Unlike the trendy tatt from the local shopping mall, the gift of a memorable work of art will last well beyond the 12 days of Christmas. There have been some worthy exhibitions throughout the year you may have missed this year, some artbooks which you’ve been meaning to read or an arts organisation you’re intending to support, all of which would make ideal Christmas gifts. Now is the time to give the gift of art to your children, grandchildren (they will be grateful when they are older), your partner, closest friend or something special for yourself: here’s a Christmas list of wonderful suggestions ….
Let’s start with artworks:
Many galleries are promoting their own stockroom-based Christmas gift suggestions. These are not the leftovers but tend to be smaller works, at a lower price point, sometimes multiples, possibly less significant in an artist’s oeuvre. They remain however eminently gift-able. You don’t need to think too hard about making the commitment.
The galleries will make it even easier for you by arranging suitable (gift) packing and appropriate transport/ delivery. Like any purchases at this time of retail mayhem, however, you will need to get in early to ensure the gift is actually under the tree on the day.
Niagara Galleries in Melbourne is hard to go past, particularly with its inspirational stockroom finds for Christmas, just posted.
Angela Brennan immortalises and emboldens the sage and revealing words of Sophia Loren; Noel McKenna continues to focus on a quintessential Australian suburban theme in painted ceramic and Liu Zhoquan’s painted bottles – painted from the inside – continue to amaze. Both Brennan and McKenna show in Sydney too, with Roslyn Oxley9 and Darren Knight Galleries respectively.
Christmas with Martin Browne Contemporary includes Adrienne Doig’s take on a tee towel, Diving with dolphins; and for Peter Atkins Size matters because, let’s face it, it does.
Nancy Kiwat Newup has a piece available from the recent Ghost Net Project exhibition.
In Australia ghost nets (discarded or abandoned fishing nets) are devastating endangered marine life. It is a particular problem in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Artists in the Far North work with the discarded ghost nets and general flotsam and jetsam, to create floating fibre sculptures.
I particularly liked Coo-ee’s exhibition which is about giving then giving back. Its Christmas exhibition is work by renowned artists of Warnayaka Art Centre in Lajamanu, NT, with proceeds of sales going to the art centre’s 2015 programme. I remember flying into the isolated township of Lajamanu in about 2001 and visiting the art centre at the time; it was an incredibly enlightening experience.
The art centre has become even more of a central vital hub of this community. Certainly worth your support.
Aboriginal and Pacific Art Gallery in Danks St has a group of works by artists from the town camps around Alice Springs. The town camp artists are known for their signature colourful paintings describing camp life – the Tangentyere – and delightful soft sculptures made from recycled blankets with feathers, beads and found bits and pieces – Yarrenyty Arltere Artists. Life in the town camps is seriously disadvantaged and challenging. The subsequent social issues are complex and difficult. The artists get to ‘talk’ about their lives through their artworks. All proceeds go back to supporting the art and learning centres.
Other galleries which operate solely online, which are worth browsing for Christmas ideas are:
Noella Lopez Gallery represents Lisa Jones. Mick the Gallery is currently online which is where the poignant paintings of Clara Adolphs can be found. Keep an eye out for more Mick pop up projects and events in 2015. Or visit relative newcomer online Art Pharmacy which offers a range of very affordable works by emerging artists.
Of course, all work and information is available online. But as always, do you research: check out the artist’s CV, exhibition history, collecting history, have a read of any critical press (beyond the press release). Often the artist will have an individual website. Generally you can rely on the digital images though it is worth asking for a couple of high res ones, for a closer look and reassurance. Yes I prefer viewing in the flesh and, even better, on loan in situ if it is a particularly important piece, but for a modest Christmas gift, you get a pretty good feel from the online information.
Perhaps something a little more contemplative over Christmas would be from an earlier exhibition this year at Dominik Mersch Gallery, Goomiland by Anton Pulvirenti. The murky, haunting charcoal drawings are steeped in his personal family history, particularly his grandfather’s experience as an Italian in Australia who was interred during WWII. Pulvirenti continues the investigation because of the generational legacy this experience has had on his family and as means to find resolution. The drawings bring the memories of internment and all that it represented – fear, alienation, torment – to the here and now. The rabbit head refers to both the innocence of childhood and the introduced pest which has the potential to overrun the country. Our fears about immigration continue ….
Goomiland is the cartoon book which maps out his grandfather’s story and which was the key piece in the exhibition.
Dominik Mersch also offers an annual award through the University of Sydney – Sydney College of the Arts, to one or more artists from SCA which includes an exhibition in his gallery the following year. It is a generous way to assist younger artists to establish their careers. This year’s beneficiary was recently announced – Yvette Hamilton – a nice Christmas present for her. Hamilton’s practice includes photomedia, video and installation to consider portraiture. Expect to see more of her work in the gallery in 2015.
I think irreverence is appropriate at Christmas, hence the ping pong bats.
Artist Paul Ryan finds inspiration in his daily surf in the sea off the Illawarra coast. As he floats and rides through the waves, he commits the south coast escarpment and motion of the waves to memory, for later use in his studio. His interest extends to colonial history which sees 18th century figures in their full regalia holding court against the backdrop of a dramatic of land or sea scape. I like the element of the ridiculous.
Another surface to paint? These painted vintage ping pong bats by Ryan are delightful. I think humour is high on the list of influences here though does not detract from the painterly image on the face of the bat. These are a great find though not to be used in the annual family ping pong show- down.
Unless you are one of the lucky few, you have already missed out on a work from Coen Young’s latest show at William Wright Artists Projects. This year’s fabulous exhibition has sold out. The success though is tinged with great sadness at the loss of Bill Wright who identified and nurtured the talents of artists such as Coen Young, so warmly and whole heartedly. Young’s current exhibition is mesmerising in its subtle and faded glamour : scientific experiments on paper that become a painterly looking glass. The reflected image becomes a softened, ethereal blur of whatever the viewer brings to it. These are truly wonderful.
Put a note in next year’s diary, to keep an eye/ ear out for Young’s next show. But a tip, buy one for yourself; don’t give it away.
William Wright Artist Projects continues on.
If artworks are too much of a stretch, then may I suggest the gift of a book or an exhibition ticket.
Of course, you can’t go past Pop to Popism at AGNSW. Give a double entry ticket to the exhibition so your friend can take you, and throw in the fabulous catalogue which accompanies the exhibition. It’s worth looking through beforehand and a must read afterwards.
The other must this summer is a visit to Canberra to see, or really, experience James Turrell at the National Gallery of Australia. You need to not only nominate your day but also the entry time, so do yourself a favour, and pre-purchase your tickets. You can buy the premium ticket which gives you solo entry to the small room. I gather it is an unforgettable 10minute experience but, dear reader, as you may well know, I don’t do small, dark or coloured spaces. Perhaps consider your own limitations beforehand. Stay at HotelHotel, Canberra’s newest, grooviest (yes, in Canberra!) venue and which boasts a pretty good art collection. It is offering a 10% discount to out-of-towners visiting the Gallery.
You could show ever greater largesse and arrange for trips to Art Central HK or the Kochi-Muziris Biennial in Southern India (my pick), with art, artists, food and shopping thrown in. It opened on Thurs but goes through to March. Australian artists included are Daniel Boyd, Fiona Hall and Lindy Lee – all of whom are represented in Sydney by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.
Art events make for particularly memorable holiday destinations.
A couple of monographs I can recommend which have been around for a while but, nonetheless, remain stylish and informative studies of an artist’s life and practice are: Ann Thomson’s monograph, with a significant essay by Anna Johnson, foreword by David Malouf and introduction by Dr Terence Maloon, is a beautiful glossy publication, with many images from her extensive and long practice. The book offers an in-depth appraisal of her work which is high time, given the significant contribution she has made to contemporary Australian abstract art. Available from OlsenIrwin.
Another worthy publication is Peter Sharp’s Will to Form, published by Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre. It accompanied a major survey of this artist work at the same gallery in 2012 and, again, offers an opportunity to look more closely at his practice. Available from Liverpool Street Gallery.
Cressida Campbell has recently published a limited edition of 6 sets of greeting cards, beautifully boxed and thematically arranged: harbour, still life, bush, interiors, verandah. Should you give a set of cards, you may be fortunate to receive one as a thank you card.
Or why not just forget about family and friends, and give a Christmas gift to an art gallery or an art school or an art event. Consider how a donation could assist with:
Nick Waterlow Scholarship in arts administration at UNSW Art and Design
AGNSW Foundation and nominate which collecting department you’d like to direct your gift
These are gifts which you can give but which, in turn, give back to you. They are gifts which encourage and allow for opportunities and further possibilities in the industry as a whole, keeping it diverse, current and relevant. You will be welcomed into a community of interesting, passionate people who believe in the power of the arts to enrich the world around us.
Merry Christmas and best wishes for a peaceful, prosperous and fulfilling 2015.