Sam Leach Hiromi Tango Angela Tiatia Michael Zavros Natalya Hughes Tan Siuli Alex Seton
FRONT COVER: Sam Leach, Fragonard x ESA, 2020, oil on wood, 50 x 50 cm
DUTY OF CARE TONY ALBERT Canberra Glassworks Curated by Sally Brand With thanks to
11 Wentworth Ave, Kingston canberraglassworks.com T 02 6260 7005 3 firstname.lastname@example.org open Wed to Sun, 10am to 4pm
Contents 08 10 20 22 30 36 40 44 48 54 58 60
Reason/Emotion Sam Leach: Fully Automatic Dreams Podcast: Sam Leach with Andrew Frost Hiromi Tango: New Now Tan Siuli: Violent Attachments Natalya Hughes: In the studio Angela Tiatia: Lick, MCA Acquisition Collectors Perspective: Michael Schwarz Michael Zavros: Look Back Alex Seton: And the Winner is.. Quick Curate: Idols Upcoming Exhibitions
Hiromi Tango, Kimonoâ€™s Will - Heart, 2020, kimino silk and textile, 65 cm x 35 cm
Ursula Sullivan and Joanna Strumpf. Photo credit: Anna Kucera
Reason/Emotion Ursula Sullivan+Joanna Strumpf
How we wish we had the luxury of being bored of Corona. It has affected us each in different ways, from being an inconvenience, to seriously impacting our lives and our livelihoods in ways that we could never have imagined. It makes us consider the effect we have on one another, and the effect of our world on us.
curate an exhibition for us. An academic expert in Asian art and history, she explores the nature of violence and its seemingly permanent place in mankinds’ history and future. The exhibition includes a star-studded line up of artists including Eko Nugroho, Jakkai Sirributr, Lindy Lee, Adeela Suleman and FX Harsono
It is timely that our next two solo exhibitions explore the digital world (Sam Leach) and the emotional world (Hiromi Tango). Artists, as ever, are conduits to the cultural pulse of the world and while both Sam Leach and Hiromi Tango have each spent years developing their visual languages – neither one is merely responding to current affairs – it seems pertinent that the importance of both mental health and our assimilation with technology is at a peak right now. Please enjoy these two very different, very unique artists and their stories.
Warming up to upcoming exhibitions, we look at five works that represent major turning points in the career of Michael Zavros. His upcoming show will be, without a doubt, another major turning point. Additionally, we dig deeper into the studio life of Natalya Hughes ahead of her first solo show with us in September.
A confirmed fan of both of these artists is the passionate collector and long-time friend, Michael Schwarz. He has often happily called us ‘evil temptresses’ and we can now see we are not the only ones! His essay about collecting in the time of COVID is a delight.
We’ve had some reasons to celebrate recently (yay!) including the acquisition of Angela Tiatia’s work Lick, by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; and also the wonderful news that Alex Seton was the Grand Prize Winner of the 2020 Sovereign Asian Art Prize – the first Australian ever to win. We hope you enjoy this issue. – Urs and Jo
In our Singapore gallery, we were thrilled that Tan Siuli – the wonderful former Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Singapore Art Museum – accepted our invitation to
Sam Leach: Fully Automatic Dreams “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” wondered Phillip K. Dick in his eponymous novel of 1968.1 Artist Sam Leach has a likely answer - “Well, yes, probably if you instruct them to.” By Stephen Haley
Sam Leach, Fragonard x NASA, 2020, oil on wood, 50 x 50 cm
Sam Leach: Fully Automatic Dreams
each’s exhibition Fully Automatic evokes many dreams. Digital dreams, utopic techno dreams, musings, wonderings, the dream of landscape painting and, perhaps, even the odd nightmare. These paintings are strange imaginings from an emergent digital age, an age truly unprecedented in human history, so entirely unique to our time, that these works would be impossible in any other era. Yet, despite being spun from the gossamer stuff of dreams, just like the digital itself, these otherworldly images are based in hard materiality and process. To the nuts and bolts then. The artist worked with physicist Dr Matthew McAuley from Belfast to build an artificial Intelligence capable of inventing images. Using algorithms from an Open Source code - DCGAN (Deep Convolutional Generative Adversarial Network) - the artist feeds the AI with a series of images. These are drawn from the history of art and architecture and often pair unlikely bedfellows, among them - Fragonard, Super Studio, Boucher, Archi-Zoom, Bosch and selections from the artist’s own past work.
The algorithm both generates and discriminates. One part ‘looks’ at the constitutive pixels and their surrounds, seeking spatial resemblances and differences to create an image. The other part compares the output with the original dataset to determine whether the image is successful - either ‘fake’ or ‘real’. This is particularly startling and begins to resemble something unsettlingly like consciousness. The generative AI reconsiders its efforts, attempting to predict the next logical painting from prior efforts, hoping to trick the discriminator into classifying it as ‘real’. Hence the ‘Adversarial’ in the DCGAN - both elements of the algorithm question and consider their success adapting their code to ‘improve’ their outputs. This process takes many hundreds of thousands of repeated passes. Early iterations resemble a cloud of dots and even highly-resolved images are smeared, blurred and uncertain. A kind of mechanized, computer generated collage then, but this also sounds disturbingly like an
artist - re-examining their work, shifting to seek new and better results. The machine remains entrapped within the premises presented to it, the raw material chosen by Leach. No android can dream of electric sheep without instruction, at least, not yet. The resulting images are an electro-pixel fog of strange, uncertain visions. These are not precise and mechanistic, but miasma swirls of colour and indistinct form. They are, in fact, evocations of form, not pictures at all. The artist then looks at these electric dreams and imagines back into them. Dreaming back into a dream, he sets about making a painting from them. The artist provides the solidity and certainty they lack, refining, discerning, inventing and amplifying the absences and uncertainties between the smears to produce a final image. Given all this work, the exhibition title is more than a little ironic. This process recalls a previous attempt at full artistic automation, the automatic drawing of Surrealism. Some Surrealist artists attempted to unselfconsciously produce marks, creating images supposedly unfettered by the rational mind to reveal unconscious manifestations. Here, the machine becomes the Surrealist, charged with the first stage of unconscious automatic speculation. The second stage of wilful imagination and image creation is, however, much closer to an older method – one described by Leonardo Da Vinci when he advised artists to create images by looking at “a wall spotted with stains, or a mixture of stones, .. to devise some scene” or to “discover a resemblance to various landscapes...strange faces and costumes, …like the sound of bells in whose jangle you may find any name or word you choose to imagine.”2 Leach is a highly-skilled painter and an adept artist acutely aware of the history of art, science, and the interconnection between these still allied fields. His past works are highly rendered, imaginative visions that surprisingly conjoin a variety of images collaged into a seamless whole that evoke the conditions of our age so why invent such a convolute and complex process? Several reasons I suspect.
