Installation view of <em>In Memoriam</em>on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023.    Image: Tom Ross

In Memoriam

Free entry

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Fed Square
Ground Level

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Over the past three years, the Melbourne art world has lost several of its luminaries. In this section of Melbourne Now, we honour each artist through elements from their most recent bodies of work. In considering each of these exhibitions in relation to each other, what appears are connecting lines of enquiry and approaches to making that reverberate across the broader exhibition and through the studios and galleries of our city and beyond. Each artist offers a politics defined by an aesthetic agenda, and these four exhibition excerpts provide glimpses at practices that appear indefatigable, and which are imbued with a sense of future work unfinished. 

Artist, writer and teacher Damiano Bertoli (1969–2021) worked across drawing, video, printmaking, sculpture, installation and, more recently, performance. Continuous Moment was the title of an ongoing body of mixed media in which Bertoli drew on cultural moments and figures from his birth year, 1969 – a historical touchstone for radical art and sociopolitical movements. For Bertoli, the artist’s studio was a place for time travel and re-experiencing. Melbourne Now presents a partial re-representation of Bertoli’s Superpositions exhibition – in Bertoli’s words, this body of work explores the ‘daily theatre of “traditional Italy”’, compressing and layering ‘the distant past and living present’. Superpositions was first staged at Mackintosh Lane, London in 2019 and then again at Neon Parc, Melbourne in 2020.

Kate Daw (1965–2020) was a prolific collaborator who worked locally and internationally and who frequently drew younger female artists into artistic dialogue. Melbourne Now presents Reverse anthem (see p. 130), which, at the time of Daw’s death, remained an unfinished collaboration with Stewart Russell. A teacher and curator, her last complete body of work, Love, Work (prelude, aftermath, everyday), was commissioned for the exhibition All That Was Solid Melts curated by Juliana Engberg at the Auckland Art Gallery in 2020. A series of novel-sized canvases that in typewritten text cite the work of modern – mostly female – writers describe a character’s internal monologue, apprehended in a moment of noticing. 

Artist, writer, editor and curator Virginia Fraser (1947–2021) worked independently and collaboratively on exhibitions, publications, films, photomedia and installations. Her most enduring collaborative relationship was with Kuku/Erub/Mer contemporary artist Destiny Deacon. Collaborative installations and videos produced by the pair since the 1990s have been shown widely, both nationally and overseas, including in the first Melbourne Now in 2013. Fraser was arguably our most significant historian of women in early Australian film. She wrote extensively on art produced by Australian women and Indigenous artists, and presented at Melbourne Now are the covers of the six-issue indexical art periodical FEMMO™, co-produced with artist Elvis Richardson.

In his painting manifesto from 1994, John Nixon (1949–2020) wrote: ‘Painting should be engaged in the elimination of the non-essential’. Nixon’s commitment to non-objective painting was evident from his first exhibition at Melbourne artist-run gallery Pinacotheca in 1973. In addition to his painting practice, Nixon worked in printmaking, drawing, photography, film, dance and experimental music. He is recognised as a generous mentor and frequent collaborator. Nixon curated Drawing Now as part of Melbourne Now 2013 and included the work of Damiano Bertoli along with that of forty-two other artists. Presented at Melbourne Now is a selection of work from his last solo exhibition, GROUPS + PAIRS, which took place at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne. After Nixon’s death in August 2020, the exhibition stayed open until the end of the year in recognition of the artist’s life, work and longstanding relationship with the gallery.

AMITA KIRPALANI, Curator of Contemporary Art, NGV