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!