Wednesday, April 23, 2014
March is always a busy time at Big Lamington HQ, and I'm not just referring to Art Month and the Biennale (what a palaver that has been). The big event looming large on my calender each year is the Easter Show! And yours truly was elbow deep in prep for the baking and preserving sections (yes, some ribbons won but sadly this isn't a blog to talk about jam rolls). Now I said this last year but it deserves repeating for those that came in late. The Easter Show is likely the oldest art prize in Australia. The Show itself kicking off in 1823 and awarding its first arts ribbons in 1869 (with the oldest AGNSW prize, the Wynne, only kicking off in 1897). Despite the recent slur by art critic who should know better John McDonald (who said of the Australia exhibit at the Royal Academy that "I've seen more cohesive hangs at the Royal Easter Show"), this is one of my favourite events. Democratic and very eclectic. Let's look at the wares ...
There are quite a few categories, all with quite precise requirements, from sculptures (figurative, abstract and small are each separate categories) to still life, landscape, rural subject, australian birds, watercolour, then drawing and photography the schedule runs on and on. Don't forget to include the gems of folk art and even the tea cosies are quite often works of art themselves (and some of the first works to be snapped up on opening night by savvy collectors. There are thousands of works so I will just hit my highlights. The winner of the blue ribbon for watercolour, Giulia Staudinger's 'Kookaburra' was an amazingly detailed piece and a worthy winner, though I wish she had entered it into the native bird section as I was a little disappointed in the avian art on offer here. I actually preferred the winner of the separate poultry art competition (Turkeys, pictured above) to what was on offer in here. The Show rewards traditional works and the winner of the still life was a classic, as was the winner of President's prize for 'best rural subject painted in a traditional style' by Melvin Duffy (To water, pictured top). Melvin is in his 80's which just goes to show I've got quite a few years of exhibiting ahead of me. The photography is always a bit mixed, or maybe it is the judging I don't agree with. My pick here was Christina Peterson's Reflections which snagged her a 3rd prize ribbon in the open section. Of all the categories, I was particularly enthusiastic about sculpture this year. For those that can't resist skipping ahead you might have just spied that golden object pictured below. This was the winner of the small sculpture section (less than 15cm in any dimension). Titled "and the Gold Lamington for 2014 goes to ..." it won the blue ribbon in its section for James Dolton. I agree with the judges here, what a great kitschy treat. Like the CWA's version of the gold logies! The abstract category was also a hit. The 2nd prize winner from here, Julie Donnelly, was also a favourite with her tall assemblage of old crystal bowls, platters and cake stands (have a look at my twitter feed for an image).
Points: Hands up who thinks the Big Lamington is going to give the 3 points to the Gold Lamington? Give yourselves a highly commended ribbon 'cause you're dead right. 3 to James for his tasty looking treat. 2 points will go Julie for her repurposing some classic nana style crystal pieces into a contemporary work. 1 point will go to Melvin. He really hit the brief with his traditional work although his signing the painting "Melvin Duffy OAM" in a large font is really subverting the anonymous judging! Will have to keep an eye out for him next year ...
Thursday, March 6, 2014
One of my favourite shows from last years Art Month Sydney, Collector's Space (read 2013 here), is back for 2014. It is bigger (?) and better than last year. Or at least better located, this is on William Street. On the way from the City to the Cross - what more could you want? Featured collectors this year include established collectors Andrew & Cathy Cameron, curatorial power couple Lisa Havilah & Glenn Barkley, youngish collectors James Roland & Becky Sparks, eastern suburbs brick pimp Gary Sands and an anonymous arts industry professional.
Thankfully most of the works are grouped together so you can get a sense of each collector(s) style. I was very interested in the works that the young guns had collected. I think these guys were described as being in their 30s in the AFR weekend article I read. I nearly choked on my coco pops, as I was at uni at the same time as James (different college though), and if he is in his 30s he don't have very long left. But then again, neither do I! James and Becky are passionate about supporting young emerging artists and I am right with them on this. What I liked best about their collection was that they collected 'big' pieces. The Marco Fusinato was a massive 4 panel install. I also liked that James had used a small inheritance to buy a piece of art to remember his grandmother as both my wife and I have done similar. I really liked their Christian Thompson photo (this pic, 'howl for your troubles' picked up my 2 points at the 2011 Blake Prize!) and their Nell enamel on pine that dominate the entrance of the space (photo above). Moving round the room I started noticing the double ups of certain artists across collections .... 2 x Ben Quilty's, 2 x Nell, and 2 x Brook Andrew. The Cameron's had one of each of those (their Nell and Brook Andrew are pictured top). Nell's signature style appeals to me and I would love to add a ghost to my mantelpiece, especially with its phantom like name. Gary Sands was another who collected big works and I liked his Lynne Roberts-Goodwin photo 'frankincense highway'. Glenn and Lisa were a couple after my own heart as, like me, they seem to have a collection of lots of little bits. A small Tom Polo here, a medium sized David Griggs there. I really liked their Brook Andrew cardboard boxes but found the little cabinet up front particularly interesting. Stuffed full of miniatures from Esme Timbery, Louise Weaver, Noel McKenna and others. I will have to come back and take another look. Agatha Gothe-Snapes' assorted badges (pic below) was my pick from it with their retro, almost easter show like aesthetic. I will be back for some of the up coming art talks here, check out more Art Month info here. See you there.
