This year’s ‘Sydney Contemporary’ Art Fair at Carriageworks was a triumph and a credit to the thriving Fine Art community in Australia. This was my first time and I was blown away at the size and scope of the event, showcasing the best contemporary artists and associated galleries nationwide. So large was the experience, I visited on three separate days, including the preview night on Friday September 7. It was such a wonderful opportunity to network with artists and gallery owners alike, and analyzing the current trends, styles and strategies used to create a successful gallery, collection and viewing experience for an audience. I had a great time meeting so many new faces and reconnecting with old ones, and I came away extremely inspired and full of ideas in the wake of opening my own gallery next month. Here are some of the highlights:
SULLIVAN & STRUMPF
I was anxious to see Sullivan & Strumpf’s display, with their strong lineup of contemporary Australian artists. Richard Lewer’s impressive “Confessions” dominated the main foyer and was a favourite of the insta-happy crowd. Tony Albert’s intricate ‘All Or Nothing’ series is a fantastic collage of found & mixed media & ephemera, articulating Aboriginal culture and history via Western pop culture. A wonderful wall installation by Lindy Lee and a beautiful concrete sculpture by Sanné Mestrom were also worth special mention. It was lovely to finally meet Joanna Strumpf, who is an old friend of my father’s, and discuss her incredible collection.
SOPHIE GANNON GALLERY
There were some stunning pieces on display at the Sophie Gannon Gallery. John Nicholson’s multi-coloured mirror work ‘Sun King’ (2017) was easily the most prolific image circulating social media. Similarly, Nicolas Harding’s large and luminous “Peonies” comprised of 15 separate pieces that were precise, and mimicked a collage of polaroids. The pink and green burst out from the grey display wall, truly beautiful.
THIS IS NO FANTASY & DIANNE TANZER GALLERY
I was pulled away from my group by chance to listen to a series of artist talks at the ‘This Is No Fantasy Gallery', a stall primarily dealing in contemporary photography. This year the theme was race and the struggle for acceptance and equality. Particularly striking were Lakin Ogunbanwo’s enigmatic ‘Are We Good Enough’ reverse portraits. The bold series of compositions of an African male about-face in traditional headwear exude mystery but also a powerful statement about the fight for identity as a minority. Most of his works were sold during preview night. It was fantastic to meet Petrina Hicks and listen to her discuss her new series concerning the intimate relationship with humans and animals. Michael Cook’s “Civilised” & “Broken Dreams” series were incredible, illustrating Indigenous Australia’s grapple with European assimilation since colonization. I found myself standing beside actress and event supporter, Rachel Griffiths & the iconic Wendy Whiteley admiring the works, which was an added bonus.
SARAH COTTIER GALLERY
The standout series of works of the whole event were Johnny Niesche’s ‘Love-Light’ mixed medias that included a large piece suspended, hovering and rotating in the centre of the stall. The alluring, subtle colour pallete and shading was gorgeous and referenced the work of American abstract artist, Mark Rothko, although a more futuristic attempt. If I could own one work from this entire event, it would be one of these beauties.
THE RED ROOM
Art therapy is an increasingly important and growing part of the art world. Kid’s corner hosted a challenging, innovative and interactive display by Japanese artist Hiromi Tango. In a display intended for children, Red Room is part of a collaboration with art-therapy program, Arterie@RPA, at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Art therapy professionals from RPA interact with the children and their observations will be used to develop research into art therapy. The colours, textures, shapes and enclosed space of the red room were symbols of evoking mood, emotions and struggle in relation to illness and recovery. A moving exhibit and very popular, with the line to enter the carnival-like room reaching far down the hallway.
One of the up-and-coming galleries in Sydney is COMA, based in Rushcutter’s Bay, owned by young curator, Soti Sotirou. The gallery displayed two alternating exhibits with four artists in total. Special mention must be made to Melbourne-born Ry Bradley David & London artist Jon Pilkington, both with a distinct focus on the abstract and nature. Bradley’s “Realities” series puts the viewer at ease with soft hues of blue, pink, green and purple, as the images reflect seemingly inverted landscapes. Pilkington’s works on the other hand are bright, brash, busy and unconventional still lifes, developed by constant reworking of traditional shapes to create abstract collages of colour. Definitely a gallery to watch in the near future.
The Olsen Gallery definitely lived up to the hype and was my favourite collection of works and artists of any stall at the Fair. I am a big fan of abstract works that incorporate the entire colour spectrum, and this was a theme the Olsen Gallery compiled in their artists and artworks chosen this year. Matthew Johnson’s paintings entitled ‘Tropos”, were a brilliant, pixelated, luminous pair of works with subtle changes in colour which I found incredibly aesthetically pleasing. These works were juxtaposed by the amazing and somewhat unusual John Young “Spectrum” paintings that were an oxymoron of balance and chaos. The Robert Klippel sculptures were pretty typical, but more interesting were his beautiful mixed media studies on paper.
There were a couple of Aboriginal stalls this year: Tim Klingender Fine Art (with some lovely bark works and paintings by Rover Thomas) and the legendary Cooee Gallery curated by Adrian Newstead. Unfortunately I was unable to introduce myself and congratulate Adrian, having just read his fantastic, inspiring book “The Dealer Is The Devil” about the history of the Aboriginal Art trade (highly recommended). There were a few stunning Aboriginal artworks scattered throughout the Fair, including artworks by some of my favourite Southern Desert artists; the Ken Family Collaborative (winners of the Wynne Prize 2016), Yaritji Young and Betty Kuntiwa Pumani.
I had such a great time at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, and I cannot wait for next year…Hopefully I will have the honor of exhibiting in years to come!! L.