Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas from GoMA - 24 December

Christmas eve and the team is up having a Queensland Christmas. With wet weather setting in for the weekend I decided to take one of my junior art critics down to GoMA (the Gallery of Modern Art) on the riverfront in BrisVegas ...
I had read somewhere that GoMA was quite family friendly and the first two exhibitions lived up to the hype. We liked Yayoi Kusama's show and in particular, 'The Obliteration Room'. This work comprised a series of 3 interlinked living rooms that were all originally bright white. Everyone, mainly kids but a lot of adults were getting really into it, was given a sheet of stickers when entering the room which then resulted in the rooms becoming a multi coloured blur of colour (we were here in week 3 and the above photo must've been taken in week 1, hardly any white space left now). Obviously very interactive which is an interesting start to a museum visit as everything else then disappoints with the usual no touchy rule. Which is exactly what we were told when visiting the other kids exhibit, 'we miss you magic land' by Pip & Pop (or Tanya Schultz Nicole Andrejevic as the ATO would know them). This was all rainbows, unicorns and pastel colours that primarily made from sugar and cake decorations according to the literature. We did enjoy the computers at the end and the little game although it was a bit taxing for a 4 year old. Lunch successfully navigated at the river cafe we were upstairs to check out the 'adult' section. Some interesting stuff including a Tracey Emin fluoro work, a Julian Opie video, a nice Scott Redford sculpture (although not as good as the motel sign out front) and a very good Tony Albert ephemera work (Sorry backwards). The gift store had a pretty good selection and we picked up some additional stocking stuffers although I reckon they could've done with a better postcard selection.
Points - 3 to Yayoi for the sticker room, fantastic concept for getting the whole family involved. 2 for Scott Redford's motel inspired brisvegas sculpture and 1 for magic land which we didn't miss as much as they expected.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer at the MCA - 20 December

It has been a fairly hectic December for me so Christmas Drinks at the MCA seemed like a great opportunity to indulge in a little Christmas cheer and check out the new Rafael Lorenzo-Hammer show ...

The MCA at the moment is kind of like the Death Star in Return of the Jedi, partially completed but fully operational as an art venue. Mexican/Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's show 'Recorder' takes up the entire renovated 3rd floor which is accessible from the George street entrance. I had never heard of this guy before rocking up which was great as with no expectations this show really easily exceeded them! Everything was interactive, some overt like the Pulse Room (where the punters get their pulse taken on something out of a gym and then your heartbeat is taken around the room on the flashing lights) and some covert like Tape Recorders (where sensors were recording how long punters stayed in the room and fed the data into some 25m stanley tape measures that had motors attache to extend them, pictured above). Pascale and I tried virtually everything out, it was like the art equivalent of being at sideshow alley at the Easter Show. It would take a long time to describe everything here but thankfully the MCA have their own microsite for the show which explains all the works.

Points - Tough this week as the whole show is great. I'll give 3 for the Pulse Room, 2 for Please Empty Your Pockets and 1 for Tape Recorders. This is on until 12 February 2012 so I would highly recommend getting down and getting all interactive with Rafael. The other highlight from this visit was the new rooftop function space where they had the Christmas drinks (and Feliz Navidad to the tequila company who sponsored this show, we are pretty partial to the agave spirit over here).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas art - 13 December

The team at Big Lamington HQ really get into Christmas. Our tree has been up for ages but we just picked up some new ornaments by local artist Nell (who has featured on these pages before, here, here and here). Nell has made a number of different designs all featuring her trademark faces. There is a love heart, leaf, ghost, cloud and a star ranging in donation from $25 for a laser cut vinyl heart to $500 for a hand made felt piece. The money raised was all for charity so I was keen to do my part and put Nell on our tree. I had two of my junior art critics with me who helped choose a good selection of ornaments which are now up on our tree. I am a big fan of christmas editions and think it is something that could be done by anyone (and not necessarily on the scale of the Norton project). Hmmm, maybe one day we can get a BL project going ....

Points: 3 to Nell for doing this, sets a great example for others. 2 for the ghosts, although perhaps a little scary for your average christmas tree. 1 for the star, there would be fights as to who would get to put this up!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NAS graduate show - 3 December

Quick one here as I am getting to this a week late. The NAS graduate show is on now and I recommend a trip to Darlo for everyone. I took my 4 year old and we had a great time looking at the gallery and the studios. Top picks for me included Frances Morgan's banknotes (I am a sucker for currency) and Emily Chew's text works (pictured above, which brought Tony Albert to my mind). My daughter liked Merryn Hull's colourful "Looking to Springtime", Melanie Heam's porcelain ice cream cones and Melanie Olsen's coloured box. Her art criticism of one of the video works entertained the crowd (it was a video of a lady eating a cake and then spitting it out on another plate, we concluded it must be a playdoh cake as you cannot eat playdoh). She also graciously agreed to contribute to Lucas Bayne's Cave Wall Palimpsest No 1 (it was a big chalkboard, and I did check with the attendants before we got to work on it). The beauty of the grad show is that most of the works are for sale, and very affordable. We like supporting NAS so my daughter selected Olsen's Acqua box for $50 and I picked up a counterfeit note for the same price. I hear Frances is off to Paris for a residency so I hope that comes in handy.

Points. I will let my daughter give the points this week. 3 to Lucas Baynes for the chalkboard. I wonder how long my daughters art stayed on exhibition! 2 for Alicia Poppett for the bouncy ball sculpture "Mary Contrary" and 1 point for Kelly Gilkes and her constructed 'wings'.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dobell Prize for Drawing - 2 December

Things are starting to wind down for 2011 but there is one last competition to go judge - the Dobell Prize for Drawing. I didn't get around to entering this year, lets see if I fancy myself over any of the official entries.

Well, the first thing I noticed this year is that everything was really big. Most of the entries were huge. And quite a few artists saved on framing costs by entering the work on paper to be hung up by bulldog clips. In fact, one funster I overheard at the gallery remarked that "Please do not touch" had a lot of entries. I didn't much like the official winner, a triptych of pastelly shadows by Anne Judell, quite a few visitors shared that sentiment based on the gasps the punters let out when they saw the notice. Highlights for me included Reg Mombassa's glittery horses and Graham Fransella's Passegiata, although there was enough watercolour here for it to get in the Wynn. That is the thing about the Dobell - they don't define drawing. My definition includes pencil, pen and/or charcoal. Both Melissa Thompson and Eloise Rankine had reduced these materials to those 'repeated line' drawings that look like you are counting off the days (although one was more orderly than the other). I saw something similar at a NAS show earlier in the year. It looks good done on a big scale but in my mind is far too easily replicated to worthy of the points.

Points - 3 for Peter Gardiner's Hexham Swamp (pictured above courtesy of my blackberry if that explains the quality of the image). Chosen not not just because I agree Hexham is a swamp (I used to see it daily on the train ride between Maitland and Newcastle) but also because it was big (tick) and used only charcoal (big tick). 2 points for Reg aka Chris O'Doherty for the horse and I'll give the 1 point to Graham Fransella.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

FONAS plate auction - 15 November

I really enjoyed this event last year and was keen to return and check out the entries. Alan Jones officially opened the night with a nice little speech and then it was straight into it. The Friends of the National Art School (hence FONAS) have a live auction of their really big names who have donated work and then a silent auction of some familiar names and students etc who contribute hundreds of plates. Let's see if there is another plate winging its way to Paddo ...

As with last year it was a real mixed bag. Some spirited bidding on the live auction side with all plates going for over $1k. Now the auctioneer says this is a bargain as their canvasses go for many times that. True, but it is much easier for one of my junior critics to smash a plate than a canvas so we sat on our hands during this phase. The top dollar (over $3k) went to a plate by Reg Mombassa in his recognisable mambo'esque style. On the silent auction side I noticed the bigger names had slightly bigger plates, Guy Maestri (a landscape of hill end, like his recent show at Tim Olsen), Alun Rhys Jones (a monochrome skull, like his recent show at Iain Dawson) and even Deborah Marks (a figurative scene, like her recent show at Charles Hewitt) ... you get where I am going here. I put in a bid on the skull but was quickly outbid. On the smaller ones I liked Adrienne Richardson's lamb chop and Troy Emery's rainbow lion (above, which looked like it was wearing a rasta style tam o'shanter, kind of similar to the fake taxidermy he does) and placed a small bid on each as the Mrs and I were off for quick dinner on Oxford street. Upon return it became apparent 2011 was a little slower than 2010 as I had just made a $240 donation to some FONAS scholarships and picked up 2 plates!

