Monday, 26 September 2011

Art & About Launch

Martin Place
Continues all around Sydney until October 23rd, 2011.

It may not have been the warmest of evenings but that didn't stop hundreds of people turning up to the launch of Art & About in Martin Place. A free concert featuring FourPlay, Ben Walsh, Paul Mac, Women of Soul and Paris Wells kept people entertained while food and drink were readily available. All over the city programmes were distributed and the signage was insane. If you don't know that Art & About is here than you're really not paying attention. Or you live under a rock.

In its tenth year, Art & About runs for one month and essentially brings art to the streets of Sydney. Parks, laneways, shop fronts- nothing is safe from this onslaught of culture and creative expression. It was great to see so many people coming out in support of the arts in Sydney especially as this is during a time when the Metro section of the Sydney Morning Herald appears to have disappeared and the ABC have axed their art program, Art Nation. At a time when art appears to be dead in the water it was heartening to see such an overwhelming display of artistic expression.

Highlight was definitely Ben Walsh- his work on the drums is absolutely unbelievable. The next month should be interesting.

Ben Walsh

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Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Great Winter

Alexandra Clapham and Penelope Benton
The Great Winter
Peloton Gallery: September 22nd, 2011.

In Norse mythology, The Great Winter (Fimbulvetr) lasts for three years where snow comes in from all directions without any intervening summer, as the prelude to the events of Ragnarök, a battle that destroys both heaven and earth. Afterward, the world resurfaces anew and fertile, the surviving and reborn gods meet, and the world is repopulated by two human survivors, all of whom have no recollection of the battle, the end of the world, or the winter.

The Great Winter was situated in the window of Peloton Gallery. Literally in the window. You had to stand on the foot path in order to view the work as it was boxed off inside the gallery. Penelope Benton and Alexandra Clapham pull on strings which control a pulley mechanism that swings a hammock and releases snow. Both figures are dressed elaborately in white and a snow covered tree is positioned behind them.

Standing in front of the idylic scene I was reminded of traditional christmas window displays- there is something incredibly peaceful about the scene. Given the premise behind the work, 'The Great Winter in Norse Mythology', it's strange how calm and still it seems.   

Given the elaborateness of Benton's previous work I was glad to see the costumes and theatrical element that seems to underpine most of her work. As a self confessed fan, I am constantly impressed by the inventiveness and creativeness behind her performances so if you ever have the chance to see Benton's work I recommend you take the time. The Great Winter was beautiful and attracted a great deal of attention from passers- by both on foot and in cars. By situating the performance in the window and not in the gallery Benton and Clapham extended their work to a greater audience  who all appeared as mesmerised by the performance as I was.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The 60th Blake Prize 2011

Tim Silver, Untitled (Bust)

The 60th Blake Prize Exhibition
National Art School: September 16- October 15, 2011

The Blake Prize explores representations of religion and spirituality through art and literature. This years winner was Khaled Sabsabi with his 3 channel video work Naqshbandi Greenacre engagement which examines an Islamic Sufi ritual. There is something hypnotic and engaging about the work as the chants roll over you. As the children in the film play together the voyeuristic nature becomes apparent and there is a sense of intrusion. The work runs for over 90 minutes which begs the questions- is this a documentary, not an artwork? Wherein does the difference lie?   

Simon McGrath, The Body & The Blood, 2011

Personally I really like the humorous nature of Simon McGrath's The Body & The Blood. This unique and satirical take on the traditional Christian Communion is incredibly simple- but that's the beauty of it. It's not trying too hard.  

Khaled Sabsabi, Naqshbandi Greenacre engagement, dur: 90:26 mins

Carla Hananiah, Refuge, 2009

The winner of the John Coburn Emerging Artist Award was Carla Hananiah with her work Refuge. The work is stunning with an amazing use of colour and light. The rich textures create an almost dream- like quality to the work, like a memory that isn't quite clear and all that's left is the impression it's left behind. Another great work is Tim Silver's Untitled (Bust). It appears so incredibly fragile that I'm almost afraid to breathe in its general direction. It's very haunting and there is something painful in the closed- eye expression on the persons face. Before me is something quite tragic and torn.

