Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easter Show 2015 - 26 March to 8 April

Okay folks, this is the big one.  The show you have been waiting for all year and it is only March.  The one, the only, the Easter Show!  As regular readers would know, apart from running the Big Lamington I am a bit of a prize winning baker and preserver.  And this year was no different with the Big Lamington team elbow deep in chutneys, relishes, jellies and jams all through art month.  It's a real relief to have finished all the cooking, cause then I actually get to go visit the show.  Now, I think I say this every year but it does deserve repeating for those that came in late.  The Easter Show is the oldest art prize in Australia.  The Show itself kicked off in 1823 and awarded its first art ribbons in 1869 (compared to the oldest AGNSW art prize, the Wynne, which kicked off in 1897).  It covers over 500 categories from traditional painting, through photography, to all the crafts and cooking arts. There are many thousands of entries but only a handful lucky enough to bag a coveted ribbon.  The show itself has finished for the year but lets take a look back at the highlights from my perspective ...

But before we really get going I should point out that the Easter Show has some serious art credentials this year.  Art world identity Alison Renwick has been a driving force on the arts & crafts committee for many years and it looks like she has recruited Evan Hughes of the Hughes gallery onto the committee.  They have lined up a great panel of judges including Carriageworks' Lisa Havileh (watercolours), Art months Glenn Barkley (rural subject and/or landscape), artist Lucy Culliton (australian birds / flowers), and dealer James Dorahy (marine / seascape).  Now did you notice how specific some of the categories are?  I just love it.  As well as the traditional, the Royal Agricultural Society has branched out and included digital art this year.  But not content with just saying "digital" they are very specific in their categories of vector art or raster art.  Yep, look them up!

Okay where to start?  Let's get the traditional out of the way.  The figurative section was a bit of a no-brainer in the Anzac centenary year.  Wayne Dowsett's Anzac portrait of Jack Hinde took the blue ribbon in that section and the special committee purple ribbon (pictured above).  Old Jack himself even turned up on the opening night in full kit.  Good work digger.  There was also a pretty decent portrait of Aussie Dick Smith that won 3rd prize.  Staying with figurative but moving onto animals we are at one of my favourties - Australian Birds and/or Flowers.  I really liked the winner here, Frank Hooke's Rainforest Encounter (pictured 2nd from top).  My only fault was Frank's failure to identify the species.  I mean, how do I know it is an Australian bird?  I mean it could be a damn New Zealand huia bird!  For those wondering the most popular bird, by my count it was a tie with 4 entries of Kookaburras and 4 entries of Lorikeets.  Hmmm, maybe I might try to crank out a black cockatoo next year!  Next up is the biggie.  Rural Subject and/or Landscape painting.  Remember Glenny B is judging this one so I am keen to see what he has selected.  And its a nice eclectic selection of winners.  The blue ribbon went to Michael Rogers' The Longest Cattle Trough which was quintessentially rural.  My favourite was probably Madelaine Batchelor's kitschy Easter Showtime (pictured top).  Now, I don't know if it is just because I know Glenn is judging this. And the fact that Glenn has got a soft spot for Noel McKenna. But, I am seeing a bit of Noel in this work.  Or at least it wouldn't look out of place in Noel's collection.

There were a few nice still life paintings, Robert Baird's At the table of Golgotha was a very traditional piece that won him a red ribbon (2nd place).  My notes on the watercolours are memorable for Meredith Cooper winning the blue ribbon for her Cathedral of Ferns.  But Meredith also came 2nd in the Drawing for a work with the same title.  Lucky for Meredith those sections had different judges.  The works are practically identical!  See above, the watercolour is on the left.  Did anyone else spot that?

Onto the photos and it was good to see Paul McMillan take the blue ribbon for best rural photo.  Paul is an old friend of the Big Lamington and a great guy.  I really liked the winner of the urban landscape, Vivienne Noble's And the Stack Came Down (pictured above) which was a great black and white action shot of the demolition of the Port Kembla landmark.  This post is already stretching the server capacity and I haven't even got to the crafts!  It was a relatively disappointing year for tea cosies but the crochet was outstanding.  I would've awarded the grand champion to the cacti arrangement (pictured below).  Sadly this one was NFS but you can often pick up a great souvenir here, we made off with a crochet hippo that won the blue ribbon in the small toy section.  That is on its way to my god-daughter, hopefully she'll be another fan of the Show.