Sam Leach, Boucher x Fragonard x ESA, 2020, oil on wood, 50 x 50 cm
Sam Leach: Fully Automatic Dreams
Science and art are linked by experiment. To have a hunch, then set up and test the idea in the physical realm, with the hopes of unexpected discovery is the very stuff of experimentation; common to both science and art. In this sense, these works are experiments in the emerging realm of AI. For me, they also recall the ludic writings of the OuLiPo group, who predetermined set structures to create unimaginable possibilities. Their leader, the polymath Raymond Queneau reportedly remarked the OuLiPo were “rats who devise the labyrinth from which they propose to escape”. (Examples include George Perec’s A Void a 290 page novel without the letter ‘e’ or Queneau’s own Exercises in Style a simple 3 paragraph story told in 100 stylistic variations.)3 Similarly, the restraints imposed here, actually free the artist to invent in paint. The algorithm presents the artist with new and exciting problems for which a solution must be found - how to materially realise these visual conundrums in paint?
These works regard the fundamental changes the digital age has bequeathed upon us. Within art history, this is not unusual - artists often directly address and engage with the possibilities presented by new technologies. As machines began their rise in the 19th Century, Modern artists - from Monet’s railway stations to Duchamp’s bicycle wheel - speculated on these new technologies. The machine age has passed, superseded by the computer age, but in the same manner, progressive artists address this latest iteration of the new. What exactly AIs will be capable of, is still an emerging story. Will they ultimately become Fully Automatic? It has been 23 years since the IBM computer Big Blue defeated then reigning world chess champion and grand master Boris Kasparov. Since then champion humans have been soundly thumped at even more complex games. Watson wins Jeopardy (2011), AlphaGo wins Go (2016). AIs are currently better at diagnosing skin cancers than human doctors,4 and make much faster (and infinitely more sober) article clerks when finding legal precedent.5 It goes on. Now the machines march forth to usurp the intellectual professions and cognitive labour of the 21st century in the same way they overtook physical labour in the 19th and
20th centuries. Some revel in these utopic technological dreams, imagining AIs will ultimately supplant human capability. But, as these paintings reveal, this is not a simple binary. While no human can now beat the world’s best chess computers, these same computers cannot beat a human when paired with another chess computer. In the same way that humans partnered with machines could produce the previously unimaginable automobile, humans, when paired with AIs, will produce the next intellectual possibilities. Apart from being stunningly strange, beautiful, evocations of where we are now, these paintings explore the dream states of digital possibility, the dreams of the machines and, in themselves, become a type of dream machine for those that view them. Fully Automatic launches August 20 at Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney.
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Stephen Haley is a painter and digital media artist with an extensive national and international exhibition history. Selected awards include: The Rupert Bunny Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship, 2016; Australia Council New Work Grant, 2009 and LA residency 2006; Arts Victoria Project Grant, 2012; R & M McGivern Prize for Painting, 2006; ANZ Visual Art Fellowship, 2004; and Deacon, Graham and James/Arts21 Tokyo residency,1998. He is also a writer and a Senior Lecturer at the VCA/University of Melbourne. His work features in numerous public institutions and private collections. Haley is represented by MARS Gallery, Melbourne; Lumas Galleries internationally; and Artitled Gallery, Amsterdam.
Sam Leach bruegel x haus rucker co, 2020 oil on wood 50 x 50 cm (detail below)
Sam Leach All Coortes, 2020 oil on wood 50 x 50 cm
1. Dick, Phillip. K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Doubleday, USA, 1968. Ridley Scott later adapted this novel as the film Bladerunner in 1982 . 2. Leonard Di Vinci, The Notebooks of Leonardo di Vinci, Entry 508 “Developing and Arousing the Mind to Various Inventions”, Trans Jean Paul Richter, London 1888, reissued Project Guttenberg, 2004 3. Perec, George. A Void, (La Disparition) Gaillimard, Paris, 1969 Queneau, Raymond. Exercises in Style, (Exercices de style), Gaillimard, Paris, 1947. 4. https://www.esmo.org/newsroom/press-office/artificial-intelligence-skin-cancer-diagnosis from Annals of Oncology, May 2018 last accessed 19 July 2020 5. If you are in the law, you might be concerned to read: Re, Richard.M. & Solow-Niderman, Alicia: “Developing Artificially Intelligent Justice, Stanford Technical Law Review, 22. 2019. https://law.stanford. edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Re-Solow-Niederman_20190808.pdf
Sam Leach, Multiplane Coorte, 2020, oil on wood, 50 x 50 cm
Podcast - Sam Leach with Andrew Frost
Throughout history, artists have always quoted and appropriated, synthesising the past and (hopefully) creating something new all their own. It is the modus operandi of award winning painter Sam Leach and is exemplified in his controversial Wynne Prize winning work based on a 17th century Dutch painting of an Italianate landscape. No stranger to controversy, Sam Leach is now using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate new imagery based on his own catalogue of work, which he then painstakingly paints. It’s a kind of feedback loop, blending the mystical qualities of paint with digital technology.
