Sydney-based artist, Nasim Nasr has been awarded the "People's Choice" Award for her extraordinary photographic work, "Forty Pages 5", included in the Finalists' exhibition for the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize held at the Monash Gallery of Art.
The work is from Nasim's series, "Forty Pages". As described in the artist's words:
Forty Pages contemplates personal or global history in the context of movement from one culture to another in the contemporary world, and refers to forty pages in a passport.
Each passport stamp, representing either the departure from or entering a country, is integral to one’s history of the difficulties of freedom of movement and disempowerment by country of birth and its life-boundaries. At every national border one is submissive and defenseless to officialdom. This is a potent control upon individual existence and independence, especially in the contemporary world of displacement and separation between East and West.
This gradual accumulation of stamps feels like layers upon my personal history, upon my passport photo, upon my face, its aggregation steadily evolving into an identity I no longer recognize, apart from the eyes—a transformation
Forty Pages presents my body as a site or platform for the compilation of these stamps of the last decade of my life, and therefore part of the history of the transience of my being.
About the artist
Nasim Nasr completed a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design at the Art University of Tehran, Iran in 2006, and a Master of Visual Arts (Research), South Australian School of Art, Architecture and Design, University of South Australia, in 2011.
Since graduating, Nasim has developed a body of work that has been featured in various exhibitions, festivals and publications in Australia and internationally. Her photographic and video practice has sought to comment upon universal concerns in contemporary society, engaging and articulating notions of State and self-censorship and the transience of cultural and personal identity. Being interested in the concept of cultural relationships and their role in contemporary society, her practice has engaged themes of intercultural dialogue. Through the presentation of multiple channel video works, photography, performance, objects and sound these collective works have attempted to highlight the complexities within contemporary notions of interchangeable identities and cultural difference, as experienced between past and present cultures and homelands, West and East.
Currently a Finalist in The Bowness Photography Art Prize, Melbourne Nasim was also a finalist in the prestigious international 2017 Sovereign Asian Art Prize in Hong Kong; earlier this year. Previously, Nasim was a Finalist in the Blake Art Prize, at Casula Powerhouse in Sydney, (2016), and the Redlands Art Prize, National Art School Gallery, Sydney, (2015).
Nasim’s participation in important curated group exhibitions include Under the Sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker, at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney (touring to Monash Art Gallery, Melbourne); and Sixth Sense, National Art School Gallery, National Art School, Sydney.
Her work has also been presented at Bazaar Art Jakarta (2017), Art Dubai, (2015 & 2016); and Art Stage Singapore (2013 & 2014)
Her work is represented in many collections including the Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra; Artbank, Sydney; and private collections in Australia, Germany, USA, Singapore, Qatar and the UAE.
Catherine Asquith Art is delighted to present this exceptional artwork, “Forty Pages 5” (image above) by Nasim Nasr for sale. For details regarding the artwork including price please email or phone 0422 753 696.
Hodryc (Rodrigo Leite) is a Brazilian artist, based in Melbourne. For the past decade, he has been developing an aesthetic which utilises a combination of digital-painting, photography and 3D techniques, and manifests as a complex and highly innovative artwork.
Harnessing his knowledge of Impressionism, Hodryc’s artworks (unique archival pigment prints) present as something of a pixelated landscape, which nevertheless still presents as a painting. For Hodryc, the latter is crucial to the integrity of his art practice: he believes, that although he uses these new technologies as part of the creative process, and as such, they are acting as paint, brush and canvas, most important is that the artist remains true to the essence of the work, that is, there is a danger of digitals artists becoming as ephemeral as technology itself. It is for this reason that Hodryc has elected to create unique edition prints, contending that they are but ‘digital-paintings’.
Hodryc’s most recent series, “Inner Landscapes” represents the artist’s first impressions of the Australian landscape, and just as this same landscape has often depicted isolation, fear, resilience and freedom, so too Hodry’s series.
View a selection of works in the Stockroom.
Established in 2006 to promote excellence in photography, the annual William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize is an initiative of the MGA Foundation. The Bowness Photography Prize has quickly become Australia's most coveted photography prize. It is also one of the country's most open prizes for photography. In the past, finalists have included established and emerging photographers, art and commercial photographers. All film-based and digital work from amateurs and professionals is accepted. There are no thematic restrictions.
The 2017 judging panel: architect, art patron and academic, Corbett Lyon, artist and educator Dr Susan Fereday, and MGA Senior Curator Stephen Zagala.
