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ALL FOR ART AND ART FOR ALL ISSUE FOUR JUNE 2013 SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA allforartandartforall.com allforartandartforall@gmail.com or find us on facebook


What’s in this issue?

The C Word Introducing the 2 Danks St Award for Art Criticism An Interview with Amanda Rowell Collective Vision Don’t Mention the Art Waratah Lahy Talks Paris In Conversation with Suzanne Archer Artist Resale Royalty Scheme

Alison Mackay & Richard Morecroft ALLFORART Georgia Booth Lisa-Marie Murphy Chloe Watson Olivia Welch Jessica Holburn John R Walker

The C Word Alison Mackay and Richard Morecroft

The word is commitment. And we’re talking commitment over time. It’s not an easy thing to do and it may perhaps seem out of kilter with so many contemporary art practices where rapid evolution and frequent change are the norm. But since this year began, we’ve noticed that the thread of commitment to a long-term vision has been woven through a number of artists, exhibitions, galleries and relationships. We live down on the NSW south coast and that means we’re not too far away from Barbara and Nick Romalis and their remarkable property, The Priory. Now, those names may not be immediately familiar, yet they hold an important place in Australian art history. Back in the 70s, when Barb was at art school, she encouraged her artist friends to visit and paint on a bush property that she and Nick owned near Campbelltown on Sydney’s south-west urban fringe. One of those friends – a young female painter - became particularly attached to the area and would camp out alone in the bush and paint. Her commitment to this landscape led Barb and Nick to make a decision that would support the development of some of the nation’s most important artists. The property was at Wedderburn and the painter was Elisabeth Cummings. Barb and Nick Romalis’ commitment was to gift

the Wedderburn land in perpetuity to create an artists’ community - an opportunity for Elisabeth and others not to camp, but to build their own homes and studios. It was an amazing gift that has supported an evolving group including some of the leading artists of this generation - John Peart, Roy Jackson and of course, Elisabeth Cummings. The life and work of each of these artists has been profoundly affected by this practical and far-sighted gesture and in turn those effects have rippled on through Australian art circles. To make it all happen, legally and with council blessing, was a mammoth task requiring tireless organisation and determined persuasion (particular talents of Barb Romalis) and today, with even more densely tangled bureaucracy, it’s unlikely it could be accomplished at all. But it was - and it’s now an enduring legacy which has allowed a group of artists to live with the security of their own creative spaces and the support of a like-minded community. For Barbara and Nick, it was an inspired and inspiring commitment; philanthropy of the most active and involving kind - from initial gift, through organisational effort, to continued contact and encouragement. And it rightly may cause us to wonder about our own philanthropic potential. What might we have to contribute - big or small - that might give practical form to our label as supporters of the arts?


Of course, each of the prominent artists mentioned has also been nurtured and encouraged by others along the way - particularly by galleries which showed long term faith in them; John Peart by Watters, Elisabeth Cummings by King Street and Roy Jackson by Defiance. Roy Jackson’s exhibition earlier this year at Defiance Gallery, was a showcase of a senior artist in his creative prime - a collection of assured composition and mature, complex mark-making, all blended with a seemingly playful ease. The mastery of the mark was a distillation of so many years of uncompromising art practice. Even so, the works sat almost humbly on the gallery walls; mostly modest in size, yet quietly colossal in their impact. Thankfully and appropriately, each one was accompanied by a red dot. And - without claiming any other overt parallels - Angus Roy Jackson, First, from The Clinamen Series, 2013, acrylic and emulsion on plywood, 224 x 180cm. Courtesy of the artist and Defiance Gallery. Photography by Stephen Oxenbury.


Nivison’s survey at the National Trust’s S H Ervin Gallery in January seemed to contain a similar alchemy - modest marks sometimes sparsely applied evoked grand themes - in this case, of natural forces at work; the majesty of storms across arid landscape; the erosive power of water through massive rock-forms; the structural grandeur of

ancient geology. Many of these works were grand in scale and complex in execution - ideally suited to a large exhibition space. They had been gathered together originally at the Tamworth Regional Gallery (which produced a catalogue well worth acquiring!), demonstrating once again that great initiatives are not the sole prerogative of big city

Angus Nivison, So Much More, 2010, acrylic, charcoal, gesso & pastel on paper, 178 x 229cm. Courtesy of the artist and Utopia Art Sydney.


galleries. Another example of that regional boldness was the major retrospective at the Shoalhaven City Arts Centre in Nowra of the work of painter Margaret Dredge. In a genuinely courageous move (not just Yes Minister-speak!), all gallery areas of the Centre were given over to an unusually comprehensive insight into the development of a significant artist. Significant perhaps, but an artist who may have been consigned to obscurity without the commitment over many years of collectors Max Dingle and his late partner Gavin Hughes They were long term collectors of abstract art created by women among them, Margaret Dredge. This retrospective showcases her works from that collection, along with many others from Margaret Dredge’s estate. The result is a remarkable itinerary through a creative life. Despite early success (critic Harry Blake wrote in 1967 “She has been painting for eight years and has already achieved a status many strive for all their lives”), Dredge became gradually disillusioned by gallery pressures for saleable paintings - and particularly by the critical perception that she was a successful painter amongst women, rather than simply amongst painters. Between 1980 and 2001 she produced many works but exhibited few - a choice which Max Dingle describes as “a very private but nonetheless significant stand in support of the art-

ist’s right to determine the direction and reception of their art”. Would Margaret Dredge have cemented a more prominent place for her work had she received different critical or gallery support? We will never know; but skill and talent alone are rarely enough to sustain an artist’s trajectory. Those who have experienced lasting success can almost always point to those whose help along the way has been essential. While mentioning regional galleries and strong, uncompromising exhibitions, the Campbelltown Arts Centre hosted an exceptional show earlier this year of works by Suzanne Archer. The “exceptional” label applied not only to the work on display, but to the extraordinary creative commitment shown by the gallery to the display process itself. Entire rooms were painted black and knife-edge precision lighting used to create an environment of otherworldly immersion. Suzanne’s work - under the exhibition title of “Conversations with the Devil Woman” - was a darkly intriguing journey through painted symbolism, complex ceramic portraiture and collections of voodoo-reminiscent sculptural objects. Suzanne has remained steadfastly committed to her explorations of mortality and the detritus of earthly remains for many years. By the time this article is published, a further exhibition of her work should be on show at the Janet Clayton Gal-