+ LISTEN TO PODCAST
The process raises serious questions about the future of art, culture and humanity — or what Sam calls the cultural singularity. Is it a new kind of collaboration between man and machine, giving us a new aesthetic beyond ourselves or has the artist been subjugated to become the machine’s apprentice?
Join Sam and art critic, lecturer and broadcaster Andrew Frost in this timely, thoughtprovoking conversation.
Sam Leach, Boucher x Fragonard x NASA, 2020, oil on wood, 50 x 50 cm (detail on right)
Hiromi Tango, Nature, 2020, neon and textiles, 85 x 18 cm
Hiromi Tango: New Now Hiromi Tango is a Japanese Australian artist whose artistic practice focuses on the exploration of human emotions, informed by research in the area of the emotional science of colour, neuroscience and neuroplasticity. By Dr Patricia Jungfer
Hiromi Tango: New Now
2019-2020 has been a time of substantive change in the Australian community and the world at large. In late 2019, Australia was overwhelmed with bush fires which devastated large areas of Australian native land and many communities. Subsequent to this, Australia and the world were assailed by a pandemic, not seen on this scale since the early 20th century, which has vastly changed our experiences of who we are and how our society operates. Hiromi Tango's current body of work, New Now, is a response to this dramatic time in history and the continued expression of her own journey of self-discovery. Hiromiâ€™s frankness in sharing this emotional journey in her art with the community is empowering and may enable others who engage with her work to acknowledge their developmental experiences and how these impacts on their engagement with others. The exhibition New Now incorporates works that are related to Hiromi's exploration of her Japanese identity and important developmental relationships. Hiromi as an immigrant with roots still in Japan expresses the anxiety of not being able to physically engage with her family during the pandemic. The impact of this barrier is strongly felt by many in the community as we, a nation of travellers are unable to easily explore our cultural roots and maintain physical connections that we may have formed with others across the seas. Hiromi in Nature Nurture: Roots began the journey of exploring her roots and connections. This exploration of who she is, where she has come from and who she is now. The new work, New Now, asks us to reflect and think about what has happened to us as a society and as individuals in this time of change. As is often the case, Hiromi encourages us to see emotional pain and anxiety as a time of growth. Research of neuroplasticity recognises that environmental factors will trigger neuroplastic brain changes, and even those who are not resilient can be taught resilience.
Artists throughout the centuries have documented societyâ€™s and their own experiences of living through a pandemic. The earliest recorded pandemic was in 430 BC in Athens during the Peloponnesian war, where between one third to two thirds of Athens' citizens died. The devastating effect of a pandemic at a time of war has been well documented in these early records of the Peloponnesian wars. In the 14th to 16th centuries, pandemics (the plague being the most known) was portrayed as an invisible enemy, which communities tried to make sense of. Pandemics were seen as a random destructive force where artists portrayed the plague as a punishment from God. Societies evolved and by the 17th to 18th century, artist characterised those who had the plague as sufferers. The audience was encouraged to empathise with the victims of the plague, and it was no longer seen as punishment, but as an experience that descended upon a Edvard Munch. In the early 20th century with the Spanish flu, Munch in his self-portrait portrayed himself with the open mouth scream while recovering from the Spanish flu. How individuals and societies cope with a pandemic has been extensively researched. In the late 20th century work in the area of the psychological reactions to SARS, the swine flu and the Mediterranean respiratory syndrome, looked at how individuals and societies responded. Those societies who as a community had a more collective approach, often adopted protective strategies quite easily. If you look at the work of Hiromi in this exhibition there is an overriding sense of collaboration and connection. Whether it be her densely woven sculptures, where each tendril is tightly packed, engaged, touching the other or in her pencil works, there is the sense of connectedness and community, a reflection of her underlying experiences of coming from a society that often focuses on the collective good rather than the individual.
LEFT: Hiromi Tango. Photo credit: Tim Grey BOTTOM: Hiromi Tango, Roots - Nature Nurture (cocoon seed - awareness), 2019, bronze, textile, Japanese kimono silk, 62 x 28 x 15 cm, 9 x 7 x 8 cm
There is evidence that meditative processes lead to a change in gene expression and that this gene expression can result in neuroplastic change. When looking at the process of meditation, there is the positive change with an increase in the experience of compassion and kindness. I have frequently commented on the work of Hiromi Tango as having a meditative component. Meditative for the observer just as she finds the process of mark making meditative. Hiromi's more recent works, those involving pencil, the infinite small circles that coalesce to form a whole and a whole image are indeed a meditative process. They reduce the experience of anxiety, lead to the development of positive affect which can lead to positive change from a brain functioning perspective. In the works of this exhibition, Hiromi Tangoâ€™s creativity is on full display, creativity in terms of the nature of the work that she presents but also a creative use of common and everyday materials. Light, fibre, paper and pencil, common elements that are found in every home and society. These works are fragile, yet they also reflect a strength. The twisted, wound sculptures have become tight, ordered and organised. Material from her home culture, Japan, is incorporated within these works, bridging a connection between where Hiromi comes from and who she is now in Australian society. Artworks throughout the centuries that have been created in the time of a plague and COVID-19 are almost certainly a plague on our modern society, remind us how fragile life is, how it is temporary and provisional. Hiromi's works are fragile, they are not temporary nor are they provisional, but they reflect the fragility of life and the fragility of what we know. Hiromi, like many Australians came to this country as a wanderer. We have taken for granted our ability to return to where our roots are and we have taken for granted our role within society and the environment at large. Hiromi
Tango's works are always informed by her environment, by science and her own experiences. New Now is a reflection and a continuation of this artistic process. The observer of her art is drawn in to look at the tight spirals that form the sculptures with calming and enticing colours. The audience is then asked to move on, to look at works that have been created with infinite patience, thousands of small circles, almost like the virus that has impinged and intruded in our lives, all coalescing to form a whole. These images are pastel, calming, enticing, relaxing. They have been created in a state of meditation and relaxation to create a whole that hopefully leaves the observer with a sense of calmness and delight. New Now launches September 3 at Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney.
