Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas eve special at MOP and pompom - 23 December

Okay - I realise this is a little late!  But I did want to put the 59th (and last) post up for 2012.  I could've made 60 but will defer Taboo until 2013.  This was a Christmas eve eve eve special to check out MOP and Galerie pompom before they (and I) take a long break.

First up was MOP.  Here Sarah Contos (yes, more artists with websites, keep it up) has a show called 'My Eyes Through Your Mountains'. I really liked this.  I finally got around to reading the exhibition essay by Joel Mu (who guest curated the show at Alaska I quite liked) and it is pretty reassuring as even Joel makes the same titular links as I did.  Apparently Sarah likes working with images of old iconic Aussie performers, Olivia Newton John, Kamahl, Dame Joan Sutherland etc.  I didn't realise that the embellished screenprints (above 'Spring (DJS)') was actually meant to be Dame Joan, I think a little cut and paste job here.  There were 4 of these screenprints and only $650 each so a total bargain although I would struggle getting these breasts in the house, even covered up with bead tassels.  Family friendly was 'the bluest moon' (pictured top) which was neon on an old album cover.  Loved it.  And only $850?  I should've got her sooner ... and not spent my 2012 budget already!  Great work MOP.

Next door at pompom was a good old fashioned group show called 'heaven or las vegas'. Which sounded promising but to me had nothing to do with the works on show, but that is kind of par for the course with modern curatorial practice so you barely even make note of it nowadays.  Here I quite liked Craig Bender's photos.  Especially the ones where he orients them a little squiff.  My favourite was a work called 'Ballad of the New World II' which was turned on its side.  Mr Squiggle eat your heart out.    I did like Vivian Cooper-Smith's works which appear crumpled and then re-photographed (instal photo of 'The sound of tomorrow 1 & 2' above).  Also appealing was Todd Robinson's funny sculpture of a pink balloon called 'he knows at any moment it may be lost in a vertical field'! Much better than 'untitled'.

Points:  3 to Sarah for her Olivia Neon. I want one. Did Melissa Tkautz ever release on vinyl?  2 points for Craig's side photo and 1 point back to Sarah for her collagey screenprints.  In my interpretation those were the mountains ...

Dobell Prize at AGNSW - 6 December

So let me get this straight.  The Trustees of the Dobell Foundation decided to axe the prize and instead run with an invitation only show every 2 years?  Way to disenfranchise young and emerging artists!  One of the great things about a prize is that it is open to anyone.  Hell, even I was considering having a crack (I have at least a week of NAS drawing instruction under my belt!).  Art prizes are just the way we do things in Australia, we like winners in sport and I think that goes the same for the arts.  So yes in summary I think it is a fucking terrible decision.  The Dobell Foundation Trustees had better put on one hell of a drawing event in two years time!

On to this years show (which is open until 10 February).  I am only just getting around to posting about this a few weeks late due to a hectic Christmas season so I have to consult my notes extensively.  I think this has moved around the floors of the AGNSW for the last 3 years but I did prefer to take the stairs up to the exhibition this year.  As per usual form I disagree with the judges decision.  Gareth Sansom's series of small drawings called 'Made in Wadeye' won the official comp, but to me this seemed more like a gong for lifetime achievement rather than the work in question. After much deliberation I think my Dobell for 2012 would've gone to Katherine Hattam's 'Heidegger's Hut' (pictured above, taken before I realised they actually have images on the intrawebs for about half the finalists this year, I have gone with mine as the colours on my iphone seem brighter).  Graham Fransella has quite a good watercolour entry this year, luckily for him there is still the Trustee's watercolour prize within the Wynne!  Quite a few other recognizable entries, like former winner Suzanne Archer and Wendy Sharpe's sketch for her recent show at King St gallery.  I always make a point of asking the guides what their favourite was and in this case the Pam Hallandal would've taken the points.  There is still time so go and see for yourself.

Points:  3 for Katherine Hattam.  2 points for Marinka Bozzec's 'Box Office Poison', (above, a series of small drawings. Marinka is also on flickr so you can see some of her other work).  1 point will go to Craig Waddell's 'You are the lightness in my dark' which for some reason isn't available on the AGNSW site but was a great drawing of waratahs which resonated with the state patriot in me.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Archie Moore at The Commercial - 1 December

Hot one today so I enjoyed the aircon on my way over to The Commercial.  This was my first visit and for some reason I can't stop singing the chorus to that 80s song 'feels like the first time'.  Anyway, the team behind The Commercial were really nice and it was a really enjoyable visit, especially 'for the very first time'.  Sorry.

I had read about this show on tweeter of all things (which I do suggest you get by the way, and follow me of course, and separately also follow Michael Reid because he is a really interesting character and you get art and all sorts stuff, I see a twitter post coming in Dec/Jan).  This was the last day of Archie Moore's Flag's, and given that December 1st is West Papua Independence Day (where they raise the morning star flag in defiance of Indonesian rule) I thought it an appropriate show to visit.  Archie has produced 10 different versions of the Aboriginal flag (see above for the gallery shot).  They are 'acrylic on nothing' in that he paints them on a rubber mat and then peels away the rubber to just leave the paint that has dried together.  I thought these would be quite brittle but if you ask nicely you can have a touch and they are very soft and move like a vinyl banner.  There is a real mix between the more overt political flags (like the hammer & sickle and the swastika flags) and the more social progressive flags (like the heart and the peace sign).  They were also great value at $2k a throw.  Unfortunately for me I was too late and the National Gallery had picked up three works (the most political ones) and another institution had also picked up a brace.  I think the only one still available was the rainbow which I could understand as the red / yellow / black is a really strong colour combo and the rainbow didn't really appear vibrant against the background. I really liked this show, but then again I am a bit of a vexillological geek (flagpole coming soon!) and was impressed at the re-imagining of such a recognisable standard.

Points:  3 to Aboriginal Heart (pictured top).  2 points to Aboriginal Deadly (pictured above).  I only learnt about the phrase 'Be Deadly' from the Tony Albert poster and now I know there is a flag as well and it does look deadly!  1 to Aboriginal Peace.  I think Archie just put himself on the Big Lamington wish list for 2013, especially if he does some cotton flags which I think pose less conservational issues than painting on nothing.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Grad show at the National Art School - 29 November

With the new James Bond on Monday and Alaska last night we'd used up the babysitting sources for this week so I was flying solo over to NAS to check out the grad show opening.  Would the Mrs be kicking herself for choosing Daniel Craig over the students? Lets find out ...

