Cover image of the review
Installation view, Vivienne Binns: On and Though the Surface (featuring images from the project: Mothers’ Memories, Others’ Memories, 1979-1981)), Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2022. Photo: Andrew Curtis

Vivienne Binns: On and Through the Surface

12 Feb 2022
Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) 5 Feb - 14 Apr 2022

“The year of Binns” is how curators Hannah Mathews and Anneke Jaspers have touted Vivienne Binns: On and Through the Surface, which is really two slightly different displays showing at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) until April and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney from July. I’m not sure if 2022 is big enough for Vivienne Binns. Binns is one of those artists that Australian art history can’t really handle—her work, her professional career, her personal biography, is too polymorphous for us. This show has a hefty catalogue with five provocative essays, which together do an extraordinary job of coming to terms with Binns. But, nevertheless, a central section of over 150 pages of illustrations, a selection of vintage interviews and a forensic biography by researcher Penny Peckham is also required to explain the artist’s lush malleability.

Recently speaking to Binns, I noted the range of her career—from 60s countercultural painting, to collaborative performance, enamelling, printmaking, community art, slide-art, mail-art and a rich late-style of painting—and expressed my admiration for its consistent quality. “Yeah”, she said off-hand, waving off my sweet-talk, “I’m good at everything”. It’s not egotistical if she’s right.

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