Points: 3 for Reg Mombassa, again the best plate on the night (Reg took BL's 3 points at this gig last year). 2 to Alun Rhys Jones for the skull - I do like skulls but at the end of the day would've preferred it on paper rather than porcelain. 1 point to Adrienne Richardson for the lamb chop (left) - pass the mint sauce. You know I think I should do a plate for next year, maybe I'll offer my services to FONAS ...

Primavera leftovers / Artspace performance - 14/15 November

It was great to have a working week in Sydney to catch up on some admin and see what the city has an offer at the moment for the punters keen to see some arts. On the agenda were the leftovers from the MCA young artist show (primavera) and a trip to artspace to see a piece of performance art that sounded a little weird.

By the dates I had actually missed primavera, however, the MCA staged it outdoors this year as they don't actually have a gallery at the moment and I correctly gambled that they wouldn't have taken down the Eric Bridgeman posters by Monday lunchtime. There are 2 posters printed diptych fashion side by side (image above). Commenting on racism in rugby league one features Eric as an aboriginal player and the other as a white coach. It is meant to be influenced by the Andrew Johns / Timana Tahu incident of a few years ago and the text "Joey I'm not angry anymore" certainly had me humming that 1990 hit by Concrete Blonde for the next day. If it wasn't the middle of the day I would have tried to souvenir one!

"Expulsion" at Artspace was a test of endurance. Both for Fiona McGregor and the viewer. For 24 hours she would sit around, drink water and urinate into a fountain. Well for the punters who may visit I would estimate it is 97% sitting around, 2.8% drinking water and about 0.2% for the activity that gives the work its title. I think it is meant to shock but if you have (a) small kids, (b) been to the zoo recently, or (c) ever been associated with a rugby club then you should find the thought of it pretty tame. The venue had a sign outside warning against nudity but they perhaps should've warned against boredom instead. I hung around a little while and didn't see any 'art' being made ...

Points: Bridgeman will get the quinella here, 3 for the Timana Tahu (on the left) and 2 for the Johns (on the right). That leaves 1 point to be awarded and I will give this to anyone who can spend more than 20 minutes waiting for Fiona to make art!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Postgrad show at NAS - 5 November

I may have a very tenuous link to the National Art School given my 1 week of studies there but I am always keen to get back as often as I can to see what goes on there. Last year at this time we took down Kate Shaw and the NAS postgrad show on the same day so we had to keep the tradition alive and swing past Darlo on our trip back from Waterloo.

The main show is in the NAS gallery, one of the former main cell blocks and it is an interesting show. I knew a couple of people in the show, former teacher Deborah Marks and honors student Fiona Lanigan. Deborah was exhibiting some collages similar to the ones from Charles Hewitt earlier in the year. I liked Fiona's etchings in the main space but thought the digital ones in the print studio were my favourites. The students studios are only open the first weekend so you get to see about 4 times as much as in the main gallery. You can also take some sneakier photos that way if you have a blog to write for! Overall the sculpture didn't really do it for me, and the ceramics likewise. Painting was probably my top pick of the disciplines on show. Lots of talent there. Zoe Tweedale had some great animal portraits - a big squid in the main gallery that the junior critics fell for and a big pig in the studio that I liked (then again given I played a few seasons for the hogs I have a soft spot for everything porcine). Bridgette McNab had some cool portraits inspired by glossy womens mags (and a fully functioning website, students these days!). And Carlone Karllson had some Syd Ball'esque abstract geometric shapes (her Tripod sculpture was the kids top pick).

Points: 3 to Zoe (can't decide if it is for the squid or the pig, is that a form of surf and turf?); 2 to Bridgette and 1 point to Wally McGregor, my top pick from the drawing faculty. I did like his data flow (pictured upside down on the NAS website - perhaps as an homage to deceased alum Norman Hetherington of Mr Squiggle fame but more likely an unintentional piece of art criticism about contemporary drawing). Still, if I was him I would be filling out the Dobell entry form right now ...

Kate Shaw and Alex Seton at SSFA - 5 November

A couple of familiar names at Sullivan and Strumpf brought the whole crew out early on Saturday morning. Alexander Seton had the bottom floor (unsurprising given I doubt there were any volunteers to schlep blocks of marble up the stairs) with Kate Shaw taking the top.

Alex's show continued from the pieces he had when I visited his studio with the young ambassadors - all flags of varying designs. The Mrs was really impressed with these works and unluckily for her the whole show was sold out prior to the opening. I sympathise with her as it is a common theme - you only ever want what has already sold. Our favourite was probably the flag that had the twist in it, some very skillful work in solid marble. I also liked the folded up flags that he does in honour of the Australian casualties of war (pictured on the studio visit post). Kate's current show looks like her last one but on steroids, in that everything is bigger. Smallest piece here clocks in at 60 x 120cm and the big boys are hitting the tape at 120 x 240cm. That is a lot of acrylic and resin so you are probably getting some value for money here. That said, I do think her style works on the small scale as a few of the leftovers from her last show in the stock room attest to. Great shows to drag the junior critics out to (marble being less fragile than the porcelain at the last show). Think the kids favourites were the colourful Kate Shaw's as she still goes for the odd bit of glitter although disappointingly none of these ones glow in the dark.

Points: I am going to give the 3 to Kate Shaw for Contro Natura (pictured). Really like her style but these pieces were too big to take home to ours, maybe we should frame the announcement card instead. 2 to the twisted marble flag. Also 1 point to Laith McGregor out of the stockroom (of which pieces seem to be on regular display given they now have a spare room for it) for Holy. It is permanent marker on a huge 2.5m x 2m blue poly tarp. I guess it could do double duty in an emergency if you broke the window.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Woollahra small sculpture prize - 30 October.

Family art outings usually require a bit of a bribe - the great thing about this show is that the family's favourite beach, Redleaf, is just down the steps. So with our bucket and spades, sunscreen and sun hats it was off to the Council to check on our DA and the small sculptures ...

The council building is a bit of a work of art itself, a really stunning setting for this competition that the council has been running for quite a few years. This was a really well run outfit, some child education person had grabbed two of our junior critics for their own little tour with pencils and worksheets as soon as we had walked in. That left the Mrs and I to check out the wares at a leisurely pace. Quite a few familiar names for Big Lamington readers here, Ken + Julia Yonetani, Penny Byrne, Huseyin Sami and Julia DeVille - all with work corresponding to their distinctive styles. The actual winner, Margaret Seymour's Pas de deux' was a tv screen on what looked like a moving trolley. You looked down on it to see feet dancing - it was quite dizzying. I liked the Donna Marcus work called extract, which looked like a sea anemone made out of orange juicers. Another great touch is the Viewers Choice award which the punters get to vote for. Keep your eyes out for the winner here, or vote here for your choice until 6 November.

Points: 3 to Donna Marcus for Extract, this got my vote for the people's choice. 2 to Ken + Julia Yonetani, I really like their work and would gladly have this piece in the house. 1 point to Lisa Roet for the golden ape, I think the curator agreed this should have been displayed a little higher (or I need to be a lot shorter). Special mention to Phil Cooper's mummy style statue which got the Mrs nod in the viewers choice.

Monday, October 24, 2011

MiCK the Gallery - 24 October

So the mystery posed by the question mark at 44 Gurner Street has finally been solved and 'Mick the Gallery' has been unveiled. I had read it was opening today and given I was back in Sydney for the weekend decided to enjoy the near 30 degree weather (a huge change from NZ) and stroll over and check it out.

They are kicking off with a group show which is always a great idea to give the punters a sense of what they can expect in the coming months. Pretty diverse group with a couple of names I've heard of (Archibald winner in 2003 Geoff Dyer, he had the really good portrait of David Walsh in the 2011 edition; taxidermist Julia deVille who I must've seen on art nation at some stage; and the somewhat ubiquitous Adam Cullen - although I think his work is a private treaty sale). Of the artists I'd never seen photographer Jessica Tremp looks interesting as does painter Amelia Disspain. Hopefully they go well in the old SSFA spot (which they are keen to point out has been an art gallery since the 1970's - don't mention the competition!)

