September 21, 2013

Day 1 at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, I chose to wear a pair of reissued high-performance Nike circa 87 – from the days when they were more an athletic- than a fashion-accessory. Just as well: I walked much more than a mile in them! First thing I did was head into Bay 20, where Paul Yore’s censored artwork was still being sequestered behind a dense black curtain and a couple of burly security guards. Even my super-Nikes couldn’t wing me past either of these forces of evil. Chances are this work may never be seen by the public, a very sad state of affairs but one that still couldn’t dampen the general fun of the Fair. Opening night’s impression of a super-slick, high-cred operation wasn’t in the least diminished by the light of day. If anything, it was enhanced by being able to see the almost symbiotic interaction of C19th architecture and very contemporary art. The magic, as the say, is in the mix. And the spell is holding good: more smiling gallerists, more interesting and interested punters, great conversation and a steadily multiplying flock of red dots. I got the chance to take a closer look at several works I was seduced by on opening night, in the cold light of a perfect day. Here are my first three favourites on a list I’m calling (in all humility, of course 😉 Nick’s Picks.

Daniel Boyd at Rosyln Oxley9 Gallery. A young, indigenous artist of the Kudjila/Gangalu people, Boyd has been on my radar for some time and seeing his work displayed in such a powerful context of rivaling voices it convinced me even more of the stretch of his œuvre. Appropriating images of colonisation and colliding them with notions of aboriginality, enlarged to emphasise sepia or grain, the result is highly seductive, almost pointillist pictures.

Jasper Knight at Australian Galleries. For his supple use of industrial materials such as masonite, plywood and polymeres (all building materials of the ‘burbs) and his petrol head iconography, like a sleek new motor Jasper’s works speaks to me for its surface sheen. At the same time, there is a critical aspect to the work – the conspicuous drips, the incorporation of industrial signage, the high-end brands like Bugatti, Ferrari and Porsche – that appeals to my intellect.

Christian Thompson at Michael Reid. These photographs are piercingly efficient in their aesthetic as well as their ethical message. A young indigenous artist, Thompson throw into sharp relief, the problematics of sexual and gender identity as well as the powerful confusion of growing up in an urban environment today. Behind their glorious universality, I sense their very specific Australianess. That mix please me, very much.

Author: Nick tobias