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Ten New Sydney Art Exhibitions That Will Drag You in From the Cold This July

Exhibitions featuring Archibald Prize finalists, Georgia O'Keeffe's modernism and relationships with idolised celebrities.
By Lucy McNabb
July 03, 2017

Ten New Sydney Art Exhibitions That Will Drag You in From the Cold This July

Exhibitions featuring Archibald Prize finalists, Georgia O'Keeffe's modernism and relationships with idolised celebrities.
By Lucy McNabb
July 03, 2017


Exhibitions featuring Archibald Prize finalists, Georgia O'Keeffe's modernism and relationships with idolised celebrities.

Even with winter in full swing, there's still plenty to do (while staying warm) this July in Sydney. Get your dose of culture in with exciting new exhibitions that feature art using different techniques and  themes to keep you on your toes. There's modernism, art on fabric, a series of Aussie portraits, a show commemorating women's roles in public protests, and a series of sculptures referencing bodily articulations that encourage an open mind. You'll soon forget about the dropping temperatures and be scrambling to make it to all ten.

Words by Lucy McNabb with Tom Clift, Marissa Ciampi and Eden Marcus. Image: Jesse Jaco.

  • 10
    Good Neighbours

    Good Neighbours celebrates NSW artists who identify as living with a disability. After a two-year project that began with the partnership of Artbank and Create NSW in 2015, the exhibition came to life on June 29 and will be open until October 6. The project fostered creative relationships between the artists and local peers living with and without disabilities. Something beautiful came from the project, and now Good Neighbours: a supportive art community.

    Some features include colourful prints adapted from a graphic novella, charcoal drawings, watercolour paintings exploring mental illness, and sculptures of kangaroo paraphernalia. Good Neighbours will also be debuting Daniel Kojta’s digital video, Walking All Over My Friends 2017 – his year-long project exploring the limitations of his physical abilities. Some pieces are solo ventures, while others are collaborations. Either way, the art at Good Neighbours celebrates the value of helping others, drawing from the Artbank collection and other private loans you’ll have to check out for yourself.

  • 9
    Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2017

    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.

  • 8
    Crusted Heat

    Artists Gunter Christmann, Hossein Ghaemi, Clare Milledge and Oscar Perry star inCrusted Heat, the new group exhibition opening at The Commercial on July 1.

    The show’s title is a nod to the featured rare ‘sprankle’ painting by Christmann from 1970 — a piece in which acrylic paint was “dropped like rain from nearly six feet out in space” onto an unstretched canvas on the floor, the colourful result seriously startling in its ability to convey the sensation of heat. In contrast to this gravity-dependent technique, in her hinterglasmalerei paintings Clare Milledge presses oil paint with a brush onto a surface of luscious clear glass that will be turned away from the viewer, in a way, working backwards.

    The smeared, dense greys of Oscar Perry’s An impresario and a small turtle gamble in the moonlight/ does sitting count as waiting? will intrigue, and Hossein Ghaemi has two drawing/paintings on board. Crusted Heat actually marks the first time in a while that Ghaemi has worked outside the medium of performance — curiosity is piqued.

  • 7
    Jenny Watson: The Fabric of Fantasy

    The MCA’s Anna Davis has curated this survey exhibition of leading Australian artist Jenny Watson, which features works from the 1970s up to the present day ranging from her early realist drawings and paintings to several series of works on fabric. Evidencing Watson’s naive, unaffected style, The Fabric of Fantasy showcases her special ability to blend autobiography and psychology with imagination, wit and deadpan delivery to explore her dreams and desires.

    Based in Brisbane but an avid traveller, Watson often incorporates textiles purloined during her adventures into the surface for several of her paintings — which could be anything from sequins to horsehair to magazines. Influenced by punk and the feminist movement, a significant part of Watson’s work involves self-portraits or alter egos — think longhaired Alice in Wonderland-like figures in dresses, ballerinas, rock guitarists, plus the odd horse or cat — and often uses hand painted text alongside distilled imagery to bring to life an unusual interior world.

    Whether you’re a fan or not, don’t miss this chance to see over four decades of work from a truly fascinating conceptual painter.

  • 6
    Todd Robinson: The Wringing Core

    In his second solo exhibition at Galerie pompom, multidisciplinary artist Todd Robinson continues his penchant for exploring audience reception and how we as viewers encounter art.

    Featuring photographic, sculptural and video works, The Wringing Core is comprised of two seemingly separate, but in fact, connected, collections. Firstly, a series of sartorial studies exploring the interaction between garments Robinson has created and tactile materials (think water and sand), and the second, a series of sculptures — strikingly simple vertical wooden forms that are crumpling and bending in places, as if being bent by an invisible force. They make gentle reference to bodily articulations, subtly recalling flexed elbows, bending knee joints and responsive spines. The exhibition also references figurative sculpture, along with therapeutic practices like meditation and relaxation exercises.

    If this all sounds a little vague, that’s probably because Robinson’s work avoids absolutes and defies closed construction — typically embracing a sense of flow, openness and what the exhibition describes as “the multiple intelligences of bodily knowledge.” Bring an open mind, and while you’re there, why not check out James Lieutenant’s Supergods exhibition.

  • 5
    Casula Powerhouse Triple Bill

    Casula Powerhouse is gearing up for not one, not two, but three stellar exhibitions opening this month. They all kick off on Launch Day on July 22 amidst food, wine and dogs. In other words, all the good things.

