Saturday, July 11, 2015

Visible Storage at Artbank - 11 July.

So Artbank has moved. Ostensibly to a more retail friendly precinct, although I think that the whole Danks Street area has has never really lived up to the early hype.  One of the benefits of the new space is they have a gallery area where they are now putting on shows from the stockroom.  Their latest is called Visible Storage (I get it) and features over 200 works on yellow walls, cause why not, yellow.

Artspace says this show contains emerging, mid-career and established.  Known and unknown.  Although, it leans a little more heavily to the unknown to this punter.  And the room sheet is pretty hard to navigate with show this big.  On the recognisable front I clocked a Mitch Cairns and a Michael Lindeman.  I recognised the Cairns from my tour to Artbank a few years ago.  Liked them both and you could rent them together for $550 for the year.  Actually that was the deal for this show, any 2 works were just over 5 hungy. 3 works $770, 5 works for $1,100 and you are getting the picture this scale went right up to $27,500 for the whole room!  That sounds like a good deal but upon getting home and taking a spin around the leasing part of their website you'll find quite a few works for under $200.  Not bad.  They were a few empty spaces - Artspace is letting you walk off with the art and they are putting a small notice in its place - although I get the feeling that is not necessarily the whole point of the exercise from Artbank's perspective, just making some of their stored works visible I guess!

Points:  To be honest I was a little overwhelmed with the choice on offer so I am going straight to the short list.  3 points for Paul White's 'Just off Sunset' 2007 (middle), I love a good illustrated panel van!  And I am also a  sucker for text in art, so 2 points for Matthew Hunt's text heavy 'Heartfield' series from 2006 (selection above).  I liked the style of 'Back Lash' although I would be putting 'Hula Hula' straight in the tiki bar.  Lastly, I am going back to the turn of century for a bit of socialist kitsch.  Graham Blondel taking the 1 point for 'Workers Collective' (pictured top).

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Everything & Nothing at Sarah Cottier - 27 June

Everything and nothing.  Covers a lot of bases really.  Not sure where they were going with this here. Sadly, I only picked up the room sheet and not the essay so I am going to have to wing it ...

For starters it's a good old fashioned group show.  And this being Sarah Cottier it is at the edgier end of the conceptual / commercial spectrum.  The Mikala Dwyer plastic sculpture was interesting, looks good in the gallery but not sure how this see through work would go at home.  That said I'd fit this in more easily than the Tim Bruniges Piano, which is (naturally enough) upright piano sized.  Great to see someone up cycling an old piano - although I am interested that this P.O.A work is an edition of 3!  A firm family favourite (I had all the 3 junior critics with me) was Gemma Smith's 'Radiant Greige' (pictured above).  This was a small work, 34cm x 28cm, but packed quite a visual trick.  At eye level it is half grey / half pink.  Moving up, the work turns pink and moving down it goes grey.  I've tried to show that in the above snaps.  The kids initially didn't think much of it, being grey from their vantage.  But they did think it was cool as it changed colour, and I was kept very busy picking up junior critic after junior critic.  They also liked the Todd McMillan video work but that's the youtube generation for you.  I lean more old school, which means a nice big framed print will appeal to me - and Sarah Mosca has delivered a great abstract one called 'Gestural Ode' (pictured top).

Points:  Gemma is going to take the 3 points here.  Radiant Greige was a family favourite, and I even learnt a new word (greige that is).  2 points for Sarah Mosca's massive 190cm x 155cm print.  Koji Ryui will take 1 point for the Spring sculpture - which was quite a nice little piece and it had a cool plinth.

Friday, June 19, 2015

2015 Yen Art Award at Gaffa - 19 June

"Now in its 4th year, the Yen Staedtler Female Art Awards is back to bring you the best in homegrown female talent".  Well, with promo copy like that, who is the Big Lamington to resist saddling up again to see who is emerging in 2015 (you can click here for 2014 and 2013).