Points: 3 to gallerist Megan Dick for pushing the go button on a new space within walking distance of Big Lamington HQ (I guess that is where the MiCK comes from, although my mate mIke frusc may have issues with their random capitalisations). 2 to Julia deVille for the ostrich skeleton with feathers and saddle - definitely catches the attention although not sure that would survive being ridden by my three junior art critics and 1 to Amelia Disspain.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Suite gallery annexe

Quick one here as my art outings are racing ahead of my postings. I finally saw the Suite Gallery Annexe on Oriental Parade (still in Wellington here folks) open the other day and got a quick snoop around the space (above photo taken at night obviously, dinner at Martin Bosley across the road is also recommended). Now on the eve of potentially another financial crisis and stories of art galleries closing (Vale GrantPirrie) I think this is a great model to replicate.

Okay, Suite do have a bigger space near a few of the other galleries on Cuba street but this annexe is my all time favourite small space. Originally a garage, then converted into a distillery (NZ's famous vodka 42 below was meant to have been invented here), it is now a fully functioning gallery with the requisite white walls and concrete floor. Reminds me a little of ecosse in Exeter but this is finished a little nice and definitely stands out on the road with its bright pink door. I'd like to see a couple of these in Paddington, especially with all the rear lane access around. I really wonder what Woollahra council would say if punters started opening their own kunsthalles around the place.

No real points today. I was in a hurry so Barbara Strathdee's show didn't really get my attention. I liked her use of painting shapes over an image. Kind of reminded me of Gerald Laing, except he is a famous 60s dude who used Bardot as the background and Barbara uses old illustrations of NZ. Highly commended ribbon to Suite for their Annexe. Which despite the rampant Britishness everywhere in NZ they spell as Annex. Go figure.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ryan Presley at Jan Manton.

I've been stuck in NZ for a little while with work and the world cup so wasn't able to get to see the new Ryan Presley show at Jan Manton which looked amazing online. What is an art collector to do? Well, when my mum said she was going to be in Bris Vegas for the day I made sure she put Jan's gallery on her itinerary. Jan runs a quirky little space in Spring Hill and has a good eye for emerging talent - she had Tony Albert on the roster years ago and he is really taking off now. The show has recently ended (I'm a little behind in my posts here, its harder on an ipad despite what the ads say) so you'll have to click on the link to see what all the fuss was about.

Ryan's work is basically counterfeit money. His latest show Prosperity, just like his first show Blood Money (which won the Griffith Uni graduation show), takes Aussie currency and updates it with more politicised aboriginal content. Funny that he doesn't use the old paper banknotes, which I think had a far greater proportion of dead white men. I guess it would have been pretty inconceivable at the time to have an aboriginal person on the decimal notes that were released in 1966. The new plastic notes (released in 1991) equalised the gender but only feature one aboriginal person - on the $50. Points if you knew it was David Unaipon, I did have to look it up. Ryan's current currency features Vincent Lingiari, Fanny Balbuk, Truganinni, Jandamarra and Gladys Tybingoompa. Again I'll double those points if you knew all these people, which I guess is his point that contemporary Australia doesn't really know much of Aboriginal history or didn't think it worthy enough for the official coin of the realm. These big works (75 x 1000cm) were pretty popular - red dots everywhere. The only question was whether this boyhood paper money collector would put one in the Big Lamington bank ...

Points from mum (these were originally reversed as she didn't get the whole 3, 2, 1 thing but that has all been explained now). 3 to $100 note, good detail and nice black cockatoos. 2 to the $20 note (ed. note: big red works usually sell well so no surprise this has gone) and 1 point to the $10 note. Also an honourable mention (does Mum think she is judging at the show? We don't hand out highly commended ribbons every week you know!) to the set of 4 hand coloured actual bank note sized etchings ( 7x13 cm) fine detailed work! Yours for $1200. These aren't on the website but Jan is really great to deal with over the interwebs so drop her a line if interested.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Scott Eady at the Dowse - 15 October.

We were looking for an outing for my three junior art critics and I had read a good review of a show at the Dowse which made it sound fairly family friendly. So with the co-ordinates of Lower Hutt plugged into the GPS of our rental we were off for a little weekend art adventure ...

The Dowse is about a 20 minute drive north of Wellington. It is a small little regional gallery but despite its size managed to have about 5 different shows on. Top of our list was Scott Eady's '100 Bike Project - Part 1'. Scott has tracked down a heap of old bikes from council tips around the country and then done them up (and in a few cases totally pimped them out). They are all shiny and new looking and it is a great message of consumerism and waste that you look at all these fantastic bikes of varying shapes and sizes and think that they had all been turfed out in their former lives. It is an interactive exhibition so the kids are encouraged to grab a bike and have a ride which all of mine did. You had to use a loaner helmet although we had planned ahead and brought our own (which also avoided the line that formed). Scott had literally put bells and whistles on most of the bikes so it took my art critics a little while to find appropriate rides. Duly installed in the riding ring I was able to take my littlest critic for a gallery walk. Tiffany Singh's collection of wind chimes 'Knock on the Sky and listen to the Sound' is installed here (I had seen bits of part 1 at the Enjoy gallery back in Wellington so nice to complete the experience) and we saw some more Ani O'Neill fabric work. Best other exhibit was the colour spectrum show designed for kids. Top pick here was the Reuben Paterson blue glitter work 'Perrier Jouet'. Yes those champagne label flowers in blue glitter - pretty striking. Next door to this exhibit was a kids craft centre which again kept the troops entertained. Props to the Dowse for having a nice intellectual approach to getting families to come and see art which goes to my own personal thesis that you shouldn't have to dumb it down to get the punters in. A really well put together place - would love to see some NSW councils do something this good.

Points - 3 to Scott Eady. Great work, the kids loved it. Only complaint was that the horns on the trikes were hard to blow as compared to the bells on the bikes. Also a nice little hat tip to iconic American photograher William Eggleston in the promo photos. I was trying to emulate that shot myself of one of the trikes. 2 to Reuben Paterson for more of his great glitter work. I am seeing his stuff everywhere (City Gallery, NZ art magazine cover) and liking it more and more but am afraid to find out what it would cost! 1 to the cafe. An often overlooked part of any gallery outing but the Dowse's offering was top class. Actually the food in Wellington is of a high standard across the board but this place (and the cafe at the City Gallery) puts the AGNSW and MCA in the shade. Honourable mention to the kids collecting thing I read about in their propaganda. If I understood it correctly they get leading NZ artists to do prints and editions and then put them in the room and you pay $65 for your kid to go in and pick out a piece of art. Love it. Hey kids, if there is a sparkly glitter work in there grab it for Daddy!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

RWC edition - 13 October

The team from Big Lamington is still over in New Zealand and fresh from cheering on the Wallabies in a thrilling quarter-final at the Cake Tin was able to snoop around a couple of Wellington galleries today. On the agenda were Bowen Galleries and Suite Galleries from our last outing and a new location in the Peter McLeavey Gallery.

First up was Suite who are showing Roger Boyce's show 'Painter Speaks'. This is a series of landscape paintings with a ventriloquists dummy head transposed over the top. Roger is trying to comment on the man made nature of art but I did find it a little creepy. The landscapes themselves were quite majestic, especially the mountains (they have big mountains here in NZ). Luckily for the friendly proprietors at Suite the public are eating it up. Plenty of red dots everywhere. Next up was Peter McLeavey, the entrance of which is tucked up under the stairwell to Suite. I can see why I missed this one last time - blink and you miss the door which opens up into quite a bright little white room where Nick Austin is showing 'Interesting Chewing Gum'. Interesting name. These are real minimalist works and you have to get that genre to get at the prices. I know plenty of punters who would see that and say $2k for a bad drawing of a cup? Final destination was the Bowen Galleries who always seem to have a handful of artists up on show. My top pick here was the window piece with Gregor Kregar's 'Matthew 12:12 Cup 2011' which are little sculptures of sheep wearing various international rugby jerseys. They come in all sizes and look great in a big group but you can buy big ones individually or small ones in sets of 15 at prices from $600 to $4k. There was a nice Australian #6 available and if the Wallabies can get past the ABs this week then the ovine Elsom may be another great little souvenir.

Points. I think you can guess where I am going here. 3 to Gregor and the sheep. I am a big on the use of iconic images and the sheep is iconic in Aoteoroa. 2 to McLeavey's based primarily on the friendly proprietor who provided a good overview of Nick Austin and gave a great heads up about a show at the City Gallery that is now on our agenda. 1 to Suite, whose next show on Ans Westra looks like it could also get a run here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Deborah Marks at Charles Hewitt - 24 September

I was really keen to this show. Deborah was my drawing teacher when I did a summer class at NAS earlier this year (which was a lot of fun and is itself highly recommended) and it is always interesting to see what a teacher does out of class ...

