Sunday, January 23, 2011

Curious colony at the SH Ervin gallery - 23 January

Is it too early in 2011 to say Curious colony is the exhibition of the year? Maybe, but it was pretty damn good. This is a show that was at the Newcastle regional art gallery last year that I was jonesing to see and rather than schlep up the freeway we let it come to us courtesy of the National Trust owned SH Ervin gallery in the Rocks.

Well my patience was rewarded and I really liked most of the stuff here. The curator, Lisa Slade, has done a wonderful job combining a number of colonial era pieces with contemporary pieces inspired by them. This show is on in Sydney until the 20th of February and I will definitely be going again.

I had taken one of my little art critics along and she was quite content sitting in front of the Joan Ross video, a piece we had seen last year at GBK. Near this were some of colonial artist Joseph Lycett works, the Corroboree (spelt 'carauberie' back then) was particularly notable - dark and mysterious, probably just like Newcastle at night was to the early settlers. Narelle Jubelin's embroidered holey dollars were interesting as was some of the old emu eggs mounted on the silver stands.
Highlights for me were some of Louise Weaver's colourful birds (taxidermy birds that she crochets over), Robyn Stacey's photographic still lifes (who we had just seen at ACP and which echo earlier colonial pieces on the adjacent wall), and Danie Mellor's native chest with its taxidermy kangaroo, emu and black cockatoo.

The undoubted star of the show was the Newcastle Chest. Here the Newcastle Gallery (funded by supporters including a family friend of Mums!) have created a wooden chest (courtesy of cabinet maker Scott Mitchell) which mimics the Macquarie Chest (a collectors cabinet from 1800's which is full of birds, shells and other miscellany. The contemporary chest is full of really interesting art. La Perouse shell artist Esme Timbury has contributed some boomerangs, Lionel Bawden some pencil sculptures, Louise Weaver some taxidermy birds and some paintings of Philip Wolfhagen.

Points - 3 each for all involved in the chest, amazing stuff and needless to say, I want one! 2 points to Louise Weaver, league of bird lovers eat your heart out. 1 point to Danie Mellor for both his contributions - I really like his paintings that look like blue and white porcelain with native motifs added.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

David Frazer artist talk at the National Art School - 13 January

It was a full house at the National Art School today to hear David Frazer speak at lunchtime. I was looking forward to this session as I had seen David on one of the 'Artist at work' specials they have on the ABC. David has a diverse art practice: painting, woodblock prints and etchings, and even the odd sculpture. After seeing the documentary I would consider him a printmaker and it was interesting to hear him complain about occasionally being pigeonholed solely as a printmaker. If I was going to add a David Frazer to the Big Lamington collection (and I would like to), I would probably get a print. Sorry about that David.

His talk, like his art, was autobiographical and he explained how he came to develop his art practice. It was a very interesting talk but what I found most fascinating was his commentary about what sells. Burning houses, for instance, don't sell - contact him if you want a nice painting of one. Neither did a painting of a toilet block. The image shown above (Another night on earth) has sold out its wood block run and is now into a lithograph (edition of 40 going at $800 a throw at one of his gallerists so he is doing pretty well from that 30 x 40 cm image). It must be interesting as a working artist to think about how what you are creating might sell. He thought his latest show, which features country houses, was his best work but it didn't sell well.

We will keep an eye out on his Sydney gallery for when he next has a show up here. Failing that I think the printmaking course at the next NAS summer school looks like it would be good with David at the helm. Only one set of points given out today - 3 for David, best on ground.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Summer Feast at Iain Dawson Gallery - 12 January

It's a slow art start to 2011 in commercial gallery land and quite rightly too as I am still on holiday and am not sure I'd want my solo show in early January. Iain Dawson has pulled together a group show to keep the walls full and there is so much art he's calling it the "Summer Feast".

A quick scan around the main room caused a momentary pause. Where is the floor sheet? But then I noticed a great touch - prices on the wall. I liked it. My top picks from the main room were Natasha Cordasic's tapestry of pride and shame (pictured above) which was enamel on aluminium (there were a couple of these, quite big and striking which it would want to be at $6.5k) and Alun Rhys Jones' yellow portrait which looked really familiar - this was the same work I had seen in the National Art School honours year student exhibition - gee I should have bought there before the gallery price rise!

Iain himself was on deck on a quiet Wednesday and was a pleasure to meet and talk to. It is always interesting to speak to the gallerists about their work and more so given Iain is a minor celebrity over here at Big Lamington given that he has been featured in our favourite magazine (Monocle) and was one of the guests when Tyler Brule taped his weekly podcast in Sydney last year.

Points - 3 to Iain, an interesting and passionate gallerist and we'll be back to see what he puts on for 2011; 2 to Natasha for the large aluminiums and 1 for Alun - go the NAS alum.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Australian centre for photography visit - 11 January

ACP have two exhibitions running all the way through January.  The first one you will come across (in the lobby and in the front room) is called "Decline and Fall" which focuses on the work of Gerard O'Connor.  Out the back is "Sumptuary" which incorporates work of five separate artists in their own rooms. 

It's hard not to see Decline and Fall first, especially when you see the warning regarding nudity.  There were some interesting images here, all very heavily styled and photoshopped but I liked the composition of his wedding series best.  They didn't bring to mind the diverse traditions of William Hogarth's 18th century moral satires as the room notes suggested but did leave an impression on the viewer.

I preferred Sumptuary on the whole but the quality here was uneven, understandable given the different artists involved.  My favorite images were still lifes by Robyn Stacey which referenced luxury in the age of colonial Sydney.  Pictured above is Rouse and the Cumberland Plain which has introduced plants on the left gradually being replaced by native plants to the right.  I was looking forward to seeing Alexia Sinclair's room as I have been following her for a couple of years and saw this series being made on an episode of art nation last year.  Her work is called the Royal Dozen and features highly styled (again) portraits of historical figures.  I am not sure of the significance of the dozen and if I was curating her room probably would have made her choose her favourite six and just made those ones bigger (in photography bigger is usually better). 

First points for the 2011 season! 3 to Robyn Stacey, 2 to Alexia Sinclair, 1 Gerard O'Connor.