The studios are open for the first few days and there are heaps of grads.  That adds up to more work than I can cover in a quick post.  You can see why the editorial in this months Australian Art Review wondered if "there is too much art-student toothpaste being squeezed onto too small an art-world toothbrush".  Kelley Stapleton's Perspective Portal was the star of the show in the main gallery (pictured above). This was on the second floor and had many punters lining up to walk through.  In the main space I also liked Bligh Jackson's animation video work of 'Pollock Painting'.  He had the action in a single circle on screen, kind of like the Bond opening but with mad dripping instead of the gun pointing.  Montana Miller was also a standout here.  She was doing drawing on underwear and nighties.  The underwear seemed a little nana style to me but then as my better half pointed out you can probably fit more on to that style of garment than a g-string.  Her work in the drawing studio was my favourite here ('Little Prayer for you', pictured above).  Also in the drawing studio was Veronica Habib whose 'Safety Line' series re-imagined your bog standard travel 10 bus pass with some social commentary (pictured below).  I quite liked these and think she should contact NSW Transport to get some on the buses for real.  Veronica also helpfully has a website which is I think a must for any art grad and something even AAR might agree increases your chance of getting on the toothbrush.  I also have Clementine Barnes and Kit Christian's names written down as artists that impressed but as I am getting to my notes a week late I can't put works to the names (and unhelpfully google can't find much on them yet) so you'll have to go and have a look see for yourself - the show is open until December 8.  From memory one of them did these cool colour works with bright yellow or orange on the back so that the works had a visual effect of glowing.  Pretty cool.  I think the other were these quite naive Basquiatish works that I liked because of incongruous overuse of rainbows.  Go figure.

Points:  3 to Kelley Stapleton for 'Perspective Portal'. 2 for Montana Miller for her drawings on undies. I have a bright orange pair of budgie smugglers from my beach running club that I might just commission for a lobster, drop me a note! 1 for Veronica for the tickets and for having a website.  Congratulations everyone on graduating. See you in some galleries.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Passing Parade at Alaska Projects - 28 November

A little MCA young ambassador outing to see the latest group show at Alaska Projects, called Passing Parade.  The crew at Alaska are all MCA alums so they welcomed this motley bunch of art lovers with open arms. Now Alaska is a crazy art space, it is in the middle of nowhere in Kings Cross.  More precisely it on the 2nd underground floor in a council car park.  The proprietors of this artist run space approached council and scored a tiny former mechanics office for their gallery.  And it really works.  Enough with the car park, let's check out the art ...

This show was curated by Joel Mu.  I was dead keen to see Reko Rennie.  Yes he of the now famous Taylor Square art installation (which Sydney Council have apparently extended for three years).  Now I think Reko is fantastic and his work has really grown on me, to the extent I am kicking myself for not picking up one of his vibrant diamond works when he showed at MOP a year or so ago.  This time he has again stencilled a wall with the trademark diamond pattern of his people.  But, seeing as how this is basically what he did at Taylor Square on a bigger scale he has also added a vintage Australian flag which he has outlined in whitewash an aboriginal flag over.  The work is called 'Original' (pictured below) and is political in a subtle way, on first glance I didn't even recognise the aboriginal flag outline.  In front of this was an amazing airbrush job on a standalone car bonnet.  Called "Kingswood high with the windows down" (pictured top) this was the work of The Motel Sisters.  Now initially I didn't know anything about the Motel Sisters.  I had come mainly to see Reko, but it turns out that the Motel Sisters is the group act of one of my other favourite artists - Liam Benson (the other half is Naomi Oliver).  They really play up their Western Sydney background and explore a bit of bogan culture.  The airbrush bonnet was so over the top kitsch it was amazing.  It even had a cat with unicorn wings.  And even better, it was a portrait of the Motel Sisters.  You know, I can kind of see a bit Liam in drag on the left, and I am kind of scared to say that he looks hot.  Other artists represented included Sarah Contos with a random scuplture of found and crafted objects called 'Cornucopia'.  It was really great to hear the curator speak about all the works but even after hearing Joel's spiel I am not sure I got what Sarah was about with this.  There were also a couple of video works which are hard to really appreciate in a crowded group setting.  I thought Zehra Ahmed's were pretty good and I was glad to see they were made on an iPhone - I have no excuse!  George Tillianakis' work was tough to approach without the backstory, which did explain it all quite neatly.  As a former New Yorker I can appreciate that no one really batted an eyelid when he did one of his performances in NYC.

Points:  3 to the Motel Sisters - that was awesome.  I want to buy a 2nd hand commodore and put that bonnet on it and just do laps.  2 to Reko Rennie. Not sure I should praise him too much as he is right at the top of my "like to buy" list!  1 to Zehra Ahmed and her iPhone.  Also a highly commended to Sebastian for bringing this crazy space to life.  Loved it.  And another highly commended ribbon to Joel Mu who gave a really passionate back story to the show he put together.  I'll be back.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The RBS collection at Shapiro - 24 November

So the ongoing shake out in the financial industry has also claimed a corporate collection (and art prize). The former ABN Amro emerging art prize (which was renamed after the Royal Bank of Scotland following a takeover) is no more after RBS sold of most of its Aussie operations to the Malaysian CIMB.  Now Shapiro is selling off their art this Monday night ...

Usually I would tell you to follow the advice of collector Valeria Napoleone, whose quote in the March 2011 issue of Monocle has stuck in my head ... "I don't go to auctions because I don't buy secondhand; I buy directly from the galleries or the artists".  I also prefer to support the artist by buying in the primary market but this would be a great opportunity to pick up some fairly well provenanced works so I am sure there will be solid interest (I am sure it will be closely watched by the auction crowd as there isn't really a secondary market for emerging artists here in contrast to say Philips de Pury in NY).  There was also a pretty decent article on it in the AFR to stir the punters to action.  The RBS collection runs from lot 61 to lot 94 and there were quite a few familiar names, Ah Xian, Michael Zavros, Petrina Hicks etc.  My top pick was definitely Lionel Bawden.  His 'Striated Landscape - Sunset 2004' (pictured top) won him the Emerging Artist Award in 2004.  Here it is estimated for $10-15k.  I just loved how Shapiro has it in a glass box so you can see all around it (and even under it, where you more clearly see the staedtler pencils he uses in these creations).  I don't think there is a lot of this out there so reckon it might do well (if I had the spare cash I think I would break Ms. Napoleone's rules).  Also great was Dane Lovett whose 'Twelve Years' (pictured below) won him the prize in 2010.  I quite like the idea of obsolete technology that he explores, more so because videotapes feature prominently in one of my favourite movies, the investment banking how to - american pyscho!  There was quite a lot of photography, Narelle Autio's Splash won it in 2005, Petrina Hicks' Lambswool won it in 2008 and Helen Pynor's Milk won it in 2009. It will be interesting to see how this prize winning work sells.  I will post back what everything sells for after the auction.

Points:  3 to Lionel.  Great work, and interesting to see how the scale of this piece predates his massive Wynne prize winner later in his career.  This one is also easier to fit in a home situation as well.  2 to Dane Lovett, surprised about the estimate here ($2-3k) given what his newer work sells for in the galleries.  1 to Fiona Lowry.  Nice piece and huge, so pretty good value for money (at an estimate of $4-6k).  Overall it was a pretty decent collection of work, and kind of instructive for those who are also collecting.  Maybe now there is an opening for the Big Lamington Art Prize ...

POST SCRIPT:  Wow.  A solid outing for emerging art.  Those estimates turned out a little conservative ...
Dane Lovett sells for $7,150
Fiona Lowry sells for $11,050 and
Lional Bawden sells for $20,150.

Del Kathryn Barton at Roslyn Oxley - 24 November

Del Kathryn Barton's latest show was closing on the 24th and seeing how DKB is at the top of my better half's wish list we swung past for a quick look.

As you can see from the images it is pretty much genitalia close-ups in watercolour.  It works out to $5k for each organ, sold in groups of 2s, 3s and 6s.  Unlike her last show which could've sold out multiple times there is not a single red dot in sight.  Take that allegations of commercialism! (although I am sure her new book will be a big stocking stuffer this Chrissy)  I am not surprised by the lack of sales. I am pretty sure I would not want a watercolour of someone else's erection in my house, and I am not entirely sure the Mrs would be comfortable with me sitting for Del with a raging one either.  On the whole the most surprising thing for me was that there wasn't some other purpose for this group of work (some art prize or commission etc).  As a solo show it was pretty small and I have been to a few group exhibitions recently where these works would've fitted right in (Sexes or the even the Blake prize - there is a spiritual angle here, in the fertility sense that del often evokes).  All in all this is one of those shows we should've seen on opening night as I needed to hear the accompanying spiel to understand where the artist is heading (I think we had a clash with FONAS).

Points: 3 to 'go me true' (excerpt of 1 of the 6 pictured top), 2 to 'the fountain of him' (pictured above) and 1 to 'more the him'.  The sculpture I just had no idea about.  Also a highly commended to twitter which is the only source of review I had for this going in, one arty type I followed declared herself 'whelmed' by the show.  I take that as neutral (neither under or over) and I think I am in the same camp.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blake Prize at S.H. Ervin Gallery - 21 November

The Blake Prize is the one that gets artists to "investigate ideas and issues surrounding spiritual thought and religion in contemporary art".  Big Lamington was here last year and didn't really feel the spiritual vibe.  Would the move from NAS to the SH Ervin Gallery lead to better things at the Blake?  Let's see ...

I'm not a huge fan of the venue change.  I don't have anything against the SH Ervin gallery per se, except for it is a real schlep from anywhere in town and they are charging 7 rods for something that was free last year.  And I am not entirely sure it is worth it, you can see the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman for ten bucks so will be interesting to see how many punters they get in.  To me, you will get the folks that buy powerball tickets when the jackpot is "only 3 million", aka the true believers.  Speaking of believing I think it really does matter as to your own faith as to how you interpret the spiritual and religious.  There are some traditional aboriginal dot paintings for instance, that look to me like any other aboriginal works (which is to say I think, oh aboriginal art, rather than oh that's spiritual).  Same with Tim Johnson's tibetan style painting (pictured above, Lakshma) which are more ethnic to me rather than religious.  There was actually quite a lot of buddhist inspired work, mantras, monks and Hyun-Hee Lee's little buddhist prayers that were written on scraps of paper and sewn onto the canvas.  I love Danie Mellor's art and really liked his entry this year, a memento mori called 'Bulluru Storywater' (detail below) which also had these quite good place names all around the drawing that were covered in shells.  Interesting work, and much better in the flesh than online.  I couldn't believe the judges split the honours this year, a bit of a cop out if you ask me.  If I had to choose between Fabian Astore's video and Evelyn Kotai's mantras I probably would've leaned towards the video.  Despite the judges view I thought Stephen Frost's video of New Guinea tribal customs was better but then again I am all over the Free Papua cause.  One of the more spiritual works in my mind was Vanessa Barbay's Lamb of God (pictured top) which was described as a decomposition print involving a stillborn lamb down in the Monaro region of NSW.  To me, that was quite biblical in a "behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" sense.

Points:  3 for the Lamb of God, this also got my vote for the people's choice.  2 for Danie Mellor, this was probably my favourite work of contemporary art but I opted for the lamb as it filled the brief better.  Lastly I will give 1 for Tim's Lakshma, great use of colours and technique but I blame those hippy stores like tree of life for commoditising buddhist imagery for me!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

SEXES at Carriageworks - 20 November

A lovely Tuesday evening weather wise and the senior members of the Big Lamington team were off to visit Carriageworks for a few drinks courtesy of the good folks at Performance Space.  This was the launch of their 2013 season but I was more interested in checking out SEXES their latest exhibition (and yes it is all caps and italics).

