Author Archives: Chloé Wolifson

About Chloé Wolifson

Chloé Wolifson is an independent arts writer and curator based in Sydney, Australia.

Paul Snell – Bleed

Paul Snell’s works seduce and envelop us. In Bleed, Snell takes a soft-edged approach to the colour field rather than the hard-edge aesthetic of his works from the past decade. Playing with appropriated visual imagery to create abstractions that explore the potential of photo-media, some works explore a single or related group of hues, such as a soft fairy floss pink or a harmony of turquoises. In other works, contrasting colours swirl and bleed together, forming tantalising compositions that compel the viewer to search the surface for narrative answers which remain elusive.

While Snell has previously employed glossy surfaces, inviting viewers to reflect on the ubiquity of screen culture, the matte finish used in the Bleed series absorbs rather than reflects light. The photographic image is face-mounted to Matte Plexiglas, embedding colour in the object itself. The viewer is drawn into the image, yet the diffused tonality of the photograph prevents our eye from getting a secure hold on the composition.  The resulting experience is a slow push-pull between image and viewer.

Long interested in non-objective works that embrace object-hood, Snell has recently been applying this to his own practice in an increasingly overt fashion, developing sculptural substrata for his Chromogenic prints. These gnarled, distressed elements, the result of experimentation with chemical reactions on polystyrene and painted and poured concrete, lurk behind the Plexiglas surface. While the photographic images employ bright and pure tonalities, the substrata bear the colours of rusted and oxidised metals. These gritty, crusty components challenge the seductively liquid surfaces of the works – each heightens the experience of the other and evokes further associations, from the microscopic to the macrocosmic.

Snell shares the aesthetic and conceptual concerns of 20th century modernist painters, while taking the 21st century digital image as a material starting point. Bleed explores and exploits the emotive and evocative effects of colour, both in an ocular sense and a physical one – as we stand in front of these works, our eyes seeking an entry point to the abstract and minimalist compositions, the matte surfaces absorb light and seem to absorb us as well.

In the course of developing this body of work, Snell came across the term longing for less, a reaction to the relentless inundation of imagery in the current era. “’Longing for less’ resonated in terms of breaking down this imagery and creating voids, spaces, moments in time, shifts and places for people to sit, contemplate and just lose themselves in the colours.” In introducing the sculptural bases for the works in Bleed, Snell brings this potential of the pixel into sharp (or in this case, soft) relief.

Chloé Wolifson, July 2020

Paul Snell’s exhibition Bleed took place at Gallery 9, Sydney from 15 July – 08 August 2020. The exhibition text above accompanied the exhibition and can also be heard in the above video tour.

2020 Adelaide//International at Samstag Museum of Art

In late February, I travelled to Adelaide for the launch of the 2020 Adelaide//International at the Samstag Museum of Art. The launch was timed to coincide with other Adelaide Festival events including the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, and I enjoyed a jam-packed weekend of exhibitions and events, with highlights including a keynote address from stalwart Australian artist Stelarc, a performance by New York-based Australian artist Julian Day and collaborators in a heritage Masonic Lodge setting, and exploring Biennial artists’ works in the gorgeous Adelaide Botanic Gardens.

Of course, this was just before travel restrictions and social distancing came into play, and it was through the lens of a pandemic world that I sat down to write my review of the 2020 Adelaide//International, probably my last press trip for a while. With a focus on architecture as choreographer of human experience, it was hard to ignore our ‘new normal’ when pondering the works in the show. My review can be read here.

Brad Darkson, Research for Hold Me, 2020. Photo: Brad Darkson

It was a pleasure to again write for Artlink. My other reviews for this publication can be found here and here.

22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN

My profile on South African photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi was published at a precarious time for the art world. Filed in the midst of a very busy day during the media tour of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney in early March, little did we know that soon after, all venues would close to the public amid coronavirus prevention precautions. I feel exceptionally fortunate to have experienced the media preview of NIRIN, travelling to venues across Sydney to take in the many works and experiences of this groundbreaking Biennale. I look forward to again congregating with colleagues and artists, sharing a space of contemplation and stimulation around art.

Muholi’s arresting self-portraits and portraits of the South African LGBTQI+ community were featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. My interview with the visual activist was cover story of The Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum on 14 March, and can be read online here.

Stanislava Pinchuk: The Red Carpet

“Seventeen years ago – on March 18, 2003 – David Burgess and Will Saunders climbed the sails of the Sydney Opera House and painted in looming red letters the words NO WAR. The pair were sentenced to nine months’ weekend jail and divided the nation between those appalled at the iconoclasm and those who believed the message made the gesture worthy.

