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Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra — until October 27, 2019

— by Alison Carroll: They talk of a family of nations, or families of nations. In Australia, the UK can still be referred to as the mother country, while the English talk of their American cousins. Geographic neighbours usually have these relationships down pat, though with a frisson of sibling rivalry or pecking orders of favouritism.

However, one of the truths about Australia and Indonesia, so physically close, is that there is pretty well no familial relationship at all. It’s like we are different species.

I think this is central to the on-again, off-again, try-hard, well-meant, scratchy relationship that struggles to get to first base, always slipping back into the no-man’s-land of “it-is-all-too-hard” and “who-cares-anyway-ville”.

I recently listened to an ABC RN arts program on the Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia exhibition, now at the National Gallery of Australia, where the announcer spoke of Australian artists travelling to “New York or Berlin or London” with no instinctive, familial thought that, just maybe, travelling to “Jakarta, Singapore or Tokyo” might also be part of the mix.

Zico Albaiquni, For evidently, the fine arts do not thrive in the Indies, 2018, oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Yavuz Gallery, Singapore