Thursday, December 5, 2013

Same Same at Artereal - 5 December

I'd been looking forward to seeing this show.  Some new work by Liam Benson in a double act with Lucas Grogan.  Even more interesting was that they were meant to be "borrowing from each other's visual language, aesthetic and experience".  I needed to head over to artereal just to check out what that meant.

Regular readers will know that I have a bit of a soft spot for Liam's practice.  I love his exploration of the australian identity and especially his overuse of symbolic australiana like the coat of arms and native flowers.  He continues that theme here with a number of works.  My favourite was the hand beaded 'Original_2013' (pictured top).  This is reasonably small (20cm diameter) but with the gold sequins really packs a visual punch with the very recognisable map of Australia.  The 'original' is designed to get you thinking, which is what I like about works that incorporate text.  Is Liam referencing native Australian's (ab)original?  There is a separate piece in the show that explicitly does.  Is he identifying himself as an original?  Is he questioning the derivative US / UK nature of some of Australian culture? etc etc. Other similarly sized embroidery works include the words "new", "I know" and "thank you".  These were all great works and very competitively priced for those whose art budgets are nearly done by December so clever also in a merchandising sense! In addition to these Liam is working on a much larger map of Australia that depicts all the different tribes of aboriginal Australia.  Punters can come in and sew different coloured sequins into the different regions (I tweeted a photo of this, so follow @biglamington not to miss out!).  What I loved most about this piece is that artereal had listed this for institutional acquisition only!  Looks like it is time to start my own mona!  I'll see if I can't head back and get a shot of this work as it nears completion.  I hadn't seen Lucas Grogan back in Sydney since his former dealer (the infamous Iain Dawson) blew up and went underground.  Lucas is based in Melbourne (has his own website, yes) and is represented by galleries in Melbourne, Brisbane and even Adelaide so it is nice that he is having a guest spot in Sydney.  Some controversy over Lucas' use of aboriginal style caused two artists included in the Big Lamington collection (textaqueen and ryan presley) to quit some of those very same galleries in 2012 so it is interesting to see if that has had any impact on his style (there is a reference to this incident in the catalogue essay by Lisa Corsi).  I think it could be just that he is being more experimental here with some embroidered text works, which the gallery appropriately describe in the form of "off-beat-gay-bush-poetry", like his 'Sex, Drugs and Kylie Minogue'.  He does include a diptych called 'We was here (billabong / swimming pool)' which continues with his established style.

Points: The 3 points will go to Liam's original.  I really am a sucker for a good bit of Australiana and this one will be coming back to the Big Lamington HQ in the new year.  2 to the flag, which should be expected from someone with such an interest in vexillology.  1 point will go to Lucas' for his Branxton sign.  Like Lucas, I also grew up in the Hunter.  I like the quote by Matthew Johns when he was asked if he was a former Hunter boy (as he now lives in Sydney) and he responded that being from the Hunter is like being a maori, and you can't be a former maori.  So there it is, once a Hunter boy, always a Hunter boy.

Friday, November 29, 2013

cofa annual - 29 November

Okay, time for the annual exhibition for the graduates of the college of fine arts aka cofa.  This is back on campus after being in the wilds of Randwick as the new cofa buildings were being completed.  It is a very nifty new campus and it is great to pop along just to see the art school and some of the views they get from the top of f block.  Anyway on to the show.  How would I #react? (wait, that was last night)

So I now know why they try to call this place cofa instead of the college of fine arts.  I reckon its kinda like Kentucky Fried Chicken being kfc, in that they are trying to hide the fact the food is fried.  At cofa they hide the fine arts as today they seem to be about so much more, digital art, design, textiles, fashion etc.  It is an interesting contrast to the National Art School where the different majors were painting, drawing, photography, ceramics and sculpture.  At cofa I saw someone has a 'Master of Cross-Disciplinary Art and Design (Sculpture-Installation-Performance)'.  This was Arran Salerno and Arran's Death Mask series of hand coloured paraffin wax, earthenware clay and hand blown glass (I tweeted the image) actually struck me as being a very traditional looking set of sculptures that was totally at odds with the futuristic academic labels they are handing out here.  Maybe I am too old school but I don't see what would be wrong with giving Arran a plain old MFA and then having all the rest of it as the major.  Anyway, rant over lets get back to the art.  In the main gallery (which I think was just the honours students) I liked Katherine Corcoran's 'Searching for something I thought was you' (pictured top).  This was a steel cube containing piled up milk quartz.  I don't get it, but that is what I like about it.  The mystery.  The contrast of the natural shape of the rocks with the precise geometry of the cube.  Ancient and modern, etc.  Also interesting was Beth Dillon's installation (I recognised her 'Institutional Rainbows' from the firstdraft fundraiser, pictured on the link).  Her video's were idiosyncratic and a lot of fun.  Upstairs on the fine art floor I liked Kim Hill's '2 and 6' screenprint (pictured below) which for a minute made me think Reko Rennie had gone back to art school!  On another floor you couldn't help but notice Rod McRae's 'Born Free' (pictured above).  Take that Tracey Emin, did you ever think about putting a lion in an unmade bed?  I think this guy was one of the most photographed images on the night.  There was far too much to see and I think I will be back to check it out and maybe note down a few more names.

