Biennale of Sydney

René Block planting a tree as part of Joseph Beuys' 7000 Oaks for the 5th Biennale of Sydney (1984) at the Art Gallery of New South Wales
5th Biennale of Sydney (1984)
Private Symbol: Social Metaphor

11 Apr 1984 - 17 Jun 1984

Artistic Director: Leon Paroissien

Private Symbol: Social Metaphor, the 1984 Biennale, explored metaphors and symbols used by artists to express their beliefs. Interested in the ways that artists build a ‘personal artistic language to express an interaction with society’, Artistic Director Leon Paroissien wished to foreground the complex interaction of context, form and content, rather than selecting work based on stylistic categories. A strong figurative thread ran through the exhibition, with Paroissien responding to a resurgence of this tendency in exhibitions in Europe at the time. Works with clear political references and powerful motifs invited viewers to contemplate their own positions on issues as varied as sexual politics and economic rationalism. A new approach to photo-based media was represented by artists such as Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Hans Haacke and Gilbert & George, with the duo exhibiting one of their largest works in Sydney. Two satellite sections were organised alongside the main exhibition: Aspects of Australian Figurative Painting 1942–1962 featured paintings selected by Virginia Spate, Christine Dixon and Terry Smith at S.H. Ervin Gallery; and a significant solo exhibition of Colin McCahon’s work was held at the Power Gallery of Contemporary Art, University of Sydney, selected by Wystan Curnow. A third satellite, focusing on Frida Kahlo, was conceived but not realised, due to financial constraints.

Art Gallery of NSW; Ivan Dougherty Gallery, City Art Institute; S.H. Ervin Gallery; Power Gallery of Contemporary Art, University of Sydney; Merewether Building, University of Sydney

Artists and Countries
66 artists
20 countries