National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | Home Sweet Home



Audio guide to works from the NGA exhibition Home Sweet Home: Works from the Peter Fay collection, shown at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 11 October 2003 – 18 January 2004


  • Noel McKENNA, Lost, Heathcliff 2001

    26/11/2007 Duration: 01min

    PF: Here is this dog… someone’s pet… lost. And what Noel has done here is to recreate in paint the dynamic of the poster, mainly that which has come into play since home computers and desktop publishing. Everyone can now publish a photograph or print a poster up of their lost dog or bird, or cat, or whatever it might be, and what Noel has done is to try to recreate somebody else’s art, which wasn’t in painting, and yet at the same time, through his painterly skills, bring out the humanity of this dog. It’s someone’s particular pet. You get to know this Heathcliff. And someone’s lost it, and there’s the address and the phone number; all of those things are there. We might find it tomorrow, for this person. And so it doesn’t become a dog, in a way; it almost becomes someone in our own lives, even though every street post in Sydney has got someone’s ‘lost’ story. After 9/11, when the ‘lost dog’ poster as we know it became the ‘lost person’ poster, of loved ones who were never to return. It’s such a poetic evo

  • Ken WHISSON, Dark sail 1967

    26/11/2007 Duration: 01min

    PF: I suppose it was through Rosalie that I really got to look at these Ken Whissons and just adored them; they were fantastic. I eventually met Ken, and had bought a series of drawings, and then another work came up which I bought, which I knew that the Gallery wanted, so I knew that it would eventually go to a good home. And Ken was so overcome by that he just said to me ‘You go into Watters Gallery in Sydney and you take any work of mine that you want. Seeing you’ve given a work away I would be very happy for you to have it.’ And I couldn’t believe it. So in I went and there was this large holding of his work at Watters [Studio], and I looked through it all and oh, it was easy to pick a work, but which one? And then I noticed that there was another, where they’d pulled this work out way back in the stock room, and there was a work still sticking out from somebody else’s stack of paintings, and I said ‘That looks like a Wisson!’. And I pulled it out and it was this Dark sail painting, and I just went wea

  • Ken BOTTO, Deep shadows 1983

    26/11/2007 Duration: 01min

    PF: I was travelling through the United States and had stopped off in San Francisco, and there was an art fair on at the hotel I was staying in. So, I thought ‘Oh, I’ll have a look through here’ and was aware that most of the stuff there was way out of my price range, but that’s an interesting way of being able to look too, and I went into this room, and in the bathroom and in the toilet every spare inch was taken up with stuff being displayed. There were these couple of photographs, this particular one showing the Titanic being attacked by a shark in a fishbowl, and I thought it was extraordinary. I just loved it; it was just so wacky and wild. And it was so inexpensive. This was model-making being photographed with a rather savage dimension to it. There was menace, and play, and threat, and harmlessness all in that one moment. And within the dynamic of the photograph, which of course stops things dead, the great sense of energy and ongoing drama continues. This is like a kid’s nightmare, and it combines

  • Laurence ABERHART, Moreporks (Bird Skins Room no. 2) Taranaki St, Wellington, 3 October 1995 1995

    26/11/2007 Duration: 02min

    PF Laurence is a New Zealand photographer, and on this occasion the museum was moving in New Zealand and had been closed down, and Laurence was allowed in behind the scenes to photograph the objects ‘in waiting’; to go into their new home in the Te Papa Museum [of New Zealand], which was later to open. And so this was a wonderful opportunity for him to have carte blanché with the collection, and this particular piece, with Laurence’s extraordinary eye for detail, using — and I’m not terribly technical here, but the plate that he uses in his camera is the size of the image. So it’s one of those old-fashioned things that weighs 90 or 100 pounds, however much, and you lug it around, and in this particular piece Laurence is meticulous in capturing, in this instance… In this particular piece it’s impossible to tell. The gaze of the birds is so intense and it’s so still; they’re so real; they’re there, and yet the grouping and the clustering is a museum thing. In other words, the power of the image transports yo