Walking through our corporate centres and precincts in Melbourne, one is often met with some superb examples of contemporary art installations; within public buildings’ foyers, in communal courtyards adjacent to a corporate headquarters, and welcoming guests to inner city hotels. Imagine for a moment, these same spaces bereft of such artwork…
The CBD of any city is, let’s face it, reflective of the culture, its population, its values. Property developers, architects, town planners and the like, have had an enormous influence over the years on how we experience our cities. Thankfully, these days, numerous buildings, office spaces and residential towers, have been planned and constructed with parameters allowing for artworks.
Similarly, artists have developed and extended their practise to allow for these types of public art commissions, and have thereby created lively and dynamic spaces.
Bringing nature into the city
Artists invariably derive inspiration from their immediate living and working environments. Regionally-based Victorian Peter D Cole puts ‘nature on the stage’ with his ‘urbanised’ interpretations of nature. His sculpture commission of 2005, a manifestation of playful yet beautifully balanced conjoined sculptural archetypal elements such as tree, moon and stars, and the like, and created from stainless steel and powder-coated primary colours welcomes workers and visitors alike at Freshwater Place in Southbank.
The presence of contemporary art installed within a corporate’s head office or flagship building also suggests a forward-looking enterprise, a preparedness to engage with its community.
Art in public spaces, as part of a building’s structure or indeed, as part of a corporate art collection, adds a cultural edifice – whether to that corporate’s identity, the building’s spaces, the locale and immediate environment of that building. Its benefits resonate with its inhabitants, the clients visiting that building or corporate location, the employees and the general public. As such, it contributes in a very tangible way to the society’s cultural infrastructure.
The installation of contemporary art – manifested in any of its genres – can have an educative and interpretative function within the building in which is it placed. A very good example of this concept is Janet Laurence’s “Water Veil” at the Council House 2 (CH2) building in Melbourne.
A diaphanous, experiential and reflective glass veil that transforms the window between the foyer and the public space of the street into a membranous fluid space, “Water Veil” expresses and reveals the transformation and purification of water, reiterating the black water treatment within the building as well as expressing purity and translucence representing the purification of water.
Laurence’s “Water Veil” denotes a very direct educative and interpretive function within the building and from the public space outside creates a dramatic effect, serving to amplify the functional aspect of the CH2 building as environmentally sustainable, in other words, quite literally highlighting a corporate message.
Nowadays, corporate responsibility to its community is higher on the agenda, and part of a corporate’s mandate must service the community at large in some way: incorporating art within its spaces meets one albeit small, aspect of this requisite.
Art for daily inspiration
Inclusion of public art commissions within our built environment, in foyers, adorning a façade, or inhabiting a causeway, contributes to the visual ‘documenting’ of our history; it reflects our growth and development, occasionally our current societal issues, and sometimes our collective values. But equally important, it provides a visual stimuli, an aesthetic pleasure, a thought-provoking moment; an added dimension to our daily lives.
Marion Borgelt’s site specific “Candescent Moon” of 2011, installed at 101 Collins Street, is a case in point. This large scale sculptural relief suggests the universal themes of sequences, celestial orders and lunar rhythms. These ideas are particularly pertinent to the modern corporate lifestyle, where daily life balances the restrictions imposed by cycles of time and the forces of nature’s flux and unpredictability.
Interestingly, Borgelt’s work is intended to be interactive; that is, as the viewer moves around the front of the work, its appearance and nature change from light to dark and from one texture to another. This sequential change can represent a change in time such as the passing from day into night.
The work has a timeless quality, bridging the gap between the everyday and the planetary by acting as a reminder of our daily life while indicating our part in a larger, cosmic structure.
Bringing contemporary art into our built environment clearly comprises many positives for our society: beyond what has been briefly elucidated above, art can start a conversation; open a dialogue. At its most fundamental, art expresses an idea, an observation, and/or an emotion. It enlivens our consciousness, and sometimes changes our experiences and it stimulates, nourishes and feeds our senses. In so many ways, at its most fundamental, art contributes to the ‘wealth’ of our culture.
©Catherine Asquith October 2017
For the past 29 years the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize (DMNPP) has encouraged both excellence and creativity in contemporary Australian portraiture by asking artists to interpret the look and personality of a chosen sitter, either unknown or well known.
Founded by Doug & Greta Moran and family in 1988, the DMNPP is an annual Australian portrait prize supporting Australian artists and the wider arts community by holding the free annual Moran Prizes exhibition, now at Juniper Hall Paddington, displaying the top 30 works selected by nominated judges each year.