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Hiromi Tango Fragile Heart, 2020 (detail) ceramic, kimono silk and textile artwork: 14 x 20 x 20 cm plinth: 50 cm high x 37
Hiromi Tango Embrace, 2020 ceramic, textile and mirrored perspex 14 x 25 x 31 cm
Hiromi Tango film still, produced by Simon Hewson
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Hiromi Tango Shizuka na nagare (Quiet Flow), 2020 wax coloured pencil and textile 76 x 56 cm THIS PAGE (BOTTOM):
Hiromi Tango Heal, 2020 wax colour pencils, textile 75 x 55 cm NEXT PAGE:
Hiromi Tango Open Heart, 2020 wax colour pencils, textile 75 x 55 cm
Tan Siuli: Violent Attachments Curator Tan Siuli speaks about Violent Attachments, the upcoming group show she is curating for Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore.
Collectively, the artworks in this exhibition explore various notions of and around violence, in particular how mankind’s various attachments are ultimately violent, and how painful histories may be renegotiated, especially those in which violence has become a conditioned part of one’s identity. Adeela Suleman’s delicate miniatures posit violence as endemic, historical, and continuous. Her works draw on the artistic traditions and iconography of classical South Asian art, presenting aestheticised scenes of decapitated figures doing battle as a commentary on the volatile realities of life in contemporary Pakistan. With their references to Mughal painting – commonly feted as Pakistan’s crowning cultural achievement – her
works suggest an illustrious lineage of violence, and one that is embedded in the psyche of the people. Some of these images are served up on vintage dinner plates thrifted from Karachi’s markets, and beautifully framed as decorative vignettes that might decorate a domestic interior. The seepage of these scenes of violence into the home, as well as their aestheticisation, raises troubling questions about the spectacularisation of violence in contemporary media culture, as well as how violence might be rendered ‘palatable’ through representation, and made ‘acceptable’ to a desensitised audience as an intrinsic part of communal or national identity. As a philosophical counterpoint, Lindy Lee’s bronze sculpture is less direct in its invocation of violence, which manifests itself implicitly in the artist’s gesture of flinging molten metal. Here, ‘violence’ is an artistic expression reminiscent of the vitality of abstract expressionist painting as well as the tradition of ‘splashed ink’ paintings in Zen art. Left to chance, the uninscribed ink, paint, or liquid metal acquires its own agency, its seeming formlessness open to a multitude of interpretations. Read in proximity to Suleman’s vignettes, the splattered bronze on the wall mirrors the fountains of blood spurting from the decapitated figures; a visual echo of the clamor of steel on steel. At the same time, Lee’s work evokes an explosive splintering of form – perhaps that of a golden sun - suggesting the eventual decimation or end of life, as well as a ‘big bang’ heralding new beginnings in a cosmic cycle: an end to all things, as well as a coming into being. Much of the work of pioneering Indonesian artist FX Harsono has centered on redressing histories of violence, inflicted by an oppressive regime on the citizenry at large, as well as more insidious and state-sanctioned forms of
Eko Nugroho, Another Coalition #2, 2019, embroidered painting, 271 x 156 cm
Violent Attachments explores the deeply embedded nature of violence, and mankind’s conscious as well as subconscious attachment to violence in its myriad forms. The term has currency in both psychoanalytic and political theory: in 1992, Dr Reid Meloy’s publication of the same name looked at why so much of human violence occurred between people involved in an attachment paradigm. More recently, Dr Hagar Kotef’s similarly titled essay (2019) examined subject positions that are contingent on the exercising of violence on others, and how entire communities and political identities are sustained through these violent arrangements. These texts point to a painful recognition that violence – although widely deplored as abhorrent - may in fact be deeply ingrained in the human psyche, infiltrating our most intimate relationships as well as broader political and social relations. It shapes a sense of self or subjectivity, and the very notion of ‘attachments’ implies the inextricable psychological, social, as well as structural investment in forms of violence.