Billed as "a critical survey of recent contemporary Australian art, the project explodes binary notions of gender and sexuality to examine and celebrate a multiplicity of perspectives and practices", I was actually just keen to see a few familiar names.  Liam Benson, Christian Thompson, Tara Gill and Pilar Dupont, Tracey Moffatt and even the Kingpins were some of the big names involved in this project.  I am a big fan of Eric Bridgeman's work although his contribution was a little too Tom of Finland for me this time around.  I liked Cigdem Aydemir's hijab based work, same sensibility as the video work he had at Gaffa recently.  The best stuff for me was hidden away in the room with the warning (despite the fact Eric Bridgeman's work was probably the most explicit and out in the open!).  Top pick here was Liam Benson's photos (top, Glitterface, above Coat of Arms).  These were on topic but in a much more subtle and thoughtful way than a lot of the other entries (which were a little more in your face so to speak).  Also fantastic was Tracey Moffatt and Gary Hillberg's video collaboration called "Other".  Here they have stitched film clips together a la Christian Marclay's Clock but instead of watches the common theme here is all those wistful looks that people give each other in the movies, in particular between races. So Mutiny on the Bounty makes it (and twice, the Marlon Brando and the Anthony Hopkins versions) and a number of other familiar and not so familiar movies (screen shot below).  It is always enjoyable to watch something like that, as you are trying to pick the references.  It was much easier to watch than the Gill / Dupont flick which was much more slower paced (and recognisably 'arty').  Maybe I like my video work more mainstream!

Points:  3 for Liam Benson.  I love the wattle image (we have it in the collection) and I was pretty chuffed to see it stand out so well in this group show.  2 to Tracey and Gary for their video 'collage' and 1 to Christian Thompson.  By the way, I think this is a huge find but 'Other' is on the interwebs so you can watch it at home.  More of this please.  Now if I can only track down that icebreaker video from the biennale ...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sydney Ball at Sullivan + Strumpf - 17 November

Quick visit to see the latest from the good folks at SSFA.  This show is by the elder statesman of their stable, Syd Ball.  To help me check out the wares I actually had the most junior of critics from my stable, my two year old daughter (who thankfully was not the kid making the racket at the opening).

This was actually a great show for my junior critic.  These works are billed as colour abstractions and colours is what a 2 year old responds to best.  We had a very meaningful discussion about the merits of each respective work, mainly due to the choices of colours (pictured top is #17, a favourite of my junior critic due to the use of pink, green and blue).  I also quite liked them and I reckon they would look great in the home, although there is a lot of opportunity cost here.  Then again, a 5 page CV in a 30 page catalogue book is usually suggestive of some 5 figure price tags.  The best bit for me was actually seeing the backs of these works, I was lucky to get a look after asking about how they were hanging.  It is interesting to see how Syd screws all the panels together with brackets.  I actually reckon there is a separate body of work there for someone documenting the backs of these.  In my mind the only improvement would be in regards naming these works, they are all a number between 12 and 28.  I am not sure if there is any significance there, beyond potentially the order in which they were produced, but I think it is a wasted opportunity.  I definitely subscribe to the Damien Hirst school of coming up with crazy names and just as his spot paintings were all chemicals like LSD think you could give these each a unique name.

Points.  3 to #17, 2 to #15 and 1 to #12.  See what I mean about the numbers?  It's just like ordering at the Chinese just up the road, and if you are interested those numbers would get you a vegetarian laksa, a thom khar gai and a tom yum soup from the thai joint at 5 Ways!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

FONAS plate auction - 15 November

Hey I was at this last year! Well, when you are on to a good thing, stick to it.  It's a nice evening, the wife and I sneak in an early Darlo dinner (recommend the argentine meat platter at Boca and the always good messina for gelato) and then head off and try and donate some money to the Friends of the National Art School (that's where they get the FONAS from ... but you probably gathered that already).

This is, wait for it .... a really mixed bag.  Over one hundred lots of the great and good and the people kindly trying (like Labor minister Tanya Plibersek who should really stick to her day job of taxing and spending). Quite a few familiar names, Reg Mombassa, Luke Scibberas, Guy Maestri, Wendy Sharpe et al.  My wife and I chose two plates each to have a flutter on. My top picks were Alun Rhys Jones' CMYK skull (pictured above) and Deborah Beck's NAS 2012 (pictured below).  The Mrs loved Annabel Butler's Tractor (no picture, she hasn't joined the iphone world yet, I know) and Lauren Murphy's Bike. Also in the mix was Maryanne Wick's Lizotica Ceramica and Caroline Karllsen's Untitled.  Well, unfortunately just due to the way they close the silent auction around the room in order our back up plates were off the market before the main gigs were decided.  My wife lost out in a dodgy finish as some art thief stole the tractor with a bid after the curtain had come down (admittedly he would say "as" the curtain was closing). No such bad luck for me with Alun's skull joining the Big Lamington collection.

Points:  3 to Alun, good to see an Iain Dawson alumni around the traps.  I love the phantom, and I love memento mori in art, and I really like this skull.  2 to Annabel's tractor.  I have a 3 year old art critic who would've gone nuts for this, but rest assured, there will be some vehicles arriving for Christmas, just probably not of the art variety and more of the tonka variety. 1 point will go to Deborah Beck, this appealed to my parochial instincts (and by the way, what was with the latest art collector mag kind of slagging off parochialism in art? I mean what is wrong with Australian collectors preferring to buy Australian artists?).  Well done to all.  Also highly commended to Todd Fuller volunteering to man the check out queue - a thankless task that I will give thanks for.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Leila Jeffreys at Tim Olsen - 10 November

So if you saw three junior critics tearing around Leila Jeffrey's new show Biloela on the weekend and squawking like parrots then you witnessed a Big Lamington family art outing in all its glory.  Thankfully we negotiated the sculptures in the main room before getting into the little side room where Leila has her show.  We had seen her at Iain Dawson back in the day with the budgies and now it was time for the cockies.

If you happen to be one of the special people out there you would know that the Big Lamington team has a soft spot for cockatoos.  We had letterpress birth announcements made for each of our 3 junior critics in turn and each had their own cockatoo illustrated by a great artist based in Canberra.  From memory we started with a sulphur crested cockatoo, had a yellow tail black cockatoo and also a palm cockatoo in the mix.  Maybe it is that fond family memory but I really liked those ones the best here.  "Seisa" (pictured top) is a great big photo.  All the images are in the 112 x 90 cm range and these will run you $2k for an edition of 12.  I would love one but thankfully my 2012 budget is gone, as I would've agonised over that price for a photo. I mean it is big, so that gets a check, but that price is also unframed so throw in another couple of hundred for perspex.  Luckily for Leila not many other folks share my qualms about manufactured scarcity and the dilemma of the edition in the digital age as there were plenty of red spots up on the wall.  