Currently with an annual first prize of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($150,000), the Prize is an important part of Australia's Arts calendar. The Prize is acquisitive and the winning portrait immediately becomes the property of the Moran Arts Foundation, to be exhibited permanently as part of the Moran Arts Foundation Collection.
Winner announced on the 18th October 2017.
Well known first for her print making, a key focus of Wendy Stokes’ art practice since the late 1990s has been her stunning and distinctive paintings…
What originally brought you to Port Macquarie?
I am a return resident. My partner and I decided on settling in Port Macquarie in the late ‘80s. My parents had retired to Port Macquarie from a rural property in Central Western NSW in the late ‘60s, and my main school years were spent in Port Macquarie. After my postgraduate studies I had spent several years in Sydney and with a network of exhibition contacts in place, it no longer seemed essential for me to remain in the city. Port Macquarie was small enough then to have appeal, close enough to Sydney to maintain my practice, and the return enabled me to spend time with my family.
What influenced you to develop an interest in art?
There wasn’t really a time when I decided that I would go and pick it off a shelf labelled a career or hobby. It is a part of me from as far back as I can remember and fortunately due to the freedom of my upbringing, I had many hours outside on the farm, in the garden or roaming my front yard, our coastline. Much of this time was immersed in my own imagination: collecting, drawing, making things, just being in an outdoor environment.
Sometimes I have considered if it, ‘art’, was something separate like a backpack that you could remove, life would be easier and far less complicated. It is my way of seeing the world, thinking about it and finding a place within it.
How has your talent steered your artistic career?
To be blatantly honest, talent doesn’t necessarily steer an art career! Any serious artist I know, or even the famous ones embedded in the archives of history, would agree that that is left to trends and opportunity!
After completing the HSC, I went onto 4 years of formal art studies in Newcastle, took the ritual art pilgrimage to the UK and Europe on graduation and followed that several years later with postgraduate study at Sydney College of the Arts.
From the beginning, I had strong support from my parents; Jim Matsinos, my art teacher at school; Dorothy Hope, the founder of Thrumster Village; and the printmaker, Joan Smith. I mention them because in the 1970s, artists in regional areas, particularly Port Macquarie, were very isolated, and these people understood my language and aspirations.
At art school I ended up majoring in Printmaking and Drawing and managed to develop a strong profile as a printmaker very early in my art practice, exhibiting and awarded prizes on a national and international level. It was through my printmaking that I received the residence opportunity in New York.
Which medium/media do you like to work with now, and what is it about them that attract you?
Painting has become a key focus of my practice since the late 1990s. The reason for the shift was as much about creative development – expecting more from a medium – as it was about eliminating the exposure where possible to solvents and oil based products. I was looking for more freedom in scale and as I was already using the printmaking medium as a painter would paint, the progression was natural.
I adopted water based choices for all my processes, both paint and print. Apart from the ease of cleanup, many artists will identify that we still need to function to some degree in the real world. Time to work often becomes fragmented, so the speed of drying time became a crucial element for my work. Using water based processes also aligned with my aesthetic towards the landscape … the connections between water and atmosphere, staining, soaking, sliding, immersion and the porosity of the canvas, the porosity of the sand and earth …
I’ve read passages about your work, which describes it as ‘abstract impressionism’. Would you say this is a fair description – and if not, why?
I am often wary of categorisation when it comes to describing art. Art in contemporary terms crosses many boundaries between mediums as well as professional disciplines. These days, we do not need to go far to see the hybrid practice between artist and engineer or scientist. Coming to the ‘abstract impressionism’: both are words which come with a huge amount of misinterpreted and popularised baggage.
While it may be beneficial to have an understanding of when or why particular styles developed historically, we all need to be aware that much history, particularly involving women artists, marginalised cultures and geographically isolated artists, has yet to be written or rewritten into history.
Abstract is a term with many meanings and tends to be seen as a removal from a concrete source, and Impressionism is unfortunately tied to the popular historical style of the Impressionists, which are still firmly set in observational ground. This can be misleading.
Viewers are likely to feel compelled to try and locate references in my paintings to give themselves clues to determine the meaning, rather than allow the viewing experience to be a mutual engagement between the painting and them. My paintings are not about squinting your eyes to try and make out an impression of a thing. Hopefully they are about synthesis and experience.
As an artist, what inspires you to create?
