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Venice Biennale 2017 highlights: outstanding national pavilions and artists

artists, spaces, Venice tours

20 November 2017

It always takes a few weeks to digest the Venice Biennale, walk-to-art Venice and all the visuals.

The 57th Venice Biennale had Viva Art Viva as the theme and was curated by Christine Macel (Chief Curator at the Musée National d'Art Moderne at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France). She was the fourth woman in 122 years of the Biennale history to curate the former Venetian military dockyard – the Arsenale.

I have been fortunate to see many Venice Biennales (and this was the fourth with walk-to-art) and must admit that the 2017 edition was a little underwhelming. Of course, there are always outstanding national pavilions, but the Arsenale was a touch on the bland side compared to previous years.

My highlights:

Taiwan PavilionDoing Time
Artist: Tehching Hsieh
Curator: Adrian Heathfield

Tehching Hsieh's artwork at the Taiwan pavilion in the Venice Biennale

I do not normally engage with performance art, but this exhibition was just wonderful. The dedication to the performance, the determination and the discipline were incredible. Doing Time exhibited two of Hsieh's One Year Performances together for the first time, assembling his accumulated records and artefacts into detailed installations. In One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece), Hsieh subjected himself to the extreme discipline of clocking on to a worker's time clock on the hour, every hour, for a whole year. In One Year Performance 1981–1982 (Outdoor Piece), Hsieh inhabited a further sustained deprivation: he remained outside for a year without taking any shelter. During the course of his One Year Performances Hsieh was an illegal immigrant.


Andorra Pavilion – Murmuri
Artist: Eve Ariza
Curators: Javier Balmaseda, Ivan Sansa, Paolo De Grandis

Eve Ariza's artwork at the Andorra pavilion in the Venice Biennale

It is such a pleasure to walk into a space and breath a wow!

Walking into the Andorra Pavilion was like suddenly being wrapped by tonal beauty. The 9,000 clay bowls attached to the dark grey walls in different tones echoed a sound of unity and togetherness. "Channeling the tradition of clay art, Andorran artist Eve Ariza worked on the multiplication of the bowl as a container of truth and placidity. The ceramic bowl appears as the first form modeled by man with an intention. She purposely tears its base to reveal a mouth-like shape, thus transforming its essence and leaving aside its conventional use."


New Zealand PavilionEmissaries
Artist: Lisa Reihana
Curator: Rhana Devenport

Lisa Reihana's artwork at the New Zealand pavilion in the Venice Biennale

Amazing to have gone back numerous times and seen the New Zealand Pavilion holding such a large crowd consistently. In a great position at the end of the Arsenale, Lisa Reihana produced an outstanding video work that was technically faultless and captivating.

"In Lisa Reihana: Emissaries, imperialism's gaze is returned with a speculative twist that disrupts notions of beauty, authenticity, history and myth. in Pursuit of Venus [infected], which was the artwork in which Emissaries was based on, is a cinematic re-imagining of the French scenic wallpaper Les Sauvages De La Mer Pacifique, 1804–1805, also known as Captain Cook's voyages. Two hundred years later – and almost 250 years after the original voyages that inspired them – Reihana employs 21st century digital technologies to recast and reconsider the wallpaper from a Pacific perspective."

 

Damien Hirst's artwork

Damien Hirst

I feel the need to include Damien Hirst's Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable at Palazzo Grassi and Punta Della Dogna, both owned by French entrepreneur François Pinault. He also owns one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world and in 2006 obtained ownership of Palazzo Grassi to display the collection. Damien Hirst is part of it, and the event marked his return after a 10-year hiatus from making art. It was over the top, extravagant, egotistical and an expensive exercise!

 

 

Excellent exhibition celebrates photography in a regional town

artists, spaces

19 September 2017
David LaChapelle's La Pieta with Courtney Love (2006)

David LaChapelle's La Pieta with Courtney Love

This past weekend I took the train to Ballarat, in regional Victoria, on the last day of the 2017 Ballarat International Foto Biennale, to see its highlight – David LaChapelle's exhibition. How wonderful to have such a great international photographer at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

As photography is becoming less and less celebrated in Australia, I believe it is important that these artistic programs are supported and visited.

Not only does it bring visitation to the regional towns, but it delivers great artists to areas which are deserving of excellent exhibitions.

It is the first time David LaChapelle has shown in Australia. He is an American artist/photographer known for his hyper-realistic, theatrical imagery in which he communicates social messages. LaChapelle began his career in the 1980s and was given his first job as a photographer for Interview magazine by Andy Warhol.

Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen's Eyes as Big as Plates

Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen's Eyes as Big as Plates

LaChapelle's work is a statement about consumerism, pop culture and fame. Photographing Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Angelina Jolie to Hillary Clinton, his work has graced the covers of many international magazines such as Italian Vogue, French Vogue and Vanity Fair, and he was the last person to take a portrait of Warhol before he died in 1987.

