Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sydney Contemporary - 10-13 September

Okay, so the we'd done the online preview, now for the real deal.  I had 2 visits to Sydney Contemporary this year.  Thursday night where I met up with my in-laws and then I took the Friday off from work to see all the stands at my leisure.  Let's recap the fun of the fair ...

First the good.  It is chock a block full of galleries.  And you would feel like you were missing out if you weren't there.  I went to a talk this year which was quite good (Talent Borrows / Genius Steals) and I must say the food and drink are quite decent, although don't bother on Thursday night as it is a shit fight in the queue's, it's much more bearable for Friday lunch!  The bad?  Well, I'd ponied up for the VIP ticket this year, and that was pretty much a waste of money.  The good stuff still sells out first thing.  And the emergence of other fairs such as Spring 1883 does seem to have robbed Sydney Contemporary of the really cutting edge galleries.  I was only wowed by a couple of spaces this time.  My top pick of the galleries for their total output was probably Michael Reid.  I liked his Joan Ross video up front, the Christopher Pease paintings (pictured below) and, although I think they are pretty pricey, I don't mind the Christian Thompson's photos.  I also loved his tribal urban stand where they had some PNG artefacts combined with Samuel Tupou's bright works and another random Joan Ross piece.  Sophie Gannon also had a strong showing, but that was mainly due to the Danie Mellor wall.  A couple of great photos on silver paper and these perfectly sized circular works (example pictured above) which would've been my purchase had they still been available.  If you were following my tweets (and obviously you should) then you would also recognise the piece up top.  Reko Rennie's Crest was one of my favourites and despite the strong pitch to my parents in law they didn't take my advice!

So with the highlights (and lowlights) checked off, now lets run through some other artists that I noticed and some other random rantings.  Kawita Vatanajyankur's video Squeezers (below) was good.  I thought Phil Shaw's Frequently Asked Questions photo was witty.  I enjoyed the vibrant impact Dani Marti's wall sculptures of reflectors made.  I thought the big Ben Quilty install at Jan Murphy was suitably awe inspiring, but mainly from a size perspective.  David Booth's Tokyo Tickets was restrained and interesting.  Bruce Makowsky's branded hand grenades caught the eye as did a few of the Greg Semu photos.  Especially the one where, to borrow a phrase from Ali G, he really looked to be knobbing her!  Final rant would be the inclusion of galleries that only really traffic in the secondary market like Justin Miller.  Can we please support living artists?  I realise Tim Storrier isn't dead yet but quite a lot of his stable was.

Points:  Three points for Reko's Crest.  Easily my top pick.  I will upgrade Josh Azzarella's 1 preview point to 2 as his video work (once I found it) was great.  And you could use your iPhone to take a snippet with no questions asked (refer to the topic of the talk I went to).  Lastly Danie Mellor will take the one point, not that he really needs the extra recognition but I think it was great to have a selection of smaller works available at a fair setting.  Starting at $900 for the tiny ones and working up to over $10k is some clever merchandising.  See you in 2 years!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sydney Contemporary - coming up!

As you were, art lovers!  The Fair is back in town.  Is the Big Lamington fired up?  You bet.  After a couple of busy months on the M&A front we are taking a well deserved day of annual leave on Friday to get amongst the good stuff at Sydney Contemporary 2015.  So be sure and come back on Sunday to see the hits and misses, or even find us on twitter to get uninformed reactions in 140 characters or less.

In a new twist, the folks from Sydney contemporary have put the whole (or at least a lot) of the art up on the web beforehand.  Bold move.  Pre-sales must have done well!  It's hard to judge with all the scrolling and zooming required but looks like some interesting stuff on show.  Some favourites are there, recognised Liam Benson at arterial, Nana Ohnesorge at pompom, Joan Ross and even Greg Semu (picked up the 2 points at Sydney Contemporary 2013).

A few new names caught my eye.  Great to see Palmer Art Projects exhibiting, and their stable looks good.  Will be checking them out.  Good to see some NZ galleries making the trek to the West Island and it was great to see Michael Reid find one of my own creations from the early 80's, pictured below.  It's not?  Oh apologies, but that is Marc Etherington rocking the He-Man homage!

Preview points:  What can I say, one of my favourite cartoons growing up.  Marc, you get the 3 preview points!! And that is a very realistic Beastman no matter what the other critics say.  2 preview points will go to the Connor Brothers for their witty use of text in art (pictured second from bottom).  1 preview point will go to Josh Azzarella for his untitled video work (pictured second from top).  Will be very interested to see this as the source material, Hitchcock's North by Northwest from the looks of it, is probably my favourite movie of all time (okay after Star Wars).  As a random aside, I retraced the steps of this movie when I lived in the US.  Starting at the Plaza Hotel, to the UN, Chicago and then to Rapid City South Dakota for Mount Rushmore.  Highly recommended!

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.