Ahead of the holiday season, we’ve curated our pick of outstanding regional exhibitions taking place across the country this summer. From landmark shows devoted to First Nations artists to exhibitions on sport, animals, landscape and the nature of painting, there is much to see outside the city.
Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) – Liam Benson: Virtue Without Stain
Until 15 January
That provocative exhibition title is, for Western Sydney artist Liam Benson, a departure point for exploring the vexed issue that is contemporary Australian masculinity. Through photography, new media, performance and embroidery, Benson confronts how masculinity intersects with gender, queerness, colonial legacy and other corners of culture and history, while also collaborating with members of the local Bathurst community on certain works.
Maitland Regional Gallery – Jane Lander: Protection
10 December—12 March 2023
Jane Lander’s Protection is a contemplative and intimate meditation on the natural world, that grew out of the Hunter-based artist’s experiences bird-watching amid the blustery, dramatic landscape around Ōkārito Lagoon on New Zealand’s South Island. Lander’s drawings and paintings show scenes inspired by this setting, offering a dialogue with young people on approaching and responding to the environment, dealing with themes of vulnerability, place and ecology.
Shepparton Art Museum – 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial: Ceremony
10 December—26 February 2023
Shepparton marks the second stop for this touring exhibition, a key showcase for Indigenous art, featuring 35 First Nations artists. The concept of ‘ceremony’, as interpreted in 15 new bodies of work, refers to the ceremonial elements that apply to the art-making process among contemporary First Nations practitioners, incorporating Country, history, culture and family (as Neha Kale elucidates in her Art Guide article on the Triennial). Curated by Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman Hetti Perkins, mediums include painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography and video.
Cairns Regional Gallery – Segar Passi: Meriba Ged A Gur (Our Land and Sea)
Until 11 December
The intoxicating, colourful paintings of Segar Passi are a soulful ode to the Torres Strait island of Mer (Murray Island), the artist’s home (as Andrew Stephens wrote in his Art Guideprofile of the artist). This assemblage of his works is designed to mark Passi’s 80th birthday, as well as the 30th anniversary of the High Court’s Mabo ruling in 1992. The paintings—which range from portraits to landscapes—address the flora and fauna, culture, history and myth of the Islands, and represent a landmark survey for one of Australia’s most remarkable self-taught artists.
The world of sport is increasingly intersecting with wider societal issues, and this ambitious group exhibition examines the role that sport plays in community and social life—and its potential as a vehicle for self-expression and self-actualisation. Mediums include painting, ceramics, photography, installation and sporting paraphernalia, and comes at an apposite time for the Manly region, given the pride jersey furore that engulfed the Manly Sea Eagles rugby league team in 2022.
Western Plains Cultural Centre – Euan McLeod & Rodney Pople: 2°
Until 12 February
Euan McLeod and Rodney Pople, each long-established figures in the Australian art world, both completed residencies in Dubbo in 2021. For the two artists, part of this time involved observing people and animals at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. The result is a joint exhibition of paintings from two old friends—infused with wit, curiosity and emotion—exploring the experience of observing and being observed. 2° exposes and questions the relationship between the humans who gawp through the bars, and the animals contained within them.
Geelong Gallery – Mandy Martin: A Persistent Vision
Until February 5
This survey exhibition for a revered Australian artist comes a year on from Mandy Martin’s death. Prior to her passing, Martin worked closely with Geelong Gallery to settle on a selection of 67 prints, drawings and paintings that span her long career, showing how industry impinges upon the natural landscape, as well as the individual’s psyche. These works are replete with factories, chimneys and often-fiery skies, defining the style of a much-missed artist.
Wagga Wagga Art Gallery – Jess Johnson and Simon Ward: Terminus
17 December—5 February
Wagga Wagga is the latest community to be enthralled by this rich, complex virtual reality installation, which debuted at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2018. Based on drawings by Jess Johnson and developed by animator and video-maker Simon Ward, Terminus offers five dream-like realms to explore, in a choose-your-own-adventure-style interactive experience, inspired by science-fiction, comics and fantasy. “It can reflect the best and worst of humans,” Johnson told the ABC in 2018, alluding to how Terminus is as disorienting, perhaps haunting, as it is dazzling in its wild psychedelia.
Brightbrings together seven contemporary Australian artists who, in contrasting ways, explore abstraction and colour. Artists include Esther Stewart and Yvette Coppersmith, as well as longstanding fixtures in Australian painting such as Vivienne Binns and Margaret Worth. Some pieces are newly commissioned, while others are existing works, all of which extend, and in some cases distort, our understanding of abstraction and its aesthetic possibilities.
Hurstville Museum & Gallery – Guraban: Where the Saltwater Meets the Freshwater
Until 29 January
This exhibition celebrates and explores the Georges River, which snakes its way through south and west Sydney, and meets the sea at Botany Bay. Indigenous connections to the river are, of course, deep, and Guraban: Where the Saltwater Meets the Freshwaterfeatures work from several First Nations artists, alongside objects and materials from both public and private collections. Artists include Dennis Golding, Nicole Monks and Jenine Boeree, Djon Mundine, Marilyn Russell and Jason Wing.
Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) – Spence Messih: Minor Truths
Until 19 February
This exhibition from Sydney-basedartist Spence Messih takes its conceptual cue from the poetry of Michael Dillon (1915-1962), a physician and author, and the first transgender man known to have undergone gender confirmation surgery. Messih’s installation for Minor Truths incorporates sculpture (made from glass and wood, among other materials) alongside textual and audio, all to interrogate the impermanence, vulnerability, and malleability of knowledge.
A Bit More Paint offers a local focus, with all six artists hailing from the Sunshine Coast area. The show emphasises how painting might be stretched and subverted to transcend the medium, thanks to a diversity of techniques. It builds upon a similar showcase of local artists, PAINT, from earlier this year, with this second iteration featuring Alex Lange, Alicia Sharples, BJ Murphy, Casey Hewitt, Pippa Makgill and Thom Stuart.