lery in the Danks Street complex. Jumping sideways, but staying with the theme of commitment, this year’s Gallipoli Art Prize was awarded to a large and very painterly rendition of a dog wearing a gas mask. This image by Melbourne artist Peter Wegner was no work of whimsy, but a thoughtful and poignant comment on the use of animals in war. Peter commits himself to projects over periods of years and that’s certainly true of his series of small portraits of the surviving Rats of Tobruk. One of these works, all of which are exquisite in their intimacy and humanity, was accorded the honour of being included in the UK’s BP Portrait Prize last year. It’s one of the most significant international portraiture prizes and only one Australian (John Beard) has ever previously had a work included. At the same time, Peter has been drawing and painting portraits of his friend Graham Doyle continuMargaret Dredge, No’s Doorway, 1997, acrylic on canvas, 122 x 152.5cm. M G Dingle & G B Hughes Collection. Photograph by Max Dingle


ously for over twenty years - a documentation of physical and mental strength and frailty as Graham struggles with ongoing schizophrenia and the challenges of ageing. A suite of drawings featuring Graham was recently acquired by the AGNSW, but the commercial returns for such focused works are not always reliable and once again it should be said that the unwavering support of Stuart Purves of Australian Galleries has encouraged the continuity of Peter Wegner’s practice.

ture artists through times of challenge as well as achievement. That combination of the determined vision of an artist and the clear-minded commitment of those who provide practical support is alchemy of the best and most productive kind.

© Media Management P/L 2013

So it’s time to close the circle and return to Elisabeth Cummings and the Wedderburn gift; to stand in a gallery surrounded by paintings with years of history attached and sense the network of conviction behind them - to witness on canvas the evolution of the artist. Here is what the Wedderburn opportunity blossomed into; here is what the commitment of Barbara and Nick Romalis made - at least in part - possible. We’re standing looking at Elisabeth’s studio - not in real life, but in painted form - “Journey Through the Studio” from 2004. This landmark work is the centrepiece of an exhibition of Elisabeth Cummings’ works from 1982 to the present day at King Street Gallery on William. And as we move around the exhibition and absorb the unique visual language of a remarkable painter, we are compelled to reflect on the elements which combine to make potential become reality; the things which nurPeter Wegner, Dog with Gas Mask, 2013, oil on canvas, 102 x 138cm. Courtesy of the artist and Australian Galleries. Photograph by Alison Mackay


Elisabeth Cummings, Journey Through the Studio [diptych], oil on canvas, 175 x 300cm. Courtesy of the artist and King Street Gallery.

Introducing the 2 Danks Street Award for Art Criticism

The 2 Danks Street Award for Art Criticism has been established by the permanent galleries of 2 Danks Street Waterloo to foster new writing on, and extend discussion about, the visual arts. This award is initially being given for writing about exhibitions at galleries in the 2 Danks Street complex. In subsequent years, the intention is to extend the award to exhibitions in other Sydney based commercial or private contemporary art galleries.

For art writer and academic Prue Gibson, “ it’s really important that we start to think about writing in a more experimental way, a more performative way, so that the writing functions not only as a response to the artwork but so that it also stands on its own. So, I’ll be looking for that among the entries! I’ll be looking for the kind of writing that has evolved alongside the art that is evolving out there. “

The prize is open to new writers to write a review of between 1,000 and 1,500 words about an exhibition from a permanent 2 Danks Street Gallery during during June, July or August 2013.

In the words of Artist Profile editor Owen Craven, “With this competition specifically, there is the opportunity to speak to gallerists, because they are art dealers but they are also curating the exhibitions, and they can therefore give you an insight into the artist’s practice. On another level, Artist Profile is a lot about Q&A style conversations with artists. Artists are the best people to inform writers and audiences about the how’s and why’s of their work, which in turn up-skills a viewer and a writer to be able to approach and contextualise and evaluate from their perspective and develop a nice new form of writing. The artist is probably most often forgotten about in a critical review.”

Initial entries will be shortlisted by 2 Danks Street Gallery Directors. At least two Directors will assess each entry. The shortlist will be submitted to an independent panel including Candice Bruce, Owen Craven, Pru Gibson and John McDonald. The winning entry will receive a cash prize of $1,000, publication in All For Art and Art For All, an exhibition review published in Artist Profile (Issue 24 or 25) – content decided in discussion with the Editor. The closing date for entries is 30 August 2013. For further information and entry form follow this link: http://www.2danksstreet.com.au/press.php

Artist Helen Eager launched the award at 2 Danks Street on Friday 14 June: “The 2 Danks Street Award for Art Criticism is a wonderful opportunity for new writers and through them it will provide a voice for many artists.”


Bridget Kennedy and Janet Clayton

Prue Gibson

Owen Craven and Helen Eager

An interview with Amanda Rowell Georgia Booth

Amanda Rowell opened The Commercial in Redfern in June 2012 after ten years as gallery manager at Roslyn Oxley9. I spoke to her about the relevance of the gallery space, representing emerging artists, and taking risks to change art.

GEORGIA BOOTH: Why did you decide to leave Roslyn Oxley9 to open your own gallery? AMANDA ROWELL: I had been there for a long time, ten years, and it felt time to move on. There were quite a lot of changes going on with my life; I was leaving a long-term relationship with someone I lived with. That’s how I found the building, I was looking for somewhere to live. It was the only place I looked at (without me really looking). It came from the building, really. G: What’s behind the name The Commercial? A: It seems straight to the point, I like the directness of it. It sounds better than the ‘Amanda Rowell Gallery.’ I was interested in transparency; it seems with galleries everyone skirts around the issue, the commercial aspect of them. It’s only one part of what commercial galleries do but I liked the honesty of it. It’s quite funny. G: It’s very witty.

