Sydney Lowdown: Must-See Exhibitions
Do Ho Suh, 'Hub' series (2022). Polyester fabric and stainless steel. Exhibition view: Do Ho Suh, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), Sydney (4 November 2022–26 February 2023). © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and MCA. Photo: Anna Kučera.
Australia gains another cultural drawcard this month with the opening of Sydney Modern Project, a stunning SANAA-designed expansion to the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). We round up the best exhibitions to see in the harbourside city this summer.
Do Ho Suh's first solo exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere spans an impressive three decades of practice from the 1990s to the present, with installations, sculpture, video, drawing, and print on display throughout the MCA building.
Crowd favourites include the 'Hub' series—colourful, immersive textile installations reconstructing intermediary architectural spaces including corridors, foyers, and entrances. The South Korean artist's attention to idiosyncratic details—electrical outlets, light switches, door handles—place the interior vernacular within the various countries he has lived.
On Level 1 is Suh's Rubbing/Loving Project: Seoul Home (2013–2022), a tender ode to the artist's childhood home. The full-scale exterior reconstruction of the traditional hanok house reflects hours of manual labour. Rendered in graphite rubbings on mulberry paper, Seoul Home casts a delicate imprint of memory and identity.
For its opening, Sydney Modern Project (SMP) presents a number of ambitious site-specific commissions from Australian and international artists throughout the AGNSW's new and existing spaces.
Idling at SMP's forecourt is Francis Upritchard's mega-scale Here Comes Everybody (2022), a trio of figurative bronze statues who wrap their spindly limbs up and around the columns supporting SANAA's curved glass pergola. Upritchard comes fresh off the back of a major solo presentation in Switzerland, where similar anthropomorphic alien characters populated Kunsthaus Pasquart.
Further commissions include Yayoi Kusama's Flowers that Bloom on the Cosmos (2022), a large-scale spotted flower sculpture on the outdoor terrace overlooking Woolloomooloo Bay, and Richard Lewer's multi-panel painting Onsite, construction of Sydney Modern which resides on the lands of the Gadigal of the Eora Nation (2020–2021), which pays tribute to those who have helped to build SMP.
Daniel Boyd's Tacit Testudo comes 13 years after the artist first exhibited with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in 2009. Featuring portraits, landscapes, still life, and abstracted images, Tacit Testudo continues Boyd's enquiry into narratives around Australia's colonial history.
In ancient Rome, 'testudo' referred to a protective cover for troops, formed either from a unified body of soldiers holding shields above their heads or a mobile wheeled screen with an arched roof. How Boyd's title is interpreted is left to the viewer, though the artist leaves clues in the form of a portrait of Charles Darwin and a rendition of the famous sketch known as 'Darwin's Finches'.
Boyd is also exhibiting at the AGNSW with Treasure Island (4 June 2022–29 January 2023), his first major solo show at an Australian public institution. Next year, his first comprehensive European solo exhibition will be presented at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin.
Australian artist TextaQueen's exuberant mural paintings bring an energetic lightness to contentious issues around museological practices and imperialism. Framed as 'a balm to the displacement of diaspora', Bollywouldn't cheekily antagonises colonial narratives from the position of the queer South Asian diaspora through all-new commissions spanning illustration, photography, painting, and projection.
Scaling 4A's walls is a sprawling map of London in hot pink, with institutions such as the British Museum, Tate Modern, and the Victoria and Albert Museum rendered as tongue-in-cheek caricatures. Superimposed on these murals are digitally manipulated photographs, where TextaQueen's colourful illustrations of members of the queer South Asian community are cast onto London landmarks such as Windsor Castle and St Paul's Cathedral.
As night falls, TextaQueen's digitally projected portrait, Death Doula (2022), can also be viewed on the Parker Lane brick facade of 4A's building.
In Darlinghurst's Gallery 9, Sydney-based artist Adrian Hobbs presents Reliable Anomalies, featuring new paintings that play with perception, illusion, and dimensionality.
Seamless sky-blue gradients, suspended spheres, and surreal stripes are just some of the recurring motifs across Reliable Anomalies. As sculptural as they are painterly, Hobbs' precisely shaped panels enhance the sense of optical depth translated in his images, eliciting a second glance from the viewer.
Works such as Extra Space (2022) and Painting Problems (2022) give equal attention to flatness and dimension, stillness and motion. As Hobbs said, 'Perhaps the most binding attraction I have to the practice of painting is how successfully it can simultaneously hold a whole range of implicit contradictions'.
Group Exhibition: Ngali Jugun Ganaree (Of Our Country)
Firstdraft, 13–17 Riley Street
2 December 2022–22 January 2023
Woolloomooloo-based artist-led initiative Firstdraft presents the group exhibition Ngali Jugun Ganaree (Of Our Country). Curated by Ngugi Quandamooka curator-artist-scientist Stephanie Beaupark, the show explores Indigenous relationships with the notion of 'country', community, and knowledge systems.
The title Ngali Jugun Ganaree is Jandai language spoken on Quandamooka Country, and means 'we are Country and Country is us'. Exhibited works include cyanotype prints by Elisa Jane Carmichael; mixed-media paintings by Lowell Hunter; a text installation by Alinta Maguire; a 'textural poem' by Kirli Saunders; and a textile work by Katie West. Using materials sourced from the local natural environment, these artists untangle materiality as it relates to Indigenous culture and spirituality.
Running concurrently at Firstdraft are solo presentations by Monica Rani Rudhar, Lucy Goosey Feminist Art Collective, and Charlotte Haywood.
At STATION, New Zealand painter Séraphine Pick explores botanical themes, figuration, and mark-making in a suite of new works that playfully experiment with substrate and installation. Presented in the gallery's recessed archways are small-scale paintings such as Squall (2022) and Susserus (2022), which dangle dramatically from misshapen ceramic hooks.
In other works, Pick layers canvases and deploys various hanging mechanisms. The titular painting Sundogs (2022) comprises a long, vertical piece of unstretched canvas overlaid with a smaller stretched canvas. With a chromatic intensity evocative of a turbulent, stormy sunset, Sundogs exemplifies Pick's sensitivity to the emotive qualities of colour.
Vortex Waltz (2022) foregrounds a ghostly, blue-toned nude bust upon a hazy backdrop of marks—splattered, diluted, and layered in a rich index of painterly gesture. A tactile, sensory visual experience, Sundogs is an exhibition well worth seeing in person.—[O]