Points:  3 points to Katherine's cube and quartz structure, and not just because of its shared lamington geometry (although I have an inkling that is one of the reasons why I subconsciously like it).  2 points to Kim Hill whose green and gold stamp appeals to the Australiana collector in me.  1 point has to go to the lion in the bedroom.  Congrats Rod for making everyone #REACT! (again, sorry NAS, it'll take a few days for me to get that effective advertising campaign out of my head!)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

national art school graduate exhibition 2013 - 28 November

So I've been coming to the grad exhibition here for a few years now (here's 2010, 2011 and 2012).  None has been as hyped as this 2013 edition, I think that is in part due to the new sponsorship from the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. The tagline for this years show was "how will you react?" and was accompanied by a full court press of twitter, graffiti bombing sidewalks, posters and even this crazy message truck.  Each artwork even had its own #hashtag.  This had better not #suck ...

I'll start by saying that the photography was really strong this year, both Abbey Swinn and Sarah Dugan striking me as names to watch out for.  Abbey Swinn's photo series contrasted natural photos of young girls with the same sitter but with lots of make-up (image top 'Silvy').  The contrast speaks to the growing sexualisation of youth and made its point very well.  Sarah's photos were also striking images of the remote outback with the occasional character present.  On to the painting section which was a bit mixed.  Truth be told, I was indifferent* to quite a few of the works, but then again I'd expect that I am not going to like everyone in such a large grouping of art students (painting is the biggest major by far).  Eloise Cato made a mark with her black epoxy covered lumps of charcoal (pictured top, apologies but can't decipher in my notes what it is called, I think the title starts with a W and a C!).  She had shrewdly put out business cards so you could email her for a commission (her website is  It was a busy walk through the studios but I stopped for Alex Grilanc's works.  He had a great piece called "Muscle Beach Pattern" in the main gallery which recalled that well known AGNSW piece Australian Beach Pattern by Charles Meere.  Alex has populated his work with posing bikini babes taking selfies and muscled up guys juicing up with 'roids and protein shakes.  His other pieces in the studio were along a similar vein and he even had some great little zines to give away that promoted his website (yes, well done son - good to see more grads fully equipped with websites!).  Other painters I noted down included Anthony Essenza and Emma Cooper, who did these quite saturated paintings of girls with bright glitter ice-creams (pictured below, a little Lolita-esque and there were a few more a bit more suggestive than this one). She also had a few that were borderline nsfw except for the glitter pasties.  Of the ceramics majors another Eloise caught my eye.  This one was Eloise Rankine (and again with the business card and websites).  Eloise had quite a few nifty little houses and other vessels on display but she was also putting the other ceramacists to shame by showcasing her mixed media skills with some embroidery art as well.  Her "I am my mothers daughter" in the main gallery was pretty striking.  But then again I don't mind a bit of text here and there.  Finally the sculpture section highlighted Nina George's constructed bodies in recycled wood bits which brought to mind one of those Campana brothers favela chairs.  All in all a great opportunity to see so many different artists in the one place.

Points:  My 3 points will go to Abbey Swinn for her photography.  In my mind she was well ahead of the pack here and there might even be a Big Lamington commission of the junior critics coming her way.  I'll give 2 points to Eloise Cato for the very slick charcoals.  They look great in the studio.  For the final point I will let my better half pick the worthy recipient and in her mind the best talent on display was Jemma Burke whose paintings conjured up abstract landscapes and displayed solid technique (my Mrs was once the art student herself so is a hard taskmaster on technique, I will spare you some of her less favourable observations!).  Also well done to all the grads out there hustling with postcards, business cards and websites already.

* as an aside, this was my concern with the whole 'how are you going to react?' campaign.  It runs the risk of over-hyping a show that will never deliver a reaction to every work.  I am reminded of a classic Andres Serrano (of piss christ fame) quote "I like to make pieces that make people feel something.  Any reaction is better than indifference".  I think punters will be indifferent to quite a lot of the work they see at any art school. I expect the same from the upcoming cofa annual, as the artists are still developing and experimenting, etc.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blake Prize at UNSW - 17 October to 16 November

2013 and the Blake Prize tries its third venue in 3 years.  Maybe one of the organisers reads the Big Lamington? I was refreshing my memory of what this gave us last year and I see I wasn't a fan of the entry price at the SH Ervin.  This year the big show came to COFA (aka the College of Fine Art, aka the old Paddington High School!) and I swung by on the way home to check out the opening night. That was 17 Oct so sadly you can no longer see this in the flesh but the show lives eternally online here (okay, bad spiritual gag, I'll try harder).

Opening night was quite a bit of fun, especially as I had the pleasure of spoiling the announcement ceremony.  I was looking at my twitter whilst on the bus over to COFA and the abc had tweeted Trevor Nickolls had won the main prize bang on 6pm so I was surprised when I finally got to the venue to see all these people lined up for the speeches.  I recognised someone from Artereal, a gallery with quite a few artists included, what was going on and apparently the crowd was waiting for the announcement. Apologies Rihanna for blowing the suspense! Anyhow, that saved me having to listen to some of the worthies who were primed to go on for far, far too long. Even Leichardt Council is involved!  Heaven help those ratepayers.  Inside was a familiar scene.  A lot of works taking a fairly long bow with the approach to the spiritual.  Not as many familiar faces for me this year.  Nell, Liam Benson and Joan Ross were about the only artists I could recognise without the aid of the catalogue this year.  I did pick Paul Ryan's entry but had read about this earlier in SMH (image above).  Nell's was probably the most 'spiritual' for me, celebrating childbirth in her signature black and white style (image top).  Liam's Santa was very clever (and was similar to his performance at Sydney Contemporary) and does look a little god-like (as in Neptune) but is probably a little secular for me given the aims of this prize.  Likewise Joan Ross' video where 'the underlying message suggests the spiritual connection to the land' reads more like a contorted rationale to get an already existing work to somehow qualify for this prize. I have read about David Capra before and it was great to see his installation of banners and video ("Year of Jubliee" image below) which really did bring to mind the banners you see in Church.  And I love a good hand made banner or flag.  David also won the emerging artist award here.  Other notables included Greg Semu's quite dark 'head of john the baptist' which connected matyrdom to headhunting no less!  This also won the people's choice.  Another highlight was Kate Just, whose 'postscript: burial suit' was a photo of Kate wearing a handknitted bright pink burial suit with motifs from her life (she also has a handy website and you can see the burial suit there).