Her show, Unspoken Moments, is really quite dark and brooding. Not necessarily what I would've picked her for, then again I shouldn't expect drawing exercises. This is going to sound weird but I was getting a real Jeremy Irons vibe from this whole show - all sex, religion and death set in Venice. Naturally being an instructor at the national art school (and it turns out also doing a masters herself there this year) she is technically very proficient. She is also quite prolific with 33 works on show, from about a dozen or more collages to some ink and acrylic works on card to five large oils on canvas. Of all the work I liked the ink and acrylics the best, giving a real sense of her draftmanship. Liberally sprinkled over her room sheet is a little asterisk which indicates that that particular piece is requested by the artist to be made available by the purchaser for a public exhibition - a great marketing piece if ever I saw one!

Points - 3 for 'The Wish', details from that above - yours for $3k. This is one of those works going to be in the public show - on the flipside, what does that say about all the other stuff? 2 for 'The Witness' and 1 point for the collage works - it was hard to split these. The collages are all sub $1k so priced appropriately given clouds on the global financial horizon. I bumped into a former drawing classmate outside who has also taken Deborah's collage class and based on the evidence in the show and his testimonials it sounds like that would be pretty good fun as well. We'll keep an eye out for Deborah in the postgrad show later this year at NAS.

Penny Byrne at Sullivan and Strumpf - 24 Sept

Sneak peaks? Luckily for us the Penny Byrne exhibition at SSFA was already installed by Saturday morning (ahead of its official opening later this week) as some trans tasman scheduling would've kept us away next weekend. Disappointed not to meet Penny and hear about this latest show which picks up stylistically where her last left off ...

Plausible Deniability deals with contemporary political issues and sprinkles through a couple of random pieces to lighten the mood. I walked past the biggest one immediately as it was so much larger than her earlier works that I thought SSFA has installed a window for a different artist. 'Crude' is an interesting work that comments on oil dependence, although as a political message I am a little over resource depletion. It would also be pretty hard to live with. It's POA and my bet is that this goes to an institution - she has been pretty busy on the museum scene and you'd need some space to make this statement. 'Leaking like a SIEV' is another one of her big boat pieces chock a block full of vintage trinkets, I thought she has something similar at the MCA (although the MCA website is pretty crap so I couldn't confirm that memory fragment). It's the most expensive piece here so I didn't really get a good look as I was naturally trying to keep toddler hands away from it (they need some signs - you break it, you bought it). I was far more comfortable looking at 'Arab Spring, Summer? Autumn? Winter?', another great big work comprising 28 russian dolls that had been painted black save for the face, suggesting a burqa. I thought it was great she was branching out of porcelain but was told she has been doing these for a while although I can't recall one in her last show. This was one of a couple of works that commented on the recent arab revolts. 'In happier times (Gaddafi's Gal Guards Guarding Gaddafi)' caught the eye - a detail from it is pictured above, I'd love a little Gaddafi souvenir although I am not sure that story has run its course yet. The last in the arab theme was the Tahrir square souvenirs where there are at least 20 similar vintage porcelain souvenirs repainted in the colours of the egyptian flag. I like how Penny does these souvenirs (we got a Gitmo one at her last show), both the political angle and the fact that having a bunch of work available for sub $1k makes it easy for collectors to get on board the Byrne train. The Mrs is already on the Byrne train but wants to move up to a nicer carriage and has her eye on the Bird Flu statue and the Venus de Hoodie. We'll see how that plays out. All in all a great show, although something you should definitely see without toddlers. I love the fact that the she is dealing with contemporary issues so these vintage pieces, made contemporary now will again revert to become historical items.

Points. 3 for Gaddafi - I have a bit of a uniform obsession and the sash really does it for me. 2 for the former russian dolls (above), my daughters favourite and a great idea for a craft project. 1 for the Tahrir square souvenirs - given how the markets are going right now I am sure these will fly off the shelf. My only request for next time would be for Penny to take on West Papua. Also a little shout out to the group show upstairs. A couple of nice Lindemans but my eye was caught by the two new artists - Tony Albert and Leah Emery. Really glad that Tony is now represented by a Sydney gallery (although not so happy his prices have hit the big time) and Leah's pieces look promising - they are much smaller than you think they would be (which is great when you are running out of wall space). Looking forward to seeing those two in 2012.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Blake Prize at NAS - 17 September

I was eager to chek out the Blake Prize and figured the National Art School venue would work for a family art outing. Jury is still out on that one, my little art critics listing the elevator and the stairwell in the former jailblock as tour highlights. It was an interesting show, designed to "challenge artists to explore the religious and spiritual in art. It is open to all faiths, artistic styles and media" according to the directions on the box. Let's see who had the divine inspiration ...

Short answer was not many. That is more an observation that I couldn't necessarily determine the religious or the spiritual in many of the entries, despite the fact that by themselves there were some great pictures in here. Some recognisable artists had entered in their trademark styles, Nell, Danie Mellor, Christian Thompson and Adam Cullen were all represented by quality entries. The judges gave the nod to someone I'd never heard of - Khaled Sabsabi with a video work documenting a sufi muslim ceremony from out in Western Sydney. Interesting piece, probably ticked a few political boxes as well. This prize, now in its 60th year, has managed to throw up a really diverse show - and if anything grabs you some of the works are available for sale. Just ask at the front desk, you never know you luck in Darlinghurst.

Points. I would've struggled on the judging panel. I am a little biased towards the artists that I would like in my collection, like Mellor, but I think I would give the chocolates to something that was more overt in its inspiration. So 3 points to Simon McGrath's "The Body and the Blood" (left). I'll give 2 points to the work I found most visually arresting, Christian Thompson's "Howl for your Troubles" (pictured above and yours for just shy of $6k). 1 point must go to Danie Mellor, his triptych is great (and huge) - full of native and masonic imagery. You really can't get the scale on screen so I'd recommend you check it out in person - this is showing until 15 October, and in honour of the Eurozone crisis entry is free!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Reko Rennie at MOP Projects - 2 September

Last days of the Reko Rennie show at MOP. Reko is a graffiti artist who many will recognise as a contributor on ABC's Art Nation programme. I was keen to check this show (called 'Black Magic') out as (1) graffiti art is really taking off, (2) this is currently 'exhibiting' on ocula (yes, online gallery - will people really buy without seeing in person?) and (3) Reko comes across as a really good bloke on the telly!

Melbourne gallery Dianne Tanzer represents Reko and has put a price of $15k on the five works on show here. 4 are on canvas (hand pressed textile foil, screen print on belgian linen) and 1 is neon lights with a perspex frosted front. Interestingly I came across a fabrication studio (here) that has the production of the foil prints as one of their recent news items (the photos on that link show the those works in production and is an interesting read). I am also guessing Reko isn't doing his own neon which means he has joined that exclusive club of artists who just come up with the concept and get others to fabricate the work for them (I am all for it as my ideas run far ahead of my artistic ability). All these works run with his trademark geometric patterns which reference his aboriginal heritage (or in MOP speak, "juxtapose a contemporary representation of traditional iconography and an exploration of identity"). The foil works all have a spray can in the centre which he calls his message stick, nice turn of phrase. I would happily put any of these on my walls. I'd assume size (150cm x 150cm) and importantly price ($15k) limits the market for these as again not many red dots with two days to go. I reckon a 67cm x 67cm for $3k (which is same $/square cm as the ones on show) would fly out the door ...

Points - 3 to Black Magic, pictured left courtesy of my blackberry and a gallery attendant who spoke to a mate on the phone for my entire visit. Seriously a guy with two toddlers? Aren't you worried about the art? I was. It was everyone's favourite - kids don't touch the glass! There wasn't much of a difference in the others, I'd probably go for the most colourful - Message Stick (Gold), pictured above. I'll also give a point to Todd Robinson and Mark Titmarsh. Their show "Public Fitting" over in gallery 1 is worth the trip alone. They have basically poured paint over some clothes which are hanging in the gallery, the video of their performance in pouring runs on continuous loops. My little art critics enjoyed watching the video and then finding the matching garment on the rack. Everything here was under $1k, the paint splattered shoes ($250) nearly came home with me but weren't in my size!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Teppei Kaneuji at RoslynOxley - 1 September

Taking advantage of a rare day off we strolled into RoslynOxley just after opening at 10am on a Thursday morning. With my junior art critic keeping unusually quiet we managed to spend a good 20 minutes in this gallery without encountering anyone. Surprising really as this show needed a little merchandising help by the looks.