Adeela Suleman, They Just Fade Away I , 2019, hand-beaten repousse work on brass and copper with polish and lacquer, 95 x 410 cm (overall)
Tan Siuli: Violent Attachments
injustice targeting certain communities. Harsono’s earlier, strident works from the 1970s to 1990s rallied against the state apparatus’s often militant means of oppressing dissenting voices. From the 2000s, however, the tenor and focus of his work shifted to examine a different form of violence: that of the deliberate suppression and erasure of the culture and identity of the Chinese Indonesian community, of which he is a part. This was effected through more subtle, insidious means, such as a national legislation that compelled the community to adopt names that were more ‘Indonesian’, under the pretext of national unity. Harsono’s research has also uncovered histories of physical violence against the ethnic Chinese community in Indonesia - lacunae which he has sought to recuperate and redress through his art. Most poignantly, the charge that his work holds rests on his position precisely as a subject of this violence. In the words of Philip Smith, these experiences “(have) been stamped onto the very question of what it means to be Chinese Indonesian. To escape the trauma of what occurred, if such an escape were even to be possible, would entail cutting away any sense of Indonesian selfhood.” A similar social commentary permeates Jakkai Siributr’s confrontational portraits, simultaneously a critique of mankind’s attachment to trappings of power as well as the superstitious excesses of popular Buddhism in Thailand. Following the convention of the Thai ‘funeral book’ – an album intended to commemorate the achievements of the deceased - Jakkai created a series of self-portraits in uniform, a reminder of the abiding influence of the military and police in everyday life and civil society in Thailand. These are forces of authority with a checkered history, invested with the power to enact punitive measures, the horrific violence of which has been explored by the artist
in other works such as 78 and immortalised in harrowing images of the Thammasat University massacre. Jakkai’s works are hence a commentary on society’s attachment to these forms of power (and abuse of power), as well as the trappings of prestige and position. However, his take is satirical, for his subjects are garlanded with monstrous accoutrements that reference popular talismans designed to ward off envy and danger, and confer on their wearer luck, power and protection. The phalluses – a popular talisman known as the phalad khik – which confront the viewer speak to the vanity and violence of earthly desires (gambling luck, success with women), and the excessive attachment to material things, as opposed to the transcendence advocated by Buddhism. The amulets and protective yantras embroidered onto the subject’s uniform suggest a corrective for unconscionable acts, or a safeguarding against malign intentions and violence. Jakkai’s uniformed subjects appear weighed down by these various emblems of power, and his portraits suggest a desperate guarding against mortality and danger. Likewise, an overwhelming ‘excessiveness’ may be found in the work of Eko Nugroho. His sprawling tapestries depict figures festooned with paraphernalia or various appendages masking their faces, making it difficult to discern their expression and, by extension, their intent. Imagery and iconography are densely layered, drawn from influences as varied as graphic novels and comics, to popular culture and traditional art forms such as wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre). Having lived through remarkable watersheds in Indonesia’s political and cultural history, Eko is keenly conscious of social injustices and several forms of violence, including that against the environment; his art seeks to present his ideas around these issues in a visually accessible style.
One of his tapestries likens democracy to a garden, where an abundant variety of plants bloom and flourish, albeit chaotically; a note of disquiet is introduced by way of the humanoid faces peering out from between the foliage, as well as the wire fencing that cordons off a section of the garden, a subtle reminder of Indonesia’s not-so-distant past under the former political regime. Significantly, the brightly coloured leaves that dominate the image are those of the croton tree, which is usually planted on the fringes of cemeteries in Indonesia. In the background, just visible through a clearing in the foliage, is a ship carrying refugees, silhouetted against a blood orange sunset, a reminder of the violence that compels people to flee their homelands. Violence is conveyed in a similarly subtle but barbed way in Another Coalition #2, where two figures enact a pantomime of oppression and imbalances of power. Just as violence manifests itself in myriad ways, so too have artists adopted various artistic and aesthetic strategies to represent and comment on its forms – from the explicit to the insidious – from differing perspectives and subject positions.
FX Harsono, Tracing History 2, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 140 x 210 cm
Violent Attachments opens August 27 at Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore. Email us for details.
Hagar Kotef, “Violent Attachments”, Political Theory 48 (1): 4 – 29. Published online July 2019; Issue published February 2020. J Reid Meloy, Violent Attachments, 1992. Philip Smith, “Writing In The Rain: Erasure, trauma and Chinese Indonesian identity in the recent work of FX Harsono”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 46 (1): 119 – 133. January 2015.
Natalya Hughes: In the studio
Natalya in her studio, Photo credit: Rhett Hammerton
WHERE IS YOUR STUDIO?
DO YOU HAVE A SET ROUTINE IN THE STUDIO?
N/ I am fortunate enough to have two studios at the moment: one at the Yeronga Paint Factory and the other under my house. Yeronga is necessary for large scale work because my ceilings are really low at home. But despite the ceiling height I love my home studio more than ever. I don’t ever want to give up the luxury of only walking downstairs to get to work. Sometimes work involves thinking and staring at something half done. It feels healthy not to have to ask myself whether that activity justifies a drive.
N/ When I have studio days (around work and childcare responsibilities) I am very business about it. I try to start at 9 and finish at 5. But in the lead up to shows I start doing nights and weekends as well. I find it very hard to start without cleaning up. I used to clean at the end of the day but I think these days I drop tools from exhaustion or because my daughter arrives home, so the routines changed a bit. Once there is order then I start painting. And I usually opt for the finest detail task first. This kind of painting trumps everything. Sometimes I do it in spite of myself. If there is another task that needs doing… good luck to it.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW? DO YOU WORK ON MULTIPLE THINGS AT ONE TIME?
N/ I’m the queen of multi-tasking/divided attention! At the moment I am preparing for my S+S show The Landscape is in the Woman. The majority of work is done but I am doing little finishing touches and working on the model for install. I’ve also been working on some prize entries, some collaborative paintings Tony Albert and I started at the beginning of lockdown, collab with Ben Aitken, some textile designs, and some Aubrey Beardsley paintings.
TO BE ALONE?
N/ I definitely prefer to be alone in there (other than my lovely studio assistant Savannah). I don’t invite people in very much. I think that’s probably because I have to work around my academic job and spending time with my daughter Violet. So when I am there I fully commit to being there.
DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC/AUDIO BOOKS/PODCASTS
MOST IMPORTANT TIPS FOR A SMOOTH RUNNING
WHILE YOU WORK? WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT
DO YOU WELCOME VISITORS TO THE STUDIO OR PREFER
N/ One of the things I really love about working in the studio is that I can take things in that I don’t have the opportunity to take in otherwise. This is usually so, but during lockdown my “taking in” really escalated. The podcast binge was mostly educational because lockdown made me hungry for information: The BB4 Sociology podcast Thinking Allowed and their Great Lives podcast, the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis lectures by Doris McIlwain, the Freud Museum podcasts, The Reith Lectures, and (very important) Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova’s UNHhhh. Most recent audiobooks that I loved were Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (read by Jeremy Irons), Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, Ordinary People by Diana Evans and My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottesa Moshfegh. I also consumed a lot of audiobooks that I didn’t love (like Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens), but I was in a binge moment so followed through with them all the same. I read a lot. More than ever. And usually I have three or four books on the go at a time. Is that normal? Probably not.
