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Eight Bold New Melbourne Art Exhibitions That Will Make Your May

See paintings that climb off the canvas, a survey of Christian Thompson's work and the NGV's long-awaited Van Gogh exhibition.
By Hudson Brown
May 02, 2017
By Hudson Brown
May 02, 2017


See paintings that climb off the canvas, a survey of Christian Thompson's work and the NGV's long-awaited Van Gogh exhibition.

The month of May looks bright as another host of must-see art exhibitions take place across Melbourne and beyond. Head to MUMA to catch a rare exhibition by one of Australia's leading contemporary Indigenous artists, say goodbye to a Fitzroy art institution, and take in 31 highlights of Australian architecture by our pioneering practitioners.

With twists on age-old mediums, contemporary works, photography, architecture and more, these eight exhibitions will more than satiate your art cravings this month. Drop by a gallery after work or make a day of it and visit a regional exhibition on the weekend — there's great art happening everywhere from the Mornington Peninsula to Shepparton. 

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    Alesandro Ljubicic: Intrinsic Nature

    Literally taking on an extra dimension, Alesandro Ljubicic’s floral paintings radiate emotion and colour as he densely scoops and smears oils across large-format linen canvases. Until May 20 at Armadale’s Scott Livesey Galleries, the Australian artist presents Intrinsic Nature, a new exhibition that sets out to display the passion and fervour that is showcased throughout nature all around us. This new body of work sees Ljubicic find new ways to interpret the age-old humble floral painting and consider the works of several Australian and international florists.

    Ljubicic is a Bosnian-born contemporary artist who is based in Sydney, where he studied at the National Art School. Known for creating oil paintings that climb off the canvas with a uniquely sculptural flair, Ljubicic has exhibited at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, while also presenting solo shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Berlin.

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  • 7
    Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy

    Christian Thompson is one of the most celebrated contemporary Indigenous artists working today, and Ritual Intimacy represents the first major survey of the artist’s extensive and diverse works. Through photography, video, sculpture, performance and sound, he explores notions of identity, race and history, often placing these themes against the backdrop of the Australian environment. Thompson’s prodigious talents were recognised from an early age with his early career spent at the side of world-renowned artist Marina Abramovic, who became his mentor. Later, Thompson was accepted into Oxford University, making him one of the first Indigenous Australians to study at the institution in its 900-year history.

    Taking place at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Ritual Intimacy features a never-before-seen major commission, while also highlighting Thompson’s continued exploration of musical works centred around Indigenous language. The exhibition will be on display until July 8.

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  • 6
    Van Gogh and the Seasons

    Seasonal change is finally settling into Melbourne and with it comes one of the NGV’s best annual exhibitions: the Winter Masterpieces series. This year, it’s no secret they’ve snagged a true master, Vincent Van Gogh, the poster boy for post-impressionism and dramatic self-mutilation. Set to open on April 28 and running until July 9, blockbuster exhibition Van Gogh and the Seasons has been years in the making, and is expected by NGV to draw one of the gallery’s biggest audiences yet.

    Curator Sjraar Van Heugten has fine-tuned a thematic exhibition after Van Gogh’s own heart, an exploration of the seasons in over 60 works. “In the seasons, he [Van Gogh] has perceived infinity, something larger than humanity. The seasons represent ongoing life,” he says.

    Inside the exhibition, you’ll find a fascinating investigation into Van Gogh’s life, alongside some of his best naturalist pieces. The artist’s character, and his fluctuating mental health, often receive as much attention as his best works. The story of his life — and his death — are expounded wonderfully (and sensitively, snaps for not stigmatising mental health) through quotes, correspondence and essays. Although the collection itself doesn’t feature his most famous works, you’ll leave with a window into the artist’s true persona and an understanding of the sheer breadth of his talent.

    Structurally, Van Gogh and the Seasons is broken into (you guessed it) the four seasons, that masterfully weave a narrative through the artist’s life. The NGV has produced a short accompanying film, narrated by David Stratton and David Wenham, that’s worth a watch before you proceed through the exhibition, as it explains the structure of the exhibition and sets the mood. Feeling overwhelmed? We’ve put together five works to see at the exhibition.

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  • 5
    Iconic Australian Houses: An Exhibition by Karen McCartney

    Karen McCartney has long been at the forefront of architecture and interiors publishing, having founded prominent design magazine Inside Out, worked as the editor of Marie Claire Lifestyle and written several successful architecture publications. Iconic Australian Houses: An Exhibition by Karen McCartney sees this wealth of knowledge put together as the exhibition considers 31 of the most important Australian homes since the 1950s.