Teppei Kaneuji has a pretty impressive resume. Apparently he is big in Japan. Then why only 1 red dot from the 30 works on display? Especially seeing this opened on 11 August and only has 3 days left. Probably a number of reasons. I'd speculate price is one of them, the big sculpture was $66k (pictured above) and even the smallest was $4k (the AUD hasn't been doing that well against the Yen, so maybe he gets these prices in Tokyo). I also think the work was a little 'hard' to collect. One example was the mirror works which ranged from $1500 to $3k and were basically the leftover parts of a sticker sheet put on ordinary mirrors. Excellent concept and definitely gives me a great craft idea for the junior art critics as we go through a mass of stickers on a weekly basis but it seemed quite cheap for the price asked. Another example were the sculptures of 'found objects' (aka trash) covered in resin. Lastly I wondered whether Sydney collectors were being a little parochial and saving their yen for Aussie talent? Of all the reasons I think this could be a big one. I am all for some international art on the walls (and there are a few Japanese artists in the big lamington collection, a small Yasumasa Morimura is with the framers right now) but with budgets being tight it is a pretty defensible option to take the Dick Smith route and be an art collecting protectionist.

Points: 3 for the big white discharge, or formally 'White Discharge (Built-up objects #15)' which is pictured above. If you are going to discharge then do it big. 2 for the teenage fan club #41 (I agree with whoever bought it, probably easiest sculpture to live with) and 1 to 'A Large Round Rice Cake Offered to the Gods (at New Year's)' mainly for the great name of the work, after all it was just brick wallpaper cut out in a blobby shape (can be seen in the background of the above photo). Also loved that it was dimensions variable, P.O.A. - when you are putting a $60k price take on a pile of found objects + resin you have to wonder what that might be!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Annette Bezor at Harrison Gallery - 27 August

Unlike my better half my own postgraduate studies were a little more prosaic than art history, so I am always chuffed when I can pick an influence at 50 yards. The newest show at Harrison Galleries caught my eye on the trek up to five ways. So we were off to have a look see at "Lookers", showing work from Annette Bezor.

"Tretchikoff?" says I to the gallerina. I didn't really need to hear the confirmation (we have a vintage Tretchikoff print stashed in the attic waiting to decorate my tiki bar) as "her appropriated and reworked figures" mostly lean to the appropriated. Although I guess cropping and blowing up to sizes of 140cm x 140cm or even 165cm x 165cm counts as reworking. My favourites were when Annette has put in a unique touch, like when she "overlays them with translucent bands of colour to mask their characters and turn their portraits into abstract paintings", like in Face Value 3 (above), 4, or 6 (all $15k) or Mocha Sunset ($27k, from 2009). I also really liked Singapore Slang ($22k) which skews and distorts probably one of the most iconic of Vladimir's exotic Chinese ladies. The image that Shadowlands borrows from appeals but then I always question why a work from 2008 still hasn't sold (its available for $22k). Sometimes the reason can be good ("its just too challenging for conventional tastes" is a favourite dealer line), but this piece was one of the blander entries so I am guessing everyone feels the same. Will be interesting to check back if they can move it.

Points - 3 for Face Value 3, 2 for Mocha Sunset and 1 to Singapore Slang (pictured left). Now I really liked a lot of the work in this show but my collecting rule of thumb is to try and avoid buying artists that are older than me (this leaves quite a field of emerging artists, that gets bigger every year). If you didn't know Annette had been round a few years the gallery does provide helpful clues, such as the reasonably high prices listed above and a CV that, while truncated, does include an award from the 70's. But if someone wants to buy me a present then I wouldn't say no. These would look great in a tiki bar ...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Joan Ross at GBK - 13 August

My little art critics are big fans of video work and when we heard Joan Ross had a new work debuting at GBK the whole team was keen to go. Would Joan Ross' latest video get the thumbs up? Let's see ...

I like Barry's gallery as everything is on show. You can have a good sniff around the stock room and there are a couple of exhibition spaces. In the front room he has a group show from past students of Cofa (the uni of NSW's art school - college of fine arts) that he has sponsored a prize for (appropriately titled, "where are they now"). We didn't spend too long in this room. Just long enough for the team to pick out their favourites. The back room contained the object of our quest, a video called "BBQ this Sunday, BYO". Great title, so far - so good. Now on with the show. This work is very similar to the video she had in the curious colony show (and we had seen last year). That edition of 5 was a sell out so it was good to see more punters available to get on the Ross train with an edition size of 20 this time around. However, this was $4,750 ... hmmm. I mean I really like her videos, this one again sources imagery from colonial artist Joseph Lycett and animates and updates with some of her own trademarks (like the fluoro yellow safety vests from her previous show). As an amateur vexillologist I also really like the flag she has in it - a southern cross but with actual stars photoshopped in there. This edition was expected to sell out so it was good to see only 9 dots when I was there and a couple of halfs which were meant to be institutions who had to go through committee. Well my committee thought the price a bit steep for an edition of 20 so we asked a gallerina at a competing shop about their thoughts regarding video. Her recommended checklist was to make sure you get the work on both dvd and usb stick to avoid technical obsoletion in the future (Joan passed this one) and to avoid editions greater than 5. Joan obviously doesn't subscribe to that limitation and I'm not sure I do either. But then edition size is one of those interesting topics that I think is well abused. Generally in this day and age there is no limit to reproduction (certainly true with digital works like videos) so the constraint on supply is an artificial one designed to push up the price. This is my top reason for not buying prints and only buying unique works - at least it is the only one. At nearly 5k a throw are there 20 punters out there who would want a Joan video? I am on the fence. I would be all over an affordable one like the proverbial (and wouldn't personally care if it was an even bigger edition). Apparently the main bit of value in the video edition is the certificate of authenticity. Really? How 'bout I take an undocumented usb stick for 5 hungy?

Points: 3 to Joan for the great video, as of posting we had passed on it given the internal conflict in my head regarding appropriate pricing for digital editions, but never say never. Of the Cofa stuff my 3 year old liked another video work - 2 points to Hugh Marchant and my 2 year old really liked the 'sculpture' of Lachlan Anthony - 1 point for the office chairs with precariously high seats.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Curated by at the Embajada Mexicanos - 11 August

Quick lunchtime outing in the coolest little capital in the world (I should be getting sponsored by tourism NZ!) saw me cruising down Lambton quay on the lookout for the Embajada Mexicanos (that is the Mexican Embassy for the non Spanish speakers out there). I'd seen the listing in the local rag for this show and given my fondness for the coolest big capital in the world (Mexico City) thought I would see what City Gallery curator Reuben Friend gets up to in his spare time ...

Once you manage to find the embassy and get buzzed in you are escorted to this little room and left to your own devices. This show has two Mexican photographers and two kiwi ones. I liked the ones that were more representative of each country. Eduardo Oses' images were more obviously Mexican. All dia de los muertos / day of the dead and stuff like that. Given the complete absence of other people in the room I was able to snap a cheeky souvenir (pictured above). Aimee Ratana's images also focused on indigenous themes but with more of a fine art bent (she has a masters in maori visual arts whereas Eduardo is more a photojournalist). Again I thought the strongest images referenced more obvious maori imagery - like people with face tattoos.

Points - 3 to the Mexican Embassy for going to all the effort. 2 points for Eduardo Oses, must have been the skull. 1 point for Aimee Ratana.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wellington gallery crawl - 4 August

Wellington again? The team here at Big Lamington couldn't make it up to Auckland for their art fair but another fairly cold week in Wellington had its bright side when we ventured out one sunny lunchtime to check out what the self appointed "coolest little capital in the world" has to offer the art lover.