N/ Each to their own. But I have to say that those pictures of Francis Bacon’s paint caked studio mess make me hurt. It’s not that I don’t have bits of paint everywhere, but my brain needs space and order. So the most important thing for my studio is that. I want to be able to find things. I need surfaces that are ready to be worked on. And quiet for thinking. There might be spiders hanging from the ceilings (there are) and legionnaires coming from the air-conditioning (there was) but if there is space, some order to things and some quiet I am ok to work. Natalya’s first solo exhibition with Sullivan+Strumpf launches September 17 in Sydney.
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Natalya Hughes: In the studio
LEFT: Natalya Hughes, Gesture 9, 2020, acrylic on board, 30.5 x 23 cm RIGHT: Natalya Hughes, Woman I (Me from here), 2018-19, acrylic on poly, 193 x 147 cm
Angela Tiatia: Lick Angela Tiatia reflects on Lick, acquired by the MCA earlier this year.
My moving image work, Lick 2015, was acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art in early 2020. Although only a few months ago, it now seems like a world away. And in the intermittent months, news of this acquisition became lost in a sea of heightened alarm with the worldwide spread of COVID-19. The first stories about a novel and aggressive virus seemed so far away. That somehow it would be something that happens ‘over there’. Something that happens to someone else. There were stories and posts giggling patronisingly at the queues of people lining up for toilet paper in Singapore. And then within two weeks the same panic hit Sydney. As the reality of living amongst an invisible, terrible and escalating threat started to become inescapably clear, I found myself switching compulsively between Trump’s daily Coronavirus briefings - where he downplayed or outrightly denied the severity of the virus - and The Walking Dead. The world of zombies descending into chaos, violence and scarcity became a weird benchmark where I was thinking “At least we are not as bad as this”. But I wasn’t alone in my appetite for narratives of lost hope and panic. Netflix and Foxtel very aptly responded with movie folders containing every doomsday movie ever made.
It was during lockdown that I became reflective about my work. Works made before this situation began to seem somehow different to me - the unfolding chaos in supermarkets in The Fall, 2017; the sense of panic, grief and despair during parts of Narcissus, 2019. I was reminded of how a work does not exist in a vacuum. It is experienced within context. And although I was very clear and deliberate about the context to which I was responding to when making it, the works can live beyond this original context.
Often my works are driven by an urge to feel or do something that is personal, intimate and instinctively responsive to the environment. Lick was filmed on the island nation of Tuvalu - one of the most vulnerable nations on earth. Rising barely 2.5 metres above sea level, everyday life on Tuvalu is punctuated by the realities of the climate emergency. On Tuvalu, climate change is not abstract, it is immediate and ever present with scientists predicting its loss to the sea within 25 years. Not only is it surrounded by ocean, Tuvalu is literally drowning with the ocean bubbling up from beneath the ground at high tides. Although I spent much of my youth splashing in the shallows of the beach that my village in Samoa sat on, I never learned to swim. And yet I was never scared of the water. But as I stood on the edge of the atoll in Tuvalu watching the waves roll in across my Pacific, for the first time I felt deep fear of the ocean. Lick was made in response to this fear. With my arms outstretched towards the ocean, my feet tightly grip the edges of a large rock on the seafloor. I wanted to hold this awkward position for as long as possible while my face was being licked by incoming waves. The final act of floating away is posing a question to the viewer. Is it of defeat or survival? We instinctively know nature that is stronger than us. We can pretend all we want that plastic bag recycling and solar panels will add some time. The truth is, our experience of climate change is tethered to our access to resources, privilege, and power. Tuvalu, our canary in the global mine, will be one of the first Pacific Island nations to disappear within our lifetime. Nations with limited access to power in the global playing field.
+ SEE MORE WORKS BY ANGELA TIATIA
Angela Tiatia, Lick, 2015, single-channel high definition video 16:9, colour, sound, 6 minutes, 33 seconds
Kirsten Coehlo creates functional forms and vessels of otherworldly perfection. In Kirsten Coelho, the first major publication on a practice spanning thirty years, author Wendy Walker traces the evolution of Coelhoâ€™s textured practice, in which an ever-expanding framework of art historical, literary and cinematic references has driven a succession of formal shifts â€“ a shaping of changes. This beautiful, lavishly illustrated book of 176 pages will be released in September 2020. For pre-orders and enquiries, please contact publisher Wakefield Press at email@example.com or phone +61.8.83524455.
