Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

Exhibition & book reviews. Interviews with artists & curators.

Interview with Francis Upritchard

Journal of Australian Ceramics


Earlier this year I had the pleasure of interviewing the wonderful New Zealand-born, London-based artist Francis Upritchard for The Journal of Australian Ceramics. This issue, themed around colour, was guest-edited by Sydney artist Madeleine Preston.

It was great chatting with Francis and learning about the handmade pottery that surrounded her growing up, her accidental foray into a ceramics practice, and her current work breaking down boundaries between art, craft and design. Why are people unwilling to pay as much for a bowl as a painting?

The issue profiles many fantastic artists working in ceramics, including the excellent Apprentice Welder works by Yasmin Smith (written about by my Runway colleague Miriam Kelly). The cover stars are Lynda Draper and David Ray, whose works signify the playful, colourful tendencies in ceramics as it is currently being employed in contemporary art practice.

You can buy the issue in digital or hard copy, here.

Jess Bradford – Haw Par Villa at Archive Space

I recently participated in the Archive Space Writers Program, reviewing Jess Bradford‘s exhibition Haw Par Villa which ran 2 – 12 July 2014. Here is the resulting text.

The cultural theme park of Haw Par Villa in Singapore was the subject of Jess Bradford’s recent exhibition at Archive Space. Originally conceived as a space of moral education for families, the internal narratives of the site have been subject to de- and re-construction, both physically and conceptually. Having visited there as a child, Bradford was prompted to return recently after discovering photographs of the site’s painted concrete sculptures in second hand stores. The exhibition Haw Par Villa saw the artist reconsider the park through an investigation of materiality and memory.

Just inside the gallery’s entrance was a wooden archway which Bradford had cut and painted to refer to the forms of the Villa itself. Weather-worn wave and cave formations were painterly rendered on the front of the structure, while on the reverse the artist had made no attempt to disguise its stand-in nature, securing the angular pieces of ply with the help of sandbags. Propped and propositional, this structure arched physically and metaphorically over the other works in the show, providing a portal through which the truths and fictions of representation could be considered.

Beyond the archway was a video piece depicting a walk through the villa through the eyes of a visitor. The footage began with a trip through a tunnel to the Haw Par Villa station. Filmed from the front of a driverless train, the perspective of this journey evoked the experience of a ghost train, pre-empting the theme park to come. A recording of a woman’s voice announced arrival at “Haw Par Villa” through a PA system, before the viewer was led through the gates of the park at a walking pace, to an accompanying ambient soundtrack. This sense of forward motion, combined with symmetrical one-point perspective, echoed the experience of walking through Bradford’s propped archway into Archive Space itself.

For several years now the artist has collected anonymous found photographs, and her recent practice has led to the recreation of these as objects intended to resonate beyond their pictorial surface. Two such photographs of the concrete figures in Haw Par Villa were incorporated into this exhibition in this way. The images, a bear seeming to attack a small child, and two mermaids, were painted in monochrome on small pieces of primed zinc. These were mounted within frames on the wall, making reference to their photographic origins, however once the viewer drew closer to examine the detail in these tiny objects, their presence beyond the fragility of paper became clear. The original photographer had transformed them from concrete to image, and Bradford had in turn translated this depiction to artefact, giving tangibility to someone else’s memories whilst adding to the compilation of images surrounding her own.

Re-encountering a place of childhood experience after so many years requires a reassessment of truth and reality. Disparate images can become worn away as concrete does when exposed to the elements, over which twisted memories form slowly, creeping and overtaking like lichen. Haw Par Villa interwove different modes and media to interrogate ideas of authorship, truth, representation and memory.

Jess Bradford

Back to the Future

Lei Lei & Thomas Sauvin, RECYCLED 2013-2014 (detail), five-channel video animation installation with 2,200 photographs. Photograph: Chloé Wolifson

Lei Lei & Thomas Sauvin, RECYCLED 2013-2014 (detail), five-channel video animation installation with 2,200 photographs. Photograph: Chloé Wolifson

In a film made with the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne recently, influential British artist Tacita Dean thoughtfully discussed the future of the film-based arts in the face of the rise of digital photography. Just as analogue photography supposedly heralded the ‘death of painting’ in the mid-19th Century, this phenomenon appears to be increasingly preoccupying the art world, as evidenced by a number of current Sydney exhibitions.

I spent a day checking out Suburban Noir at the Museum of Sydney, and Beijing Silvermine at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. Suburban Noir asked contemporary Australian artists to respond to forensic police photographs of Sydney from the early- to mid-20th Century, the results being sometimes sinister, sometimes melancholy. In a very different take on the found photograph, Beijing Silvermine is collector-curator Thomas Sauvin’s re-appropriation and re-activation of many thousands of discarded domestic photographs from more recent decades. (You can read my review of this extraordinary project over at RAVEN Contemporary.)

And then of course there is Christian Boltanski’s mammoth work Chance, currently on view at Carriageworks. Boltanski has often incorporated found photographs as a medium alongside others when describing collective and individual memory. Here his use of anonymous photographic subjects, as well Chance’s physical allusion to the increasingly redundant printing press, become threads to draw the audience into greater existential questions. Ultimately, that’s how every medium should serve its author and its audience.

One Night Stands in Art Land

Crowds viewing Connie Anthes' 'Low Relief' at Damien Minton Gallery on 17 December 2013. Photography: Chloé Wolifson

Damien Minton Gallery decided to cap off 2013 with a series of One Night Stands – 14 exhibitions over 14 consecutive nights. As a former gallerina I can vouch for how exhausting just one opening night can be, and how the relative quiet of the subsequent days provides a chance to catch up on work that has been left behind in the rush of the launch. Well, no chance of such welcome respite at DMG. Gallerist Damien Minton is constantly trying different approaches to getting people through the door and looking at the art (dwindling visitor numbers being the scourge of the commercial gallery in the online age). So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he held 14 openings at the most hectic time of the year, finishing just three days before Christmas. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

Sydney artist Connie Anthes‘ project took the stage on 17 December. Anthes elected to keep the walls blank and instead drew the crowds towards the work of 20 artists contained within a set of plan drawers in the middle of the gallery. I have just published a review of her intriguing exhibition Low Relief that I invite you to read over on Das Platforms.

Detail of Connie Anthes' 'Low Relief' at Damien Minton Gallery on 17 December 2013. Photography: Chloé Wolifson