2021 choice cuts:

plastic cords prolapse from an orifice of faux fur / do you remember magic eye puzzles? / a weed sprouts from a drain / a cosmic ray of light piercing through Sydney’s winter chill / twin blades on scissors slicing through time and place / dawn breaking on the horizon of the darkened mind / the emperor has no clothes, all that remains visible are his bits, and bytes

2021 took on a strange shape after lockdown took a big bite out of the middle of it, so I’ve reprised the roundup of professional milestones as a reminder of what actually happened in this corner of the freelancing universe. As it turns out, I wrote about 20,300 words in the form of various reviews, essays and profiles, and there were a few other fun opportunities thrown in for good measure.

The Art Gallery of NSW was humming in the middle of the year – the Archibald celebrated its 100th birthday, and my feature on the anniversary exhibition Archie 100 was the cover story of the Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum in June. Around the same time the Gallery opened its first international show post-covid, Hilma af Klint, which I reviewed, also for the SMH. Sadly both shows were only open for a couple of weeks before lockdown shut gallery doors, so it was great to be able to get back in there later in the year to review the summer shows Matisse: Life & Spirit and Matisse Alive, this time for HK-based arts journal CoBo Social, who this year also published my reviews on The National, Primavera, and the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane, which was the final show at Artspace before The Gunnery closed for 12 months of renovations.

I was honoured to be invited to write the catalogue essay for John Olsen: Goya’s Dog, an exhibition at the National Art School Gallery spanning eight decades of Olsen’s practice. Excerpts from this essay appeared on the wall labels throughout the exhibition, and an abridged version was published in the Winter edition of Art Monthly Australasia. Other catalogue essays in 2021 included those for Caroline Rothwell’s show at Hazelhurst Art Centre, Michelle Cawthorn at Shoalhaven Regional Gallery, Clara Adolphs, Nancy Constandelia, Ali Noble, and Kathryn Cowen. Interviews and profiles included Julia Gutman for Art Collector, Zoe Veness for Design Anthology, and Margel Hinder for SMH.

A couple of things penned in 2020’s lockdown made it to print in 2021. These included an essay on Sarah McConnell’s work was published by Melbourne University Press in the book Art + Climate = Change II, and a catalogue essay for Stuart Smith’s group exhibition at Grace Cossington Smith Gallery, (re)arrangements, the victim of a double-whammy, finally installed just prior to Sydney’s long lockdown in 2021 but unable to open to the public.

In March I was invited by Asialink Arts and Santy Saptari Art Consulting to participate as a panellist in the series Dekat-Dekat Jauh (So Close Yet So Far), with the conversation providing a springboard to future actions and possibilities. Later in the year, it was great to meet the next generation of artists for another round of fast-paced writing workshops (the art writing equivalent of speed dating!) as part of the National Art School’s Professional Development Program.

After serving as external assessor in 2020 for the inaugural programming round of the new Woollahra Gallery at Redleaf, it was great to see the Gallery launched in November 2021 with the 20th anniversary exhibition of the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize. In the leadup I enjoyed delving into the history of the award and interviewing past winners as I worked on content for the updated WSSP catalogue.

The icing on 2021 was being the subject rather than the author of a work, with Joanna Braithwaite’s clever painting Aficionado exhibited as a finalist in the Portia Geach at SH Ervin – a thrilling end to the year.

Thank you to artists for your work & thanks to those who commissioned art writing this past year. Looking forward to looking more in 2022.

Joanna Braithwaite, Aficionado-portrait of Chloé Wolifson, 2021. Image courtesy the artist.