  • Ricky SWALLOW, Clockman 1998

    26/11/2007 Duration: 01min

    PF: I’d gone into Darren Knight Gallery, and this tiny piece high up on the wall, just so tiny and vulnerable, and yet I actually didn’t know the reference. It’s a reference to a Charles Ray performance piece, and I just thought it was just a fun, fun piece, and I really was quite amazed when Darren said ‘Oh, that’s one of Ricky Swallow’s little pieces’. I knew I had to have it, even though I didn’t know who had done it. That didn’t worry me. This, to me, was just the artist at play. This was a very playful… almost like a warm-up piece. This had a real ‘limber up’ feeling to me, and yet, if you look at it very closely the figure is there, the feet are there, and even though it’s quite tiny, ten or so centimetres, you can see the man in the clock; he’s trapped in there. So it is, I think, a great testimony to the artist’s skill, to be able to be so playful, and yet at the same time there’s the sense of the imprisoned character behind this sort of ‘clock face’. It’s a lovely, little moment that has a very b

  • Slim BARRIE, Lady driver 2000

    26/11/2007 Duration: 02min

    PF: A very great friend of mine, Nigel Lenden, found one of Slim’s boats in an op-shop in Lakes Entrance, and he rang me immediately and said ‘I’ve found something here that you’re going to be absolutely interested in — it’s right up your alley’. So, down I went, and met Slim, and found a man who for the last three years has done nothing, and I mean nothing, else but make his art, twenty-four hours a day. I don’t think the man ever sleeps. He has been making a series of boats, and the boat that we are looking at here is called Lady driver. Its form and function would scream ‘boat’. It’s made out of cardboard, and decorated in the most idiosyncratic way. It also doubles as a penholder. Slim’s a great one for making sure that we’ve always got a pen, because, as he says, you never know when you’ll want one. So, it doubles as that, but at the same time it plays around with that idea of the various problems of incorporating found objects, whether they be gum nuts, or yoghurt, or biros, or jewellery; all of this

  • Val SUTHERLAND, Shell doll 2000

    26/11/2007 Duration: 02min

    PF: Val is a New Zealand artist who lives in the sort of hinterland of the North Island, and almost through a rural isolation and very straightened circumstances which she lives, is somebody whose whole culture comes out of television, and the series of dolls that she made came from a workshop that she went to in the town of Masterton, where somebody was giving a lesson in making papier-máchê, or using papier-máchê, and they made papier-máchê dolls. So Val’s first doll-making was in that area, and she made the things from television. She made The Simpsons, she made cartoon characters, all of these various things at a much reduced scale of course. And then there were people working in the studio who were doing some raku firing and she thought she’d have a go at making some dolls in that way. The sophistication that she’d built up through the papier-máchê suddenly was, what shall I say, not threatened, but challenged by using clay. I think you can see in this that crudeness, or the apparent crudeness, is turn

  • Robert MACPHERSON, Mayfair: Fresh Cut, 2 Frog Poems and a Rose for William Neaves 1998

    26/11/2007 Duration: 01min

    PF: MacPherson’s work I have looked at for a long, long time. This particular work; I’ve never really looked upon it as being an image of a vase of flowers. To me this is very much a painting about painting. I mean, there’s the whole history of the Black Square. To me this is a painting about mark-making, and what it is that an artist does. So this is about what it is when a painter faces a board, or a canvas, and the way in which a mark is made, or the paint is moved over an area. And there’s no point in this painting that MacPherson lets you get away from the fact that you can see the board through it; you can see the rather clumsy; the rather direct movement of paint — there’s no attempt to follow edges; it’s a very wilful painting. There’s so much movement here, and ideas about what the painting either is becoming. Is it becoming a flower painting, or is it becoming a Black Square? This sort of very tenuous hold, and how an object; a painting, can, at the lick of a brush, change completely. This part

  • Rosalie GASCOIGNE, Down to the silver sea 1981-82

    26/11/2007 Duration: 02min

    PF: I was very fortunate to meet Rosalie. I met Rosalie at a time when I had left teaching and was starting to make work myself, and had struggled with painting, which I was not happy with, and it wasn’t right for me. And I met Rosalie and we just hit it off so well, and she immediately invited me down to her house, and to her studio, and this became a regular monthly event, and I used to really look forward to it, and I’d even take my own fledgling works down there, and Rosalie would give me a very severe but very wonderful crit., about work, and about what I was doing, and enormous encouragement, and it was as a result of seeing this piece, Down to the silver sea, which had been done in sort of a reverence or a sort of homage to James Mollison, reflecting the piece by Braque that the Gallery had tried to buy. But after the brouhaha of the Blue poles purchase there was an embargo on certain works over a certain value, and this work which Mollison desperately wanted for the Gallery; Grand Nu by Braque, was