    Showing at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery from May 12 to July 9, this exhibition goes beyond the aesthetics of the homes, delving deeper to highlight the stories behind the properties through the clients and architects. To bring these stories to life, the exhibition features striking photography and illustrations, architectural models and video interviews with residents and designers. Discussing what Australian architecture means to those who helped define it, Iconic Australian Houses features designs from Harry Seidler, Neville Gruzman, Richard Leplastrier, Glenn Murcutt, Hugh Buhrich, Peter McIntyre, Roy Grounds and many more. One of the highlights of the exhibition program is the tour of Dromana’s ’50s modernist McCraith House (also known as Butterfly House), which will include a morning tea hosted by artist and granddaughter of the original owners, Bin Dixon-Ward.

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  • 4
    The End of Time. The Beginning of Time.

    Having been a stalwart of the Fitzroy community for 32 years, Gertrude Contemporary is upping sticks to a new location in Preston South. But before closing their Gertrude Street doors for the final time, a new exhibition titled The End of Time. The Beginning of Time. pays tribute to the building, the community and numerous talented artists that have all contributed to the organisation’s admired legacy. This homage includes the re-presentation (or restaging) of admired exhibitions dating back to the 1980s, which trace the history and continued evolution of the gallery space. The tribute will reflect Gertrude Contemporary’s rich and diverse history, while also utilising the gallery’s expansive architectural and spatial arrangements.

    Artists featured in the include Marco Fusinato and Mutlu Çerkez, DAMP, Geoff Newton, Noriko Nakamura, Anthony Hunt and Stephen Honneger, Nat and Ali, Natalie Thomas, Reko Rennie, Rose Nolan, Blair Trethowan, Mark Hilton, The Telepathy Project, Jon Campbell, Elizabeth Newman, Danius Kesminas, Sanja Pahoki, Nicholas Mangan and Damiano Bertoli.

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  • 3
    Under the Sun: Reimagining Max Dupain's Sunbaker

    It’s been 80 years since Max Dupain took Sunbaker, maybe his most famous photo. To mark its anniversary, the Australian Centre of Photography has commissioned 15 artists to respond to the iconic image for a new exhibition titled Under the Sun. From May 6 to August 6, the 15 large-scale works will be on display at the Monash Gallery of Art.

    The exhibition is an exploration of what it means to be Australian, and a study of how our national identity has evolved since 1937. The artists offer contemplations and interpretations of Sunbaker from new perspectives, and influenced by diverse cultures, ethnicities and faiths.

    Artist Nasim Nasr will produce a slow-motion video work at Culburra Beach — the same location where Sunbaker was shot. Nasr moved to Sydney from Iran as a young woman — her work looks at beach culture through the tension of Eastern / Western eyes. Julie Rrap will cast a friend in bronze in the image’s pose, and William Yang will revisit his beach clothing, and beach images archive.


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  • 2
    Slice of Life

    As part of Craft Victoria’s new Emerging Makers and Curators Program, Slice of Life is a group exhibition that sees everyday objects and still life works reimagined with modern craft-based vitality. Eight up-and-coming artists will showcase their light-hearted works inventively across ceramics, textiles and jewellery. Curated by contemporary artist Sophia Cai, the works depict commonplace experiences and objects seen daily, highlighting the resourceful nature of the exhibition’s artists who use unlikely materials and mediums to reinvigorate the still life genre of art.

    The exhibition features some of Australia’s most exciting newcomers, including Mechelle Bounpraseuth, Phil Ferguson (aka Chili Philly, the maker of wearable crochet art), Julie Burleigh, Scott Duncan, Katie Jacobs, Josephine Mead, Tricia Page, and Cat Rabbit. Slice of Life is on now at Craft Victoria and runs until May 27.

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  • 1

    If there’s one thing that’s certain in life, it’s that we can’t live without water — and a new exhibition at Shepparton Art Museum sets out to show the many and varied flow-on effects water contributes to in modern society. Through the work of 20 Australian artists and collectives — and drawing from the SAM archives — Freshwater considers the less-than-subtle environmental impacts, while also exploring the cultural, political and economic ramifications that comes from not respecting one of our most important resources. Issues explored include rising salinity, wastage, struggles between sustainability and economic interests, whilst works look at the cultural heritage surrounding rivers and waterways.

    Freshwater takes place as part of ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017, a Victoria-wide festival produced by Climarte, an organisation which aims to harness the creative power of the arts to evoke action on climate change.

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