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.