A: Yeah, I liked the playfulness of it. When I was planning different aspects of the gallery, I was thinking about the look of it and the feel of it and how it worked with language. I was thinking about domain names with The Commercial I was sort of punning on the double ‘dot com.’ G: Apart from the fact that you like what they produce, do the artists you represent have anything in common? A: All the artists are very distinctive individuals, that’s something I really look for. They all have a singular voice. They don’t follow fashion. I don’t tend to look for it but they all have a real interest in materials. They are very idiosyncratic. G: Why did you choose to represent emerging artists? Were you worried about the risk? A: Yes definitely, it was a risky decision, probably not a great business decision but I have low overheads and the building is very cheap. There is a certain naivety to it. It just seemed more interesting - we could have gone around to other galleries and picked up artists elsewhere but it might not have changed anything, made any impact, I guess. G: You’re already established in the industry, so with this gallery you can use your name to give the artists’ exposure.


A: That’s right, I know different people and am well known, so there is that advantage. I’ve been on the back foot with publicity but there were pieces in the New York Times and Frieze Magazine. People have been really supportive; there is a lot of good will for it, which I’m sure will run out soon [laughs]! People are curious and interested.

a strong viable market for the work they wouldn’t touch them.

I was still working at Roslyn [Oxley9]’s up until two weeks before I opened and this crazy rumour mill started going around so I didn’t have to write a press release.

G: I like the contradiction in your name - your gallery is called The Commercial yet your decisions aren’t always commercially inclined.

G: Can you describe your role to the artists – are you a mentor, a manager? A: All those things I guess, and a friend hopefully. It’s a very intense relationship, there’s a lot of managing necessary. Some of the mid-career artists I’m working with maybe haven’t had the attention they deserve because of the tendency not to promote themselves, not to play the game. Perhaps too they are so utterly idiosyncratic that they have trouble finding a place for themselves, or Australia is a too small a place for them to be held aloft. For me, each project is about bringing them to the fore and creating a market for their work. That may not happen to a large extent but may bring curatorial and critical interest to them. Again that’s what a lot of galleries don’t do; if they can’t see

Someone like Tim Schultz, who has been working since the early ‘80s and is an extraordinary artist and amazingly unfashionable - I feel strongly that if he lived in America or the UK, he’d be famous.

A: Yes, there’s irony there - I hope it’s not completely ironical though! G: Chippendale has become something of an art hub, with a number of galleries opening in the last couple of years. Are the galleries in Chippendale doing anything different to galleries in other areas? A: Mclemoi is a good example, as is Anna Schwartz. Anna Schwartz is less about turning over sales and more about doing big showcases. Mclemoi - they are doing a tricky thing, having mostly a young American program and they’re quite expensive, around $30000 a piece. In this market, when the artists are not well known names, that’s really hard. You go to openings and know no one there. It’s more the sports and fashion crowd. But they choose to open in this area because it’s a


installation view: Tim Schultz - Blood Red Make-up Under the Armpits, 2012 | at The Commercial Gallery, Sydney (photo credit: Jessica Maurer)


really interesting area, with interesting buildings, lots of restaurants and bars opening. The low rent is a major factor. The galleries tend not to be blue chip, except Anna Schwartz. But it is tricky getting the eastern suburbs to come over. You don’t get collectors coming to galleries so much anymore, a lot of it is online. I’ve really noticed in the last ten years what currency art collectors have as arts administrators. So now you’d find those who were all the big buyers on the boards of museums, and their time is so taken up with that. The market has shifted, and it’s about constantly trying to find new clients who are not in that tight network. G: Collectors are increasingly seeing artworks online before visiting a gallery, sometimes not even seeing the works face-to-face before purchasing. Has this changed your relationship with clients? A: I’ve spent a lot of time and money on the website and people do buy after only seeing it online, maybe with a phone call too. The biggest collector from Roslyn would spend over a million dollars with her and never see the work.

G: You would think that moment with the artwork, seeing it in the flesh would be very important. Has this changed because we’re so used to seeing images on the web, we don’t need that intimate experience anymore? A: Yes, it’s also a trust thing with the gallery. If a collector trusts a dealer then it’s a leap of faith. The website is the vehicle for the relationship. I do a lot of professional photography, what I can afford, try get things up early on the website, document the shows a month early if possible. The artists don’t understand it at all - I’m always pushing, pushing, pushing to get the work ahead of time to get people from the eastern suburbs here. I spend a lot of time getting pictures of the exhibitions - detail shots, from different angles, it’s not just one shot of the exhibition. I’m trying to interpret the work with the camera for the viewer. The website is a stock system as well so you can get all kinds of understanding of the work which you may not get otherwise. With Schutlz’s work, if I just put up the recent body of work you’d be


like, ‘whoa.’ But if you look back at his previous work, you can see how much he changes. He’s an incredibly intellectual artist and I want people to get a sense of his variety. G: The website is easy to navigate and simple – a quality which I think is sometimes overlooked. A: It’s hard to be simple - you’ve got to be very obsessive and insistent with the programmer. The insistence of precision. G: Do you think having a space to see art will become less important over time? A: People keep asking me that - no I don’t. The optimum way of engaging with art is having it in your living space. Art is about that experience, having it around you, you have such varied extremes. I want to have art around me so I see it in different ways. That’s why I don’t like museums, that kind of engagement with art. So I don’t put little red dots on the walls and I don’t print out price sheets. I want to give a kind of viewing experience that doesn’t include that kind of thinking: oh, there’s a red dot on the wall, she’s sold that one, and looking at the piece of paper etc. I’m also quite amused by the directness of the gallery - you are walking down the street and the art is just there - people walk past and just double take. I like that unexpected vision.

Having the gallery space is very important but I want to shift what that is. So it’s nothing to do with the internet, or pop up spaces; I’m trying to create an aesthetically experientially rich situation in which you can engage with art. On that very dumb kind of level. G: So within the gallery, it’s one kind of experience which is not marred by distraction from the piece and then at home on your computer you have a different experience, with an abundance of information about the artist and his past and other works. A: Yes. The gallery itself is a very important social vehicle for the community. I’ve got clients who will see a show two or three times and stay for half a day. The casual chit-chat - its fun.


