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Volume One: MCA Collection

Home > Sydney > Galleries | Free | Exhibitions | Art
by Vanessa M (subscribe)
I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published February 12th 2013
Last time I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, there was an interesting dichotomy between the old building and the contemporary works inside. As far as I can recall, that visit took place back in 2010, during that year's Biennale of Sydney.

Recent redevelopments have seen the building change since then, and it now resembles a work of art itself, with blocks of white and black jutting out of one end. It hardly even looks like the two sections could be part of the same gallery.

Having been here before though, I knew the sandstone section was indeed part of the MCA, and with the sun shining from behind it, bright in my eyes, I headed straight through the main doors of this older section. Exactly where I remembered the entrance being last time.

However, once inside, I was immediately confused. There was no information desk, no list of exhibitions. In fact, there was pretty much nothing there. Then I saw directions pointing me towards the 'galleries' - along a corridor and into a spacious area that was clearly the new entrance. Inside the blocks.

mca, museum of contemporary art
The Museum of Contemporary Art


Better oriented, I set about finding Volume One: MCA Collection, which I was there to see. It was located on the second floor of the building. It's the only exhibition on this level, in fact, with almost an entire floor dedicated to Australian works the gallery has accumulated, focusing on the last ten years.

Over 130 artists are represented here, and as you stand at entrance, you can appreciate the space given to them as you look through four rooms towards the other end of the building, all with doorways leading off them.

The works in this exhibition are linked by nothing more than the nationality of the artists who produced them, so there was a huge range to look at, as was apparent in the second room I entered (located through the doorway on the right of the first room).

Along the walls on one side of this room, painted directly onto the plaster, was a work by Robert Owen called Sunrise 3. It's made up of blocks of colour that stretch from the floor to the ceiling. The work has been influenced by the paper folds in Japanese origami. In contrast to this representation of Australia's diversity, on the opposite wall and visible at the end of the corridor as well were bark paintings that reflected Australia's Indigenous culture.

Sunrise 3


Located just next to these works was the Cameron Screen Space, where a number of films play on rotation. When I entered, it was to see a figure in black riding gear, complete with a helmet, holding a dead kangaroo on the side of a country road, just pacing, with a motorbike visible on the left of the screen. The work is called Apology to Roadkill and is by Shaun Gladwell. Like the Indigenous works, it too was a recognisably Australian piece.

Apology to Roadkill


Throughout rest of the space, there was so much variation in the works on display, both in their content and form. There were films screened in dark rooms with black walls, on televisions sitting on the floor or screens mounted on the walls. There were photos, paintings, sculptures and drawings. Installations too.

In one room, the works seemed to be linked by their emphasis on lines and geometry. It wasn't just abstract works though, but woven bags and other Indigenous objects as well.

Some of my favourite artworks were those I came across towards the end. Gordon Bennett's Untitled (dismay, displace, disperse, dispirit, display, dismiss was one I instantly loved. It combined images of colonial Australia with words beginning with the prefix 'dis', ending with a black square over the word 'dismiss'.

I think I responded to this work because it combined language - something I love - with visual representations. It reminded me that our responses to art are dependent on our own experiences as much as the artist's intentions.

Untitled (dismay, displace, disperse, dispirit, display, dismiss)


Throughout the entire MCA Collection: Volume One, there is so much to see, from artists who have been producing art for decades and others who are just beginning their careers. The exhibition offers a great insight into the Australian art world, and I think everyone is bound to find at least one piece that resonates with them.
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Why? See some Australian art
When: Monday to Wednesday: 10.00am - 5.00pm, Thursday: 10.00am - 9.00pm, Friday to Sunday: 10.00am - 5.00pm
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art
Cost: Free
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