I missed the opening but thankfully the organisers were keeping the winner a big secret, seriously I had to google this after my visit, which meant I was able to pick my point winner without bias (ha!). On the whole, I didn't think this was as strong as the prior years, and I am not sure why that is.  The prize is fantastic for an emerging artist, you get a solo show at Gaffa as well as a feature in the magazine.  As well, the judges seem to favour the "serious" artists that have graduated from a top art school (last years winner was a BFA (Hons) and this years winner is doing her MFA).  I recognised Eliza Slater's work immediately.  Eliza had taken a point in the NAS graduate show last year and had entered the same work here, nice work being selected as a finalist (image above on the right).  I liked Miranda Lorikeet's name and her entry, 'Dive / Survive'  According to the bio she did this in her lunch break on MS-Paint.  Great to see some amateur's / hobbyists involved.  This work (image above, middle) was a little pixellated when printed out to 100 x 80cm, but that could have been on purpose.  I don't think it is a Yen art prize unless there is a bit of embroidery involved and I wasn't to be disappointed this year.  Annie Comelli has made the cut with a collection of works focusing on her vajayjay.  I liked the illustrator style of Anna Gareeva (image above on the left) and similarly the rough graphic design style of Nicola Mitchell.  A standout was Louise Zhang, who I recognise from Artereal.  Her colourful, abstract work 'and it came from Goo Lagoon' (pictured top) was also big (125 x 126cm) so really differentiated itself from the mostly figurative crowd.

Points:   I am going to agree with the judges here and give 3 points for big and colourful.  Well done Louise.  Eliza is going to take the 2 points for her screen prints.  I will give one point to Annaliesa Horne for the North Sydney Bears inspired drawing (pictured above).  Always great to see some cross over between NSW Cup teams and the arts.  Also highly commended to the team from Yen for keeping this going.  And they do a handy little online publication where you can see all the finalists and get a bit more info, it's here.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Leah Fraser at Arthouse Gallery - 6 June

I've only noticed Leah Fraser over the last year, but I've really taken to her style (she got 2 points at the Blake Prize and 3 at a group show at the arthouse).  So I made a beeline back to the arthouse on Saturday when I saw she had a new solo show, Message from the World Invisible.

En masse, you are completely immersed in the fictitious world that Leah has developed.  And I liked it.  And it wasn't just me, as this show had sold out on opening night.  All women buyers too according to the gallerina.  I can see that, there is a strong Frankie magazine x Del Kathryn Barton vibe running through this show (Leah used to work for Del Kathryn Barton).  I particularly enjoyed the overuse of birds and flowers in these pieces.  Despite the naive style (the cockatoo and kookaburra's are particularly funky) you really get the sense that Leah has put deliberate thought into the different species to use, which I appreciated as a viewer trying to decipher the images. Native orchids, tropical plants, flowing hipster beards. These paintings had. it. all.  As in the recent group show, Leah has included a few interesting ceramic pieces.  I really liked the incorporation of the raw crystals / semi-precious gemstones into the pieces such as in 'Turn Your Body to Light Shaman' (pictured below).

Points:  3 for the prolific hibiscus in 'My Heart Belongs to the Sea' (pictured top).  2 points for 'We Sang Songs beneath a web of Stars', and I will give 1 point for the spears of what looked like dendrobium speciosum in 'His Opal Hands Gathering You'.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Chris Twiney at Gaffa - 5 June

I haven't been to Gaffa for a little while, but the email newsletter piqued my interest last week.  Luxury packaging design rebranded with rural towns? Well that ticks a few of the Big Lamington's boxes so we nipped over during the week to learn more about Chris Twiney and his show 'Rural Gucci'.

Turns out Chris Twiney is an emerging visual artist based in Sydney.  And according to his CV, this is his first solo show.  Even better he has a good little website so you can see more of his earlier work.  Chris is apparently using the luxury branding to highlight the widening economic divide between cities and rural towns in Australia.  I love the concept here, with its hints to Elmgren & Dragset's Prada Marfa and those t-shirts that say "London / New York / Paris / Moree". My only question is in regards the disparate towns presented. They are all over the map, literally.  Yass, Collector, Berrima, Braidwood, Hobrook (all NSW) and Glenrowan (VIC) are all within striking distance of an ANU arts student, I guess, but they're not on the same road trip.  If you were going for disadvantaged towns you could probably pick some better ones than Berrima.  And if you were being a little more collector friendly, you could have picked some better known towns as well!  I mean Holbrook?  Anyhow.  My favourite pieces involved the packaging, but then again I love the aesthetics over at the Dieline. Braidwood got the Hermes treatment (pictured top), Holbrook got the Tiffany blue box, and Collector got the Chanel white shopping bag.  The screen prints were good, again I liked Braidwood and also the YSL version of Yass (pictured above).  There was also a great photo were Chris had re-fashioned the sign at the entrance to Yass.  All in all a great debut solo show and I will be interested to see where Chris takes this theme.