Amanda Rowell at The Commercial

Collective Vision Lisa-Marie Murphy

It all started one sunny day in Bundanon, Arthur Boyd’s idyllic property on the NSW South Coast. My husband and I were at an Arthur Boyd appreciation weekend hosted by the University of Sydney. Immersed in his art, we saw his house, studio and walked along the Shoalhaven River where he painted his landscapes. With long dinners under his huge paintings, debating his art over a few good reds, we were totally absorbed. Out of that weekend came a friendship with two engaging and energetic septuagenarians, who had been avid art collectors for the past 50 years. Never ones to slow down, they had just decided to form a collaborative art-collecting group with friends and family. The timing was perfect – they were looking for one more member or couple to join, and we needed no persuasion. We had been art enthusiasts for many years but, like many, hadn’t yet had the courage to make our first serious purchase. The contemporary art world seemed too unknown, we weren’t confident about what was good, didn’t know where to start collecting and our funds were limited. It was that chance encounter at Bundanon that led to the start of Hawkesbury One, a collaborative art-collecting group of friends. Members ranged from collectors with many years’ experience and knowledge of the art world, gallerists, artists and art teachers to non-art world members like us.

Amongst us were journalists, public servants, lawyers, doctors and pharmacists, all united by a love of contemporary art. So how did it go? So well, in fact, that 10 years on we have started a new Sydney-based group called Tank Stream with 10 different members. We’re still in our first year of collecting, so we’re somewhere between ‘forming’ and ‘storming’, with the ‘norming’ hopefully just around the corner. We know, too, from our Hawkesbury One experience that it’s a journey - as the group’s exposure to art increases, our perceptions of art will change and our appreciation of it will become more sophisticated and more nuanced. As Tank Stream group members Georgina and Steve Connell say, “joining an art-collecting group for us is all about discovering new artists and the exchange of ideas between group members. The group provides the opportunity to take an active interest in the works of emerging artists, meeting the artists, visiting various galleries and purchasing their works that we normally wouldn’t be able to afford. Plus it’s a great fun way of spending time with people who also love art!” So far in our first year we have bought works by Janet Laurence, Ross Laurie and Sean Cordeiro


and Claire Healy. We’ve admired and been tempted by Alex Seaton’s marble sculptures, Jess MacNeil’s videos and Simryn Gill’s works on paper. We’ve had the privilege of hearing artists like Jude Rae, Liam Benson and Stevie Fieldsend talking about their art. We have had a wonderful welcome from Sydney galleries too. We’ve run group tours to RoslynOxley9, Sarah Cottier, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Jensen, Sullivan & Strumpf, GBK, Damien Minton, Breenspace, The Commercial, MOP, Galerie Pompom, Artereal and White Rabbit. Along the way we’ve all met the many wonderful gallerists who speak so eloquently about their artists. So is it all just hunky dory, or are there challenges as well? Well the ‘forming’ stage is great, everyone comes together with terrific enthusiasm and a shared spirit of goodwill as we launch ourselves into the art world. But then come the all-important decision-making times, where viewpoints differ and tastes diverge – the ‘storming’. Do we only operate in the primary market? How should the conservation of a sculpture, cross-stitch or photographic work influence our decision? What happens if the group buys something we don’t like? Will I get out-voted and how will that feel? But over time we’re getting into a groove - the ‘norming’- we’re hammering out our shared vision,

we’re getting quicker at making decisions and as we do so our collection is growing into something of which we are proud. So how do we choose the art works? Our group’s constitution provides for a majority vote on buying works. Artists are nominated at group meetings and members are encouraged to get out and see the artist’s works while on exhibition. With 11 members, six ‘yes’ votes are required for any purchase. Decisions are made by an online poll of members, which helps if we need to move quickly before a work is sold. Views are aired and debated and opinions are expressed on the artist and their work at group meetings and over email. This process is not without controversy! Once a work is purchased, it is rotated through members’ houses every four months. In ten years’ time we’ll wind the group up. The collection will be valued and auctioned internally with each member using their share of notional dollars to bid for works. Any unsold works will be sent to a public auction, although by that time members have often become so attached to the artworks there are none left to sell. Everyone’s personal response to the artworks is different, but in a way it is this difference that enlivens the group. Of course the highlight of being


in the group is the artworks we’ve purchased, but what adds to this enjoyment is the journey we went on to acquire them – how we first heard about the artist, the preview, the opening night, the process of choosing, hearing how the artwork is travelling through other member’s houses and the reactions it generates from guests and visitors who see it on their wall. And surprisingly, it’s sometimes the works that you wouldn’t have bought yourself, that gradually, after being hung on your wall for a while, become the ones you are most passionate about. You’ve had the time to come around to the artist’s idea, and appreciate the work all the more for it being a challenge. These are the experiences an individual collector may not have. There are challenges in buying as a collective. It can be difficult to get to opening nights mid-week and to put in the time to build up our collective knowledge. We can tap into a diversity of ideas and knowledge, but as everyone is personally financially involved to an agreed annual amount, the stakes are higher. Members realise that to make the group work they need to allow themselves time to get used to an idea, they need to see the whole exhibition and, preferably, talk to the artist or their gallerist before voting on a work. But what always surprises me is the willingness of

members to remain open-minded, to step outside their comfort zone and to embrace something quite different to their initial expectations. As members encounter art every day so the whole collective aesthetic lifts. And along the way we get access to great artists and great art we would not otherwise be able to collect.


Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healy, Car Bomb, 2012, cotton, cross stitch, 18.1 x 41 cm

Don’t mention the art Chloe Watson

I remember my first visits to galleries as a child of five or six. My sister, my best friend and I spent a lot of time at Legge Gallery openings in those days, collecting beer bottle tops from the gravel lined outside garden, trying not to disturb Ian Gunn’s goldfish. We ran around the spaces listening to the sound of our feet reverberating off concrete floors and white walls. We didn’t notice the works much. We were so caught up in our important tasks – placing red dots just right beside canvas rectangles, drawing our own pictures on serviettes and scraps of paper. By the time we started realising that there was art involved we also decided that we were no longer interested, and for much of my early teenage years I refused to join my parents in their outings. Of course, something obviously rubbed off. I have found myself back within the fold, studying art at university, working at Utopia Art Sydney, actually paying attention to the objects around me and finding them rather interesting after all! That said, like many people working in commercial galleries, it can be hard to find the time to get out and visit other exhibitions. I decided that for this edition of All For Art it was imperative that I see some of the art I had been missing out on, and have a go at putting my experiences as a gallery goer (as opposed to gallery worker) down in words. So on a misty Tuesday morning my mother and I set off to

