Having grown up in Australia, and having a multitude of artistic people in my life, I felt I was well informed of the art world in Australia; boy was I in for a surprise. Art of Australia, a three part series that premiered on ABC, 22 October opened my eyes to the journey of modern Australian art throughout history. The first episode begins with narrator Edmund Capon exploring the mingling of European and Indigenous art, delving into different depictions of Australian colonisation and the beginning of modern Australian history.
Episode one progresses through the ironic Glover paintings that depict scenes of Aboriginal corroborees in Tasmania, to the Europeanisation of Australian scenery by the romantics and moves forward to the beginning of beach and urban imagery. Despite having been attentive in my history classes, there were still a wealth of moments that surprised me and Capon does well to bring to life a subject that could be dry to paint his own picture of art in Australia. The most impacting moment for me was a piece Longing Belonging by Hossein Valamanesh, which represents the need to balance a new life in a new country without abandoning the past.
Episode two delves into the 20th Century and the contrasting effects of war and peace on the art scene. From Lamberts Anzac, the landing 1915 showing the un-heroic image of the soldiers being subsumed by the land they fought on, to Wallace and his first hand accounts with battle; Art of Australia breathes life into one of our most historic events. I found myself captivated by the paintings and photos that accompanied the journey through social respite from battle and the beginning of WWII. The series as a whole seamlessly merges the art displayed with the stories told, but this episode does particularly well at demonstrating how art reflects society and humanity’s upheavals.
The series comes to a close with an episode dedicated to the expansion of Australian art international artists. Capon laments the fact that foreign artists are still idolised over Australian, even in Australia, referencing the Sydney Opera House. This series completely expanded my awareness of Australia’s beautiful and burgeoning art community and increased my appreciation of our history. With stunning imagery and superb storytelling Art of Australia is definitely a must-watch for all culturally inclined viewers.