First up was Bowen Gallery on Ghuznee street. This was recommended to me by a gallerina in Sydney so I was eager to check out its wares. I was actually happy that they had a stock room show ("Stuff Up") on as it enabled me to check out a few of the gallery artists. And it was an interesting collection. I liked the photos of Ans Westra - striking image but I'm not sure I'd be slapping down 7000 kiwi for an edition, even if she is meant to be a living kiwi treasure. Top pick for me was probably Bekah Carran whose hanging sculptures were very cool and 4,800 kiwi. Just next door and up some stairs is Hamish McKay gallery. The title of the show was promising, International Velvet. I love velvet paintings, and am still kicking myself for not picking up a Tony Albert velvet a few years back. But Julian Dashpar's aren't your grandfathers velvets. His are all very abstract, and from the 80s so wear was beginning to show (and who says contemporary art practice neglects the conservation angle!). Judging by the 2 page scholarly essay accompanying the show Julian is kind of a big deal around the kiwi art scene. Based on this evidence I will just have to believe them. Third stop was Suite Gallery, and a quirkier little space you will be hard pressed to find. Just round the corner on Cuba street you walk into an old building that seriously looks as thought the squatters are still in residency of and go up 2 rickety flights of stairs until you come to a bright little white room. Their current show is Arie Hellendoorn's Inward / Outward and I really liked this. Arie's style is to do rather simple portraits and substitute the head for something a little different - all colourful shapes. There are also a few head drawings that suggest some old medical illustrations. They have even got a couple of these works over at the pop up space on Oriental Parade that I admired on my morning jog (I run slow enough to take in the art, but that is more from level of fitness rather than a dedication to aesthetic appreciation). Something for everyone here price wise, watercolours for 2,900 and oils or acylics for double that (5,800 kiwi) - lots of red dots so the punters agreed with that strategy. On the way out I popped my head into Enjoy which is a public art space on the first floor which has appropriated the red and white livery of a well known cola brand for their logo - and it is a good look, reminds me of some t-shirts we did for my rugby club back in the day. Here they had a solo work by Tiffany Singh which was a big mandala thingy on the floor made with rice and then originally a number of wind chimes that had been signed out by viewers on the promise to deliver to another museum an hour away. Nice touch.

Points - 3 to Suite, interesting space and best show of the day. 2 to Bowen gallery, looks promising and 1 to Hamish and Enjoy. It was great that there is no more than 50 metres separating 4 good galleries. It was nearly like being at an art fair ... nearly.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

New acquisition - Liam Benson's coat of arms

I did say this was under serious consideration a little while ago. Given we are moving into our new home shortly I thought it only fitting to get something to commemorate the occasion, and this photo of Liam's had been on my mind for a little while. While I am a fan of contemporary photography I don't really believe in the value of collecting editions or prints, preferring to get something unique if I am going to drop a sum of money that includes a comma. Luckily for me these photos (from an edition of 5) came in under my threshold. Sold to the man with the fetish for kitschy Australiana! I think it was the wattle that sold me, whatever happened to wattle day? They sell badges for everything nowadays and they can't keep wattle day going?

He has been getting I bit of press lately. Just after I bought this his work was in the citizen collector show (part of that art buying group which would be worthy of a separate post if I could actually get to see it, perhaps a link is easier), was interviewed on art nation with fenella (although he is looking a little bigger than when this was taken) and then he also won the 2011 Hazelhurst art prize. Keep up the good work Liam ...

Points - 3 for Liam, a great photo and I am looking forward to living with this. 2 to the friendly folks at Artereal who actually kept this in their stock room for over a month whilst we were moving and 1 for whoever starts selling wattle day badges next year in Martin Place - hit me up and I'll buy one.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Zealand art fair - 28 July

New Zealand art fair? This is the 'affordable' show in Wellington. The contemporary art fair with bigger prices (even in NZ dollars) is next week in Auckland. Wellington is a long way to go for some affordable art but as I was in town I decided to take the concierge up on his offer of a couple of complimentary tickets to the opening night ...

As you'd guess this was a real mixed bag. Luckily not really knowing any NZ artist I went in with less preconceived ideas than I usually do. One thing I found a little strange was their routine of taking down pieces that have sold and putting up new stuff. By the time I got their on the preview the main work that you can see on all the bus shelters around town had already gone - not to be seen. I liked a little bit of stuff on offer - mostly the work with overt kiwiana (I was effectively souvenir hunting after all). My top pick was Leonie Sharp, a contemporary maori artist that re-interprets traditional symbols. She had quite a lot of work with feathers (which instantly reminded me of some of the nice older chief blankets that you see framed in the posher offices of Auckland). These were all sub NZ500 so a good buy as well. Leonie was on hand to answer questions from the punters and has some interesting stories of where she gets all her feathers - basically if you come across any dead birds then send it to Leonie. I thought Antoinette Ratcliff's lightning bolts were pretty cool - these were about 30 - 40cm long mdf cutouts painted red. Again, souvenir worthy at NZ150. Other work that appealed came from Denise Wilkinson (a series of her photos was about NZ650), Janice Napper (her tikis were NZ1400), Gerry Copas (some text art - although political slogans are a funny thing to buy if you don't get the local politics) and Tony Harrington whose mixed media piece 'the whare that dad built' (NZ1900) appealed visually but also because whare was one of the few maori words I had just learnt (it means house, i think pronounced fa-ray, and all the hipsters call the warehouse, which is a kmart style store in NZ, the wa-ray fa-ray).

Points - 3 to Leonie. I even picked up my own Kaka Poria (similar to the one pictured above). She doesn't use native kiwi birds but introduced species like ducks and even australian parrots that are now pests in NZ. I thought the aussie pest was appropriate for me but ended up with one including blackbird and pheasant. It was pretty small - easily hand luggage (although those feathers may prove troublesome for customs!). Some contemporary gallery should pick her up and make her increase the size of her work by a factor of at least 20 - this would be striking on a large scale. 2 points for Tony's 'whare' and 1 point to Wellington's Suite Gallery for trying hard. They had scheduled the 'unaffordable art show' for their pop up space on Oriental Parade but instead have this note on the door that the piece they thought was unaffordable just sold for about NZ200k (looks like sales trump gags), but they did this in about a page with much more clever sounding words to make them look like they had less egg on their face - I am sure they are crying all the way to the bank! I'll be sure to check out their main digs a little later.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Del Kathryn Barton at RoslynOxley9 - 16 July

Saturday morning tea at RoslynOxley? Sign us up. We were reasonably familiar with Del Kathryn Barton's oeuvre from the Archibald (she won it in '08 and had Cate Blanchett in this years) and a previous show just up the hill at the old Kaliman gallery on Sutherland street. This show was quite impressive and we had the added benefit of an artist talk to provide a little additional context to the small essay and big prices in the accompanying room sheet.

Ms Barton's style is very distinctive. Instantly recognizable in a room. There were 8 large (160cm x 140cm) pieces all called 'satellite fade out' which references the dot painting technique of hers (all $28k), a couple of larger works ($32-35k), one very large diptych called 'for the feeling' (yours for $110k) and there was a salon wall of 11 smaller drawings (each $5.5k). All of the larger pieces had these model style female heads, elaborately coiffed (feathers rather than hair), mostly with their nips out (and usually more than 2! On a $ per nipple the diptych was a bit of a bargain given the 2 subjects in this one had 8 between them). The essay said there are two things we can know about these subjects, one was that they "belong to the mammalian class or are mammalian-like, maternal nurturing evidenced by their breasts - of which there are many". The Mrs preferred the more demure ones thinking our walls already have too much explicit content. Colour wise, I thought the 2 pink ones stood out the most, the blue ones were interesting but probably not as strong as the black (all had lots of colour over this background). When you can sell out a room of over $450k of art prior to the preview night you can pretty much lay claim to being a well established artist. I thought it a little strange therefore to hear the artist list Louise Bourgeois as a strong influence given her own style is so distinctive ... and not really reminiscent of Bourgeois at all. But I guess listing influences makes it all sound a bit more serious.

Points - 3 to 'satellite fade out 3' (pictured above), this is one of the pink ones. I think I liked it as the satellite fade out technique really brought a big pink lamington to my mind. 2 to 'satellite fade out 6' and 1 for the big diptych (and hats off to whoever has the space and cash to display that 240 x 360cm work). I bet RoslynOxley is pretty happy with signing/poaching of Barton. The AFR just listed her in saleroom this Thursday as being one of the most recession-proof artists at the moment, and given I heard the book for this was 3x oversubscribed I'll believe it. Let's just hope the prices don't rise before the next show as the Mrs. would like one and I need to save my shekels ...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

O at Sarah Cottier - 6 July

Hmmm, Wednesday night opening. Isn't it State of Origin tonight? Luckily Sarah was planning to call full time on the wine and cheese before kick-off in the big game. I hopped off the 389 a little earlier than usual and walked down the hill to check out the group show that had been called "O" for no reason that was readily apparent to me at first. Maybe they meant the Christopher Hanrahan copper 'sculpture' which took up the centre floor, although I'm not sure it deserved the honour. Eventually I realised every work was a circular or had a circle in it and so assumed that was the answer.

