The Proposition to be an Australian Artist in London

By Katrina Schwarz

Helen Pynor, Headache, featured on London underground billboards for Brains: The Mind as Matter exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, 2012.

Some time later, Paul gets back to me …

'To do that conversation project in London, as an artist from somewhere else, was as much to fast-track, for my own mind, a particular landscape of the city as it was to simply immerse myself in conversation.  Australia will always be physically a long way from the rest of the world. However technological communication is no slower, and its people no less intelligent or driven, but because of distance that conversation can feel partially virtual. I  guess my desire to be immersed in such a focused, but kaleidoscopic, conversation is perhaps a reaction or just making up for lost time. And to be here now is simply a pleasure to see so much work moving through and to be part of the spiralling dialogue that comes from that activity.'

 Katrina Schwarz is collections development Adviser for the British Council. Formerly editor of Art & Australia, Katrina relocated to London in 2008.  She has edited publications for Artangel and Whitechapel Gallery, curated an exhibition of artist film for the Barbican’s Australian Film Festival and for a cycle-powered cinema for the city of Sydney. For the 2011 Venice Biennale, Katrina coordinated the first national pavilion for Zimbabwe. She also provides exhibition support for the touring programme of Hayward Gallery. Significant publications include Current: Contemporary art from Australia and New Zealand (2008) and chapters on Helmut Newton’s suppressed Australian years (2010) and Neighbours as an exhibition space (2012) for the ‘Hijacked: New Photography’ series.


[1] Fabienne Nichols,

[2] Angela Woollacott, To Try Her Fortune in London: Australian Women, Colonialism and Modernity, Oxford University Press, 2001.

[3] British Australasian, 6 October 1910, British Australasian and New Zealander, 21 September 1933, cited in Woollacott.

[4] Ian Britain, Once an Australian: Journeys with Barry Humphries, Clive James, Germaine Greer and Robert Hughes, Oxford University Press, 1997; Storry Walton, ‘Shooting Through: Australian film and the brain drain’, Platform Papers, No. 5, Currency House, Sydney, 2005.

[5] Anthony Gardner, ‘Australian art does not exist’, Contemporary Visual Art and Culture Broadsheet, 40.2, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, 2011.

[6] Adam Geczy 'The Australia Effect', Contemporary Visual Arts and Culture Broadsheet, 39.4, Contemporary Art Centre for South Australia. 2010.

[7] Ibid.

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