Energy. It is connected to experience and immersion in place, but not from the visited experience, where you are a tourist or explorer travelling to a place, picking a view and packaging it.
Memories obviously play a role for everybody, not only artists, because we all bring to any experience our previous experiences. What truly moves me to create are the lives of others, sacrifice, commitment, that drive of the artist to leave a mark, an image that has the capacity to move or resonate within the viewer. If even a momentary thing, it has the capacity to be an experience shared.
Much of your work is done on a large scale. What’s the largest piece you’ve completed to date?
The scale thing is relative. For a domestic setting it could be considered large, but they can be quite dwarfed in museum settings. The largest work is still in progress, but will end up being around 7 metres. The scale is part of the concept of immersion which informs my work; not only is it quite a performative act making the work, but I aim for the viewer to be able to be drawn into the works with little peripheral distraction. Not all my work is large scale.
What are some of the challenges (if any) for you as an artist completing large works … and how long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
The physical expenditure is in assembling and stretching the canvases, moving them around in and out of the studio. I accommodate the size by making the works in sections, and that way they can fit through my studio door and down the stairs. The length of time is probably irrelevant, because when does a painting really begin?
There is gestation time, the development of thought, followed by experience and action time, then reflection, ending in satisfaction or frustration. This can be measured in weeks or months and has little bearing on the success of the work.
One of the other challenges is that you know already before you even start a painting that they have a limited market, so you are not market driven but instead by your own creative journey and conceptual investigation. People in buying any large work need to have the courage and conviction for that work to become the experience in the hanging location, and these days the super size TV with the constant shifts in images and entertainment supersedes the wall once reserved for that large painting. Paintings can demand from you as a viewer, but they can provide a pause … a place for renewal.
A few years ago, a buyer of my work sent me a text message to say they had spent the week without the television and instead spent the time immersed in my paintings, which is a validation that painting can have purpose.
What are a few of the exhibitions you’ve been involved with over the years?
I have been exhibiting professionally at a strong level for thirty years, but I would like to highlight that exhibitions serve different functions. It is not always market driven. Solo exhibitions, in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and major regional gallery shows as in Tamworth and Coffs Harbour have been essential venues to enable me to create work and measure it as bodies of work, rather than isolated works hanging on the wall. It enables the work to function within your thematic development and is crucial for your own progression.
Curated shows are interesting, as you have the opportunity to have your work interpreted in the context of others’ work and concepts, so you are able to better position where your own practice is heading. National competitive shows, such as the Dobell Drawing Prize, the JADA, The Glover Landscape Prize and The Fremantle Print Prize are reinforcement of the validity of your own work and its contribution to particular mediums or genres within Australian art practice. International shows in which I have participated, and especially Printmaking shows, have been about cultural exchange.
Where is the best place for people to view your work?
I am represented through Catherine Asquith Gallery, Melbourne and BMG art in Adelaide. I will be showing again with Catherine in Melbourne in September and at Danks Street Galleries, Sydney, in August. Walcha Gallery of Art has an ongoing selection of work, and I will be having a major show with them in May.
On a more local note, The Regional Gallery at the Glasshouse is currently hosting an exhibition organised by Port Macquarie High School, showcasing previous students from the school who have chosen art as their career path, celebrating 50 years of the high school. As a previous student, I am participating in this exhibition.
On a local level, I have seen my role not so much as an artist, but an advocate for emerging artists in the visual arts through TAFE. In the past 12 years I have taught at Kempsey Campus, participating in the delivery of the Diploma in Fine Art programmes and other fine art courses.
As a teaching body of committed professional arts practitioners, we have been instrumental in opening up the value of art making for many individuals in a meaningful way within the region. It is rewarding to help people find their own creative voice and move way beyond their own expectations.
Interview by Jo Atkins.
This story was published in issue 77 of Port Macquarie Focus
The Sovereign Asian Art Prize, hosted by The Sovereign Art Foundation, was established in 2003 and is now recognised as one of the most prestigious awards for contemporary art in the Asia-Pacific region.
Held annually, the Sovereign Asian Art Prize invites mid-career contemporary artists, who have been nominated by a selected board of art experts, to enter up to three artworks online. Entries are then judged by a small judging panel consisting of independent art experts and professionals from the region, who select the best 30 artworks from a range of digital images. The 30 finalists are then exhibited in a prominent public space in Hong Kong, where the pieces are judged a second time, in person.
This year, the finalist works will be exhibited at Christie’s Hong Kong (19-21 April) and thereafter at The Rotunda, Exchange Square, Hong Kong (25 April–4 May).
