Issue 163 | October 2012
Divine Worlds | Wesfarmers | Summer Scholarship | Members news | Events
01 Divine Worlds On now

Divine worlds presents Indian painting from the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. Paintings in the exhibition include intricate miniatures, illustrated manuscript pages and monumental shrine hangings. Ranging in date from the 15th to the 20th century, the images reflect the Hindu, Jain, Islamic, Sikh and secular traditions of India.

Many paintings in Divine worlds depict the gods, goddesses and legends of Hinduism. Sometimes both benevolent and malevolent, divinities are worshipped for their exceptional powers and ability to intercede in the lives of devotees.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is Vishvarupa, the cosmic form of Vishnu c.1840, a watercolour painting created in Jaipur, Rajasthan in the mid–19th century. As Vishvarupa, the revered god Vishnu encapsulates the universe; he is all things at once, including the only truth and only reality.

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India ‘Vishvarupa, the cosmic form of Vishnu’ c. 1840 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2012

(banner image) Guler school, Northern India 'Maidens worshipping Ganesha' c. 1800 (detail) National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1991


The painting is divided into two scenes. One presents Vishvarupa enclosed within the cosmic egg, the source of all creation. Symbols of his divinity, his many arms and faces appear to shake and spin with the turning of the embryo.

In the other scene, the omnipotent god is seated in a pose of preaching, surveying the world he has brought into being. Above Vishvarupa are depictions of the components of the cosmos: the sun, moon, elements, kings and gods. Among the gods illustrated are Shiva (with pale blue skin), Brahma (with four heads) and Vishnu (bejewelled with dark blue skin). The use of strong lines, bold colour and metallic paints bring the painting to life.

Cosmic imagery has been a vital aspect of Indian art and literature for centuries and remains central to Hindu understanding of the world. The decisive design and clear symbolism of this painting, shown alongside related works of art, make cosmic concepts accessible.

Divine worlds: Indian painting is on display in the Temporary Exhibitions Gallery until 11 November.

02 Wesfarmers Indigenous Arts Leadership Program

From 12–21 September the Gallery hosted 10 artistically–minded Indigenous Australians for the 3rd Wesfarmers Indigenous Arts Leadership Program.  Established by the National Gallery and Wesfarmers Limited in 2009, the program is designed to boost the number of Indigenous professionals working in the visual arts sector.  We talked to Suzanne Barron, a 2011 participant and mentor to the 2012 group.

What attracted you to the Wesfarmers Indigenous Arts Leadership Program?

I saw it as my opportunity to get back into the arts. I have an Associate Degree in Aboriginal Art and a Bachelor of Art (ARTS) but had been working in different areas for a few years. During the program we had a tour of the conservation area at the NGA and it sparked a real interest for me.
What have you been doing since completing the program?

As soon as I got home I contacted the Art Gallery of Western Australia to find out what I needed to do to become a qualified art conservator.  I volunteer one day a week in the Gallery’s Conservation Department.  They have advised me to undertake more training in the area, so next year I’m moving to Melbourne to start a Masters Degree in Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne.  I have never been to Melbourne, so it’s a big move. 

(banner image) 2012 Wesfarmers participants with NGA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art curatorial staff and Director Ron Radford

You’re back at the NGA as a mentor to the 2012 Wesfarmers group. How are you finding this?

I wanted to come back and share ideas with this year’s group. It’s been brilliant.  I would really encourage any Indigenous people with a background in the arts to apply; it provides a great insight into what goes on in the industry. But after the program finishes, it’s up to you and what you do with this knowledge. You have to have the passion to take initiative and follow your dreams.
What's your goal for the future?

To work as a conservator in an art gallery.  I want to work with all types of art, but I am still passionate about the conservation of Indigenous art. If an arts centre contacted me and said there was conservation work to be done, I would be there.

We wish Suzanne the best of luck in her studies and for her future career.

For a full transcript of this interview and information on the Wesfarmers Indigenous Arts Leadership Program click here.