 Hayden Fowler, The Long Forgetting, dur: 19:00 min

A stand- out for me was the Highly Commended 3 channel video piece by Hayden Fowler, The Long Forgetting. The work is oddly confronting with both the male and female form shown in all its naked glory. However, I say oddly confronting because the figures heads are obscured by large round dome shaped, for want of a better work, things- making them unregognisable. Somehow by masking the face of the woman removing objects from her vagina it makes it less obsene and the blue man rubbing paint on another man becomes unoffensive and in some way strangely touching.

Other exceptional works included Abdul Abdullah, Them & Us, Mesha Sendyk, In the Beginning (Visual Koran XXXVIII), Ella Dreyfus, To see beyond what seems to be, Charles Butcher, The Penalty is Death, Murray Fredericks, Hector 9 and Adam Cullen, Mary....   
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Friday, 16 September 2011

Firstdraft Gallery 25th Birthday Fundraiser

This week Firstdraft Gallery turned 25. Having been a force to be reckoned with on the Artist Run Initiative (ARI) scene since 1986, this not for profit organisation decided to celebrate in style. Wednesday night's fundraiser incorporated both a live and silent auction of works which had been donated as birthday presents to the gallery. All proceeds raised will go towards ensuring Firstdraft's future and maintaining the gallery. 

Some big hitters came out for the cause such as Del Kathryn Barton and recent Archibald Prize winner Ben Quilty as well as Jake & Dinos Chapman and Jasper Knight. It was great to see some favourites in amongst the silent auction like Paul Williams, Penelope Benton and Sarah Contos.

The crowd was buzzing- so much so that it was hard to hear the auctioneer (on loan from Christies)- and I had to remind myself not to over zealously scratch my head during the bidding. Cheers could be heard as Ben Quilty's Skull sold for a lovely $3, 600- the biggest sale of the night- with Del Kathryn Barton's Locked coming in a close second at $3, 000. 

  Ben Quilty, Skull, 2009.

It was a fantastic night and so great to see so much support for one of Sydney's longest running ARI. As I made my way out I may have had a sneaky bid on a work but did not stay to see if I was out- bid- my competitive spirit may have seen me blow way too much! Quote of the evening came from two girls who walked past me as I admired Sarah Contos's Kill your Idols (Ron Shard & Pat McDonald), one said to the other 'Ok, look out for what would be a good investment'. Perhaps that's been where I've always got it wrong- I seem to buy art with my heart, not my head. 
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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Published in Incubate #6...

Interview with Bronwyn Bailey- Charteris & Nick Garner of Das Superpaper...

Interview with Stephanie Peters, Sian McIntyre & Anne- Louise Dadak of The Paper Mill...

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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

As It Stands

Thomas C. Chung, I Thought Of You & Smiled, 2010

Thomas C. Chung, Harriet Body, Claire Flannery, Stephanie Tsai, Justin Balmain, Simon Esling, Eloise Kirk, Madeleine Preston.

As It Stands
The Paper Mill: September 13- October 1st, 2011

The Paper Mill are developing quite a reputation for putting together well thought out and structured exhibitions. What at one time seemed as if it was only going to be a temporary space, The Paper Mill have really found a home in amoungst the suits and stilletos of the Sydney CBD. 

As It Stands is a diverse and eclectic show with some incredibly strong pieces and some not so strong pieces. The work of Thomas C. Chung is incredibly kitsch yet endearingly likeable. Reminiscent of a the Mad Hatter's Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland, it's one of those works that instantly brings a smile to my face and the idea to disply the work on the ceiling is inspired.  

 Justin Balmain, Untitled (Double Vision 2), 2011

The work of Justin Balmain is intriguing. What appear to be ordinary and mundane prints are rendered interesting due to the oppressive black tape that covers it. The work feels slightly aggressive as if the images are in some way offensive and deserved to be marked in such a fashion. For whatever reason history has taught us that an X is generally never a good thing. 

Harriet Body, The Paper Mill, 2011

When I first saw Harriet Body's work I almost dismissed it as simply rubbish on a wall. Thankfully I read the room sheet and discovered from the works title that the artist did rubbings of the gallery walls, floor and ceiling. This was the result. Body has literally put The Paper Mill on display. This is conceptual art at its best.

I had only mentioned recently that I attended an opening at Gaffa Gallery and came across the work of Claire Flannery. As luck would have it her work is also being shown in As It Stands. Having not been thrilled with her work at Gaffa I was hoping to have my opinion altered. It wasn't. It's not so much that the work is bad, it's just not great. However, I will be interested to see more of her work in the future.   
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Monday, 12 September 2011

Nosferatu at AGNSW

On Sunday I headed to the Art Gallery of New South Wales to watch one of my favourite films- Nosferatu. Being screened as part of the film program that coincides with the current Mad Square: Modernity in German Art 1910-37 exhibition, Nosferatu was released in 1922 and directed by F W Murnau.

Based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, Nosferatu is a disturbing portrayal of the classic vampire genre. Interestingly Murnau was unable to secure the rights to the original novel so he changed the names and details of the story. Stoker's widow sued which resulted in a settlement that stipulated all copies of the film were to be destroyed. Thankfully some survived and Murnau's haunting vision lives on. 

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 Claire Flannery

Various Artists
Gaffa Gallery: September 8- 20, 2011

Opening's are always interesting. Even if the work isn't. I've always often wondered why people attend exhibition openings. The initial and somewhat obvious answer is to see the artwork but exactly how easy is it to view work when there are more than 300 people crammed into the space? Perhaps it's the cheap or, if you're lucky, free alcohol and the excuse to see friends which draws the crowd. Whatever the case, Gaffa Gallery had the people out in force at their opening on Thursday night.

Gallery one, Drawing Time, a group exhibition curated by Daniel Smith, acted like a survey of different techniques and methodologies. Jo Ann Cahill's Untitled series of watercolour works were stunning. Watercolour is a tricky medium at the best of times but Cahill demonstrates skill and technique. 

Jo Ann Cahill

Other exceptional works included Patrycja Nedziak's You are the rabbit and the bird too- the detail is unbelievable and effectively transforms a simple drawing from good to extraordinary. The work of Eduardo Wolfe- Alegeria is striking. It does, however, remind me very much of Del Kathryn Barton's distinctive style. There are differences of course but upon seeing the work Menage a Trois (from La Petite Mort) I was instantly struck by the similarities. While still beautiful, it did detract somewhat from the work.  

 Eduardo Wolfe- Alegria, En El Cielo, En Mis Brazos (In the sky, In my arms) pigment ink & acrylic on canvas.

 Roberto Duran, Hilary (top) & Sin (bottom)

Not entirely sure what to say about Gallery two. The solo exhibition by Claire Flannery appeared carelessly curated with works seemingly thrown on walls, in corners and on the floor. While I do perceive that this was perhaps the point, I'm not sure it aided the work in any way. The images themselves were gritty and slightly narcissistic- an insight into the artist? While I understand there was a concept and thought process behind this show, I guess I just missed it.

Gallery three seemed to focus on the male and female body in various forms. In particular the work of Roberto Duran was especially haunting. Figures in states of dress and undress appear suspended in a black abyss completely calm and at peace with the unknown world around them. There is something eerily quiet about the figures and an ethereal quality that is unashamedly beautiful.  
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Friday, 9 September 2011

Published in September Artlink!!

Review of Enrique Martinez Celaya at Liverpool Street Gallery...

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Thursday, 8 September 2011

Hey, I know you...

Dubbleyou Designs @ Gaffa Gallery...

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ACP: Bronek Kozka & Claire Martin

Bronek Kozka, The Best Years of Our Lives Series: Pre-Dinner Drinks, 2008. Image courtesy of ACP & the artist.

Bronek Kozka/ Claire Martin
Memory, Myth and the 1/4 Acre Block/ Slab City
Australian Centre for Photography: Sept 2- Oct 8/ Sept 2- 25, 2011

How well do you remember your childhood? Perhaps it's in segments, fractured by your inability to remember every detail, perhaps you recall entire situations and the people in them. The work of Bronek Kozka plays on this ambiguity of memory when recalling a scene or event. The staged and often unsettling photographs tell a narrative of suburbia and the people who inhabit this space. The figures stare out through sad, expressionless eyes while acting out scenarios not dissimilar from distant childhood memories.

