Monday, 29 April 2013

GUEST POST: Elizabeth Little gets creepy & kooky with The Addams Family

The Addams Family Musical
Capitol Theatre: from March, 2013

They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky
They're all together ooky, the Addams Family…

The lights darken at the Capitol Theatre. The orchestra starts playing that familiar theme song, and the audience is captivated, clicking their fingers without any prompting. Thing pulls back the red velvet curtain to reveal everyone’s favourite gothic family on stage, and the fun begins.

Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandma Addams and Lurch started life as cartoons drawn by Charles Addams in the 1930s. In the 1960s they hit the small screen in a tv series starring Carolyn Jones and John Astin. More recently they have been portrayed in films by Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia. Now there’s a musical.  With music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the Broadway 2010 production ran for more than 700 performances.

In this incarnation Wednesday Addams (Tegan Wouters) is all grown-up and in love. She’s bringing home a very respectable boy, Lucas (Tim Maddren), and enlists the help of her father to ensure everything goes smoothly when Lucas and his parents come for dinner. Lucas is a boy whom most parents would love, but whose very upper middle class normality causes problems for the Addams. All Wednesday wants is one normal night, but Morticia can’t help but be horrified when Wednesday forsakes her standard black dress for one of a brighter hue. Lucas too is imploring his parents to be on their best behaviour. His mother (Katrina Retallick) speaks in rhyming couplets worthy of a Hallmark card, and his father (Tony Harvey) is emotionally distant. In many ways it’s the same story line that propels the plot of La Cage Aux Folles, young lovers with differing backgrounds meeting each other’s families. But then love stories and star crossed lovers have been the stuff of theatre since man began acting out and telling stories. In this instance the story is further complicated by Gomez having to keep the news of the depth of Wednesday’s relationship from Morticia. 

John Waters is a delight as the charming Gomez Addams, who finds himself torn between his wife and daughter, trying to please both. Chloe Dallimore has Morticia’s regal glide, and her second act tango with Waters is truly captivating. But it’s Russell Dykstra’s Uncle Fester who both steals the show, and facilitates the young lovers to their happy ending. Fester declares his love for the moon in a scene that is both comical and endearingly tender.

The music is catchy and different characters have different musical motifs. Gomez and Morticia are all Spanish / Latin rhythms while Uncle Fester has a more 1920s music hall style. Wednesday and Lucas sing modern rock pop songs to declare their love, and relative craziness. The use of puppets adds that element of ‘weird’ that everyone loves about the Addams without detracting from the main action. The script is witty and plays on the ‘darkness’ of the Addams; Pugsley frets that Wednesday wont want to torture him anymore because she’s happy; he can’t sleep because the monster is missing from the cupboard in his bedroom, Wednesday and Lucas argue over who is the craziest; Morticia wont believe that Gomez has kept a secret from her. All my favourite ‘classic’ elements of the tv series were included without feeling  tokenistic: Morticia still beheads her roses, Gomez kisses Morticia’s arms, Lurch moans, Pugsley blows things up, Fester has a lightglobe that he pops in his mouth, and Gomez fences with an unmoving Lurch.  

It’s a great show, with genuinely funny moments and some real heart as the Addams and the Beinekes deal with their issues of love and trust. But by the end everything, in true musical style, ends happily. Or in typical Addams fashion, as Gomez asks Morticia at the end of the show:  “unhappy darling?” and the answer: “oh yes – yes completely.”

Elizabeth Little has a B. Art Theory (Hons)and M Art Admin, COFA UNSW. She lives and works in Sydney.

All images supplied by the writer.

