'The Australian Art Curator Blog' - Why a good hotel lobby should always spark the imagination

To me, a hotel lobby will always be a place of fantasy. Where, after all that planning and travel, you are finally standing in the lobby, bags packed away in your room, and ready to explore. Chance meetings with locals are only a whisper away, and a new city is just outside the door and you can barely control your excitement.

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The creative life of Bren Luke: His inspirations and art practice

Working from his small home studio in Ballarat, Bren Luke creates intricate cross-hatched illustrations using pen and ink. Luke draws inspiration from Albrecht Durer’s 16th century engravings, Japanese woodcut prints, alternative comic artists, architecture, 1970’s television and cinema.

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The Art Of Healing: An Interview With Meg Minkley

Meg Minkley started her iconic A Drawing A Day project in 2013, after being drugged and sexually assaulted. As well as being a brave public display of her strength, vulnerability and emotional turmoil during an incredibly difficult time, her daily drawings are a fascinating ode to the cathartic power of art.

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Breathing Colours: A colourful Interview with Elefteria Vlavianos, Nuha Saad and Micke Lindbergh

Vandal Gallery and Art Pharmacy present BREATHING COLOURS:

We should see the world in a rich mix of colours, but rarely do take a moment to appreciate how complex they can be. We instead view colours as consistent, categorised by paint charts and standardised systems. This exhibition aims to celebrate colours by letting them ‘breathe’. Vandal Gallery presents three artists, experts in exciting colours. Vibrating hues, graphic blocks defined by colour, kinetic shapes that will make you feel alive.

With BREATHING COLOURS you will experience colours anew

Here, Art Pharmacy talk to BREATHING COLOURS artists Elefteria Vlavianos, Nuha Saad and Micke Lindebergh about their inspirations, their techniques and their studio style.

BREATHING COLOURS is guest curated by Rosell Flatley of Rosell's Creatures

Join Art Pharmacy and the artists by RSVP-ing to the opening event, 6-8pm Wednesday 20th June here.

Where do you create your art and what is your workspace like?

Nuha Saad: I work in a studio complex in Rozelle with approx. 20 artists. My studio looks out onto White Bay with its ever changing view of cargo ships and cranes.

Micke Lindebergh: I do most of my drawing at home, I feel most relaxed then, sometimes on the roof in the sun. I paint in my living room. I have a desk and a big box full of paints and posca pens. I make all my printing at the Rizzeria studio in Marrickville. I’m part of an artist collective who share the only risograph printer in Sydney.

  Breathing Colours artist, Elefteria Vlavianos

Breathing Colours artist, Elefteria Vlavianos

Elefteria Vlavianos: I create my works in a studio - I see my practice as being a profession - I treat it as such.  My studio is orderly - and there is always a processes of order even in the chaos.

What can you tell us about your work? What is your practice?

Elefteria: My painting process is long and involved - I build up my surfaces through a multiplicity of layers - a painting can have anywhere between 15 to 30 layers.  Time is a big player in my work. I generally work on bodies of work at any one time I have 5 or 6 works on the go at once - plus works on paper etc etc.

In addition any processes - also involves research - testing and development - so works that evolve can take from 6 months to two years - the processes is ongoing.

Micke: My process is an never-ending drawing. I do a lot of doodling and pick things i like and use them for new compositions and images.

Nuha: As my practice has extended over a number of years I find it is often the case that one series of works may lead to the next through the process of making, discovery, research and intuition. Sometimes I find that when I am completing a work or series the one already seems to be developing and suggesting themselves.

At the end of the day - whichever approach comes into play - the work all seems to speak to each other and build upon the underlying narratives of my practice.

 Breathing Colours artist, Nuha Saad

Breathing Colours artist, Nuha Saad

What materials and tools do you prefer to work with and why?

Elefteria: I like paint and all that comes with it. I also like to work on paper, working in watercolour, oil and acrylic. I use certain materials because their materiality resonates with both the way in which I work and the subject matter I work with.

I am also interested in how a cultural aesthetic can be translated from one time and space into another.  My goal is to bring something of beauty, which once existed in the past, into present time.

Where, what or who do you draw your inspiration from?