Points:  3 to Nell for the slab of pine. Quite spiritual and iconic. I have a real soft spot the signature style of this artist.  2 to David Capra for the banners.  I think I will give 1 point to Kate's knitted burial suit which had a great Easter Show craftiness to it as well as being right out there in conceptual terms.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Postgrad show at NAS - 9 November

Just made it to the postgrad show at the National Art School, final day today.  If you missed this make sure to come back for the grad show on the 29th of November.  When they say postgrad they mean people doing their Masters but also folks doing an honours year.  Hence quite a few familiar names from last years grad show.

Lots of highlights.  Loved Anna Cuthill's vast (300 x 364cm) vinyl adhesive print at the entrance ('Milk', top).  This recalled that great size queen Andreas Gursky. I would love to have the space for that somewhere at Big Lamington HQ.  Also on the ground floor was Montana Miller, a highlight from last year, who has reprised her drawing on clothes with also quite a cool little sculpture / diorama (which given it was lit from below didn't photograph all that well).  Here's a link to some more photos of the show. Upstairs Kelley Stapleton is again dominating the room with another amazing study in perspective (above, looking towards the white wall on the left and a shot of the whole thing on the right).  Both the 6 year old and I loved it.  Really screws around with your depth perception when you look at it from the back.  Also upstairs was Master's candidate Giles Alexander who seems a little too distinguished to be back at art school (2 x Archibald finalist, 2 x Moran finalist, RBS emerging finalist back in 2010).  He had a big version of a work that looks quite similar to his solo show at Martin Browne a couple of months back.  I can't recall Gemma Avery from last year but I was really impressed with her efforts in this years show.  These were from what I can gather re-photographs of celebs with crystal vases covering their faces (see below, "hey lady (white)").  This was an edition 1 of 5 and you could have it for $1,500 framed which is pretty good for a 90 x 90cm photo edition.  We also liked Charlotte Le Brocque's 'scared sheepless' ceramics of sheep (of course).  These were NFS so my Gregor Kregar rugby world cup sheep remains friendless.

Points:  I though Gemma Avery's concept quite clever and as such she will nab the 3 points.  It was very close though and Kelley Stapleton will take the 2 (after taking the 3 points last year).  I would love one of these perspective works but need it on a domestic scale.  Not sure how it would go.  1 point will go to Anna Cuthill for all those gallons of milk.

Lastly, my one big tip for art grads is to have a functioning website so the punters can discover you and even contact you for commissions, etc.  The results of my random google survey were:
- Kelley Stapleton passes, although her website is still a bit of a work in progress;
- facebook seems to be the main contact if you are interested in Montana Miller or Charlotte Le Brocque;
- google didn't turn up anything for Gemma Avery; and
- Anna Cuthill has got quite a savvy web presence here.  Pick of the websites I found.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

4A A4 at 4A - 7 November

How good is this?  Anonymous until sold.  I felt like I was at some special art quiz ... trying to guess who did what.  This is the (first) annual 4A fundraiser that gets artists to submit a work on A4 paper and then the gallery sells them anonymously for $200 a piece.  With 200 artists volunteering that is a cool $40k that should fill 4A's coffers and help them put on some more great shows in 2014.  How did we go on the guessing game ...

So 4A had these big boards up and when the work was sold they added the number and the artists name.  For example, in the above photo they would add "3.  Shaun Gladwell" and then the punters would then go and have a look at it and nod 'oh yes, Shaun Gladwell'!  Some artists were immediately recognisable due to their signature styles, Jasper Knight, Reuben Paterson and Vernon Ah Kee (image top).  They were also amongst the first works purchased on the night.  I also worked out the Tony Albert and the Deborah Kelly before they were outed (Deborah Kelly was the answer to the anonymous artwork I twittered on the night).  I think 4A said they sold over 120 works on the night so are over half way to their fundraising goal.  The show is on at the gallery until the end of November and you can even buy works online here.  There are still a couple of works I am interested to know the artist of, and when I left Ken + Julia Yonetani's work was still anonymous.  Definitely swing by and check it out if you can.  I think this will get bigger and bigger.  On opening night there was a line around the corner.  Not yet like the Royal College of Art anonymous postcard show in the UK where they camp out overnight (seriously, I have had a friend do this).

Points:  Really every contributing artist should be acknowledged, and 4A does this on their website here.  3 points to Vernon Ah Kee whose drawing lost nothing constrained to the size of A4.  2 points to Tony Albert who had a great card collage in the show and was spotted helping out even further by collecting some anonymous works on the night.  1 point should go to the MC on the night, Sunil Badami who worked the room and even had a great little A4 work of his own included.  He also introduced me to the word flaneur, which I think I need to add to my job description ...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Continuum at COFA - 5 November

So it's November which is the season for art school grad shows.  I am not sure that CONTINUUM at COFAspace is the official postgrad show but hey they sent out a tweet and I came running (or at least swung by after work on the way home).

