The Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards and exhibition showcase not only the best of the natural world, but the patience, ingenuity and talent of the photographers who spend their time embedded within wildlife so that they can get that incredible, revealing shot. Judged by a panel of industry-recognised professionals, this year's 100 finalists were taken by some of the world’s best nature photographers and selected for their creativity, artistry and technical complexity.
In celebration of NAIDOC Week and coinciding with the theme ‘Because of her, we can!’, the Bearded Tit is handing over their space to three First Nations women who use their art to decolonise mind and body, and to challenge notions of privilege, culture and personal history. Carmen Glynn-Braun, a Southern Arrernte, Kaytetye and Anmatyerre artist, will be displaying her paint ‘skins’ – which are frozen pieces of material, hung like tanned pelts. Amala Groom's works challenge identity through playful and political messages about cultural appropriation and lack of legal protections for First Nations arts and cultures. Her ‘Totes Appropes’ bags poke fun at Chanel’s $1,930 limited edition luxury boomerang, which was widely criticised over the internet after its launch in May 2017. And Nicole Monks, who we celebrated last year in our Deadly Sydney story, will be paying tribute to the Boycott ’88 bicentennial protests, 30 years on, in her collaborative piece ‘Fairer 2018’ with Groom. Head out back and you can also peer into her ‘Invisible Mirror’. The Bearded Tit acknowledges that this exhibition takes place on Aboriginal land which was never ceded.
This exhibition contrasts some of the Artbank collection's classical landscape paintings against new works created by six Australian contemporary artists. Each artist's practice is varied, creating a collection of responses that explore their personal perspective, its relationship to experience, and how it in turn it is imbued in their work. From Where We Stand explores how artists meditate over the world and then portray it, examining the inseparable relationship between perspective, experience and physicality. Curated by Artbank director Tony Stephens, the exhibition showcases works from Yvette Coppersmith (this year's Archibald Prize winner), Ricky Emmerton, Anna McMahon, Sean Meilak, Rusty Peters and Lisa Sammut.
Bark painting is among the most recognisable Aboriginal art, but you mightn’t know that it was only popularised in the 1930s. Until then, the familiar imagery was used as body paint and in caves. Occasionally the patterns were painted onto bark as a record of the designs, but it’s only relatively recently that the bark has been considered its own canvas. One of the greatest exponents of bark painting – and one of the greatest exponents of Aboriginal art in general – is John Mawurndjul, who rose to international fame in the late 1980s and ‘90s. The Kuninjku artist, based in Arnhem Land, is getting a major career retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, made up of 165 works. They’ll take over the third level of the MCA this winter, the same space where English artist and provocateur Grayson Perry presented a blockbuster show in 2015. At the time, Perry sparked debate when he controversially said Aboriginal art should not be considered contemporary art. Clothilde Bullen, one of the curators behind Mawurndjul’s exhibition and a Wardandi (Nyoongar) Aboriginal woman, strongly disagrees. “I think all Aboriginal art being made here and now is contemporary, and I’d absolutely stand by that,” she says. “But it’s OK that [Perry] is given the opportunity to say those things at the MCA, and we have this kind of rebuttal.” Not only is Mawurndjul one of the major pioneers of the bark medium, he has evolved and pushed traditional practices, like rarrk, which refers to a close an
Cement Fondu is one of Sydney's newest galleries, having only opened in March this year. Its next exhibition looks at the relationship between personal narratives and migrant communities and features video and installation works from five artists. A video and installation from James Nguyen, performed with his Aunty, shows "the purifying gesture of adding charcoal into a section of the Parramatta River." Khaled Sabsabi’s video installation, 'Ali or عli' "explores sunrise and sunset as both a poetic and literal metaphor for divergent east-west perspectives, unified under a single sun and through a shared, fundamental spirituality." Mona Ibrahim's new video work "relays an intimate conversation with her grandfather that reflects on her personal experience emigrating from Cairo to Sydney in 2012." Phaptawan Suwannakudt’s installation is inspired by her memories of Bangkok’s Wat Pho. And Shivanjani Lal’s video installation 'Khet' "documents the artist offering a traditional gesture of Pranama 'respectful salutation or bowing' to her ancestral mother country of India - the khet or landscape from which she is now displaced." The exhibition is showing alongside the Refugee Art Project.
