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By Lucy McNabb
August 01, 2017
By Lucy McNabb
August 01, 2017


If you enjoy a spot of modernist art, get your coat.

Wandering through a delightfully heated gallery, musing haughtily over the eccentricities of an abstract work, then mulling over a peppery glass of Malbec in the gallery cafe has to be one of the more indulgent, undeniably snooty but nevertheless excellent ways to spend a wintry Sydney hour.

Time is of the essence this month, with a smattering of exhibitions concerned with the past, present and (especially) the future taking over Sydney galleries in August. You can also see the latest painting series by two artists known for their emotional insight, visit a group show starring your new favourite female photographers and take in a seriously exhilarating survey exhibition of Australian artist David Griggs.

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    The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney

    Sydney is mad for modernism with new exhibition The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney showing a new side of Australian modernism at the Museum of Sydney. Taking place as part of A Modernist Season, the exhibition combines original furniture, design objects and art with photographs from the Max Dupain archive to celebrate and explore the struggles, achievements and influence of the émigré furniture makers, architects and interior designers working in Sydney in the 1930s and 1960s.

    Hailing from design centres like Vienna, Budapest and Berlin, they brought with them a direct experience of European modernism — something available to few Australians at that time. Basically, they were a key factor in the growth of modernist design in Sydney, transforming what was a suburban, low-scale city into a modern metropolis. With the obvious exception of Harry Seidler, many of these designers with remarkable European design pedigrees are now virtually unknown — something the exhibition firmly sets out to correct. Guest curator Rebecca Hawcroft says, “Through exploring the stories behind our émigré design community, we are reminded of the richness that migration brings.”

    The Moderns shows at the Museum of Sydney from Saturday, July 22 to Sunday, November 26, as part of A Modernist Season — an amazing program of talks, tours and exhibitions embracing all things modernist, including the Mad About Modernism mini festival taking place at Rose Seidler House on Sunday, August 27.


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    Tonee Messiah: A New Famine

    This month, Gallery 9 is welcoming back Israel-born artist Tonee Messiah for A New Famine, her ninth solo exhibition with the Darlinghurst gallery.

    A painter uniquely skilled in gentle observation, Messiah is known for her intuitive ability to aesthetically represent emotion, to mysteriously capture the fleeting, poetic and interior moments in life that are often challenging to pin down. Likening painting for her to another form of thinking, she describes her latest series in A New Famine as “landscapes of the mind”.

    Building surfaces with both soft and hard forms that merge and overlap in an “archaeological drift”, the paintings offer up soft, unfurling shapes and blooms alongside denser areas of pastel and crayon. Placing agitation alongside a floating weightlessness, the series conveys both a sense of movement and mystery.

    It’s the type of show where you’ll stare deeper and deeper into a painting until you feel at risk of falling in. Fun fact: Messiah has been described as one of the most collectible young artists in Sydney by industry folks. Why not go along and fantasise about where you’d hang your very own?

    Image: Tonee Messiah, Terrarium Ecology [cropped], 2017.

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    Marion Hall Best: Interiors

    An exhibition charting the electrifying work of Marion Hall Best is coming to town on August 5. The interior design aficionados amongst you will undoubtedly know her as one of Australia’s most influential independent interior designers. She’s a champion of colour who embraced modern, refreshingly avant-garde decorating schemes, and introduced the Australian market to modernist furniture, which she imported from all over the world.

    Taking place as part of A Modernist Season, the Marion Hall Best: Interiors exhibition will display original furniture, fabrics, furnishings and vibrant design schemes (a signature of her work was vibrant, glazed and painted finishes on ceilings and walls) in celebration of the four-decade-long career of a defiant designer who scorned the period’s restrained, subdued approach and instead grabbed hold of colour with both hands. “Best had a love of colour and an uncanny ability to use it to transform a room…Her work, once seen, was seldom forgotten,” says curator Michael Lech.

    True fans of Marion Hall Best can also attend the exhibition talk on Monday, August 7 at 2pm. You’ll learn more about the show’s origins, hear stories discovered throughout the curatorial process, delve deeper into the key ideas behind Marion Hall Best and hey, maybe even come away with a few inspirations for transforming your own abode. Warning: the resulting trip to IKEA is probably going to be pretty epic.

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    Sounding the Future 

    What role might art play in the future? And forget what it would look like — what might it sound like? It’s an unusual question, and one that this upcoming exhibition at UTS Gallery seeks to engage with.

    Featuring artists Gail Priest, Pia van Gelder and Tom Smith, Peter Blamey, and George Poonkhin Khut, Sounding the Future presents “dreams of future soundings”, with artists developing their own response to the show’s posed question. Engaging with the sense of sound rather than sight for inspiration, their works combine artistic imagination with the considerations of degraded environmental conditions, new technologies, and the possibility of a future world devoid of human life.

    If that sounds a little bleak, fret not: the future of art doesn’t necessarily mean an absence of it (or artists). Featured artist and show curator Priest explains that hope lies within the show, and within art itself, despite the at times grim environmental, economic and social future scenarios imagined by the exhibition.

    “The artworks show ways to negotiate these territories, often to transcend these conditions spiritually. Of course this could be seen as escapism, but for me art reminds us of the values of humanity that are worth keeping and fostering.”

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    Group Show @ Artereal

    Nine contemporary artists come together for Contemporary Female Photo Artistsan exhibition exploring aspects of time and space taking over the main gallery at Artereal from August 2–24. From the emerging to the well-established, each artist displayed uses experimental and cutting-edge photo based practices to overthrow traditional expectations of the medium and challenge our conventional understandings of what photography’s all about.