Points: 3 to Seisa, 2 to Pete the red tailed black cockatoo (above) and 1 to Slim the sulphur crested cocky.  Nice work Leila.  What about the Iain Dawson diaspora I have seen lately, Troy Emery at Martin Brown, Leila at Tim Olsen, Alun Rhys Jones at MOP. Maybe I need a new label, "iain dawson alumni" ...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cordeiro & Healy / Primavera at the MCA - 8 November

This was a midweek lunchtime visit to the MCA to see both the Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro retrospective and in the spirit of a good old fashioned 'two-for-one' Thursday also Primavera 2012.

First up was Claire and Sean, also because their plane is on the front lawn so you kind of can't miss that on your way into the gallery.  It is bright and demands attention but I didn't really get the whole 9/11 angle.  I mean 9/11 was on a massive scale and this is a little red cessna that looks like it would come off second best against the solid sydney sandstone of the old maritime services board building.  Inside was much better.  I really liked the small plane that they had cut into pieces, posted by air mail over to the US and then posted back ("Par Avion", pictured top).  I think this is their strong suit, when they play to their nomadic nature and moving.  Packing rope and tape is everywhere.  Their projects photograph well, the images from "Deceased Estate" (above) and where they piled up all the video cassettes ("Lifespan", below) are great, but these are also very big photos so it would be interesting to see them a little smaller (in photoland, bigger is usually better).  I think I saw that video stack or something similar on cockatoo island a few years back but I love how it looks in the palace in Venice, the contrast between the centuries old building and the tapes is great.  The Ikea stuff is also pretty clever, the shelves stuffed with books and the dinosaur strapped into some other furniture, "Future Remnant" (not that it was immediately obvious why the dinosaur was there, but it looked cool).

Primavera was just like you'd expect, things you will like mixed with things that make you go hmmm (thank you Freedom Williams). The first big hmmm was Kate Mitchell's pile of peanuts.  Kate has counted out one nut for each day of her life.  She was quoted in the SMH as saying that "it is really all about context. If you make bread in the bakery you're a baker, if you make bread in the gallery you're an artist".  Maybe, but are you an artist taking the piss?  In hindsight it might've worked if she had used activated almonds.  This was contrasted with her video, "Fall Stack" (production still below).  This was fantastic.  Kate has lined up 5 screens vertically and so gives the effect of falling through (in a roughly synchronised manner) 5 different shop awnings.  I was interested to see Anastasia Klose's performance work.  This is where she sits in a recreated living room and from what I gather just bums around.  Unhelpfully she takes her lunchbreak outside of the gallery.  Hmmm, maybe the MCA could spring for a sandwich to be delivered and she could take a break later in the day when all the corporate crowd has returned to work?

Points: 3 for Kate's Fall Stack. This was great, how come no postcards of this.  I have to buy the Primavera book?  2 points for Healy and Cordeiro's Par Avion, this really suits a big gallery space.  1 point will go to Lifespan, in a way it is similar in concept to the nuts but just executed on a grander scale (with the nuts being a days of a life and the tapes running times representing the average life expectancy of someone born in the 70s).  And also because 'I have to return some videotapes' is probably my all time favourite alibi ...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NAS postgrad show - 1 November

Approaching year end means we start rolling into end of school shows.  First up for the Big Lamington team is the NAS postgraduate show.  This is mainly people doing their BFA Honours year, although there are a handful of MFA candidates.  Let's see what the students have in store ...

One day I will tire of describing an art school show as a mixed bag. But today is not that day. This was even more over all the shop than usual, it doesn't appear that students concentrations matter anymore.  I thought some of the drawing team had some good sculptures, likewise with the painting.  To be honest some printmakers looked like they were drawing.  You get the drift.  The most impressive piece of the night in my mind was Gabrielle Hirst's (from the drawing dept) sculptural installation called "Mnemosyne" (no, you look it up yourself).  This work (pictured at top) was made up of hundreds of those special crystal trees that grow when you add water.  We have had a couple here at home and I can think of a few junior critics who would like to see this. This work is obviously ephemeral but I heard Gabrielle also does photos of these pieces.  And her drawings weren't too bad but even in the drawing area she had a video. Why do they ask people to specify what they are concentrating in nowadays? Also right up there was Nadia Odlum (from painting) who had a lot of these really trippy geometric installations that nearly make you dizzy.  Very good although probably a bugger to live with, despite that I loved that she had a business card out for punters to pick up.  You've got to hustle in this world and we respect that. I am always on the hunt for a possible commission from this show (speaking of which we bumped into NAS alumni Angus Fisher checking out the wares, he has a show at Australian Galleries in the Melbourne in 2013 - always happy to plug an artist in the collection, which is another story in itself but I am getting way off track). Other highlights included Brandon Trakman's street artist style paintings directly on the walls and Amanda Seddon's propaganda pieces.  I liked how both artists incorporate text into their work.  Students love a bit of flesh and Kate Alstergren's subdued palette didn't disappoint with some provocative studies and other highlights included the guy who made the milk crate circle that looked like a low rent stargate (apologies but I forgot to write down your name).  At NAS you do expect to see some great technique on view and I thought Elliot Nimmo was one of the better exponents here.  

Points:  3 for Gabrielle's crystal trees.  Very clever, miles ahead of the field. 2 for Nadia Odlum's geometric patterns (I could see maybe a flag commission here). 1 point to Brandon for his use of text, a great quote in the above image which was a detail from his main installation work which referenced Ayn Rand quite heavily. Lastly, can someone from NAS hit up Armani (the new sponsor) for more beers at the next opening? I wasn't even able to wet my whistle tonight. Thank you.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize - 27 October

Wanting to see where my council rates end up I always get along to check out the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize.  This exhibition just opened today (yay, a timely post) so get down and check it out yourself - it is open until 11 November.  