Group shows are sometimes curious affairs and Sarah didn't disappoint with this random sampling of new work from her artists and a liberal raiding of the stockroom. I am always very suspicious of older work in these shows. This had stuff from 1990, 2001, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010 and even included some actual new stuff from 2011 for good measure. Huseyin Sami has one of his cut paintings in there - a circle for $2.5k although I am not sure what they were asking for it back in 2009. Julie Fragar has a little clay sculpture (self portrait positioning the albatross) that caught my eye but it was a cheeky $3k. Koji Ryui's paper constructions ('La Stralia #1', above) were the standouts for me, and a steal at only $1k each. Here the artist has made an abstract kaleidoscopic image by layering the same photo or postcard of a typical Australian scene. Similar in execution to a Peter Coffin image I have from 2006 where he has created a rainbow spiral from found photos. Nice idea, maybe I will 'borrow' it one day. Jonathan Zawada's "draft" was pretty striking. Kind of like a cross between a Damien Hirst spin painting and a landscape, where the horizon of the landscape is stretched around the circumference and the sky becomes blurred in the middle. With a diameter of 120cm this circular work would take up a good portion of your wall, which it would want to for $9k. Christopher Hanrahan's embroidered linen piece "Towards a theory of everything (Insolence for JB)" was my other pick, but then again I like flags and this had the correct proportions. I doubt I'd be the only one who would need to read the artist statement to understand the relevance of the 'insolence' that he had embroidered on the blue polka dot fabric. I also didn't see why he didn't embroider the word a little bigger. He mustn't have a DA in for a flagpole like someone I know!

Points (all to works from 2011) - 3 for Koji's image above, 2 for Jonathan Zawada's draft and 1 for Hanrahan's flag - even if he could've finished the fraying edges. Also, one little request for Sarah - can you please make the numbers a little bigger? Those pins are far, far too small for cats that have left their glasses at the office.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Daniel O'Toole / Max Berry at Harrison Galleries

The tour of our new 'hood continues for the Big Lamington team and Harrison Galleries on Glenmore road was on the agenda today. It is a pretty big space and they managed to squeeze in two artists on the ground floor.

First up was Daniel O'Toole aka Ears. 'The Grid' is primarily a collection of portraits. Quite big ones too, most around 1m x 1m for $1-2k and big ones of 2m x 2m for $3+k. Ears (as he is known) has an interesting, slightly abstract, if a little creepy style which a couple of collectors having fallen for - probably 5 out of 14 of the big ones have sold. Bargain hunters have attacked the salon style wall of smaller pieces - maybe they need to ensure they can live with his style before taking one of the full wall canvases. My favourites were probably the uniforms in pieces like Samurai, Indian Prince, The Admiral and Infantry.

Walking on through the gallery you get to Max Berry's show 'Passenger'. Here there are a couple of big works (around 90 x 90cm for about $1,100) but mostly smaller stuff (20 works sub $300 - even yours truly has sold a piece for more than that!) where the gallery really seems to display a fetish for salon style hanging. The room sheet was a basically a work of art in itself with diagrams of odd rectangles, squares and numbers trying to explain what was what. Max's stuff is a what I would call a little more trippy and anthropomorphic - think Nell style smily faces on mountains. The gallery, more politely, explains that his "work creates a world where every object has a life of its own, a daydream land where houses talk to clouds". 'nuff said.

Points - with the captain as an alter ego I'll give 3 to the Admiral, 2 for the prince and 1 to Max's 'Other Worlds'.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Juan Ford / Michael Lindeman at SSFA - 25 June

It's been a little hectic over here at Big Lamington as we're in the process of changing art HQ's (more on that later) which has taken up a few weekends so we are looking at getting back in the swing when we get an invite in the mail ... weekend afternoon openings? I think it is a great idea, especially in Winter when if its cold and wet I'd prefer being home than out trying to find a cab at 8pm in Zetland. We were able to book a sitter to look after a few of our junior art critics while we took in the new shows at Sullivan + Strumpf at a more leisurely pace.

Juan Ford has got the downstairs space and that faith has been vindicated with plenty of red dots by Saturday afternoon. The only available work was which was both the most expensive of the pieces on show and also totally different in style to the rest (Nobody is Necessary, also from 2009 so not sure how it got in here). Looks like the Ford collectors like his new stuff better than his old stuff (with apologies to regurgitator). He is definitely making the native flora covered in paint his signature. We liked them and wouldn't mind adding one to the collection although the bigger ones don't come cheap (110 x 90cm are all c.$13k) and even the smaller 50cm squares are $6.6k. This was one of those times I didn't mind being beaten to the dots.

Upstairs was Michael Lindeman's new show the Gumbo Variations. I guess I am a little biaised here given our recent purchase, although Michael is also in on the act writing his own review for the show (a nice touch, and funny too). I can see why there were only a half dozen dots for the more than 20 works on offer - you really have to find the exact piece you want and that takes time to think and reflect. I am always trying to see if one of the ads could reference something we already have ('genuine handcrafted fijian wooden picture' was in the running here). It was also great to meet the artist and have a chat. Despite commissioning him we had never actually met before. It was interesting to talk about his recent works such as the Archibald Prize where he actually put his own number down (I can't believe I didn't think to try the number when I was at the AGNSW!) and speculate about what other prizes he could leverage his classified style into (my suggestion was the blake prize).

Points - 3 points to the Fiji ad from Michael Lindeman (although I also really liked the PNG one pictured above). 2 points to Superflower by Juan Ford (I reckon a wattle painted gold would look good for the next show) and 1 point to the genius at SSFA who decided on Saturday openings.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ken + Julia Yonetani at Artereal - 2 June

Some babysitting organised, the Mrs was able to attend her first young ambassador event. Drinks at Artereal Gallery for Ken + Julia Yonetani's new show, 'Still Life: The Food Bowl'. It was a pretty small crowd. I am not sure where everyone else was as this was a great little show to see and it is always great to be able to speak to the artists about their work. I was pretty familiar Ken + Julia's practice. All 4 of my regular readers will recall they scooped the 3 points from the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman visit so I was keen to see the full show ...

It is quite hard to describe the initial reaction to seeing all these salt sculptures. It is a mix of awe and curiosity as you try and work out how they have actually made the salt hard enough. Well just like the Colonel there is a secret recipe to these salt sculptures, and Ken + Julia aren't telling. Luckily the gallery has a couple of spare pieces on hand that you can handle (and lick if you want but the lemon and orange had apparently already been licked and I decided I didn't want sloppy art seconds). They are really dense and much heavier than they look. These pieces highlight the issue of salinity in the food production cycle and use Murray river salt from the producer that makes the posh pink salt you can buy at Coles. I was very impressed with the creativeness to think of salt as a medium, but I guess it isn't that big of a leap from the sugar that Ken used in his barrier reef sculptures when representing Australia at the 2009 biennale. I was also very impressed with the Artereal team and think they have done a great job with an exhibition that has prices for every collector from a couple of entry level pieces available ($250 to $500 for some salt shakers or salt candlesticks) all the way to the $48k chandelier (this was impressive, but luckily we already have two chandeliers from the old plaza hotel in NY). Most of the works were in the $4,000 to $8,000 range with the salt frames (from the Sulman) available for $6k (which is pretty good for a work that was a coin toss away from winning!).

Points - this could be a Big Lamington first as the 3 points goes to the salt frames! There are 5 frames representing all the senses (sense of taste was the Sulman entry), each in an edition of 3. But each of the 5 frames are identical so it really is one edition of 15, just that they are using 5 different names. Even the artist couldn't tell which was which! 2 points goes to the big table (pictured above), yours for $45k. 1 point to the stockroom which had some photos of Ken's biennale work and also a really nice Liam Benson photo that is also under serious consideration.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

MOP projects - 29 May

It was a car free day at Centennial and given my car was full of kids and stale bread we were headed over to Victoria Park near Sydney uni to feed some ducks. But not before a little pit stop at MOP projects to check out their current show ...