The organisers of the event have described the finalist works as indicative of “cutting edge contemporary art practice” from the region. Writer and curator David Elliott, who chaired this year’s judging panel, said the 30 finalists had been a “revelation” and “[n]ot only has the region been covered in a more comprehensive way than before, but also a new generation of artists is starting to emerge that is impressive in the range and density of its work. This is clearly shown in the finalists in this exhibition.”
According to a study of 2015, undertaken by the Australia Council “Australians value the arts”. More particularly “[A] growing number of Australians believe that the arts make for a richer and more meaningful life; they influence how we express ourselves, our creative thinking and new ideas.”
The salient points highlighted in this report indicate that the arts, which are deeply embedded in the cultural sector, make a substantial contribution to the Australian economy. “Cultural activity” defined in this report as the visual, performing, literary and musical arts, contributes “$50 billion to Australia’s GDP, which is comparable to the GDP share in the United States”, of which $4.2 billion is derivative of the arts. Expenditure on culture by Australian governments was $7 billion in 2013 with a reported $1.3 billion having been expended on the arts. The report also notes, that the main source of income to the arts is consumer spending.
The latter is what I would like to explore today; how, we as individuals ‘support;’ in all its guises, the arts. And we actually do this in a very tangible manner. But before I do this some notes on money and the arts -
To an extent the arts has had an uneasy relationship with commerce, or more specifically, money!
A lot of commentary on the art market describes art in commercial terms: “investment of passion”, “wall power” and “branding”. And with these descriptives our appreciation of an artwork can sometimes be hindered.
By the same token we actually have to acknowledge that this commercialism, is of paramount importance to the livelihood of so many members of this arena; people such as the artists, the material suppliers, the galleries, the curators, the framers, the conservators, and ultimately, our public collections.
I can remember during one of my post-grad tutorials at Melbourne Uni, my fellow students becoming horrified when I disclosed that I worked at a gallery and what I did was sell art. Murmurings of ‘capitalism’ lingered in the air as I made a quiet but obvious retreat from the discussion and indeed, from the course itself soon afterwards.
I simply didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. 20 years later I sort of do. We don’t really like to besmirch the integrity of the arts (well certainly not the purists amongst us) with commercialism; we would rather remain discreet about it and therefore employ a secret code or language, and we utilise less obvious terms such as “acquisition”, “placement” and “de-accession” in lieu of buy and sell.
But here’s the rub - buying or acquiring art is an action by an individual which in truth, has a much more altruistic element, which we are mostly unaware of, and dare I say, holds a more formidable long term benefit, to a wider group. That group is our society. That infrastructure is our culture; our history.
So what I would like to do is to follow a trajectory of sorts from the artist’s studio, to the commercial gallery exhibition, to the curated regional gallery show, to the collection of a state-owned institution. And to hopefully demonstrate how an individual decision can have so much bearing on the ‘wealth;’ of our nation.
Working in the arts I think we sometimes take for granted that the public at large understand how the machinations of the art market operates; I don’t want to dumb this down, and I certainly don’t want to suggest it’s this simple either; there are a multitude of personalities, prejudices, politics and let’s face it, people, who complicate the process. But…in its simplest form:
In order for an artist to produce an artwork, he or she has bought materials for its production, from an arts supplier, a small business. The artist may also have had some of the work framed, another small business. A photographer has been called upon to ‘document’ the series, that photographer is another small business. A specialist arts carrier has been booked to collect and deliver this new body of work to the gallery. Before an artwork is installed at the artist’s representative gallery for exhibition purposes, several invoices have been generated by small businesses.
The gallery’s primary task is to represent artists on a long term basis, providing guidance and career management to their artists. The gallery incurs on-going costs in its support and promotion of represented artists: aside from the usual utilities and services including rental on space, a gallery may well have promoted the exhibition via print media, in the form of glossy art journal advertisements, in addition to perhaps production of a catalogue. On-line media may also have been utilised. An arts writer may also have been commissioned to produce a catalogue essay. The ‘in-tray’ is piling up.
The exhibition is one of the key promotional events for both the artist and the gallery. In preparation both the artist and the gallery have (hopefully!) worked in tandem in terms of promoting the forthcoming exhibition; the gallery will have alerted its client base which will invariably include individuals, institutions, public museums and galleries, as well as regional galleries, and much dialogue will have ensued with curators. Artists will more than likely have gone crazy on various social media platforms!! And told their fellow artists and possibly some of their former tutors and lecturers.