Elefteria: I am always thinking about the visual. Thinking about painting, the materiality of paint, colour, line, composition and structure - the formal issues. This coexists with other issues and approaches that I draw inspiration from such as my multicultural heritage (being of Armenian and Greek heritage) and of having being born in Africa (Zimbabwe) or having grown up in South Africa, as well as of having lived in Europe. So, I would say that there are a plethora of elements that provide inspiration - including being in this place Australia.  

Micke: Traveling is a great way to find inspiration. I’ve also discovered that a lot of art and interior items from my childhood has inspired my choice of colour and composition.

 Breathing Colours artist, Micke Lindebergh

Breathing Colours artist, Micke Lindebergh

What is your creative background and how long have you been creating your art?

Micke: I have been drawing and making music forever. After art and music high school in Stockholm I moved to London where I studied illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. I’ve worked in music for many years and had a kids clothes label too. I was taught from a very early age the express myself creatively through drawing and music.

Can you share one thing with us that most people wouldn’t know about you?

Micke: I wanted to be a gardener when I was a kid, and have a big yellow Volvo for driving around all the flowers I grow in my garden.

Nuha: I went to art school, I thought to become a painter and came out a sculptor!

'The Australian Art Curator Blog' - How to start a Community Art Project: a step-by-step guide

We’ve never been so uniquely positioned to get people involved in fantastic community art projects. But is it as easy as simply putting out a few sponsored posts, and letting the ‘community’ roll on through the door, brushes in hand? Probably not.

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'Scale, darkness and Mountains': Art Pharmacy Interviews Artist Bonnie Porter Greene

Writer Montana O'Neil caught up with the Sydney Art Pharmacy artist. See Bonnie's work here.

When Bonnie Porter Greene isn’t learning German, teaching her 13-year-old daughter the secrets of 35mm photography or editing articles for the collaborative website McPhee, she is busy in her studio with a paint brush and oil paints. We managed to catch up for a chat after her recent return from a creative retreat in California.

 Art Pharmacy artist, Bonnie Porter-Greene

Art Pharmacy artist, Bonnie Porter-Greene

Bonnie studied Fine Arts at West Wollongong TAFE, majoring in painting in the late 1990’s and has painted ever since. After having children, she explored other creative processes including textiles and collage out of convenience.

However, she has always come back to oil paints as her medium of choice. The medium, as well as painting on board, allows her to be rough and energetic with her strokes adding energy and authenticity to the works.

In the creation of her large scale, vibrant artworks Bonnie says, “I am drawn to beauty in the everyday.” From natural landscapes, shadows on hills and rooftops to decaying and abandoned ‘forgotten’ places. Following a trip to New Zealand, Bonnie began painting mountain lines, explaining that she was left with a series of very dark paintings.

This darkness played on her emotional wellbeing as she said “[the experience] made me feel a little sad after being immersed in the dark paint for several weeks.” Since then she has produced artworks with vibrant and contrasting colour pallets which better reflect her state of mind.

@bonnie.greene Instagram

Bonnie’s creative practice is very organic, starting with a few drawings in her sketchbook and growing into the finished product. She says that, “just getting my paints out and beginning is sometimes enough of an inspiration. I try not to wait for inspiration to strike but just to begin something.” As if the brush has a mind of its own and complete artistic freedom.

To keep these creative juices flowing, she never limits herself, working on multiple projects simultaneously, mixing with creative people and exercising and journaling daily.

 Bonnie Porter-Greene, Cloudscape 3, $220

Bonnie Porter-Greene, Cloudscape 3, $220

'The Australian Art Curator Blog': Arts Festivals & the Importance of Reaching for more

This festival will offer you the chance to get involved in your local creative community.”

How many times have you heard these enthusiastic words (or similar) from the latest culture festival? The words are true - a good festival offers “the uninitiated” an easy way into the art world. The supercillious gatekeepers - of being in the know and invited - melt into the shadows.

But is this message of welcome getting across? Sometimes, the buzzwords of ‘community’ seem so overused the sentiment behind it feels a little trite. Like any platitude worth its salt, simply telling us that it will benefit the community in some vague manner fails to remind potential festival goers why it is important to get involved in the first place.

Arts Festivals are about cutting through real and imagined social structures to bring everyone together to celebrate art. If we could get this message across meaningfully, can you imagine the results? Community engagement wouldn't just be a box on a form to tick, but a state of normalcy.

It’s hard to reach certain people when it comes to arts festivals.

