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Ten New Sydney Art Exhibitions to Brighten Up Your April

Sartorial splendour in Sierra Leone, a six-hour endurance dance of 'Nutbush City Limits' and a Xanadu roller-skating karaoke session in the Firstdraft carpark.
By Lucy McNabb
April 04, 2017

Ten New Sydney Art Exhibitions to Brighten Up Your April

Sartorial splendour in Sierra Leone, a six-hour endurance dance of 'Nutbush City Limits' and a Xanadu roller-skating karaoke session in the Firstdraft carpark.
By Lucy McNabb
April 04, 2017


Sartorial splendour in Sierra Leone, a six-hour endurance dance of 'Nutbush City Limits' and a Xanadu roller-skating karaoke session in the Firstdraft carpark.

In the space of one month, you can learn the 'Nutbush' for six hours, check in with Sierra Leone's courageous fashion choices post-civil war, and find neon caves, giant, glowing phalluses and large-scale demon murals lurking inside the Art Gallery of NSW, MCA and Carriageworks. Paradigms be damned, this month, Sydney galleries are putting eclecticism first. Whether an autumn storm's raging or the city's immovable humidity is too much for you to bear, find your way to Sydney's best galleries this April for candy-coloured models of Palm Springs, eerie landscape photography and Xanadu roller skating displays.

By Lucy McNabb with Matt Abotomey, Imogen Baker and James Whitton.

  • 10
    The National: New Australian Art

    A home-grown exhibition rolling out in 2017, 2019 and 2021 (all off-Biennale of Sydney years), The National: New Australian Art is will feature a coordinated exhibition across the city’s major institutions: the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Carriageworks and the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s some of the best news the contemporary Aussie art scene has had in years.

    Artists across the three venues have been curated thematically and, obviously and wonderfully, they’re all Australian. The AGNSW is focusing on art developed from field research or archival footage, grounded in history and featuring many Indigenous artists. Carriageworks is taking a more introspective view, curating their exhibition around self and relationships, with a focus on collaborative work. And the MCA is zooming in further still for its contribution, exploring iterative issues through time and their motifs. They’ve released an artist list but at this stage it’s not clear where each artist will be exhibiting, only that the lineup is packed with potential.

    Exhibiting artists for 2017 include: Khadim Ali, Zanny Begg, Richard Bell, Gordon Bennett, Chris Bond and Wes Thorne, Matthew Bradley, Gary Carsley, Erin Coates, Megan Cop,e Karla Dickens, Atlanta Eke, Emily Floyd ,Heath Franco, Marco Fusinato, Gunybi Ganambarr, Alex Gawronski, Ghenoa Gela, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Julie Gough Alan Griffiths, Dale Harding, Taloi Havini, Gordon Hookey, Ronnie van Hout, Helen Johnson, Jess Johnson, Richard Lewer, Peter Maloney, Nicholas Mangan, Karen Mills, Archie Moore, Claudia Nicholson, Tom Nicholson, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Nell, Rose Nolan, Raquel Ormella, Alex Martinis Roe, Stieg Persson, Elizabeth Pulie, Khaled Sabsabi, Yhonnie Scarce, Keg de Souza, Simon Ward, Justene Williams, Jemima Wyman and Tiger Yaltangki.

  • 9
    Jo Dunlop: Freetown Fashpack

    Aid worker Jo Dunlop travelled to Freetown, Sierra Leone in 2011 in the aftermath of a bloody civil war. Unexpectedly, she found herself walking through streets of people oozing unique personal style, or, in her words, “Teeming with some of the most resourceful, brave and outrageous fashion decisions ever made.”

    Dunlop began a fashion blog called Freetown Fashpack and it gained international attention, later sparking an eight-part web series filmed by ABC Arts. In this touring exhibition from Bega Valley Regional Gallery, footage from the web series will sit alongside 15 larger-than-life photographic portraits from Dunlop’s collection.

