Saturday, April 25, 2015

2015 Gallipoli Art Prize - 25 April

One of my favourite art little art prizes, the Gallipoli Art Prize is in its tenth (and by design) last year. Out of all the random little art prizes I am much sadder about this ending than say, the Blake Prize.  Walking around you knew exactly where you were, all the entries were right on brief.  Let's take the elevator to the second floor of the Gallipoli Memorial Club and check out the finalists ...

So it was good to see this art prize get a bit of press.  By now you may have read that Sally Robinson won the $20,000 for her Boy Soldiers.  All in all this was a worthy winner.  This year I really noticed how popular animal entries have been over the years.  A dog in a gas mask won the prize (and my 3 points) in 2013. A pigeon bearing medals took my 3 points last year.  And again there are animals everywhere this year.  I think the donkey's had it with 4 representatives but there were at least 2 horses and even pigeons again!  Of the donkey's I did quite like Martin Tighe's 'The Burden' (top).  This work also took out one of the judges highly commended's.  Alison Mackay's 'Fallen' (bottom) was actually two works.  The spoons were in order on the left and all mixed up on the right.  I think there was some deeper meaning hidden here but more importantly if you look closely she has managed to include both a donkey and a pigeon!!  Leaving the animals entirely out of it there was quite a lot of portraiture, of old diggers, of young diggers, of generations of soldiers and more.  To be honest, that does get a little generic en masse.  Of the figurative works I probably likes Susan Sutton's best, her 'Out Came the Sherrin' (pictured middle) showing some soldiers enjoying some down time.  And very appropriate although I am not sure I left my slouch hat on whilst playing footy at cadet camp!

Points:  3 points will go to Martin Tighe's donkey, s/he looks like s/he needs it!  I will give 2 points to the spoons which appeals to the badge collector in me and I will give 1 point to Susan Sutton.  I might have scored that one higher if it wasn't AFL.  Seriously this is Sydney.  Our diggers played league!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tony Albert "Thou didst fall" at Sullivan Strumpf - 18 April

Tony Albert's career has gone from strength to strength, he is winning art prizes left, right and centre, he has just opened a major new public sculpture in Hyde Park and to top it all off he has the creme de la creme of the Sydney anonymous art blogging scene turning up to his latest solo show at Sullivan + Strumpf on its opening day!

S+S's (gee I'm using a lot of S's today) ground floor has the big works on show.  There is a large bronze sculpture (which is actually a miniature version of the Hyde Park bullets, but it is still pretty big).  There are some overscale anzac'esque mixed media assemblages which to me just screamed "institutional buyer", mainly due to the size (one was 550cm long, the other 270cm high) but also due to the six figure price.  I really loved some of the components of these assemblages, especially the camouflage 'rosettes' with vintage aboriginal badges at the centre.  My favourite works, as is often the case, were in the upstairs gallery.  Here the star of the show was Wake Up (pictured top).  This is the classic aboriginalia inspired mixed media work with the military twist that has the trademark text included.  That is, this work ticks all the boxes you'd want as a collector and no surprise it has been picked up.  If $48k gives you sticker shock (and make you kick yourself for not picking up a Tony Albert watercolour from Jan Manton when they were selling for 3 figures 6 years ago) then Tony has a few prints of the work that he has embellished in different way at a more friendly price for younger collectors.  I really like how Tony does this, takes a print and makes it special through re-work.  A few punters agreed with me as these had all sold pre-opening.  What I think makes Tony such an interesting artist to follow is that he is always trying new things.  What do I really mean by that?  Well certain artists in Australia (and globally really) do get 'stuck' in a certain style - you look and it and can name the artist straight away.  Tony is always evolving but referencing back, velvets, photography, watercolours and now these very large (150 x 200cm and up) acrylics on canvas (you can see them in the background of the middle photo).  They are based on old WWII era cartoons but they have some images painted on top, which again reminded me of the watercolour series I saw all those years ago.  Now if you look to the foreground of that middle photo you will see some fabulous cabinetry.  This bullet-legged cabinet contains an art diary that Tony kept whilst doing the war memorial commission.  I hear it is going to the City of Sydney.  Lastly, but not leastly, I looked through the Green Skin series of works where Tony has daubed over some collected images.  I loved these and to be honest was quite partial to some of the vintage comics he has transformed.  Hmmm, what is that art budget again ...

