Robert MacPherson: A simplistic view of a national art


Robert MacPherson’s work is often positioned against the historically pervasive national traditions in Australian art of landscape painting and heroic narrative. His works evoking landscape and important figures are tinged with irony, and attempt to look beyond stereotype and jingoism. Yet still they suggest something specifically Australian – whether it is language, food or cultural practices.

As well as implying a humorous and sceptical attitude to the idea of a national art, this parade of ‘Queenslands’ ironically resembles shaped, hard-edged minimalist paintings of the 1960s and 1970s, and their serial elements convey many different permutations of painting and construction.

Robert MacPherson, Australia 1937-2021 / National art: A simplistic view ‘Queensland series’ 1978 / Synthetic polymer paint on plywood / a: 51 x 43.5cm; b: 54.5 x 42cm; c: 51 x 42.5cm; d: 60.3 x 47.5cm; e: 54.2 x 42.2cm; f: 52 x 43.2cm; g: 60 x 46.1cm; h: 59.3 x 45.5cm; i: 53.5 x 42.5cm; j: 57.2 x 50cm; k: 54 x 42.5cm: l: 54.9 x 42.5cm (irreg.) / Purchased 1993. Queensland Art Gallery Functions Reserve Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Robert MacPherson

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The Painter’s Reach‘ at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) explored the work of Robert MacPherson and included paintings, installations, ephemera and works on paper, showing how the artist’s reach begins with the particular and extends far beyond.