So after a glass of wine and an extremely entertaining conversation with the artist, you decide to buy a work. Let’s call this artist, Frank. The exhibition is availed some terrific press coverage over the remaining few weeks, in addition to an excellent review by a well-known critic. Several more works have sold now, and one work is on reserve for a public institution, the latter having been prompted by the gallery’s initiative in making contact as a result of the exhibition sales rate. (This is a hard-working gallery!). In the meantime you have told some of your friends, and in fact one of them is the wife of a senior managing partner at a law firm. His interest is piqued and he ventures one lunchtime into the gallery. He’s looking for a new piece to add to the firm’s collection. But his attention is diverted by something peeking out from the stockroom; a much larger and indeed, much more expensive work. With the approval of the law firm’s selection committee, the work is acquired. The gallery now has a new client.
Invoices are attended to forthwith; and most pleasing, with the addition of the law firm’s acquisition, some funds have been freed up for the gallery to now consider further promotional activities; perhaps an international art fair.
The arts writer, who also happens to operate as a freelance curator, having been given the opportunity to produce a catalogue essay for this artist, suggests to one of her colleagues a collaboration and one in which Frank’s work would be included; her colleague is employed by an interstate regional gallery. After much discussion and considerable paperwork, a survey show examining contemporary abstract painting has moved beyond its embryonic stage, and is now scheduled for 18 months hence. The gallery is advised of this forthcoming exhibition, and excitedly relays this news to her artist, Frank.
With this new development, the gallerist personally appraises the owners of Frank’s work, in addition to including this development in the gallery’s monthly newsletter. Happily this newsletter elicits some interest in Frank’s work, and a gallery client, who had been overseas at an art fair during Frank’s exhibition, requests some more information. There are only 2 works left in the gallery’s stockroom, but the gallerist assures the client that Frank is working on new work. (Frank was able to settle his invoices after the exhibition, and has some credit with his materials supplier.)
Meanwhile, the managing partner of the law firm continues to patronise the gallery, and brings a colleague one day, who happens to be on the Board of a Foundation, of which the latter has the primary mandate of collecting art by ‘living artists’. He’s rather taken with Frank’s work, noting also the artist’s developing CV (and in particular the collections in which his work is held), and has asked to be notified when new works arrive.
There is now a small groundswell of interest surrounding Frank’s work; indeed, the gallery has been contacted by one of the art magazines (as a result of the editor becoming aware of the commissioned essay for Frank’s exhibition), and is now seeking to commission a feature article in line with the forthcoming group survey exhibition. Potential opportunities in terms of further promotion, and therefore beneficial outcomes for the gallery and its artists are now able to be more realistically considered over the forthcoming 12 to 18 months.
Does Frank’s work end up in the NGV collection? Possibly. Does the Foundation acquire one of his works? Maybe. And does the gallery go on to participate in an international art fair? Hopefully. Did your enthusiasm for Frank’s art contribute to this? Absolutely!
We should get excited about our art acquisitions. We as a society should not be ‘shy’ about ‘investing’ in art. We can and we do contribute to the sustainability and development of our cultural infrastructure. Every so often, we simply need to remind ourselves what art does:
It starts a conversation; opens a dialogue. At its most fundamental, art expresses an idea, an observation, and/or an emotion. It enlivens our consciousness, and sometimes changes our experiences of an event or exhibition. It stimulates, nourishes and feeds our senses. It contributes to the ‘wealth’ of our culture. And it reflects our society, by way of visually documenting our history, a history which is important to our future.
*This speech was given at FUSE, Flinders Lane Gallery, during Melbourne Art Week.
Exactly two decades ago I bought my first artwork, from an art fair held in Melbourne: the Australian Contemporary Art Fair or ACAF, (later to become of course, the Melbourne Art Fair). This was its fifth edition, and my visit, a very tentative initiation into the art world. Were it not for the clearly, good cheer of the gallerist at the time – I asked for shock horror, “lay-by” – I may well have never bought the work, and perhaps even, not ventured into the gallery circuit quite as promptly thereafter, until much later, when I had a far healthier bank balance and greater self-assurance. Yet for this novice at the time, it was on reflection, the palpable upbeat and celebratory atmosphere of this environment, which has proven the more seductive memory. I treasured the catalogue from that fair, carefully turning the pages over the coming months, and committing to memory the many artworks I had seen, as I awaited the arrival of my first acquisition.