Other highlights were works by Jannatul Mawa from Nepal and a body of work (paste-ups) by Karoline Hjorth + Riitta Ikonen from Norway and Finland. The series Eyes as Big as Plates is the result of an ongoing collaboration between the Nordic duo, with their work evolving over the years into a continual search for modern human being's affinity to nature.

 

walk-to-art in New York: 2017 tour highlights

artists, New York tours

30 June 2017
Anish Kapoor's 'Descension' (2017), at Brooklyn Bridge Dumbo, in New York City

Anish Kapoor: Descension (2017)

New York was a little warmer than expected for June, but what a great excuse for an early afternoon Negroni Spritz made with Verve at The High Line Hotel! Having a wonderful group of tour participants who really have become friends made everything better.

As usual, walk-to-art New York covered commercial spaces, to not so commercial spaces, to pop up spaces and private ones. A few things stay the same – we start with big commercial galleries and finish with a church on Sunday (optional gospel) –, but the itinerary is always unique.

I am fortunate to be able to see wonderful artworks both locally and abroad, and this is very helpful when planning my walk-to art tours. For example, artist Anish Kapoor exhibited Ascension in the Basilica of San Giorgio in Venice for the 2011 Biennale (read the blog post), and this year my New York group was able to view Descension at Brooklyn Bridge Park – Pier 1. A giant pool of spiralling water... it speaks for itself. Politically charged and powerful in all ways.

Lucy Sparrow: convenience store made entirely of felt

Lucy Sparrow: convenience store made entirely of felt

This was certainly one of my personal highlights, which also include:

Eight to Eight by Lucy Sparrow – A pop up convenience store made entirely of felt. You cannot but love Lucy's work. Every "product" is made out of felt and is tactile, well-crafted and energy filled. The Twinkies sold out!

Meeting by James Turrell at MoMA PS1 – A permanent Skyscape installation after a three-year restoration. What a special room to be in. A must see experience if you are at MoMA PS1. Check the weather before going!

Of course, our visits to studios are always so engaging and thought provoking. They highlight how much energy is required to make art and to survive. It was wonderful to touch base again with Bonnie Lane (featured in the first time that walk-to-art was on Channel 9's Getaway in November 2007).

Visit to Brian Willmont's studio

Visit to Brian Willmont's studio

This Australian born, New York based contemporary visual artist has been in USA for the last six years and just completed her masters at NYU. We were also excited to learn that Bonnie will be coming back for a residency at Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) later in the year.

It was also a pleasure to spend a raining Saturday afternoon with New York based contemporary visual artist/painter Brian Willmont at Greenpoint Terminal Gallery and his studio. A lovely, talented man with patience of a saint. His work was carefully constructed, masked and sprayed. How wonderful to be on the walls of the Facebook office in New York as part of their artist in residence program.

 

Festival in Melbourne celebrates old school photography

artists, spaces

16 May 2017
photograph by Ross Coulter

Ross Coulter: Audience

Having photography as my professional background, the photographic image is a passion for me.

In the world of digital photography, phone images and Instagram, I see photography as a different medium.

The Festival of Photography, currently on at NGV International and NGV Australia, Federation Square, is a celebration of the "old school" photography, with five artists having solo exhibitions:

The festival celebrates artists who are at different levels in their careers and presents photography in different ways – from the portrait to collage, to performance, to the collection of the photograph.

photograph by Ross Coulter

Ross Coulter: Audience

I was fortunate to participate in Ross Coulter's exhibition Audience (2013–2016).

Audience is a photographic series that documented members of the local art community in empty galleries and museums. The invited members were instructed to imagine viewing a performance art event. To shoot in an empty space takes organisation and time, as it is not often a gallery is empty even once an exhibition has come to a close. The next exhibition is rolling in and work is being wrapped to go to a new home.

It was a pleasure to be part of Ross's exhibition and three-year project.


Festival of Photography (free entry)

NGV Australia
Federation Square
Daily, 10am to 5pm

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road
Daily, 10am to 5pm

 

Youth and art in Melbourne: insights, honesty and talent

spaces, Melbourne tours

31 March 2017
Artwork by Meg Tully, Sacred Heart Girls' College, Oakleigh

Meg Tully
Observation (2016)
digital type C photograph
Sacred Heart Girls' College, Oakleigh

This week in Melbourne was all about school groups, with year 9 students flooding the CBD as part of the City Week program. walk-to-art was in the action taking lovely girls from Sienna College on tour.

It is so much fun having a banter and sharing knowledge with students who are excited to discover, share and learn. It is always refreshing to have the insights and honesty of the youth, and it is also a challenge to have them stop, look and participate before their smart phone appears!

