19 October - 30 January 2022
10am to 5pm Tue to Sun, 7 days during school holidays

Free exhibition

The exhibition INSTRUMENTAL CAUSE is a response by Guest Curator Donna Biles-Fernando to the KILGOUR PRIZE 2021, featuring portraits from Newcastle Art Gallery's collection that examine artistic modus operandi.

'Instrumental Cause' is both a scientific and theological theory first articulated in 350 B.C.E by philosopher Aristotle in his classical masterpiece Metaphysics. It was later expanded upon by scholastic theologian St Thomas Aquinas in The Argument from Efficient Cause in the 1250s.

Aristotle endeavoured to explain motion and change with four logic-based cause methodologies. Instrumental Cause is that which happens at the same time or is elevated to the production of something more noble than itself, beyond the measure of its own proper perfection and action. Aquinas concluded that there is an 'efficient cause' for everything. Nothing can be the efficient cause of itself, that to take away the cause is to take away the effect.

Both theories can be illustrated in the production of an artwork. It begins with the 'material', the medium. Then the 'formal cause' is the sketch in the Artist's mind followed by the 'efficient cause', the Artist who brings about the change from medium to work. The 'final cause' is the purpose for which the work is made, in this example it is the creation of a portrait.

In an artmaking context, Instrumental Cause is the ability of the artist to connect, capture and create imaginings of the human guise.

Above: Michael ZAVROS The Mermaid 2015 oil on board 22.0 x 30.0cm Purchased 2015 Newcastle Art Gallery collection Courtesy the artist


Brett WHITELEY Self portrait as Gertrude Stein 1988 mixed media on canvas 76.0 x 76.0cm Gift of Dr William Bowmore AO, OBE, Lady Mayoress' Fundraising Dinner 2006 Newcastle Art Gallery Collection Courtesy Wendy Whiteley



  • This exhibition is FREE



Newcastle Art Gallery
1 Laman Street
Cooks Hill