Author Archives: Chloé Wolifson

About Chloé Wolifson

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

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

Art Fair Philippines: A thriller in Manila

Maria Jeona Zoleta, Forced Farts … until Hell Freezes Over is a Freak Show, 2017, installation view, 5th Art Fair Philippines, Manila, February 2017; image courtesy Art Fair Philippines 


It was a pleasure to be invited to Manila to cover Art Fair Philippines for Art Monthly Australasia. This complex city has an intriguing history and thriving art scene. My fair wrap-up was published in full in the April issue of the magazine with a preview on the AMA blog.

World Material: Between accident & intent

A few hundred words into writing this, I clicked ‘Save’ and Word suggested the filename ‘between accident and intent’ – a fragment of text still floating at the top of the page. It seems apt to embrace this chance title. While the intention of World Material was to explore the resonances within and between the works of these artists, many of the connections that have arisen during the show’s subsequent development and installation have been surprising and even uncanny. The expanded material, spatial, geographic and conceptual potentials of these works collide at a number of points.

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

Fictions are employed in order to reveal new truths. Louise Weaver’s paintings might appear to be encased in the bubble wrap and packing tape that would have protected them in storage or transit, but are actually constructed from ‘skins’ of paint that have been built up on another surface before being applied to canvas as abstract colour fields. Like Weaver, Connie Anthes confounds expectations in her construction of a painting’s surface, her work Untitled (Shadow Figures) employing a soft sculpture as a stencil, with the perceived depth of the resulting two-dimensional impression disrupted by a scattering of flatly-painted glyphs. The River Red Gum ‘branches’ nestled among Yasmin Smith’s Ntaria Fence are actually slip-cast ceramic proxies, glazed with wood ash collected from the same area of Hermannsburg, Central Australia as the branches themselves.

Lotte Schwerdtfeger. World Material. Chloe Wolifson

Lotte Schwerdtfeger, Prospect (Geological Study of Fryers Forest) 2016 -2017. Quartz bearing iron stained rock fragments and secondary banded clay, mixed, sieved and kiln fired – harvested from Fryerstown area, Central Victoria
Paint, plywood, pine, eucalyptus branches. dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Photography: Simon Hewson

Yasmin Smith. World Material. Chloe Wolifson

Yasmin Smith, Ntaria Fence 2015. branches: mid-fire slip with Hermannsburg wood ash glaze (River Red Gum, Mulga, Palm Tree), nepheline syenite and ball clay; bucket: earthenware slip with arctic blue underglaze and clear gloss glaze; ice cream container: earthenware slip with yellow op. dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist, The Commercial and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Photography: Simon Hewson

Like Smith, Lotte Schwerdtfeger and Rebecca Gallo also present expanded understandings of landscape through the materials and forms they employ. Using natural clay sourced from the goldrush-ravaged Fryers Forest region of Victoria, Schwerdtfeger houses pieces of shattered local bedrock in specially-shaped plinths, interspersed with conventional pottery forms evoking a human presence. In Gallo’s sculptural installations, objects that once lay inert in places like Hill End, Fowlers Gap, Emu Plains and Sydney’s inner west have been reactivated, carefully incorporated into totemic compositions that are both fragile and playful.

Rebecca Gallo. World Material. Chloe Wolifson

Rebecca Gallo installation view, World Material, Darren Knight Gallery. Image courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Photography: Simon Hewson

The perfectly mundane is conjured into significance in the hands of these artists. In Gallo’s works a fine balance is quite literally struck between found, carved and cast objects; An upturned ice-cream container rests jauntily on one of Smith’s Red Gum branches; In Weaver’s hands the trappings of a gallery stockroom become a lunar surface; Michelle Nikou transforms clothes dryer lint into domestic motifs; The notorious Mac ‘spinning wheel of death’ hypnotises in Anthes’ Mantle Piece.

Connie Anthes. World Material. Chloe Wolifson

Connie Anthes, Untitled (Mantle Piece) 2015. installation with air-dried ceramic, projector, apparatus
dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist.

The folding and unfolding of planes that occurs in Mantle Piece, as a three-dimensional object is flattened into two dimensions then reprojected onto itself, creates an ambiguity in spatial comprehension. To do this Anthes uses orthographic projection, a technique that has been employed since antiquity to map star systems. Lisa Sammut’s work form deforms you is also a spatial map, in which organic and geometric motifs are connected atop an indigo velvet surface to create a sense of cosmic time, distance and scale.

Lisa Sammut. World Material. Chloe Wolifson

Lisa Sammut, Form deforms you 2017, embroidery on velvet, plywood, red cedar, beech, pine, acrylic paint, ink on paper, collage, cement, rock, clock mechanism, ping pong ball. 149 x 100 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Photography: Simon Hewson

The flat-sided forms in Sammut’s microcosmic cosmos feature painted or collaged surfaces which transform their diorama-like simplicity into dimensional portals. Eloïse Kirk also employs collage, exploring its intersection with painting in abstracted landscapes that are forged in the connections between organic elements and in the space between the romantic and the surreal. The title of her painting Ultra Plinian alludes to volcanic eruptions, and a geological form in the centre of the composition oozes black resin.

World Material installation view featuring Eloïse Kirk (L) & Connie Anthes (R). Image courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Photography: Simon Hewson

World Material installation view featuring Eloïse Kirk (L) & Connie Anthes (R). Image courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Photography: Simon Hewson

The works in World Material embody a sense of expanded possibility. Our world has held these materials, and these materials now hold new worlds for us.


Thanks to the artists, those who supported the transport and installation of their works, The Commercial , & the Darren Knight Gallery team.

World Material continues at Darren Knight Gallery until 25 February 2017.

WORLD MATERIAL at Darren Knight Gallery



My latest curatorial project, World Material, is currently on show at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. The exhibition features the work of eight Australian women artists: Connie Anthes, Rebecca Gallo, Eloise Kirk, Michelle Nikou, Lisa Sammut, Lotte Schwerdtfeger, Yasmin Smith (courtesy The Commercial Gallery), & Louise Weaver.

World Material brings together the work of Australian artists whose works explore the spaces between strength and delicacy, between the material and the conceptual, between accident and intent, between the real and the fictional, and between representation and abstraction – embodying an exploration, recontextualisation, and sometimes deliberate obfuscation of natural, found and human-made materials. The exhibition is intended as an exploration of these tensions, suggesting totem-like resonances within and between the works of these artists.

Images of the exhibition are here, artists biographies here, and exhibition text here.

The show runs from 28 January – 28 February 2017. If you are in Sydney I hope you can make it.

TAKE on Writing Series: The Book Ensemble

Phew! My last few writing deadlines for the year are out of the way, just in the nick of time. I am honoured to be invited to Delhi by TAKE on art Magazine to join a great bunch of artists, writers and curators from around the world for ‘The Book – Ensemble’.

Curated by TAKE editor and publisher Bhavna Kakar and curator and assistant editor for TAKE, Anushka Rajendran, the Ensemble will, over the course of two days, exchange ideas and discuss the endurance and material legacy of ‘The Book’, including the ways in which it continues to influence contemporary processes of knowledge, community and history.