Points:  I am giving 3 points to Wake Up.  I also like its circular shape, which on further thought is reminiscent of an old Anzac day badge.  It also recalls the target shape that Tony uses throughout his work.  2 points will go to the war diary cabinet (hopefully City of Sydney will have this on show somewhere so we can come back and study it better).  1 point will go to one of the Green Skin series (of them all I would choose the target above).

Friday, April 17, 2015

Artexpress 2015 - 17 April

Last week for Artexpress at the AGNSW.  I went on Friday lunchtime and joined the pretty big crowds checking it out.  Seriously, place was packed.  As I mentioned last year, Ben Quilty got his first break in this gig all the way back then.  Are we going to find the next big art star?

Well, I don't think just art star.  To me, the arts subject is getting much broader in 2014 (to clarify, if you are at Artexpress in 2015, you did the HSC in 2014).  Certainly not all of these are 'fine arts' as you would've once expected.  One student has a big architecture project in here.  Quite a few seem to have promising careers in graphic design.  Darien Law's Simple Cinema (extract above and also pic bottom) was great.  Now I've mentioned before that one of the BEST things about artexpress is that the students need to list out their artist influences.  Darien listed Chip Kidd and Alvin Lustig.  Recognise the names?  Only 1 for me.  Chip Kidd is a well known book designer and it turns out so is Alvin.  Darien has been inspired by book design to make new movie posters.  Now it might be hard to make out all the posters in enough detail online so I've put 2 above for you to work out (but think quick as I'll put the spoiler with the points).  It was great to see all the punters in the AGNSW trying to do the same 'name that movie' thing.  Quite a few I didn't get but it was a lot of fun playing.  Another student taking a populist path was Jordan Abram.  One of his influencing artists was Eugene Tan.  Who?  Oh you mean ::uge from aquabumps!  Don't get me wrong, I am at Bondi every week, subscribe to (and was even featured once!) on the daily email.  I love aquabumps, but is it art?  Jordan has taken a photo of random (and not so random, hello Tony Hawk) punters in Bondi and combined it with a little quote of theirs has produced a photo book called 2026 (Bondi's postcode).  I was going to say it reminded me of the blog 'Human's of New York' until I researched his other art influence, Brandon Stanton, and discovered that he was the photographer / blogger of HoNY fame.  Still following a populist (cartoon) aesthetic but with a bit more art theory was Li-Hsien Lee.  Her work, The Artyssey (pictured top), was a series of panels that told the story of an art disciple learning from a master.  I liked how it appropriated the traditional chinese style but was created entirely digitally.  Li's influences ranged from Herge (i.e. Tintin) to Noel McKenna (he is everywhere at the moment!) and even Brett Whitely.  Also in the show this year were extracts from the students art process diaries and my favourites were Li's as you can see how she did these panels in digital form.  Very illuminating for an analog critic.

Points: 3 points to Li-Hsien Lee for her Artyssey.  It was a great little story, lots of fun but also clever in the references to art history and the use of a number of pieces (e.g. Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles) which served as little easter eggs for viewers.  2 points will go to Darien Law for Simple Cinema.  For those racking their brain, the movies for the images in the middle were Back to the Future (LHS) and Jurassic Park (RHS), that is the car needed to hit 88mph and the t-rex made the glass of water vibrate.  Get it now?  I think Darien should put these into a little artist book!  1 point will go to Gabrielle Holmes for her work Once Again, The Facts Have Been Erased.  This was a piece of high concept that wouldn't be out of place in a NY gallery.  You can see Gabrielle's work here.  The rest of the exhibition can be found here.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easter Show 2015 - 26 March to 8 April

Okay folks, this is the big one.  The show you have been waiting for all year and it is only March.  The one, the only, the Easter Show!  As regular readers would know, apart from running the Big Lamington I am a bit of a prize winning baker and preserver.  And this year was no different with the Big Lamington team elbow deep in chutneys, relishes, jellies and jams all through art month.  It's a real relief to have finished all the cooking, cause then I actually get to go visit the show.  Now, I think I say this every year but it does deserve repeating for those that came in late.  The Easter Show is the oldest art prize in Australia.  The Show itself kicked off in 1823 and awarded its first art ribbons in 1869 (compared to the oldest AGNSW art prize, the Wynne, which kicked off in 1897).  It covers over 500 categories from traditional painting, through photography, to all the crafts and cooking arts. There are many thousands of entries but only a handful lucky enough to bag a coveted ribbon.  The show itself has finished for the year but lets take a look back at the highlights from my perspective ...

