Thursday, March 26, 2015

Liam Benson at Artereal - 26 March

Liam Benson is showing at Artereal? Of course I made it.  Naturally with the Easter Show in full swing it took me a while to get around to documenting that trip.  But with the magic of blogger it looks like this was posted on the 26th, when I managed to swing by the gallery after tasting success with my namesake category in the perishable cooking category at the Big Show!

For those that came in late, this blog is a bit of a fan of Liam's work.  I'd run into Liam at the MCA in December and seen his trademark beard getting bushier and bushier and asked him if he was going to be doing a Ned Kelly.  Bingo.  And here there are.  Now I have long argued you could arrange a whole collection around depictions of Captain Cook in contemporary art (Quilty, Daniel Boyd, Jason Wing etc), and I think I can now safely add Ned Kelly to that list (Nolan, Ha-Ha, Ohnesorge, and now Benson!).  To be honest I was a little confused as to the images.  Liam has applied a camouflage facepaint in styles that are meant to evoke the different gum trees around Ned's bushranging haunts.  The top image is meant to be a red gum, the bottom image a snow gum.  In that way the Ned homage is potentially a little too subtle for most.  I mean, I think a metal helmet somewhere would've helped! That said, I really liked the series.  And I hope he keeps the beard a while longer as I think there should be an accompanying video work.  Also in this show are Liam's continuing needlepoint works (me & you, pictured above) which still look great (although, full disclosure I do have one).  Again, not wanting to keep harping on with suggestions but I think a good old fashioned "such is life" would've gone really well here.  Maybe a little too Ben Cousins but hey.  Now Liam has another whole series in this show where he is wearing see through head outfits of an executioner, a crusader, and a terrorist. That is like 3 separate exhibitions in one, and he is showing again in a group show at Artereal in April.  He certainly has been busy!

Points:  Well, the Neds were the stars of the show in my opinion.  The question is whether I am going for the more colourful or the more subtle.  It's a tough call but I am going to sling 3 points at the Ned Kelly Snow Gum (Kosciuszko) [the bottom one!].  2 points will go to the Blue Gum (coral) Ned [not pictured, go to the Artereal webs].  1 point will go to the Liam needlepoint* Me & you (pictured middle).


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Art Month Collector's Space - 21 March

Here we go.  Collector's Space.  My favourite #artmonth show.  The third time it's getting reviewed on the Big Lamington.  Will it deliver again this year? Will Glenn Barkley ask me next year?  Will I find it?  All serious questions!

First up, some details you need to know.  This has moved.  Again.  The space is now downstairs at the Ray Hughes gallery on devonshire street.  Handy if you feel like a pork & fennel sausage roll from the bourke street bakery, although less handy for a midweek assignation. Hence I joined the crowds on Saturday.  Now, there are a couple of novelties for this year.  A nice touch was mixing up all the art between the collectors, previously it had been quite compartmentalised.  I see the itchy hand of the curator at work here.  Another great move was getting some artists involved.  Nell and Noel McKenna both sharing their collections.  Other collectors included this year are corporate type Sue Cato, random IT type Clinton Bradley and random collecting couple from the north shore Max & Gabrielle Germanos.

82 works are listed in the room sheet, and I only have a paragraph to spare so go have a look-see for yourself as this is only going to hit the high notes.  Well I usually like a big Danie Mellor, and Sue Cato's certainly ticks that box.  Actually a lot of her collection ticks the boxes despite the curators intro (saying that collecting is not box ticking).  Shaun Gladwell, Bill Henson, Guan Wei. Tick, tick, tick. I can tell by reading the names that Sue is a little older than me, this is a collection of a certain price range.  I thought the same when trying to piece together the Germanos collection.  Mclean Edwards x 3 and a Euan Macleod.  It does say something to collect in depth, and I respect that.  But in saying that they must really love Mclean Edwards!  My favourite non-artist collector was definitely Clinton Bradley.  Without the ability to play swapskis like Nell he has the collection that I could most empathise with putting together.  Loved his massive Michael Parekowhai (yes I can pronounce it!), pictured top (Cosmo McMurtry).  I can't believe he actually has this in his place.  I mean he can't have kids, they would love it, I just mean there would be no room for it!  It was great, and very timely given Easter is just round the corner.  I wouldn't have guessed Parekowhai, but maybe Parekowhai channeling Koons.  I also liked his Louise Weaver lithograph, recognised the Koji Ryui mini sculptures from Sarah Cottier and appreciated his collecting the 'harder' to categorise work like a powerpoint from Agatha Gothe-Snape.