For the uninitiated, the art fair model or art event, these occasional ‘pop-ups’ scattered throughout the calendar year, may be viewed as a type of user-friendly adjunct to the more formal gallery infrastructure, and perhaps in a way, yield to the public sensibility of ‘looking’ or ‘browsing’, uninhibited or constrained by the possibly, watchful eye of the gallery’s staff, or the sometimes slightly intimidating yet obviously cool, environs of the white cube. Less obvious maybe is the aspect of ‘audience participation’ at these types of events; one’s attendance actually constitutes a conscious decision to engage with the visual arts. It’s certainly a step in the right direction to unraveling the sometimes complex or challenging nuances of the contemporary art scene.
In what can only be described as an extremely positive manifestation of ‘community spirit’, some sprightly individuals and collectives from the Melbourne visual arts sector have initiated and will be hosting a virtual plethora of art and art-related events in the 3rd week of August this year, a scheduled week formerly reserved for The art event in this fair city, the Melbourne Art Fair. Satellite fairs, art events and artist talks, forums and panel discussions, a street party, an “arts-speed-dating” event (brilliant!), curated exhibitions and yes, even an arts-related, ”progressive tasting degustation”, will be happening. What’s not to like?
Without dwelling on the demise of the Melbourne Art Fair, which has already received considerable press coverage earlier this year, what is more interesting for me, a former gallerist, now art advisor, and a born and bred Melburnian, is this type of dedication to the arts: to artists’ practices,’ to the collectors and valued clients of commercial galleries, and fundamentally, to the cultural infrastructure of our society.
Certainly for many, in the wake of the collapse of the Melbourne Art Fair, a “void” has been left, and whilst those in the arts will continue to endeavour to fathom the long term effects of this, it is the resilience of arts professionals that will be truly highlighted during this time.
Still endeavouring to bring something of the experience of an art fair, albeit on a smaller scale, Flinders Lane Gallery will be inaugurating its FUSE exhibition and special program of talks (9 – 27 August). Promptly responding to this ‘void’ in the arts calendar, the exhibition will seek to highlight the need for artists to “constantly respond and adapt in order to remain vital and valid”, and how this challenge, in fact allows for “dynamic shifts in individual practices”. Alongside the carefully curated exhibition, a special program of talks* will encompass a variety of topics, with the intention of providing an educative element to the program.
602 (17 – 21 August) is the culmination of a small group of commercial galleries from both Melbourne and Sydney, opening up a dialogue on “doing something” and “keeping something alive” during this period.
Described as “a spontaneous, creative, joyous coming together for friendly art galleries wanting to share with the public the best of what they do in a new and exciting setting”, 602 will bring together 9 commercial art galleries, both Melbourne and Sydney-based, showcasing the work of approximately 40 contemporary artists.
The usual parameters of for example, a gallery’s participation in an art fair, will be left by the wayside, allowing for a new freedom on what the galleries choose to exhibit, even accommodating a re-hang mid-way through the event. Harnessing a Berliner’s approach to creative collaborations, 602 will house the gallerists’ event in a re-purposed electricity substation located at the western end of the CBD. All very neu or frisch (German for “fresh, new, crisp, cool, green, bright).
With the support of the City of Melbourne, Art Month, Art Money and Work Club, 602 promises an innovative take on collaboration, and an invigorating urban experience for art lovers.
A similar type of collegiality underscores FLAIR Melbourne (18 – 21 August). According to Donald Williams, Director of Global Art Projects (GAP), this new event “all happened very quickly” but nevertheless with a great deal of dexterity; ensuing dialogue amongst the art affiliates at the top end of Flinders Lane on how best to ‘fill the gap’, allowed a revised focus on marketing the arts. As Jane Scott, Director of Craft notes, “it’s nice to collaborate with one’s colleagues” as such opportunities are quite rare. Flair Melbourne is an amalgam of artists, galleries, restauranteurs and musicians, and has been curated by ARC ONE Gallery, Arts Project Australia (supported by NKN Gallery), Craft, fortyfivedownstairs and Sofitel Melbourne on Collins.
A range of talks, forums and panel discussions with ‘creatives’, alongside curated exhibitions and an opportunity for audience participation in an immersive exhibition involving the camera obscura technique, in addition to a progressive tasting degustation at which guests might be dining on artisan ceramics plus jazz musicians responding to an exhibition, forms part of an ambitious and highly inventive program, and indeed, will make for very much the “festival” experience.
