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'.