'When good curators go bad' starts with the premise that they would get some art world administrators who had fine art backgrounds but who hadn't worked as an artist for 5 years to make some stuff for a group show. I was actually pretty intrigued by the concept. This was supposed to 'open up a dialogue with the past to question what is an artist and how it is defined in today's society'. Which I'm not really buying. If you didn't know who these people are (and I must confess I don't know who most of these jokers are) you would just think you have walked into a really ordinary group show. Lisa Havilah had a funny piece I liked, 'I'm with stupid', but then again I go for text works. My kids liked Bec Dean's karaoke video, especially as their were two headphones to hear the track. Adam Hollingworth and Sophie Kouyoumdjian's photos with neon over stovetops wasn't too bad but the rest was pretty random - I think I could've slipped something in here without anyone noticing. But then again my work always questions what it is not to be an artist. In the next room was another video installation - Jodie Whalan's 60 kilograms. In the bit I saw she was getting a tough sticker (aka a tattoo) on the back of her neck with her target weight - 60 kgs ... okay then, whats on deck for the next trick? No images as MOP don't want to scare you away and the gallery assistant was watching my troop like a hawk as there were a couple of installations that looked at risk to a couple of toddlers racing around the space.

Points - 3 to Lisa, 2 to Bec and 1 to Adam and Sophia. The ducks were much better.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Marrickville tour - 28 May

Inspired by the recent State of Origin I had arranged to meet a few mates over at heavenly Henson Park to take in some league action as the Newtown Jets were hosting my very own Bears for some NSW Cup action. Given this was my first trip out to Marrickville I decided to squeeze in a couple of galleries before kick-off.

Courtesy of one of the maps from the art month sydney website (which was in March but the website still works, gots to love the intrawebs!) I was able to plan a walking tour between ESP gallery, Factory 49 and the Henson Park Hotel. These galleries are both not for profit artist run initiatives. ESP had a group show starting - opening was Saturday at 4pm. Umm, what about the clash with the Jets home game? And they say the arts isn't trying to be elitist! The ESP show was a real mixed bag, everything under $1,000 and it would've wanted to be. I didn't mind Will Coles' cement casts of skulls but that was about it. Factory 49 was a bit more interesting. A partially converted warehouse (I don't know if it ever was a real factory but it probably sounds cooler), they had an interesting installation by Amarie Bergman in the main room. This was a big letter H made in softwall (like a big room divider made from that really tough tyvek paper). Unintentionally funny was that I kept setting off the beeper that let the office know someone was in there as I walked around it, perhaps that was part of the piece. In the office they had some works of Kate Mackay which didn't do all that much for me, although researching her online I would have liked to see her Room Cubed installation from last October.

Points - 3 to the Jets (pictured above with the Frank Hyde shield), a great day had out there. They really turn the clock back with an excellent atmosphere and I managed to pick up a limited edition stubby holder to add to the big lamington collection! 2 to Factory 49, a promising space just around the corner from the pub and the back gate to Henson Park, they should come up with a game day promo to get some more punters through the gallery before kick-off. 1 to ESP.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New contemporary galleries at the AGNSW - 22 May

Opening weekend and I thought I'd brave the crowd with one of my junior art critics in tow for a late Sunday morning stroll. The new galleries are apparently the old storage rooms and occupy the 2nd basement level. You can get there by the stairs, the escalators or even the elevator and by the time we left we had used all three. What were the initial impressions?

Well we arrived via elevator which is not the grandest entrance you can make. I think grand is what they were trying to design for the escalator arrival but I think the art at the staircase is much better. Here you are greeted by Ugo Rondinone's 'clockwork for oracles' which is a collection of framed coloured mirrors and a large Richard Prince cowboy (just so happens this is my favourite Richard Prince and I have it as my computer background, I saw this image auctioned at Phillips in NY back in 2005 when it set the record for most expensive contemporary photography; for a little bit of banking trivia the mirror image of this photo is in Patrick Bateman's apartment in American Pyscho!). I didn't think much of the Christo works. I know he wrapped Little Bay back in the day (before I was even born) but I probably got my fill from him when he did the Gates in Central Park (which I did like). Likewise I was really disappointed with the Jeff Koons stuff on show. I know he does banality but most of his work here (small puppy, mixed rocker, bronze basketball) actually deserved to be in the gift shop rather than the gallery. I have seen much, much better Koons than this. Probably a similar sentiment to the large Thomas Struth photos. The Sol LeWitt works, by contrast, were genuine drawcards. The big room dedicated to his Wall Drawings was very memorable. We were drawn towards the Tony Cragg sculpture which kind of reminded my daughter of a Christmas tree and really liked the Shaun Gladwell video work - approach to mundi mundi, is this on youtube yet? Other works that caught the eye were the Donald Judd sculpture (maybe I liked this as I do need a new set of shelves) and some of the photos of Rosemary Laing (who I recognised from somebody else's collection).

All in all a promising space although the collection, mostly the collection of a single benefactor, is a little mixed - some strong pieces and some ordinary pieces by a mix of household names and others not so well known. I am sure we will be back to check this out again. One other funny thing is that the AGNSW has developed their own character, Pertinos, to lead the kids tours. Mine was absolutely terrified of this crazy green lady and our own tour was designed to avoid any room with them. Maybe next time.

The points today are from my daughter, and I am pretty happy with the allocation so won't even edit - 3 for Richard Prince, great to know that Sydney has a really iconic one of his works. 2 to Tony Cragg's Spyrogyro and 1 for Shaun Gladwell's video - gee we hope he doesn't fall off. Also an honorable mention to the AGNSW gift shop which has helpfully done postcards of the nice stuff.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New acquisitions - Ann Carrington

It is interesting where you learn about new artists: going to galleries and museums, reading magazines, and occasionally reality television. One of our favourite shows of 2010 was this crazy show called Nine by Design which followed two interior decorators who have 7 kids (and here we are complaining 3 is tough!) and build these amazing houses in New York which have really cool interiors. Anyway, one artist that they had a few pieces of was Ann Carrington. My wife adored her 'Pearly Queens' where Ann has appropriated the famous visage of the Queen from the Royal Mail stamps and done them in pearl buttons sewn onto canvas.

After a little bit of sleuthing we found Ann's website and were able to commission our own pearly queen. Unsurprisingly this image has been a hit and echoing David Frazer (who reckons he could make a living of just one of his prints), Ann has quite a few Pearly Queens out there. As a result she gives them all unique locales to reign over, apparently like the actual Pearly Kings and Queens of London fundraising (the image above is the Pearly Queen of Bow from her website). We had given Ann a few suggestions as this was something to remind my wife of her English grandparents and so ours is the Pearly Queen of Basil Street after a favourite haunt of theirs in Knightsbridge.

Points - 3 to Ann for an amazing work. Looks great on the TV and even better in person. 2 to the Mrs for organising it all. I was quite impressed when I arrived home one day to find a huge packing crate waiting near the front door. 1 point for Bob and Cortney for the referral, their book is pretty good too.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Garth Knight at Iain Dawson - 14 May

Second stop on Saturday afternoon saw the clan hit Iain's shop for a flying visit, the time constraint arising as my three year old art critic didn't think much of Garth's body of work and demanded we hit the playground instead. This was fine as I had seen some of these works at the Australian Centre of Photography in a group show earlier this year (that January show was much better than ACP's current one which is quite ordinary for my money). I did find a few things that would give the slippery dip a run for its money ...

The jewelled skull was probably the pick of the crop back then for me - very Damien Hirst (a very small print of 'for the love of god' graces our stockroom). Looking around his current show I am not sure anything was going to beat that image. Garth looks to be a master of photoshop - manipulating images of jewellery into all these different forms. I was disappointed that these were all so big - of the 16 images only 2 had both dimensions under 100cm and 11 had both dimensions bigger than 100cm, the biggest was 100cm x 225cm. I remember reading a few years ago a NY dealers advice to artists to make photos big because they sell well. From the last few photo shows I've seen it looks like this advice is now universal. The skull looked the most popular with the punters with quite a few red dots on this edition of 10 (125 x 100cm - $3,750). Iain's website says there is a smaller skull on offer, this is still 75 x 60cm, although I wouldn't mind a 30 x 25cm - I think it would still work. The bigger stuff was up to $4,600 which is a lot for a photo but the room sheet says these are all c-prints, and not that I know all that much about photos but a c-print usually means a real old school kodak style chemical print rather than a digital print or giclee which means a big colour printer.

Points - 3 for the jeweled skull, I'd consider playing this off against my Hirst print if they were of similar size; 2 for the beetle, which is the buy of the show at only $1,800; and 1 for the honey bee which was one of the bigger works but did justify its size with the details in it. You can see the whole show here