A decade after Burgess and Saunders’ defiant act, on the other side of the world, pro-democracy protests began in Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. The collective weight of the protesters, accumulated over months, caused the Maidan’s granite slabs to crack. The protests turned tragically fatal and marked the beginning of the Ukrainian revolution and the ongoing civil war.

For Ukrainian-born, Melbourne artist Stanislava Pinchuk, 31, these two public spaces, arguably the hearts of their respective nations, span her two citizenships. Pinchuk has brought both sites together in a new photographic work The Red Carpet, which she will unveil in conjunction with a lecture titled The Thread of War at the All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House on March 8…”

Read my profile of artist Stanislava Pinchuk, published in The Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum, here.

10 artists forging a new political future

“A sense of urgency is pervading Australian art. Artists are seeking more than ever to spark cultural change. For some, this involves moving away from traditional art-making approaches. Others continue to mine the archives or the natural world for materials that inspire, shock, or lend themselves to 21st century recalibration…”

In my first piece for Guardian Australia, I wrote about ten Australian artists who investigate personal, local and global political themes. You can read the article here.

EXTRA!EXTRA! Read all about it…

Two very different writing projects rounded off the end of 2019 for me.

EXTRA!EXTRA! was a weekly newspaper produced over five weeks at the Art Gallery of New South Wales by The Rizzeria, in response to Kaldor Public Art Projects’ 50 years exhibition. I was invited by editorial team Lucas Ihlein and Ian Milliss to write a reflection of the overall project for the special omnibus edition. You can read that and the entire edition here.

December also saw the launch of Design Anthology’s inaugural Australian edition. It was a pleasure to be invited to contribute to this publication for which I wrote about subsidised studio spaces. The issue can be found via here.

A review of some reviews…

I’ve been very pleased to have had the opportunity to pen some reviews for The Sydney Morning Herald over the past few months, most recently on Simryn Gill’s exhibition at Utopia Art Sydney, which can be read here.

Other reviews have included a piece on the Sydney Contemporary art fair, the Shaun Gladwell survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Bill Henson‘s latest show at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, and the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

2018 – Press pass, boots and a baby bump

It feels strange to be marking the end of 2018, a year which for me had its own rhythm, split as it was into three phases each with a distinct pace.

I am pretty used to deadlines, and as I raced towards a major personal one in early May I packed in as much as possible on the work front. As well as continuing my column for Art Monthly Australasia magazine ‘Notes from the Field’, I wrote catalogue essays for Sydney artist Michelle Cawthorn, and for the group exhibition Vanishing Point at Hazelhurst Arts Centre. I led visiting art patron Marilyin Greenberg, previous council chair of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, on a personalised tour of commercial gallery spaces across Sydney.

Marilyn Greenberg visiting Utopia Art Sydney, April 2018

As always, I appreciated the opportunity to travel for art. In early March I visited Adelaide, filing a review of the Adelaide Biennial for Vault. A major highlight was a press trip to Hong Kong Art Week in late March for Art Monthly. I reviewed Encounters (curated by Alexie Glass) at Art Basel Hong Kong and blogged about the fair overall. I also interviewed Suhanya Raffel, Executive Director of M+ and reviewed Samson Young’s exhibition at M+ Pavillion . As I was 32 weeks pregnant it was a challenging trip energy-wise, particularly climbing the many flights of stairs during the site visit to the under-construction West Kowloon Cultural district!

The middle of 2018 saw me take a 4-month professional hiatus as my husband and I welcomed our baby into the world. Despite me stepping back from work, baby’s early months were filled with many gallery visits (including a ferry trip to Cockatoo Island to visit the Biennale of Sydney when he was four weeks old).

Following that personal milestone there continued to be many professional highlights. After an interview with Malaysian artist Minstrel Kuik earlier in the year, I continued to contribute to ArtAsiaPacific, with reviews of Jess Bradford‘s exhibition at Galerie Pompom, and Fearless: Contemporary South Asian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. I resumed ‘Notes from the Field’, including for focus issues on South Australia (November) and Brisbane (for the Asia-Pacific Triennial over Summer).


As well as contributing to these print and online publications, this year I worked as a freelance arts administrator, researcher and editor on a range of diverse projects for clients including consultant John Cruthers, publisher and designer Mark Gowing of Formist, and artist and curator Glenn Barkley. I appreciated the continued work with these art-world contacts and forged new ones, including a meeting with New York Times and Art Newspaper Los Angeles Correspondent Jori Finkel as the year drew to a close.

I’m looking forward to the start of a new year as an opportunity to gather new energy and recalibrate. With a press trip to Singapore Art Week fast approaching, 2019 promises to be action-packed.

Wishing you good health and happiness in the new year.


