Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hall & Deacon at Roslyn Oxley - 26 July

Last day of the solo shows of Fiona Hall (in the main space) and Destiny Deacon (in the side room) at RoslynOxley.  I'd heard very good word of mouth about these shows so phoned ahead to make they were still on to avoid disappointment.  I grabbed the 6 year old to come with as we made the short trek downhill to Paddo gallery central ...

Let's cut to the chase, these shows lived up to the hype.  I didn't love everything but there were a couple of standout works in each to make this a show to see.  So sorry about the late review and all, but hey, we try our best!  For those that came in late, Fiona Hall is a bit of a big deal.  Selected to represent Australia at the upcoming Venice Biennale in 2015 her works deal with the relationship between people and nature.  Upon entering I made a beeline for the vitrine (pictured top).  This work, Thicket, was totes amazeballs.  The container was filled with pvc pipes painted up as faux branches with ceramic birds that looked like they were sourced from ebay or vinnies perching upon each branch with targets on them.  Then on top of this was a collection of jet planes.  Crazy.  Weird.  Fantastic.  I've seen a few Fiona Hall vitrines and this was a beauty.  It is amazing what putting some random objects in a very formal glass box will do to the mind.  I can't help thinking Museum of Natural History.  I guess I was also expecting to see some stainless steel sardine tins but the closest we got to that was an aluminium skull sitting on a pile of burnt books.  What did surprise me was the collection of Tongan bark cloths.  Would've liked to have investigated these in a little more detail but the junior critic was unsupervising herself around the corner.  Destiny Deacon's installation was a top effort.  The walls were covered in images and then the prints were displayed on top.  I liked a couple of the kitschy dolls which reminded me of my hometowns one time (former?) calling card, the Black Boy.  I tweeted an image of the Cake Man but you can also have a look at the images on the gallery site which has them all.  Also, this seems a good a time as any to call out Roslyn Oxley for having THE BEST room sheets in Sydney, perhaps Australia.  Nearly always an A3 that is folded booklet style I love that they have a little thumbnail image along with all the details, prices and there is usually a little blurb / essay on the back.  Keep up that great work.  Now the highlight from Destiny for both of us was the video work, Snap out of it.  My daughter was lying on the floor strapped into get the whole 2 minutes 30 seconds of this intriguing work.  Hard to explain but luckily a few stills were available (see above, Snap out of it, C).  It is basically two hands rolling around a few different coloured 'water bombs' (or something that looked like a water bomb) over what appears to be a wallaby fur.  We were Transfixed.  On the way out we had time to appreciate some of Fiona's Untitled pieces.  There were, confusingly, 6 of them.  All just plain 'Untitled'.  Not even the Richard Prince style brackets of 'Untitled (Cowboy)' to tell apart the Vatican on the Tank from the Billiard Ball Antlers.  Someone might want to give Fiona a book on Damien Hirst before she heads to Venice ...

Points:  Well the 3 points is easy.  Fiona Hall's Thicket stands out by a country mile in my mind.  Loved this.  Loved the old school vitrine and the interesting contents.  I still don't necessarily get it, but love the aesthetics and that it gets you thinking.  Another detail shot below and will also tweet a close up of the jets.  The 2 points will go to the Destiny Deacon video.  Snap out of it.  Although this could've been called Untitled because now I am thinking about Cher, which is dangerous as it is nearly bedtime.  Just like Fiona's vitrine I still don't really get this work either but ditto for the aesthetics and the thinking. The final point will go to Untitled. Wait, you want to know which of the 6 untitled works?  Hint:  The one pictured above.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Archibald, Wynne and Sulman at the AGNSW - 19 July

The big prizes have moved back in the AGNSW calendar and that's a good thing as far as I can see. There really isn't anything else on right now in the art world.  Which is why yours truly decided to brave the crowds and head over to the AGNSW on the first weekend after the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes were announced.  Would we concur with the trustees / judges?  Would we be allowed to take a selfie?  Let's find out ...