    Exploring the connection between communication, fashion and the delightfulness of individual expression, Dunlop’s photography exudes a sensitivity that allows her sitters to revel in their own personal brand of style.

    There’s always plenty on at Casula Powerhouse during April, so you could make an afternoon of it.

  • 8

    Fans of the explosively colourful world of Japanese-born, Tweed Heads-based contemporary artist Hiromi Tango, or those with a generally elevated appreciation for colour, should check out Healing Chromosomes at Sullivan+Strumpf this month.

    Tango’s work scans sculpture, photography, wide-scale installation and performance, drawing inspiration from her environment and the wider scientific community. Her practice is increasingly focused on exploring neuroscientific concepts, posing questions in “a quest to effect healing and well-being through arts”.

    Healing Chromosomes invites us to ponder whether our chromosomes need healing from the impact of modern society, or if they already hold the key to our healing. The exhibition continues Tango’s fascination with the emotional impact of colour and questions its relationship with the brain. Why do certain colours provoke certain emotional responses? Does memory affect our emotional associations with a colour? Are there cultural factors at play? These questions aside, Tango’s work is also just really, really aesthetically epic. If you aren’t familiar with her work, this could be a beautiful introduction.

  • 7
    Anna Carey: In Search of Rainbows

    Fans of model-making or dream-like photography will enjoy this new photography series. Artereal is showcasing the latest solo exhibition from Los Angeles-based, Australian artist Anna Carey, In Search of Rainbows.

    An artist whose practice includes photography and sculpture, Carey’s latest show is a body of photographs documenting seven miniature fictional architectural spaces based on the urban environments of cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Palm Springs and her hometown, the Gold Coast. Each work is based on a dominant colour similar to the rainbow spectrum — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink and purple.

    Drawing from her imagination and the recollection of various environments rather than a single specific place, Carey combines model-making, drawing and photography to explore the connection between colour, memory and space. “The work] aims to reawaken imaginations for the viewer by creating a space of stillness and contemplation for one to drift between reality and daydreams,” according to Carey.

  • 6
    David Stephenson: Human Landscapes

    You might already be acquainted with the work of David Stephenson — a prominent American-by-birth photographer who now lives and works in Hobart, Tasmania. Human Landscapes at the Art Gallery of NSW showcases a collection of Stephenson’s landscape photography drawn from the gallery’s collection.

    The exhibition aims to highlight his subversion of traditional approaches to the medium, which charges his work with the ability to alter both the way we look at the world and how we consider our own place within it. Engaging with philosophical concepts using a poetic but minimalist sensibility, Stephenson’s photography ultimately transmits the transcendental force of the landscape.

    Human Landscapes will collate a number of Stephenson’s early works, including his romantic pinhole photographs of majestic seas, skies and expansive panoramas from the 1980s. Also featured are his starker — yet still poignant — pieces shot in the Antarctic during the 1990s. Fans of landscape photography definitely shouldn’t miss this.

  • 5
    Nadia Hernandez: Cosas Antes y Después (Things Before and After)

    It’s difficult to imagine how an art exhibition focusing on Venezuela could be anything but a documentation of carnage. With one of the highest murder rates in the world, a hyper-inflated economy and police guarding the scant food rations, Venezuela today is the battered remnant of Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution.

    Venezuelan-born Sydney artist Nadia Hernandez saw all of this in a recent trip back to her homeland — but she also saw coffee vendors on the street, beautiful mountains, and people protesting against corruption and rising crime. The vision of Venezuela that she depicts is one where hope and decay compete in equal measure.

    Her latest exhibition, Cosas Antes y Despues (Things Before and After), is a combination of painting, collage, craft and text. “My work is about finding oneself through folklore in order to call for reflection, solidarity and union,” says Hernandez. The exhibition, a Mild Manners project, is squirrelled away in an improvised gallery space on Devonshire street in Surry Hills. It may take a bit of Google-mapping  to get there, but the reward is a glimpse of a Venezuela that doesn’t often make the headlines.

