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Ten Next-Level Sydney Art Exhibitions to See in July

Huddle into a warm gallery for a posthuman experience this winter.
By Concrete Playground
July 05, 2016
By Concrete Playground
July 05, 2016


Huddle into a warm gallery for a posthuman experience this winter.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the art is so delightful in Sydney this month. Well, delightful isn't exactly the word we'd pick if we weren't stretching a popular culture reference to suit our needs. Let's say... challenging. Bold. Highly astute. Nec-level. Find your way to Sydney's best galleries this July for a glimpse into the posthuman future, a peek into Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's volatile relationship, or a dreamy landscape of photographs actually designed to make you relax.

  • 10
    New Romance: Art and the Posthuman

    With technology smashing down the barriers between real and pretend, a bunch of Aussie and Korean artists take a look at what it means to be human — right now and in the future. The results include crossbred cacti, LED books, dancing robots and a pneumatically-powered blender that mixes human biomaterials. Yep, it’s pretty much a mind-bending combo of Star WarsBlade Runner and an ordinary day with Bompas and Parr (who, sadly, aren’t in this exhibition).

    But never fear, artists tackling the future include Perth’s Rebecca Baumann, who’s obsessed with the relationship between colours, materials and feelings; Seoul’s Airan Kang, who’s presenting her ongoing Digital Book Project, which explores the future of the mighty book; and Sydney’s Justin Shoulder, who’ll be creating some mad performance art in the MCA Lecture Theatre on August 8, 9 and 10.


  • 9
    Metro Luminescence

    Street art began as a decidedly out-of-the-white-cube phenomenon. But, now that it’s established itself, Aussie multi-disciplinary artist Phibs is taking it back indoors for a look. And, with these icy temperatures being not too conducive to trudging about outside, we say hallelujah to that.

    Curated by Phibs and produced by aMBUSH Gallery, Metro Luminescence brings together 13 artists who usually work in the street — grappling with whatever space they can get, battling the elements and often painting and drawing under cover of darkness. But, on Level 3 of Central Park, they’ve had to respond to a new set of constraints — those imposed by four walls and a ceiling.

    Between Tuesday, June 7 and Friday, June 10, the graffiti writers, muralists, fine artists, photographers and sculptors spent four furious days working, and the results are now on display until July 10, viewable for free. Expect everything from large-scale pieces on canvas and installations to sketches and experiments.

  • 8
    Vo Trong Nghia: Green Ladder

    Paddington’s Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation is going green with the final installation in their Fugitive Structures temporary pavilion series. Running since 2013, the series was the first of its kind in Australia to use temporary pavilions as a tool for exploring new architectural concepts. For the finale of this awesome series, SCAF has teamed up with award-winning architect Vo Trong Nghia to create Green Ladder, to be installed next month.

    The pavilion structure is made entirely from bamboo, “the steel of the 21st century” according to Nghia. The temporary pavilion will be on public display at SCAF from July 7 to December 10 and aims to raise awareness of bamboo’s strength as a ‘green steel’ building material. Green Ladder aims to resemble a dense bamboo forest and visitors will be able to move through the graceful grid at their leisure — entry is completely free.

    In general, Nghia’s a really switched on guy. His firm, Vo Trong Nghia Architects, has won numerous awards throughout the Asia-Pacific region. His offices are based in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and his work philosophy includes a mandatory two hours of daily meditation for all employees, as well as frequent silent meditation retreats. Nghia’s goal is to green up the urban world and bring the environment back into city life. But he has his work cut out for him, with green space at a minuscule 0.25 percent in these major Vietnamese cities of 10 million people.

    In partnership with this philosophy, SCAF has organised a series of talks and events in association with Green Ladder throughout its six-month run, including meditation and yoga programs. If you want to hear from this legend directly, Nghia will give an architect’s talk on Thursday, July 7 at 5pm.


  • 7
    Chris Walters: Halcyon

    Photographer Chris Walters put together this dreamy, dreamy exhibition with one aim in mind: to calm you down. That’s right. So, drop whatever you’re doing, take a deep breath and scurry down to Black Eye Gallery sometime before July 24.

    Each photograph focuses on a single detail — that tiny thing that gives you a powerful sense of escape — and, in so doing, hopes to transport you. “When isolated, these details evoke sensations of place without being tied to one particular place,” Walters writes. Expect to see misty sunsets, impossibly still seas, low-lying clouds and rolling hills splashed with sunshine.

    Walters studied at the Sydney College of the Arts before becoming a full-time commercial photographer and head of a successful media company. He’s also worked in architectural representation and as a film director, but, over the past ten years, has been putting more and more energy into his fine art.

  • 6
    Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

    Two of the greatest artists in history, who happened to have one of the most volatile relationships in recent memory, are the focus of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ brand new exhibition, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. 

    Kahlo and Rivera’s artistic and personal rollercoaster ride is the focus, with 33 artworks from the pair — including self-portrait paintings, drawings and canvases — all from the renowned collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman. Alongside these works will be approximately 50 photographs by the likes of Edward Weston, Lola Alvarez Bravo and Frida’s father, Guillermo Kahlo, so you can take a peek into the pair’s intimate world. Australia doesn’t actually have a Frida Kahlo on public display, so this is one heck of a slam dunk for the gallery.

    The exhibition will also be part of the Gallery’s ever-popular Art After Hours. For three Wednesday nights from June 29 until July 13, you’ll be able to swing by the Gallery for a full Frida fest. As well as an after-hours walk through the exhibition, you’ll be able to make your own Frida-esque Mexican paper flowers in a workshop with Melissa Hernandez and attend a range of talks on the exhibition. They’ll even be a mariachi band playing to complete the experience.