03 Members news

Sydney Long Curator's Dinner

Members recently enjoyed a special evening for Sydney Long: the Spirit of the land.  Anna Gray, exhibition curator, toured the exhibition providing wonderful insight into the life and work of the artist followed by an exclusive dinner in Gandel Hall.  If you haven’t yet seen the exhibition we still have places for our Sydney Long morning tea on Wednesday 10 October.

Members at the Sydney Long Curator's dinner

A New York State of Mind

100 years ago Jackson Pollock and Morris Louis were born.  We invite you to join us for a special evening to celebrate the life and work of these two great artists.   View the exhibition after hours, before slipping into a favourite haunt of that generation – The Cedar Tavern. Book Here.

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Our friends at the Australian Chamber Orchestra are offering NGA members a special to celebrate the launch of their 2013 season.  For full details visit our Members specials page.

04 Event
highlights Go to calendar
for all events


05 Sydney Long Spring events

Events accompanying Sydney Long: the Spirit of the land continue in October.  For a full listing visit our online calendar. This Canberra-only exhibition closes on 11 November so don't miss out!  Highlights for this month include:

Sydney Long’s art and life
Saturday 13 October 2pm
Anna Gray, curator of the exhibition, in conversation with Virginia Haussegger, ABC TV news presenter, journalist and author.
FREE | James O Fairfax Theatre

Lyrical Long
Sunday 28 October 2.30–4pm
Duo Merindah, comprising flautist Teresa Rabe and guitarist Minh Le Hoang, performs music inspired by Long’s work.
FREE | Temporary Exhibitions Gallery

Sunday 21 October 2pm
A young minister and his wife visit a painter in the Blue Mountains to dissuade him from exhibiting a blasphemous work. Two freethinking models distract them from their task. Written and directed by John Duigan and starring Hugh Grant, Tara Fitzgerald and Sam Neil. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive.
FREE | James O Fairfax Theatre


Art Nouveau off the street: glass-making workshop
Saturday 27 October 11am–1pm, repeated 2–4pm
Be guided by a glass artist to create your very own Art Nouveau glass panel inspired by Long’s paintings.
$130, $120 members/concession (includes materials) | places limited, bookings essential | Canberra Glassworks

(above image) Sydney Long 'In the Spring' c.1895 Newcastle Art Gallery, purchased 1959

(banner image) Sydney Long 'Flamingoes' c.1905 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1975 Reproduced with the kind permission of the Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia

06 Summer Art Scholarship
13–19 January 2013

Every January, 16 Year 11 students arrive in Canberra for the National Summer Art Scholarship.  On their first morning the students are asked to write what they think they will gain from the week.  The response of one student sums up a number of important aims of the scholarship program:

I think the summer scholarship will give me a new experience of learning, one where I can gain new skills and knowledge of the art world as well as the opportunity to meet like-minded people.

Learning about the collection, conservation and exhibition practices of a national institution is an important focus of the scholarship week, with NGA staff contributing to students’ understanding of these areas. 

Students examining artworks in the Collection Study Room

Practical workshops are developed in response to the ideas and techniques explored by a range of artists whose work the students view and discuss. In recent years the Summer Scholarship students have been privileged to meet and work with photomedia artist Mark Kimber, sculptor Patricia Piccinini, street artists Mini Graf and Vexta, paper-cut artist Pamela Mei Leng See, and painters Daniel Boyd and Imants Tillers.


A partnership with the Australian National University School of Art provides an opportunity for students to experience a tertiary learning environment, with workshops held in life-drawing, street-stencilling, etching or photography.

At the end of the week the students return home having made connections with each other and Gallery staff that will last them into the future. Reflecting on the benefits of the program, one student wrote:

The scholarship week will help me think of creative ideas and has introduced me to a lot of inspirational artists. The week has given me confidence and motivation and courage.

Applications for the 2013 National Summer Art Scholarship close on Monday 22 October 2012.  Students who will graduate from Year 12 in 2013 are encouraged to apply, with two students from each state and territory selected.  For more information click here.