COFAspace for those that don't know their way around the old Paddington High School is tucked into the ground floor of building E.  Where exactly is that? Well you would expect that there might be a sign if they want some outsiders to turn up.  You would be wrong.  Anyway I did find it eventually and helped myself to the floor sheet.  First interesting discovery, Rebeccah Dent is the only artist trying to sell her works in this show.  I don't know why more aren't trying.  I would've been interested in Abdullah Syed's 'bomegranate" (top) which was an expertly upcycled cricket ball.  Enjoyed seeing a reference to the west papuan freedom movement (Melinda Sloan's 'Papua Merdeka'), although I thought it was a bit too dark (check my tweeter stream for an image of this).  This show also included 'alumni research' which potentially explains Louis Pratt's quite polished entry "what ever" (below).  Louis actually got his Masters from COFA back in 2004 and was a finalist in the Wynne last year and is also in this years Woollahra small sculpture prize.  An interesting start to the art school show season.  Will try and get to the National Art School's postgrad show before it closes this Saturday.

Points:  3 to Abdullah Syed's improvised six stitcher.  Loved it.  2 to Louis Pratt for his far too polished for a grad show sculpture and 1 point to Rebeccah Dent for her 'Dissymetry' collage works on paper (although I don't think her pricing had extended to these works).

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize - 26 October

With the Mrs working a weekend, yours truly was the one at Council chambers with three junior critics racing around the exhibition on Saturday.  There was quite a bit to see, but helpfully you can see it again online here (and in the flesh until 10 November).

A couple of familiar names here, Joan Ross, Troy Emery and Peter Cooley all submitting works emblematic of their quite distinctive styles (Peter's Cassowary, above, was pretty cool if you like cassowaries. I do).  Likewise Julia Deville.  She is owning taxidermy at the moment and her 'Sorrow' (image top) of a stillborn deer sitting on an antique silver platter won the prize.  Her work is still priced competitively and its yours for $7.9k (or maybe not, is this prize acquisitive?  I can't remember).  I didn't recognise it immediately, but Donna Marcus has a work in her this year (Khrushchev + Nixon) that references her Big Lamington 3 point winner from 2011.  Other highlights included Dani Marti whose bead encrusted rope kind of made me think of an Angela Ellsworth (think pin bonnets) door snake.  There were quite a few works challenging the 80cm size rule, like David Jensz's plane space (79cm in 2 dimensions) and this large confusing wooden crib from some guy with a made up name.  What else?  Well I can't help mentioning Kirsteen Peiterse's Downpour.  Primarily because it reminded me of that random 80s kids TV show Fraggle Rock.  Those acrylic rods look just like doozer constructions.  Other prizes?  Stephen Bird and Michelle Ussher won Highly Commended's for their pieces and Uri Aeurbach won something called the Plinth Prize.

Points:  Loath as I usually am to actually agree with the judges verdict I think Julia gets my 3 points as well, well done.  2 points to Darren McGinn's Building Blocks (above) and 1 point to Abdullah Syed's woven dollar (if you follow me on tweeter you would have already seen this.  Damn, stop missing out on the fresh stuff!) which I really liked but am not so sure it wouldn't have been better just framed instead of being contortioned into flying rug for the rules of sculpture.  Well done Woollahra Council.  Good to see (some) of my rates supporting this.

Friday, October 18, 2013

2013 NSW Visual Arts Fellowship for Emerging Artists at Artspace - 18 October

I gather this award is supposed to give an emerging artist's career a leg up (& their bank balance a good one too - it is $30k).  It certainly should take up a few lines on the resume as the title is a mouthful.  I came down to Woolloomooloo on a Friday lunchtime to check out the entrants and take down a Curry Tiger from Harry's cafe de wheels.

It was art first and a few familiar sights all around.  JD Reforma's installation was similar to something I saw at MOP, again some Jonny Niesche's work I think I recognised from Firstdraft (see image top, JD on the left and the glitter is Jonny's).  Then I realised you mightn't have had to make anything new for this and just submit work representative of your career.  This makes a bit more sense.  The winner of the fellowship was Jamie North (installation view above), whose work reprised a recent show at Sarah Cottier.  It is pretty interesting but I do wonder at the conservational aspects of keeping the plants alive.  I'm not sure my gardening skills are up to it.  Apart from more familiar names I also liked David Capra who rocks another flag (or banner really) in his video Intercession, Marian Tubbs randomly framed triptych (which looked like a single work had been framed and then sliced into 3 non-symmetrical pieces) - points here, always good to see something new and Mark Shorter's video where he acts like a white feathered yowie on Mount Wellington in Hobart.

Points:  3 to Jonny Niesche.  The more I see the glitter, the more I like it.  What is that theory about familiarity again?  2 points to Marian Tubbs for rethinking the standard approach to framing & display - it is always hard to do something different (at least this was the first time I had seen it). 1 point to Mark Shorter for the totes bizarro video.  It might have scored higher but I did think it a trifle unnecessary to see his junk.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

SMILEX, the lite ages at Damien Minton - 26 September

So this post might be dated 26 September (as that is when I saw it) but that is just the magic of the interwebs for you as I am nearly a month behind.  It feels like I overdosed at Sydney Contemporary and I am just now shaking it off.  Ordinarily I think I would cheat even more and skip this post but I really want to write something about this show because I enjoyed it so much and Phil is a great bloke as well as great artist.