‘But why?’ cries the overworked festival director, as they throw more money onto their increasingly boosted Facebook post.

 I ran the inaugural Sydney edition of The Other Art Fair in 2015 - lots of hard work to keep everything running smoothly

I ran the inaugural Sydney edition of The Other Art Fair in 2015 - lots of hard work to keep everything running smoothly

Maybe they just need a bit of gentle coaxing. Art should be for everyone, but sometimes it’s easy to see why people might not feel welcome. For those “in the know” the reason behind going to all the events associated with arts festivals seems obvious. ‘Get involved, world!’ we yell over our shoulder, as we run off to another fantastic opening.

There’s the traditional argument that that museums - where art is traditional hosted - are elitist ‘private clubs’, or that only a certain ‘type’ of people go to art events. Or that  even the structures (large, stonily imposing, heavy on the columns) are made to welcome some, and dissuade others. That money and class barriers are still an issue.

Musee D'Orsay, Paris and the Met Museum, New York, are two very traditional (and imposing) museum buildings

The more modern version of this argument might be that you have to wear, say or think a certain way to ‘fit in’ inside these establishments That you have to be an artist - or at least know the difference between oils and acrylics. The fear that, at any moment, you might be asked your thoughts on conceptual art, be exposed as the fraud you are; and consequently be chased out of the fashionable white cube gallery, by an edgily dressed mob, holding art-deco flaming torches.

To be fair, art festivals make an enormous effort to get new blood in (for example, Facebook events has been used to great success for reaching new crowds, and Sydney Contemporary shone focus on disenfranchised tenants at Waterloo, Sydney). And, once you’re there, you often find that the focus is usually more on the art, conversation and free nibbles than aggressively quizzing your neighbour on the pros and cons of a group show.

Yet, the feeling of exclusivity remains in the art world. It has gotten to the degree that some critics, such as Saksia Sassen, are arguing that art is increasingly being used as an "Art-washing" tool to gentrify and thereby increase rent in neighbourhoods.

 The large art-loving crowds attracted to openings might be unattractive to those who feel "unintiated" into the arts

The large art-loving crowds attracted to openings might be unattractive to those who feel "unintiated" into the arts

Why is it important to keep trying to get everyone through the door? Well, firstly, an arts festival might find it hard to reflect society if all of society isn’t there, critiquing and examining. It’s sort of like Lisa Pryor’s recent complaint that an International Women’s Day Breakfast, populated by white, CBD nine-to-fiver females isn’t exactly in the spirit of the thing

Secondly, it’s important to the economy of the artist to make people aware that supporting the arts in their community doesn’t always have to consist of buying that $30,000+ artwork. It can be as simple as turning up, and engaging with the work (although the odd bought painting would definitely not go amiss).

One way to engage midway is to get involved with artist workshops - and there’s always great ones around during festivals. From jewellery silversmithing, glass blowing and pottery making; to dominatrix life drawing, retro dancing workshops, and wine & watercolour evenings.

Not only is this beneficial for economic reasons (the artist gets a solid payment from all those taking part), but this active participation achieves what all festivals strive for - engagement with the community. People are interacting, getting to know their neighbours, all the while while learning about what is important to one of their local creatives.

For example, Sydney based collective Welcome Studio use their platform to introduce skilled artists (who are also asylum seekers) to the local Sydney community. 'Welcome' partner with the artists; empowering (and paying) refugee artists to run the workshops themselves.

One such artist, Alwy Fadhel, taught participants to paint with coffee, focusing on achieving different colour tones with the grains. This was something he’d been taught by a  fellow artist while he was in an Australian Immigration Detention Centre.

The low barriers to this level of involvement between artist, individuals and art, is real community engagement; each party learning each other stories.

 The Green Light Workshop invited the general public and asylum seekers to create together. Photo credit: Damir Zizic, 2017 / Olafur Eliasson

The Green Light Workshop invited the general public and asylum seekers to create together. Photo credit: Damir Zizic, 2017 / Olafur Eliasson

A workshop at internationally acclaimed Venice Biennale festival has taken a similar approach, when it hosted the Olafur Eliasson’s Green Light Workshop in it’s 57th year. The workshop invited refugees, asylum seekers and members of the public to take part in a program of creativity; making green light lamps, intervention performance art and screenings.

