Sunday, 19 December 2010

Transitions... but from here to where?

Jacqui Fitzgerald, (L- R) Anahata, Untitled 2 & Untitled 1.

Mary Place Gallery: 7th- 19th December 2010

Transition is the passage from one form, state, style, or place to another so when I arrived at the exhibition Transitions at Mary Place Gallery I was under the impression I would be viewing work which demonstrated some form of a journey, a progression. This was not the case. However, this is not to say the work wasn't exceptional- the majority of it was- I was just slightly confused as to the theme connecting the 12 artists in the show.

The detail in the work of Patricia Ward is amazing. One would expect the dark and slightly eerie images of bees attaching themselves to a human heart to be gruesome, however it is the complete opposite. Ward's work is both beautiful and fascinating. Nicole Toms oil works have all the moodiness of a Dali painting- without the melting clocks- and the charcoal drawings of crows by David Grainger had me reciting Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven in my head.

The work of Helen Young and Justin Cooper demonstrated a large degree of skill. Both Young's prints and Cooper's drawings give evidence to the talent that both these artist's have, however, the subject matter was a little on the banal side. While beautifully executed, Young's sea-themed prints are mundane while Cooper's overtly sexualised illustrations have an overwhelming feeling of 'it's been done'.

The work of Jacqui Fitzgerald stood out as exceptional. Fitzgerald, a relative newcomer to the Sydney art scene, depicts highly emotive and intrinsically personal scenes that are as haunting as they are beautiful. There is a sadness about the work and a sense of something hidden. Identity is obscured, the body is sheltered in a self concious and almost child- like gesture of withdrawal, of turning into oneself. Anahata is desparate, clingy- like a person grasping for breath. Evidently self portraits (one look at the artist herself is enough to prove this), one can't help but wonder if the work mirrors the inner struggles of the artist. Fitzgerald's work is like a memory supressed, a thought ignored, a feeling you just can't shake.

Perhaps the 'transition' then is not so much conceptual as actual. Perhaps it has less to do with artist's vision and more to do with the viewer.

Fareed Haddad

Nicole Toms

David Grainger

David Grainger

Helen Young

Patricia Ward

Patricia Ward

Benjamin Croser

Benjamin Croser

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Sunday, 12 December 2010

National Art School Undergraduate Exhibition

Sophie Cape, A dog's hind leg

National Art School: November 18th- December 11th 2010

After being impressed by the National Art School (NAS) Postgraduate Exhibition the other week, I had high expectations for the undergraduate show. One thing which I never seem to learn, despite writing about and reviewing exhibitions for several years now, is that high expectations are never a good thing. Better to have no expectations. While there were several works which did deliver, there was an overwhelming sense of "Is this it?" Granted, by comparison to the postgraduate show, these are artists who are perhaps at the beginnings of their careers and therefore have the capacity to grow and dare I say, improve. It's not even that the work was bad, just simply underwhelming.
The work of Sandy Bliim, Angus Fisher, Saif Almurayati, Larinda Knight, Akira Alvarez- Sharkey and, in particular, Mai Thi Tran were exceptional. One aspect that is consistant between both the postgrad and undergrad shows is the high standard of the work produced by print makers. The detail and skill is remarkable and sets it apart from other areas. This is possibly what saved the exhibition for me and gave me hope for better things in the future.
Saif Almurayati, Borderline
Saif Almurayati, Buster Bunker

Saif Almurayati, Buster Bunker
Larinda Knight

Angus Fisher, Four Feathers

Mai Thi Tran, Solitude II

Mai Thi Tran, Solitude I
Mai Thi Tran, Solitude III

Akira Alvarez- Sharkey, John Henry's Hammer

Akira Alvarez- Sharkey, NO DENTIST BLUES
Sandy Bliim, Reliquie (detail)

Sandy Bliim, Reliquie
Sandy Bliim, Child's Play

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Modern Equivalence...

