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You'll want to poke your fingers into this ceramicist's holes

Written by Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran

Welcome to the 31st guest blog post of Time Out Sydney's 52 Weeks of #SydCulture 2017 challenge! August’s culture selector is Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran: one of Australia’s rising art stars. Every week in August, Ramesh will be telling us what he loved the week before. Think of it as your recommendations for this week, from someone who sees a helluva lot of arts and culture. Over to him.

The ceramics of Glenn Barkley pack a punch. He has a signature style defined by a commitment to labour, a sharp wit and a love for the ceramic material that borders on obsession. Seeing his pots, you are inevitably drawn in by infinite amounts of tiny holes poked through exposed coils. Various tokens dangle and a glassy green glaze often embellishes parts of his surfaces.

The title of his mini exhibition at Artspace, ‘yetmorecontemporaryart’, is an ironic proposition. There is a tendency for contemporary art and discourse to exist in a closed feedback loop; artists often make art about art, for a tiny ‘art-educated’ section of the population. Glenn is not one of these artists. Encountering his massive pot in the front room at Artspace, you think of monuments, trophies and even a kind of tribute. As an artist, I was struck by the hardcore physicality of the work. It suggests time, labour, sweat, and maybe even tears.

Glenn Barkley: Yetmorecontemporaryart
Photograph: Zan Wimberley

His inspiration for this exhibition is drawn from the internet. Specifically, the sometimes tedious (yet always entertaining) heated ‘discussions’ that play out in online forums as figures in contemporary art jibe over serious and trivial issues. It’s an interesting topic for creative exploration as we consider the role of the internet in terms of the shifting contexts and spaces in which critical discussions are now taking place. In the last five years we have witnessed various art publications opting for an exclusively digital platform to disseminate their ideas. Artists are increasingly making their work to ensure there is screen viability. And, personally, I often check certain individuals’ (critics, outspoken artists etc.) Facebook feeds to see how they are weighing in upon current topical issues.

Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo's 'After Taste' at Sullivan+Strumpf
Photograph: Supplied

After Taste, an exhibition of work by Indonesian artist Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo at Sullivan + Strumpf, has a similar indulgence in materiality. Experiences of contemporary art are generally visual, aural and sometimes even tactile. While it seems to be a bit trendy at the moment for artists to incorporate smells or ‘scents’ in their works, it’s not often that taste is considered as a core site of creative exploration. Reading about Sunaryo’s work in the material supplied by the gallery, we get a sense of the interests that underpin his large-scale paintings:

Apparently mundane memories and experiences – eating a lemon, biting into a chilli, or sipping on bitter coffee – are translated into abstract painterly gesticulations that distil and preserve sensations.

While I couldn’t help but see a bit of humour as I spotted some tiny dried fish in one of the works, experiencing these paintings you are undeniably transported into some kind of sublime realm of synaesthesia where experiences of tasting lemons, chilli, coffee and other edible things morph into massive paintings. From an artist’s perspective, I was struck by the sophistication of the works. There was a complex use of colour, and the high gloss surface achieved through the use of resin was mesmerising.

Yetmorecontemporaryart is at Artspace (Woolloomooloo) until August 20.

After Taste is at Sullivan+Strumpf (Zetland) until August 12.

While you’re here, check our 52 Weeks of #SydCulture challenge, and let us know what you're seeing/loving on Instagram via the hashtag #SydCulture.

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