Presenting the work of six artists, Close to home is the second Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial. Jumaadi, Maria Kontis, Richard Lewer, Noel McKenna, Catherine O’Donnell and Nyapanyapa Yunupingu explore narratives based on memory and experience. With an intense intimacy and personal poignancy, these six storytellers present complex themes, from death to depression, that are both beautiful and unnerving.

Nyapanyapa Yunupingu Marwat 2014 black fibre-tipped pen, natural pigments on paper 130 x 130 cm Art Gallery of New South Wales Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors' Group 2015 © Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala Photo: © AGNSW, Diana Panuccio This image may only be used in conjunction with editorial coverage of the exhibition Close to home, Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2016 , on display 30 July to 11 December 2016, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. This image may not be cropped or overwritten. Prior approval in writing required for use as a cover. Caption details must accompany reproduction of the image. Media
Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Marwat, 2014, black fibre-tipped pen, natural pigments on paper, 130 x 130 cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors’ Group 2015 © Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala. Photo: © AGNSW, Diana Panuccio.

Richard Lewer’s series of portraits are based on personal narratives from eight of his friends who have experienced depression of suffer from anxiety. The artist’s technique and approach is simple and effective, Each subject’s direct and avid gaze is frank and honest. These people were encouraged to speak about their journeys during the sittings and their stories have formed the titles of their individual portraits, including: I’m fine, I’m just tired, 2015; It’s like I’m full of holes and sinking, 2015; and Depression is like quicksand, you have to avoid panic to escape, 2015.

Personal reflection is at the heart of Catherine O’Donnell’s impressive installationInhabited space, 2015-2016, which occupies an entire wall of the gallery. The artist has created the façade of a post-war fibro Western Sydney house, similar to the one she grew up in, incorporating subtle visual cues suggesting life within. The door slightly ajar and a blind pulled aside hint at a sense of life within the work. The detail and shading in O’Donnell’s work is exceptional and demonstrates a high degree of skill and technique.

Child-like wonder is at the heart of Noel McKenna’s work, Animals I have known, 2015–2016. Exploring the emotional attachment we feel towards animals, the artist constructs a timeline depicting creatures, both wild and domestic, that have come in and out of his life. While initially the work appears quite matter of fact, upon closer inspection we see the individual stories and anecdotes which make up the fabric of the narrative and provide an insight into McKenna’s childhood. For anyone who has ever loved and lost a pet, Animals I have known is a poignant and touching tribute to the creatures who share our lives.      

Close to home is a lesson in candid storytelling and poetic reflections, demonstrating a high level of technical ability. The themes explored by the exhibiting artists are deeply personal and at times they can hit a little too close to home.


Close to home: Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2016
Art Gallery of New South Wales
30 July – 11 December


Naomi Gall