This show contains more of his signature style of working over the top of found work.  There were a collection of about 10 larger works and nearly a hundred smaller ones (where he had re-worked vintage sports / cigarette collector cards).  I'll start with the smaller works as these are easier to remember (they are all called 'untitled').  For the most part Phil has turned older stars into superheroes.  Don Bradman became Batman and Chuck Fleetwood-Smith (who, I hear you ask, just an eccentric genius who played test cricket for the good guys) became Superman.  There were quite a few cartoon characters I didn't recognise and my heart skipped a beat when I recognised the Phantom (image below), of whom I am still quite fond.  There was obviously another fan of the ghost who walks on opening night as there was a red spot on this one pretty quickly.  Apart from the superheroes I do love spotting a Captain Cook in contemporary art and Phil has obliged with an interesting version that had a bit of an ultraviolence / clockwork orange feel for me (image above).  The bigger works didn't disappoint and these were also flying off the shelves.  My personal favourites involved re-working of the generic catholic art where industrial lithographs of Jesus all of a sudden had cowboy hats and pistols or even lasers (see top).  I am not sure who directed the framing of these works but I love the aesthetic that has been created of the original framed work (dust and paint chips included) framed under glass in a white box.  Nice juxtaposition of the new and the old and complements Phil's style very well.  This was a really strong show and no surprise that it was selling well on opening night.  Phil takes very familiar and iconic imagery (including even the kitschy with the religious art) and subverts it, sometimes very obviously but occasionally in a quite subtle way.  Maybe I should get Phil to appraise my Warnie and Waugh!

Points: As I have misplaced my room sheet I am going to have to give the points to the works I can remember.  3 to the Jesus with the laser (this is the image top).  I quite liked the minimal re-working of this piece, he gets the most out of the source image.  2 to the Cowboy Jesus and I will give 1 to the Captain!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sydney Contemporary - 19 to 22 September

It is a little late but here is the follow-up to my initial thoughts on Sydney Contemporary.  I had three visits in all to Sydney Contemporary: opening night with the Mrs, Saturday with the 3 year old critic and Sunday with the 5 year old critic.  I got something out of each visit and it was very interesting to take the kids along and see how they found the whole carnival.  My 5 year old loved the carabiner clip to collect all the postcards and I think there is a show & tell coming up for her mates at primary school about this.  I would've liked to go to some of the art world show & tells (aka artist talks) so maybe I will better arrange my calendar next time.

I hear a lot of stands did quite a bit of business, Sebastien Goldspink from Alaska has got a great story about the restocking process of his stand! I had been saving my shekels all year for this but for some reason (potentially related to a little extension of Big Lamington HQ that the Mrs is running) didn't manage anything.  That said, just like any show all the good stuff sells first.  I did really like the colourful and out there Paul Yore tapestries (top) and these were quite affordable.  Artbank had savvily picked up the Southern Cross, and they had these nifty little stickers which bignote themselves and lend quite a bit of credibility to the artist as well (note for next year, dodgy up some 'acquired by MONA' stickers and the Big Lamington stand will sell out!).  I think another reason I had sat on my hands is that I wasn't really after something I could pick up on a random weekend in Sydney (so this ruled out the familiar galleries) and I was probably too spoilt for choice by the visiting galleries.  Neon Parc got added to my watch list and Jan Murphy / Sophie Gannon had a really strong double booth.  New Zealand's Gow Langsford was impressive and I enjoyed whoever had Greg Semu (was it Alcaston? seems a little different for them).   I thought Gallerysmith could've chosen a little better as I've always thought her roster was strong (both Lucas Grogan and Eric Bridgeman are no longer repped in Sydney so these were the two I would've shown).   All in all a great event and one I am looking forward to revisiting in 2015!

Points:  All the points today are for artists I've not seen before*.  Paul Yore takes the 3 on the unanimous decision of father and three year old (photo top)  2 points to Greg Semu for the fantastic maori last supper (middle).  1 point to Rebecca Baumann for the automated colour field (above, with an exhausted 3 year old).
* at least not in Australia before, on further thought I think I saw Greg Semu in Wellington but what goes on tour stays on tour.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Firstdraft fundraiser - 20 September

I had hoped to add the label 'new acquisitions' to this post but it wasn't to be on a very busy night at Firstdraft gallery in Surry Hills.  They were hosting their annual fundraising auction and I had tagged along to see what gives.

There were about 70 works kindly donated by artists to the evening.  Firstdraft had planned for live auctions for the big names and silent auction sheets for the balance.  I tiptoed around a packed gallery space and managed to put a few silent auction bids in although I did want to hold back to see how the live items played out.  For the live auction I liked the look of Jonny Niesche's glitter stick and Rochelle Haley's jewel.  Also up (amongst others) were a Philjames, Oliver Watts and Andrew Frost's favourite (aka Tom Polo).  Unluckily for me the Niesche was up first before I had truly got in to the auction spirit and I managed to let this bad boy slip away for a bargain to a lucky punter who looked a lot like the proprietor of the Commercial gallery.  Everyone was getting into the spirit and I recognised a few artists also bidding up big.  Trying to mitigate my disappointment with the live game I had another recce around the silent auction and saw a few great bargains (like Beth Dillon's Institutional Rainbows, top or Emma Thomson's Ray, below) which were all looking like complete bargains for some lucky bidders.  I put down a cheeky bid on a Claudia Nicholson but haven't got the call so must've been pipped at the post by some cheeky sniper (I couldn't stay till the death).  I feel like discouraging everyone from attending in the future but it is all for a good cause so everyone mark it in your diaries or alternatively just follow @first_draft on tweeter.  Be warned, I will be better prepped to bid big early!

Points:  1 point to all the artists who generously donated their works for the event, 2 points for the collectors who opened their wallets in the pursuit of art and 3 to Firstdraft for arranging a great fun night.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sydney Contemporary first night - 19 September

Congrats to Barry and the team.  If the crowd on the opening night was anything to go by, the punters will want this as an annual event!  I heard someone describe the queueing for drinks and to get into different parts of the space like being at the Easter Show.  And she was pretty well on the money too.  I ran into people I didn't expect to whilst not actually managing to find people we knew were going.  With hundreds of galleries, and thousands of works, I will need to come back a few times to get the full lay of the land so this is just some quick first thoughts ...