In order for festivals to reach their full potential, and reflect society, they need to shake things up by being as welcoming as possible. This could be as simple as making it more in the open - think the spectatorship of Vivid Sydney - or by reaching out into different communities.

So start small and see what’s around you. You might learn a bit more about the people out there than you think.

Read more from the Australian Art Curator Blog here

Saint O'Donnell “Select Talks” at Vandal Gallery

Art Pharmacy teamed up with our good friends at Saint O'Donnell to bring together their first “Select Talks” a creative discussion series centred around supporting emerging creatives in Sydney.

St. O’Donnell is a music artist, event, creative and venue management agency.

This time Tom Huggett (Astral People), Alexander Franco (Future Classic) and Tessa Kerans (Stop Start Music) chatted about Artist Management right here in our Vandal gallery space, in Redfern!

Sponsored by the ever generous Jameson's and Young Henry's.

 Tom Huggett (Astral People), Alexander Franco (Future Classic) and Tessa Kerans (Stop Start Music)

Tom Huggett (Astral People), Alexander Franco (Future Classic) and Tessa Kerans (Stop Start Music)

See more images below


2018 is on the horizon, and in the tradition of the good old New Year’s resolution, I am suggesting you make a commitment: to participating in an art prize!

Involvement is not limited to artists, as any art enthusiast can enjoy the opinions of others on cutting edge and thought-provoking contemporary art.

For artists, whether you are well-established or rising through the circles, merely entering a competition can be hugely rewarding. There is also the potential for gaining the prize to look forward to.

Global art prizes create big business, in Australia specifically the industry is worth around AUD$4 million. As some in the field would be aware, there can often be some questionable bureaucracy within the funding and judging processes.

However, when regarding an artistic career through the lens of a business, which we cannot deny is an important aspect, the rewards can definitely outweigh the risks.

  Mitch Cairns, ‘Agatha Gothe-Snape’, 2017 (Archibald 2017 winner)

Mitch Cairns, ‘Agatha Gothe-Snape’, 2017 (Archibald 2017 winner)

The more high-profile institutional prizes are often well recognised and garner great exposure for finalists and winner (the Archibald Prize immediately comes to mind).

The subject matter in the prize is full of famous faces, from portrait subjects to artists and even the judging panel. The Art Gallery of New South Wales stands by the 96 year old competition, although the quick judgment calls at the beginning of the process have come into question.

Not everyone is suited to these competitions, and if the big leagues aren’t your style, then there are plenty of small prizes to fill the gaps for a wide range of practices.

The Stencil Art Prize is an example of a small-scale award that seeks to recognise the exceptional works of artists working with stencils in their practice. It includes a major prize of $5000, which was presented this year to winners Jana & JS.

   Jana & JS, ‘I wish everybody knew’, 2017.

Jana & JS, ‘I wish everybody knew’, 2017.

However, artists should not be scared off by the sheer size of the art prize industry. So here are a few benefits to help convince you of the merits of this New Year’s resolution.

  1. Back yourself

Get involved in some healthy competition and back your skills and message. It may be daunting placing your work in an arena to be judged, but this is the same as any time a piece enters the public arena through an exhibition with anyone open to make similar judgements.

  1. Exposure is everything

In order to make a living off your work, building a profile is essential. Art prizes are a way of self-curating your brand through entering yourself into particular circles that suit your message and practice.

Just think of it as another exhibition - finalists are often shown publicly and through the guise of an art prize.

  1. Friends in high places

Judges can arrange an invested party with academic experts or a fellow artists and if your work is memorable or even one of the winners you can grow a very influential network. Even if you don’t win the award this time, your new-found network is sure to play a role for you in the future.

  1. Did I mentioned the cash?

Aussies love competition so you can bet that the prize pool for a winner can often be a substantial amount of cash to give you a well-deserved boost. The romanticised idea of the struggling artist isn’t quite such a romantic reality, so the money can not only help your practice but support a full-time career.

  1. Don’t change, don’t give up

The golden rule for these competitions is not to back down from what you know and what you want your work to represent. Many artists say there is pressure to change your work to suit the prize or its judges, but don’t compromise.

As I mentioned before, there are so many prizes out there so it is possible to find one that already subscribes to what you represent.

If all this has convinced you of the merits of art prizes, then the next step is finding one to get involved in. There are heaps of websites and apps such as Art Prizes that keep a very detailed system of both national and international prizes for you to engage with.

