Australian contemporary art icons honoured

Iconoclasts is one of three exhibitions opening at Umbrella Studio tonight, featuring figurative work by five Australian contemporary artists. IMAGE Intruder interrupted (detail) 2017, charcoal on paper - Adam Cusack

While the artists exhibiting in Iconoclasts at Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts this month come from across Australia, the link between the pieces is clear: to celebrate, and expose people to, contemporary Australian art.

Iconoclasts, which can be found in Umbrella’s main gallery space from tonight, features work by six current Australian figurative artists: Adam Cusack, Daniel Butterworth, Joel Rea, Julie Poulsen, Louisa Ennis-Thomas and Nic Plowman.

Artist and co-curator Adam Cusack said the idea behind the exhibition was to bring opportunities to experience contemporary art to different parts of Australia.

“When I was growing up in Cairns, what we learnt about art was from magazines or books – so we were studying little tiny pictures of art, but to truly learn about it you have to physically stand in front of a piece and let it speak to you,” Adam said.

“Each of the artists involved are figurative in their practice but very diverse. We have Joel who is a hyper-realist, who is conceptually-based but a fantastic technician painting in oil, through to Louisa who is doing completely mixed media sculptural work. I wanted to be able to showcase what I think is interesting work in figuration in Australia at the moment. Also tying that together with some of the artists we thought about as young artists, practicing our craft and skills to work in the modern contemporary arts sector.”

Inspiration for the show ranged from George Lambert to Brett Whitely.

“If you look at what we’ve seen in traditional art in Australia, we have fairly diverse practices among the artists if you go back to someone like George Lambert – very classical in his approach, very European and some might say impressionistic. Then you take a jump and get to someone like Tucker or Ian Fairweather or Sydney Nolan – again, figurative artists but working very differently responding to the figure.

“I know when I was in school, we had a lot of Pacific Islander involvement so our exposure was more into what the Islanders were doing in their art. Then when I got to high school I learnt more about what we consider contemporary art, but more so from America. It was hard to get a hold of what was contemporary Australia at the time. So hopefully this spreads it with a broader brush of what’s open to people. Ideally, the artists represented here are quite strong conceptually: even though they’re highly skilled technicians in their craft, they’re all also thinkers, it goes deeper than just a pretty picture. They’re all solid artists.”

Catch the opening of Iconoclasts, Song Steam and Stone and Postcards from the North and South at Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts tonight from 6:30pm.

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