Points: it's a tough one today as it was a very, very eclectic little show. I am going to give the points for the works I would most like to have in the Big Lamington collection. So it will be 3 to Nell for the Ghost Who Walks in bronze. 2 points again for Christian Thompson. I remember reading some funny advice for photographers selling their works, if you can't make it big make it red and if you can make it big and red even better. Christian ticks both those boxes here and it does stand out. Agatha Gothe-Snape will take the 1 point for the badges. Highly commended's to all those collectors who took part.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
So turns out Marrickville Garage (web here) is an actual garage. In the same vein as one of my favourite ever small gallery spaces (the Suite Gallery annexe in Wellington), the team behind Marrickville Garage have repurposed their off street parking into a tiny gallery space with the addition of a few pots of white paint (see below). I'd heard about this space (and their current show 'Daisy Chain') because I
Points: well, it was very hard to work out who had contributed what. Let's face it, a room sheet wouldn't have hurt. That said Nell, Lionel and Schapylle Scragg made an impact. I will give Nell the 3 for the repurposed record mailer that I would've loved to take off the wall. Rainbows are very much favourites of my junior critics. I'll give Lionel 2 for his cool t-shirt, he could do well with these at Paddo markets! Schapylle Scragg (not her real name I am guessing) will pick up the 1 point for her portfolio of confronting bogan Australiana. This place is open the first weekend of every month. Now if they manage to co-ordinate that with some Newtown home games I might be back ...
New year, new galleries. There's been a bit of noise about a few galleries closing recently but a lot of news on new ones opening. One new gallery in
I swung by mainly to check out a firm favourite of Big Lamington in Jonny Niesche. His signature glitter work ('Her love sticking out like stars', image below) couldn't be missed. The install was a little questionable, sitting precariously in a pile of recycling right by the front door. Lucky it wasn't council clean-up day or I might have swiped it! In the main room you also couldn't miss Hany Armanious' adhesive vinyl installation (it was untitled but spelt out 'Eggs'). This was a massive 1,140 x 330 cm. Helpfully the gallery sheet noted that the work can be scaled to any size which will determine price. I like the way Hany does business, what can I get for a pineapple? In the middle room I quite liked the cut of James Deutsher's gig. He had two works, 'North West' in iron and 'Red Nation (I can't tell you what's good but I can tell you what's not)', combined image above. I quite liked the explanation of the dimensions of these works in the room sheet. The iron sign was based on Kanye West and Kim Kardashian foot length (and for those that don't keep up with the gossip rags, North is their spawn). The Red Nation was "Kirsten Stewart standing height x Dries Van Noten medium scarf". This work made me deeply think ... gee, she's short.
Points: hmmm, I think Jonny will take another 3 for the glitter (above). I'd really like one of these but I am running out of wall space at HQ so friends and family will be getting recommendations here. I am going to give 2 points to James' Red Nation, which I thought was a clever way to get a fairly minimalist sculpture to comment on celebrity / consumer culture. 1 point will go to Jonny's 'Untitled' (top). I've seen a few of these mirrored works of Jonny's now and they are starting to grow on me. His solo show at Minerva is slated for March/April. Get along and check it out.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
So the National Art School currently has an interesting little exhibit going on right now courtesy of the Museum of Victoria. Called the art of science it is concerned primarily with natural history illustrations, both historical and contemporary. Even better, the public programme included a drawing class by multiple Big Lamington points winner Angus Fisher.
We started first with a walk around the exhibition. For the fans of natural history illustration out there, rest easy, the big names were front and centre. John James Audubon, check. John Gould, check. I like them both, just a shame the Vic Museum didn't have any Walton Ford's to go with. Audubon's works really do set the benchmark and they are the pride of place here. He was an interesting character who did most of his own shooting for specimens. Perhaps a little too well as a few of the examples here are now only known to science such as the ivory billed woodpecker shown here. I like how he includes other species such as the fish in the Fish Hawk (image top), the rattlesnake with the Mocking Birds and the rabbit being caught by the red-tailed hawk. By contrast Gould is much more restrained. Illustrating the birds and a little bit of flora. I have a massive soft spot for this type of illustration (and even collect old Gould League membership cards from the '30s and '40s). My favourites were the Cassowary and any of the parrots (the Blue cheeked parakeet, now known as the blue cheeked rosella is pictured middle). The contemporary works included showed a variety of techniques from old school pencil and ink to modern photomontage (with masses of details on a close up of a beetles head for instance). Enough inspiration already. It was time to break out the pencils for ourselves. A group of 20 punters retired to the NAS chapel to try our hand at illustration. NAS had busted out the taxidermy for our reference and I had settled on an owl when Angus suggested that birds are hard and maybe try the fox instead. Well, that was pretty tricky as well and our two hour class went by pretty quickly. My poor fox didn't get any legs!