1. Carriageworks worked pretty well as a venue.  Maybe I am just speaking for me but I thought it was going to be a charlie foxtrot of a process.  We had no trouble getting there or leaving.

2.  Great to see a few non-commercial spaces like Alaska /  Firstdraft at the fair, and more importantly doing very well.  Seb Goldspink looked pretty pleased with all the red stickers in his booth.

3.  Also loved that they had some performance art at the fair.  The Mrs and I channelled the spirit of the department store and lined up to see 'Santa' (aka Liam Benson).  It was about 20 minutes to wait which was well worth it for the trippy experience (literally, I nearly fell down the stairs in the darkened theatre) of seeing an almost god-like Santa (or maybe even King Neptune?).  And it was a really great interactive work.  Well worth the wait if you are heading out there over the weekend.

4.  Good to see some bro's over from NZ.  I spent about 6 months in Wellington on a deal back in 2011 so it was good to see some kiwi galleries over here in Sydney.  I've liked Reuben Paterson's work for a long time (he got 2 points back in Oct 11!) but was great to see some more of Greg Semu's photos.  I thought his maori style last supper was pretty awesome (as was Greg's moustache - stylin').

5.  Top work from some old favourites.  I need to go back as I can only really recall the booths of galleries I know.  I loved Sullivan & Strumpf's cosy stockroom, Galerie pompom's fun booth, Michael Reid's selection of artists, the folks at artereal, etc.

Points for art will come in a follow-up post.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Artbank tour - 27 August

Behind the scenes tour of Artspace?  Count me in.  Artspace is occasionally referred to as 'the other national collection'  Founded in 1980 by the Liberal Fraser government it exists to collect Australian artists but also rents these out to galleries, corporates and punters like you and me.  The top rental is capped at about $5,500 for 12 months.  That is pretty steep but you can get some big names for your money there.  At the lower end smaller works start at about $165 for 12 months.  For the rest of the range they have a sliding scale based on the value of the work, I'd guess the rate is between 15-20% given a few of the pieces I recognised.  Their collection of over 10,000 works is valued at $36 million (which is only $3.6k per work).  They spend $1m a year on new acquisitions and claim to make a profit!

There are a couple of 'rack' rooms at Artspace (see top, Nana Ohnesorge's work on a rack).  The main one of the office and then a back one that also has the framing department and loading dock.  We started with a great tour and a couple of artist chats.  I like how Artspace has some collecting rules (so do I).  They only buy living Australian artists and don't buy at auction.  Two good rules there.  They also usually wait until an artist has had a second show to ensure they are not one off's.  One of the assistants let slip they have a target list and the young collectors in the room were desperate to get the names on that list.  Does anyone hear sheep? Artist Lionel Bawden had the best tip, go to some emerging art spaces and buy cheap art that you like.  You might pick the next Ben Quilty!  During the tour the Artspace staff were making out like the back room was a special treat so I took my all access pass literally and after the talks were over was the first one into the loading dock and framing area to have a good snoop around.  I was immediately drawn to the pile of art with a semi official notice attached to the front.  It read "photographs have been light damaged and are to be destroyed"!  Well they did say you had to have your own insurance.  I hope they were covered.  I tweeted that image last week so get on board the tweeter bus if you want to see it.  Also out back was a few works either coming in or going out.  Marcel Cousin's "1" (pictured below) caught my eye here.  I thought I had seen this image before but the name wasn't familiar.  Finishing in the back room I made my way back to the racks.  Probably one of the more unique aspects of this viewing system is getting to see the backs of works, which is useful for the massed Michael Lindeman pieces and the intricate Sophia Egarchos installation (photo middle).  I have got a view of the front of Sophia's work and then at the back you can make out the directions for the hang.  It's great browsing in Australia's biggest stockroom.  If money was no object and I actually had the space at home I could've seen myself taking a year rental of a Nana Ohnesorge Ned Kelly, a Will Coles Anzac and a Jonny Niesche glitter painting.  Given quite a few of those artiss are on my collecting want list I am not sure I'd use up my limited collection budget on one of them (these pieces were about $1k to rent for 12 months).  All in all it was great to recognise lots of familiar styles and also get exposed to some new artists.  I'd recommend the trip to anyone (although I think it could even be better once Artbank actually get their website up and running and the collection digitised).

Points:  Lots of art and I barely scratched the surface, it is tough to hand out the points.  I will give the 3 to Lionel Bawden who not only had a great staedtler sculpture on display also had a really interesting talk and some great advice for young collectors.  2 points will be held in reserve for the work I am considering renting - it is one of the cheaper rentals and I don't want anyone gazumping me until I've made my mind up!  1 point for Jonny Niesche's glitter work (Sugar 'n spikes) that scooped the points at Roslyn Oxley back in August 2012.  It's so good that it is out of the racks and on the office stairwell!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ashes special!

With the current Ashes series looking like it will end in a damp draw here's a little Ashes flashback to warm the hearts of any Aussie cricket fans out there, the greats Shane Warne and Steve Waugh.  And what about the artwork?  Painted by successful portrait artist Vincent Fantauzzo.  Vincent is a regular in the Archibald and has had some success (2 x People's Choice Winner, 1 x Packing Room Prize) and has also won the $$$ from the Doug Moran prize.  I can't say when these were painted but my guess is late '90s / early 00's.  'Where are they from?' I hear you ask.  Well they just happen to be a couple of new acquisitions to the Big Lamington collection!!  I never buy art at auctions (as I prefer to support the primary market and buy directly from the artist or a new gallery show) but I made an exception in this case.  These were recently offered at Leski which is where I endulge in my not so secret vice of collecting kitschy Australiana (I also have Craig McDermott's really skinny Ashes tie from '85 - a personal highlight).

I am not sure where these will go or what I will do with them.  I would love to maybe get another artist to do an 'intervention' a la Tony Albert or even Damien Hirst.  As an aside, everyone needs to read the story about how the Sunday Times restaurant critic AA Gill got his mate Hirst to paint a single red spot on a portrait of Joseph Stalin that Christies had refused to auction (they didn't auction Stalin or Hitler so they at least they were fair).  Sotheby's sold the work (originally bought for 200 quid) for over $200k with the proceeds going to charity.  For an image just google 'red nose stalin' or clink this link.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rew Hanks at Watters Gallery - 24 August

First time to Watters Gallery for the Big Lamington team.  I dragged one of the junior critics and we were off to see Rew Hanks' new show of linocuts, 'Cooks Conquest'.  I love how regularly contemporary artists turn to the image of Cook to make all sorts of interesting works (just the other day we saw Paul Ryan's take on the captain at olsen irwin).

Hanks is a well established printmaker with a well developed technique.  These works are intricate and the details are sharp.  He is known for using the absurd to provide a critique of colonisation and environmentalism.  The absurd is quite apparent in works like "Banks, which ones mine" where the Captain and the botanist are playing golf with cane toads.  I really liked his version of the iconic 'the landing of captain cook at botany bay, 1770' which he has titled 'stop! there's no need to shoot the natives' (image top).  The catalogue essay also mentions the 2006 Daniel Boyd 'we call them pirates out here' as a reference which would be front of mind for any MCA fans out there (it is one of my favourite works from their collection).  Apart from the plethora of Cook images, I also liked the masonic style 'Cook's curio', Hanks has quite a few other works of Australiana including stamps and this great Anzac work fush and chupps (below) showing the blending of a kangaroo and a kiwi on bondi.  A really good show and as with a lot of prints quite affordable.  Print runs are about 30 so you've got some time on your side to make a purchase.  Show is on until 7 September.

Points:  3 for 'stop!, there's no need to shoot the natives'.  I love an iconic image and this is pretty iconic.  I wouldn't mind someone doing a pirate patch over cook's eye for me though!  2 for 'Surfing the bombora', my daughters top pick.  I will give one to the cheeky flightless kiwiroo on bondi.  But then again as a member of the world's finest soft sand running club that is based on the hallowed sands of bondi I am little biased ...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

String Theory at the MCA - 20 August

I have to admit, I didn't know what to expect of string theory.  Even though I had read some positive reviews I wasn't sure I would get it.  Wow.  I was very impressed.  Glenn Barkley has done a great job pulling this show together and it was great to get the walk through from him on Tuesday evening to get his perspective on how all the different works come together and why there is a gift shop up on level 3!

This show focuses on contemporary Australian art, primarily by Aboriginal artists.  Included are some traditional arts and crafts (such as the handmade string) as well as work from urban based artists which is more commercial gallery friendly.  I really liked the handmade string and how the MCA has single handedly pushed the price up! Although I gather it is still quite affordable.  The feather yam vine of Frances Djullbing was a highlight here.  Also Lipaki Marlaypa has some great contributions here.  Fresh from seeing Tony Albert's latest show at SSFA it was great to see his photo series from 2008 where he took photos of his cousin rocking the traditional jawun string bag all around Brisbane.  String features in the water carriers that Vicki West crafts from kelp (she was featured on the NITV series Colour Theory which I just remembered I need to review!  It was great).  Vicki's work 'Plamtenner / Gathering' (detail, middle) features quite a few of these vessels arranged on kangaroo pelts.  I understand these are meant to represent the original tribes of Tasmania.  I can kind of see that, in a sense the pelts recall the folded national flags that accompany soldiers that have been killed on service.  I had read about Dale Harding (I think in the arts section of the Daily Tele which is actually quite surprising most of the time) and appreciated his worked hession sacks in memory of his grandmother (image top).  Laurie Nilson (of proppanow) had some great sculptural constructs which really looked good en masse (and gave some upcycling ideas for other projects) and I also enjoyed the colourful works of Jimmy Pike but there was probably less actual string connecting those works for me.

Points:  3 points to the yam vine.  Great to hear the story about the connection to the Power collection (which was the origin of the MCA back in the day).  2 points to Tony Albert - I can't get enough of his work and these large scale photos looked great en masse (image above) and I really appreciated his connecting the traditional crafts of the jawun string bag to his contemporary art practice.  1 point to Vicki for the kelp and kangaroos.  And why is the gift shop on the 3rd floor?  Well I think Glenn wants to remind everyone that the context of a gallery can make something look more serious than objects available in the gift shop, and sometimes they are one and the same.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tony Albert 'Brothers' at Sullivan and Strumpf - 15 August

I''ve been to quite a few really good shows lately but have had limited time to reminisce on them all so the next few posts might be a little short and sweet.  I'd been really looking forward to seeing Tony's new show.  I'd heard from the man himself back at Richard Bell's artspace opening that this was kind of a new direction and I wasn't disappointed.  "Brothers" as the show is called is a collection of images of young aboriginal men (including TA) with targets painted on their chests.  The photographs are then reworked with painted interventions on the print itself.  This creates for the most part a series of unique works (although there is also an edition of a couple of the photos without the paint on top).  Like past shows there are single works available and the big monster wall install which to me was excellent value for money (considering you get 21 separate pieces, which at the rate the singles were going for would be 3x the price of the group work).  Of the individual works I probably liked 'One love, one heart' the best (image top).  This was a really positive work that to me had elements of basquiat and Kehinde Wiley going on, and a little bit of bling.  I can't get past a good text work and the political message of 'its just a shot away' (image below) explicitly proclaims the higher purpose that Tony aims for in most of his work.  At the decorative end of the spectrum I really liked the works where Tony had used a lot of geometric patterns for the intervention and then continued that geometry in pencil on to the wall ('just like the time before and the time before that' - titles are good too).  Really great show that is on until 7 September so get down to Zetland and cop a squiz.  