visit three Sydney galleries, enjoying each other’s company and conversations with the gallerists we encountered on our way - not to mention the art! Our first stop was Peter Sharp’s exhibition ‘Sticks and Stones’ at Liverpool Street Gallery. Even after working in a gallery for three years, I can’t quite get over the intimidation factor when entering a space for the first time - hearing my footsteps echo and the rustle of papers from behind the long counter at the end of the room. But the art on the walls immediately struck a chord, and Sarah Hetherington, the woman behind the counter, proved a lovely and unassuming guide to Peter’s work - charcoal drawings, paintings in oil and acrylic on linen panels and carved and painted wooden sculptures, inspired by the arid landscape of Fowler’s Gap in far north-western NSW. This spectacular desert landscape has inspired many Sydney artists, thanks in part to COFA’s artist residency program at the Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station, and initiatives such as ‘Not the Way Home’ – an expedition to the station by thirteen artists, including Sharp and the likes of Elisabeth Cummings, Joe Frost and Guy Warren, which culminated in group exhibitions at the S.H. Ervin Gallery and Stella Downer Fine Art in mid2012. Of the works in Sharp’s exhibition, I was


particularly taken by the sculpture, whose raw surfaces and combinations of found and made forms had a totemic quality that played well against the lyrical, layered shapes of the paintings and drawings. In terms of Sharp’s process, it was interesting to discover that he had developed his larger paintings and sculpture from initial small sculptures created using objects found at Fowlers Gap, “basically stones and twigs and string, almost like ritual sculptures.” Sharp made sketches of these forms within the desert landscape, and in the larger paintings there is that sense of jutting silhouette and the three dimensional form, flattened, which could at once be the contours and landmarks of that country or the found abstractions of Sharp’s “ritual sculptures”. Coming full circle then, the large sculptures in this exhibition balanced carved markings of landscape against the natural grain of the wood and its painted surfaces. For example, the tapering line of “Level”, painted black and carved with horizontal bands revealing the raw wood, conjures up water lines on dry creek edges, and the ritual markings of indigenous ceremony. It is interesting to see how strong an influence Indigenous Australian art and culture has had on the visual language of nonindigenous artists such as Sharp, and certainly his distillation of essential forms from the landscape and his totemic structures owe much to that tradition. Peter Sharp, Level, 2013, two pieces of hand sawn timber, one painted, 229 x 34 x 20cm. Courtesy of the artist and Liverpool Street Gallery.


After saying our farewells to Sarah and hearing a bit about her time at the Hong Kong art fair, we continued on our way, back out onto the streets of Darlinghurst and into that long-loved institution that is Watters Gallery, to be greeted by Frank in a cacophony of blue, with his dog Nellie by his side. On the walls, John Smith’s show ‘Fish in the Water, Clouds in the Sky, the Man in the Moon,’ scrawling, layered things from which almost-figures emerge amongst the lines left by charcoals, pencils and coloured aquarelles. In the words of Sonia Legge, “whether John Smith’s paintings are inspired by the heavens, the sea, by letters or numbers it is the flickering marks themselves that captivate us.” These were delicate, soft pictures and I enjoyed looking, getting lost in Smith’s intimations of a child-like narrative, as I tuned in and out of conversation about the possibility of growing Datura in Frank’s roof top garden, that sanctuary that I have ascended to in years gone by with wonder and awe, climbing the stairs past a network of ever extending galleries and storage racks brimming with art. Today, we only made it up one flight of stairs, to a second exhibition of steel sculpture by Leo Loomans. The first work that immediately caught my attention was the two and a half metre tall, “Agape (Timeless)”. Solid and grounded, it also moved into the surrounding space, like a figure leaning at an open door. I was struck by the sumptuousness of its surface. Between the whimsical edges of this object, curving, coalescing, climbing like stairs, a whole other conversation was occurring with oiled steel and rusty tones along weld lines. Other works in Loomans’ show are light and nimble, composed of delicate dancing lines that unite disparate parts – here a horseshoe, there an anvil, Leo Loomans, Agape (the Timeless), 2013, oiled steel, 255 x 62 x 48cm. Courtesy of the artist and Watters Gallery.


now a form that might have been found amongst a pile of rusty tools but may also have been forged straight from the artist’s imagination. All of these pieces make the steel a molten medium, retaining its dynamism whilst investing it with a painterly gravity. I walked out of Watters feeling a little lighter. Our last stop of the day was Darren Knight Gallery. Chloe Wolifson had buzzed us in and we stopped for a while at the entry and chatted with her about the peculiar trial of working with video art – not making the stuff, but spending each day listening to an eight-minute loop ad infinitum. Soon we found ourselves amongst the luscious, almost lascivious oil paintings of Patrick Hartigan – fleshy nudes reclining into pyramidal Patrick Hartigan, No Legs (After Muybridge), 2013, oil on board, 51 x 40.5cm. Courtesy of the artist and Darren Knight Gallery.

landscapes, homages to Manet and Muybridge, a portrait of Christ thrown in for good measure. Unframed and raw, these paintings were cracked on the surface and resting on nails. In the works we sensed something of what the artist describes as “the feeling of being pressed upon by all those nudes and Venuses, by the memory of my father’s decaying body and by the small wooden Christ sculptures in the mountains of Slovakia.” There is a closeness, an intimacy to these paintings that invests the paint itself with a corporeality, as the figure becomes more and more abstract. “Latticework” sits perfectly on the borderline between abstraction and figuration as soft, pink curves of human flesh are incorporated into the flat lines of a triangle. The contorted body of “No Legs (After Muybridge)” evokes the 19th century sequential photographs of a young amputee lifting himself off a chair in a moody, nebulous language of broad brush-strokes. Phewph. There we go. I had done it - visited galleries other than the one I work at every day, and actually tried to put my mind to forming words around the art I saw. I needed a drink, but it was only one o’clock in the afternoon. I settled on the beer bottle top I found, disarded, at the edge of some bushes a few metres away from the gallery. I put it in my pocket. Some things don’t change.

