Conversation With Justine Varga

Recent recipient of the 2019 Dobell Drawing Prize, photographer Justine Varga describes Sydney Contemporary as “a significant venue in my exhibition schedule”. She first showed in 2015 with STILLS Gallery and after their subsequent closure, she had a solo exhibition with Hugo Michell Gallery (Adelaide)in 2017. Works from that exhibition were acquired by the National Gallery of Australia and were exhibited in Performing Drawing at the NGA in Canberra (2018-2019).

Tell us about your first exhibition at Sydney Contemporary?
My first exhibition at Sydney Contemporary was with STILLS Gallery in 2015. A selection of cameraless and camera made photographs from my series Accumulate was presented. The full exhibition was simultaneously on show at the gallery space in Paddington. This approach brought a wider audience to the work and created a cross flow between the two venues.

What sort of impact did Sydney Contemporary have on your career?
Sydney Contemporary is a significant venue in my exhibition schedule. Since the closure of STILLS Gallery, my representative galleries are interstate (Hugo Michell Gallery in Adelaide and Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne). Subsequently, Sydney Contemporary is now where my works are presented in a mercantile setting in Sydney. For example, in 2017, Hugo Michell Gallery debuted my series Photogenic Drawing and it was not necessary for me to have a commercial exhibition in a traditional gallery space that year.

Where have you exhibited since?
Works from Photogenic Drawing were acquired by the National Gallery of Australia from Sydney Contemporary and were exhibited in Performing Drawing at the NGA in Canberra (2018-2019). The series Photogenic Drawing is currently on display at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego in the United States and will be on tour internationally through 2022.

What did you enjoy about Sydney Contemporary?
As an artist, an art fair feels like an art convention, so the various sectors of the art world convene in the one venue and you get to finally catch up with everyone.

What are you looking forward to seeing this year?
I enjoy the cross section of works from different periods and cultural approaches. This year, I’m excited to see the dialogue created between the most current offerings alongside the masters, and to have a chance to see works that are yet to be brought to my attention.

What’s your one hot tip to visiting Sydney Contemporary?
Wearing comfortable shoes, in which you will methodically scour the stands.

Justine Varga with Photogenic Drawing, 2018, chromogenic photograph, 151.5 x 120 cm, 154.5 x 123.9 cm (framed). Photo Credit: Peter Morgan.
Justine’s presentation with Hugo Michell at Sydney Contemporary 2017. Photo Credit: Jacquie Manning.
Justine Varga in Defining Place/Space: Contemporary Photography from Australia at the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, 2019.

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