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Sunday, 28 April 2013

MOP Projects: Special Moves

Arryn Snowball

Arryn Snowball, Christian Flynn, Leah Emery, Julie Fragar, Miles Hall and Jonathan McBurnie (curator)
Special Moves
MOP Projects: April 18 - May 5, 2013

The idea for Special Moves arose from Jonathan McBurnie's postgraduate research into the act of drawing. Working on the idea that drawing is 'an inherently and undeniably human instinct', the art of the drawn line forms the connecting theme throughout this group exhibition. Special Moves aims to demonstrate the enduring importance of drawing in a time where the arts are becoming increasingly digital. While McBurnie both exhibits in and has curated the exhibition, he balks at the use of the word curator, insisting he is too close to the project to have any curatorial distance from it.  

Miles Hall
The work of Christian Flynn is heavily stepped in geometric imagery and bold colour configurations. There is something visually satisfying in the work, the arrangement of colours, shapes and lines join together to form something united and true. Drawing forms the first step in Flynn's process, sort of like a dress rehearsal with painting the main event.

Leah Emery's work explores the line between art and pornography with her miniature embroidery of sexual acts. There are so many layered aspects to this work, the idea of craft, and transforming such a traditional craft like tapestry into a modern context, taking away the innocence of the nature of such traditional work. Then there is the viewers experience of the work, that on first glance you cannot really distinguish the subject matter and that it is only when you are closer that it becomes apparent. Notions of voyeurism and how in this form pornography can be viewed in a public space are evident.

The detail in McBurnie's work commands attention. Describing it as a 'personal Apocalypse', scenes are played out, characters created, all hand drawn with ink and correction fluid. Perhaps here more than in any of the other works in Special Moves we see the skill and philosophies of drawing and it serves as a reminder not to loose sight of the bigger picture and dismiss the traditions and fundamentals of the past.       
Christian Flynn

Miles Hall

Leah Emery

Jonathan McBurnie

Miles Hall

Miles Hall

Christian Flynn

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Friday, 26 April 2013

Sullivan+Strumpf: Speak To Me

Barbara Kruger, Talk is Cheap - Free Speech is Priceless, collage on paper, 20 x 24.5cm. Image courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf.

The role of text in art has had a varied and diverse history dating back to Picasso and the advent of Cubism. Speak to Me at Sullivan+Strumpf is a brief history of the use of language and text in art on an international scale.
For me the main draw-card of this exhibition was the opportunity to see the work of Iranian artist Shirin Neshat whose practice draws upon the social, cultural and religious codes of Muslim societies. The artist left Iran to study in Los Angeles around the time of the Iranian Revolution, during which society underwent a complete restructure and when she returned in 1990 she was shocked by the changes she saw.
Read the full article on the Au review.
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Saturday, 20 April 2013

Kaldor Public Art Projects: 13 Rooms

Clare Beaumont, Coexisting, 2013.
John Kaldor certainly knows how to draw a crowd. His latest project, 13 Rooms, incorporates work from some of the world’s most famous artists and is curated by two of the best – Hans Ulrich Obrist from the Serpentine in London and Klaus Biesenbach from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Possibly the most anticipated exhibition so far this year, 13 Rooms incorporates performance and site specific interactive work housed in thirteen separate rooms. Doors must be opened and viewers must be willing participants in the work they are about to walk in on. This seclusion gives a sense of intimacy, creating a silent white cube where you are confronted, amused and bewildered.

Read the full article on the Au review.

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Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan

Ben Quilty, Captain S, after Afghanistan, painted in Robertson, NSW, 2012, oil on linen, 140 x 190 cm, acquired under the official art scheme in 2012. Australian War Memorial.

In 2011, Ben Quilty traveled to Afghanistan as the official war artist with the Australian Defence Force. Since the First World War the Australian War Memorial has been commissioning artists to capture the realities of war. Australian troops have been stationed in Afghanistan since 2001 and as part of Operation Slipper, Quilty travelled to Kabul, Kandahar and Tarin Kot to record the experiences of Australian service personnel.

Read the full article on the AU review.

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

5 Questions With... Artist Todd Fuller

Todd Fuller
Drawing appears to be the heart and soul of your practice which extends to video and sculpture. Why is storytelling and narrative so important to you?