Points:  So, so many to chose from. I am going to give 3 points to the one that nearly got away from Glenn, the Noel McKenna'esque Easter Showtime! 2 points will go to the bargain of the day, aka the prize winning photo of the 'Gong (that black and white photo of Port Kembla was only $53!). 1 point will go to the rainforest bird.

postscript.  this has already been a mammoth post given my usual standards, and we've shown a lot of images but I can't resist (for obvious reasons) one last image from the digital art section.  The Lamington Drive with a Lamington pretending to be pac-man.  Not only did I love it, the junior critics wanted me to download the game to their iPads!  If only kids, if only!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Liam Benson at Artereal - 26 March

Liam Benson is showing at Artereal? Of course I made it.  Naturally with the Easter Show in full swing it took me a while to get around to documenting that trip.  But with the magic of blogger it looks like this was posted on the 26th, when I managed to swing by the gallery after tasting success with my namesake category in the perishable cooking category at the Big Show!

For those that came in late, this blog is a bit of a fan of Liam's work.  I'd run into Liam at the MCA in December and seen his trademark beard getting bushier and bushier and asked him if he was going to be doing a Ned Kelly.  Bingo.  And here there are.  Now I have long argued you could arrange a whole collection around depictions of Captain Cook in contemporary art (Quilty, Daniel Boyd, Jason Wing etc), and I think I can now safely add Ned Kelly to that list (Nolan, Ha-Ha, Ohnesorge, and now Benson!).  To be honest I was a little confused as to the images.  Liam has applied a camouflage facepaint in styles that are meant to evoke the different gum trees around Ned's bushranging haunts.  The top image is meant to be a red gum, the bottom image a snow gum.  In that way the Ned homage is potentially a little too subtle for most.  I mean, I think a metal helmet somewhere would've helped! That said, I really liked the series.  And I hope he keeps the beard a while longer as I think there should be an accompanying video work.  Also in this show are Liam's continuing needlepoint works (me & you, pictured above) which still look great (although, full disclosure I do have one).  Again, not wanting to keep harping on with suggestions but I think a good old fashioned "such is life" would've gone really well here.  Maybe a little too Ben Cousins but hey.  Now Liam has another whole series in this show where he is wearing see through head outfits of an executioner, a crusader, and a terrorist. That is like 3 separate exhibitions in one, and he is showing again in a group show at Artereal in April.  He certainly has been busy!

Points:  Well, the Neds were the stars of the show in my opinion.  The question is whether I am going for the more colourful or the more subtle.  It's a tough call but I am going to sling 3 points at the Ned Kelly Snow Gum (Kosciuszko) [the bottom one!].  2 points will go to the Blue Gum (coral) Ned [not pictured, go to the Artereal webs].  1 point will go to the Liam needlepoint* Me & you (pictured middle).


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Art Month Collector's Space - 21 March

Here we go.  Collector's Space.  My favourite #artmonth show.  The third time it's getting reviewed on the Big Lamington.  Will it deliver again this year? Will Glenn Barkley ask me next year?  Will I find it?  All serious questions!

First up, some details you need to know.  This has moved.  Again.  The space is now downstairs at the Ray Hughes gallery on devonshire street.  Handy if you feel like a pork & fennel sausage roll from the bourke street bakery, although less handy for a midweek assignation. Hence I joined the crowds on Saturday.  Now, there are a couple of novelties for this year.  A nice touch was mixing up all the art between the collectors, previously it had been quite compartmentalised.  I see the itchy hand of the curator at work here.  Another great move was getting some artists involved.  Nell and Noel McKenna both sharing their collections.  Other collectors included this year are corporate type Sue Cato, random IT type Clinton Bradley and random collecting couple from the north shore Max & Gabrielle Germanos.

82 works are listed in the room sheet, and I only have a paragraph to spare so go have a look-see for yourself as this is only going to hit the high notes.  Well I usually like a big Danie Mellor, and Sue Cato's certainly ticks that box.  Actually a lot of her collection ticks the boxes despite the curators intro (saying that collecting is not box ticking).  Shaun Gladwell, Bill Henson, Guan Wei. Tick, tick, tick. I can tell by reading the names that Sue is a little older than me, this is a collection of a certain price range.  I thought the same when trying to piece together the Germanos collection.  Mclean Edwards x 3 and a Euan Macleod.  It does say something to collect in depth, and I respect that.  But in saying that they must really love Mclean Edwards!  My favourite non-artist collector was definitely Clinton Bradley.  Without the ability to play swapskis like Nell he has the collection that I could most empathise with putting together.  Loved his massive Michael Parekowhai (yes I can pronounce it!), pictured top (Cosmo McMurtry).  I can't believe he actually has this in his place.  I mean he can't have kids, they would love it, I just mean there would be no room for it!  It was great, and very timely given Easter is just round the corner.  I wouldn't have guessed Parekowhai, but maybe Parekowhai channeling Koons.  I also liked his Louise Weaver lithograph, recognised the Koji Ryui mini sculptures from Sarah Cottier and appreciated his collecting the 'harder' to categorise work like a powerpoint from Agatha Gothe-Snape.