    You can expect dreamy, nostalgic magic from Anna Carey (her exhibition earlier in the year, In Search of Rainbowswas a total delight), poignant images of the aftermath of a kid’s birthday party from Anna MacDonald, Jess MacNeil’s directing painting on 16mm film, ‘no-camera’ burnt images by Zan Wimberley, plus multi-layered works from Rebecca Beardmore that combine printmaking with photography to interrogate the act of looking itself. You’ll also see work from Shoufay Derz, Emily Sandrussi, Simone Douglas and Svetlana Bailey.

    Fans of contemporary photography should definitely put this one in the diary. In caps.

  • 5
    Keroshin Govender: Baranasi

    South African-raised, Sydney-based artist Keroshin Govender’s upcoming painting series Baranasi at Gaffa Gallery delves into the complex relationship between humans and fabric.

    Especially admired for his meticulous colour selection, Govender employs contemporary design processes to create artwork in traditional mediums that tell a story. He’s strongly drawn to portraiture, exploring through his various subjects themes like resilience and the nobility of human suffering. With Baranasi — the follow up to his series, Paramnesia — Govender explores the emotions and diverse identities that fabric can express.

    Depending on material, colour, style and fold, fabric can convey a person’s nobility, virtue, undesirability or spirituality — such as in his painting Priest, in which a Hindu priest’s saffron fabric references his status and holy profession. Govender invites the viewer to experience not only the story of each subject, but also the story being silently conveyed by their clothing, which he believes has an ability to “disguise, protect and seduce.”

    While you’re at Gaffa, you can take in Dominique Merven’s show, Resonance.

    Image: Keroshin Govender, Andromeda, 2017, acrylic on canvas.

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    David Griggs: Between Nature and Sin

    Manila and Sydney-based Australian artist David Griggs has the first major survey of his work kicking off at Campbelltown Arts Centre with Between Nature and Sin.

    Curated by Megan Monte, the exhibition sees a combination of portraiture, photography and film developed in Griggs’ adopted home of the Philippines. Inspired by his personal experiences as an Australian artist in Manila (where he’s lived and worked for 12 years), the brazenly colourful show draws on underground media, political imagery and local subcultures to illuminate the darker side of life in the city.

    CAC director Michael Dagostino describes the exhibition as a “poignant narrative layered with personal stories, tribulations and defining moments of adjusting to life in Manila, a city he [Griggs] says ‘tests him constantly’ but inspires him to keep creating.”

    You’ll see the premiere of Griggs’ major feature length film COWBOY COUNTRY, which he produced with the inmates of the Manila city jail, plus 2009 project New York London Paris Rome Manila City Jail. There’s also Zombie Kiss and Frat of the Obese, which draws from the symbols and stories of the Manila underground scene to highlight what Griggs sees as the unjust socio-political structures of the Philippines.

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    Portraits aren’t all regal furs and awkward “Oh, didn’t see you there,” poses. They can be weird, abstract, figurative, unrecognisable, or downright adorable. It’s not an easy task; capturing a realistic, unrelentingly vulnerable likeness of your own reflection, someone you’ve just met or one of your oldest buds takes a fair few stories, maybe a few beers and a willingness to tackle the intimidating notion of thinking up something new after decades of Archibald Prize winners.

    Australia’s top portraiture prize is back for another year, the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s annual celebration of Aussie faces. The Archibald finalists will be exhibited at AGNSW from July 29 to October 22, along with the finalists for the Wynne Prize (which awards the best landscape painting of Australia or figure sculpture) and the Sulman Prize (for the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project). After exhibiting in Sydney, the finalists will then tour regionally, after which time the winner will be announced by the trustees of AGNSW. The winner will be awarded $100,000 in prize money and some serious bragging rights to boot.

    The prize was created by Jules Francois Archibald, the founding editor of The Bulletin magazine. He established the prize with the goal to promote both great Australian portraiture and great Australians. The only real stipulation within the contest is that the painting must have been created in the last 12 months and include at least one live sitting with the subject.

    The award is an open competition, which means that any resident of Australia or New Zealand can enter. Something to keep in mind for next year.

    And while you wait to potentially enter the next Archibald, we have another competition for you to enter — we’re giving away ten double passes to the Archibald.


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    Claire Anna Watson: Neoplasm

    This month, MAY SPACE plays host to Neoplasm, a surreal and visceral solo show from artist, curator and writer Claire Anna Watson.

    Known for her installations, video and photographic works questioning (recently) concepts like scientific manipulation, here Watson is exploring “ephemeral matter” as a jumping off point into discussions around humanity, our relationship to the environment and the associations between science and the food we consume.

    To what extent do we control the natural environment? What exactly happens when natural elements are distorted and synthesised? And what could the consequences be of our ongoing customisation of the natural world? Are humans “unwittingly cultivating a world engulfed in mutations?”

    From an artist with both sharp sociocultural curiosity and a playful penchant for the absurd, Neoplasm promises to be an arresting show. Plus, while you’re there, you can treat yourself to One day I will live in a forest — the latest solo exhibition from the endlessly imaginative sculptress Mylyn Nguyen.

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    Sculpture at Barangaroo 2017

    Lovers of outdoor sculpture, you no longer have to wait till October for your waterfront fix. That’s because last year, the good folks at Sculpture by the Sea have teamed up with the Barangaroo Delivery Authority for an epic annual exhibition, Sculpture at Barangaroo.

    Returning on Saturday, August 5, the event will feature 14 spectacular outdoor works, created by nine Australian artists. Five of the pieces are brand new, while the other nine are existent, but have been handpicked for their suitability to the site.

    Established and emerging artists are represented, including Michael Le Grand, Richard Tipping, Nicole Monks, Cave Urban, Andrew Rogers, Adam King from the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, Tereasa Trevor, Christopher Langton and Elyssa Sykes-Smith.


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