Points: I think it is unfair to compare the single works against the wall install that is brothers but hey, the unfairness of life is one of the themes of this body of work.  3 points to Brothers, see more images of it here.  Special prize if you can find the image of Tony in here (hint, he is the alien!)  2 points to one love, one heart and 1 point to just a shot away.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Full Court Press at Artereal - 8 August

Artereal curatorial board member Seb Goldspink is an art world baller and shot caller.  His first (?) curatorial outing for Artereal sees him create his own version of 'hardwood dreams' in the Rozelle gallery for a handpicked selection of emerging artists.  For what I would like to believe are copyright issues he has chosen to call the show 'full court press'.  We managed to sneak over just just before half time on the opening night to cheer them on ...

I read that the Artereal space reminded Sep of an actual basketball court and with the temporary hoop in place and Biljana Janic's silver tape interpretation of a 3 point line installed on the gallery floor I could see it too.  All the artists in this show have been inspired by basketball.  A sport that despite 7 years in the US I really only appreciate for its influence on hip hop, although I do have a soft spot for AI and would love to put some Sprewells on my ride!  Anyway, where were we?  This show has a couple of names I have seen prior, Mark Whalen, Julian Meagher and Philjames; and a couple of debuts for Big Lamington like Tully Arnot, Nicole Breedon and Hamishi.  There were some hits and misses.  I really liked Philjames' flight school series where he has done these intricately detailed oils of NBA players getting up above the rim and juxtaposed the image with both the old school materials, technique and framing. I thought Nicole Breedon's basketball hoop sculpture that seemed to merge a generic hoop with a macrame hanging basket in the colours of the Harlem Globetrotters was right on the mark. And Tully Arnot's kinetic sculpture of a spinning ball was pretty cool. Speaking of hits and misses during the opening a deathly hush fell on the crowd and a young basketballer started to showcase his moves with a ball that had materialised form the stock room.  I thought, cool - a young local player is going to light it up.  Turns out it was artist Hamishi doing some performance art (which explains the couple of easy lay ups he missed - and with yours truly enjoying a significant height advantage I was tempted to play a little defence).

Points - 3 to Philjames for the flight series, I think the celtics was my fave (top).  I will give 2 points to Nicole Breedon's Sport's Decorated sculpture (middle) and will give 1 point to the tape that really set the scene (Biljana's Open Key, above).

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Brett Whitely Travelling Scholarship - 3 August

Despite 5 great years in the 'hood in the late '90s I never made it to the Brett Whitely studio in Surry Hills so it was time to make amends and also check out the scholarship that is dished out to an emerging artist ...

The studio itself is run by the AGNSW and is open Fri through Sunday.  The assistants take it pretty seriously and two of my junior critics copped an official warning for a bit of raucousness around the Whitely's on the ground floor (to be fair the noise does cannon around the studio, they need some carpet or something) so we were quickly upstairs to check out the actual studio and the scholarship finalists.  If you weren't paying attention you would easily miss it.  I did the first time.  They have a selection of works from three of the finalists tucked into a little corner and then on the i-mac on Brett's desk they have a slideshow running with some others.  They might be doing good work with the prize itself but the exhibition of it appears hung as an afterthought.  I get the sense that curatorially they see Brett as the big deal round here.  The winner was a young gun from the nations capital called Tim Phillips who had about 4 similar works on show.  It was a pretty tight little selection.  These were quite delicate still lives on a monochromatic pinkish background.  Kind of takes me back to art school with its focus on bottle and glasses and the like but it obviously appealed to the judges.  He is now $25k richer and has a 3 month stay in Paris.  I had originally thought two other finalists were chosen at random but now I realise both James Drinkwater and Dane Lovett were highly commended (I think they need some ribbons a la the Easter Show to make this a little clearer!).  Drinkwater's entries were very abstract and I guess meant to be landscapes based on the titles.  His colour palette is quite earthy and hung in this studio they appeared to have a real retro look as if they were painted in the '70s.  Lovett's work was reasonably familiar to me as I think I have seen his work at Sullivan and Strumpf.  These works were much sparer than his usual focus on obsolete technology.  Other finalists you only see in pixels despite schlepping over to the hills include Valentina Palonen, Clara Adolphs, Samuel Condon, Nick Hall and Tom Polo (Andrew Frost obviously not the judge!). If you can't make it to Surry Hills here is the show in all its online glory

Points:  The fact that you see half of the show in person and the rest on the screen makes these points hard to give award.  And even my old favourite of blatant self-interest is absent as I'm not really overly familiar with any of these artists.  What would Richard Bell do?  I asked my daughter and rainbows it is.  I will give Tim the 3 for his portrait (above), 2 points for Valentina's tidal march (middle) and 1 point for Tim's Paninaro '95 (top).  Job done.  Let's go to Bourke St bakery (it's right around the corner - my son recommends the sausage rolls!).