(banner image) 2012 Summer scholars get their hands dirty at Mount Stromlo

07 Carol Jerrems A Celebration

A forum in conjunction with the exhibition Carol Jerrems photographic artist was held on 8–9 September at the NGA. A range of speakers contributed to a stimulating exploration of Jerrems’s short but brilliant career in the 1970s.

Speakers included Anne Summers, writer and journalist, and Robyn Ravlich, a Radio National presenter, who spoke eloquently on the experience of being photographed by Jerrems; Anne O’Hehir, co-curator of the exhibition, who spoke on links to an American west coast spiritual tradition; Martyn Jolly, Head of Photomedia, ANU School of Art, who provided an overview of photobooks of the time.

Anne Summers with Jerrems's 'A Book About Australian Women' 1974, in which she featured

Contemporary photographer Darren Sylvester gave a thoughtful paper on the legacy of Jerrems and how ideas in her work have continued to play out. Filmmaker Kathy Drayton gave a thought provoking interpretation of a student photo book and outlined Jerrems’s working methods, demonstrating her perfectionism and skill as a printer. Helen Ennis, Associate Professor, ANU School of Art, expounded on a crisis in Jerrems’s late works. The day ended with lively debate and an informal opening of the exhibition.

On Sunday films were screened, with Kathy Drayton introducing her 2005 documentary Girl in a mirror, which chronicles Jerrems’s life and final illness with often moving interviews with her contemporaries. Introduced by Senior Curator of Photography, Gael Newton, Hair: the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is a film which captures the mood of the times, as the optimism of the sixties gave way to the more sober mood of the seventies.

Darren Sylvester, photomedia artist

The weekend invited opportunities to reminisce about Jerrems and to discover new layers of meaning in her work. It ended with participants inspired to continue discussion and research of recent photography in Australia and the extraordinary talent of Carol Jerrems.

Carol Jerrems photographic artist is on display in the Project Gallery until 28 January 2013.

08 Colour-field painting Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism is concerned with gesture and texture. Another tendency of the style may be identified in Colour-field painting: the main characteristics of which include radically simplified compositions, colours close in tonal value and intensity, and very large canvases. Jules Olitski used a spray-gun to achieve an expansive and seamless surface, a technique which preserves the richness and purity of his colours.

Helen Frankenthaler’s work combines aspects of both Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock. The ‘staining’ of Other generations 1957 is produced by pouring diluted oil paint onto an unprimed canvas laid on the floor, a technique that causes the image to merge into the surface of the work. In this painting, as elsewhere, the weave of the raw canvas is visible. In the 1960s Frankenthaler began to work in series, to adopt more structured, formal compositions and to use synthetic polymer paints.

Helen Frankenthaler 'Other generations' 1957 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 1973
© Helen Frankenthaler

(banner image) Morris Louis 'Beta Nu' 1960 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1972
© 1960 Morris Louis

Morris Louis’s introduction to Frankenthaler in 1953 was the catalyst for developing his own ‘staining’ technique. With Dalet zayin 1959, part of a group of paintings known as Veils, he began to experiment using unprimed canvas. Louis considered his next series, Unfurleds, to be his most ambitious works. In these paintings, which were made during the last five years of his life, he created a new style of Abstract Expressionism.

Morris Louis 'Dalet zayin' 1959 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 1974
© 1959 Morris Louis

Abstract Expressionism is on display in the International galleries until February 2013. Tours of the exhibition run daily at 2pm (meet in the Main Foyer).

09 Action. Painting. Now.
A symposium on Abstract Expressionism

We were thrilled to have a crowd of over 150 people attend our recent symposium on Abstract Expressionism, Action. Painting. Now., held on 24 and 25 August. The event was held at the National Gallery of Australia in association with the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney, and made possible by the generous support of the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Over two days, leading American scholars Branden Joseph, Ellen Landau, Michael Leja and Richard Shiff joined Australian experts – Rex Butler, Christine Dixon, Deborah Hart, Michael Hill, Chris McAuliffe, Patrick McCaughey and Anthony White – to explore the development, reach and influence of one of the most exciting and significant art movements of the 20th century.