Okay, I lied.  I could squeeze in another paragraph.  That's just because I'm now swapping to the artists collections.  I think Glenn had another reason to mix up the art on display this year.  If only to disguise how enamoured he was of the artists collections.  With 82 works from 5 couples you would expect about 16 works each. But Nell & Kylie Kwong have contributed 30 works and Noel McKenna has 26 (yes I counted the room sheet, that's the dedication it takes to make it as a quasi-anonymous art blogger these days!).  Now what I liked about the artist collections was the randomness of them. I also loved to look at a piece and try and guess whose it was.  To me, Noel's collection had a strong connection with his own work.  You could see a piece and think, that looks like Noel's.  Just look at that picture 2nd from the top, a grouping from Noel's collection!  The highlights of the McKenna collection in my opinion were the Rugby World Cup teapot by Alma Smith (pictured above) and what I think is an Ann Wallace piece (pictured below).  I also liked his XXXX bottle top curtain.  From Nell & Kylie Kwong's collection I enjoyed seeing what Nell has traded for, including a Lionel Bawden pencil work and a Laith McGregor bronze.  Nell has kept a few of her own works including a nifty igloo with eyes (pictured 3rd from top) but my favourite of hers was probably one of the smallest, a 7 x 3cm Philjames of Mr Freeze.

Points:  well, I know some people think art should be about ideas not money* but to the Big Lamington art is about points!  Now, don't take it personally collectors, but this is what I would swipe if you had an open house ... 3 points to the big bunny (not Nell, the Parekowhai.  2 points to Noel's teapot.  Shame it was 2003.  I'd love a cricket world cup version from 2007.  Maybe tiki mugs!  1 point will go to Nell, probably for the igloo (it kind of also reminds me of the Phantom's skull cave!).  I also love how she framed all these notes from folks like Fred Tomaselli and Dick Bruna as art. Again a great random show, as Glenn would say 'art is the winner today'*.  Looking forward to 2016 #artmonth already!

* art month have produced a lot of pastel business cards with Glenn Barkley quotes.  If you see them grab one, certain collectors items in themselves.

In the Still at Arthouse Gallery - 21 March

So the non-perishable items (that's jams and things like fruitcake) were dropped off at the Easter Show last weekend, and the perishable items (like Lamingtons and other baking categories) are due this Thursday.  What does all that mean?  Well it means I can go see some art this Saturday!  First up was a quick visit to Arthouse for their art month group show, 'In the Still'.

True story, I very nearly went to Still School at a whiskey distillery in Washington State USA.  So I was a little disappointed that this show actually meant 'still life' rather than say, bathtub gin.  I soon got over my disappointment by the great pieces that Leah Fraser has in.  I'm quite taken by her recognisable style. I can't really describe it, but I like it.  All blues, greens and creams, and a little boho / etsy feel to it. For some reason I think of interiors blogs when I think of Leah, that's probably 'cause she has featured heavily on the design files (which my better half likes reading).  What I really like about her entries here is that she has cross branded the mini sculptures into the pieces (top, A simple beautiful truth, 60 x 60cm; and down below you can pick some of the ceramics in the piece).  Its no surprise to me that both the painting has sold, as well as some of the key pieces in it (like the 'umal shaman' figurine). I like to think that a single collector picked all that up to keep it together.  Moving around the room I thought it was good to see Kirra Jamison not knocking off Gemma Smith's squiggles and actually doing something less abstract.  Her big piece, Morning Glory (200 x 170cm, above) was great and I liked the over the top pattern that recalled Reuben Patterson without the glitter.  I also like her titling work as the one with the dark background was called 'Evening Glory'.  I always prefer my glories in the morning but the dark painting was also quite striking.  Craig Waddell had quite a few flowers in here, which is playing to a strength of his but in my mind (& maybe its just because I am in Easter Show mode, where they take the brief very seriously) I don't reckon half of these are actually "still lifes".  Much more traditional were entries from Claudia Damichi (very neat) and Laura Jones (a little messier).  Laura's 'Flowering Gum' (below), was perhaps one of the most classical, also incorporating the textile casually dropped over the table.