I am passionate about educating the wider audience and making art accessible to all, regardless of age and knowledge.

Speaking of students, Top Arts 2017 is now open at the National Gallery of Victoria Australia (Federation Square). This exhibition presents exceptional work from students who have completed Art or Studio Arts as part of the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE).

Artwork by Mary Vlachos, Overnewton Anglican Community College, Keilor

Mary Vlachos
Collins St 1960 (2016)
brush and ink and watercolour
44.7 x 52.1 cm (framed)
Overnewton Anglican Community College, Keilor

This is a great opportunity for these young emerging artists (including two highlights featured in this post) to exhibit at the NGV and have a large and varied audience view their works.

What a way to start of your artistic career!

Top Arts 2017
NGV Australia
Federation Square
Ground level, NGV Design Studio
Until 16 July
Daily, 10am to 5pm
Free entry

 

 

 

walk-to-art on Instagram: What my eye picks up along the way

artists, Melbourne tours, New York tours, Venice tours

28 February 2017

walk-to-art is finally on Instagram!

Screen shot of an Instagram post by artist Shepard Fairey featuring Ai Weiwei

Shepard Fairey's post on Instagram (click image to view it in full)

After many conversations with friends and tour participants asking "why are you not on Instagram", I finally put the app on my phone.

I always prefer to see art work in the flesh and am always hesitant to view an exhibition online. However, it seems that the "hash tagging" has become rather important to today's way of experiencing everything.

Instagram has also become a way to archive works, reach an international audience, international curators and, of course, buyers and collectors who don't have the time to visit a show. Some artists use the platform to maintain a public profile and push the boundaries of censorship.

Ai Weiwei is an excellent example. Weiwei (@aiww) knows how to use the platform better than most, going beyond self-promotion to reveal the true power of social media.

Screen shot of an Instagram post by artist Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey's post on Instagram (click image to view it in full)

Having travelled back and forth from New York for the last 10 years, I am a fan of Shepard Fairey's murals and past-ups. Fairey (@obeygiant) is also political and uses the platform to reach a wider audience, but shares links to works by other artists as well – it's a global community.

So walk-to-art's Instagram (@walktoart) will be about what my eye picks up along the way. Whether I am in Melbourne walking the streets, visiting a studio, an art opening or on tour. Or maybe from the streets of New York to the magical lanes in Venice to the hidden bars for a cheeky glass of prosecco or two!

 

Bronwyn Oliver: technique, concept, beauty and elegant detail

artists, spaces

27 January 2017
Bronwyn Oliver's sculpture at Tarrawarra Museum of Art

I often have lovely, creative people from overseas staying with me and it's always a great excuse to head out of town for the weekend.

Last Sunday was a perfect day to drive to Tarrawarra Museum of Art in Healesville to view the exhibition "The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver", curated by Julie Ewington.

Bronwyn Oliver (1959–2006) was one of the most significant Australian sculptors. This exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of 50 key works, from the mid-1980s to the final solo exhibition in 2006.

It is often said that artists need to be in their own bubble to create such intense, delicate and beautiful works. Those who have worked with me often laugh at my continual use of the term "layers" – I search for technique, concept, beauty and elegant detail. Bronwyn Oliver's sculptures hold all of those layers; her work is visual poetry.

Oliver's distinctive organic metal sculptures, often inspired by nature, are intricate designs of transparent copper webbing. They are fluid, yet not innocent rendering the unforeseen forces of nature.

Her most famous works include "Magnolia" and "Palm", both of which sit in the Botanic Gardens in Sydney and Vine, which was commissioned by The Hilton Hotel in Sydney. It is among the longest sculptures in the country and the largest work that Oliver created at 16.5m long.

Bronwyn Oliver's sculpture at Tarrawarra Museum of Art

"When the ideas, the formal elements and the medium all work together, a sculpture will 'sing' with a kind of rightness. It takes on a life, a presence, which is removed from this world. It belongs to a mythical other life... This rightness isn't perfection. The sculpture might be a little sinister, or perhaps playful, or tense. Myths contain all kinds of variations in their pantheon." Bronwyn Oliver

Bronwyn sadly took her own life at the age of 47 just before her 11th solo exhibition at the Roslyn Oxley9 gallery in Sydney. Oliver was an intensely private person with a strict work ethic broken only for exercise and meals. Oliver never wore gloves, protective clothing or glasses. Even though she had suffered depression for most of her life, after her death naturopaths felt Bronwyn was very ill from copper toxicity. Oliver's hair contained eight times the normal/healthy levels of copper, and toxic levels of tin, nickel, iron, cobalt and chromium.

"The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver", curated by Julie Ewington, is on until the 5 February 2017.