This theme of revision of the arts scene, was part of the impetus behind the now established SPRING 1883 (17 – 21 August). A hotel-based art fair that draws on the traditions of the Gramercy Park Fair of New York, SPRING 1883 was first presented at The Hotel Windsor in Melbourne in August 2014, with Sydney following thereafter in September 2015 at The Establishment Hotel.
Now in its 3rd iteration, SPRING 1883 has always sought to provide an alternative to the traditional art fair, utilising a boutique site, and thereby allowing for a more intimate engagement between artist, collector and gallerist. Fundamental to this initiative has been an appreciation by its participants of “shared conceptual engagements”. Exhibitors for this year number 27, and comprise mostly Australian galleries, in addition to several from New Zealand, and 3 international galleries (Grey Noise of Dubai, Southard Reid of London and KANSAS of New York) due to cross the equator.
Less arduous and only crossing the Yarra River will be Andy Dinan’s Windsor-based MARS Gallery to present an installation of several gallery artists at a “favourite, iconic city venue”, The Melbourne Supper Club. Indeed, over the years, many an après art event ‘drink’ has been quaffed at this Melbourne institution. MARS @ The Melbourne Supper Club (17 – 21 August) will literally, illuminate the usually subdued club-like lighting of the space with a projection of video works, light works and stereoscopic photography in addition to some delightfully engaging cardboard sculptures.
In like form, seeking out new opportunities for unrepresented and/or independent artists was at the forefront of 3 ‘disruptors’, artists, Tony Lloyd and Sam Leach, and arts writer, Ashley Crawford back in 2010. NotFair (16 – 21 August) was conceived as an alternative satellite event to what they believed was the “gallery-centric Melbourne Art Fair”. At its heart was a curated exhibition of emerging, unrepresented and independent artists whose work would not normally be entitled to be exhibited within the more traditional fair model: what has brought these unlikely ‘event organisers’ together “is a love of art, and a strong desire to ensure artists are given every opportunity to succeed.”
Now under the careful stewardship of Gina Lee, this ‘outsider’ art fair has matured into an established event, and notwithstanding its initial parameters, has seen its business model adopt a more formal demeanour albeit still retaining its edge. Incorporating a no doubt unruly street party on opening night, NotFair Art Fair will also include 3 different types of art tours to the other fairs and events in its immediate vicinity; a “three-way speed dating” event (sounds a bit risqué) for artists, writers and curators; in addition to an exhibitions program entitled “Sign O’ The Times” and curated by Kirsten Rann.
Speaking with Gina Lee, her position is certainly, ‘of the moment’; as she terms it, “there’s room for collaboration” and a much “greater cohesiveness within the visual arts community”; indeed, I would add, it’s a requisite, in order to create greater awareness amongst the public at large, to truly imbue a sense of enthusiasm and at the same time, extend a very friendly and fun invitation to self-educate.
So…get your walking shoes on, grab an umbrella, dress in layers (this is Melbourne), join the community, and challenge your senses, as a veritable visual feast awaits you.
© Catherine Asquith 2016
*Full disclosure: I am one of the guest speakers.
The 2016 Geelong contemporary art prize (formerly, The Fletcher Jones Prize), is a biennial acquisitive award of $30,000, for contemporary painting. The award has become something of a “signature event”, which ultimately, assists with the development of the Geelong Gallery’s collection whist at the same time, highlighting Australian artists and contemporary painting practice in general.
On average the prizes elicits approximately 500 entries. For this year’s award, the shortlist features 33 works by Penelope Aitken, Robert Andrew, Xiao Bai, Kate Beynon, Warren Breninger, Hector Burton, Deidre But-Husaim, Magda Cebokli, Trevelyan Clay, Jonathan Crowther, Marieke Dench, Shaun Gladwell, Julia Gorman, Michael Gromm, Marie Hagerty, Peter Hill, Naomi Hobson, David Jolly, Col Jordan, Ash Keating, Chris Langlois, Donna Lougher, Viv Miller, Jennifer Mills, Jan Murray, John Nixon, Rosslynd Piggott, Adam Pyett, Sally Ross, Brad Rusbridge, Huseyin Sami, Kate Tucker and Jurek Wybraniec.
The selection panel for the 2016 Geelong contemporary art prize includes guest judge, Victoria Lynn (Director, Tarrawarra Museum of Modern Art) along with Jason Smith (Director, Geelong Gallery) and Lisa Sullivan (Curator, Geelong Gallery).
Exhibition: 10 September to 13 November 2016