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Real Worlds: Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2020 - FREE Admission

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Extraordinary drawings from place, memory and imagination
Danie Mellor A time of the world's making 2019

wax crayon, oil pigment wash, watercolour, metallic ink, pencil, felt-tipped marker, collage, twine, satin bower bird feathers and gilding on paper, 236 x 292 cm

Collection of the artist

© Danie Mellor

The Art Gallery of New South Wales presents Real Worlds, the fourth Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial, from 24 October 2020 to 7 February 2021. Admission is FREE.

Supported by the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation, Real Worlds showcases extraordinary new worlds in drawings of great complexity and invention by eight contemporary Australian artists - Martin Bell, Matt Coyle, Nathan Hawkes, Danie Mellor, Peter Mungkuri, Becc Ország, Jack Stahel and Helen Wright.

Exhibition curator and Art Gallery of NSW curator of Australian art Anne Ryan said the exhibited works evoke distinctive ways of seeing and making sense of the world.

"Real Worlds brings together the work of eight artists who seek to interpret and comprehend the world through subjective reinvention via drawing. For some, it is grounded in a deep connection to place or Country. For others, it is a reinvention that springs forth from imagination and the subconscious, inflected by subjective experience and rich with narrative suggestion," said Ryan.

"The immediacy and intimacy of drawing is particularly attuned to the urgency of our times, and the work of each of these artists reflects the human capacity to imagine something better, or different.

"The real world can be reckoned with, be re-seen, be understood anew, as we face its mercurial challenges. While conceived before our wild year of 2020, and created both before and during it, the drawings of Real Worlds speak with urgency and directness to where we are now."

Highlights of the exhibition include Martin Bell's epic drawing, rich with nostalgic associations of a 1980s childhood, inviting us into a tangled world of infinite narrative possibility.

Darkly gothic drawings by Matt Coyle, which have a dreamlike, filmic quality that hovers between real and surreal, forcing viewers to form their own stories from the clues offered in each work.

Nathan Hawkes' lyrical pastel drawings are a poetic evocation of feeling in visual form, recalling fairytales or dreams, with a richly muddled and compressed quality that suggests time is simultaneous and knowledge is fugitive.

Danie Mellor's large drawing installation works are informed by his ongoing connection with the Country of his mother's family of the Ngadjon and Mamu peoples in the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland. Mellor's works emphasise the transcendent ecology of nature and give life to cultural histories and Dreaming narratives.

The work of Peter Mungkuri, a senior Yankunytjatjara man from Indulkana in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in South Australia, is firmly grounded in his knowledge of Country. Mungkuri's lyrical ink and wash drawings depict different species of trees and emphasise the symbolic importance of trees for Anangu culture.

Familiar, yet strange, Becc Ország's meticulously rendered pencil drawings are composed from an assemblage of unrelated and anonymous landscape images sourced from the internet. They are not scenes taken from the world as we know it, but rather are works of fiction.

Jack Stahel's intricate, complex drawing installations use languages of scientific illustration and taxonomic systems of classification, implying that they are objective assertions of information. In fact, they are an 'informative bunch of nonsense', part of an 'imaginary science' that is paradoxically fictional in content, yet subject to rigorous methodology.

Helen Wright's drawings depict teetering piles of industrial detritus, symbolising cautionary tales against egocentric hubris and the defiance of nature. At the core of Wright's art lies a concern for the natural world, with an emphasis on the fragile balance between humanity and nature.

Each Biennial presents a different curatorial concept and seeks to showcase the vitality and breadth of drawing in contemporary Australian art. Some of the exhibited works from each Biennial are acquired for the Gallery's permanent collection.


Real Worlds opens at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on 24 October 2020. Admission is FREE. Open daily, 10am to 5pm (Closed Christmas Day).

Tickets are NOT required for general entry and most displays and exhibitions (subject to any changes from NSW Government health guidelines). See here to plan your visit.

Following the Art Gallery of NSW exhibition, Real Worlds will tour regionally to two NSW venues, Lismore Regional Gallery (27 February – 25 April 2021) and Museum of Art and Culture Lake Macquarie, yapang (8 May – 18 July 2021).

For more information on the exhibition, please see

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When: 24 Oct 2020 – 7 Feb 2021
Where: Art Gallery of New South Wales Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney
Cost: Free admission
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