Experiencing art from home: studio visits, tactile sculptures and how a tapestry is made


With multiple Australian cities now in lockdown, and density limits still at play in other cities, weve curated a refined shortlist of online virtual galleries, videos and podcasts you can view, watch and listen to from the comfort of home.

‘big kangaroo urn’, 2021, designed by Troy Emery, woven by Emma Sulzer, wool and cotton. Photograph courtesy of Marie-Luise Skibbe.

Ever wondered how contemporary tapestries are made? In this video series, artists Atong Atem, Hayley Millar-Baker, Eugenia Lim and Troy Emery, as well as the expert weavers from the Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW), discuss the fascinating and deeply collaborative process of turning a design into a woven tapestry.

These four incredible textile works were produced through the ATW’s Weaving Futures project, which saw 15 artists develop tapestry designs.

Ben Quilty, The Crowd, 2021, oil on linen, 180 x 202 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries.

Two powerful exhibitions at Tolarno reflect on recent times.

Brent Harris: The Stations harks back to a series of etchings the artist made in 1989—a contemporary Stations of the Cross. The earlier body of work used a blocky hard-edged abstraction to express mortality and mourning during the AIDS pandemic; thirty years later, amid the lockdowns of 2020, Harris has revisited the subject. Embracing the style of abstracted figuration the artist has become known for, this is a tender and haunting series.

In startling contrast is Ben Quilty’s exhibition The Beach, viewable only until 28 August. “To make paintings of men punching the life out of each other feels like an apt response to being alive in 2021,” Quilty says of this body of work. It’s is a visceral exploration of male figures locked in violent embrace, using as source material both images of traditional boxing and photographs of the 2005 Cronulla riots.


A Poem and a Mistake, written by Cheri Magid, created with and performed by Sarah Baskin. Film adaptation of a theatre performance, 60 mins.

Going to the theatre might feel like a distant memory—but you can catch the play A poem and a mistake online.

Part of the current exhibition A Biography of Daphne at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), this filmed one-woman production delves into metamorphosis, love and identity through a contemporary exploration of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

A poem and a mistake is available to view for free on the ACCA website, from 27 August—12 September. The play clocks in at 60 minutes, so make an evening of it—perhaps even dress up in something fancier than those soup-stained tracky-pants, if you feel so inclined.

And in an accompanying podcast, hear playwright Cheri Magid discussing the ideas behind the work.

Installation view of the ‘Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings’ exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 12 June – 19 September 2021. Photo: AGNSW, Jenni Carter © AGNSW.

While the Art Gallery of New South Wales is closed, there’s a dazzling array of things to watch, listen to and read available on their website. From walk-throughs of the 2021 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize exhibitions to hidden gems of the gallery collection, there’s bound to be something that piques your interest.

Learn about Brett Whiteley and take a 360-degree tour of his paint-encrusted Surry Hills studio; or join artists Abdul Abdullah, Thea Anamara Perkins, and Natasha Walsh in their own studios for the video series Artists at Work.

If (like me) you’re gutted to miss out on seeing the monumental exhibition Hilma af Klint: Secret Paintings in person, you can still delve into the artist’s unusual life and glorious artworks through videos, articles and an exhibition walk-through. (And check out Art Guide’s feature article by Jane O’Sullivan while you’re at it!)


Sanné Mestrom, Nyatamori (reclining nude), clockwise from bottom right: you stand/ we carry, she seeps/ you ripple, we leak/ they hold, you drift/ i spill, 2021 reclining nude: 65 x 170 x 115 cm, editions of 3 plus artist’s proofs.

So many of us in lockdowns are missing human contact right now, or are separated from our family and friends by travel restrictions. Responding to this desire for connection, Sullivan+Strumpf’s online exhibition On Touch features sculptures by Lindy Lee, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Alex Seton, Sanné Mestrom and Tim Silver. Using marble, bronze and concrete, these weighty works reach out from the screen until you can almost feel them under your hands.

Namila Benson, host of ABC Art Works.

For some all-round excellent viewing, look no further than the ABC program Art Works, hosted by the effervescent Namila Benson. The full series is up on iView and features lively encounters with contemporary artists: a recent episode features the joyous work of ceramicist Vipoo Srivilasa, whose studio we visited earlier this year, as well as Wiradjuri and Filipino musician Mo’Ju. Other highlights of the series include textile artist Kate Just teaching Benson how to knit; and First Nations artist Maree Clarke elaborating on her landmark exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Feature Words by Anna Dunnill