So first up is always the Archibald.  I would like to see the AGNSW mix this up for once and have you enter through the Wynne, that'd get everyone talking!  Hardly any real controversy this year, even the chicks making out didn't raise an eyebrow.  What is going on?  I did like the collection of smaller works that had been hung together.  I, like many others, decry the super sized entries that this prize seems to encourage.  One other thing I like about the Archibald is that it is quite acceptable to tee off on the art.  John McDonald has had a great go this year, see here, lots of reasonable arguments there.  John's pet peeve this year is portraits painted from photographs rather than the subject formally sitting.  I know what he is talking about.  I sat for a portrait back in the day and it took quite a few of them.  My own pet peeve concerns all the random punters being painted.  Officially the prize is for a portrait "preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia".  My preferential is a little stricter than the AGNSW, hence I would've flicked about half the entries for non-compliance.  I was particularly annoyed with Vincent Fantauzzo's 'self-portrait', which is actually a photo realistic portrait of his son and a particularly cloying artist statement to try and get it to qualify for this prize.  Anyway, I'll stop there before I pick off a few others.  Breathe.  Okay, on to those that did actually float my boat.  Top pick was Mitch Cairn's Reg Richardson AM.  Distinguished subject, check.  Portrait in distinctive style of artist, check.  Not too large, check.  This was a very striking portrait (mainly because of those glasses, image top) but I really liked how the portrait was still obviously in the modernist style that Mitch is making his signature.  Other highlights were Sophia Hewson's kissing girls (or the twins as my three year old called it) and Zoe Young's Torah Bright.  I liked the aesthetics of James Powditch's Citizen Kave, it did look like a good movie.  I did try to think, based on the entries submitted, who I'd get to paint my portrait if push came to shove (apart from Mitch). Paul Mallam (pic above, The Card Player) was probably the other winner there.  Before we move on, please note that the top image is courtesy of my iphone, the rest are from the AGNSW website.  You see, they are rocking the no photos allowed policy.  I had seen a few people taking snaps so started to help myself when a guard said no.  I said what about that dude - he turned out to be an artist, and apparently you are allowed to take photos of your own work.  Hey AGNSW, how about next time we actually get on the social media train.  After just coming back from New York where Sotheby's are trying to promote their auctions with the #sothebysselfie tag I can't see why we are being backwards about it.

Next stop is always the Wynne.  For once, I agreed with the judges.  Michael Johnson's Oceania high low (pictured above), probably would've got the nod from me.  This was quite a large work but at the same time a very retro abstract work.  Quite colourful and the 3 year old junior critic liked it a lot, although in her mind the pastel cityscape of Michael Muir would've given it a run for its money.  I liked Noel McKenna's Palm Beach wharf and also Kate Shaw's Maralinga (which I think would be even more striking if she did it when the bomb was going off).  I'm getting a bit over Joshua Yeldham's Wynne entries.  It's like he has had the same work for about 5 years now.  Also due for a spell is Tim Storrier.  You won the big prize last year Tim, take a year off!

Last stop is ... you guessed it - the Sulman!  Now this is usually my favourite prize given how random it is (especially if R. Bell happens to be judging).  Sadly this was one of the weakest years in my mind.  Didn't like much.  I like political paintings but political artist statements give me the irrits, so Darren Wardle was discounted straight off the bat.  Fiona Lowry had one of her trademark works (by the way I did like some random interwebs criticism of her Archie winner that instagram should just develop a Lowry filter - meow), Noel McKenna had a still life and that was about it for the big names.  I quite liked Maz Dixon (image above, Colony). I've seen Maz repped on Sydney's own little art startup Art Pharmacy (link here). So I was familiar with her vintage postcard inspired practise.  Now I think I prefer her Big Pineapple, Gold Coast meter maids and Currumbin Bird Sanctuary lorikeets but this seaworld inspired dolphins and the random blob (which happens to be a whale) are streets ahead of the field here.

Points:  Mitch is going to bag the 3 points for his Archibald entry here.  More prestigious than the Trustee's Highly Commended?  Probably not ... yet.  The 2 will go to Maz for her Sulman entry.  The 1 from the Wynne will actually go to James Drinkwater as I did like his retro abstract landscape and I figured Michael already won the Wynne so what was a point to him!  James' Down the Awabakel Trail (above) lets me in on the fact he is from the Hunter, and Hunter boys stick together.  Well down Jimbo.

Mob rule - AGNSW Contemporary Projects.

What a pleasant surprise the contemporary project space at the AGNSW was on the latest visit (for the Archibald).  I nearly didn't bother checking it out as we had the full complement of junior critics for this visit.  One had just seen the Archibald and we were waiting for two others to finish the children's art workshop on the bottom floor so had some time to kill ...