Points:  I think most know where I am going here.  3 points for Leah Fraser.  Loved the painting and especially the interaction with the ceramics.  I will give 2 points to Laura for her traditional composition, and also 'cause she is from the Southern Highlands (I think I read a profile in Highlife!).  And what's the story morning glory? 1 point for Kirra for her massive flower piece (which given the grief I am throwing at Craig I is probably not really a still life either but you are not coming to the Big Lamington for consistency!).

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hayden Fowler at Alaska - 6 March.

Some bonus art month action whilst walking back home.  I had been seeing this random erection going up at Alaska and was wondering what the deal was. A couple of Hayden Fowler sightings gave the game away and I was lucky enough to walk past here the first night of the performance.  If you've missed it so far, there is still time.  The final show is Sat 21 March from 6-9pm at the Alaska office on William St.  See you there!

'Your Death' as this new performance installation project is called continues Hayden's practice of getting tattoos of dead birds as art.  Kind of like John Gould x Sailor Jerry.  He first got some huia birds inked in 2007 (we saw a print of these in his studio and they bagged 2 points back in 2013), then he got a massive swooping owl (or Wha'kau) in 2014.  And now?  And now it is the South Island Kokako.  Obviously a few different spellings and at first I was confused with the kakapo (which is a flightless parrot, and also quite endangered).  How do I know so much about NZ birds?  Well, Project Kakapo was the codename for a deal I worked on back in NZ back in the day.  Good times!  Anyhoo, so the Alaska blurb declares that the Kokako was officially declared extinct in 2004, and it was.  But in 2013 its status was reclassified as 'data deficient' and their are kiwis out there in the field looking for this bird!  [Go here if you want to donate to that cause]  What I love about Hayden's work is the contrast between the futuristic set / the clinical white costumes of the tattooist contrasted with the subject matter, extinct birds.  The maori style cloak made of feathers just sitting there for no reason is also pretty neat.  On the first night Alaska Director Seb Goldspink was stopping people and explaining the project.  It's a high foot traffic area so there were some punters getting their first dose of Fowler who were a little confused, my favourite was the group of irish construction workers who looked like they had a few tatts of their own.  They were fookin' amazed.  I reckon the junior critics would be as well.  I think we might have to swing by once more.  Oh, and I need some better photos!

Points:  tbd.  I want to see these new birds finished before I award the points.  It is going to take something special to get the 3 points off the huia birds!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sabbatical - December to February.

Alright art lovers and fans of random ranting.  Welcome back to the blog for 2015.  It's been radio silence for a little while the Big Lamington team has been catching up on other passions during what to be honest is a bit of a dead time on the art calendar - with apologies to all those that artist that did exhibit over Jan / Feb!

There was still some art on the agenda, stay tuned for some wistful recollections of my time at the Blake Prize in December and a visit to see the James Turrell exhibition in Canberra (the only must see show in my opinion). I will do my regular trick of backdating so I'll link from this page when updated.

I feel a little bad that I never got around to seeing the "blockbuster" museum shows but I suspect they'll be another one or two next year. Speaking of which, is it Art Month already?  See you soon.

Points available for anyone who manages to pick the above work.


here's the Blake Prize review from December 2014