Waratah Lahy talks Paris Olivia Welch

At the end of 2012 Waratah Lahy spent three months at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. OLIVIA WELCH: Paris is a city filled with many galleries, museums and artistic avenues. Were there any exhibitions in particular that you found inspirational or intriguing in terms of your own practice? WARATAH LAHY: I saw so many museums and galleries while I was in Paris – I think my count was up around 70 when I left! Most of the museums had amazing collections and I saw a lot of fantastic artwork. I especially appreciated being able to experience work that is historically important and which has contributed to the development of art (and painting) as we know it. Favourite exhibitions would have to include Edward Hopper at the Grand Palais and Gerhard Richter at the Pompidou. My favourite museums were the Musée

Carnavalet, Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature and some of the collections at the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée du Louvre and the National Gallery in London. Some paintings were so good I had to keep going back to visit them – my favourite is Still Life: Quarter of Beef (Nature morte : le quartier de viande vers) by Monet. Also paintings by Millet, Courbet, Vuillard and Corot. I was less impressed by the contemporary art I saw around Paris and in terms of exhibitions have seen much more engaging work here in Australia. On several occasions residents at the Cité would have open studios and the work I saw there was much better than what I saw in the galleries. O: Your oeuvre has thus far been concerned with the act of looking. How has the work that you completed during your stay at the Cité Internationale des Arts either continued or extended this fascination?

'Rodin Museum' 2013, oil on ca

anvas, 35 x 33cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Brenda May Gallery


W: I’m still processing the experience but I think my residency at the Cité had a definite impact on my work and I can imagine it will influence me for a long time to come. The experience of being able to see incredible art works that I’ve only known through reproductions was mind-blowing and I feel like I earned a whole new visual arts degree through just looking. It was wonderful to be able to see the colours properly, the brushstrokes, the texture of the paint and the real size of the works. I was also able to engage with the materiality of paint in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without being there. I’m still interested in the act of looking and I think my time in Paris has changed the way I engage with the act of looking and observing. I’m still figuring it out, but I think perhaps that up until now the way I’ve been looking at people and places

has been very much as an observer. I’ve been involved in what I see but I’ve also kept a distance. I think a shift has occurred in that now I feel much more involved in what I’m seeing, and I guess it’s evident through the amount of information I’m including in my paintings. I’m not isolating specific figures or details, I’m trying to describe a whole scene and have started using paint in a way that suggests the feeling of the place rather than just a physical description. I’ve been enjoying the shift to painting on canvas because it poses new problems, but I’m also keen to see how I can incorporate what I’ve been learning with my fascination for painting on glass and other objects O: Whilst completing your residency, what was a highlight for you artistically? W: The highlight of the residency was definitely the


opportunity to see so much art! I met a lot of other artists from all over the world and it was interesting to see who people responded to being in Paris. Some artists spent very little time looking at museums and galleries and instead stayed working in their studios but I was very much in the contingent that wanted to see as much as possible! O: How has this experience at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris influenced your practice since returning home to Canberra?

I tried learning French before I left but it was minimal. People in Paris were very patient with my attempts and would correct my pronunciation - it definitely helped to always try speaking in French! I was very pleased to be able to conduct my entire transaction at the food markets in French and thought it was hilarious when the Vietnamese stall-holder (who could speak fluently) told me in perfect English how well I’d done!

W: I think the experience has given me a lot of new direction and has shown me how much I want to learn about painting. There’s so much to learn! It’s given me a different kind of confidence in my practice – if I’d had the opportunity to spend time in Paris earlier I’m not sure if I would have been ready to engage with art in the way that I have. I was able to see more because I’ve had time to develop my own way of working, and I think now that I’m back the memories of what I saw will keep informing my approach. O: You were in Paris for a couple of months during the residency, are there any Parisian idiosyncrasies that you found humorous, confronting or perhaps influential? W: I was in Paris for three months and I have to say everyone I met was very friendly and helpful.

Waratah Lahy in Monmartre, Paris


In Conversation with Suzanne Archer Jessica Holburn

Suzanne Archer lives and works in Wedderburn, Sydney. A continuation of the abject art movement, her oeuvre is characterised by explorations in expulsion, anti-narcissism and depictions of unconventional subject matter that reject societal norms. Perhaps what makes Archer’s work sustain our interest over time is the way in which even the artist herself cannot predict where her work will go next. JESSICA HOLBURN: In your artist talk with Hanna Kay earlier this year you spoke about “finding the picture in the process”. Does this imply that your art practice is a kind of instinctual journey for you? SUZANNE ARCHER: My work practice is a combination of lots of varied reading, collecting images from all kinds of sources, collecting objects from all kinds of situations from walking in the bush to visiting secondhand shops. I surround myself with a visually stimulating studio environment and that often finds its way in to the work. I will start a painting with enough of an idea to begin roughly mapping it out then, from that point, I rely on a combination of intuition and reflection which is often followed by

a decisive intellectual decision to move images or reinforce them, but could just as easily bring about a complete overhaul. And so the surface gets its own history and texture. J: Red, black and white are such dominant colours in your work. Is colour always a conscious choice for you or can it be incidental? S: On returning to my studio after my trip to China a lot of gold entered my palette (intuitively) and resulted in some of the recent paintings having the red, gold, black bias. I have begun another large painting with a different colour palette but because it is in progress I’m not sure that it will stay that way or change. It also is leaning in the direction of a slight change in imagery as this time it comes from the new installation as its subject. J: Do any particular writers or philosophies inspire your work, if so whom or what? S: I read a huge variety of books, they pile up on my studio floor beside my comfortable chair and the pile is constantly added to as is the neighbouring piles of contemporary


Installation view: Conversations with the Devil Woman, Campbelltown Arts Centre


J: Can you elaborate about some of your favourite artists? You have said that Goya and Francis Bacon have been key inspirations for your work. How so?

Back-Pack, 2012, plaster, acrylic paint, found canvas back-pack, 35 x 33 x 23cm

art magazines. Some books I read from the beginning to the end. Others I dip in and out of, grasping snippets of information. I have been reading books that relate to my obsession with the Self such as A Life in Pieces by Richard K. Baer, a study of a woman with multiple personality disorder and The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves by Siri Hustvedt who looks at the relationship between mind and body. I am always searching for anything that will provide imagery and enrich my imagination.

