Remember joy?

Yes, to state the obvious, we all need a little joy right now. But offering works that make me happy may not do it for you. So how about some images of joy itself – the situations, the feelings, the bodily sensations – to remind us how it’s done. Remember, it’s easy. It’ll come back to you in no time …


Francis Alÿs Railings 2004. John Kaldor Family Collection. © Francis Alÿs. Courtesy Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

The joy of music. Could there be anything better than a stick, some railings and a pair of walking feet to make us feel the music? The always fabulous Francis Alÿs takes it to the streets of London in this playful intervention – part ramble, part performance.

Barbara Morgan Children dancing by the lake 1940. Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of Patsy Asch 2005. © Estate of Barbara Morgan

The joy of play. These young dancers, photographed by Barbara Morgan in 1940, leap from the image to remind us of the profound joy of unabashed exuberance. They are totally present: all body, all together, all senses go.

Angelica Mesiti Rapture (silent anthem) 2009. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Viktoria Marinov Bequest 2013. © Angelica Mesiti

The joy of the shared moment. Angelica Mesiti won the Blake Prize for Religious Art with this spellbinding video in 2009. Capturing the faces of a crowd in the rapturous grip of an unseen performance, she invites us too to become part of the collectively shared intense emotion. We’re all in this together, remember?

Nigel Milsom Judo house part 6 (the white bird) 2014–2015. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2015, with the generous assistance of Alenka Tindale, Peter Braithwaite, Anon, Chrissie & Richard Banks, Susan Hipgrave & Edward Waring, Abbey & Andrew McKinnon. © Nigel Milsom

The joy of ecstasy. We may not have the 17th-century original in the Gallery’s collection, but we do have Nigel Milsom’s crazy take on Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. His reminds us of the acute contrasts revealed in such moments of bliss: pleasure abiding with pain; the shadow and the light, the body and the spirit as one.

Cherine Fahd The chosen, Africa 2003–2004. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Viktoria Marinov Bequest Fund 2004. © Cherine Fahd

The joy of sensation: Cherine Fahd caught her subjects in The chosen series secretly, as they cooled off in a moment of pure pleasure. Without knowing the context of the ‘Paris-Plages’ – the artificial yet very welcome beaches held each year (well, maybe not 2020) along the banks of the Seine – we are left to simply read the delight of sensation on skin.

Bill Viola Six heads 2000. Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of the John Kaldor Family Collection 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program. © Bill Viola

The joy of being human. In his series The passions, Bill Viola allows deceptively simple techniques, like the close up and slo-mo, to reveal a sequence of emotions in the face of his subject. We might well identify with them right now, including as they do anger, fear and sorrow, but also, of course, joy.

Sir Richard Long A moved line in Japan 1983. John Kaldor Family Collection. © Richard Long

The joy of the walk. Richard Long reminds us of the simple pleasures of a long, solitary walk. Observing nature, making connections, making poetry…

Leonie Reisberg Untitled 1979. Art Gallery of New South Wales, anonymous gift 2012. © Leonie Reisberg

The joy of life. In case we need a little help experiencing joy, let’s take some sage advice from a friend of Leonie Reisberg. Be in the moment, share as much as we can with loved ones and, above all, jump as high as you can!