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The Arts in Australia have been influenced by its culture including a sense of European Australian isolation and remoteness.

The arts in Australia — film, music, opera, painting, theatre, dance and crafts — are achieving international recognition. In practice, it is difficult to discern much about Australian culture by examining the isolated peaks of music, dance or literature.

Traditional "high culture" gains small attention from much of the population, with galleries, tradition in ballet, enlivened by the legacy of Dame Margot Fonteyn and Sir Robert Helpmann; a strong national opera company based in Sydney; and symphony orchestras in all capital cities — the Melbourne and Sydney symphony orchestras are said to be worthy of comparison with any.

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Art – painting and sculpture

Australia has had a significant school of painting since the early days of European settlement and Australians with international reputations include Ernst William Christmas, Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale and Arthur Boyd and Brett Whiteley — not to mention the prized work of many Aboriginal artists.

Popular with the general community have been Ken Done best known for his design work, Pro Hart and Rolf Harris, a British/Australian living in the UK is popular as a musician, composer, painter and television host. In the wealthy suburbs of the capital cities there are many more artists that while not household names, show diversity and sophistication. Ricky Swallow, Patricia Piccinini, Susan Norrie, Callum Morton, Rover Thomas and Emily Kame Kngwarreye have all represented Australians at the Venice Biennale using the traditional mediums of sculpture, photography and painting while instilling them with a renewed vigour. Under what may be termed 'post-aboriginal art' also comes a new generation of Aboriginal artists who don't require or desire to be boxed outside the mainstream of the arts community. These artists, while not rejecting the culture of the past, endeavour to move the artistic dialog forward. Gordon Bennett, Rosella Namok, Richard Bell and Julie Dowling to name a few, are pioneers in this regard.

In recent years the art market has been democratised and art is judged on its merits rather than snobbery. A cohort of male artists aged under fifty (Dane Lovett, Adam Cullen, Ben Quilty, Anthony Bennett , Simon Cuthbert, Rhys Lee, Ben Frost and Alasdair McIntyre) have an expressive style and use humour in their work.

In addition street art is also a prominent feature in major cities such as Melbourne and Sydney. Though there is some debate over the legality, some councils have expressed greater recognition of the urban art movement.

Cinema

Australia has a long history of film production — in fact, it is claimed that the first feature-length film was actually an Australian production. However, the purchase of virtually all cinemas by American distribution companies saw an almost total disappearance of Australian films from the screens. A notable exception was Charles Chauvel's classic Jedda (1955). During the late 1960s and 1970s an influx of government funding saw the development of a new generation of directors and actors telling distinctively Australian stories. Films such as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Sunday Too Far Away had an immediate international impact. The 1980s is regarded as perhaps a golden age of Australian cinema, with many wildly successful films, from the dark science fiction of Mad Max to the comedy of Crocodile Dundee, a film that defined Australia in the eyes of many foreigners despite having remarkably little to do with the lifestyle of most Australians. The early 1990s saw a run of successful comedies such as Muriel's Wedding and Strictly Ballroom, which helped launch the careers of Toni Collette, P. J. Hogan and Baz Luhrmann. The indigenous film industry continues to produce a reasonable number of films each year; also, many US producers have moved productions to Australian studios as they discover a pool of professional talent well below US costs. Notable productions include The Matrix and the Star Wars Episode II and III.

Literature

Writers who have achieved world recognition include Thomas Keneally, Les Murray, Colleen McCullough, Nevil Shute, Morris West, Jill Ker Conway, Booker Prize winner Peter Carey and Nobel Prize winner Patrick White. Noted expatriate writers include Germaine Greer and Clive James, who are sometimes better known in the UK than they are in Australia and the art critic Robert Hughes.

Performing arts

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Dance

Dance in Australia is diverse, ranging from The Australian Ballet to the Restless Dance Company to the many local dance studios.

Music

Aboriginal music

Aboriginal song was and remains an integral part of Aboriginal culture since time immemorial. The most famous feature of their music is the didgeridoo. This wooden instrument, used amongst the Aboriginal clans of northern Australia, makes a distinctive droning sound and its use has been adopted by a wide variety of non-Aboriginal performers.

Aboriginal musicians have turned their hand to Western popular musical forms, often to considerable commercial success. Some notable examples include Archie Roach, the Warumpi Band, NoKTuRNL and Yothu Yindi.

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Classical music

The first Australian musician of any sort to achieve international fame was operatic soprano Nellie Melba, in the late 19th century. Well-known soprano Joan Sutherland is also from Australia.

Australia has a considerable history of classical performance, with symphony orchestras established around the state capitals in the early 20th century, as well as opera companies and other musical ensembles. However, relatively few Australian classical compositions have achieved lasting recognition.

Theatre

See also

External links


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