  • 4
    Jane Polkinghorne and Ingrid Stiertzel: SADISCO

    Firstdraft presents SADISCO by Jane Polkinghorne and Ingrid Stiertzel — a work that in their words is “horrible and beautiful, bad and sad, groovy and ghastly, like disco, like Australia”. Their first collaboration, SADISCO blends installation, performance and video to embrace the ‘tragedy of disco’ alongside the nostalgia and ridiculousness of the 1970s, which, to both artists, represented a time of exciting social transformation and possibility within Australian culture — an era sitting in stark contrast to the present day’s increasingly regressive, 1950s vibe.

    Alongside the video installation, on Saturday, April 15 between 12–6pm, Polkinghorne is performing an endurance dance to Tina Turner’s ‘Nutbush City Limits’ (crowd participation is strongly encouraged) and Stiertzel is merging roller-skating with karaoke out in the Firstdraft carpark. She’ll attempt to re-perform the mysterious National Xanadu Dance Contest of 1980 on roller skates. If you bring your skates you will absolutely be challenged to a disco dance-off.

  • 3
    Introducing V

    After 15 years as a major player on the Sydney art scene, Brenda May Gallery shut its doors last December. But the team quickly reopened in March with a new identity, May Space, and a fresh direction at a shiny new Waterloo address, not far from the previous Danks Street location.

    Now showing in the new space is the fifth exhibition in their Introducing series, which presents the work of a small group of artists new to the gallery. This edition presents the work of five artists working across a range of mediums including painting, sculpture and video.

    Anna Glynn’s Above and Below celebrates the elegant, complex rhythms of the natural world. Shane Drinkwater’s paintings use repetitive mark making to create visual intensity. Matt Chun uses a variety of media to capture people and places. Painter Natasha Walsh explores the fragility of the individual through self-portraiture. Dai Lai’s stoneware Waiting Room series is also featured, which is inspired by his experience of waiting rooms, which he says “are like gathering places for strangers, each with different motives, emotions and moods, either excitement and/or trepidation of an unknown future”. If you haven’t seen the new and improved May Space yet, now’s your chance.

  • 2
    Familiar Stranger

    Familiar Stranger at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art sets out to examine the space between memory and reality that plagues the act of returning. Featured artists Shumon Ahmed, Chun Yin Rainbow Chan, Bashir Makhoul, Veer Munshi, Shireen Taweel and Curtis Taylor draw from the familial archive and personal memory to express the constant internal struggle between what is and what was.

    The exhibition presents place as a space defined by uncertainty, adopting the perspective of the returnee as they seek to retrace their memories in places that have transformed. The artworks explore the idea that if you’re a migrant, the idea of moving “home” becomes an implicit part of who you are — and the act of returning is an unpredictable, not necessarily joyful one.

    Will no doubt strike a chord with anyone who has returned home after time away and found it not what they expected it to be.

  • 1
    The Dark Matters

    Black and white, light and dark — as basic as these contrasting ideas are, they’re concepts that have formed the backbone of Chinese art for centuries. Contemporary artists are still struggling with the idea of luminescence versus the void, and the upcoming exhibition at White Rabbit, The Dark Matters, will turn this dichotomy on its head.

    Expect to see a number of big names in Chinese contemporary art, including Tang Nannan, based in the Fujian Province in China, and Brooklyn-based Lin Yan. The defining characteristic of Yan’s work has been described as “the way it uses elements of multiple styles to bring histories, past and present, together,” and it’s this manipulation of styles and media that defines The Dark Matters. It’s an exhibition that endeavours to clarify the yin and yang informing Chinese art throughout time.

    White Rabbit Gallery is focused on contemporary Chinese art produced after 2002, and The Dark Matters looks to celebrate one of the more prevalent themes in this realm.

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