conditioned responses, built into us through culture by the powerful for the purpose of control.

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