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By Lucy McNabb and Alex Bateman
February 12, 2018

Seven Sydney Art Exhibitions to See Before Summer Ends

Some of the very best exhibitions coming to Sydney this month.
By Lucy McNabb and Alex Bateman
February 12, 2018


Some of the very best exhibitions coming to Sydney this month.

After another long, lazy, humid January, it's time to kick-start the year proper with some visits to Sydney's galleries. Whatever your medium — be it photography, landscape art or tapestry — February 2018 is looking like another month of exhibitions you won't want to miss. See the "Mona Lisa of the Middle Ages" at the AGNSW before heading to the Australian Centre for Photography to see Gerwyn Davies' aptly titled exhibition FUR. And remember, the exhibitions won't be around forever so run, don't walk.

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    The Lady and the Unicorn

    Touring outside of France for just the third time since it was designed in Paris circa 1500, medieval masterpiece The Lady and the Unicorn tapestry cycle comes to the Art Gallery of New South Wales this month and everyone’s pretty excited. On special loan from impressively named Musèe de Cluny – Musèe national du Moyen Âge, the six exquisitely beautiful, mind-blowingly intricate wool and silk woven tapestries span over 20 metres in length and are considered to be some of the greatest surviving textiles from the European Middle Ages (can you imagine being in charge of packing these things up and getting them to – literally – the other side of the world? No pressure). Embodying meditations on earthly pleasure and courtly love, they depict a bejewelled lady in richly adorned costume alongside a majestic unicorn set against a luscious millefleur (‘thousand flowers’) background. Five tapestries explore the senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight, with the sixth said to represent an internal sense – usually interpreted as the heart, desire or understanding. There’s a whole host of talks, activities and workshops designed to complement the exhibition (textile fans may want to take Natalie Miller’s tapestry masterclass) so you can make an entire morning or an afternoon of it. Take note: this is going to be busy. It’s not every day that you get to see a 15th century national treasure up close, not to mention one that has directly inspired everyone from George Sand to Rilke to Jean Cocteau. You’ll want to book ahead.

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    Next up at Gaffa Gallery is Chindia – a group exhibition exploring the multiplicity of migrant identities in Australia. Showcasing six artists with Chinese and Indian heritage working across various disciplines, the show explores a complex array of themes including politics, displacement, performance, folklore, colonial legacy, violence, diaspora histories and issues of cultural and national identity. Featuring work from Anindita Banerjee, Anurendra Jegadeva, Guo Jian, Lilian Lai, Lucy Wang and Texta Queen alongside short films, Chindia invites its audience to share in the inspirations, motivations and family stories of the artists and performers involved, whilst asking what the lessons learnt mean for the future. Gallery manager and show curator Kimberley Peel explains the exhibition “aims to increase community engagement and participation to create an inclusive, culturally rich, diverse and vibrant society” by both increasing the visibility of migrant artist communities and providing a forum for them to engage with one another creatively. A short run from February 15-26, don’t miss out.

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    Lee Kun-Yong: Equal Area

    The 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art is currently presenting an exhibition of the work of influential and pioneering Korean conceptual artist, Lee Kun-Yong. Curated by Michael Do and Mikala Tai, Equal Area presents photographic documentation of performances that span Lee’s nearly six-decade career. Lee’s work, which has shaped the nature of global contemporary performance art, explores the connection between logic and action through performance and re-performance. Equal Area will open with a performance of one of Lee’s most critically acclaimed works, Snail’s Gallop, followed by live interventions and a series of performances by contemporary Australian artists Huseyin Sami, Daniel Von Sturmer and Emily Parsons-Lord. Over the five-week exhibition, the performances will develop as will the collaboration with these three Australian artists.

    The exhibition opens on Saturday, January 20 with a Korean barbecue, which guests can attend (with Lee) for $30. As part of the Lunar New Year Celebrations, the 4A team will also be hosting a congee breakfast tour of Chinatown and a private viewing of the Equal Area exhibition on February 17 for just $20.