I think that stories and the act of storytelling are a foundation to our culture. Stories shape our religion, our legal practice, our ethics and spirituality. Through sharing our own narratives we are often able to connect with those around us in an authentic way. I truly believe that drawing and in particular animation, is the ultimate storyteller.

When I was a kid I would write my own stories, make my own comic books, my toys would be enthralled in intricate soapie style interactions with never ending chapters and implications. I would build elaborate worlds under my bed and in bizarre nooks and corners of the house which would be the backdrop to these imaginative dramas. It was how I amused myself but also how I would work through and understand what was going on in the world around me. 

This is still the nature of my practice and luckily that imagination never died. 

I often face the criticism that my work is to narrative based but I strongly believe that the story is a foundation of our society which should never be dismissed.
Todd Fuller, untitled (adrift 2)
Todd Fuller, untitled (adrift 4)

There is a male figure who is the primary protagonist through much of your practice. How did you develop this character and are his experiences modeled on your own?

Isn't there a fat bald naked man inside us all?

This character, is just one of a small cast of alter egos who are constantly resurfacing through unfurling narratives and interrogations of self. He certainly has had the spotlight for the last few years but he is starting to take a backseat to some of the other figures from my sketchbooks (there's a dog, a small girl, a paper plane, a bear and a toy robot who are all hustling for the limelight at the moment). This particular character, like most of my cast, just happened, without planning or premeditation. He snuck up on me in a drawing one day. I still remember the fat bald naked mans birth, I was animating in my parents garage with no real direction or purpose, and then, without warning, there he was, huddling under an umbrella looking back at me. Before long, it was raining in his canvas as he cried upwards and struggled with his brolly. A whole narrative evolved about this man and his tumultuous and metaphorical relationship with an umbrella. 
Todd Fuller

You recently returned from Melbourne where you participated in the Next Wave JUMP mentoring induction. How was it? What are you hoping to get out of your JUMP Mentorship?

The Next Wave intensive was a real boost to both my artistic and professional practice. I am a strong advocate for investing time and energy into the structures around art making as well the act of making. Paint it and they will come just doesn't cut it, you have to build positive relationships, engage in media and marketing and build skills and understanding of the broader picture of our industry and how it functions! With this in mind it was great to brush up on my marketing social media strategy as well as refocus my approach to grants and funding raising. It was also quite wonderful to speak with those in other other fields and see how they are combating problems that we face in the art world, but from a different angle. 

More importantly, I was overwhelmed by the caliber of my peers in the Jump program. On the first day of the intensive, writer Ben Law suggested that if you are the smartest person in a room, then it is time to leave the room. If this same sentiment could be applied to talent, then I should never leave a room full of the 2013 Jumpsters! There were highly acclaimed musicians, dj's, writers, poets, playwrights and puppeteers, not to mention artists. It was a room full of the young leaders of Australian creative industries who are doing significant things not only here but also on an international scale. It was humbling to be in a room of such strength, sincerity, rigor and innovation but it was also really great to hear that the same problems and even insecurities that I face, were shared across many members of the group.

I returned from Jump with new perspectives and an enriched intensity in the studio. 

The Jump mentorship was awarded to Flatline collective, which is a collaboration between dancer and choreographer Carl Sciberras and myself. We will be working with mentor Sue Healey to develop our interdisciplinary practice in which dance and drawing are transcended through technology. I am really looking forward to moving my own practice into a new direction as well as being able to learn from one of the pioneers of dance and film in our country.
Todd Fuller, VOYEUR_gal

You also recently received the 2013 William Fletcher Travelling Scholarship and are about to embark on a 3 month jaunt in Rome. How will you spend your time there?

