Art History: New Perspectives: Matisse and Australia
New Perspectives: Matisse and Australia
India Urwin, Darius Whittaker and Jennifer Yang
This seminar features presentations by the three University of Sydney finalists for the inaugural Eloquence Art Prize (established by Culture Plus and funded by the French Embassy). The concept behind the Prize is to reward the best 15-minute art talk researched and delivered by an Australian University student. The 2022 theme is Matisse and Australian Art. Each of our three finalists interpreted this topic in inventive ways. Congratulations to Jennifer Yang who has been chosen to represent our University in the finals. The quality of all three talks was so high that we are proud to showcase them in our first research seminar for the semester. (more information)
“His Country is next to mine”
Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori and the Idea of Matisse.
Sally Gabori, Dibirdibi Country, 2010
Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori’s work entitled Dibirdibi Country (2010) hangs in the Art Gallery of NSW as part of the Matisse Alive exhibition. My paper examines firstly why these two artists, who were separated by time, space and culture, are often brought into dialogue with one another (despite there being no evidence of an actual diachronic connection between the two), and secondly the complexities of viewing one artist’s work through the lens of another.
India Urwin holds a BA (Hons) in Art History, with First Class Honours, and has recently completed the Master of Art Curating at the University of Sydney. India has a critical interest in postcolonial intervention in art practice, discussion and industry. She is currently the assistant curator at Head On Foundation and managing editor of Interactional photography magazine.
Cut and Paste: John Coburn and Henri Matisse
John Coburn, Maquette for The Curtain of the Sun, 1970 / Henri Matisse, Snow Flowers, 1951.
In response to the Eloquence Art Prize brief, my talk seizes on what might appear as a very explicit stylistic connection between the cut-out art of Henri Matisse and the vibrant colour and flat biomorphic shapes of Australian abstractionist John Coburn (1925-2006). I explore the progression of Coburn’s immediately Australian yet distinctly French-inspired visual language, addressing themes of appropriative influence, cultural interconnection and exchange, and what might seem to be a uniquely Antipodean ‘magpie’ instinct.
Born and currently living in Wollongong, Darius Whittaker has his own occasional art practice and has recently completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Art History and International Relations at the University of Sydney. Darius undertook an Art History Honours year in 2021, for which he received the University Medal — his thesis concentrated on American artist Ivan Albright and delved into issues around speed, slowness and craft in modern and contemporary art production.
Re-imagining Matisse’s encounter with Polynesia: Angela Tiatia’s The Pearl (2021) in conversation with Matisse’s art after Tahiti.
Angela Tiatia, The Pearl, 2021. Single channel video, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
By placing Matisse’s works in dialogue with the contemporary Samoan-Australian artist Angela Tiatia’s video installation titled The Pearl (2021), I consider how they collaboratively conjure a transcultural space and time which celebrates Oceanic culture and landscapes while acknowledging the complexities of historical experience in French Polynesia, the entangled conditions of coloniality and visual modernity, and the unequal terms on which European representations of Polynesian women rested. With an interest in what was missed, as well as what was celebrated in Matisse’s post-Tahiti works, I look to The Pearl as a stimulus for contemplation and imagination as we revisit Matisse’s initial encounter with Polynesia.
Jennifer Yang is in her Honours year of a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Art History, at the University of Sydney. Her research centres on East and Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art, and she is presently writing an Honours dissertation on the contemporary Chinese-Indonesian video artist Tintin Wulia.