Melbourne Art Fair is now open, presenting solo shows and works from 59 leading galleries and Indigenous-owned art centres from across the country. With so much to see, we asked curator and writer Kelly Gellatly to tell us her ‘top 10 things’ at this year’s fair—for collectors and art lovers alike.
Fine Arts, Sydney: Hany Armanious
Hany Armanious’ Dew Point, 2012 continues the feats of mimesis for which his practice is celebrated, extending the artist’s long exploration of casting objects, and of making perfect replicas of imperfect things. Armanious’s casting destroys both the original and the mould, in effect creating a new artefact that blurs the boundaries between original and copy. His works force a double take, undermining our trust in and experience of known materials through the almost magical transformation he enacts upon them.
Darren Knight Gallery: Kushana Bush
Kushana Bush’s work draws upon a myriad of historic sources ranging from illuminated manuscripts and early Renaissance frescoes through to Persian miniatures, Mughal painting and Japanese Ukiyo-e prints. Bush’s new body of work contains the hallmarks of her practice—flattened perspective, meticulous detail and a merging of mythological and contemporary worlds. But in this instance her palette is restrained to one colour—pale blue, which is painted on black paper to striking effect.
The Commercial: Gunter Christmann
Often described as “an artist’s artist”, Gunter Christmann (1936-2013) deserves to be far better known and celebrated in this country, and his complex idiosyncratic oeuvre has much to teach younger generations of painters. On a constant quest for new ideas and areas of exploration, his work shifted stylistically across his career, yet both an interest in the world around him and the role of chance, and a desire to work experimentally, remained central to his oeuvre.
Anna Schwartz Gallery: Emily Floyd
Emily Floyd’s Surplus Labour, 2022, comprises a “family of philosophical owls” originally carved as models for a childrens’ reading pavilion. Embodying, in a very real sense, the artist’s own ‘surplus’, the installation draws upon sculptural models and propositions created by Floyd over the course of her public art practice, and continues her ongoing investigations into socially engaged design, social and community structures, experimental education and the legacies of modernism.
LAST Collective (part of PROJECT ROOMS)
LAST Collective comprises artists Beth Arnold, Melanie Irwin, Katie Lee, Clare Rae and Hanna Tai. With a focus on performative practice, LAST is bound by a belief in the power and possibilities of independent artists working together in communities of practice and the affinities across their individual work in terms of the principles of light, air, space and time (LAST).
Neon Parc: Nabilah Nordin(part of BEYOND, ‘Waking the Sleeping Statues’, curated by Emily Cormack)
Inspired by a poem by Giorgio de Chirico and the somnambulant experience of the last two years, Cormack’s Waking the Sleeping Statues includes six sculptural commissions created in response to “this strange stilled, cusping moment – dwelling on the no-place / some place that we are in”. Made through a process of ‘unlearning’, and in cycles of construction and destruction, the oozing sensibility of Nabilah Nordin’s sculptures will no doubt be a visceral and engaging response to this brief.
Jane Lombard Gallery: Michael Rakowitz
Working at the “intersection of problem-solving and troublemaking”, Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz is renowned for his socially engaged projects that often evolve over many years, sometimes blurring into the world beyond art (“These things are part of a lived work,” he has said). Rakowitz’s practice draws upon extensive research on cultural objects and events, resulting in work that combines complex histories and symbolism in a critique of issues including colonisation and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
MARS Gallery: Scotty So (performance – part of LIVE)
Driven by “the thrill of camp” Scotty So’s cross-disciplinary practice flamboyantly explores the contradictory relationship between humour and sincerity in lived experience and draws upon the traditions of his Chinese heritage. So’s lip-synching Chinese Opera performance is inspired by the ancient Chinese story of the moon goddess Chang’e, who sought refuge in the moon after the emperor Hou Yi discovered she had stolen and drank the elixir of life which had been given to him by the gods.
Jilamara Arts & Craft Association: Johnathon World Peace Bush
Johnathon World Peace Bush’s paintings combine figuration, gesture and Tiwi jilamara (body paint design) in compositions that meld Tiwi iconography with representations including political figureheads, imagery related to the Catholic Church and colonial stories of the Tiwi. As the artist has said: “… I hold the Western and Aboriginal law in my hands for all humankind to be equal. I have to balance both laws. I have been through many obstacles in order for my words to be heard.”
Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre: Wanapati Yunupiŋu
Painstakingly etching totemic designs into discarded industrial metal—primarily yellow road signs, Wanapati Yunupiŋu is part of a group of Yolgŋu artists who are pushing the parameters of Indigenous ‘painting’ in northeast Arnhem Land. Following the law that artists must use the land if they are to paint the land, the signs found on Country are thus able to be transformed by the artist into intricate and shimmering contemporary depictions of ancient Yolgŋu stories.