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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

18th Biennale at AGNSW - 12 September

The beauty of the AGNSW is you can sneak over here at lunchtime and see quite a lot. Certainly much quicker than the schlep out to Cockatoo Island so it is surprising it has taken me until the last week to see this last part of the Biennale, which is a shame as I reckon the AGNSW's offerings were the best bits.

Things started of well with Jorge Macchi's Blue Planet. This is a small collage (what is it with collages at the moment? They are everywhere!) where he has pasted over all the landmass with more sea. It is out front as the title of this work was meant to inspire all the pieces in the AGNSW section. To me I thought they meant all the art would have water or seas or fluid in it, which a lot did although some works like the burning model house didn't really fit in with that narrative in my head so like most overly curated shows I stopped trying to think about any connecting theme and just went and had a look at the pretty pictures. The absolute standout highlight was in the second room. This was Guido van der Werve's video 'Nummer Acht: Everything is going to be alright' which was projected onto an entire wall (still from video above). This video ran for about a 16 minute loop and I nearly did 2 sittings. It was amazing. Some guy (I presume the artist) walks in front of this giant icebreaker in some remote gulf off Finland. The boat is going slow and he just keeps about the same pace with it, so always just enough out of harms way. It is very quiet except for the muffled noise of the ice breaking. I found it very calming and meditative. The gallery attendant (you should always ask questions of the gallery attendants as most of the time you get these completely honest appraisals of the art that would make the curator faint) also pointed out the dichotomy of the boat walking on ground (being the ice) and the man walking on water (in a sense). He thought it was a bit religious. Maybe. It was hard for anything else to stack up to this. Coming close was Bouchra Khalili's map prints where he does a white line map on blue background connecting illegal immigrant routes around the Mediterranean to look like maps of the constellations. He teams this with some great videos of a hand drawing the routes as narrated to them by an immigrant. Very SBS go back to where you came from. Also good were Juan Manuel Echavarria's wall of lenticular prints (those are the photos that change when you move them, very Easter showbag ruler circa 1985. why there aren't more lenticular prints in art galleries?) and Yuken Teruya's little sculptures made out of paper shopping bags, very delicate indeed.

Points: 3 to Guido van der Werve whose Nummer Acht video was amazing. I could've watched this all day and would love a copy of this, Guido let me know when this is available on DVD.  Region 4 please.  2 points to Jorge Macchi for his great collage, Blue Planet. 1 point will go to Bouchra Khalili for more good map work.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Deborah Kelly at GBK - 8 September

After checking out the last day of Tony Albert's show with my one junior critic who was yet to see it we made our way back via Gallery Barry Keldoulis to see some more of Deborah Kelly's collages and to pay our respects given we had heard that he was closing up the physical space in Waterloo (which isn't a bad move if it means he does some pop-ups closer to town). As part of the lease ending he is accelerating his gallery programme with a number of artists getting a week for a show. Deborah Kelly has just had her turn so you've missed this although you can see her work online here.

This show is officially called Abide With Me, although I realised later it was mixed in with stockroom works from her previous two shows. There were a couple of large (200 x 110 cm) full body quasi nudes called The Magdalenes which made me view them with an air of catholic suspicion (Damien Hirst is right on the money when he comments that titles are vitally important to how you view a work) and a handful of smaller (40 x 60 cm) collages that visually look to run straight from her previous show, Awfully beastly. It is these smaller works that both the senior and junior critics of the Big Lamington contingent enjoyed. These are your frankenstein type creations where bits of everything are cut and glued together to make new creatures ... "pre-mammalian? And possibly post", just like the website says! You know, Deborah should put out an art app where you could build your own collage creatures,  a la Robot Lab (which is currently iPad/iPhone game of the moment with the junior critics). 

Points:  3 to Tota Pulchra Es (pictured above) which was great with all the colourful snakes (and reminded me of a great window display I saw once at the Bergdorf men's store in NY); 2 to Dream of a Common Language #5 and 1 point for the multitude of postcards on offer which my 4 year old collected about a half dozen of for some future art projects of our own. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Feminage at Cross Arts - 7 September

There is a great collage show on at Cross Art Projects and you've only got 2 days left! I nearly didn't make it myself as they only roll Thursday through Saturday and I had walked past here about three times when it was closed (they happen to be on the same lane as one of my favourite lunch spots, Wilbur's Place). So after taking down the corned beef special at Wilbur's last Friday I was finally able to tiptoe into Cross Arts and see this up close. They (or someone else clever) have coined the word Feminage for this show of feminist collage, which I guess it is given all the artists are women (but does that make the art feminist? Too hard for me to answer - and I did take women's studies back in the day, how enlightened!)

