Lego, light fittings & goats hearts: Paddington galleries

Yesterday I headed down to Trumper Park in Sydney’s Paddington. The area has hosted many creative enterprises over the decades and is currently home to a number of commercial galleries. It’s always an opportunity to see quite a breadth of contemporary work.

A longstanding member of the Paddington galleries scene, Australian Galleries were showcasing the canine-centric prints of Deborah Williams and, upstairs, the very fine works on paper of young Sydney artist Angus Fisher. Fisher’s skilled methods and often traditional choice of subject matter bring to mind natural history illustrations from pre-industrial times. When the same techniques are applied to contemporary technologies, such as in the drawing GPS surveying equipment 2014, the works become more intriguing still.

Martin Browne Contemporary were preparing for that evening’s opening of a group exhibition, but I managed to sneak a look at some of the works, which included an impressive Bill Hammond painting from 1996.

Jensen Gallery were also preparing for an opening, that of Sydney artist Melissa Coote. For those playing at home, Coote was the subject of a profile I wrote for the current issue of Art Collector. It was strange to see the works occupying the relatively small gallery space at Jensen after experiencing them for the first time in Coote’s expansive Marrickville studio. However, they certainly held their own in the Paddington space, from the large works on canvas to the shining cast bronze goat’s heart that can be held in the palm.

At Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, I experienced déjà vu in the form of TV Moore’s exhibition # E N Y A, which featured two works originally seen in the artist’s recent survey exhibition at Campbelltown Arts Centre (which I covered for Art Monthly). It was enjoyable to have another opportunity to view Moore’s The way things grow (2014), which draws from Swiss duo Fischli & Weiss’s The way things go (1987).

The gallery was also hosting a new group of work by Australian collaborators Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro. The exhibition, Venereal Architecture, combined the childhood assemblage obsession of Lego with the grown-up assemblage obsession of Ikea. Creatures from the sea and forest, formed from the eponymous plastic bricks, merged their colourful pixelated forms with the minimal aesthetics and artificial plants instantly recognisable as being of the Scandinavian brand.

Through its large windows, the front space of Sarah Cottier Gallery looked entirely empty. It was, however, occupied by the microcosmic maximalism of Matt Hinkley. Multicoloured cast plastic clumps were suspended at eye level from wonky pieces of wire hung at intervals through the gallery. These polyurethane caches held melty bits of detritus, the sort of stuff you’d sweep off the surface off your desk if you ever bothered to clean it, or scraps you’d find down the back of the couch. Replicated in great detail, bits of ear buds and headphone jacks, denied their original functions appeared jewel-like as they hovered in and out of the field of vision.

Christopher Hanrahan’s exhibition Oe worked nicely with Hinkley’s presentation, with Hanrahan’s large, minimalist pieces inhabiting the adjacent space and saying just enough. In Oe (bodies) (2014), a worn-looking, thin steel frame sat out from the wall, draped with an electrical cord from which dangled an illuminated bulb. The cord’s vertical snaking gave imaginary surface to the rectangular void, rendering it diorama-like. The similar metal frame of Oe (staging) (2014) nestled into a corner, presenting the wall beyond like a portal, or an open book.

I had noticed another recent work by Hanrahan, quietly occupying a corner of Sarah Cottier Gallery’s suite at Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor during last week’s Spring 1883 art fair. Standard Model (not quite how it is, but certainly how we could be—definitely within the realms of possibility) (2013), a trifold brass frame held upright with the help of two pieces of marble, embodied notions of presence and absence, movement and stillness, just as its siblings in the Sydney space did. The fact that such elegantly simple sculptures can hold their own as much in an elaborately decorated hotel suite as equally as in a clean white gallery is testament to their strength.

Christopher Hanrahan: "Oe" 2014, installation view. Image:

Christopher Hanrahan: “Oe” 2014, installation view. Image: