There’s some great emerging artists coming onto the art scene through UNSW Art & Design Master by Coursework program this year. The work, which is on show at Sydney Council’s GAFFA Gallery in Clarence Street, represents a broad display of mediums and content. It ranges from a shibori and mixed media work by Gigi Huang, Attachments, 2018 that reflects her interests in textiles and the feminine to Chris Casali’s intriguing labyrinthian diptych that is totally absorbing and quite psychedelic. There were also virtual reality pieces with views into an empty gallery, digital videos and installations.
He rubbed shoulders and drew exquisite drawings of Van Gogh and yet he is less well known here in Australia. Russell (1858-1930), was fortunate enough to be able to go to the Slade School of Art, London and pursue a career in art following the death of his father. It was timely as he also attended the Atelier Cormon from 1885 to 1887 where a fellow student was Vincent van Gogh. He was in Paris at a formative period when Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet and others were compatriot artists.
Artspace brings challenging art to the public. In the third of their series, Public Body .03, the contemporary surreal “situates the body as detached from or encompassing much more than mere physical form.” The approach of the curators reference French philosophers Gills Deleuze and Felix Guattari and their theories about rhizomatic inter-connectivity. It goes further with Paul Preciado’s ‘punk hypermodernity’ meaning that the body is “many things” and not easy to classify”
A lot of the show exposes just how much the public has been exposed to through the internet. The artist’s contemporary audience is more exposed and less isolated in previous generations thus work can be more provocative within certain guidelines or provisions such as is evident in this provocative exhibition.
A recent show in Sydney was The Tim Olsen 2018 Drawing Prize at UNSW Art & Design AD Space. The Tim Olsen prize has been running since 2001 and is supported by the Olsen Gallery. Entrants are selected by a panel of lecturers and come from Postgraduate, Honours and Undergraduate students where drawing is a notable part of their practice. The media range from AV to rice to more traditional pencil drawings.
One past and one current show dealing with different aspects of the environment. Louise Morgan‘s show at 220Creative Space had two aspects to her work. The first was about creating work using the environment to do the creating. These exquisite organic pieces of rock shadows and rain fall patterns can guide the viewer towards new relationships with the environment. The other aspect of her work is using computers to generate topographical landscapes which are then cut out and reformed.
The other current Sydney show is at STACKS Projects by Peter Sharp and Brenda Tye. They have been collaborating for 15 years. This show focusses on the monoprint and Eucalypts which are abstracted into new forms.
Two great shows in Sydney approach nature in quite different ways. Todd MacMillan‘s small images of cloudscapes, Preparations for Rain, at Sarah Cottier Gallery, are evocative of romantic Victorian landscapes of the sublime. Instead of adulating a deity of nature though they are wrestling with our own Anthropocene torment of what’s ahead of us. The works are exquisitely moody water colours layered with epoxy resin that are simply enthralling studies of the possibilities of clouds.
A quite different take on nature, is Tamara Dean‘s show at Martin Browne Contemporary. In our Nature, is a “symbolic reminder that we are not separate, nor superior to nature” writes Dean. The large scale colour photos are immersive narratives that draws on her artistic vocabulary of water, vegetation and clothless people. They are choreographed into relationships where there is an equity with nature rather than subservience to it.
There are two shows within a walk of each other at STACKS Projects and 220 Creative Space, near Kings Cross. The Show at STACKS looks at the alchemy of photography in, As If By Magic. At 220 Creative Space‘s last show, Rita Bila was exploring bag forms made from organic material whilst,Tabula Rasa looked at what’s on our plates and where it comes from.
Some exhibitions and work just grip you. Elizabeth Rankin‘s recent show at 220 Creative Space, Sydney, is a story about the Pyjama Lady murder where the victim’s face was unrecognisable. “In this exhibition she explores the strange incident of the Pyjama Girl found dead and abandoned in Albury in 1934 wearing yellow silk pyjamas”. Her husband was found to be the murderer! Rankin recalls the murder from visiting the Royal Easter Show as a child where the story was an attraction there and is part of the show’s narrative. These kinds of underbelly stories are food for Rankin’s practice and suites her technique or visa verser. She applies paint with rag over charcoal drawings when she isn’t doing collage landscapes, drawings, sculptures and painted crockery. The techniques are appropriately evocative, moody and suited to her subject matter.
The Sleeper Awakes at White Rabbit Gallery, has some works that are quietly confronting, others of epic proportions. There are only three main works in the exhibition. Wang Ningde’s Some Days, explores aspects of memory and is quite disturbing through the quiet placement of disturbing juxtapositions in his photographs. Republic of Jing Bang, is an imaginary land created through a stunning multi-media installation by Sun Xun. Then there’s the painting robot by Liu Xiaodong that recreates and image of Circular Quay, Sydney, from a video. The works cover the extremes of technology and reality.
The annual prize fest of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes at the Art Gallery of NSW, offers a rich diversity of Australian art practice. First awarded in 1921, the Archibald portrait prize reflects how portraiture has evolved since then and the subject matter is an insightful reflection of contemporary life. There is also a Young Archie competition which has mazing works by school children. The Wynne focusses landscape and figure sculpture and the Sulman for best genre or subject painting.