Okay, I lied.  I could squeeze in another paragraph.  That's just because I'm now swapping to the artists collections.  I think Glenn had another reason to mix up the art on display this year.  If only to disguise how enamoured he was of the artists collections.  With 82 works from 5 couples you would expect about 16 works each. But Nell & Kylie Kwong have contributed 30 works and Noel McKenna has 26 (yes I counted the room sheet, that's the dedication it takes to make it as a quasi-anonymous art blogger these days!).  Now what I liked about the artist collections was the randomness of them. I also loved to look at a piece and try and guess whose it was.  To me, Noel's collection had a strong connection with his own work.  You could see a piece and think, that looks like Noel's.  Just look at that picture 2nd from the top, a grouping from Noel's collection!  The highlights of the McKenna collection in my opinion were the Rugby World Cup teapot by Alma Smith (pictured above) and what I think is an Ann Wallace piece (pictured below).  I also liked his XXXX bottle top curtain.  From Nell & Kylie Kwong's collection I enjoyed seeing what Nell has traded for, including a Lionel Bawden pencil work and a Laith McGregor bronze.  Nell has kept a few of her own works including a nifty igloo with eyes (pictured 3rd from top) but my favourite of hers was probably one of the smallest, a 7 x 3cm Philjames of Mr Freeze.

Points:  well, I know some people think art should be about ideas not money* but to the Big Lamington art is about points!  Now, don't take it personally collectors, but this is what I would swipe if you had an open house ... 3 points to the big bunny (not Nell, the Parekowhai.  2 points to Noel's teapot.  Shame it was 2003.  I'd love a cricket world cup version from 2007.  Maybe tiki mugs!  1 point will go to Nell, probably for the igloo (it kind of also reminds me of the Phantom's skull cave!).  I also love how she framed all these notes from folks like Fred Tomaselli and Dick Bruna as art. Again a great random show, as Glenn would say 'art is the winner today'*.  Looking forward to 2016 #artmonth already!

* art month have produced a lot of pastel business cards with Glenn Barkley quotes.  If you see them grab one, certain collectors items in themselves.

In the Still at Arthouse Gallery - 21 March

So the non-perishable items (that's jams and things like fruitcake) were dropped off at the Easter Show last weekend, and the perishable items (like Lamingtons and other baking categories) are due this Thursday.  What does all that mean?  Well it means I can go see some art this Saturday!  First up was a quick visit to Arthouse for their art month group show, 'In the Still'.

True story, I very nearly went to Still School at a whiskey distillery in Washington State USA.  So I was a little disappointed that this show actually meant 'still life' rather than say, bathtub gin.  I soon got over my disappointment by the great pieces that Leah Fraser has in.  I'm quite taken by her recognisable style. I can't really describe it, but I like it.  All blues, greens and creams, and a little boho / etsy feel to it. For some reason I think of interiors blogs when I think of Leah, that's probably 'cause she has featured heavily on the design files (which my better half likes reading).  What I really like about her entries here is that she has cross branded the mini sculptures into the pieces (top, A simple beautiful truth, 60 x 60cm; and down below you can pick some of the ceramics in the piece).  Its no surprise to me that both the painting has sold, as well as some of the key pieces in it (like the 'umal shaman' figurine). I like to think that a single collector picked all that up to keep it together.  Moving around the room I thought it was good to see Kirra Jamison not knocking off Gemma Smith's squiggles and actually doing something less abstract.  Her big piece, Morning Glory (200 x 170cm, above) was great and I liked the over the top pattern that recalled Reuben Patterson without the glitter.  I also like her titling work as the one with the dark background was called 'Evening Glory'.  I always prefer my glories in the morning but the dark painting was also quite striking.  Craig Waddell had quite a few flowers in here, which is playing to a strength of his but in my mind (& maybe its just because I am in Easter Show mode, where they take the brief very seriously) I don't reckon half of these are actually "still lifes".  Much more traditional were entries from Claudia Damichi (very neat) and Laura Jones (a little messier).  Laura's 'Flowering Gum' (below), was perhaps one of the most classical, also incorporating the textile casually dropped over the table.

Points:  I think most know where I am going here.  3 points for Leah Fraser.  Loved the painting and especially the interaction with the ceramics.  I will give 2 points to Laura for her traditional composition, and also 'cause she is from the Southern Highlands (I think I read a profile in Highlife!).  And what's the story morning glory? 1 point for Kirra for her massive flower piece (which given the grief I am throwing at Craig I is probably not really a still life either but you are not coming to the Big Lamington for consistency!).

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hayden Fowler at Alaska - 6 March.