S: I remember seeing the Goya painting “The Witches Sabbath” as a young person and even choosing it for a transcription exercise at art school in the 1960s. This work with its dark subject and dark ground with almost theatrical lighting touched me then and has always remained with me as a strong inspiration, as have the images of the “Disasters of War” etchings with their representation of macabre acts of man’s cruelty. I first became aware of Francis Bacon in the 1960s and it was a shock as a young artist to see such incredible paintings that both repelled and enthralled. Now I find myself looking for ways to both disturb and fascinate! Certainly visiting the recent Francis Bacon exhibition at the AGNSW was inspiring. It was great to see those paintings of the Pope after Velasquez with their screaming heads and the “Study for Portrait II (after the Life Mask of William Blake)” 1955 and “Head II” 1949 that was barely recognisable as a head, yet more headlike in a grotesque rendering of mouth and flesh! J: Like Francis Bacon, you have adapted the image of a mouth agape to your own personal


lexicon. In the concertina books, the mouths seem to be in a dialogue with one another. In other instances, the mouths are laughing and in others, the mouths seem to express existential horror, the image of pain and terror we have become accustomed to since Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. Does the mouth always symbolise a multiplicity of meanings for you, or is it re-contextualised and evolving with each new representation? S: There is something so physically expressive about the mouth - its malleability, the ability silently to convey emotion, the frown, smile, wink. Add the sound, abstract noise, groans, coughs, sneezes, and you embellish the audience’s experience. Add language and words with their infinite meanings, multilayered in interpretation, and the mouth at one moment confounds, shocks, confuses, disturbs and at another amuses, inspires and informs. For me the mouth has the capacity to engineer such strong responses in its viewer, both in the audience and in the self through the mirror! J: Your large-scale painting “Transformation” and sculptures such as “Sack” and “Back-Pack” seem reminiscent of mummification. They almost form a kindred group upon viewing them as an installation together. The bags are these kinds of cadavers, or “evacuated skins”, if you will, that are transformed

and reincarnated. The moulded, borderline-totemic forms enclose so many sensations. They speak of a foreign Other, ritualism, oppression, suffocation, concealment, deviance, even evil. As Lily Hibberd suggests, the hooded forms are imbued with cultural implications of Abu Ghraib, Ku Klux Klan, ghosts, the hijab, witchcraft, etc. This all began with your urge to place a pillowcase over your head. In our image-obsessed, photoshopped culture, do you think there is a kind of freedom in the hiding of ones own image, to exile the self from judgement, or is the hiding of one’s image another form of subjugation? S: The sculptures such as “Back-Pack” particularly imply a disturbing image of a hood/mask/sinister head-covering. I initially wanted to disguise my recognisable image with a covering that would make me anonymous and yet could also infer a psychological interpretation. This for me is part of the covering of the person and the uncovering of the soul, the inner self. Once I had covered myself with the pillowcase, I then explored other ways I could create the layer of artifice that would, ironically, potentially expose another aspect of my self. I have long been interested in primitive art and travelled in Africa where my curiosity has led me to respond to images of witchcraft and totemic ritual objects which, once absorbed into my psyche, became part of my library of experience


with which I inform my works. J: Can you explain a bit about your modelling process? For example, do you plaster around objects first and then take them out so the model stands as an empty vessel? S: With the clay pieces I hand-build them spontaneously allowing the personage to emerge, working and refining the image. Later, after the bisque-firing, I may add other media such as acrylic paint and the lace in Silenced. With PillowCase I constructed a linen form stitched with jute string and then coated it with plaster and painted with layers of acrylic paint. Sometimes I use found objects as a base to start from, reinforcing with plaster and painting with acrylic such as with BackPack. J: The use of linen in your sculpture work, a fabric that is symbolic of domesticity, seems to refer to traditional motherly and wifely duties. Your canvas diptych Conversation features a representation of your caricatured face covered in a floral embroidery tattoo. It’s like you are talking to yourself in this humorous kind of way. In your work there’s always a playful takedown of prettiness as this absurd ideal, but also you’re using it as a point of tension and affliction. Do you think there’s a distinctly feminist aspect to your work or is it more

gender neutral than that? What are your views on the contemporary representation of femininity in art? S: I don’t categorise my work although others might. It is much more personal, about my self. Remember, I am a painter and linen for me also symbolises the support for the painting. I guess I surprised myself in becoming so obsessed with stitching and embroidery. This is not something I would say I have ever enjoyed doing in the past, but somehow it seemed to be the necessary medium for the Pillow-Talk installation. This use of the embroidered pillow at once evokes a ‘cherished resting place’ and an ominous ‘pillow in a casket’. The clay heads on the pillows began to incorporate the embroidery on their flesh in a way reminiscent of tattoos - a decorative embellishment of the skin which often has magical connotations. The embroidered words sometimes informed and at other times were just words that I liked the sound of or look of. All named the individual pieces. A lot of these decisions are intuitively performed during the making process and assessed later and then perhaps consciously revisited. I prefer that my work is regarded as a personal quest, a personal discovery of self. J: Considering some of your recent works in selfreferential portraiture, do you feel that creating


Transformation, 2012, oil & wax on canvas, 240 x 240cm


self-portraits give you a heightened sense of self, or perhaps a kind of “jamais vu” in that you see yourself in a different way that you had not considered or seen before? S: I am endeavouring to find new images as a result of intense focus on sensations of self, on the psychology of self rather than images of self, but I am not intentionally psychoanalysing myself. But of course some realizations are bound to occur when researching old diaries, letters and looking intensely beyond the mirror! J: Anxiety, death, decay, fear and vanity have been dominant explorations in your work, these are confronting themes. Would it be correct to suggest that you deal with these concepts as a kind of catharsis? Does that compulsive process of confrontation make you ultimately more at ease? S: I do not want to suggest that my work is a kind of therapy but then I suppose a lot of what we do can play that role. As I have already mentioned, the inclusion of these subjects in my oeuvre provides me with a fertile space in which to negotiate and dig deeper into subject and to avoid skimming across it. I find provocation has a pithy edge and stimulates my mind pushing me deeper into the absurd, which frees me from repetition and keeps me fully alive in my studio practice - even

surprising myself by what I do! J: Art writers Prue Gibson and Lily Hibberd have each commented on how the disturbing, disquieting nature of your art lies in contrast to your down-to-earth, humorous, comfortable demeanour in their interactions with you. Personally, I have found that, while there is so much seriousness about your work, your charisma as a person and your capacity for humour certainly seeps into your work, leaving only a hint of it, but it’s evidently there. Do you believe that, at the end of it all, it is laughter and humour that is the most captivating and powerful vehicle to redeem us from the pains and pathos of our existence? S: I’d say deep down everyone carries within them the two extremes of happiness and sadness, of seriousness and humour. Making art is a solitary activity when it comes down to it. There I am in the studio with my own thoughts, my own history my own psychology. As I said, when I am working alone there are often moments when I leave a conscious state behind and enter a oneness with the activity of painting or making where my intuition follows its own path. Afterwards, when I am back in a reflective state, I can make some conscious decisions if I want to, and push the direction of the work where I wish. I value the state where I can drift away and surprise myself


with what I do. That is the amazing thing - to surprise oneself and say ‘where did that come from?’ Then I think I learn something, make a discovery and perhaps move forward. Sometimes the work implies a sadness, a struggle, something to surmount. When the work is grounded in that for a while, I usually find myself gravitating to a lightness or playfulness to balance myself again.

