VC05_B11 – Exhibition Critique


The objective of this activity is to gain experience in critiquing photography


Attend an exhibition of photographs. Make a critique of the exhibition overall, and a detailed critique of an individual image.  Questions to answer while critiquing should include:

  • WHAT IS HERE – Describe what you see, how is it laid out? Describe the lighting, size and format of the images, the gallery etc.  Finally describe the images/image in details, what do you see?
  • WHAT IS IT ABOUT – Consider the subject matter.  Describe your interpretation of what the photographer is trying to say or your opinion of how successful the message is in regards to the artist’s statement.  Discuss the technical elements of the images, contrast, focus, density and other composition elements and how this relates to the success of the overall message

IS IT GOOD – Give your opinion on the work.  Is it successful? be honest, it is far more valuable to you and the artist to be honest, rather than try to impress.

Post a 500 word critique on an exhibition, critiquing both the exhibition as a whole and one detailed critique on an individual image.



The Heide started life as a dairy farm, and was purchased by John and Sunday Reed in 1932.  They landscaped the property and lived in the small original dwelling, while building a live in gallery, which later became known as Heide II, there is also a separate purpose build gallery, the Heide I , named after nearby Heidelberg, so a total of four exhibition spaces, the Heide I (the original house, a french provincial style), Heide II (the gallery house, a heritage listed modernist building) and Heide III, the purpose build gallery, along with the parkland like grounds which have an increasing number of modern sculptures, frequently being added to.


While there are some permanent exhibitions, there is a large number of pieces that are on temporary display among the galleries.  The current featured displays are paintings by Albert Tucker, who’s son the Reeds adopted in the 1950’s, and a former houseguest at the Heide II, and future primitive, a collection of Australian and New Zealand artists that create pieces combining their cultural traditions, modern methods and ideas in a time warp of creativity and expression of ideas.  The original house is currently hosting a display of the phenomenal Erica McGilchrist, including some of her Kew Asylum series.

One of the first galleries you encounter upon entering the Albert and Barbara Tucker Gallery of the Heide III is the current display of Albert Tucker.  It is a comprehensive selection of large works from his “Intruder and Explorer” series, which took over almost a decade of his life to complete in the 1950’s.

It is easy to see how the surrounds of the Heide, at which Tucker was a frequent visitor and guest, have influenced some of these images.  The bushland, dark, thick and foreboding, the play of light and the sense of intrusion as opposed to belonging are in so many of the images.

After taking a slow walk around the well spaced, large images, I was drawn to one in particular, and will talk about that a little later.

The gallery itself has a mixture of light, there is plentiful diffused natural light, curtained at one end to avoid harsh shadows, and also beaming in through the cantilevered roof.  The images themselves are subtly and indirectly lit by wall lighting, which appears to be daylight balanced, again, avoiding harsh shadows and allowing the colours in the images to appear exactly as the artist attended.

The gallery has a plain, uncarpeted floor, and the images display, along with their names and dates of completion, a few quotes and critiques from various people, including Tucker’s wife, Barbara, from whom a few of the images are on loan. There are also some randomly placed cards giving historical career info.

The plentiful light, large images and variety of information offered would seem to make this gallery very pleasant, and indeed it is.  However, it is NOT a large space, being long and narrow, and the scale of these images makes it difficult to really step back and take them in.  There is no seating directly in front of the images to enable contemplation, the space down the centre of the gallery being taken up with two display cases containing historical data, newspaper and magazine clippings, concept sketches etc, which, while giving a face and personality to the name, do detract a little from the large artworks, and probably suffer a lack of proper study as a result.

I truly feel that a deeper space would have suited these images better, as I am the sort of art lover who likes to sit and look and contemplate an image, soak it in as a whole from a distance, as well as look at details.



The image that really took my fancy is “Intruder resting” painted in 1965-66 of polymer paint, unlike some of his other works, which also contained cement, feathers and other materials to give dimension, form and shape.  However, it is an equally fine example of Tucker’s work without the added materials, using blocks of colour and familiar shapes to tell the story.

The Intruders and Explorers series creates imagery of human drama and interaction with nature. It is very interesting to note that there are two sides to this series, which, while very similar, have very different moods and aspects to them.  Both are ruggedly stylised, indistinguishable in their features, hard edged and feature men with the same uncompromising expression in each of them.  Any of the natural fauna in the Intruders series is seen as quite hostile, such as the parrot fighting back with hugely exaggerated claws and beaks, protecting their environment.

Like the rest of the series, Intruder Resting consists of blocks of bright, bold colour, with extreme contrasts within the colour scheme, indistinctly stylised backgrounds forming a harsh landscape, unforgiving and unrelenting in it’s unwillingness to be tamed.  The lighting within the image is just as harsh and quite direct, and hats and sunglasses run through the series, with this one having both.

First impressions of this painting are quite emotive. my personal one is ‘wow, he does NOT look happy to be seeing what ever is out there”  Then I notice he is sitting under a tree, which makes me wonder about the bitter and disillusioned expression apparent on his face, even behind the mirrored reflective sunglasses.  From there, my eyes are drawn to the trunk of the tree he is resting under.  Typically Eucalypt, thereby placing him in an Australian bush scene without a doubt, it has bold and bright chunks of bark peeling off, vivid colour balances and cements it’s place in the composition of this image, and against the dark and indistinct clothing of the Intruder, it only serves to emphasise how out of place he really is.

While many of the Explorer and Intruder series are placed in desert scenes, this is not, but it shares the harsh and barren background, and the impression given really is that our native bushland does not need human intervention, whether well intentioned or not.

As a stand alone image, this really does succeed at telling a story, it is an image that doesn’t really date, despite the fashion statement of mirror sunglasses and giggle hat.  The image is hard, uncompromising in tone, gaunt and struggling to survive, much like modern art in Australia.

The series of images that this artwork is from, is considered one of Tucker’s lesser known, with his earlier, WWII influenced “Images of modern Evil” series nearly always drawing more attention.  However, I feel that this is an important series of art by and about an Australian, giving an insight into our own psyche.  Our land is hard and unrelenting most of the time, but when it’s good, the beauty and sheer scale of wonder overwhelms us.  Australians are like that.. we stare into the face of the blinding sun, much as the Intruder does, with an unrelenting scowl on our face, we won’t be beaten by it.  Those who look at us from the outside can see us as hostile, primitive and unsophisticated. But when we are good, we truly inspire awe among the other peoples of the world.



About Rattimoth

Middle aged with freckles, the rest is subject to change without notice.
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