The skill of Kozka's work is in the details. The light reflecting off the gold wedding band and the man's tears in The Joy of Guilt, the reflection of a man's face in the mirror while all you can see are his shoes behind the door in Leaving Home and the fading 'silence please' sign which sits on the wall behind a young homeless man in Morgan. These melancholic images of suburban life and domesticity are hauntingly beautiful and incredibly uncomfortable.

In contrast to the work of Kozka are the photographs of Claire Martin. Her images are unstaged moments captured in real time and immortalised on film. Both humorous and endearing they appear as a celebration of life, candid moments amid a community of squatters in the Colorado Desert. 
Claire Martin, The Bride and Darth Vader, 2009. Image courtesy of ACP & the artist.

In particular The Bride and Darth Vader was especially amusing. Perhaps it's the beer cans clutched in their hands or the brides thongs and dirty feet that made me smile. Or more likely it's my childhood love of Star Wars that ensured that this particular image was destined to be a favourite.

Having two such contrasting shows open simultaneously was clever. Well curated, with the lighting designed to reflect the images displayed, both Memory, Myth and the 1/4 Acre Block & Slab City portray community- one through the scope of memory, the other through the lives of strangers- both through the lens of a camera.  
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Monday, 5 September 2011

Published in September Art Monthly!!

Interview with artist and writer Tracey Clement...

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Friday, 2 September 2011

Spectacle/ Obstacle

Rebecca Baumann, Untitled Cascade

Spectacle/ Obstacle
Curated by SuperKaleidoscope

Firstdraft Gallery
: April 27- May 15, 2011

Spectacle/ Obstacle examines different aspects of the spectacle from the darkness to the unreal. Incorporating the work of Greta Alfaro, Justin Balmain, Rebecca Baumann, Michaela Gleave and Pia Van Gelder, this group show brings together installation, video and even kinetic sculpture. While each work effectively stands alone, it is through the combination of diverse practices that their strengths are found.

Upon entering the space the work of Rebecca Baumann assaults your senses. The wall of gold tinsel is almost blinding as the gallery lights reflect off its surface. The fan moves the tinsel slightly, evoking a somewhat fantastical quality. Untitled Cascade is mesmerising and well curated by being situated in the galleries front window. From the outside this work alone is enough to persuade passers- by to enter with the promise of more unusual sights beyond its gold depths. As you step through the curtain there is a distinct sense of entering another world, making it the perfect piece to open the show.

Often I see a work and for reasons I simply can’t explain- I like it. This is true of AM by Justin Balmain. The installation of scaffolding backed by black material and with the remnants of a smashed disco ball at its centre is engaging. To me this work is that moment at a club when the lights come on and it’s time to drag your tired ass home- all at once exhausting and satisfying.

SuperKaleidoscope both curated and exhibited in Spectacle/ Obstacle. While the work Universe stands alone, when shown amongst such strong pieces it struggles to find prominence. It can often be difficult to wear both the artist and curator hat but SuperKaleidoscope appears to pull it off.

Arguably the most engaging work is that of Greta Alfaro and her video In Ictu Oculi. Filmed in a barren Mexico landscape, a dining table is set for an extravagant meal. The wine is poured and the food is ready so all that is missing are the guests. It does not take long for them to arrive. Seemingly out of nowhere large vultures swoop down and begin to attack the food. Suddenly it is a mess of food and fighting as hundreds of birds simultaneously attack the dining table and each other. It is a battle for dominance and of survival. As one by one the vultures realise there is nothing left they fly away leaving destruction in their wake. Alfaro’s work is intensely engaging and truly embodies the idea of the spectacle.

Group shows are always guaranteed to be a mixed bag and with such a name as Spectacle/ Obstacle this was never going to be the exception. The notion of spectacle incites ideas of voyeurism and the extraordinary, of the impossible and the unreal. Spectacle/ Obstacle achieves all this, creating an other- world quality that we simply do not see every day.

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Thursday, 1 September 2011

Thanks Dubbleyou Designs!

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