    This exhibition is expected to be hella popular, so make sure you book a timed ticket before you go to avoid mass disappointment.

  • 5
    Zan Wimberley: Who Could Bear to Look Up at the Night Sky...

    Melbourne-based photographer Zan Wimberley brings her latest collection of stunning works to Sydney’s Artereal Gallery. The lengthily-named Who could bear to look up at the night sky and know which stars are already dead is an exploration of fireworks and similarly celebratory materials, in comparison and contrast with the stars. They are considered as a metaphor for the ephemeral — of both the individual and the universe — against the backdrop of the sensory overload facilitated by the Internet.

    Wimberley studied scientific photography at RMIT, before becoming a favourite employee of many Australian cinematographers. She went on to complete a Masters at Sydney College of the Arts and then shifted her focus to her own practice. So far, she’s exhibited at Firstdraft and Annette Larkin Fine Art, among other galleries. Her work is regularly preoccupied with the big questions of death, eternity, mourning and loss, visiting the space between death and the absurd.

  • 4
    Tracey Moffatt: Laudanum and other works

    Still trying to get your head around Tracey Moffatt’s bold, brave (and sometimes obscure) art legacy? The good folks at the Art Gallery of New South Wales are giving you a helping hand this winter. And they’re not charging you a cent for the pleasure.

    As the holders of the largest collection of Tracey Moffatt pieces in Australia, the Gallery has handpicked some of the legendary Australian artist’s key works for display, in an exhibition titled Laudanum and other works. The selected artworks — on show until September 4 — will explore Moffatt’s interest in melodrama and cinema through both her still and moving image works.

    Even though Laudanum (1998) and Plantation (2009) were created more than 11 years apart, their exploration of fear, desire and high drama is linked through the motif of colonial architecture. In between working on them, she joined forces with Gary Hillberg to come up with video montages Love (2003) and Other (2009). The former follows the turbulent journey from romantic love to cruelty, while the second records powerful chemistry erupting between races, sexes and genders.

  • 3
    Heavy Artillery

    White Rabbit Gallery are following up their epic summer exhibition Paradise Bitch with something wildly (and literally) monumental. A metric ton of fake marble, two tons of leather, three tons of compressed paper, five thousand porcelain leaves, 8000 identical books, 130,000 minute photographs and 600,000 painted dots are charging into the Chippendale gallery space this March for Heavy Artillery, a brand new exhibition examining mass and scale in contemporary Chinese art as a means to convey even larger ideas.

    Going big and in-your-face is a hugely effective way for artists to tackle the bigger concepts — life and death, technology and nature, change and eternity — and inevitably stop viewers in their tracks. But Chinese contemporary artists take this even further, using historic monumentalism for contemporary experiments. As the White Rabbit team points out, “Gigantic statues of Mao erected in the 1960s still dominate town squares all over China. But for contemporary artists, monumentalism is a way to express new realities and new ideas … Mixing what they have learned from the West with China’s classical culture and crazy commercial zeitgeist, the former student [artists] are taking contemporary art in bold new directions.”

    Like most of White Rabbit’s exhibitions, the works in the show are all new acquisitions — and they’ve never been shown in Australia before. See He Xiangyu’s Tank Project (2011-13), a Soviet-Chinese tank replica made from hand-stitched leather, Geng Xue’s The Poetry of Michelangelo (2015), a video tribute to Michelangelo using a lump of clay, and Polit-Sheer-Form Office group’s Library (2008), a huge, huge archive of blue books. Other artists include Liu Wei, Hsu Yung-Hsu, Aaajiao (Xu Wenkai), Guo Jian, Liu Chang, Liu Jianhua, Song Hongquan, and Taiwanese artists Ah Leon, Lin Yen-wei, Chou Chu-Wang.

  • 2
    Julian Rosefeldt: Manifesto

    See Cate Blanchett take on 13 roles in one, in a dramatic new film installation at the Art Gallery of NSW. Co-commissioned by the Gallery in partnership with ACMI, the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart in Berlin and the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, Manifesto is a bold new multichannel work from celebrated German artist Julian Rosefeldt, with the Oscar-winning screen star at its centre.

    Housed at the Gallery from May until November, Rosefeldt’s installation questions the role of the artist today, drawing on the philosophies of numerous pre-eminent artists, including writer Andre Breton, sculptor Claes Oldenberg and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. From these sources, Rosefeldt has crafted a collage of artistic manifestos, which Blanchett articulates through the guise of various characters, including a school teacher, a newsreader, a homeless man and a puppeteer.

  • 1
    Brett Whiteley: Tributes

    When coming up with his visionary paintings, Brett Whiteley drew inspiration from all over the place. First, there were other artists, which included the likes of Francis Bacon, Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh. But equally important were Whiteley’s revered legends of music and literature, like French poet Arthur Rimbaud and, of course, Bob Dylan.

    His many intimate portraits of these influences are now on show at the Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry Hills, in an exhibition titled Brett Whiteley: Tributes. The collection includes Whiteley’s Portrait of Joel Elenberg (1980), painted in the very year that the well-known sculptor died at just 32. There are also several impressions of writer Patrick White, including Patrick White Flaws in the Glass (1981), and a portrait of Lloyd Rees.

    Meanwhile, Rimbaud’s poetry and life are explored in The Rimbaud pages, a series of manipulated photographs, viewed through drawing, text, collage and screenprinting. And van Gogh’s impact is demonstrated in the immense The starry night (1982), which is a deconstruction of the Dutch artist’s famous swirling patterns. You can check out these works, among others, for free until August 28.



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