Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ArtExpress 2014 at AGNSW - 30 April

I was at the Ben Quilty reception at Bank of America the other day and he was talking about the benefits of being a Trustee at the AGNSW.  The best thing about it according to Ben was that he got the AGNSW to keep exhibiting the ArtExpress when the gallery was considering dumping it.  Ben got his start in this show way back when and I agree with him that it is something for the students to look forward to and set as a goal.  So given that wrap I thought I'd check out the art stars of tomorrow ...

My favourite thing about this show remains the fact that most of the students list the artists that inspired their work.  So you can kind of play guess the influence as you walk around.  Now I am a big fan of Reuben Paterson and yes he was an influence to Jessica Hodge (pictured top, the exquisite muse of sorrow).  Rather than flowers each work portrays a different type of cancer cell.  A disease that Jessica has herself experienced.  I hope she has been cured.  Quite a few influencing artists listed that I had never heard of.  Maybe all the art kids trying to be too cool for art school!  I could see a bit of Euan Macleod in Karlene Galiluyo's work and Lionel Bawden in Giorgia Jackson's book based sculptures (pic below, mortui sunt aclyoneum libros).  Giorgia is replicating dead coral here and making a statement about the end of books.  A nice clever sculpture from this Armidale girl.  I also liked Tracey Poon's SMART Solutions (pictured middle).  Tracey has taken inspiration from Claes Oldenburg and made some playful food sculptures out of cardboard and coloured paper.  She had vanilla slices, chocolate sponge rolls, kiwi tarts, cupcakes and more but no you know whats.

Points:  3 points for Jessica Hodge for her glitter cancer works.  Visually striking and moving artist statement.  2 points for Giorgia Jackson for the book coral sculpture and 1 point for Tracey Poon whose cardboard treats appealed to the baker in me (and would've been 3 if there were some lamingtons!).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Redlands Art Prize 2014 - 26 April

As I said last year (and I think even the year before), this show is an education.  Very eclectic and a reasonable survey of some established artists and some emerging artists, half of whom I have never heard of!  The premise is that some guest curator picks a dozen or so established artists who then pick an emerging artist to also be in the prize.  They give out $25k to the winner of the established category and $10k to the winner of the emerging.  Sadly the organisers obviously didn't read the Big Lamington review last year where I gave the eminently sensible suggestion that there be a new category for the 'team event' of established and emerging artist. This creates a vacuum, then we fill that vacuum. As popular war advances, peace is closer. What?

On the ground floor of the National Art School gallery you first come across (or are confronted with, depending upon your views) a massive Tom Polo installation.  I read that Tom won the emerging category.  Tom's style is divisive, you either love it, hate it or couldn't give a rats. I'm always confused to which bucket I fall in, so at least he gets you thinking! My junior critics were excited by the prospect of voting for a people's choice award so were busy hunting for their favourites.  On the ground floor we lingered at Tim Maguire's lightbox (Kinglake Panorama) and also Tully Arnot's inventive 'Bottle Song' where he has upcycled some old plastic soft drink bottles into an whistling orchestra with some micro fans blowing in the mouth of the bottle.  The eco propaganda message at primary school must be working as the kids thought this very clever and useful.  Round the corner I came across a great selection of works by Ian Milliss. His works combine coal and flowers (pictured top, 'Homage to Tatlin'). Growing up in the Hunter Valley I have a bit of an appreciation of coal for both its economic benefits but environmental costs. I would've loved this even more if it was a native Australian plant (at first sight I did think the ornamental ginger was a rock lily orchid, dendrobium speciosum, which is native to Sydney and the Hunter Valley). It was only after reading the catalogue that I see he is referencing censorship.  Hmmm.  Next to him is Alex Wisser who is digging a hole.  The work has a video on the wall and a photo on the floor of the artist in the hole.  Very Castle.  The work is from Hill End in NSW which was once a gold mining town.  So I like how Ian and Alex are both referencing mining.  Nice to see artists working as a team!  Upstairs the junior critics liked artist pairing of Pip & Pop (who scooped a Big Lamington point back in 2011!) who included a pastelly print of lollies (image left below) and Amy Joy Watson (Split, image below right) whose helium balloon sculpture had everyone transfixed. I like the inventiveness of this sculpture, the helium must present some issues for collectors no?  Do you have to keep a tank of helium at home and inflate the artwork when guests come over? Nearby Alex Seton's marble sculpture of an a deflated pool toy needed to bring out the reminder of the no touching rule as it is so lifelike the junior critics couldn't believe it was made of stone.  Alex does very fine sculpture work and he is on good form here.  It is a shame that the curators didn't manage to put this work near his invitee Tully Arnot as together it is a strong pairing.  What else?  I liked Scott Redford's 'Proposal for a Gold Cost Public Sculpture' (pictured middle) and more so since he is so outspoken of late.  Keep speaking your mind Scott!  Interestingly the catalogue has the Kylie Minogue version although Scott has Heath Ledger in the comp.  Last name check goes to Greg Weight for his photo of paint splattered boots which are virtually camouflaged against a similarly splattered floor.  Nice.  You can see the full catalogue online here.

