Monday, 27 October 2014

GUEST POST: Elizabeth Little takes on this year's Sculpture by the Sea

Ian Swift, The Boot Pool

Sculpture by the Sea: 24 October – 9 November.

It’s no secret that Sculpture by the Sea is one of my favourite events of the annual cycle of art exhibitions in Sydney. There’s always something there to love, to puzzle over, to challenge and to enjoy. This year there are 109 exhibiting artists, some local, some international. Some who have created very site specific works and some whose sculptures would work in a variety of environments. Many of them play with size and proportions in order to create an impression in the seaside setting. In no particular order these are eleven works that appealed to me on a humid Friday evening.

Harrie Fasher’s oversized double headed rocking horse, Which Way Forwards?  is another of her three dimensional line drawings. Created from welded steel rods, this rocking Push Me Pull You moves between attacking life at full gallop and taking a more measured approach.
Harrie Fasher, Which Way Forwards?
Geoffrey Drake Brockman’s giant arch, Counter (2009) includes a people counter. Everyone who walks through it can be counted – or possibly become just one of the crowd. I walked past in twice, and in the space of two hours the tally had risen by over 1000. A group of kids were having great fun running underneath it and being counted multiple times. On this occasion I chose not to be counted – or at least not in this way.
Geoffrey Drake Brockman, Counter (2009)
Sisyphus by South Australian artist George Andric is a large continuous stainless steel coil, that I heard a child standing near me say reminded her of a slinky. Deceptively simple, this piece is both calming in its continuity, and yet also comments on the futility of repetition, where nothing ever changes.  
George Andric, Sisyphus
Naidee Changmoh from Thailand has contributed an oversized figure of a child in The Ascetic. Made of painted bronze, the unified colour of the work gives the appearance of plain clay. The figure’s head is proportionally larger than the body, focusing attention on the its serene countenance. Changmoh says that the work is related to the Buddhist philosophy which keeps the mind close to peace.
Naidee Changmoh, The Ascetic 
This a third consecutive showing for recent graduate Elyssa Sykes-Smith, and her constructed wooden figures. Last year they were seen helping support the overhanging cliff ledges near the Bondi end of the exhibition. This time in The Chase (2013) two of them are playing tag, chasing each other around a large rock.
Elyssa Sykes-Smith, The Chase (2013)
Julie Donnelly uses what I think must be ‘found objects’ – the type cut glass bowls that I recall from my grandmother’s dressing table. Her Sentinels are a group of tall glass towers clustered in the grass. Geoff Harvey also uses found materials and odd pieces wood to create animal inspired sculptures that radiate character and humour. In Early Bird, he has contributed a flock of birds, including 2 very regal black swans. The figurative animal element continues in Janaki Lee’s work, Look Who’s Here… an army of giant paper mache ants who are marching across the sandstone cliffs, and in Michael Greve’s breaching (2004), a life sized wooden carving of a breaching whale, who emerges out of the grass at the edge of Mark’s Park.
Julie Donnelly,Sentinels 
Geoff Harvey, Early Bird
Janaki Lee, Look Who’s Here…
Michael Greve, breaching (2004)
Swedish artist Hannah Streefkerk has shown at SxS’s sister exhibition in Denmark. For Bondi she has created a multi piece site specific installation of stones wrapped in bandages titled To Take Care Of. Placed on the rock platform, from a distance, they look like an usual outcrop of barnacles or oversized closed sea anemones. Kerrie Argent has also created what at first glance appear to be giant sea creatures. However Overconsumption has been made from plastic lids, bottles and cable ties – and draws our attention to the health of the coastal and oceanic environments, and the ongoing issue of pollution.
Hannah Streefkerk,To Take Care Of
Kerrie Argent, Overconsumption
Ian Swift’s The Boot Pool draws attention to a less serious, yet also specifically coastal object, the  ocean swimming pool.  Like many of the originals, Swift’s pool is located on the cliff edge, just metres away from the open ocean (and not far from the iconic Bondi Icebergs). His metal figures swim imaginary laps safe in their blue Perspex pool.

As always, the number of works in the exhibition means that almost every visitor is guaranteed to find something to like. And while not all works will appeal to everyone, there is no doubting the quality of the exhibition or the skill and imagination of the artists who have been chosen to exhibit.

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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Monday, 6 October 2014

Pride & Prejudice at The Pavilion Theatre

Pride & Prejudiceleft to right: Madelyn Spencer (Kitty Bennett), Tiffany Hoy (Elizabeth Bennett), Margaret Olive (Mrs Bennett) and Sandy Smith (Mrs Gardiner).

I feel I should confess straight up that I am a devoted Pride & Prejudice fan. I studied the Jane Austen classic at school, spent hours watching the BBC miniseries and despite my best efforts to hate it, rather enjoyed the 2005 remake with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Attempting to recreate this most beloved story on stage is no small feat. First there is the difficulties in condensing the book into a 2 hour performance (there is a reason the BBC made a 6 part series that combined, was over 5 hours in duration) ultimately scenes are cut while still attempting to maintain the flow of the story, secondly, attempting to convey the wit of Jane Austen's novel does not always translate to the stage and thirdly (and perhaps the most important) as soon as Colin Firth stepped out of that lake he ruined any poor man's hopes of ever playing Mr Darcy to a level that would satisfy the female population - that includes you Matthew Macfadyen - or so I thought.

Pride & Prejudice, Cameron Hutt (Mr Darcy) and Tiffany Hoy (Elizabeth Bennett)
Cameron Hutt as Mr Darcy is arguably the most authentic character on the stage with his cocked brow and arrogant demeanor. He struts and preens to perfection and is endearingly awkward during the second half of the play. The dynamic between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett (played beautifully by Tiffany Hoy) is entirely believable which is great given how essential it is to the story. While the other characters have their own importance and are integral to the plot, it is this core relationship that either makes or breaks the play.

Hoy exudes the independence of spirit and casual disdain for stupidity that is essential in the character of the second eldest Bennett daughter. So much of Elizabeth's true feelings are portrayed, not through what she says, but her facial expressions and demeanor - a trait which Hoy manages to convey quite convincingly.

Other stand out performances include Annette Emerton as the overbearing Lady Catherine De Bourgh, although perhaps considered a smaller role, Emerton makes sure it's a memorable one, Ben Freeman as Mr Wickham is suave enough so that you can't help but like him and rogue enough to ensure that you really don't and Margaret Olive as Mrs Bennett, perhaps an even more difficult role to master than Mr Darcy, is humourous and loveable, if a little over the top at times. I am personally not a fan of put-on accents, whether they be American or British, I would rather hear an Australian accent than suffer through a bad one.

Pride & Prejudice, Luke Hale (Mr Bingley) and Madeleine Stanford (Jane Bennett)
Praise needs to be given to the set design and the way in which the scenes were effortlessly changed. Having the backstage team dressed as servants as they moved about changing over furniture was a brilliant choice. As with all conversions from books, there will always be elements that are overlooked. The important scene where Elizabeth meets Mr Darcy's sister Georgiana and is surprised to learn the high regard with which Darcy has spoken of her to his sister is payed little attention, where in the book it forms an important step in Elizabeth and Darcy's growing affection for one another, as does the moment when Elizabeth saves Georgiana from public scorn at the mention of Mr Wickham. However, I am being pedantic, like I said, I am an Austen fan from way back and this can often taint ones view of an adaptation. Despite my prejudice (pun completely intended) I enjoyed The Pavilion Theatre's rendition of this Austen classic and was impressed by the casts dynamic and skill.                
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