Some bonus art month action whilst walking back home.  I had been seeing this random erection going up at Alaska and was wondering what the deal was. A couple of Hayden Fowler sightings gave the game away and I was lucky enough to walk past here the first night of the performance.  If you've missed it so far, there is still time.  The final show is Sat 21 March from 6-9pm at the Alaska office on William St.  See you there!

'Your Death' as this new performance installation project is called continues Hayden's practice of getting tattoos of dead birds as art.  Kind of like John Gould x Sailor Jerry.  He first got some huia birds inked in 2007 (we saw a print of these in his studio and they bagged 2 points back in 2013), then he got a massive swooping owl (or Wha'kau) in 2014.  And now?  And now it is the South Island Kokako.  Obviously a few different spellings and at first I was confused with the kakapo (which is a flightless parrot, and also quite endangered).  How do I know so much about NZ birds?  Well, Project Kakapo was the codename for a deal I worked on back in NZ back in the day.  Good times!  Anyhoo, so the Alaska blurb declares that the Kokako was officially declared extinct in 2004, and it was.  But in 2013 its status was reclassified as 'data deficient' and their are kiwis out there in the field looking for this bird!  [Go here if you want to donate to that cause]  What I love about Hayden's work is the contrast between the futuristic set / the clinical white costumes of the tattooist contrasted with the subject matter, extinct birds.  The maori style cloak made of feathers just sitting there for no reason is also pretty neat.  On the first night Alaska Director Seb Goldspink was stopping people and explaining the project.  It's a high foot traffic area so there were some punters getting their first dose of Fowler who were a little confused, my favourite was the group of irish construction workers who looked like they had a few tatts of their own.  They were fookin' amazed.  I reckon the junior critics would be as well.  I think we might have to swing by once more.  Oh, and I need some better photos!

Points:  tbd.  I want to see these new birds finished before I award the points.  It is going to take something special to get the 3 points off the huia birds!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sabbatical - December to February.

Alright art lovers and fans of random ranting.  Welcome back to the blog for 2015.  It's been radio silence for a little while the Big Lamington team has been catching up on other passions during what to be honest is a bit of a dead time on the art calendar - with apologies to all those that artist that did exhibit over Jan / Feb!

There was still some art on the agenda, stay tuned for some wistful recollections of my time at the Blake Prize in December and a visit to see the James Turrell exhibition in Canberra (the only must see show in my opinion). I will do my regular trick of backdating so I'll link from this page when updated.

I feel a little bad that I never got around to seeing the "blockbuster" museum shows but I suspect they'll be another one or two next year. Speaking of which, is it Art Month already?  See you soon.

Points available for anyone who manages to pick the above work.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Graduate Show at NAS - 28 November

How will I #react?  Well, my first reaction was, wasn't this the tagline for last years show?  I mean, I realise Saatchi and Saatchi are still the sponsors but they couldn't spring for some new banners?  I'll be #underwhelmed if this theme is rolled out again next year ...

Second up.  How good is it, finally, that NAS seems to have worked out a half decent online strategy?  The website they had (and I use the past tense as they've already taken it down!) was actually pretty good.  Sorted by all the disciplines you could actually see nearly 100% of the works online.  Which is pretty handy to get a good feel for the show before you actually go, because opening night when I swung by is always jammed packed.  The one downside of the excellent website is that I didn't take notes, thinking I'd just look it up at home.  Big mistake as I am writing this on 9 December and google is not helping out much.  Luckily I had taken a few snaps on opening night.  Pictured top are two of Hilary Sandeman's pieces which made the cut for the main gallery.  Smaller works but I loved them.  Hard to make out in the photo but the glass jars were filled with wax hearts.  I think I've mentioned before I have a thing for medical models of hearts and Hilary was bang on with these.  If I'd have been a bit more organised these should've made their way to Big Lamington HQ as the grad show is always very affordable and good to support young artists.  Other highlights were Bahman Kermani who made these persian rugs (pictured middle) out of train tickets.  Not bad, although would take up a fair bit of space in a Paddo terrace so you might need to think about different ways to display.  Maybe put a glass table top on and make it a coffee table?  Hey, just trying to help.  Lastly, I was really digging the linocuts of one grad whose name I can't track down.  But in trying to find this online I found Jake Morrissey's name.  And he did some cool prints of Fidel & Marilyn from memory.  Speaking of which, next time I will remember to post earlier!

Points:  Hilary Sandeman will get the 3 for Tried to Feel But Couldn't Touch.  Bahman Kermani will take the 2 for the ticket carpet.  And my unknown artist will take a point for these great linocuts above. The two alpacas in the bottom right were my favourite.  I think one was even from the Hunter Valley!  Have I mentioned before that I'm from ….