2017: Carparks, country towns & everything in between

Over the last 12 months I have written 30,909 words, had 29 texts published, worked with 20 clients, and presented at 5 public speaking engagements (in parallel to working 1-3 days/week as an art administrator). It’s been a challenging year personally and professionally but I’ve really enjoyed the range of opportunities and experiences – here are some of the highlights of my 2017 calendar.

An exhibition I curated, World Material, featuring the work of eight Australian women artists, opened at Darren Knight Gallery in Sydney.

World Material installation view featuring Lisa Sammut (L) & Louise Weaver (R). Image courtesy the artists and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Photography: Simon Hewson

World Material installation view featuring Lisa Sammut (L) & Louise Weaver (R). Image courtesy the artists and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Photography: Simon Hewson

I took my first trip to balmy Manila to cover Art Fair Philippines for Art Monthly Australasia. It was a packed few days that amongst other things included being hosted by the dynamic Diana Campbell and Jam Acuzar to a fantastic dinner at the launch of the Bellas Artes Outpost.


An apologetic selfie featuring the work of Juan Alcazaren in Art Informal’s stand at Art Fair Philippines, February 2017

After writing for the web edition for some time, my first print review for ArtAsiaPacific was published in Issue 102 of the Hong Kong-based magazine, covering Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect With Everything at MCA Australia.

ArtAsiaPacific, Issue 102, March-April 2017

ArtAsiaPacific, Issue 102, March-April 2017

I headed to Kandos, a small town in the Central West of New South Wales, to cover the biennial grassroots Cementa Festival for ArtAsiaPacific and Art Monthly Australasia. It had everything from parkour to indigenous stargazing.


Powerhouse Youth Theatre and the Dauntless Movement Crew perform on the pagoda rock formations of Ganguddy near Kandos, NSW. Image: Chloé Wolifson

This was a time for composing artists’ catalogue essays, notably for Ioulia Terizis’ show at Photoaccess, Canberra, Lucas Davidson at Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney, and Leahlani Johnson at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, NSW.

It was great to see the release of Outside Material: The cover art of Preservation Music, a publication I worked on as copyeditor for independent Sydney publisher Formist Editions.

Outside Material: The cover art of Preservation Music, published Formist Editions, 2017

Outside Material: The cover art of Preservation Music, published Formist Editions, 2017

This month saw more catalogue writing, specifically 22 artwork texts for Michael Reid’s exhibition Wall Power: Contemporary Australian Photography which opened in Cologne before touring to Berlin, London and Paris.

September saw the first of my ‘In The Galleries’ column published in Art Monthly Australasia. It was a professional milestone to be invited to contribute a regular print column, previewing commercial shows in every state and territory around the country.

Art Monthly Australasia, Issue 301, September 2017

Art Monthly Australasia, Issue 301, September 2017

The National Art School introduced their Launchpad professional development program, and as well as appearing on a panel discussion the previous month, in October I was invited to mentor students in the Biography Workshop.

Another international print milestone: my first review for Frieze, covering Diena Georgetti’s show at The Commercial, Sydney was published in Issue 191 of the London-based publication.

Frieze, Issue 191, November-December 2017

Frieze, Issue 191, November-December 2017

As the year drew to a close I made my final edits to Bad Habits, a private publication celebrating the art collection of Bonita Croft and Gene Zemaitis. It was a privilege to again work with advisor and curator John Cruthers for this project.

In August, with the help of a translator, I gave a lecture on Art History & Aesthetics at the Sydney launch of  Chinese permanent makeup brand Bicasso, complete with ribbon-cutting ceremony, and champagne sprayed Formula One-style on stage.

Cutting the ribbon with representatives of Bicasso and the Australia China Commercial Association (I’m second from right). Image: ACCA

Wishing you health, happiness and surprising art experiences in 2018. See you then!
– Chloé

To write about light: two texts about photomedia

Ioulia Terizis, Slivers and Shard (detail), 2017, Gelatin silver photograph, 115.0 x 83.0cm. Courtesy the artist.

It’s wonderful being asked to write catalogue essays for artists. The process, particularly studio visits, give a special insight into an artist’s practice and their world more broadly. Recently I was commissioned to write two artists texts: Ioulia Terizis’ exhibition Quanta at PhotoAccess in Canberra, and Lucas Davidson’s A Strange Loop at Dominik Mersch Gallery in Sydney.

Both artists use photography in different and intriguing ways and this was a great chance to really sink my teeth into ideas around photomedia, expanded photography, and light.

Lucas Davidson, ‘Death as a Companion to Living’, 2017, pigment print, 112 x 90 cm, ed. of 3 + 1a.p. Courtesy the artist and Dominik Mersch Gallery