Tony Garifalakis is a name I have read about, but I am not sure I've seen in the flesh. Or at least not enough to warrant a mention before.  His work "investigates political, social and religious systems of belief while questioning mechanisms of surveillance, compliance and control", but I guess you could say that about anyone nowadays!  Specifically for Mob Rule Tony is meant to be altering found images by censoring them a la the redacted copies you get from a government freedom of information request.  That is, if the government in question redacted documents by using black spray paint.  I think it is a very aesthetically pleasing result. The wet enamel paint runs down the subjects in a graffiti style, with the eyes mostly remaining visible.  There are two different sets of images in this show.  The first, running around three walls at eye level are portraits of world leaders Tony has ripped out of magazines (or offset lithograph images as I think the gallery labelled them).  My favourite he was man of the moment Putin (above), he does look pretty evil.  On the main wall were publicity type shots of various royals and military personnel that have received the same treatment. These are larger and from what I deduce, Tony has taken the image and then had c-type prints made which he has then 'censored'.  My favourite here was probably Prince Harry, mainly due to his natty uniform (top image, bottom left).

Points:  man of the match effort here from Tony, overall this show was much more impressive than the Sulman and quite a few of the Archibald entries.  3 points to Flash Harry, 2 to Putin and I'll give a point to one of the Queens - hopefully Liz.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

#FOMO at Artereal - 12 July

So it turns out, courtesy of that new handy little google search bar on the blog, that I haven't been to Artereal gallery for about 7 months. Which seems all the more tardy when you realise I have had a work bought and paid for that they've been waiting for me to pick up!  Sorry about that.  Luckily for me Andrew Frost put this show in his top art things for the weekend in Friday's SMH.  Even luckier it was illustrated with a Liam Benson piece so that caught my eye (image top, 'I know (gold)').  Next stop Rozelle ...

Well, eventually Rozelle.  Given this was a car ride away from Big Lamington HQ I couldn't resist swinging by Damien Minton's space in Redfern as he is in his final few shows before the curtain closes down for good (FOMO for real).  I've gotta say I was really impressed with Blak Douglas' show.  Nice work.  That had me and one of the junior critics in a good mood for Artereal.  For those that came in late, #FOMO is a bit of a internet slang (& acronym) for 'fear of missing out'.  Turns out the term made the oxford dictionary in 2013, although I prefer the urban dictionary myself.  Now not only does #FOMO have Liam Benson, but another Big Lamington favourite in Criena Court.  We've written about her a few times on the blog and I really how her style combines landscape, mirrors and sculpture so creatively.  These were essentially plywood 'books' with a print on one side and a mirror on the other.  Apparently Criena wants the owner to be able to play with the angles over time, essentially creating a new work a day if you felt like it.  From memory these works were also the favourite of my 5 year old son.  Tully Arnot's #FOMO contribution, 'Lonely Sculpture' was a fake finger mounted to an iphone constantly tapping yes on his tinder feed.  Hmmm, some interesting conservation issues here!  When we saw the piece the problem was he'd run out of profiles to swipe yes to on his tinder.  Quick, more single people to Rozelle.  A humorous piece and definitely one I'll be recommending to some single friends who I know are familiar with that app!  My favourite works were definitely Liam's.  These embroderies continue the theme of his last Artereal show, in fact his 'Original (black and white opal)' is just the different coloured version of the work I bought at the last show.  Do I still like it?  Hint: Yes!  These are very striking works, especially for such a small scale (Original is 20cm diameter, I know is 11cm). To me they really showcase the sense of identity that runs through Liam's work.  But hang on.  What is all the #FOMO about?  From a curatorial perspective I could kind of get Tully's tinder, but Liam and Criena's pieces didn't scream social media.  It was then I decided to read the gallery blurb, which is always helpful.  Turns out Artereal are using the 'fear of missing out' in the collecting sense.  In that these are hot emerging artists and you better get in quick.  Okay, now I get it, and I also want it.  A couple of Criena's and a few Liam's please.  So the marketing is working.