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    Cultural Landscapes

    Landscape fans will want to visit Casula Powerhouse in February for Cultural Landscapes – a group exhibition of leading contemporary artists that takes the traditional medium and determinedly turns it on its head. Featuring a diverse collection of work from Richard Goodwin, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Stephen Birch, Anne Zahalka, Joan Ross, Rodney Pople, Jon Cattapan, Rosemary Laing, Claire Healy and Sean Codeiro (whose video sculpture Homecoming Queen is sure to intrigue), the exhibition takes a 21st century perspective to explore “the emotive, political, social and economic impact man has made on our landscape.” You’ll see everything from photography to weaving to installation to expressionist painting, in a show that sets out to provide a fresh artistic take on the complicated – and not necessarily idealistic – connection between humans and the contemporary Australian landscape. Expect less sublime, less serene, and more uneasy, complex and thought-provoking. You can check out Cultural Landscapes between February 10-March 18. While you’re there, why not have a squiz at the artists of tomorrow in NEXT2018, a showcase of talented young South Western Sydney artists selected from local high schools.

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    Sweet Country Stills Exhibition

    Fans of photography and public art should head down to OPEN at Darling Quarter this month for Sweet Country Stills Exhibition – a collection of stunning behind-the-scenes images captured by four stills photographers during the shooting of Warwick Thornton’s new Australian period western, Sweet Country. You’ll be able to see 16 large-scale photographs by Tamara Dean, Warwick Baker, Mark Rogers and Michael Corridore, who captured portraits of the cast and locations on the fly during the movie’s tight filming schedule in Alice Springs. Expect shots of actors (including Hamilton Morris, Natassia Gorey-Furber, Anni Finsterer, Thomas M. Wright, Bryan Brown and Sam Neill) alongside breathtaking desert landscapes. Bill Dimas from Sydney’s aMBUSH Gallery – who are producing the exhibition – says the photographs allow viewers a glimpse into a process normally hidden to them, revealing “both the intensity and pure joy of filmmaking.” Sweet Country Stills Exhibition is free and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Catch it before February 25.

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    Gerwyn Davies: Fur

    If you like your photography fun, feathered and furry, you should definitely make a beeline for contemporary photographer Gerwyn Davies’ new solo show FUR at ACP this month. The Darwin-born, Brisbane-based artist is known for his playful, intoxicatingly colourful penchant for elevating the everyday to the hyper real. Inspired by American gothic fiction, AFL and primary-coloured plastics (think a Porpoise Spit pool party meets a sugar-filled $2 store stationary binge) Davies says: “Combining photographic self-portraiture and costume making, my work is an ongoing inventory of selves that are assembled, worn and performed for the camera.” FUR promises to both visually delight and to joyfully expand the possibilities of photographic self-representation. Hot tip: Davies has a residency in the Project Space Gallery February 19-23 during the build up to Mardi Gras, so if you want some fabulous, stop-traffic costume ideas (and tips on how to best make them), you’re welcome to pay him a visit.

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    Nanette Orly curates Transcendence, a new show opening at Firstdraft this month. Drawing together work from Talia Smith, Get to Work, Roberta Rich, Nathan Beard and Dana Davenport, the exhibition explores the premise of blurred cultural identity, investigating “how artists of mixed backgrounds utilise their practices to negotiate and deconstruct their own identities,” offering viewers insight into how one can solidify multiple cultural backgrounds to arrive at a place of personal harmony and emotional reconciliation, or “transcendence.” With several interdisciplinary artists featured, you can expect a multiplicity of mediums including video, sculpture and performance. Our pick for the highlight? The collective Get To Work (a trio of artists Georgia Taia, Paris Taia and Tracy Quan) who offer up a humorous, relatable and playful fusion of performance, dance, video, pop culture and Pacific Island traditions to examine social behaviour and identity – ridiculing the stereotyping they frequently experience as artists and culturally diverse women whilst aiming to relieve “the potential pressures, particularly in Australia, to be culturally categorised.”

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