Points: I quite liked some of the contemporary pieces, Mali Moir's shark was my top pick and will give it the 3 points. One of the big names needs to get the 2 points and this former Gould League of Bird Lover's member is giving it to John for the Blue Cheeked Parakeet. Angus Fisher (check out his website here) will pick up a point for running a great little class. I will also post a photo of the birds we commissioned of Angus a few years ago. It's a fantastic little work and now that I know how hard this type of illustration is will appreciate it even more.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Off to a cracking pace in February, here we are on the 2nd and diving into another exhibition. This one is the Young Artists Initiative 2013 at .M Contemporary. I gather the '13 references the graduation year of these artists from COFA, NAS and SCA. Now having seen two out of three these grad shows, which as Meatloaf will tell you ain't bad, I was interested to see who had made the cut.
The accompanying publicity claims Barry Keldoulis, Joan Ross, Lisa Corsi, Michael Reid, Prue Gibson, Sebastian Goldspink, Michelle Paterson and Louise Rush as the judging panel! It is a wonder how they ever made a decision with 8 different opinions but here we are. I recognised Abbey Swinn (who took the three points when BL went to the NAS show). She has updated the titles as here the work is called 'in a barbie world' whereas at nas it was simply 'Silvy'. In addition to her grad show work there is another set of photos that replicate the same system of plain vs make up (image top). I recognised the set of embroideries (example of one, below) from the cofa grad show but couldn't recall the artist. It is Joy Ivill Long and you certainly know a lot more about her life from reading the stories in these embroideries (Joy certainly takes the theme of over-sharing to the next level). Despite the questionable content (I don't really need to own stories about Joy's ex boyfriends) I overhead quite a few had sold which is proof that the images were quite striking in a rough, folk art way (I don't think Joy is winning a ribbon at the Easter Show for technique here). I quite liked Mia Middleton's video 'homecoming' (still image above). Mia is one of the cofa grads and I must have missed her in the show there. In the quieter gallery space this meditative work really draws you in. I was also trying to work out where she is from, great scenery. Apart from these guys Vilma Bader's "ism's" made an impact, but then again any set of two works that are 117 x 97 cm are going to stand out. These were text based works but had a little bit too much of an word processor feel here (I think a custom font is needed). I didn't note the artists name down but one person had an installation of blown up freezer bags which looks great but is entirely impractical for a commercial gallery, I think Joan or Seb's pick there. All in all a great initiative but over in 3 days and no images on the web? I guess beggars can't be choosers.
Points: I am going to go straight back to Abbey for the 3 points. Looked great at NAS and looks great in a commercial gallery. 2 points to Mia Middleton (who needs to get herself a web presence, especially with all the other Mia Middleton's out there according to google). 1 point to Joy Ivill who has a great little website, click here for more.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Happy new year art lovers. The Big Lamington team has taken a nice long summer break and is just gently dipping the toes in the arts for 2014. I happened to be running an errand around Alexandria way and so managed to sneak in to catch the new years group show at the Commercial. Some play on words going on with the oui we, not sure what I am supposed to get but I am in above the waist here.
I love a good group show and the Commercial doesn't disappoint. I was instantly drawn to Archie Moore's 'Today we celebrate boat people' (top). He is still running with the flag theme he showed back in December 2012. Those were just paint, this one is acrylic painted over the back of an upside down sewn cloth Australian flag (flying the flag upside down shows distress, I got that from the Robert Redford flick, Last Castle!). Aesthetically I really like it, although politically I am a little closer to Scotty Morrison on the issue of shutting down the smugglers for the good of everyone involved (which I am sure would be a rarely held viewpoint in the art world). That said, you should always be open to both sides of the argument and I like how Archie is doing it here in the colours of green and gold (and so close to Australia Day). Another noticeable entrant was Mitch Cairns' 'Wet Painting' (pictured below). I'd seen the gallery PR that they had picked up Mitch (from the carcass of the shuttered Breenspace). A pretty nice inclusion to the roster as Mitch is well favoured at the moment (& won the Brett Whiteley travelling scholarship in 2012). I quite like his minimalist style but would probably rent on his works from artbank (from memory a $200/year rental for one I liked) rather than drop $4k on this one featured. That is nothing against this work, just a comment on opportunity costs. Speaking of opportunity costs I reckon I'd have a crack at recreating a bootleg of Agatha Gothe-Snape's 'Every Artist remembered with Elizabeth Pulie' before dropping 6.5 large on this one. That said, again, I really liked it. I spent quite a while reading through the artists, noticing some of my favourites (like Liam Benson, Nell, Textaqueen) and trying to work out who was missing (like half the artists in this group show, whoops). It was quite thought provoking and as a record of a piece of performance art works pretty well as documentation as well as decoration (although I do like a bit of text in art). Certainly got me thinking. Hmmm, hand me a posca pen! Clare Milledge had a nice work where she paints oil on the back of tempered glass although the title, 'Antropocene Solar Anus', could do with a little revision. As much as I hate 'untitled', I think it works better than that one!
Points: I will give 3 points to Archie's flag. I wouldn't mind having this back at the Big Lamington HQ, certainly having me second guessing! I will give 2 points to Agatha's artist list. Mitch will take the 1 point, welcome to the Commercial.