But before we really get going I should point out that the Easter Show has some serious art credentials this year.  Art world identity Alison Renwick has been a driving force on the arts & crafts committee for many years and it looks like she has recruited Evan Hughes of the Hughes gallery onto the committee.  They have lined up a great panel of judges including Carriageworks' Lisa Havileh (watercolours), Art months Glenn Barkley (rural subject and/or landscape), artist Lucy Culliton (australian birds / flowers), and dealer James Dorahy (marine / seascape).  Now did you notice how specific some of the categories are?  I just love it.  As well as the traditional, the Royal Agricultural Society has branched out and included digital art this year.  But not content with just saying "digital" they are very specific in their categories of vector art or raster art.  Yep, look them up!

Okay where to start?  Let's get the traditional out of the way.  The figurative section was a bit of a no-brainer in the Anzac centenary year.  Wayne Dowsett's Anzac portrait of Jack Hinde took the blue ribbon in that section and the special committee purple ribbon (pictured above).  Old Jack himself even turned up on the opening night in full kit.  Good work digger.  There was also a pretty decent portrait of Aussie Dick Smith that won 3rd prize.  Staying with figurative but moving onto animals we are at one of my favourties - Australian Birds and/or Flowers.  I really liked the winner here, Frank Hooke's Rainforest Encounter (pictured 2nd from top).  My only fault was Frank's failure to identify the species.  I mean, how do I know it is an Australian bird?  I mean it could be a damn New Zealand huia bird!  For those wondering the most popular bird, by my count it was a tie with 4 entries of Kookaburras and 4 entries of Lorikeets.  Hmmm, maybe I might try to crank out a black cockatoo next year!  Next up is the biggie.  Rural Subject and/or Landscape painting.  Remember Glenny B is judging this one so I am keen to see what he has selected.  And its a nice eclectic selection of winners.  The blue ribbon went to Michael Rogers' The Longest Cattle Trough which was quintessentially rural.  My favourite was probably Madelaine Batchelor's kitschy Easter Showtime (pictured top).  Now, I don't know if it is just because I know Glenn is judging this. And the fact that Glenn has got a soft spot for Noel McKenna. But, I am seeing a bit of Noel in this work.  Or at least it wouldn't look out of place in Noel's collection.

There were a few nice still life paintings, Robert Baird's At the table of Golgotha was a very traditional piece that won him a red ribbon (2nd place).  My notes on the watercolours are memorable for Meredith Cooper winning the blue ribbon for her Cathedral of Ferns.  But Meredith also came 2nd in the Drawing for a work with the same title.  Lucky for Meredith those sections had different judges.  The works are practically identical!  See above, the watercolour is on the left.  Did anyone else spot that?

Onto the photos and it was good to see Paul McMillan take the blue ribbon for best rural photo.  Paul is an old friend of the Big Lamington and a great guy.  I really liked the winner of the urban landscape, Vivienne Noble's And the Stack Came Down (pictured above) which was a great black and white action shot of the demolition of the Port Kembla landmark.  This post is already stretching the server capacity and I haven't even got to the crafts!  It was a relatively disappointing year for tea cosies but the crochet was outstanding.  I would've awarded the grand champion to the cacti arrangement (pictured below).  Sadly this one was NFS but you can often pick up a great souvenir here, we made off with a crochet hippo that won the blue ribbon in the small toy section.  That is on its way to my god-daughter, hopefully she'll be another fan of the Show.

Points:  So, so many to chose from. I am going to give 3 points to the one that nearly got away from Glenn, the Noel McKenna'esque Easter Showtime! 2 points will go to the bargain of the day, aka the prize winning photo of the 'Gong (that black and white photo of Port Kembla was only $53!). 1 point will go to the rainforest bird.

postscript.  this has already been a mammoth post given my usual standards, and we've shown a lot of images but I can't resist (for obvious reasons) one last image from the digital art section.  The Lamington Drive with a Lamington pretending to be pac-man.  Not only did I love it, the junior critics wanted me to download the game to their iPads!  If only kids, if only!