Anyhoo, I love a good group show as it is a great way to be exposed to a number of artists. And this show was chock a block full of familiar names I hadn't seen. Deborah Kelly? I am on GBK's mail list but hadn't seen her show (although sufficiently inspired I did check that out which I will get to in another post). Paula do Prado? Yes, I was familiar with her work from Gallerysmith's propaganda but again hadn't made it down to Melbourne to see any of her shows. Tai Snaith? She had popped up on my radar due to her publishing an arty kids book, so was keen to see her in a gallery. I liked Deborah Kelly's 'A Whistling Women' and 'Crowing Hen', these are big faces all covered with hair from what I guess is shampoo adverts. It it quite animalistic and very glossy / shiny, and in a strange way made me think of the early 80s Beast Man (one of the bad guys from the He-Man cartoons, I presume I was one of the few viewers to make that link). I really liked to Karla Dickens' Big Boss Woman (pictured above) which was full of Australian and colonial iconography in a kind of mandala pattern. This would look great next to Liam Benson's coat of arms (separately, she also has a couple of nice works in the AGNSW at the moment). Paula do Prado's collages were made with vintage porno mags that she had then embellished with patterns and beading, the whole body of work was called 'Sepiasiren'. I really liked these, it has an exotic boogie nights feel. They were quite small works (24 x 33cm) and very affordable, although a few were probably a little too explicit to make it back to our place given we utilise kids walls liberally (we can live with topless but full frontal is a bridge too far). She also has done a zine (I think this could be the first zine I've seen) which provides a lot of context to her exploration of race, gender and sexuality a la Kara Walker (who is quoted in the zine, we have her book from the Peter Norton project). On this form, and having regard to some of the work she has done at Gallerysmith I am surprised she doesn't have a Sydney gallery representing her. Tai Snaith had elected to put about a dozen pieces all together in a single work called Women vs Wild, which works in a museum type of way but makes it more of a difficult proposition commercially (so lucky Cross Arts is a not for profit). There were certain individual pieces included that I preferred, such as the lady covered in snakes, so would keep an eye out for her future shows.

Points: I will give the 3 to Karla Dickens, I thought it was quite a timely image given the recent diamond jubilee. 2 points will go to Paula do Prado for her racy collages, I would've liked to add one of these to the Big Lamington collection but my preferred choice already had the half sticker attached (which is always the way when you go to a show late in the piece). 1 point to Tai Snaith, I will have to see if we can add her book to the junior critics reference library.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mass Action: Judging - 1 September

So we were back at CWA HQ to watch one of the gun CWA cookery judges, Alison Mutton, do the honours with the output of Brown Council's 90 hours in the kitchen. They had actually made all 137 cakes, which is kind of an achievement in itself. So what did the judge have to say about all this?

Having sat through a few baking judging sessions in years past I did wonder how long this would take. Alison had been allotted one hour but that would prove to be too short as even by taking a few shortcuts and not cutting and tasting everything she was still probably going strong after two hours. First up were the cakes. Plenty eliminated after looks alone, then we got down to business by cutting which reveals a few secrets, a cherry cake was discarded as all the glace cherries had sunk to the bottom of the mix, a neopolitan cake was out of contention because the line of plain cake and strawberry cake wasn't straight. As Alison said it is easy to be critical when you are looking for faults. If you type in #bcmassaction on twitter you can read some funny tweets from those present. Quite a few in the arts world were likening Alison's quick and speedily subjective dismissals to arts grant funding. But it always does depend on the judge, and you can usually pick up some good tips if you do like Tony Albert says and pay attention. My sentimental favourites, the Lamingtons, made the final four of the cake section but lost out to a butterscotch cake. My own concentration started to flag after this and whilst scones won in the final category (Loaves, Bread, Scones and Muffins) I can't really recall what took out the podium in the fruit cake section or biscuits and slices (you'll have to check Brown Council's website when it is updated)

After judging it was straight into afternoon tea. You could buy the bigger cakes for a $5 donation but it was a free for all for the smaller cakes and biscuits. I made a beeline straight for the small lamingtons and was soon agreeing with the judge on its strong showing. I then sniffed around the winners and was heartened to see they had done some very nice certificates for the winners in each section. No ribbons, which was a little disappointing, but there had been so much attention to detail on this project I will forgive them that small oversight (and to be honest maybe ribbons is only a country show thing, I am not sure what the CWA / Land cooking contest hands out). I will give a thumbs up for the cherry cake, this had suffered in the judging but was lovely to eat. Then I was on the hunt for a cake to take home. I did like the look of the moist coconut cake with the icing that was 'too pink' for the judging but given one of the Big Lamington editorial board is not really a coconut fan (I know, I can't explain it either) I was on the look out for something else and, after being pipped by some lucky punter for the peach blossom cake, settled for the nice looking Neopolitan cake I had seen judged earlier (photo below, technically also a 'new acquisition' for the collection which gives another meaning to the phrase 'consuming art'). But in a twist nearly as ironic as some of the jumpers being rocked by the art school crowd (seriously, google image "ironic jumper" and you have nailed the wardrobe choice of at least 10% of the attendees here, a particularly striking red alpine number with snowflakes and a natty halloween special with pumpkins come to mind) there is actually coconut tucked away in this bad boy too, however my coconut disliking partner tried it and gave it the thumbs up.

Points: I cannot argue with Alison, 3 points to the scones. It is so absolutely fitting that for an organisation like the CWA the scones get the best in show. I am big into aussie icons so 2 points will go to 'Lamington 1' (there were 2 different entries in the cookbook). These were the smaller ones and I loved their icing, I may even have to amend my recipe. I will give 1 point to the Neopolitan Cake which was lauded as "delicious" by my three junior art critics later that afternoon in a separate performance piece entitled "crumbs on the floor, who made them?".

A huge highly commended ribbon to Brown Council on this. My favourite CWA / Art world interaction was this one reported on their website ...
   CWA member: "What is this? Is it judges training?"
   Brown Council: "No, it's an art work. It's a performance."
   CWA member: "It is not! Is it?"
If I could answer that question now I would say that not only is it art, it is one of the best things I have seen all year.