Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Saturday 8 March 2014 
11am - 6pm

The radicality of garbage

Essay by Yellam Nre
Curator, writer, academic, theorist
Antwerp and Redfern

We live today in the age of partial objects, bricks that have been shattered to bits, and leftovers. We no longer believe in the myth of the existence of fragments that, like pieces of an antique statue, are merely waiting for the last one to be turned up, so that they may all be glued back together to create a unity that is precisely the same as the original unity. We no longer believe in a primordial totality that once existed, or in a final totality that awaits us at some future date. We no longer believe in the dull grey outlines of a dreary, colourless dialectic of evolution, aimed at forming a harmonious whole out of heterogeneous bits by rounding off their rough edges. We believe only in totalities that are peripheral. And if we discover such a totality alongside various separate parts, it is a whole of these particular parts but does not totalise them; it is a unity of all of these particular parts but does not unify them; rather, it is added to them as a new part fabricated separately. Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 42.

An abandoned mattress. A bent bicycle wheel adjacent to a broken lampshade propped against a garage roller door. A pair of seatless chairs locked together in a grim embrace. These are the theoretical objects which define our epoch. Deleuze’s partial objects are our totality. 

The nihilism of the readymade – both sneering and naïve, complete yet broken – defines our experience of contemporary art today. Objects umoored from the womb of the white cube are without referent or narrative, and yet generate narrative in their very abandonment. Art made in public space is an assault on the narrative of community, and complicates the periphery of our social engagement. But when the anti-establishment gesture of the guerrilla artwork is subsumed within the cannibalising assault of gentrification, how can the art object reclaim its radicality? 

The artist is the master of objects; he [or she] puts before us shattered, burned, broken-down objects, converting them to the regime of desiring-machines… the artist presents paranoiac machines, miraculating-machines, and celibate machines so as to cause desiring-machines to undermine technical machines. Even more important, the work of art is itself a desiring-machine. The artist stores up his [or her] treasures so as to create an immediate explosion, and that is why, to [their] way of thinking, destructions can never take place as rapidly as they ought to.
Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 31-32.

In its democratizing gesture of a free-for-all pile of stuff on stuff Redfern Biennale is a shot across the bow of government sanctioned social sculpture for the greater good. It places public art back in the hands of the public, where they are free to ‘engage’ with it as they wish. The utopian desire, imagined or otherwise, of a multifarious yet united society is thus enacted via the analogy of trash. The value of what we discard, conceal and detain outlines the border of our collective culture. Thus the artist’s gesture of displaying a work of art in public space becomes one of defiance and generosity. In doing so, it confounds Duchamp’s exhortation to indifference to the aesthetics or origin of an object – it enforces direct interaction with the situation of appearance and context. Destructions should take place more rapidly. 

Friday, August 16, 2013


Exhibition by Hobart Hughes 
27 August to 7 September 2013

Diana, 2013, ceramic, 340 x 140 x 90mm

'Does sexual desire have its origin in the old lizard brain, focused on reproduction? Perhaps. However, by the time the sexual urge re-forms itself in the curly complex front brain it may have changed the gender it is attracted to, changed it’s own gender, could be wrapped in leather, hung up on hooks, be thrilled to be threatened, terrified about being threatened, desperate to be dominated, wired to be excited by a squeaky costume or take any number of other forms. I can’t say I know why. Perhaps because we have a large plastic brain able to form itself into the shape it needs to be. If indeed the largest sexual organ is the brain it’s no wonder we are obsessed with sex. Maybe this brain just gets bored easily. 

'Sexual desire is a heat haze in the distance; the more we chase it the more it recedes. This is the disappearing horizon of desire. So in the end, most of us settle on some image, some sense, some mysterious relationship with desire that provides some satisfaction with that distance. Every now and then we try to thrill ourselves to close that gap, but distance usually returns. It’s a relationship with our imagination that consistently compels us to engage in a search for a consistent ardor. 

'We dance with our history and our body chemistry. We may dally or just be hardwired from birth but to a greater or lesser extent we will do anything it takes to ignite the flame on whatever fuel we happen to run on. But is sex just the psyche taking the ego out to dinner trying to get laid? I don’t think so. I think we seek something deep, a connection that combines who we just happen to be with who we might be able to be. That could be just about anything. 

'In this series of sculptures I have looked, in a rough order, from the ancient to the present and at some other possible future forms that desire might take. 

'The first sexual memes were indeed the Venus figurines, best known of which is the Venus of Willendorf. The rough design spread all over the ancient central European world from Siberia to the Pyrenees. There are examples in Japan as well. Ancient historians disagree on why or what they mean but my point is simple: they are sexy and they travelled. 

'In 2008 I made a stop motion film of the entire contents of the Athens Museum. I was struck by sexual classicism. Did the Greeks indeed have the first sex industry? What better way to sell your culture than to come up with a powerful sexual meme. The one the Greeks invented was ‘the draped reveal’. The fabric hiding and simultaneously accentuating the body both enthralled and assured the viewer. You can see this woman but maybe you’re not supposed to, much like the wet T-shirt. Greek culture went everywhere, just as porn does on the internet. This is just a personal theory: the general formula for packaging desire but keeping it on the high culture dais was a winning combination. That delicious sexual tension of half naked bodies became the very image of good neo classic governance for the Victorians. 

'There is a moment in Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut) where the world’s water is on the brink of being turned into a solid called “Ice 9”. It’s the end of the future. The two lead characters look at each other at last wanting to consummate the romantic tension of the story. Yet all the ardor vanishes and the narrator resigns to the idea that his desire was far more connected to reproducing the future generation than he had ever suspected. If the two leads had been gay what would have happened? Do we want to fuck if there’s no future in it? 

'I’m not sure, maybe you’d just want to have one last truly connected moment. I really don’t think everyone needs the idea of producing the next generation to get off. But… We all have parents, even if we never meet them and we ponder their success or failure at both forming us and being parents. Our model for closeness is either formed or rejected. It doesn’t matter if it’s two men, two women, a woman and a chimp or a woman and a man provided they love and nurture us. If they shame us, damage us or cripple our confidence we will perhaps transfer this to whoever we encounter and that may mean something sexually dangerous and ugly. If we want to close the gap to this horizon of desire we need to connect somehow. 

'At present we find ourselves in an age of continual desire updates. Our technology, our food and our sexual self-image is likewise, updatable. On top of all this market-placed commodification of need is a tantalizing prospect of genetic manipulation of our core. This is what I refer to with ‘Mechanical Reproduction’ (my apologies to Walter Benjamin). Even though we can sit, very assured in our comfortable present sexual relationships with our partners and our mutual imaginations, this possibility of tinkering with our DNA does change the rules somewhat. I have no idea really how much this will change how we feel about ourselves, quite literally, but it does make me wonder. It’s the first time in our evolution that one of the absolute bases of sex has changed. As a thought experiment I made “So What If I Cloned My Dead Wife”. I try to predict what type of desire might form. The sculpture depicts two identical women caressing each other’s sex. The title does imply another unseen figure however. We have to imagine a wealthy individual whose young wife might have died, now in old age gazing upon the cloned pair, pole dancing. They may indeed be some kind of genetically manufactured slaves. I tried to make them like someone you might meet, not too beautiful, so that they capture an individual more than an ideal. They are slightly different, just as twins can be altered by small differences in experiences. In this scenario it’s as if we are not cloning people but cloning sexual gratification and desire itself. 

'As a society we have come some way to accepting diversity as being an expression of both being and culture. This exhibition is merely a collection of the forms sexual desire can take, along with a few threads that seemed to spin off from that general pattern. My apologies with the license I take with Freud, Parvati, Greek Mythology and anybody that may be offended by my trivialization of their obsession.'
- Hobart Hughes, 2013

The Athens Museum time-lapse can be found at and click on the link Road Movie


4 - 24 AUGUST 2013

The Damien Minton Gallery has invited a group of artists to respond to the recently completed major work by Sydney artist, Martin Sharp: 
‘Graceland: A Reprise of Giorgio de Chirico’s Song of Love’. 
Graceland appropriates the surrealist classic and features the Apollo bust as Elvis. 

'Graceland' at the Damien Minton Gallery

Martin Sharp is fascinated with Elvis Presley as the King of America and refers to a sermon delivered by Dr Robert Wolfgramm at the Frankston Seventh Day Adventist church titled: 
“The King’s King of Kings”. 

In the sermon, which documents Presley’s career, Wolfgramm references Elvis’ favourite Scripture, 1 Corinthians 13. Some of these verses were transcribed on a plaque beside Elvis’ ‘Graceland’ bed. 

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 

As Wolfgramm concludes: 

“This is what the religion of the King’s ‘King of Kings’ is all about – love. Elvis showed it to everyone who came in contact with him. He was generous and colour blind, He was no saint, but he knew who was: Jesus Christ. Thank you Elvis for being a living testimony to this our only hope. Amen” 

The painting by Martin Sharp will be on public display for the first time and we invited artists to contribute a new work or an existing piece that may evoke any of the varied concepts around Graceland, Elvis and kings.

Friday, June 28, 2013



The idea of this exhibition started when I was reading the book by New York based musician David Byrne, well known for his role in the popular band Talking Heads.

Early in the book, ‘How Music Works’, Byrne articulates how the environment musicians find themselves helps shape and refine their creative output. 
They are responding and reacting not only to the social and cultural moment but also the physical spaces that are available to them at the time.

In the early days Talking Heads performed at the now infamous New York club, CBGB.
It was a small bar …”there was little reverberation in those spaces and they weren’t that big … so the groove could be strong and upfront.  The details of one’s music would be heard and given the size of the place intimate gestures and expressions would be seen and appreciated as well, at least from the waist up”.

With that in mind it is interesting to transpose the same principle to the physical spaces artists currently engage with in order to create and nurture their practice.
Not so much the space they perform in, galleries, but the space where they are working, the studio.
The space where they are productive, converting a creative notion into a tangible form.

Everyone is fascinated with an artist studio, the romantic notion of a pool of creative unbridled expression.  Yet the hard yards of creation, destruction and resolution are determined in these spaces.

This exhibition WORKING|NEWCASTLE presents three new bodies of work by three contemporary artists who are WORKING in Newcastle.


Accompanying the new work is a photo essay by artist
who visited the three spaces and responded to the three artists’ relationship with their space.

It is interesting to acknowledge the artists’ practice as WORK.
It is exasperating that even now, in the early part of the 21st century, there is still a notion in popular consciousness that the creative output of a visual artist is not WORK but something ephemeral and essentially ‘part time’.

This is a constant tussle having to be addressed by those in the visual arts industry: maintaining and promoting the role and worth of artists within the public domain.  The visual arts industry, especially those located in Australian regional areas, are consistently placed on a footing of justifying and defending, despite the centuries of cultural heritage easily accessible for all to see and experience.

The artwork in this exhibition is rich and varied, the space in which it was created is just as rich and worth describing, articulating, acknowledging.

James Drinkwater has recently moved into a new studio, an old glass factory in the West End of Newcastle.
Like a lot of young artists with limited financial capacity, James relies on contacts, intuition, inventiveness and resourcefulness.
“It’s a monumental run down Art Deco building and I’m in this great big mezzanine/loft at the back of the property. The windows were all boarded up which I had to address. A lot of the old glass racks are still there loaded with stunning pieces of antique glass. It’s a big dusty old space with high ceilings, untreated hardwood floors and big barn doors that open down onto a lane. I had to clean out all these relics and family heirlooms, which took a few days and then a few more to move my junk in. All that junk, hardwood, glass and dust is just glorious.

James and his artist wife, Lottie Consalvo, recently returned to Australia after two tough but rewarding years in Berlin.
“I have worked in many different spaces and each space has definitely informed that body of work. When I am between studios I make site-specific work, which is again informed by that place or space. The aesthetic and scale of the space I'm in now means I can be quite ambitious while smaller spaces in the past have required a more sensitive approach and controlled orientation. At the moment I can just storm around the place and compose things. I even like the idea of having not having a studio as such and simply use a city as your space and respond to that energy and space, you know like a major installation.”

Growing up in a typical East Cost Australia suburban environment, the garage, is one of the more enduring ‘creative’ spaces for young Australians, whether it be music, craft or the visual arts.

“I started my love affair with garages as a young boy. At about 10 I took over my parent’s garage as a studio and then in my teens I played in bands and we made a lot of noise in garages all over Newcastle. Most of my studios have been in garages or sheds; I've converted warehouses and tiny garages to live in. If you’re resourceful enough its incredible how much space is really out there. I made a decision a long ago to F..K the real estate agents, fuck the rental market, just look around and start conversations. You have to think one thing and say another.”

Having grown up in Newcastle he is well versed in the rhythm of the city.

“Newcastle is such a tramp, I love it. It has this fantastic gritty and tough side with this die hard little scene. I find it so appealing to live and work here. I spent quite a bit of time between Leipzig and Berlin and found it to be so aligned with the Newcastle and Sydney thing. You know Berlin is this big super fabulous art city but in reality slightly further east in Leipzig is where I found a far more authentic and strong scene. Its easy in Sydney like Berlin to get caught up in all that art world crap, its expensive and everybody is screwing everybody to get somewhere and there is all this pressure to be at the openings and parties which can be amusing on occasion but I just see people all the time with that 'fear of missing out' syndrome gallivanting around when they should just be in their studio focusing on making meaningful work. It’s always been those regional cities where great art and movements have come. It makes perfect sense to be here.”

Peter is a mid career artist who grew up in Geelong, Victoria and arrived in Newcastle as a fresh visual arts undergraduate at Newcastle University.
He never left, and has carved out a professional art practice based in Newcastle.
His studio is located at his family home in inner suburban Newcastle.  Yet the studio where a lot of the preliminary work is done is ….

“… my head.  I take it to Woolworths and my son’s rugby on the weekends.
It’s a studio of endless possibilities, where anything can be realised, ideas fermented and weakness resolved.
My other studio is 7 x 4 metres with a high 4 metre ceiling. It is not as vast as the cerebral space, but it is a big enough to hammer things out.
This studio stands one metre from the side of my family home. I’ve always lived close to where I make art. It’s convenient.
I like to be close to my family. They love me. It’s good to be loved.

I work hard at my art. A friend who was much older than me, who I met at art school, told me that I must approach it like a real job,  ten hours minimum a day, two smokos and lunch.
Well I may not get 10 hours in, but I work everyday.  The rhythm is punctuated by coffee breaks until my kids come home from school in the afternoon and then the family forms its wagons into a circle for the night.
Sometimes I venture out to an arts related function, but not as often as I used to. I don’t leave me house much at all. I don’t need a lot of socialisation anymore. I’ve got what I need. The mix of domestic and the otherness of the studio pulses through my life.
It’s diurnal, the light of the interconnected domestile with the dark of the lone creation.”

Brett is a mid career painter with a national presence.
Having grown up in Newcastle, Brett has created his studio practice in Sydney, the Hunter Valley and the North Coast of NSW.

“My current studio in Newcastle is a space that I have leased for the past five years.
In Sydney, I had some great spaces in old rag trade buildings in Surry Hills, but they all required me to mediate my activity in regards to noise, process, scale of work.

The current space is located in an industrial estate so there is the freedom to work whenever I need, run equipment, make noise and mess.
It is also surrounded by other businesses and their activities are useful for supplying materials and expertise or for subject matter.

I grew up in Newcastle with my father, uncles and grandfathers’ all working in industry, so my thoughts and emotions related to making things are connected to that environment so I feel most comfortable positioning my activity in an industrial area.

I also like the sounds of production that you hear in working areas - it’s the most direct way I can tap into the deep feelings I had when I heard these sounds as a child.

The space also gives me the scope to work on whatever scale I need and to have several projects or processes going on at the same time.

Paintings can be pinned to the flat concrete walls to be painted, sprayed, scraped and sanded while paper works can be worked on in a separate area.
Things that need to dry and stay clean can be moved and not stop work on other pieces.

Another bonus is to be able to mock up exhibition installs.
The orchestration of the overall look of a show has always been important to me so to have the space to see how pieces work together (or don’t)is really helpful.
The studio itself is a standard concrete unit, concrete walls and floor with a big roller.
Functional, grey and rather sparse.
It is space that compels you to make things, to address its lack state.
High walls which I love – (though I always wonder what I’ll do if the light globes blow)!

In that way the studio and my work are in a dialogue that is becoming more interrelated.

In a broader context and out of the studio Newcastle works well at the moment – a town of industry near to a major commercial city, Sydney.  It gives you the best of both and keeps you at arms length from the distractions of the city and the machinations of the art scene.

Presently, Newcastle provides me with the subject matter to feed my work and the time and space to think and feel.

Other projects and places will become important in the future and the requirements of my studio practise will play a big part in where they take place and how successful the resulting work will be.”   

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Adam Hill at the Marrambang Meeting

2 – 25 MAY 2013

Goulburn was traditionally a Meeting Place for surrounding Aboriginal peoples. In this spirit, Adam Hill from Sydney, Peter Swain from Canberra and Perc Carter from Goulburn come together in an exhibition at the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, NSW, of sculpture and 2D works including photography. 


General hearsay re the original inhabitants of Goulburn (according to local knowledge) states that ‘no one peoples presided within the local area’. However, the lands were apparently traversed by some dozen groups whom apparently met for ceremonies upon lands now occupied by significant icons. Sadly today, a significant population of the Indigenous peoples here is housed within one of the continents most notorious gaols.' 

Coinciding with the ‘150th’ Celebration of ‘Australia’s first inland city’, this exhibition seems appropriate time to enlighten. At first glance when arriving or passing through Goulburn, one may be excused for noticing the absence of acknowledgement of cultural detail. Alarmingly, this is further emphasized when perusing the March / April Council Newsletter. 

Granted, It is indeed commendable that Goulburn HAS adopted ‘Mulwaree’ (presumably the closest clans people within cooee) as part of the official title. However, the remainder of the newsletter- complete with two pages of pie graphs boasting economic expenditure seems a sad promotion of a community forged over one hundred & fifty years. 

Upon the current ‘map of Aboriginal Australia’… the few areas across the continent that were NOT occupied by a language group per se, are conveniently coloured ‘GREY’. Goulburn however appears distinctly marked ‘Gundungurra’ (and coloured grey). Perhaps at time of printing, there existed uncertainty as well. Either way… grey seems an apt metaphorical colour defining ‘neutrality’. 

The chosen logo featured to celebrate this festive occasion is a stylized Cathedral. Appropriate of course, given the enormity of the largest landmark within the CBD of Goulburn. The colour ‘purple’, the adopted colour of the dominant introduced denomination. I’ve therefore chosen to rely largely on purple as the basis of my installations within this show. 

With such astute focus being placed on the numeric analysis, pertaining Goulburn Cities historic existence within the Colony, I’ve hypothesized my own mathematical equation. The timespan of the overall Colony arrives at two hundred & twenty – five years (225). The timespan of Goulburn- one hundred – fifty (150). Purely coincidental it may be, however… by subtracting 150 from 225 we arrive at ‘75’. Exactly half and sadly… the average life expectancy of an Aboriginal Female in ‘New South Wales’. That’s TEN YEARS less than the average female face featured upon the cover of the current newsletter. 

Through no fault of our own… much withstanding history relative to Indigenous cultures has been / or is being recycled. Often then presented in the most ‘fashionable’ way possible. Urban ‘Dot Painting’ is a prime exemplar. I felt that by using salvaged cardboard often from ‘Plasma’ TV’s, this presented an interesting metaphor for such recycling of culture, and, the relative fragility of our remaining Indigenous cultures today.

Image: Half, 2013, mixed media assemblage, 770 x 1130mm.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


View a short film by Haydn Keenan, Smart Street Films, from the opening of the Eternity exhibition.

At the opening address of the Eternity exhibition I attempted to allude to the cultural importance of gallery spaces in Sydney. 

Along with the early experiments of artist run spaces like The Yellow House there is a rich history of commercial galleries continuously nurturing artists, providing a sense of purpose for the artwork they produce. 

They are more than just places of monetary exchange. Commercial galleries in Sydney have been vital in shaping the visual history of this city. They have been at the forefront of providing a safe place and outlet for the rich and varied eccentricities and passions of creative people; both artist and audience. 

There is no doubt the commercial gallery scene world wide is experiencing a seismic shift as it deals with the changing nature of doing things in the digital age. 

On one hand it is an exciting time working towards new unique and successful formulas, reinventing the 20th century format of white wall gallery spaces. Yet there is a concern the very tight paradigm is strangling a very genuine legacy. 

It is a sentiment echoed in a recent essay by New York art critic Jerry Saltz in the on line magazine Vulture. 

“Galleries are social space, collective séances, campfires where anyone can gather.” 

Yet he has found in New York the majority of galleries at the moment are ‘eerily empty’, that the shift of emphasis into art fairs, auctions, biennales and the ‘push push’ of jpegs is eliminating the essential role of art gallerists to nurture, develop, curate and juxtapose. 

“Shows go up and don’t seem to have consequence other than sales or no sales. Nothing builds off much else. Art can’t get traction.” 

What is worse he declares is: 
“A jadedness appears in people who aren’t jaded”. 

Yet this is not a reactionary rant, it is an attempt to look at the reality of what is happening. 

Saltz concludes by saying: 

There is no “the” art world anymore. There have always been many art worlds, overlapping, ebbing around and through one another. Some are seen, others only gleaned, many ignored. “The” art world has become more of a virtual reality than an actual one, useful perhaps for conceptualizing in the abstract but otherwise illusory. 

Once we adjust to that, we can work within the new reality. If the galleries are emptier, the limos gone, the art advisers taking meetings elsewhere, and the glitz offshore, the audience will have shrunk to something like it was well before the gigantic expansion of the art world. When I go to galleries, I now mainly see artists and a handful of committed diligent critics, collectors, curators, and the like. In this quiet environment, it may be possible for us to take back the conversation. Or at least have conversations. While the ultrarich will do their deals from 40,000 feet, we who are down at ground level will be engaging with the actual art—maybe not in Chelsea, where the rents are getting too high, but somewhere. That’s fine with me.” 

Fine with me too Jerry! 

Comin’ all the way from Redfern Sydney.