  • Shaun GLADWELL, Storm sequence 2000

    26/11/2007 Duration: 02min

    PF: I came upon a Shaun painting at a Helen Lempriere Scholarship exhibition, in a sea of what was then termed ‘Grunge’, and here was this beautifully painted double figure; two historical figures. And I immediately recognised an extraordinary talent in this young painter; found him out and became quite engaged with his work, and immediately asked him to do a piece of work, for a very small amount of money, and to get him to do something that he had not explored before. After a couple of months Shaun rang me to say that the work was finished, and that it was a video. I thought ‘Oh, dear oh dear’ My heart sank. But I thought ‘No, this is good. I’ve got to support this, and I’ve got to be interested’, and he had arranged a studio at the Art School. He was still in the final year of his masters, I think, and he showed me this most extraordinary video piece of his skateboarding. I didn’t even know he was a skateboarder. I was just transfixed by the beauty of this image of this skater pirouetting in slow motion

  • Fiona MacDONALD, Five paces 1989

    26/11/2007 Duration: 01min

    PF: Fiona was a young artist, along with a lot of young artists who were showing in the Mori Gallery in Sydney. And this was a work for a show which was site specific, at Elizabeth Bay House, in Sydney. And it’s a wonderful colonial home with many rooms, and there were four or five artists showing work, and some had been allocated rooms, and there were hallways, and all sorts of things. And I’d got down there early, and in the library and also the specimen room of Elizabeth Bay House — there were specimens on the wall; there were insects, it was like being in a sort of a nineteenth century drawing room. And at first I looked at Fiona’s piece, and if you get quite close to it all you notice are the butterflies; it’s like a series of specimen butterflies pinned to a board, and I just thought ‘Oh, that must be one of the works from the holdings from the house here’. And then when you walked back from it this face came out at you, which was made up or composed of the butterflies, [which] then fell into and bec

  • Pat THOMPSON, Pink 1972

    26/11/2007 Duration: 02min

    PF: This is a piece called Pink, by Pat Thompson, an English lady, and I was living in Leeds and had shown very little interest in the visual arts in a career of teaching, and I was hurrying home and came upon this picture in an exhibition of works by WEA people, hierarchically arranged so the winners were all at one end, and the so-called ‘losers’ were at the other end. And there at the end of the line was this woman showing this one particular work, and I just fell in love with it immediately, and had to cancel my plans of returning; missed the bus; came back and engaged her in conversation. She couldn’t believe that anyone wanted to buy it, and kept pushing me – wanting me to go higher up in the line where all the ‘winners’ were. And I said ‘no, the others are extraordinarily bad, I think…’ But this is a piece that has always hung in my home, and when I faced the bushfires in 1994, with a policeman knocking on the door saying I had ten minutes to get out of the house, I took three objects with me and Pi

  • Dallas BRAY, Hairy man 1992

    26/11/2007 Duration: 01min

    PF: Dallas would primarily be a visual artist; a painter, but every now and again he’s made models, and in an age today of model-making, they are very, very crude. But to me that sense of crudeness is not a criticism, it’s something that I particularly enjoy. And in Dallas’ work we’ve got a doll that he’s made, or, a figure of a man in the scale of a doll, and then just coated it; covered it with fake fur. And it’s got an ape-like look to it, and yet it’s obviously one of us. It’s quite an unnerving piece, because everything about it is so ‘bad’, and yet there’s a magic that comes through, where it makes us think about the chain of being we might be in, and the idea of the ‘missing link’, and this well could be the ‘missing link’. It’s a piece that’s got quite an intensity, and a focus that takes you into it, and again, it’s just standing there on its plinth, and yet its quite alive to movement, and yet at the same time it seems to be anchored there — it’s almost as though it’s been put back on the shelf,