Peter Burgess
Modern Equivalence
Peloton Gallery: 18th November- 11th December 2010

Being in no way familiar with the work of Peter Burgess, I entered his solo show at Peloton Gallery with no preconceived ideas. Modern Equivalence presents monochromatic replicas of a match box, a parcel and a bag of rubbish accompanied by 2D images. These works are facinating and beautifully intricate but it is more than simply their aesthetic appearence which intrigued me. Each work has its own history intrinsically entwined with every detail. The match box references the Sydney fires of 1910- 20 which were attributed to the Wobblies, the parcel represents the parcel bomb left at a London tube station in 1973 and the bag of rubbish is indicative of the bin which exploded outside the Sydney Hilton Hotel in 1978.

Installation view
The most interesting aspect which connects each of these events, as Burgess explained to me, is that those who were labelled responsible by the media were in fact never convicted of committing the crimes. However, trial by media is as good as law- a fact which has not changed over the years. It also demonstrates how such mundane objects, in a world consumed by terror, become threatening.

Peter Burgess, Latent Object #6 (white version) – Wrapped package, 0.45 scale, tube station bombings, London 1973, attributed to the IRA, 2008-09.
The artist's photographic prints apparently mimic the cloudscapes of photographers Minor White and Alfred Stieglitz, however, they are not clouds but images of explosions. Once again Burgess is demonstrating how something that appears innocent can carry sinister connotations. Modern Equivalence is one of the most relevant and frankly interesting exhibitions I have seen in a very long time. While the work is embedded in history it equally carries significance in today's society while subtly making comment on the role which the media plays in inciting terror. While technically brilliant, the work ensures I will never look at a match box in the same way again.
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Sunday, 28 November 2010

Capture the Fade at The Paper Mill

Capture The Fade
The Paper Mill: November 17th- 27th 2010

The Paper Mill is the latest in a long standing tradition of Artist Run Initiatives (ARI) in Sydney. Dealing exclusively with works on paper, the Mill is located in Angel Place near Martin Place in the middle of Sydney's CBD. It's central location attracts a diverse, if at times sparse, audience and it is this quality which captures the imagination of the artists who exhibit there or undergo residencies in the space.

Capture The Fade is a collaborative exhibition with Ampersand Magazine. The Mill is hosting Ampersands inaugural international photography competition with the winner chosen by Bill Henson. Submissions could be of any composition or genre as long as they reponded to the theme: Capture the Fade. The result is an incredibly diverse and eclectic collection of images that range from portraiture to landscape and abstract imagery.

Bill Henson made a rather interesting speech. Having a degree of respect for the infamous photographer I was quite eager to hear what he had to say. Perhaps it should have come as no surprise that Henson used this moment at the microphone to vent a little about the strict censorship laws around photography which have seen his work confiscated in the past. His intense dislike of what he terms "state sanctioned vigilantism" was evident as he deliberated on the "hijacking of photography" and the "return to the dark ages". While I quite enjoyed hearing Australian Parliament described as "ratbags" I couldn't help but think this whole spectacle was a little self- serving and kind of not the point.

Of the 32 entrants, the overall winner was Sergei Sviatchenko (above). Ironically, this is my least favourite piece in the exhibition. By comparison to the other works, this image, for me, lacked depth and presence. The stongest collection of photographs was by USA artist Craig Reynolds (below) whose structured imagery is reminiscent of a type of beautiful organised chaos and staged disorganisation.

Other impressive photographs included Dominique Staindl, Ingvar Kenne (above), Gene Hart- Smith and Jack Jeweller. An impressive turn out, The Paper Mill was the perfect setting for this multifaceted exhibition with its slightly industrial interior and white walls. Collaborations such as this with Ampersand will equally forge new partnerships and raise the profile of this new ARI. Capture the Fade embodied aspects of humanity and nature, politics and the absurd while effectively 'capturing' the imagination of its audience.

