NGV NEWS | Luminous: Australian Watercolours 1900-2000

18 April 2016
NGV NEWS | Luminous: Australian Watercolours 1900-2000
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia | 7 May – 21 August 2016 | Free entry
Luminous: Australian Watercolours 1900-2000 will be the first exhibition
in twenty-five years to feature the National Gallery of Victoria’s
outstanding collection of Australian watercolours and gouaches. More
than eighty works by fifty artists will be on display from 7 May 2016 at
NGV Australia. From traditional landscapes to abstract and contemporary
art, the breadth of the exhibition reveals the enduring popularity and
versatility of watercolour.
Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said, ‘Luminous: Australian Watercolours
1900-2000 presents a unique opportunity to study the medium in depth,
observe the range of techniques and styles that develop over the course
of the century, and be inspired by the diversity of works in the NGV
The exhibition features intimate studies and monumental works by some
of Australia’s best-loved artists, including Albert Namatjira, Sydney Nolan,
Joy Hester, Fred Williams and John Brack. At the centre of the exhibition is the Australian landscape, beginning with
traditional watercolours made in the 1910s and 1920s by artists such as Hans Heysen, William Blamire Young and Arthur
Streeton. The translucent quality of watercolour enabled artists to capture the distinctive light, colour and atmosphere of
the landscape, and such images came to play an important role in shaping Australian national identity.
The exhibition traces the emergence of Modernism in the 1930s and 1940s, both in landscapes and other genres. Works
by modernists Frank Hinder and Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack represent the beauty and rhythm of life in abstract
compositions. Also on display are watercolours from the mid-century, when young artists experimented with the medium,
mixing it with gouache and other media to create powerful effects in images that reflect the tension and trauma of the
war years.
Inspired by the avant-garde and Modernist movements in Europe and America, Australian artists such as Tony Tuckson,
Gunther Christmann and Robert Jacks explored the medium in gestural, expressive or minimalist works – some images
are composed of drops of colour and others are based on variations of geometric form.
Today’s artists are working in a greater diversity of style, scale, and medium than ever before. The selection of recent and
contemporary works in Luminous showcases the diversity of approaches, including works by Juan Davila, Jon Cattapan,
Gareth Sansom, John Wolseley and Lesley Dumbrell. Drawing on a long history of tradition and experimentation, artists
continue to explore the potential of watercolour, producing innovative and unexpected results.
The exhibition is accompanied by a richly-illustrated publication featuring insightful essays by exhibition curators Cathy
Leahy and Petra Kayser and additional contributions from NGV curators and art historians.
A range of public programs will provide visitors with insights into the works and artistic processes of Australian
Curator’s Perspective
Saturday 7 May, 11am
Luminous: Australian Watercolours 1900-2000 showcases the extraordinary diversity of the medium and includes
watercolours and gouaches by fifty Australian artists. As part of the opening weekend, exhibition curators Cathy Leahy and
Petra Kayser will share insights into the use of watercolour by artists in traditional landscape painting, avant-garde and
Modernist works, abstract images through to contemporary art. Hear the stories behind the NGV’s collection of
watercolours, and learn about the techniques and materials used by the artists.
Speakers Cathy Leahy, Senior Curator, Prints and Drawings and Petra Kayser, Curator, Prints and Drawings
Cost Free
Venue Exhibition space
Working with Watercolour
Thursday 16 June, 2pm
Learn insights into the techniques and materials of watercolours including the approach to their care in the NGV Collection
with exhibition curator Dr Petra Kayser in conversation with a paper conservator.
Cost Free
Venue Exhibition space
Artist Insight: Painting with Watercolour
Saturday 9 July, 11am
Fiona McMonagle is an Irish born, Melbourne based artist working with watercolour, and is one of the exhibiting artists in
Luminous. Often depicting quite challenging imagery with what is considered a traditionally beautiful and delicate
medium, recently Fiona has been working with the moving image, using her watercolour paintings to create animations.
Listen in as Fiona shares insights into her introduction to the medium, which she has referred to as love at first sight, the
artists who have influenced her practice, and the joys and frustrations of working with watercolour.
Speaker Fiona McMonagle, artist
Cost Free
Venue Exhibition space
Curator’s Perspective
Wednesday 27 July, 2pm
Speaker Judith Ryan, Senior Curator, Indigenous Art
Cost Free
Venue Exhibition space
Curator’s Perspective
Sunday 21 August, 11am
Speaker Cathy Leahy, Senior Curator, Prints and Drawings
Cost Free
Venue Exhibition space
Luminous: Australian Watercolours 1900-2000 is on display at NGV Australia from 7 May – 21 August 2016. Open daily,
Media contacts:
Marion Joseph, Head of Media and Public Affairs
03 8620 2346 | 0427 147 999 | [email protected]
Chloe Gordon, Publicist
[email protected]
Image caption: Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Story of a shell, 1940 © Courtesy of the artist's estate