Suzanne Archer’s exhibition Conversations with the Devil Woman was at Campbelltown Arts Centre from March 22 – May 22, 2013. Archer’s exhibition Anthology of Absurdity at Janet Clayton Gallery runs until June 29, 2013. Pillow-Hood, 2012, linen, fabric with embroidery, paper, acrylic paint, 43 x 33 x 25cm . All images courtesy of the artist and Janet Clayton Gallery.

Artist Resale Royalty Scheme John R Walker

The government has just announced that it will finally (4 years after the act was passed) be doing a Post Implementation Review of the Artists Resale Royalty Scheme. When announced, the government allowed just 5 weeks for submissions, with a closing date of 12 July. Earlier this year, Senator Gary Humphries (Lib ACT) obtained detailed information, in response to questions on notice, regarding the operations of the Artist Resale Royalty Scheme. The information supplied to Senator Humphries reveals that the scheme is intrinsically unviable without a large amount of cross-subsidy by the tiny minority of artists who have resales worth collecting. The information supplied in parliament (Hansard Record) does not entirely match the information in the PIR Discussion Paper. I have decided to stick to the information in Hansard, as being intrinsically more reliable, than that provided in the Discussion Paper. Following is my letter to Senator Gary Humphries. Here is a link to a more detailed analysis of this issue: http://art-antiques-design. com/2013/06/14/2013-review-of-the-resale-royalty-scheme-a-response-to-theaustralian-governments-call-for-submissions-by-john-r-walker/


John R Walker in his Bradiwood studio. Image courtesy of the artist and Utopia Art Sydney.


Senator Gary Humphries Canberra Centre 148 Bunda Street CANBERRA ACT 2601 Dear Gary, In June, the government will commence a PIR (Post Implementation Review as recommended by the Office of Best Practice Regulation) of the Artist Resale Royalty Act 2009. The answers provided to my initial series of questions show that of the approximately 5,000 royalty payments to December 2012: • the bottom 2,000 royalty payments totaled $115,379 - an average value of $55 each. • the middle, approximately 2,400 royalty payments, had a total value of $396,964 - an average value of about $164 each. • And the top 600 royalty payments had a total value of $296,772 - an average value of $495 each. • The average transaction cost of the scheme is given as $30 which equates to a transaction levy (@%10) on a $300 royalty payment. Most of the scheme’s transactions are well below the current economic-to-collect-and- distribute threshold. Many of the royalty payments (2,000 or 40%) were of an average value of just $55 each and it is likely that the median value for individual royalty payments will be found to be around $100 (or less). Therefore about half of the scheme’s transactions are generating transaction fees that are one third or less of the average transaction cost of $30. [1] Of the top half of individual royalty

payments, many would be between $150 to $300 each. Therefore many of the scheme’s remaining transactions are generating transaction fees that at best break even with the average transaction cost of $30. Currently the scheme’s chances of long-term viability rest on the large cross-subsidy, that is intrinsic to the scheme’s service ‘fee’ structure, growing to the point that it can largely underwrite the costs of most of the work done by the scheme. For good constitutional and legislative reasons this crosssubsidy is voluntary for artist right-holders.[2] The long-term viability of ARR is questionable. Questions / Information needed to better assess the current scheme: 1. What is the median value for individual royalty payments? 2. Excluding situations where there are disputes/questions over who is the legitimate right holder, what is the total value of royalty payments that CAL has been unable to deliver? 3. What has been the total number of, and total value of, individual royalty payments to artists, not registered with CAL, that have been delivered by CAL? 4. What has been CAL’s total expenditure on the delivery of royalty payments to artists who are not registered with CAL?


5. What is the number of, and total value of, royalty payments that have not been made through CAL? ARR is due for a post implementation review in June of this year. As it is currently structured, ARR is vulnerable to reverse economies of scale. The three largest limits on its chances of long-term viability are: • Firstly a collection threshold that is so low ($1,000*) that its costs clearly outweigh its benefits by as much as 5 to 1. Raising the threshold to a more economic-to-collect-and-deliver level is needed to prevent reverse economies of scale. *A $1,000 resale generates a royalty payment of $50 of which CAL charges 10% or $5 towards collection costs. • The second limit on long term viability is the requirement for CAL to collect royalties for artists not registered with CAL. Many of these royalties will always be expensive to deliver and the costs to participants in the scheme must outweigh the benefits eventually delivered to those not registered for the scheme. Constraining collective management to those artists who opt-in, that is artists who choose to register with CAL, is also needed to rein in potential reverse economies of scale. • And the third limit on long term viability is the current ‘fee’ structure. It is an incentive to avoid CAL’s services for delivering large royalty pay-

ments to a right-holder. Allowing artists who have resales of high value (who want any part at all of ARR) leeway to negotiate a collection management cost structure that is more flexible, more related to actual transaction costs, than a fixed 10% contribution may also help. • Question: Will such improvements to the ARR scheme’s cost-benefits and chances of viability be considered by the post implementation review? I would be very grateful if you would present these questions to the relevant minister and department and pursue their responses, particularly in light of the Office for the Arts statement that they will be undertaking the PIR in June this year. Yours sincerely John R Walker [1] Average transaction costs dropping to $10 or less is not likely, unless the scheme is redesigned. [2] Compulsory collective management would make the payment of the collection management fee/cross-subsidy, a duty for artists: an hypothecated tax.

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