Collectors perspective: Michael Schwarz on collecting art during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the start of each year my partner and I make the same resolution: ‘No More Art’. This is a common resolve of long-term art collectors who have run out of space on walls, in cupboards and under beds. And, within a month, it is another failed endeavour. Collecting art is as insidious as COVID-19 - it gets into one’s system and takes over. With the emergence of coronavirus, we thought we might have a better chance of sticking with our ‘no more art’ intention. We could not go to galleries, attend art fairs, or even catch up with other collectors – the potential transmitters of this ‘disease’. We felt quite safe and even smug as we don’t like acquiring art without seeing it ‘in the flesh’ or at least knowing the artist and their practice. However, a disease is a disease is a disease. And within the past month, the art that is part of our ‘COVID Collection’ has arrived. It began with a whimsical ceramic work by Glenn Barkley from his recent show with Sullivan+Strumpf. Poseidon with shell stopper and fancy handles, 2020 appeared on our radar in the early days of coronavirus lockdown. It is bright and quirky and figurative (there are a lot of faces and ceramics in our collection) and referenced the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, who helped protect people during storms. A storm was raging - it was a no-brainer. Glenn Barkley, Poseidon with the shell stopper and fancy handles, 2020
Then, a month later, an email appeared from Galerie Pompom with the intriguing title Prototype for a future. Tristan Chant’s jacquard woven tapestries are collaged images that are inspired by science fiction, global catastrophe and a dystopian future. They ‘spoke’ to us about the world we were inhabiting. As we cocooned from COVID and binged on Netflix, an alien virus was attacking individuals and carrying them off. Not surprisingly, While you were watching became part of our collection. Tristan Chant, While you were watching, 2020, courtesy Galerie Pompom
Collectors have different ‘journeys’. Mine has evolved into becoming a supporter of artists and arts organizations at a ‘grass roots’ level. One challenging role during lockdown was as a member of a local council arts funding committee which awarded special COVID grants to artists. While assessing submissions, I discovered the art practice of The Huxleys. Garrett and Will Huxley have a background in filmmaking, photography, costume design and performance art. Through their wild, extravagant and subversive presentations, they challenge the way we consider gender, sexuality and even location. Both Garrett and Will are ‘small town boys’ – Will from Perth and Garrett from the Gold Coast. With coronavirus, our world has become smaller and as we negotiate it, I suspect we feel as alien as they did growing up and struggling with difference. Their Postcards from the Edge series from 2017-18 is a ‘glam’ reminder of diversity, alienation and … places we can no longer easily visit. TOP: The Huxleys, Flair Dinkum, 2018 BOTTOM: The Huxleys, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, 2017
Finally, one of my favourite art connections is being involved with Arts Project Australia. This longstanding and extraordinary organisation supports the artistic practice of artists with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Acquired Brain Injury through promoting their work and advocating for their inclusion in contemporary art practice. Recently, Arts Project Australia held a fundraising auction to support their artists during this challenging time. It was an extremely successful event with most of the works being sold. Feeling somewhat chastened by the above acquisitions, I was relieved to buy only one work. The collaborative painting by Sullivan+Strumpf artist, Richard Lewer, and Arts Project artist, Eden Menta, sums up the experience of the dedicated and obsessed art collector. It is aptly titled: Don’t Tease The Special Needs. As artists, their supporters, and the creative world in general suffer from the economic realities of COVID-19, it is more important than ever that collectors keep collecting. ‘No More Art’ is now on hold for the foreseeable future! Richard Lewer and Eden Menta, Don’t Tease The Special Needs, 2016
Michael Zavros: Look Back Curator and writer Hamish Sawyer reflects on some of the defining works from Michael Zavros’ career. By Hamish Sawyer
Ferragamo, 2000 oil on board 20.4 x 14.8 cm
Michael Zavros first gained attention with his series of intimately scaled, photo-realist paintings of luxury male fashion. Ferragamo was shown as part of Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney in 2000.
The Italian fashion house’s signature loafers are represented in their perfect showroom state, mirroring the technical precision of Zavros’ rendering of them. If anything, the painting is more perfect than the objects it depicts. Miniature paintings were popular with European royalty during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Prohibitively expensive, they were the luxury goods of their time. Zavros has returned to the miniature format regularly over the past two decades.
Spring / Fall 11, 2004 (detail) oil on canvas 210 x 167 cm
Zavros was a champion show jumper as a teenager and thoroughbreds have appeared throughout his oeuvre. Spring / Fall 11 is from a series of falling horse paintings; the animal’s sleek coat and musculature are captured in exacting detail against a white background. In this way, Zavros draws equivalence between the models and luxury goods of earlier works and his equestrian subjects. The work’s title also resonates with the artist’s ongoing interest in fashion. Spring / Fall 11 was made during Zavros’ NSW Ministry for the Arts’ residency at The Gunnery, Sydney and was the recipient of the MCA Primavera Collex Award in 2004.
The New Round Room, 2012 oil on canvas 210 x 167 cm Courtesy: AGNSW collection
Bad Dad, 2013 oil on canvas 110 x 150 cm Courtesy: QAGOMA
Zavros received the inaugural Bulgari Art Award in 2012 for The New Round Room, acquired by the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) as part of the prize.
One of the defining images of Zavros’ practice, Bad Dad portrays the artist floating on an inflatable pool toy. His body bronzed and toned, Zavros stares intently at his reflection in the water, referencing the Greek myth of Narcissus. The ambiguous tone of the painting is amplified by its tongue-in-cheek title.
The large-scale oil on canvas is a meticulous recreation of a vestibule in Grand Trianon, a palace built by Louis XIV on the grounds of Versailles between 1670-72. The painting’s subject matter reflects Zavros’ interest in the cultural achievements of the French aristocracy and Ancien Régime.
Juxtaposed against the ornate interior architecture is a stainless steel weight lifting bench, a symbol of contemporary desire and narcissism. In The New Round Room Zavros contrasts society’s current obsession with attaining physical perfection against the historical pursuit of architectural and artistic endeavours.
Reflecting on the superficiality of our selfie-obsessed culture, Bad Dad and QAGOMA collection acknowledges both Zavros’ earlier painting V12 Narcissus 2009 (AGNSW collection), as well as art historical precedents from Caravaggio to Salvador Dali that have engaged with the Greek myth’s cautionary tale of male vanity and self love. Bad Dad is held in the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery I Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) Brisbane, where it is is part of their permanent Australian Art display.
Amore, 2018 oil on canvas 170 x 115 cm
Dad likes Summer, 2020 lightjet print 172.7 x 122 cm Edition of 3 plus 2 artist’s proofs
Amore is the most recent work in an ongoing series of portraits depicting the artist’s eldest daughter, Phoebe. Zavros’ children are important subjects in his work and the artist won the prestigious Moran Prize in 2010 for his haunting Phoebe is Dead/McQueen.