So what is small anyway?  Well Woollahra says that "entries should not exceed 80cm in any dimension".  I will bring my tape measure next year.  I was hoping to see some familiar names but there were a few more unknowns (to me at least) this year.  I did recognise Maria Fernando Cardoso, Rodney Pople and Sherrie Knipe but everyone else will be a google affair.  There was a healthy mix of found object assemblages (something I always fancy myself having a crack at) to more refined production techniques in ceramics, glass and metal.  The winner was Thor Beowulf (really, that is his name) whose work "the carbon credit machine" was a bit of a steampunkesque piece that even incorporated a real bonsai plant.  Upon googling Mr Beowulf he is the proprietor of the bonsai shop on Queen Street!  Nice work, I have been there and good to see the money going to a local ratepaying business.  Fresh from seeing a pile of peanuts at the MCA more nuts were on show here, Julian di Martino's "do try the walnuts" (pictured top) will be hard to forget.  There is a people's choice award so without further ado let's reveal the winner of the Big Lamington prize ...

Points:  3 points for the nuts.  This really grew on me, and I am going to give it my peoples choice vote, you can vote online here. 2 points to Janet Parker-Smith for 'we are all earthly creatures' (pictured middle). 1 point for the Jeff Koons ripoff pony by Petra Svoboda ('Show pony', pictured above).  Also highly commended were the milkshakes, burgers and bacon & egg rolls at the Redleaf cafe!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Di Holdsworth at Damien Minton - 20 October

Last day for this show so if you are reading this you've missed it.  And it was pretty good too.  Again with all three junior critics in attendance although this time I think we had red jelly frogs as the bribes.

This show was called 'circus' and I found it on one of those iphone art apps (I use 2, artsguide and artsview sydney, they are both okay in a sense although I reckon there is some better functionality waiting to be developed).  I love the whole circus / fairground / sideshow alley aesthetic and I thought the junior critics would appreciate it as well.  And I was right, but this was also helped by the friendly gallerist kindly dimming the lights and turning the works on!  That's right, most of the works, which were kind of found object sculptural assemblages, were were kinetic in some way or shape.  The most common element was the wind up music box which made the kids dance about and shout the standard chorus of approval ... "again, again".  These were really quite affordable too.  I have misplaced my room sheet but I thinking some of the small ones were in the hundreds and the more elaborate ones were in the low four figures.  It must be my competitive instinct (or budding artist consultant in me) but I always think of what competition I would enter the work I am looking at in.  To me this was a lay down misere for the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize so I was surprised when I didn't see that on her resume, next year!

Points:  3 points for 'Misty', I think this was the one in the big old red cast iron letterbox, a real circus feel here.  2 points for 'just for fun', I realise it is a ventriquilost dummy but I kept thinking of the clown game at the show.  I think this is the image that led me to the show.  1 point for one of the old tin music boxes, 'tropical fish' (pictured above), which were great fun.  

Lindeman and Jinks at SSFA - 20 October

So with my better half away for the day and me with three junior critics in tow what were the chances of making the Michael Lindeman opening? After checking the cupboard for bribes and finding a bag of mixed lollies they were better than good!  Armed with a pocketful of jellybeans and plenty of patience we set off for Zetland to see some new work.

We raced upstairs first.  We have a Michael Lindeman next to our dining table and we love that piece.  The kids couldn't believe this was the same artist.  Michael has switched the text heavy ads for fields of colour.  He sticks with advertising but this time strips away the words to leave the pretty colours and shapes.  Sadly I think I recognised some of the source material (isn't that the Myers catalogue?).  This was quite subtle work in comparison to his previous stuff which really grabs you in bold faced text.  Surprisingly I think I liked the most subtle works, where the source was less obvious, the best.  Works like 'Best batch yet' (pictured top) and 'something's added to the air' were really great, though I wasn't really looking with an acquisitive air given I've blown my 2012 budget (more on that later).  The junior critics liked 'the call of things' which had a few balloons on it and to them it looked like a party invitation without the writing (and without the cake).

Downstairs was Sam Jinks who makes these very lifelike sculptures, he even uses human hair.  Now I find them a little creepy to be honest, mainly because they are so realistic.  The junior critics were transfixed, although I did have to say 'no touching' about a dozen times.  There were only a couple of pieces in the show, a pair of half boy / half fox creatures (officially called 'unsettled dogs', unofficially called 'the fantastic mr. fox without his clothes on'), an embryonic creature and a pair of newborns ('untitled', pictured below, which I can see may also be a gag, some of our junior critics were untitled for a few days until we could actually agree upon a first name, so this is one of the rare times I will not rant about the inability to name a work).  Of them all we liked the newborns the best.  As my daughter said they were just like baby dollies.  That's right sweetheart, really really expensive baby dollies.

Points:  With the jellybeans distributed for safely getting through a visit without breaking / buying anything we can move to the points.  The 'babies' was the talk of the car ride, so it will get the 3 points.  2 points will go to Michael's "best batch yet", and 1 point to his "something's added to the air", which kind of looked like an iphone case.  Now there's an idea ...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ohnesorge at Pompom and others at MOP - 13 October

There is a lot to like about MOP and its commercial offshoot Galerie Pompom.  Their web pages are the only things I'd like to see them improve, mainly because I can never seem to find all the images of who they have on show.  This could all be a cunning ploy to increase gallery attendance.  And if it is, it works, as with two of my junior critics in tow we trooped off to get a gander at the works of Nana Ohnesorge, Tiffany Shafran, Maria Gorton, Marisa Purcell and Matthew Allen.

First up was MOP.  I really liked what Tiffany Shafran had on show.  There was a collection of about 30 pieces, each called "Adventure Sampler" with a corresponding number.  To make the room sheet an adventure in itself they were arranged out of order.  Construction wise they were "digital print and embroidery floss on archival paper".  In layman's terms Tiff has got a heap of old found black and white images that are presumably helpfully out of copyright and then punched some tiny holes and embellished the images with some random embroidery.  We all liked them, my 5 year old was liking the beards that had been added to some whilst my 2 year old liked the feather american indian headdresses that had been added to others (Tiffany by way of background grew up in the States but has done her uni work in Australia and is currently completing a PhD at USQ).  These were all quite small and quite affordable at $350 a pop.  Plenty of little black dots up.  Also selling out at MOP was Matthew Allen, although he only had one thing, admittedly a diptych.  This was similar to his work that SSFA has shown, all one colour running into another.  Interesting from a technique standpoint but a little too contemplative for my liking, although I could see it growing on me I think I need works to really grab me.