For emerging artists, the John Fries award is the perfect platform, with applications closing mid-January. A bigger option for 2018 is the National Works on Paper Prize, which closes in April and has a prize pool of $50,000 (an amount that’s hard to pass up).

So, make your new year’s resolution to enter the next step in your career through one of the hundreds of art prizes in our country.

Getting Business Savvy: A Guide for Artists

By Emilya Colliver

I’ve always stressed the importance of artists knowing the is and outs of running their own business. They may have one of the best jobs in the world, but there is still the need to put themselves out there and act professionally. A daunting task!

There are many different ways you can be involved in creative industries, but a very specific way you can make it financially sustainable.

I’ve put together a few tips and recommendations for any artists wanting to take their art to new places.

  Emilya Colliver at a speaking event for artists from the Georges River & Bayside Council area

Emilya Colliver at a speaking event for artists from the Georges River & Bayside Council area

This article is adapted from a speech I did at a Georges River & Bayside (GRaB) Arts and Culture Network talk in October 2017.

How Are Artists Commissioned?
Firstly, I want to explain how I even choose an artist for a commission. Once I receive a brief from a client I start thinking about what artists might fit. I pick artists for jobs in various ways. One of those ways is through our detailed database - with artists categorised by their mediums and styles or locations, to help us to find artists to a specific brief. But how do you get onto this list? We enter artists that we come across into the database so we can find them later, and we can come back to them if something comes up that will suit. If you’re not on the database or we don’t know you personally,  we’ll find you through researching on Google and instagram, or asking around. The easiest and quickest way to find artists is online.

Get Digital
For all you artists shifting uncomfortably in your seats at the idea of publishing an online portfolio for anyone to see, time to get over that! Just get in there and have a go - start an online portfolio, put up old work and anything you are creating as it is finished. It’s important to document your work as it is finished and to post high quality images of your work - more than one picture of the same work is great - an in-situ shot of the work in studio or hung on a wall is a great way to portray the art at its best.

Instagram is a great start, but it’s not enough. You also need a clear bio or information about yourself. One example of a real specific brief I have received recently was to find an Eora nation aboriginal female artist who specialises in traditional weaving. If you don't have this written down somewhere, how would I identify you as an option?

This is why it’s so important to have an online presence with clear specifications as to what you do and how you define or identify yourself.

Do a quick test - could you be found on Google if someone was looking for you?

  • Google yourself - what does someone need to Google in order to find you - does your name return your website? Can you find you through other keywords?
  • Have I invested in high quality photos of my work and myself and are they online - take an objective approach as if you were a stranger viewing your website - what impression would I get?
  • Is my CV and bio up to date? - what kind of questions might a stranger have about  me or my art? Are those questions answered in the copy on my site?
  • Am I using Instagram to it’s full potential - what are other artists in my space doing, are there any artists out there that you could collaborate with or learn from?

A great example of an artists’ digital presence is Sydney based artist Joi Murugavell (a.k.a Oodlies) has a really well developed website, with lots of options related to working with her demonstrated on the menu bar across the top. She has lots of high quality images of her and her work, detailed biographical and other information, links to an up to date Instagram showing what she’s working on, and a clear way to contact her. Have a look at her website here - oodlies.com

Think Commercially
What is your bread and butter in terms in earning an income from art? Be thinking constantly about how you can develop creative output that can be a steady stream of income (no matter how small). Although most artists would jump at the chance to do large, high profile commissions, those opportunities can be rare. But there are lots of other opportunities to make a living out of your creativity. That may come in the form of small ceramic items, or affordable prints, gift cards or design work. Two examples of artists that have diversified are Ellie Hannon and Gabby Malpas.

 A screenshot from Gabby Malpas’ website showing her shop.

A screenshot from Gabby Malpas’ website showing her shop.

Diversify your output and your skills, so you can be flexible with clients and meet a range of criteria and demands during projects. Think of skills as tools in your box that you can apply to a range of projects.  An online store is a great way to practice some new skills at a low cost while creating productive output.  A range of skills also provides great opportunities for collaboration.

What Else?
I’ll be following up with more tips for artists wanting to professionalise. In the meantime you can also email artsubmissions@artpharmacy.com.au if you want to find out more about getting onto Art Pharmacy as one of our artists.