Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are.
John Berger, Ways of Seeing, 1972

This display features recent acquisitions to the Art Gallery of South Australia collection, including prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, decorative arts and artist’s books.

Ways of Seeing presents for the first time Helen Frankenthaler’s Madame Butterfly, 2000, a stunning colour woodcut printed from 46 woodblocks.

Frankenthaler was inspired to work in the woodcut medium after seeing ukiyo-e prints (‘pictures of the floating world’) while travelling in Japan. Frankenthaler transformed the possibilities of the medium by creating delicate wash affects with the assistance of the American master printer, Kenneth Tyler.


Maria Zagala, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs

This display, Ways of Seeing, takes its title from the writer and artist John Berger (1926–2017), whose TV series and book of the same name have been widely influential since the early 1970s. His vivid analysis of the function of art within capitalism and its uses in advertising continues to resonate and can be a lens through which to view these works. Indeed, the intensification of consumer culture in the past four decades has made Berger’s critique particularly apposite in contemporary society.

If Berger’s ideas influenced how we see art, it also changed the way in which artists make art. This is evident in the political works of Allora & Calzadilla, Brook Andrew, Peter Drew and Tracey Moffatt, who appropriate the strategies and language of popular culture and advertising to express their progressive political agendas.

The work of other artists such as Benjamin Armstrong and Brent Harris picture the psychological intensity of looking and of bearing witness, their works conveying both the pleasure and compulsive nature of vision.

With a primary focus on contemporary works, this display highlights over 100 recent acquisitions to the collection and celebrates the generosity of a multitude of donors, whose passion for art enables the Gallery’s collection to continue to grow.

Maria Zagala, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs