Sydney Contemporary

2017 installation contemporary


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James Angus

Polychrome Pipe Burst, 2016
Steel, enamel paint
145 × 145 × 145cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

Polychrome Pipe Burst, 2016, is part of a recent series of sculptures which integrate elements of building construction, steelwork, and modernist sculpture.

In 2016 the artist wrote: Polychromed steel pipes have increasingly become part of the language of cityscapes since the nineteen seventies, when the newly built Centre Pompidou wiped the palette of architects clean. Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano famously applied colour to an inside-out structural design in order to emphasize both the way the building was constructed and the pipes which service it. The colours share a logic with city building codes, which require identification of the various contents of service pipes: water, electricity, gas, and so on. In several of these new sculptures the palette has broadened to become, alternately, fantastic and colourblind. The components are drawn in exaggerated single-point perspective, severed mid-expansion as their scale shifts between skyscraper facades and domestic plumbing hardware….They are psychedelic and theoretical, but also representations of real things in the world, masquerading as modern abstract sculpture and wedged into the gap between what something is and how it should appear.

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1024 Full Stops, 2015
Copper, 1024 holes, quills, liver of sulfur
240 x 240 cm
Courtesy the artist and Artereal Gallery, Sydney

Absence, abandonment, emptiness and loss – and ways to make such abstract concepts visible, have long been a focus of Shoufay Derz’s practice. She conjures with the expression of seeming intangibles, with stages of transition and transformation as she interweaves her own personal narrative and experience to make manifest universal aspirations, fears and quests for meaning.

Words, their meaning, their artistry, their physical form, and the materials and implements of their making; paper, ink, hands, are fundamental to all of Derz’s art. The delimitations of language urge the artist towards a more material, process driven expression of nature, culture and heritage. The warm luminosity of copper with the allusion to ‘copperplate’, to enlightenment, glows from the ground of 1024 full stops formed by two copper sheets leaning like ancient tablets against the gallery wall. The stelae are pierced at intervals with so many full stops, holes for white feather quills; each quill a symbolic voice – but many miss their marks, lying fallen.

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Shoufay Derz

King for a Day (Stripped), 2015
Hand stitched silk thread (dyed with pomegranate skins), king sized bed sheet
260 x 274 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Artereal Gallery, Sydney

Shoufay Derz’s work King for a Day (Stripped) repurposes a golden satin bed sheet with the word ‘stripped’ woven through it using pomegranate-dyed hand-stitched silk thread. This poetic installation is a meditation on the passing of her father, whose final sleep was at home in gold satin sheets.

In making this work, Derz chose to incorporate handwriting appropriated from an old love letter the artist’s father wrote to her mother in the 1970’s. In the love letter, the artist’s father intended to write about his new lounge suite as ‘striped’ but misspelt it as ’stripped’.

Writing on the work the artist notes: I used a ‘love potion’ of pomegranate skins, fermented for over six years in my studio, to dye the silk thread. Surprisingly, this transforms white silk into a shimmery gold colour. I used this thread to hand stitch the hand written word ‘Stripped’ upon a King size gold mulberry silk sheet. I call the piece King for a Day.

My father’s final sleep was unexpectedly at home and, by chance, in gold satin sheets. I was struck at the time by the emptiness of the bed, but also the creases that marked his presence. Years later, this idea has come from a secret partner image (not exhibited), I took of his slept-in sheet just after his physical presence was removed.

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Australia, 2017
Polymer plaster, ochre, sound
140 x 100 x 100 cm
Originally commissioned by the New Landscapes Institute for  The Long Paddock, 2017.
Courtesy of the artist and Artereal Gallery, Sydney

Australia explores the continents’ colonial history as an invasive capitalist endeavour. The settled harbours, navigated rivers and overland stock routes were calculated to maximise the exploitation of the landscape and draw out is resources to the European shipping routes.

The inherent value and rights of existing peoples, culture, landscape and ecologies were at very best, discounted.

Today the landscape stands depleted while this model of exploitation continues. A scarred continent resonating with absence, but also with menace and resilience.

In Hayden Fowler’s work Australia (2017), an intricate, circular table holds up the piled bones of Australia’s past. This colonial-styled relic appears too as sun-bleached bone, suggesting the fated dependency of a malignancy on its host. However, the insistent ringing of cicadas portends a timeless resistance and a claiming back, an idea that the spirit of the continent will one day thrive again.

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Horizon (warm white, white), 2014
200 x 236cm
Courtesy of the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney

A perceived line that marks the illusory meeting point between sky and land or sea, the horizon is magnetic, intrinsically romantic and forever unattainable. We can easily lose ourselves in the fantasy of that unattainable place. It is a beckoning, unreachable line and the point of transition. In the work the transition is from warm to cool white neon, from one state to another, above and below.

The call of light is undeniable, it reaches to us, as does a horizon – where hopes and dreams are traced – it cannot be grasped but it exists. The work is part of a series of ‘neon horizons’ that on a formal level explore the space of abstraction and minimalism and the relationship between colours. In the works the conventions of neon production are used to explore the space of desires and dreams, considering what is attainable, what is an illusion and what is manufactured.

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Back to the Dark Ages II, 2016
Ink, shellac and watercolour on saunders waterford 300gsm paper
154 x 1000 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney

Over the past two years, Locust Jones has been creating a series of large-scale vertical scroll drawings. For Sydney Contemporary the artist will present a new large-scale drawing installation titled Deep Space Hijack (2017) that expands upon this body of work.

Writing about Deep Space Hijack the artist notes: The work is a continuation of current themes in my practice relating to world politics, conflict, refugees, the environment and personal narratives. My medium is predominately drawing on paper using ink. Imagery is quickly rendered using bamboo. The imagery depicted is collected from multiple news sites and other sources of current affairs, interlaced with diarist events. My work is often large-scale (up to 100 metres long), imagery is piled up and overlaid onto long scrolls of paper in quick secession.

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Tippy Toes (Contemporary ceramics), 2017
Clay, glaze, resin, nails on steel plinths
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist and PAULNACHE, Gisborne, New Zealand

Tippy Toes (2017) is a new body of work by ceramicist Virginia Leonard created during a recent residency at the Guldagergaard International Ceramic Research Center in Denmark.

Each work in Tippy Toes sits on top of a tall steel plinth. They sway and jostle for space, standing on their tippy toes craning to get the best view. Popping their heads above the crowd, purveying the crazy scene below.

Speaking about her inspiration for the series Leonard notes: ’I can’t stand on my tippy toes; one of my feet doesn’t work. This body of work is my attempt at tippy toes.’

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Confessions, 2016–17
Acrylic on pegboard
750 x 280 cm (variable)
Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney/Singapore

Never afraid to confront a difficult topic, Richard Lewer’s installation Confessions (2016–17) investigates his childhood ritual of attending confession at a Catholic church in Fitzroy, Melbourne. The small room was divided by perforated pegboard, a material evoking memories of a grandfather’s tool shed, and the ideal support for Lewer’s text paintings. The resulting installation consists of multiple text panels painted like brightly coloured warnings, detailing the artist’s sins. I have continued eating when full. I think racist thoughts sometimes. I forget how lucky I am. I never turn the other cheek. Lewer’s confessions are at once bravely honest, humorous and confronting. Lewer regularly fills his studio walls with similar phrases, thoughts and homespun philosophies, collected from overheard conversations and everyday banter. They are variously morals to live by, words of warning, random thoughts, and vernacular poetry. As the painted texts start to crowd the studio walls in a cathartic outpouring, Lewer’s equally prolific output of images compete for space – claiming a direct relationship to the life of the world around him. The pegboard confessions are both admissions to which we can all relate, and a transparent, self-reflexive expression of Lewer’s thinking and working process.

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Time After Time (Compendium of Gestures), 2017
Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions variable
Installation view, Superposition of Three Types, , Artspace, Sydney, 2017.
Courtesy the artist and Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane
Photo: Jessica Maurer

Lara Merrett interrogates the relationship between painting and its surrounding architecture with a new site-specific work for Sydney Contemporary that invites us to enter and navigate its folds. Three-dimensional painting is a relatively new departure for Merrett’s practice, and in this work she will utilise a ubiquitous staple of the artist’s studio, the humble drop sheet or painter’s cloth, as material from which to create an immersive environment of colour. Using a variety of applications of paint — spraying, brushing and pouring — Merrett will create a vibrant palette from which to experiment and play. Working in-situ, the installation will take shape through the artist’s response to the physicality of the space and the surrounding artworks.

Moving beyond the traditional format of the framed painting on a flat wall, Merrett transforms the surface of her paintings into topographical contours, shaping and layering the loose cloths through the gallery space from the ceiling to the floor. Hue and opacity, shape and volume map a haptic and organic landscape of emotion and romanticism, of consciousness and the unconscious. Her work draws upon abstractionism and colourist practice, expanding the parameters of the exhibition of painting through scale and form.

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The Bathers, 2017
Courtesy the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney

Sanné Mestrom’s practice draws on 20th century iconic modernist works to explore the psychological, emotional and cultural significance attached to them. She explores how value is accorded to these objects, how they are always tied to their cultural and art historical contexts and how they may become substitutes for particular values or beliefs. Through replication, appropriation and disruption her work filters historical mythologies through her own systems of reference, questioning notions of lineage, originality and influence, further altered through her experience of ‘making’.

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MAIo motoko

Moment By Moment Heartbeat By Heartbeat, 2007
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Lesley Kehoe Galleries, Melbourne

Japanese artist Maio Motoko creates intricate and beautiful folding screens that explore transience, light and space (both physical and psychic spaces). To create her meticulous and detailed sculptures the artist works with a variety of both traditional and idiosyncratic materials from metallic foils and kozo paper through to vintage textiles, found documents and persimmon juice. Motoko’s use of particular materials are references to relationships, memories or traditions; serving as mementoes of times and peoples past. A number of her works often comprise of multiple elements which can expand and contract, seemingly transforming in scale and shape in front of the viewer.

For Sydney Contemporary Motoko’s intricate folding screens will be activated by traditional Butoh performances and intimate tea ceremonies presented daily during the Fair.

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Suite of larrakitj – memorial poles with ancestral significance in the creation of salt and freshwater landscapes and the cosmology belonging to the Wanjgurri clan, Yirrkala, North East Arnhem Land
Various heights (199 – 255 cm)
Courtesy the artists, Tim Klingender Fine Art, Sydney and Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala

The clan groups of the north-east Arnhem Land region are structured around a complex system of kinship law. This creates a network that links the ancestral events of creation which is said to have its foundation laid down by the Wanjarr (creator beings) of this time.

Buwathay Munyarryun is a senior elder of the Wanjgurri Clan who produces larrakitj (memorial poles) with ancestral significance in the creation of landscapes and cosmology. In his role as djunggaya (manager) he also instructs Ŋoŋu Ganambarr in the art of sculpting larrakitj in his family’s style.

The designs on the poles relate to mangrove logs washed in from saltwater Manjgalili country into the freshwater area of Gularri, the Cato River and their journey through Wangurri clan waters, like an ancestral being travelling in country. They are associated with androgyny and metamorphism.

Totemic heads can take the following forms:
Wanjupini, a feminine shape as the anvil shaped wet season cumulo-nimbus
Milka, the wood-chewing jaws of the mangrove worm
Wirmul ga Djurrpun, new moon and the evening star
The Teeth of the Maypal, shellfish
Gany’tjurr, the Reef Heron from Blue Mud Bay
Warrukay or Murrukula, the Barracuda

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Antara, 2017
Synthetic polymer paint on linen
200 x 500 cm overall; 2 panels each 200 x 250 cm
Courtesy the artist, Mimili Maku Arts and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne

Betty Kuntiwa Pumani will present a new five-metre long diptych painting for Sydney Contemporary. Antara (2017) is the largest and most significant painting the artist has completed to date. Using a reduced palette, Pumani describes the beauty, power and persistence of the land and the intense physicality of the Anangu connection to Country. Pumani’s signature reds evoke the rocky desert region surrounding Mimili community in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia, while simultaneously suggesting blood or viscera and an unmistakable energy. The contrasting areas of white and its subtle tonal shifts are a quiet and patient counterpoint to the pulsating reds. Betty Kuntiwa Pumani paints Antara, her mother’s Country.

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Oooh Aaah, 2016
Installation view, Soft Core, Casula Powerhouse, Sydney, 2016.
Courtesy the artist and Galerie pompom, Sydney
Photo: Brenton McGeachie

For Installation Contemporary, Todd Robinson will stage a weird yet playful interaction between a series of brightly coloured balloon shaped sculptures and the industrial fixtures of Carriageworks.

Encountered as objects in dynamic interaction with the site and its historical function, the sculptures will be located up towards the ceiling of the site and balanced precariously on the edges of small platforms. These installation strategies evoke the former commercial/industrial function of the site, with sculptures ‘hoisted’ from rigging points, as ‘goods’ or ‘commodities’ being moved around inside the hall.

The installation embodies a vertical logic, as the structural features of the building appear to ‘capture’ the balloon-like sculptures, arresting their downward flow, and subverting the conventional motif of a balloon as a light air filled container.

This installation builds on an ongoing series of balloon inspired sculptures featured in Oooh (2013), Experiments in Natural Philosophy (2015) and Oooh Aaah (2016).

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Test Objects, 2016
Enamel on cardboard and metal
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist and Art Collective, Perth

For Installation Contemporary 2017, Alexander Spremberg will presents Test Objects (2016) an installation based on the humble cardboard box.

The ordinary cardboard box has become an instrument of visual inquiry. The totality of the box continually eludes us. We can never see all of it; it’s back remains eternally hidden from our view. These invisible parts and the invisible spaces inside the boxes are fabricated in our imagination. Visualising the imagined makes it possible to engage with the gap that occurs between perception and imagination, between what we see and what we construct.

Only from particular points of view are we able to observe how the painterly intervention connects with the concrete materiality of the boxes.

Test Objects consists of eighteen painted cardboard boxes placed on open cardboard frameworks loosely arranged around the space to allow viewers to move freely and consider the works from different angles.

This emphasis on perspective reveals how our individual viewpoint shapes the way we view the world. Our perception determines the world we experience. We make decisions based on what we perceive, however, if we alter our position even slightly, the world may look quite different. These works function not only to test our perception, they also question the confidence we have in our convictions and in the continual construction of our reality.

These works exist on the threshold between painting, drawing and sculpture. They are situated within the context of a non-objective and experimental painting practice that utilises the commonplace as a field of investigation.

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Tjala Tjukurpa (Honey Ant Country), 2017
Synthetic polymer paint on linen
200 x 200 cm
Courtesy of the artist, Tjala Arts and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne

Yaritji Young tells the story of the Tjala (Honey Ants), which are found underground, beneath Mulga trees. The Honey Ant tunnels which lead down to the ant nests are called nyinantu. The Honey Ant larvae are called ipilyka-ipilyka. Honey Ants are a highly favoured food source. When the people of the Pitjantjatjara lands go searching for Honey Ants they look for the drill holes under the trees. When they see them, they shovel and dig down, following the tunnels to find the Honey Ants inside. They suck the honey-like liquid from the abdomen of the ants. The story of the Honey Ant is told across the Northern Territory into South Australia. It is an important link between Anangu mythology and inter-dependence on the environment. The Honey Ant Ancestors are related to the country around Amata.

Young’s paintings are uniquely gestural and dynamic. Her silky splashes of colour are energised with line drawings that burrow and crawl across the canvas. Alcaston Gallery presented the artist’s first solo exhibition in early 2017, which quickly sold-out.

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Tianli Zu

Nüwa is Pregnant II, 2012
100% cotton Arches Watercolour paper cold press 300 gsm, acid free. Painted with Chinese tea and ink, hand cut.
420 x 120 cm each, 2 units
Courtesy of the artist and Vermilion Art, Sydney

Between 1984 and 1987, Tianli went to Shaanxi province and learnt paper-cutting from folk artists. While cutting she listened to folklore and stories that were embedded with Chinense tradition and culture, in particular Taoist theory. Over the years, she developed a new motif and utilised it as a metaphor not only carrying on the Chinese tradition, but also extending it to comment on contemporary phenomena.

In today’s society, when a woman becomes pregnant, people commonly see it as hope and promise for a bright future. At first glance at Nüwa is Pregnant II, viewers are confronted by a wall of carved shapes, suspended from the ceiling to the floor, with light beams radiating through its hollow spaces. However, upon closer examination, one sees chaos – dissected organs, a heart, hands, a womb, genitals, all scattered amongst snakes, organic life forms, bushes, thorns and deformed fruits. Simultaneously, it reveals machines, sand-timers, bombs, tubes, electrical wiring replacing tree branches, and micro cameras implanted in natural objects. Such a grotesque and monstrous scene indicates that this pregnancy is not one to be longed for.

Nüwa conceals and reveals the spontaneous movement of the shadow: a metaphorical and illusive form that whilst ungraspable and obscure, can stimulate questioning, emotions and a wide range of interpretations.

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Nina Miall is an independent curator and writer based in Sydney. Primary among her curatorial concerns are socially engaged and relational practices, and the politics and poetics of performance. From 2012–2017, Miall was a curator at Carriageworks, Sydney, where she commissioned ambitious new work across a variety of disciplines and media. At Carriageworks, she co-curated the inaugural multi-venue biennial exhibition The National 2017: New Australian Art and was responsible for a major cross-disciplinary project 24 Frames Per Second, 2012–2015. Other exhibitions include 1917: The Great Strike, Nick Cave: HEARD.SYD, 2016, Francesco Clemente: Encampment, 2016, Ross Manning: Melody Lines, 2016, and One Year Performance: 1980-1981, by Taiwanese performance artist Tehching Hsieh, 2014. Prior to Carriageworks, Miall was based in London for 12 years where she was a director of leading contemporary art gallery Haunch of Venison from 2006–2011, curating numerous exhibitions with artists such as Philippe Parreno, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and Jitish Kallat across the gallery’s four spaces in London, Berlin, Zurich and New York, as well as surveys of contemporary South African art and Soviet Non-Conformist art. Throughout this time she was also a Trustee of the non-profit art space Beaconsfield in Vauxhall, London. In 2010, Miall participated in the ICA’s mentorship program for young cultural leaders and in 2009, she was shortlisted for the Hayward Touring’s Curatorial Open competition. From 2003–2005, Miall was Head of Public Programmes for the Royal Academy of Arts in London, working with artists such as David Hockney, Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons, and Frank Auerbach.

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