Not all money is welcome

Published in Art Collector, Issue 68, Apr-Jun 2014

"Not all money is welcome" by Jane O'Sullivan in Art Collector

Corporate and private philanthropy has been playing an ever growing role in the local art world but the terms of its involvement may be changing. Jane O’Sullivan reports on the artist boycott of the Biennale of Sydney.

It all started with a question: should artists boycott the Biennale of Sydney over its links with Transfield, a company involved in operating detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island? The debate that followed lit up the art world over February and March. As Art Collector goes to print, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, the director of Transfield Holdings, has resigned from his role as chair of the biennale, a role he has held for 14 years, and the biennale board has subsequently cut ties with Transfield completely.

For artists opposed to the Federal Government’s mandatory detention policies, Transfield’s involvement as a major sponsor and founding partner of the biennale was a thorny issue. The questions it raised, and continues to raise, go to the heart of the role corporate and private philanthropy plays in the art world.
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Know your source: Buying Aboriginal art ethically

Published in Art Edit, Issue 2, Apr-Jun 2014

The next time you fall in love with a piece of Aboriginal art, before you reach for your credit card take the time to ask whether the artist who made the work was treated fairly. We walk you through what you need to know about buying Aboriginal art ethically.

When Aboriginal art began to boom in the late 1980s and 1990s, the smell of money attracted all sorts of players. Sadly not all the work bought and hung on art lovers’ walls during this time resulted in a fair price being paid to the artist. Other unethical practices also came to light, such as the removal of artists from their communities, which was done with the aim of quickly securing a large volume of artwork for sale and not always with the full consent of artists and their families.

The situation raised complex ethical issues about buying and owning Aboriginal art. How can you trace the work’s source? And how do you know if the artist has been dealt with respectfully in the commercial exchanges around the sale of their artwork?
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Barayuwa Mununggurr

Published in Art Collector, Issue 68, Apr-Jun 2014

"Barayuwa Mununggurr" by Jane O'Sullivan in Art Collector

Working primarily with barks, larrakitj (ceremonial poles) and yidaki (didgeridoos), Barayuwa Mununggurr paints his mother’s Munyuku clan design. At its heart is a story about the hunting of an ancestral whale in Blue Mud Bay. When the dead whale washed up on the sand its rotting flesh was carved into strips with stone knives and then tossed back into the sea, forming a dangerous reef. The whale’s bones became rocks in the ocean.

Mununggurr’s work appears to capture the point when the strips of whale flesh become the living rhythms of the reef, and also speaks to the way that landforms have accrued significant spiritual and cosmological meaning in Yolngu culture. Bones too are thought of as the essence of a being and in 2013 Mununggurr began to hide the elements of a whale skeleton in his work. Five whale skeletons formed the underlying structure of his entry in last year’s National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. The work was highly commended by the judges and was later acquired by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. His work has also been acquired by the National Gallery of Australia.
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Fiona Hall

Published in Art Collector’s special edition for Art Basel Hong Kong 2014

"Fiona Hall" by Jane O'Sullivan in Art Collector

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery is presenting a series of your tins at Art Basel Hong Kong. When and why did you first start working with the tins? Why have you returned to them now?

I began working with the tins back in 1989 and that first series is now in the National Gallery of Australia. It’s quite a nice metal and I’ve worked with it on and off since then.

The work that Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery is taking to Hong Kong, it’s called Fleet and it’s a set of 12 tins of various varieties of seafood, of slightly different sizes from different companies and so on. The work was made for an environmental project that was funded by an American philanthropic organisation called Pew to try and persuade the New Zealand government not to mine the Kermadec Trench which runs between Auckland and Tonga – it’s the fissure between the Australasian and Pacific tectonic plates … There’s a lot of volcanic activity down there and there are also a lot of sea creatures, many of which are unknown to science as they say … the area’s been assessed as being one of the three most pristine marine environments left on the planet.
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Jude Rae

Published in Art Collector’s special edition for Art Basel Hong Kong 2014

"Jude Rae" by Jane O'Sullivan in Art Collector

Jensen Gallery is taking your work to Art Basel Hong Kong this year. What will you be presenting?

We are presenting a selection of recent still life paintings which have a more pronounced physical presence than my previous work. The linen I am using lately is more textured than that I have used in the past and the preparation has involved a process that is much more demanding than using pre-primed commercial canvas … This is important because it changes the nature of the paintings, introducing a physicality that establishes the painting more as [an] object both for the viewer and for me as well … I have also found that during the process of painting my awareness moves more in the direction of the how rather than the what of description, a shift I have been working towards for some time.

In both your portraiture and still lifes it seems a very considered choice to avoid the sentimental. You seem very aware of the role you want your art to play within the context of art history and in front of the viewer’s gaze. I’m interested in how you got to this point. When and how did it crystallise for you what you wanted to achieve with your work?

I studied early Italian and northern renaissance art and architecture for my undergraduate degree and continue to read art history and theory fairly widely. I feel it is necessary to understand the history of the discipline and to engage the tradition as a contemporary painter. If I avoid the sentimental it is because it is predictable, some would say kitsch, and I have no interest in the currency of such easy recognition.
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