    Near x Far in Switch Gallery (on until September 17) is the first of the offerings, presenting explorations of space and dwelling — from homes to natural landscapes to the metaphysical world — by artists Rebecca Gallo, Matthew James, David Kirkpatrick and Anna Kuroda, Shireen Taweel, Grace Toiava, Hannah Toohey, and Vaughan and Vincent Wozniak-O’Connor. The artists use sound, performance, sculpture, light, photography and pattern making to investigate how space is mapped, marked and remembered.

    Inland Drive in the Theatre Foyer Gallery showcases Western Sydney-based Gary Smith, whose artworks reflect upon memories of commuting on the inner west and south west lines through Liverpool and Campbelltown. Smith uses continuous-line drawing technique in conjunction with brightly coloured acrylic and watercolour paints to map out (from an imagined, drone-like aerial perspective) the urban landscape he grew up in, where carparks and shopping centres have replaced paddocks in a steady urban sprawl. You can check it out until August 10.

    Last but not least, dog lovers shouldn’t miss Every Dog Will Have Its Day (also closing September 17) — a playful show in which ten contemporary artists including Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, David Capra and Anastasia Klose explore the enduring bond between humans and their dogs — plus the varied purposes dogs have fulfilled over history (workers, protectors, faithful companions). Emerging curators Sophia Cai and Kathleen Linn oversee this show ranging across sculpture, video, drawing, painting and performance. Best part: canine companions are welcome to attend.

    Go on, make a day of it.

  • 4
    2017 Salon des Refuses

    Now over 25 years strong, the 2017 Salon de Refusés (otherwise known as the alternative Archibald and Wynne Prize exhibition) is back from July 29 to October 15 and will definitely be worth checking out.

    Haven’t heard of it? It’s a show that takes its cue from Napoleon III, who insisted that the significant amount of artworks rejected by the French Academy’s selection jury be displayed at a breakaway exhibition for the public to view and judge. Oh and yeah, the very first exhibition of ‘rejected art’ included Pissarro, Cezanne and Manet, to give you an idea of the incredible artworks that sometimes, both then and now, just don’t make the final cut for whatever reason. The original Salon allowed emerging artistic forms (deemed scandalous) real public exposure and legitimacy, in part paving the way for French impressionism. You get the idea: the judges don’t always know best.

    This year’s selectors (including Elizabeth Hastings, James Dorahy and S.H.Ervin Gallery Director Jane Watters) will go behind the judging process of the Archibald and Wynne to curate an exhibition drawn from the works not chosen as finalists — looking in particular for quality, humour, diversity and experimentation.

    The list of selected artists will be released July 21, and then from July 29 you’ll be able to visit and vote for your favourite artwork in the Holding Redlich People’s Choice Award. The winner is announced October 12.

  • 3
    You're My Number 1

    Another tempting group show from Firstdraft, who’ve been hitting it out of the park lately. You’re My Number 1 examines celebrity, fandom and popular culture, drawing together a diverse group of contemporary artists from Thailand, New Zealand and Australia including Zoe Wong, Raquel Caballero, D.A.N.C.E Art Club and Low Cost Cosplay group.

    The inspiration behind the show is a bit of a strange story. Back in 2014, shortly after joining Gaffa Gallery, curator Talia Smith was cleaning out an office when she stumbled across a stash of fan letters written by various men to tennis star Pat Cash (it turns out Gaffa’s address was once listed in a celebrity fan club address book). As she replied to them all one by one, Smith found herself unexpectedly moved by their earnest admiration and heartfelt confessions: “I became semi-obsessed with these letters and the men that wrote them: what drove them to send a hand-written letter detailing their lives and personal stories…to an ageing ex-tennis pro?”

    Three years later Smith is curating an exhibition that investigates our relationships — real or imagined — with our idols, and exactly what strange, inexplicable human compulsions drive us towards fandom. A must-see.

  • 2
    1917: The Great Strike

    It’s not often you get to see an art exhibition inspired by a famous industrial conflict, but that’s exactly what’s on offer at Carriageworks this month with 1917: The Great Strike. It’s a free show that combines historical objects, oral testimonies, archival materials and commissioned artworks to commemorate the significant historical event that was The Great Strike of 1917.

    Quick history lesson: The Great Strike actually began at the Eveleigh Railway Workshops (yep, what is now Carriageworks) and the Randwick Tram Sheds in August 1917 when over 5500 employees put down their tools to protest the new card system. In what became a six-week long statewide strike, an estimated 77,350 workers walked off the job. Many either never got their jobs back or received significant demotions, and the sociopolitical impact of the strike was still felt decades later.

    Contemporary artists Sarah Contos, Will French, Raquel Ormella, Franck Gohier, Tom Nicholson and Andrew Byrne creatively respond to the strike, the unions, the workers and their families — including the vital role women played via public protest and on the home front — using everything from prints to textiles to patchwork quilts to a large-scale brass band performance. Co-curators Laila Ellmoos and Nina Miall have also scheduled artist talks, performances, workshops and panel discussions to get involved in.

  • 1
    O'Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism

    Georgia O’Keeffe, the artist often described as the mother of American Modernism, along with her Australian contemporaries Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith, will be the subject of a four-month exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW.

    Running from July 1 to October 22, O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism has been curated by the team at AGNSW, along with Santa Fe’s Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Melbourne’s Heide, and the Queensland Art Gallery, and will feature more than 30 works by each of the three women created across the length of their respective careers. In doing so, it will showcase both the distinctive styles developed by the artists, as well as the similarities in their subject matter, technique and the ways in which they viewed the world.

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