on Mount Hill Road

The cosmopolitan culture  of the global economy has challenged the Eurocentric focus of metropolitan modernism, revealing the parochial concerns of earlier debates on modernism. AS Terry Smith observes in Inside out, outside in: changing perspectives in Australian art historiography


When you are located at a cultural periphery, you become aware that the definitive interpretations of whatever is most valuable to you originate at centers some distance from where you live and work, and that they are subject to change, often radical change, for reasons that seem arbitrary. Yet you must learn to fathom them, and quickly, because they impact on your capacity to participate in the discourse as a whole.

An overemphasis on locality can lead to a provincialism that then edges into a conservative nationalism. It did in Australia,  in the sense that a conservative vision of art has ruled state galleries for a long time. 

The heritage of the 1960s and 1970s is a large one. That was the period when Australian's assumed that the centre of world art was  New York,  and it lead to the Australian preoccupation with nation, national identity and the position—and therefore the category—of Australian art.

This sought to locate Australian art (Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman, John Brack, John Olsen and John Percevalin relation to international (largely American) art,  was concerned to build a  strong national culture and to identify a local avant garde by identifying a new style of painting.  

That was then.  Today modernism—no matter how often and subtly it is remodernized—is seen to be past its use-by date. “Postmodern” is an outmoded term, a temporary placeholder that is no longer adequate to describe conditions that have changed fundamentally. These conditions or currents are globalization and transnationality and giove rise to the emergence of   being a  part of a broader international contemporary art, no matter how apparently local the signifiers.