This selection of mid to late 20th Century works from the Gallery’s collection focuses on key movements in Australian art and design that defied mainstream culture at the time. In 1960, influential architect Robyn Boyd published a seminal best-selling text The Australian Ugliness. The book offered a scathing critique on the Australian aesthetic – heavily influenced by English and American styles of decoration – ‘The basis of the Australian ugliness,’ Boyd wrote, ‘is an unwillingness to be committed on the level of ideas. In all the arts of living, in the shaping of all her artefacts, as in politics, Australia shuffles about vigorously in the middle—as she estimates the middle—of the road, picking up disconnected ideas wherever she finds them.’
In spite of this ‘middling’ appropriation of other western cultures, a distinctly Australian vernacular was emerging within artistic communities. This display celebrates the alternative narratives of pioneering female modernists, a renewed focus on our relationship with the urban and natural environment, the ground-breaking studio of Albert Namatjira, a revival in ceramics and early movements in conceptual and geometric abstraction. Artists include Albert Namatjira; Harold Cazneaux; Wesley Stacey; Grace Cossington Smith; Margaret Preston; Alun Leach-Jones; Juan Davila; Jenny Watson, Elizabeth Gower; Gwyn Hanssen Piggott; Milton Moon and Shiga Shigeo.