Cressida Campbell exhibition at National Gallery of Australia cements underrated Australian artist’s place in the canon

A mural-like painting of an intricately adorned kitchen shelf wraps the entrance to the National Gallery of Australia’s newest exhibition.

In it, an array of household objects are celebrated with exceptional precision: a leek is propped against a blue and white ceramic vessel, black kitchen scissors protrude from a white milk jug, a sprig of lavender rests idly.

The more you look, the more you see.

The mural is an enlarged version of Australian contemporary artist Cressida Campbell’s 2009 woodblock painting The Kitchen Shelf — here, lovingly recreated by her husband Warren Macris, who is a fine art and photographic printer and took more than 100 photographs of the original to make the mural .

Opening Saturday, the exhibition is a major retrospective of Campbell’s work, featuring more than 140 of her woodblock paintings and woodcut prints.

At 62, Campbell has been making art for more than 40 years, and in sales alone, she’s one of Australia’s most successful and sought-after artists (her commercial shows typically sell out, often before opening) — but this is the first time a retrospective of this scale has been mounted by a major Australian gallery.

In March, and again in August, one of Campbell’s woodblocks sold for $515,455 – the highest price for any work by a living Australian woman artist.(Supported: NGA)

It’s also the first time the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has programmed a living Australian artist for their summer ‘blockbuster’ exhibition — a spot usually reserved for broadly recognizable international artists (think: Picasso).

“[Campbell] is a very well-established artist and we believe that she’s contributed something very unique to the cultural tapestry of Australian art,” NGA director Nick Mitzevich tells ABC Arts.

“She’s at the peak of her powers and we want to celebrate that.”

Curated thematically across six rooms, the exhibition is autobiographical, featuring intimate domestic scenes, city and landscapes from the places Campbell has lived, and even childhood drawings.

“It’s a bit like a documentary, but in paint,” the artist told ABC News.

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