  • Gina SINOZICH, Poppy field 2002

    26/11/2007 Duration: 02min

    PF: Gina, in terms of artists who have joined the collection, or joined the family, or whatever it might be, is certainly the last at the end of a long line. Somebody had rung me; an artist friend of mine who had judged a competition, and hadn’t awarded Gina the main prize, but had rung me to say ‘You should get out there; there’s something there that’s you’. And I went to an enormously large… I think nearly six hundred works in this exhibition held at the Casula Powerhouse, and I walked into the space and bang! There was this poppy piece; luminous, large, crying out amongst this host of landscapes, and personal dilemmas, and dioramas… and here was this piece that was just so lovingly beautiful. Yes, they were poppies, but they were something else. They were just so much an elemental flower, without being anything. They were quite magical; I mean, I really didn’t respond to them as poppies, but they were just as if you had stepped into some Arcadian field, and the Gods and the pan pipes were all there, and I

  • Ava SEYMOUR, White wedding, Invercargill 1997

    26/11/2007 Duration: 01min

    PF: The moment I saw this particular work… It’s from a series that she did. Maybe about fifteen or twenty images, where she photographed housing estates in New Zealand, and then collaged figures onto those particular houses, and I had been totally oblivious to the fact that these images, when they were first shown, had caused an uproar in New Zealand; really quite virulent attack. And she was attacked for denigrating welfare housing by suggesting that people of extraordinary sortof physical dimensions lived in these buildings. I had exactly the opposite response. When I saw this photograph it was my parents’ wedding. The whole tilt of the man’s head… It was just like the one photograph I have of my parents’ wedding. You could never see my mother’s face in the shot because the hat she had came right over her head, sort of at 45º, and I always remember my father saying ‘Your mother was a beautiful woman when I married her’, and I thought ‘well, you can’t see that from the photograph because all you see is thi

  • Bill CULBERT, Yellow still life 1989

    26/11/2007 Duration: 01min

    PF: Bill Culbert’s light box is interesting, because the yellow in it is a very intense yellow, which reminds me of the reflector pieces that Rosalie made so famous. It’s also three or four found objects; an old biscuit tin, a soap dispenser, and oil dispenser and a yellow cup, with two of them inverted with a light source under them. And they just glow like the sun. They have sense of light emanating from them. And it is a theme that runs through this collection; it’s the way in which the found, the discarded; the refuse of life… the detritus… There are artists out there who can turn that so simply, at just a turn, into something that is so beautiful and is so poetic, and never attempting to disguise what those objects are. And you can see a sense of age, and mark, and use in this particular piece and yet it transcends that, and creates [its] own magic, [its] own poetry, without attempting to subvert the elements therein. And that is the magic; that is artifice of art, and it’s right in front of you, and

  • Leo CUSSEN, Xena 2000

    26/11/2007 Duration: 52s

    PF: This square, the text, and the black object are vying for attention, vying for story telling. Whose story is it here that we are looking at? What is the relationship of the so-called ‘dimension of television’; of these fake characters, in our own lives? All of these sort of dynamics played out as we see within the picture frame; we see this tension the object and the text. And this of course is a dialogue which has run right through painting and mark-making at the end of the twentieth century, so it’s an extraordinarily intellectual picture, yet at the same time it delivers a message coming out of the pop culture. And I think this sense of the relationship of the relationship of the pop culture to the ‘high’ culture is something which has certainly interested me, and as I look back at this collection I can see it sort of coming through in so many of the works that are on display here.

  • Lisa REID, Self-portrait at three months 2002

    26/11/2007 Duration: 01min

    PF: Arts Project is an artists’ space in Melbourne, which has been going now for about twenty years, where people go to work. And there are trained artists there to assist. I’ve been going to this space for the last ten or so years, and it reinvigorated the direction that my collection was taking, and some of the artists working there I would consider to be the very raison d’être of why I collect. Working there is a young girl called Lisa Reid, and I’ve only really discovered her work within the last six months, but I’ve recognised in her an extraordinary talent… and her painting of herself at three months; the moment I saw that… I just think that is nothing short of a masterpiece. In the flatness of the paint; the two-dimensional ‘plane’; in the painting of the dress, you have an extraordinary explanation of space; a dynamic of interiors and almost architectural depiction of space, and yet it is so flat. Everything about the painting makes you realise the visual tricks and the visual conundrums that are i