I am increasingly excited about this opportunity. I leave in three weeks for a three month period of development. My time overseas will be a new period of incubation and exploration. I am keen to soak up the works of the great masters and to study them from a drafting and animation perspective. My original William Fletcher application spoke about a young Bernini's ability to move the sculptures of the masters before him in his minds eye. He would study and understand a piece so well that he could move it in his imagination with a flawless understanding of muscles and masses in motion. I want to develop my own sensibility in this direction. 

When I undertook a residency in Paris I had no idea what stories would emerge and it was there that I became obsessed with a new broken toy robot character as I came to terms with my own aging and maturity as I ventured out into the big bad world. I didn't know this robot would appear in advance. I am open to whatever new creatures emerge for me in Rome and I am keen to take them on and bring them to life like I have the characters before them. 

Of course I am looking forward to eating as much gelato and pizza as possible and hanging out with the pope. I might offer to model him a fat bald naked man in his likeness- but only if he asks nicely! I will also try to offend as few locals as possible with my appalling Italian.

Describe your artistic practice in 5 words.

whimsical, offbeat,multi faceted, huggable, fragile.

All images courtesy of the artist and Brenda May Gallery.

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Sunday, 7 April 2013

ANZAC Memorial Hyde Park

ANZAC Memorial Hyde Park

I spent this weekend gallery-hopping around Sydney, in particular I wanted to see the current shows at the National Art School and Sullivan+Strumpf, the reviews of which will be up on the AU review shortly. As I passed through Hyde Park I noticed that the ANZAC Memorial was open so I decided to go inside. I never knew there was a gallery downstairs that has film, memorabilia and artifacts from World War I. 

It was on April 25th 1916, the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, that a fund was opened to raise money to erect a permanent memorial in NSW for those who had lost their lives in The Great War 1916-18. The building was officially opened in 1930 and has since come to encompass all men and women who have lost their lives in war time.   

The ceiling of the dome in the Hall of Memory is covered in 120,000 gold stars to commemorate the men and women of NSW who enlisted in service during WWI. Visitors are invited to take a gold cardboard star from the gallery downstairs and throw it into the Well of Contemplation from the Hall of Memory. Every few weeks all the stars are collected and cremated and then given to the recipients of the Premier's ANZAC Memorial Scholarship to take to Gallipoli and scattered. 

You can choose to write a name on the star or leave it blank for a nameless soldier.  My Great Great Uncle Charles Richmond Frederick died at Gallipoli, in 2009 I was at Anzac Cove for the dawn service and I was able to find his grave. I had no idea the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park offered this tribute and I think it's a beautiful way to remember a lost relative or simply to take a moment to think of the sacrifices made and that are still being made. 

I've lived in Sydney my whole life and walked past this memorial a thousand times, I can't believe I didn't know about this and had never visited the gallery before. If you have a spare hour it's well worth a visit.  

Stars in the Hall of Memory dome
Well of Contemplation
Throwing my star in

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Writers wanted!

The Venice Biennale Project Team at the Australia Council for the Arts are after writers to develop content in relation to Australia’s representation at the Venice Biennale. A nominal fee of $100 -$200 (dependent on word length) will be offered for approved content.
Blog posts can include but are not limited to:
  • personal experiences and anecdotal stories of the Venice Biennale
  • interesting photos or artwork from previous Biennales
  • encounters with artists or curators
  • travelling and staying in Venice
  • the history of the Biennale or Venice as a city
  • the role of biennales and relevance of national pavilions
  • how an exhibition of this scale is put together
  • what Australia gets out of being represented at Venice etc
  • 300-600 words in length
  • can be a one-off post or recurring series (dependent on type of content)
  • eye-catching title
  • imagery is preferable (note: image permissions are the responsibility of the writer)
  • if images are used then they must be accompanied by a caption
  • the Australia Council maintains the right to edit and/or not publish the written content if deemed in appropriate for the Australia at Venice website.
If you would like to be involved please send a proposal and your contact details to Emma Blong at 
More information can be found on the Venice website.

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