Artists have always been captivated by the ocean. In Coastline, over 40 artists take on this monumental theme, variously representing the journeys, dangers, conflicts, pleasures and politics carried by the tides.

Coastline reveals profoundly different perceptions of the liminal space where land meets sea. From contemporary artists Fiona Pardington, Simryn Gill and Daniel Boyd, to renowned Australian painters such as Arthur Streeton, Grace Cossington Smith and Lloyd Rees, the exhibition features artworks from the University Art Collection.

Painting of man with ship painting in background

Over centuries, artists have represented the ocean’s changing appearance and meaning – sometimes as part of a journey, sometimes as a site of contact, contemplation or pleasure. 

In Australia, the only nation that is an island continent, the coastline plays a highly symbolic cultural role. Today, with global warming causing rising sea levels and eroding shorelines, the coastline has become a highly charged space demarcating potential zones of conflict and loss.

The world of our ancestors was a large sea full of places to explore, to make their homes in, to breed generations of seafarers like themselves… peoples and cultures moved and mingled, unhindered by boundaries of the kind erected much later by imperial powers.
Epeli Hau’ofa, Sea of islands, 1993


William Ashton, Herbert Badham, Clarice Beckett, Daniel Boyd, Rupert Bunny, Robert Campbell, Ethel Carrick Fox, James Carse, Norman St Clair Carter, Nicholas Chevalier, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Alfred Coffey, Grace Cossington Smith, Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo, Roy de Maistre, Adrian Feint, Rah Fizelle, Simryn Gill, James Gleeson, William Gould, Marcel Gromaire, Elioth Gruner, Helen Lempriere, Lionel Lindsay, William Lister Lister, Norman Lloyd, Jean Lurçat, Conrad Martens, Sheila McDonald, Girolamo Nerli, Fiona Pardington, John Passmore, Ambrose Patterson, Emanuel Phillips Fox, William Piguenit, JW Power, Lloyd Rees, Sam Richardson, Catherine Rogers, Jeffrey Smart, Manufacturer: Smith and Nicholson, London, Arthur Streeton, Michael Taylor, Unknown, Roland Wakelin, and Ken Whisson.

Featured image (top of page):  Norman St. Clair Carter, Swimmers, Bondi Beach, early-mid 20th century, oil on canvas, University Art Collection, UA2018.32. 

Second image: After Sir Peter Lely, 'Sea captain / Portrait of a naval officer', c.1610–50, oil on canvas, University Art Collection, UA1865.16.

Related exhibitions