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!).