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).