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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Harriet Schwarzrock: spaces between movement and stillness

10 February 2021

spaces between movement and stillness
spaces between movement and stillness, 2021 Harriet Schwarzrock. Courtesy of the artist

To celebrate the new exhibition Australian Love Stories, renowned Australian glass artist Harriet Schwarzrock has been commissioned to make a large-scale installation reflecting on the role the heart plays as our emotional centre.

The work, titled spaces between movement and stillness, combines Schwarzrock’s interest in science and experimentation. Glass, inert gases and electricity come together to produce a field of colour and movement in this major new work, mirroring the responsive nature of the human heart.

“Although the gases are invisible, when excited by electricity they reveal subtle effects and differences.  I am fascinated by this interplay between the invisible and visible, between our extraordinary similarities and differences,” the artist says.

Harriet Schwarzrock graduated from Sydney College of the Arts in 1999 with Honours in Visual Arts, majoring in glass, after transferring from a science degree. She has exhibited extensively throughout Australia and abroad, and her piece, breathe, won the sculpture prize in the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize in 2014.

“The interaction of various elements within Harriet Schwarzrock’s exquisitely blown glass hearts echo the many permutations of love presented in the exhibition - from the romantic to the platonic, between friends, lovers, creative collaborators and within families and communities,” said Director of the National Portrait Gallery Karen Quinlan AM.  “The work, spaces between movement and stillness, will offer a luminous introduction to the exhibition, representing the boundless forms of love presented within Australian Love Stories.”

Drawing on gems from the National Portrait Gallery Collection and other public and private collections around Australia, the exhibition features more than 200 artworks including photography, painting, works on paper and small objects. At its heart are the real-life love stories shared. Using contemporary portraiture and the storytelling intrinsic to the genre, more than 80 stories are featured – from the enduring to the forbidden, familial, platonic, unrequited, obsessive, scandalous and creative, the famous, the infamous and the little-known.

The exhibition includes:

  • Portraits of well-known Australian partnerships – from Kath and Kim to Bob and Blanche, Baz and Catherine to Ruby and Archie
  • Portraits of families, including John Brack’s paintings of his ‘ruffian’ daughters and Vincent Namatjira’s series of portraits inspired by his great-grandfather Albert
  • Dual portraits of some of Australia’s favourite couples – Asher Keddie and Vincent Fantauzzo, Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown, Nick and Susie Cave, and Kylie Kwong and Nell
  • Iconic works by artists including Rupert Bunny, Agnes Goodsir, Tom Roberts, Charles Blackman, Davida Allen, George Lambert, The Huxleys, Richard Larter and Del Kathryn Barton  

The Australian Love Stories exhibition accompanies Australian Love Stories Online, an interactive exhibition launched in August 2020 as a way for the NPG to continue to engage with audiences during the covid-19 related Gallery closure. The online version allows visitors to navigate their way through a series of stories and portraits, as a choose-your-own adventure. At the end they are given their own ‘love profile’ based on where their love interests led them.

Harriet Schwarzrock, spaces between movement and stillness: on show 13 February, 2021

Australian Love Stories: 20 March – 1 August, 2021

Tickets available online

Related information

In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester (detail), 1939  Albert Tucker
In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester (detail), 1939  Albert Tucker
In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester (detail), 1939  Albert Tucker
In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester (detail), 1939  Albert Tucker

Australian Love Stories online

#PortraitureComesHome

Lust and longing, drama and devotion, seduction and scandal! Delve into an enticing array of tales of the heart.

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency