This is what happens when artists collide at The Other Art Fair Melbourne

It’s rare to get up in the face of artists. See their work. Hear first hand what their work is all about.

When you’re at exhibition openings in galleries, it’s sometimes hard to know who the artist is, let alone get a chance to speak with them and dive into their mind.

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Ray Monde at The Other Art Fair

Yet this is exactly what happen at The Other Art Fair (TOAF). When it was quiet, I ducked off from my stand to talk to other artists, see their work, hear their stories and revel in their creations.

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Hugh Ramage and Cookie at The Other Art Fair

It was great meeting artists like Hugh Ramage, Brendan Larkin, Shannon Johnson and Stacey Rees, Tyrone Layne. And catching up again with the wonderful Jo White and Shane Drinkwater who I met in Sydney.

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Amazing portraits by Stacey Rees

It’s such a tiring experience, standing, talking for three days straight to strangers. It’s really something artists shouldn’t have to do – they should be laying down the upchucking of the dark imagination, yet the truth of the art world today is that you have to back yourself, you have to get amongst it. How else are you going to live off your art and give away your day-job that gnaws away at your soul?

Gearing up for The Other Art Fair Melbourne

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I play silly mind games with myself. I always have since I was a kid.

Last year, before The Other Art Fair Sydney, as I undressed to get into bed, I threw my clothes towards the dirty clothes basket and thought “If I get them in, I’ll sell one of my pieces”.

My clothes didn’t make it into the basket. Not a sock.

You can imagine my surprise when I sold all my works. More than that, I had really rich, engaging conversations with people about the work. Shared my stories and saw how they were taken in – and I discovered my childhood experiences were shared by lots of people.

So this year, as I’m frantically prepping for The Other Art Fair Melbourne, I really don’t have time to think about how my work will be received in ‘fancy, arty Melbourne’, instead my total focus is on the work, trying to get it just right and to be as hard on my work as I am on myself.

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I’m looking forward to catching up with some of my art mates I met in Sydney and seeing their beautiful faces again.

I’ll keep focused on the work and the stories – and who knows what will happen with art and the public collide?

Is Dan Kyle the next Arthur Boyd?

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I’m going to say it right now, I love Dan Kyle. He’s a young guy, living in the mountains taking an obsessive look at the Australian bush around him. To be honest, it’s not the man I love, it’s the artist.

He paints trees again and again and again. The pale trunks of eucalyptus trees like ghosts stalking the landscape. They’re silent witness to what’s going on about them, the birds, the rainfall and the incursions of people.

They stand in judgement, looking at us to look within ourselves.

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Well, that’s how they make me feel. That’s the funny thing about the Australian bush, I have never felt alone in it. I have always felt watched. It’s weird because I spent my entire childhood playing in the scrub, building cubbyhouses on the banks of Burrell Creek, yes there were always quiet eyes in the forest.

Dan probably has a completely different take on this work. I’ve never spoken to Dan and I have never read about his work – I’ve only looked at it. Followed his works as they progress on Instagram.

It’s rare to find works of art that make you feel something so powerful and that’s why for his use of colour and subject, I really think Dan Kyle is going to change the Australian landscape, show it to us in ways that only Arthur Boyd has dared explore before.

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What happens next?

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I love now. I love this moment. I love the start of something new.

This week I started a new series. A series exploring childhood experiences – one more time – but this time it’s going to be better.

It’s going to be better because the more I think about my childhood, the more my memories become clearer and the more I uncover long forgotten experiences.

It’s also better because the more I create, the better I get. My skills improve, my colour work gets better and the more confident I become to take risks, to do stupid things, to do fun things, to do what I would never have tried a year ago.

It’s going to be better because more people have put their faith in my work. More people have made a connection with my work, loved it so much to want to buy it, take it home and hang it on their walls.

Now I have such a fierce drive to show them, to prove to them that they made the right decision, that this will go on and on. Better and better with many, many more new beginnings.

This pic is the first background to my first new work. It’s a beach scene – blue water, white beach, blue sky, reliving the feeling of drowning.

A glorious dark start to a new, new beginning.

 

 

 

Walking the tight-rope of an art commission

Getting a commission is an exciting prospect, being asked to create a bespoke artwork for a benefactor is exhilarating.

But it’s also a strange burden.

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Normally, when I create artworks, it flows, it’s a representation of what in my mind, a story I’m trying to tell, a feeling I’m trying to conjure up.

With a commission, it’s not so straight forward. There’s a bit of second guessing, will they like this, what colours do they prefer, will this fit with their other works.

Every thought like this is a bit of a speed hump, a tiny stumbling block that can bring an artist unstuck.

Forging on is the only way forward, there’s no way to create art by committee and so you put the inner voices behind, leave the second-guessing to the critics and finish the work.

Then I leave it for a while, sit it somewhere prominent where I’ll see it all the time. Check it out while I’m drinking my morning tea, pass it by on my way for a pee, I live with it for a while and if I still like it, if it still feels right, then it’s ready.

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Is Trump the greatest president of all time?

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Self Portrait as an Ultra Nationalist, 2013, Abdul Abdullah, c-type print 155 x 110cm

The phrase ‘It’s a small world’ is being given a whole new meaning with Donald Trump in the White House.

Instead of standing as a beacon on the hill, Trump is taking us down into a winding valley, where we can’t see too far ahead. Where we don’t know what’s around the corner.

And he’s walling off the valley, so it’s hard to reach out to others – for trade and for the truth.

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Jail Mate, 2010, Liam Benson, c-type print, 61 x 91cm

It’s with that mindset, that I went to see Young and Free at the Bega Regional Art Gallery. I made the trek down south because the exhibition was showing many of my favourite contemporary Australian artists including Tony Albert, Joan Ross, Alex Seton and Abdul Abdullah.

Bega Regional Art Gallery is a tiny space – and it’s doing some really brave work. To bring together such diverse artists and to challenge us on what it means to be Australian – in a fairly remote regional town – is no small feat.

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Detail; Standing Mannequin Target, 2007,  Alex Seton, Marble, 32 x 48 x 200cm

Add to that the nature of the artwork on display. There’s no oils on canvas, there’s no watercolours, it’s not popularist or easy to digest.

It says a lot of about the town of Bega and the gallery itself. It’s only by having these kinds of exhibitions in these kinds of places that we can hope to have rational sound conversations about the kind of Australia we want to live in.

It’s the kind of work, that if shown in the United States of America, could easily become tagged as degenerate art.

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Maybe I am the bad guy, 2013, Abdul Abdullah, c-type print 110 x 110cm

I’m not alarmist, I’m not prepping for the end of the world, but I am alert. I am watching. And we should all keep a very close eye on what’s happening around us.

It’s through art that we can make bold, strong and compelling statements. It’s through art that we can rebel and taunt and struggle into the dying night.

Let’s make sure we always have the freedom to express ourselves – in any way we want – in any space we choose.

 

 

 

What happens when you cross Japan with Australia?

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I’ve often spoken of the serendipity of creativity – how our heads suck in every thing we experience – sights, sounds, tastes, colours, moments and jumbles them up to create something new.

Last year, I stopped over in Japan on the way back to Australia for a couple of days to break up the 26 hour flight and it was there I saw wood block prints of the 69 stations of the Kisokaido.

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The stations are tradition posts or stopping points along the highway from the capital city. For some reason, these prints really stuck with me. There’s a wonderful romantic idea of walking a path, taking a pilgrimage, to savour the travelling as much as the destination.

Back home in Australia, I was travelling home along the King’s Highway when I saw the landforms and landmarks out the car window in a completely different way.

I saw them as rest points – stopping points – between Australia’s capital and the seaside. And I began to take quick snaps out of the car window.

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It occurred to me, I could create artworks with an Australian twist on the Kisokaido, I could create imagined resting points along the King’s Highway and reinterpret them for today’s living.

There are natural places that traveller’s take a break, sometimes to camp, sometimes to eat, sometimes to take in the scenery.

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I’ve got a lot in my head, a lot of ground to cover, but first I need to get some preliminary sketches down and see if this seed of an idea will germinate into something special.