Dirty Paper


When staff took five local artists through the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) collection to see what might grab them, the idea was to eventually have these emerging and mid-career artists show new drawing works in the gallery.

The results of the extensive tours are of course eclectic, says curator Jane Stewart, with each artist gravitating towards something they felt they would like to respond to.

Titled Dirty Paper, the exhibition has drawing practice at its heart, its title stemming from the 19th-century critic John Ruskin, who once observed that all drawing is simply a process of “dirtying paper delicately.” In this case, drawing leaps off in multiple directions and rather than anything “dirty”, we get fascinating experiments in the exploration of how contemporary work can be innovative but also reference the past thoughtfully.

Matt Coyle took dioramas as his starting point, building one in his kitchen, making multiple drawings of it, and then discarding it. Joel Crosswell was besotted by the moth collection and spent much time exploring it with TMAG’s resident entomologist, while Tom O’Hern found himself creating large drawings of megafauna, models of which he remembers seeing at the museum during childhood visits.

Meanwhile, Lucienne Rickard explored working with classical sculpted busts as a jumping-off point and Andrew Harper has interfaced by creating his own collection of drawings of local artists’ work. These zines, photocopied flyers, and posters, which he recently donated to TMAG, include his impressions of artists Rodney Febey and David Clifford – two little-known but extraordinary draughtsmen whom Stewart says provide rich material.

Dirty Paper
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG)
15 February—14 July

This article was originally published in the March/April print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Andrew Stephens