Points:  The points here are all team based.  3 points will go to Ian Milliss & Alex Wisser.  I gave my people's choice to Ian as well.  2 points will go to Pip & Pop and Amy Joy Watson, Amy also collected the people's choice of one of the junior critics.  1 point will go to Alex Seton and Tully Arnot.  Please email your postal address if you would like your certificates mailed out!

Friday, April 25, 2014

2014 Gallipoli Art Prize - 25 April

As most Australian know, 25 April 1915 was the date of the Gallipoli landings - becoming known as Anzac day.  This year is the 99th anniversary of the landings and I was down at North Bondi RSL (aka the Rathouse) with about 2,000 folks for the dawn service this year and it was great.  Luckily for me I had swung by the Gallipoli Club in the city the day before to see the opening day of the Gallipoli Art Prize.  As I said last year this is one of my favourite art prizes, and very low key.  Sadly the Gallipoli Club plan to only run it until the 100th anniversary next year.  Hopefully someone can step in and keep it running.  I hear Transfield has some spare capacity in its art sponsorship budget ...

This prize got a fair bit of press with big spreads in all the main papers.  Idris Murphy took out the $25k with his landscape 'Gallipoli Evening 2013'.  I loved the golden colouring he used on this landscape and the abstract lone pine in the centre of work links it more directly than most entries into the ethos of the Club.  It is an acquisitive prize and once they have renovated the club there is planned to be a sort of museum area where all these winners will be hung.  This will be a great addition.  There are a handful of familiar names, Fleur MacDonald, previous BL 3 point winner Kerrie Lester, Haydn Wilson and Leo Robba I recall from previous shows.  Haydn's entry, 'Gallipoli Patched' is a great colourful work, if you don't get to see them in person the SMH article I linked to has a gallery of images (actually, this year quite a few websites have the full images up which is handy for my as the lighting is terrible inside the club to take some happy snaps).  As an aside, I think if you are an established artist you've got a great chance in this prize, having looked at full entry list that was left out on a table on the first day to facilitate pick-ups.  There were some classical war artist work like Sue Jarvis' entry.  There were the more contemporary works like Alison Mackay's Battlefield (above). The artist statement said this work was about the challenges of returning to family.  I don't see that but see a lot more about symbolism and futility. Really liked it.  One of my favourites was Monique Aurichchio's 'For Gallantry' (pictured top).  This watercolour shows a carrier pigeon with medals.  But even better is that this is a real decoration.  As Monique explains in her artist statement the PDSA Dickin Medal is like the VC for war animals.  Of the 54 war animals awarded the medal, 32 were pigeons, 2 of which were aussie birds!  Someone send this to Bill Lawry!  I am thinking of talking an artist friend that does great flower paintings into doing a wreath for next years prize.  I liked Peter Gardiner's entry this year (pictured below, 'Wreath (memory)') but didn't really get the fire.  Or I did get what he was trying to say but I think it would've been prettier without it!  Dean Bowen's charcoal on paper 'Hospital Ship' was a great work.  Really intriguing.  I'll keep an eye out for him.

