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.