Richard Shiff, Effie Cain Regents Professor of Art History, University of Texas, Austin

There was lively debate on a range of topics, from the public controversy over the purchase of Jackson Pollock’s Blue poles 1952, to the aesthetic and philosophical relationship between Abstract Expressionism and indigenous arts of America and Australia, to the dissemination of the ‘Pollock drip’ in popular culture as a ‘punk icon’.

It was especially pleasing to see audience members engaging with the Symposium on Twitter, using the #abex hashtag to join the dialogue.

Thanks to Roger Benjamin, Professor of Art History at United States Studies Centre & Department of Art History and Film Studies, University of Sydney, and Lucina Ward, Curator, International Painting and Sculpture, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra for convening the Symposium. We hope this will be the first of many such collaborations in the future.

10 Celebrating a special partnership with NAB

The National Australia Bank is the Gallery's official Art Education and Access Partner. With NAB’s support the Gallery is able to hold fantastic community events including Big Draw, Sculpture Garden Sunday and The National Summer Art Scholarship! To celebrate the partnership and this year's Big Draw (28 October) we have compiled a photo gallery of past events proudly supported by NAB. Enjoy!

View more images of NAB-supported events on Flickr.

11 Support
Us Treasure a Textile

The NGA’s Treasure a Textile program supports the specialist conservation of textiles held in the national art collection. With the assistance of generous donors to this program, many beautiful, delicate textiles have been conserved.

We are currently seeking support for the conservation of Map of Jain sacred site Shatrunjaya 1897–98, which features in the Divine worlds exhibition.

Gujarat or Rajasthan, India 'Map of Jain sacred site Shatrunjaya
pilgrimage painting [tirtha pata]' 1897-98 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2005


This extraordinarily fragile map is in urgent need of further conservation.

It can take up to 1000 hours by a specialist conservator to restore a textile such as this to its original strength and beauty. With your help, we will be able to secure the future of this work for the enjoyment of many generations of visitors to come.

To make a donation please click here.

12 Around
the country
Interstate events
and travelling

South Australia
Fred Williams: Infinite horizons | Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide SA, 31 August –
4 November 2012

The Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Gift: 1888 Melbourne Cup | Walkway Gallery, Bordertown SA, 28 August – 24 October 2012

The Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Gift: 1888 Melbourne Cup | State Library of South Australia, Adelaide SA, 26 October – 18 December 2012

The Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Gift: Blue Case – Technology | Perc Tucker Regional Art Gallery, Townsville QLD, 12 September – 8 October 2012

The Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Gift: Blue Case – Technology | Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, Bundaberg QLD, 9 October – 8 November 2012

Australian Capital Territory
Australian portraits 1880–1960 | Canberra Museum and Gallery, Canberra ACT, 1 September – 21 October 2012

Fred Williams 'Beachscape, Erith Island' 1974 Private collection
© estate of Fred Williams

The Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Gift: Red Case: Myths and Rituals and Yellow Case: Form, Space and Design | Incinerator Gallery, Moonee Ponds VIC, 21 September – 15 October 2012

The Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Gift: Red Case: Myths and Rituals and Yellow Case: Form, Space and Design | The Burke Museum and Historic Precinct, Beechworth VIC, 16 October – 13 November 2012


13 Win a $200 Eckersley's Gift Voucher

Eckersley's Art & Craft have long been supporters of the Gallery, being the Art Supply partners of the Gallery's popular community art events Big Draw and Sculpture Garden Sunday. To celebrate October's Big Draw at the Gallery Eckersley's Art & Craft are offering artonline subscribers the chance to win a $200 gift voucher to spend at their local Eckersley's store.

In 25 words or less tell us your favourite work in the National Gallery's collection and why for your chance to WIN!

Respond by email to to enter. The winner will be notified by email by COB Friday 26 October.

Prize terms and conditions: The $200 voucher is valid at any local Eckersley's store in Australia and for 12 months from the date of issue.