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National Art School Postgraduate Exhibition

Nick Collerson, Empire of Dust

National Art School : October 22nd- November 2nd 2010

It's that time of year again when art colleges across the city exhibit the work of their graduating students. In most cases this momentous occassion can go one of two ways- the work is either exceptional, supporting the claim that this is indeed the next generation of amazing artists in Australia, or it's exceptionally bad, only serving to support the sceptics view that art is indeed a self- indulgent past time of the egotistical. However, more often than not most graduate shows have a mixture of both and the National Art School Postgraduate Exhibition is no exception.

Nick Collerson

Nick Collerson, Can't see the wood for the trees
The work of Nick Collerson is subtle yet incredibly clever. Empire of Dust is the very picture of simplicity but upon closer inspection the group of leaves are in fact man made and startingly realistic. This intense attention to detail is also apparent in his work Can't see the wood for the trees where Collerson transforms oil on linen into a plank of plywood.

Jennifer Ledingham, Installation II- Whispers 2010

Olivia Burge, Sub- Cutaneous Wounds, Phantom Limbs
Other outstanding works included Installation II- Whispers 2010 & Whispers and Shadows 2010 by Jennifer Ledingham, Sub- Cutaneous Wounds, Phantom Limbs by Olivia Burge and 1001 - which consisted of 1001 hand made miniture books sewn together by Diane Hamilton.

Diane Hamilton, 1001

The overall standard of this years postgraduate exhibition was quite exceptional, with the good definately out- waying the bad. The National Art School usually delivers some of the finest and most consistant work you'll see when you do the rounds of the graduate shows and it's nice to know this hasn't changed.
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Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Death of The Art Fair

Damien Hirst, Diamond Skull

Art Basil, established in 1970 and possibly one of the most well known art fairs in the world, is under threat. However, it is not the recent economic crisis which encroaches upon the future of this art legacy, it's the advent of the online art fair. The VIP Art Fair, announced last month, allows the budding art enthusiast to purchase Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Andreas Gursky all from the comfort of their recliner. The VIP Art Fair is the idea of two New York couples, James and Jane Cohan, dealers, and Jonas and Alessandra Almgren, internet entrepreneurs, having spent 2 years in the making.

Participants will be able to browse works at more than 50 of the world's leading contemporary art galleries such as White Cube, David Zwirner and Gasgosian. So far this all sounds peachy. You get your art fix without the crowds and you can browse and buy in your underwear. But here comes the punch line. Tickets will cost in the realm of $US 100 on the first two days and $US 20 thereafter. This really begs the question - what are you getting for your money? Cohan laments that "The overall cost is about a fifth of what dealers normally spend [on art fairs]" with 'booths' costing between $US5 000 and $US20 000. In the virtual realm how does one distinguish a good 'booth' position to a bad one?

Todd Levin, a New York art advisor and curator, believes the VIP Art Fair is the dawn of a new age in how to buy art. However, this mode of selling eliminates the parties and social aspect which has often received more publicity than the work for sale, although, according to Levin, "If the social aspect is why you're participating at an art fair, you're not going for the right reason." On this point I whole heartedly and completely disagree.

In London alone there are three art fairs- Frieze, Affordable Art Fair and Zoo- and I have been to all of them. I have also been to Art Basel, only just missing out on going to Art Basel Miami. Did I go with the intention of purchasing a great work of art? Hell no. I could barely afford the flight over. But this was not my purpose in going and I would argue not the purpose of 80% of the people in attendance. It is so very typical of a dealer or gallery, whose main intention and reason for breathing, is to sell art, to have this narrow minded opinion of art fairs. Just because I can't afford a Damien Hirst does not mean that the pleasure of seeing it should be stripped away from me. At least when I pay money to visit an art fair I feel as if I'm getting real value because an art fair isn't always about the art- it's about the experience. It's about being inspired and mixing with like- minded people- my computer screen does not inspire me.

But perhaps this is the whole point. The one thing the VIP Art Fair will achieve is separating the real buyers from people like me- the ones with the real passion- because passion won't buy you that Damien Hirst and if more ventures like the VIP Art Fair take off, art lovers such as myself won't even get the chance to take a second look.
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