Points:  I like ribbons & medals, and I like paintings of birds so it looks like Monique will take the 3 points here.  The aesthetics of oil under resin are also a firm favourite, so Alison Mackay's Battlefield will take the 2 points.  The 1 point will go to Peter Gardiner for his wreath.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter Show 2014 - 10-23 April

March is always a busy time at Big Lamington HQ, and I'm not just referring to Art Month and the Biennale (what a palaver that has been).  The big event looming large on my calender each year is the Easter Show!  And yours truly was elbow deep in prep for the baking and preserving sections (yes, some ribbons won but sadly this isn't a blog to talk about jam rolls).  Now I said this last year but it deserves repeating for those that came in late.  The Easter Show is likely the oldest art prize in Australia. The Show itself kicking off in 1823 and awarding its first arts ribbons in 1869 (with the oldest AGNSW prize, the Wynne, only kicking off in 1897).  Despite the recent slur by art critic who should know better John McDonald (who said of the Australia exhibit at the Royal Academy that "I've seen more cohesive hangs at the Royal Easter Show"), this is one of my favourite events.  Democratic and very eclectic.  Let's look at the wares ...

There are quite a few categories, all with quite precise requirements, from sculptures (figurative, abstract and small are each separate categories) to still life, landscape, rural subject, australian birds, watercolour, then drawing and photography the schedule runs on and on.  Don't forget to include the gems of folk art and even the tea cosies are quite often works of art themselves (and some of the first works to be snapped up on opening night by savvy collectors.  There are thousands of works so I will just hit my highlights.  The winner of the blue ribbon for watercolour, Giulia Staudinger's 'Kookaburra' was an amazingly detailed piece and a worthy winner, though I wish she had entered it into the native bird section as I was a little disappointed in the avian art on offer here.  I actually preferred the winner of the separate poultry art competition (Turkeys, pictured above) to what was on offer in here.  The Show rewards traditional works and the winner of the still life was a classic, as was the winner of President's prize for 'best rural subject painted in a traditional style' by Melvin Duffy (To water, pictured top).  Melvin is in his 80's which just goes to show I've got quite a few years of exhibiting ahead of me.  The photography is always a bit mixed, or maybe it is the judging I don't agree with.  My pick here was Christina Peterson's Reflections which snagged her a 3rd prize ribbon in the open section.  Of all the categories, I was particularly enthusiastic about sculpture this year.  For those that can't resist skipping ahead you might have just spied that golden object pictured below.  This was the winner of the small sculpture section (less than 15cm in any dimension).  Titled "and the Gold Lamington for 2014 goes to ..." it won the blue ribbon in its section for James Dolton.  I agree with the judges here, what a great kitschy treat.  Like the CWA's version of the gold logies!  The abstract category was also a hit.  The 2nd prize winner from here, Julie Donnelly, was also a favourite with her tall assemblage of old crystal bowls, platters and cake stands (have a look at my twitter feed for an image).

Points:  Hands up who thinks the Big Lamington is going to give the 3 points to the Gold Lamington?  Give yourselves a highly commended ribbon 'cause you're dead right.  3 to James for his tasty looking treat.  2 points will go Julie for her repurposing some classic nana style crystal pieces into a contemporary work.  1 point will go to Melvin.  He really hit the brief with his traditional work although his signing the painting "Melvin Duffy OAM" in a large font is really subverting the anonymous judging!  Will have to keep an eye out for him next year ...