The National 4 opens across four leading Sydney cultural institutions 31 Mar 2023

Artists from across Australia and beyond converge on Sydney to present new and ambitious works for The National 4: Australian Art Now, the fourth iteration of the free biennial survey of Australian contemporary art, opening tomorrow at four leading cultural institutions across Greater Sydney.

A partnership between the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Art Gallery of NSW), Campbelltown Arts Centre (C-A-C), Carriageworks and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA Australia), The National 4 brings together 48 new artist projects involving more than 80 artists from across Country, generations and communities.

The National 4 features bold, distinctive and experimental works that reflect the diversity and vitality of the art being made in Australia today. For many artists this is their first presentation at a major cultural institution in New South Wales.

The exhibition is curated by Beatrice Gralton at the Art Gallery of NSW; Emily Rolfe at C-A-C; Freja Carmichael (Quandamooka) and Aarna Fitzgerald Hanley at Carriageworks; and Jane Devery at the MCA Australia. This year marks the first presentation of The National at Campbeltown Arts Centre, extending the footprint of the exhibition across Greater Sydney.

In a joint statement, Beatrice Gralton, Emily Rolfe, Freja Carmichael, Aarna Fitzgerald Hanley and Jane Devery, said: ‘The National 4 is a dynamic collaboration resulting in four distinct exhibitions that unfold across our respective organisations. It brings together diverse works by more than 80 artists reflecting the multiplicity of perspectives informing the art being made in Australia today.

‘Collectively the artists in The National 4 contribute to broader conversations across a range of critical ideas, including intergenerational learning, community and social interconnectedness, the role of language, and personal narratives that acknowledge broader social and political issues.’

The opening program runs across three days from Friday 31 March to Sunday 2 April and includes more than 20 free events including performance, film, talks and workshops, to extend on key ideas in the exhibition. The opening program invites audiences to connect with artists and hear their stories.

The National 4: Australian Art Now is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.


The National 4 highlights

14 artists are presented at the Art Gallery of NSW, as well as an artist project at the Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry Hills for the first time in the history of The National, highlights include:

  • Robert Fielding’s immersive video installation Milpatjunanyi honours the practice of drawing in the earth with a wire or stick – a vital and enduring form of women’s storytelling from Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY Lands).
  • Nabilah Nordin’s intensely colourful and richly textured installation Corinthian Clump is a raucous confrontation between the classical architecture of the Art Gallery’s historic vestibule and the artist’s free-form sculptural language.
  • Gerry Wedd’s 600-plus hand-formed tiles and vessels in Where Are We Now? (Where are we now?) champions the role of ceramics as a tool for mass communication. His tiled hearth decorated with text and imagery is like a conversation between diverse threads of history, and chronicles his interest in nature, contemporary music, politics and social justice issues.
  • Natasha Walsh’s intervention at the Brett Whiteley Studio gives an insight into the artistic process. Walsh is making a new body of work at the Studio titled Hysteria, where she revisits famous paintings of women by men, creating new interpretations of these images that reveal the complexities of representation.

11 artists are presented at Campbelltown Arts Centre, including:

  • Shivanjani Lal’s Aise Aise Hai (how we remember) is a field of 87 plaster cast sugarcane stalks, referencing the number of boats that transported over 60,000 people from India to Fiji between 1879 and 1916 to work as indentured labourers; among them were Lal’s ancestors.
  • Christopher Bassi’s installation Island Revelation embodies a series of paintings that draw from a group of iconographic motifs of the Torres Strait. The artist is interested in how these motifs function as symbols of his personal relationship to the Torres Strait landscape, in reading Country and considering it sacred, and the motifs’ connections to the Catholic art of Velázquez and Goya.
  • Brook Andrew’s video GABAN summons a number of interlinked stories concerning the mess of the colonial fall-out, performed by characters who personify cultural objects held in colonial collections and elements of the institutional power of the museum. GABAN eventually reveals new pathways of intersecting histories to challenge prevailing narratives and bring about repatriation, healing and revenge.
  • Lynda Draper’s Talismans for Unsettled Times comprises a sea of ethereal ceramic sculptures created over the period of a decade. Draper likens this body of work to a votive offering – a voluntary offering of an object to the gods in a period of anxiety or change. Creating work is a meditative and deeply personal undertaking for Draper. It is a way for her to process the instability of recent years and to work through questions surrounding personal, long-held beliefs.

11 artists are presented at Carriageworks, including:

  • Senior Warrawarra artist, Susan Balbunga’s art practice is informed by her lived experiences growing up in the bush and the knowledge she acquired from her family. Balbunga weaves gunga (Pandanus spiralis) into bamugora, a traditional conical form that has metaphoric, cultural and functional significance.
  • FM Air is a new dance by Jo Lloyd, performed three times during The National 4. Presented in Carriageworks’ Public Space, the three performers move in a continuous bind, oscillating in a transparent fabric bag.
  • In Wintinganhu (sister-in-law), Teho Ropeyarn tells his mother’s story through printmaking and sound. Family, Country and culture are carved into each line of his prints, embodying his connection to the Injinoo community, Cape York.
  • Erika Scott’s The Circadian Cul-de-sac is an otherworldly scene assembled from discarded fish tanks, tyres, Tampax instructions, empty photo frames, knick-knacks and other stuff, rearranged and reconfigured to test how personal understandings relate to broader systems and currencies.

The work of 13 artists and 2 collectives are presented at MCA Australia, including:

  • Allison Chhorn’s immersive video installation meditates on the daily routines of her Cambodian–Australian family and addresses histories of migration and the ongoing effects of colonisation.
  • Simryn Gill has created a poetic evocation of her elderly Italian neighbour’s garden, which connects local and personal experiences to broader questions of place and belonging.
  • Collaborative and community-based practices have a strong presence in the exhibition at MCA Australia, including a powerful video installation produced by artists from Jilamara Arts Centre filmed on Country in the remote Milikapiti community in the Tiwi Islands, and a project by the collective Ivi based between Queensland, Aotearoa New Zealand and Tonga which emphasises knowledge-sharing and social harmony through the production of ngatu (barkcloth).

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication featuring full-colour reproductions, essays by the exhibition curators, profiles on each of the exhibiting artists and texts by Jennifer Higgie and Ellen van Neerven (Mununjali Yugambeh). The publication is available to purchase from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Carriageworks and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

The National 4: Australian Art Now is a free exhibition and opens tomorrow across four Sydney cultural institutions:

  • Art Gallery of New South Wales: Friday 24 March – Sunday 23 July 2023
  • Campbelltown Arts Centre: Thursday 30 March – Sunday 25 June 2023
  • Carriageworks: Thursday 30 March – Sunday 25 June 2023
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Australia: Friday 31 March – 9 July 2023

For media interviews please contact:  Jasmine, 0451 087 196