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

A mural-esque painting of an intricately decorated kitchen shelf envelops the entrance to the National Gallery of Australia’s latest exhibition.

In it, a range of household objects is celebrated with exceptional precision: a leek stands against a blue-white ceramic bowl, black kitchen scissors stick out 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 the 2009 woodblock print The Kitchen Shelf by Australian contemporary artist Cressida Campbell – here, lovingly recreated by her husband Warren Macris, who is a fine art and photographic printer and has over 100 photos of the original made to make the mural.

The exhibition opens Saturday and is a major overview of Campbell’s work, with over 140 of her woodcuts and woodcuts.

At 62, Campbell has been making art for over 40 years, and in sales alone she is one of Australia’s most successful and sought-after artists (her commercial shows are usually sold out, often before opening) – but this is the first time a retrospective of this scale has been set up by a major Australian gallery.

A 60-year-old brown-haired woman sits on an outdoor staircase in a garden, her hands folded in her lap
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 female artist.(Supplied: 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 widely recognizable international artists (think: Picasso).

“[Campbell] is a very established artist and we believe she has contributed something very unique to the cultural tapestry of Australian art,” NGA Director Nick Mitzevich told ABC Arts.

“She is at the peak of her ability and we want to celebrate that.”

The exhibition is thematically curated over six rooms and is autobiographical, featuring intimate domestic scenes, towns and landscapes from the places Campbell has lived, and even children’s drawings.

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

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