Next door at Pompom was Nana Ohnesorge latest efforts.  I had seen one of her Ned Kelly's on the cover of an art mag last year so was keen to see more of her work.  I was not to be disappointed, and what a diverse practice.  My junior critics were quite taken by some of the sculptures, including one that was probably a little parental guidance recommended.  There were a couple of Ned Kelly's which were great.  I mean, easily recognisable and iconic due to subject matter, I guess that's why Regan Tamanui also uses him extensively.  I quite liked the colonial themes that this german born artist referenced.  Lionel Bawden (who we would like to have represented in the collection by the way) did the essay for this show and explains it all much cleverer than I will.  I really liked the mixed media approach, her brave use of vibrant colours and some top notch collage work (is it collage month or something? I think nearly every show I have been to in the last month has rocked some collage somewhere).

Points:  I will give 3 points to Nana's 'Trophy (Bennelong)' (pictured at top) which looked great in the gallery.  2 points for the 'Play it your way' which was a fantastic bright collage and a little kitschy. 1 point to Tiffany Shafran for the samplers.  I cannot tell you which number it was but it was one of the two headress ones.  I might have to be back with iphone in hand to record it for posterity.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Twoone at Mick - 11 October

I do like getting to an opening when I can and loving a bit of street art I figured I would check out the latest in the very long (and growing by the day, did anyone watch that crazy abc doco on that melbourne cat who thought he was god's gift to painting?) of street artists to hit the fine art gallery space.

Twoone is Hiroyasu Tsuri's street art name.  You know given it is a gallery shouldn't it be Hiroyasu Tsuri (Twoone) and not the other way around?  Helpfully, MiCK informs us that is work is "informed by the Nietzshean dichotomy and Western psychology synthesised with Zen philosophy and aesthetics".  Really? Well I quite liked the skulls, and the skeleton. And he had quite a thing going with animals, yaks and whales and birds everywhere.  Shame he didn't enter the Sulman last year as Richard Bell would've gone for this stuff.  Anyway, one of the reasons you go to an opening is to earbash the artist of the moment. My questioning involved technique and what his favourite work was.  It was interesting to learn about how hiroyasu (sorry, I just cant call someone two one, I am just not that street) layers the papers for his work and then does spray and acrylics and watercolours.  Also interesting was the fact that his favourite work is always the last he has done in a show, something about the feeling from finishing a body of work.  In this case it was the whale that was the last completed here and so by default his favourite.  Not a bad way of looking at things.  This bloke may yet get to judge the Sulman ...

Points:  I am going to get all memento mori here, 3 for the watercolour skeleton ('King of the Journey', pictured on top), 2 for the skull ('drink more milk and get stronger' - does hiro read phantom comics? that would be a big plus by the way) and finally 1 point for the owl. And it didn't look anything like a Joshua Yeldham because I have heard artist say they hate it when you say their work reminds you of someone else.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012


So after absolutely loving the last 'halls for hire' event from Performance Space I think I was one of the first to check in to the Sydney Trades Hall for their latest bit of performance art, The MAKING OF THE FLAG (yes they do it in all caps, who is little old me to buck the system).

Anyway, I had no idea what I was in for when I sauntered in on Tuesday lunchtime.  I actually thought they would be doing australian flags, or something like that, but Sussi Porsborg was all about union banners.  And the punters had to make them.  Well I love a bit of audience participation so I was right in there.  Now those who know me would suspect this might have been my first trip to trades hall, and you would be right.  You might also think I am not really a collectivist at heart, and again you would be right.  But the big thing I look for in art is "sincerity".  Seriously, to me it is all about whether the artist is sincere.  And Sussi was really into it so that made it all okay.  But I needed to come up with a slogan for my banner so thinking quickly to an article I read in the Economist a few years ago that said the US workplace had not actually become any safer, they had just outsourced the dangerous jobs to China I dutifully composed a banner (see above picture).  Sussi even had me on the janome sewing a few hems, and I wasn't too bad.  I was really looking forward to the weekend to see what else had been made.  To be honest, I was a little shocked.  It looked like following my visit they had a busload full of retired welsh coal miners through here on a organised tour.  Lots of references to Thatcher of all people which I didn't get.  And quite a few political ones about Tories being pricks, and richer, and smarter, and better looking.  Okay, maybe not the last three.  Anyway, I was a little disappointed that something that promised so much delivered so much old stuff rather than look to the future.  Even more disappointing is that this young lib actually knows a little bit of the history of organised labour and appreciates the fact that Sydney was the first place in the world to organise the 8 hour day.  Thank you Sydney stonemasons in 1855.  The 8 hour banners festooned around the place and all the old union banners from the federated pastry cooks, and the pressers union (seriously, guys with irons, pressing) looked regal in comparison.

Points:  I will give 3 to Sussi for organising this.  Probably not the same turnout as the CWA event but still an interesting location and subject matter.  2 points to the Pressers Union (above) a great 8 hour banner.  1 point to me for turning up, twice.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Art and about - 1 October

Art and about certainly is a mixed bag.  We packed up the junior critics and went for a look see at a little bit of it over the long weekend.  Here are the findings ...

a. Reko Rennie rocks.  I was actually asked a great question by one of the gallery peeps at SSFA on Saturday about what artist is next on the collecting hit list.  I reckon Reko is right up there.  This work is called 'Always was, always will be' (pictured above) and really shows off his graffiti heritage to great effect.  Loved the bright colours and the diamond pattern and am a sucka for little bit of neon illumination.  
b. The windgrid is kind of interesting, but I think I am missing something if I haven't seen the windwalk?
c. Those banners are pretty cool, what are they doing with them at the end of the show?
d. The raining house smells.  Quite badly.  This was the conclusion of my three year old critic who refused to enter and conducted his review from the door.  His older sister braved the rainy indoors and thought it was a bit silly.  Their top pick from this area was actually the bubble guy busking near the fountain.  I agree, that was art.  This? I am not sure, it got me thinking for one thing.

Points: 3 to Reko.  The more I see of his work the more I like it.  That is a good thing.  I really want one of my walls done like this and will be in touch when I work out which one!  2 for the banners.  Seriously Clover, call me.  I have some propaganda ideas for you.  I will give 1 point to 'I wish you hadn't asked' (that is art name for the raining house by the way) as there was a lot of effort here and that should always be rewarded.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sylvester and Macintyre at Sullivan and Strumpf - 29 September

With my most junior of art critics in tow we had a quick pop-in at Sullivan and Strumpf to see the Darren Sylvester and Alisdair Macintrye shows.  This has still got another week to run and there are quite a few available works so get along if interested.