Points.  Well, I am going to give Liam the 3, just because these works do live up the hype that has built up in my mind.  Really very original.  They are also very affordable, although it would be nice to see one of these actually framed for sale, would help with trying to visualise it in your home.  2 points to Criena Court for  Proposal #10 (mountain view 3c), its the work pictured middle.  Hard to say where the last point will go.  Can artists experience FOMO for Big Lamington points?  I think given the Sydney art scene will soon be missing out on the Minton gallery that I will give the 1 point to Adam Hill (aka Blak Douglas).  I can't remember the name of my favourite work due to issues with misplacing the room sheet but I did tweet the image ... so obviously start following me on twitter or you will be missing out.  Like, #really.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reko Rennie at Chalkhorse - 26 June

Opening night at Chalk Horse used to mean ... well let's be honest I've never been to an opening night at Chalk Horse as it was always just a bit out of the way.  But they've moved.  To Darlinghurst.  Somewhere on William Street to be imprecise.  Luckily there were a few punters having a dhurrie outside to give me some guidance as to exactly where they are (it is downstairs from some random doorway that I swear you will never find the first time*).  This show 'No Sleep till Dreamtime' is by Reko Rennie (who according to an old blog post has been on my collecting shortlist since 2012).  Let's see if I still want one.

Well the answer to that is yes and yes.  Luckily (or unluckily) my top 2 picks already have the red sticker, so I can calmly check out the show.  First impressions.  Wow.  Seriously frickin' impressed.  Both by the basement space of Chalk Horse which is just what you need for a cool gallery and by the art that Reko has on display.  I do love the glitter that Reko is rocking in these works, will have to bring the junior critics along to check it out.  He also showcases his trademark kamilaroi diamond pattern that we've seen on building and in galleries.  In fact a lot of the old favourite imagery is here: he had the message stick spray can and the crown motif that he has used before.  New for me was the kangaroo on the boomerang (image top, Fade #1, image below screen print #5).  The version on gold glitter is the first thing you see at the door. It is a 70 x 70cm square and is a great size and a bit of a bargain really so no wonder its sold.  The version on sunset colours (top) was in the second room around the corner.  This is the biggest work at 152 x 152cm and is probably the star of the show (in fact people lined up for photos in front of this bad boy).  It looks great in the flesh but it is interesting that the glitter seems to come up better in these online photos.  Safe to say that these were my top picks.  Love the iconic imagery.  This would look really good next to some Liam Benson works, I realise that might seem a little too interior designy but in my mind they both use iconic imagery to ask questions of Australian identity.  From memory Reko did a series of native animals in Melbourne so I am not sure if there is special significance to the kangaroo or not.  It looks very familiar but I can't exactly place it.  Like from an old stamp or the coat of arms (although the 'roo is the other way on the coat of arms).  Maybe that is just how Reko has drawn it, to look like he has sourced if from somewhere back in time.  This is on till July 12, get there.

Points: well after the gush above the only question is what is going to take the 1 point.  The Kangaroo's are taking the 3 and 2 (for the fade and the gold glitter respectively).  Complicating matters a little further is I am not sure if the other works hung in groups of three (image middle) are meant to be together or not.  Pricewise I think you could take one, two or all three of the pieces.  If that is the case I would take one of the bright teal blue diamonds for the 1.

* but you would be in good company as even a couple of big name artists admitted they got lost coming from artspace.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

2014 Yen Art Award at gaffa gallery - 19 June

So it turns out that this is the 3rd year of the Yen Art Awards which means the Big Lamington has coverage of 67% of their history (see last years thoughts here, I just re-read the post and it was a cracker!).  For those that can't be bothered lets do a quick revision:  Yen is an Australian magazine aimed at "smart creative cookies who love to be inspired".  I guess they target smart young creative cookies as this award is restricted to women aged 18-35.  Five judges in all (and yet they still didn't need me as a guest judge, editors my offer stands for 2015) and they have whittled the 530* entries down to 20 finalists.  Let's see who inspired this creative lamington cookie!

Now given the prominence of social media it is hard to keep anything a secret and so I'd already heard via tweeter that Claudia Nicholson had won this years award.  Congrats Claudia!  Loyal readers will remember Claudia has taken some points before (here and here) so it was great to see her recognised with a win.  Her work, 'Si Tomas el Agua de Neshuya (once you have tasted the water of neshuya)' (pictured top) continues with her pink dolphin theme which is a commentary on the folklore and myth of illegitimacy in Columbia (that is the pink river dolphins turn into charming blokes that seduce innocent girls).  Unless you know that back story I guess you are just appreciating the handmade aesthetics of the embroidery but with knowledge of the myth I find it much more interesting.  Also inspiring were the pencil or charcoal drawing of Phoebe Boyle ('Day trippin' in Versailles', pictured above).  There was some great technique on display here as the drawn folds were very intricate.  Top work and a great buy at $800.  Most of these works were very affordable (under $1k) so there were quite a few dots on the walls.  I'm a fan of collage so enjoyed Meredith Earl's 'Commonplace Magic' (you'll have to check out Yen's handy website which has a booklet of the finalists for this image).  And I liked the retro illustration of Camila de Gregorio's 'Birds 1'.  I had a great time looking at this exhibition, not only did I have the place to myself for my first walk through, but then to top it off I even got a curatorial tour from gaffa's own Grace Mackey at the end.  In addition to discussing the works above she pointed out Grace Blake's '3 hrs', '18 hrs' and '9 hrs' (pictured below).  These were prints but Grace's great trick is the framing which is actually coloured perspex.  Hello innovation.  I've been picking up a growing trend for inventive framing (Marian Tubbs, Phil James, and at the Frieze fair in NY) and this is a great continuation.

Points:  This is tough.  I was all set to give Claudia another 3 when the curators tips brought Grace Blake into the frame so to speak!  But the dolphin story takes it to another level for me and that pink pimp takes another 3 points.  2 to Grace and 1 to Phoebe.

* that is a lot, see them all here.  I am also going to call out a couple of artists that didn't make the shortlist based on my own trawl through the long list.  Two I would've included both rock a textaqueen aesthetic and incorporate a bit of text, Alanna Lorenzon's Things that are not healed (who has her own website here, good hustle) and Alexandra Sherger's Lana Americana.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Conquest of Space at COFA - 14 June

The Conquest of Space hey?  Was this to be a populist blockbuster or a group of random works flung together by some tricky semantics?  I love what Frosty the Curator does on the telly but he does have a tendency for a little intellectual pomposity from time to time (my favourite article of his is here).  What I needed was someone with both a firm grasp of what science fiction means to the average punter as well as unrelenting honesty.  Luckily my Star Wars obsessed five year old was available and willing to tag along with Dad to see some space art.

His verdict.  Some planets, tick.  A picture with a Star Wars helmet, tick.  Could've used some more space. Me? I quite liked the show, the artists selected and the work they exhibited.  That said, I feel Conquest of Space is a bit of a misnomer - but it did make for a great single picture (Adam Norton, image top).  I think the themes that Frost is trying to weave together define science fiction far too broadly, allowing virtually any work to qualify.  Frosty basically admits this in his conclusion, "in essence, contemporary art is science fiction".  So what did we like?  Hayden Fowler has a great video and I enjoyed seeing Lionel Bawden's paintings as well as his pencil sculptures.  Sam Leach has a recognisable work in there as does Kate Shaw.  And I guess I should include Jeffrey Smart in that description which reminds me that this wasn't just contemporary art but some older works borrowed from the AGNSW.  As well as the Smart there were some 19th century works from John Glover and Eugene von Guerard.  There was a very good reason why these old landscapes were included. But I didn't buy it, the philistine that I am.  My top picks were Phil James who does rock a real sci-fi feel with his works (and he was the one that actually included the Star Wars reference, image below 'Rebel Scum, Raygun Mary').  I really liked Callum Morton's 'Screen 4, Chargrilled' (image above) which had a great retro drive-in feel to it.  I thought my five year old would go for one of the big colourful planets like Giles Alexander's 'Our father is a red giant' but instead he opted for Shoufray Derz's Negative II as his top pick (image bottom).  Intriguing work, and mightily impressed by the refinement of taste shown by the junior critic.

Points:  I am going to give Phil James the 3 points as to me this hit the brief.  2 points will go to Callum Morton.  What can I say?  I love the drive-in.  We had one back in my home town, which I actually got to work in, but sadly after the movies had long stopped.  It had become a flower nursery which was kind of spooky with a big drive in screen in front of thousands of native flowers being grown for export! 1 point will go to the junior critic's pick Shoufray Derz. I think I preferred the orange version better but I liked how the artist has conveyed the emptiness of landscape in these works.