Zavros’ paintings have an unavoidable relationship to photography therefore it was a natural progression for the artist to begin working directly with the medium.
In Amore (Italian for love), Phoebe is pictured on the cusp of adolescence, her hair and make up done in the exaggerated way of a child trying to look older than they are. There is a distinct retro aesthetic to the image; Zavros took inspiration from a magazine story and has described the look as ‘a bit Mid-West soapie’.
For his latest body of work, Zavros has photographed a life-size mannequin of himself (‘a more perfect version of me’) in a series of magazine-style images. The photographs feature the mannequin at home with Zavros’ vintage red Mercedes-Benz and thoroughbred horse; and at the beach with the artist’s children. The photographs mimic Zavros’ made-for-Instagram lifestyle, collapsing the boundaries between art and life.
Phoebe holds the viewer’s gaze with a studied insouciance that also hints at her vulnerability, demonstrating Zavros’ personal connection with his subject as well as the artist’s considerable technical skill.
Zavros debuted his new images in the July 2020 issue of The Australian newspaper’s Wish magazine, underlining their relationship to fashion and lifestyle photography. The series will be shown as part of A Guy Like Me, the artist’s first exhibition with Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney in October, 2020.
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Zavros’ show launches October 22 at Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney.
Michael Zavros Ferdinand, 2020 oil on board 35.5 x 28 cm
Alex Seton: And the Winner is...
Last month we were thrilled to share the news that Alex Seton was announced as the Grand Prize Winner of the 2020 Sovereign Asian Art Prize – Asia’s longest established contemporary art prize. 88 independent art professionals from across Asia Pacific nominated mid-career artists from 26 countries for the prize, with a total of 611 entries received. The 31 finalists from 18 countries and territories were selected by a panel of 5 judges from across Asia, and a special Hong Kong based panel of judges weighing in alongside them to determine the final winner. Alex is the first Australian to win the USD $30,000 prize. He was nominated for the award by Mikala Tai, Director of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney.
While Alex works with sculpture, photography, video and installation he is best known for his use of marble carving. He uses the techniques of classical statuary and monument: playing with, inverting and exaggerating them to create works that reflect on the contemporary world. His recent work has used this lens to engage directly with contemporary political issues such as Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, questions of conflict and nationhood and the environmental impact of humans. Alex Seton’s next exhibition launches November 26 at Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney.
+ SEE A SELECTION OF AVAILABLE WORKS BY ALEX SETON
The winning work, Oilstone 05_Corrosion is a carefully carved marble sculpture that has been deliberately smashed, reassembled and aged. The reconstructed Yamaha motor-boat engine in classic white statuary Carrara marble is then subjected to a process of chemical transformation. The marble, with a geological age of 200 million years, is rendered in the shape of a resolutely man-made object and then placed in a prospective future by accelerating the natural process of corrosion with hydrochloric acid. Under contemporary environmental conditions, even the age-old earthen material of stone loses its status as resolute and, in turn, the human timeline itself is eroded.
IN HIS ONLINE VIEWING ROOM
Alex Seton, Oilstone 05 - Corrosion, 2019, Bianco Carrara, marble, epoxy, tarp, 54 x 110 x 53 cm
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Quick Curate: Idols
Sam Jinks Still Life (seated Pieta), 2007 silicone fabric and human hair 120 x 106 x 60 cm POA
Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran Deity with Orange Background, 2020 oil on linen 200 x 150 cm AUD $13,200
Michael Zavros Self portrait as saint with Sean O'pry / Versace, 2015 archival ink on hahnemuhle photo rag 120 x 90 cm Edition of 5 AUD $9,000
Richard Lewer I only talk to God when I want something, 2019 acrylic on pegboard 36 x 48.5 cm AUD $1,210
SAM LEACH FULLY AUTOMATIC 20.08.20
HIROMI TANGO NEW NOW 03.09.20
Angela Tiatia Alex Seton
Violent Attachment (Group Show)
Hiromi Tango, Now, 2019, neon glass, acrylic coloured mirror and perspex, 54 x 10 cm, Edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs
safe space safe space safe space safe space safe space safe space www.safespacesculpture.com Alex Seton, Someone Elseâ€™s Problem, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and sullivan+strumpf. Image details at www.safespacesculpture.com
Safe Space is an initiative of Museums & Galleries Queensland developed in partnership with Logan City Council through Logan Art Gallery, and curated by Christine Morrow. This travelling exhibition is supported by the Visions regional touring program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to cultural material for all Australians; the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland; the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory governments; and is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
An exhibition of three-dimensional works by twelve contemporary Australian artists concerned with space in both its physical and psychological sense. MAITLAND REGIONAL ART GALLERY, NSW DEVONPORT REGIONAL GALLERY, TAS SWAN HILL REGIONAL ART GALLERY, VIC MURRAY BRIDGE REGIONAL GALLERY, SA LATROBE REGIONAL GALLERY, VIC NEW ENGLAND REGIONAL ART MUSEUM, NSW 48 UNIVERSITY OF THE SUNSHINE COAST GALLERY, QLD
SYDNEY 799 Elizabeth St Zetland, Sydney NSW 2017 Australia P +61 2 9698 4696 E firstname.lastname@example.org
SINGAPORE 5 Lock Road #01-06 108933 Singapore P +65 8310 7529 E email@example.com 63
Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Drop
Opens 2 October 2020 A major survey exhibition by influential Australian artist LindyÂ Lee. Featuring works from the 1980s to the present day, Lee looks at art history, cultural authenticity, identity and our relationship to the cosmos.
Seeds of a New Moon, 2019, flung bronze, image courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney and Singapore, ÂŠ the artist, photograph: Aaron Anderson
Exhibition Major Partner
Exhibition Supporting Partner
Supporting Exhibition Patrons
Gutman Family Foundation
Jennifer Stafford & Jon Nicholson