First up was Darren in the ground floor gallery.  As well as the oversize photos (120 x 160cm) you'd be expecting he has a couple of bronze mask sculptures and a dirty big space blanket (really).  The photos have a similar staged looked to his previous work but this time around there is this spiral effect that has been superimposed that is meant to be some type of subconscious thought but made me think of a Duran Duran video clip.  Which is to say cool but with a retro aesthetic.  On to the masks.  They had a real raiders of the lost ark feel, remember that golden idol at the start?  All the gallery needed was a giant rock rolling down the stairs!  I preferred the round one ("Hisamitsu Lifecella", pictured top) and it even looked a little pre-columbian.  Turns out it is based on some Japanese pharma company's (Hisamitsu) cosmaceutical mask and not Spielberg's treasure hunter.  The photos and sculptures were all editions of 5 (3 + 2 APs).  So that is like 30 photos and 20 sculptures up for grabs, which is quite a lot of stock and I only counted 5 red dots which suggests to me that I wasn't the only one who thought Darren's prices were a little too futuristic.  I mean I liked the masks but I wouldn't be able to stretch $14k for an edition. I didn't really get the space blanket, so I turned to Anthony Carew's review you can access from the SSFA site. Wow. That is one elaborate review and, save a couple of glaring typos, an interesting read. I still don't really get the space blanket as art, but I know a lot more about DuPont.

Upstairs Alisdair's dioramas combined star wars with art history references.  I think the universe of punters who (a) really go for star wars, (b) could recognise (or appreciate) the renaissance art being parodied and (c) were willing to drop some quite large sums on it, would be a very interesting crew to have dinner with.  I liked the star wars references but my inability to pick any of the sources made me think the clever joke here was just a little too hard to get.  I even got the senior critic here, complete with a Masters in renaissance art, to look online and she didn't recognise any of the scenes, but then again she calls it 'space wars' so was probably put off by the mattelness of the models.  This has been getting a lot of press, journo's thinking the lucasfilm angle will tempt the punters into a gallery.  Back on to my point (c) above, all of the red dots appear to be on the more affordable works here (c. $5k).  I mean, I would love one of these, they are fun, a little kitschy and culturally iconic, but there is no way my acquisitions committee would let me part with the funds required (north of $10k) for some of the larger pieces.

Points:  3 for the Lifecella mask, really liked it and it is even better not against a purple backdrop.  2 points for the dirty big AT-AT walker (or as Macintyre calls it "Snowtroopers ice skating on Rayburn rink following the bring down of the rebel snowspeeder"). I would've killed for this in 1983! I will give 1 point to Darren's Blanket. In Spotlight they would call it 'stock', in a gallery you can call it 'art', but at SSFA they will tell you it is 'sold'.  And in a commercial gallery that is all you need to know!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

MOP and Pompom - 15 September

With the three junior critics in tow it was going to be all too hard to do the east sydney gallery walk or the SSFA artist talk so with half a loaf of stale bread in the car it was off to Chippendale for the 2-for-1 deal that is MOP Projects and Galerie Pompom. The artist run space and the commercial gallery from the same folks essentially share the same premises although this is the my first time to MOP since Pompon's opening.  The stale bread, if you were wondering, wasn't for the emerging artists but for the ducks at Lake Northam (in that random park near Sydney uni). This is the kind of collective bargaining we do here at Big Lamington to sneak some culture into a family outing.

First up was MOP which has a rather convoluted title for quite a well put together show, 'Photo-sculpture, pictures, objects and paradox'.  Everyone in here (and they are all female artists so I wonder if it is feminist photography? just kidding) was essentially trying to do something tricky with photos, or "getting beyond the medium's burden of depiction" according to the accompanying essay. For a photo show there is quite a lot of stuff for a couple of unsupervised under 5s to knock over, so it was a bit of a rushed viewing, let's just hit what I thought were the highlights. Gemma Messih's "I've only just realised how important you are (to me)" was one work that lived up to a great title. This was (as I learnt later) a found photo of what looked to me like the Matterhorn block mounted and leaning on a pile of large blue metal stones. I thought it was pretty clever and the junior critics agreed. They were dead keen on seeing Marian Tubb's video work which was perched delicately on a pedestal looking up at a big green glass flask.  From the looks of it this was some type of performance where the water dripped on the artist or some such. I was much more interested in her digital prints on silk which were draped over glass although I needed a little more pondering time to actually decipher what was going on there. I really liked Criena Court's 'Proposal 7 (film still)'. I have been stalking following Criena since I saw her postgrad show in 2010. This current work is quite similar to that body of work, using plywood constructions and mirrors to play with images in reflection (photo top, and detail below). I like how the angle of the construction inverts the image from above so you get the photo right side up in the mirror. I cannot exactly say what the big rock was doing there, but I didn't mind the effect it made in breaking up the pattern of the photo and its reflection. I am not sure I would go as far to say that the stone affirmed the works "immediate tangibility as an object in the world" as some have. I would like to go to the art talk next Saturday and ask myself but have a prior engagement. Next door Pompom has Rochelle Haley's show Dead Precious. These very affordable watercolours on paper depict mainly faceted gemstones (and very well too, great geometry on show) whilst a number combine the gemstones with an animal skeleton in a clever, almost faux taxidermy way (I was getting a few Julia DeVille vibes here). There were a couple of birds, a couple of tortoises, a couple of frogs and my sons favourite, a snake with 2 peridots in its belly. I preferred the "stones and bones" to just the stones (the skeletons giving the bling a little bit of memento mori) although my girls preferred the jewels sans animal skeletons but that just may be the influence of Disney in their aesthetic.

Points: 3 for Criena Court's 'Proposal 7', I am really digging the mysteriousness of her work, if it is a film still I want to put that film on my quickflix queue. Her style is quite unique and if I had a place for one of these plywood constructions would be getting in touch tout de suite, maybe I need to think of something smaller. 2 points will go to Rochelle Haley, if I had to pick just one I would probably go for a frog (pictured in the middle is 'Blue Hope') as the stone sits in its belly better than it does in the snake! 1 point will go to Gemma for what I like to term the rocky Matterhorn installation.