At the centre of Laka, an artistic collaboration between S. Shakthidharan and Rosalee Pearson, is a feature-length film telling the story of Lily, a Yolngu woman from the Northern Territory, and her husband Siddhartha, a Sri Lankan Australian. The pair are preparing for the birth of their first child when they reach a crossroad and Lily has to make a decision between her family and country. But the film is part of a bigger exhibition that draws in sound and video installation as well as a virtual reality film that finds commonalities between the social structures and spirituality in Yolngu and Hindu culture. Those commonalities might seem surprising, but scientists have discovered DNA matches between First Nations Australians and South Asians from 4,000 years ago, suggesting a system of travel may have existed between the two regions.
The Archibald Prize is the exhibition that stops a nation – well, a city anyway. Everyone has an opinion about who and what is most deserving of the $100,000 top gong – and the annual exhibition of finalists (this year there's a whopper 57 paintings) offers plenty to argue over, featuring faces familiar and not, by big name, mid-career and emerging painters. The top gong for 2018 has gone to Yvette Coppersmith for her self-portrait, emulating the power of New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who was unavailable to pose. She beat out painters like Jamie Preisz, who won the Packing Room Prize for his portrait of Jimmy Barnes, and Vincent Namatjira, whose studio self-portrait was highly commended by the judges. The line-up for this year also includes Archibald veterans like Robert Hannaford and Del Kathryn Barton. If you prefer your painters pint-sized, then you should make a pit stop at the Young Archie exhibition, featuring portraits by artists between the ages of 5 and 18. Running concurrently in the gallery are the Wynne and Sulman Prize exhibitions – the former for landscape painting or figurative sculpture, the latter for subject painting, genre painting or mural art. Check out our hit list of the best art exhibitions to see in Sydney this month.
This June marks 40 years since Sydney's gay and lesbian community first took to the streets in a protest for civil rights that ended in mass arrests and some shocking acts of police brutality. But in the decades since, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has transformed into a celebration of the strength of the city's queer communities, while holding firm to its protest roots. Matthew Aberline and Maurice Goldberg's 40 Years of Love is a boldly colourful inflatable installation looking at the event's rich history, taking pride of place at the centre of Taylor Square. It will be installed on a large aluminium truss above the grass island and fountain in the square, with visitors invited to sit underneath the sculpture and look at its extraordinary detail. At its tallest point it will tower three storeys above the ground. Artists Aberline and Goldberg (from Goldberg Aberline Studio) call the sculpture a “big, bold and sassy artwork based on concepts of public protest, joyous celebration, community activation and engagement.” They drew inspiration from artists including Peter Tully, Brenton Heath-Kerr, Ron Muncaster and Keith Haring. They've even worked with Koori artist Lawrence Shearer to include an Aboriginal symbol for family, community and inclusion. The sculpture was originally due to be unveiled on the anniversary of the first Mardi Gras, June 24, but has been pushed back slightly. The project is by Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, supported by the City of Sydn
Some artists might try to look past the rust, grime and dilapidation of the urban environments they're capturing. Not Joshua Smith. In his first solo exhibition, he takes cities at their most honest – falling apart, covered in unfashionable graffiti – and creates aesthetically intriguing miniature models of buildings and shopfronts, complete with overflowing dumpsters and colourful signage. The streetscapes on show at the Australian Design Centre include some recognisable Sydney structures that aren’t the focal point for most postcards or ad campaigns. There’s a mouse-sized version of the now closed Olympia Milk Bar in Stanmore, the bright blue Karim building that’s wedged in a sliver of Wentworth Street, and the mad window display of the ginseng shop in Haymarket. You’ll also encounter another milk bar, this time from Joshua's home town Adelaide and a Bodega from Brooklyn, New York. These intricate creations recognise the identity of cities through their architecture, but also probe questions about urban design and how decay and history might be woven into future development. To explore these concepts further, head to the discussion night on August 22 for insights from urban designers, architects and city planners.
Frank Hurley lived an extraordinary life in just about every way imaginable. Born in Sydney, he became the official photographer for multiple expeditions to Antarctica, led by Douglas Mawson and Ernest Shackleton, including one in which the party became stranded for two full years, from 1914 to 1916. Just a year later, in 1917, Hurley joined the Australian Defence Force and became a war photographer for both world wars. His photos are among the most enduring images of the wars. But this exhibition at Manly Art Gallery and Museum celebrates Hurley's more domestic side and features mostly images taken while in Sydney at the very beginning of the 20th century and then in the 1950s. Many of the photos haven't been exhibited before and reveal a side of Sydney that most of us wouldn't know: there's Martin Place while you could still drive straight down the centre and a gorgeous photo of Circular Quay in 1960. The exhibition is part of the 9th annual Head On Photo Festival.
Consider this your hit list for eye-candy and brain fuel.