Points:  3 points to the Braidwood box.  2 points will go to one of the screen prints.  I probably liked Braidwood's the best again and while it is looking like I have a soft spot for this town, regular readers would know I'd prefer something from the Hunter or the Southern Highlands!  The 1 point will go to the LVMH wheelbarrow (above).  This didn't really question the economic plight of towns but was a nice fun inclusion to the luxury theme.  Great show.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tony Schwensen at Sarah Cottier - 30 May

"If you liked how Tom Polo became an emerging art star without learning to paint, then you are going to love how Tony Schwensen has been able to sustain a career retrospective with a $200 Bunnings voucher" - Irvine Welch
Okay, so that quote is made up.  But I was made to think of the transpotting novelist's collection of short stories when I toured around this solo show at Sarah Cottier.

And it might surprise you that, on the whole, I didn't mind it.  But that was mainly due to the presence of 'Border Protection Assistance / Proposed Monument to the Torres Strait (Am I ever going to see your face again?)'.  This work from 2002 (pictured top), mainly appealed due to the use of the famous Angels crowd refrain as an apt summary of Australia's approach to illegal maritime arrivals.  Most of the other pieces seemed needlessly conceptual. Namely, Monument to Progressing Thought (aka the wheelbarrow on the car stands) and Elegy to the Australian Republic (aka the pvc pipes set in concrete in buckets with the coloured lights).  But I may have just been reacting to the titles.  This guy has a PhD in art, I wondered if his thesis might have been "Alternatives to the use of (Untitled) in contemporary art".  Tony was at it again around the corner.  Here is a room with vinyl letters spelling out Nothing Makes You Free in three languages.  This title is a beauty: 'The Indelible Stain of the White Australia Policy / or the gates of Manus Island / or for all the lucky cunts in the lucky country'.  My problem with it, is that all the work is in the artist statement, the actual idea is very lazy (the analogy to Auschwitz's work makes you free).  Is there a contemporary art version of Godwin's Law where the first artist to link Australia's immigration policies to Nazism has to give back all their Australia Council grants?

Points:  I am going to give 3 to the Torres Monument.  I will give 2 points to the party lights because I am a republican and will give 1 point to 'The Idiot' (aka the steel bucket with speedos stretched around it with concrete and a steel post). This was at least easier to guess the subject given the literal metaphor that red speedos have become (for better or worse, but I'm a sunburnt lobster type of guy myself).

Saturday, April 25, 2015

2015 Gallipoli Art Prize - 25 April

One of my favourite art little art prizes, the Gallipoli Art Prize is in its tenth (and by design) last year. Out of all the random little art prizes I am much sadder about this ending than say, the Blake Prize.  Walking around you knew exactly where you were, all the entries were right on brief.  Let's take the elevator to the second floor of the Gallipoli Memorial Club and check out the finalists ...

So it was good to see this art prize get a bit of press.  By now you may have read that Sally Robinson won the $20,000 for her Boy Soldiers.  All in all this was a worthy winner.  This year I really noticed how popular animal entries have been over the years.  A dog in a gas mask won the prize (and my 3 points) in 2013. A pigeon bearing medals took my 3 points last year.  And again there are animals everywhere this year.  I think the donkey's had it with 4 representatives but there were at least 2 horses and even pigeons again!  Of the donkey's I did quite like Martin Tighe's 'The Burden' (top).  This work also took out one of the judges highly commended's.  Alison Mackay's 'Fallen' (bottom) was actually two works.  The spoons were in order on the left and all mixed up on the right.  I think there was some deeper meaning hidden here but more importantly if you look closely she has managed to include both a donkey and a pigeon!!  Leaving the animals entirely out of it there was quite a lot of portraiture, of old diggers, of young diggers, of generations of soldiers and more.  To be honest, that does get a little generic en masse.  Of the figurative works I probably likes Susan Sutton's best, her 'Out Came the Sherrin' (pictured middle) showing some soldiers enjoying some down time.  And very appropriate although I am not sure I left my slouch hat on whilst playing footy at cadet camp!

Points:  3 points will go to Martin Tighe's donkey, s/he looks like s/he needs it!  I will give 2 points to the spoons which appeals to the badge collector in me and I will give 1 point to Susan Sutton.  I might have scored that one higher if it wasn't AFL.  Seriously this is Sydney.  Our diggers played league!