ICYMI: this week’s arts news in brief

Visual Arts Writer

South Australian project selected for official Venice Biennale program, Antarctica calling all artists, $1M acquisition for NGA, and more.
ICYMI: this week’s arts news in brief

Installation view, James Darling and Lesley Forward’s project Living Rocks: A Fragment of the Universe at Hugo Michell Gallery, 2018. Image supplied.

South Australian project selected for official Venice Biennale program

James Darling and Lesley Forward’s Living Rocks: A Fragment of the Universe has been announced as an Official Collateral Event of the 58th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale.


Living Rocks: A Fragment of the Universe is one of only 21 official events in the collateral program for Venice.

It addresses the question: What was our planet three billion years ago? It celebrates the cosmic imperative of microbes in action through the universe. In Living Rocks, water floods the Magazzini del Sale, the historic stone salt storehouses of Venice that have stood the test of many an inundation. From the pool emerge thrombolites crafted by the artists.

The installation was curated by Dr Lisa Slade and was unveiled at Hugo Michell Gallery last year. It is a collaboration between Darling and Forwood, Jumpgate VR, composer Paul Stanhope and the Australian String Quartet. The Art Gallery of South Australia is the official promoter of Living Rocks.

Urs Fischer's Francesco 2017, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Purchased with the assistance of the Foundation Gala Dinner Fund 2019, © Urs Fischer, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

$1M acquisition for NGA

In Canberra, the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has unveiled a major acquisition. Francesco 2017, by leading Swiss artist Urs Fischer, is a four-metre high wax sculpture purchased for $1 million, and is the most significant work by Fischer acquired for a public collection in Australia.

The work has been funded through the National Gallery’s acquisition budget and philanthropic donations. In a statement the gallery said: ‘The National Gallery has an important role to play in bringing the most innovative and progressive art to Australian audiences’.

‘This sculpture shows us that art in the 21st century shape shifts, it is not static, it is alive and always changing, reflecting the world in which we live,’ said NGA Director, Nick Mitzevich. ‘It is the opposite of Michelangelo’s David because it is wax, not marble, and will disintegrate as it burns to the ground.’

The portrait is in a pose capturing an intense connection to a mobile phone;  the work will be lit each week over six months, and when fully melted will be recast to its original form.  


With two days still to go before wrapping up for the year, the 2019 Adelaide Festival has set a new record with the biggest box office takings in the event’s 59-year history, so far achieving a total box office income in excess of $5,989,183 (figure is inclusive of umbrella shows).

The Festival’s box office total is up by 31% per cent on the previous box office record of $4.56 million, set by Armfield and Healy’s second program in 2018. A total audience of more than 316,129 have attended Adelaide Festival events (including WOMADelaide). The Festival has sold in excess of 72,000 tickets across 64 events, with several shows still to run across the closing weekend. Interstate audiences accounted for 22% of ticket sales.

New Artist studios for Rydalmere

New warehouse-style artists’ studios will be launched in Rydalmere this Saturday, 16 March, expanding Parramatta Artists Studios’ (PAS) program. The six studios provide purpose-built spaces where artists can work on major pieces that will be exhibited throughout Australia and internationally.

The new Rydalmere studios’ year-long residencies were awarded to: Liam Benson, Emma Fielden, Mehwish Iqbal, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Tom Polo and Yasmin Smith.

PAS already has 14 studios across two-levels of a Macquarie Street building in Parramatta’s CBD. 19 new artists were selected for the studios in Parramatta and Rydalmere out of more than 100 applicants from Parramatta, Western Sydney and across Greater Sydney.

The new Rydalmere studios are funded through a grant from the NSW Government Stronger Communities Fund.

Image sound artist Philip Samartzis; supplied

Antarctica calling all artists

Artists looking for the ultimate inspiration are encouraged to apply for the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship.

The fellowship enables those from the creative community to experience Antarctica first-hand, and share this with the broader community through their chosen art form.

Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Mr Kim Ellis said the fellowship provides a rare opportunity for artists to be part of the Australian Antarctic Program.

‘This is a window into another world, where artists are able to travel south with us, be immersed in the Antarctic environment and live as an expeditioner,’ Ellis said. ‘Over the years we’ve taken painters, sound artists, dancers, musicians, composers and authors who have all developed their own response to the icy continent.’

The 2019/20 Arts Fellow will travel south on Australia’s icebreaker Aurora Australis, on its final resupply voyage. 

Applications that pay tribute to the ship’s 30 years of service as the backbone of the Australian Antarctic Program are encouraged. The Australian Network for Art & Technology (ANAT) will provide the successful Fellow with $5,000 support.

Previous Arts Fellows include sound artist Philip Samartzis, children’s author Alison Lester, visual artist Stephen Eastaugh, writer Jesse Blackadder and screenwriter Jane Allen. 

Expressions of interest can be submitted online until 3 April 2019.

Kyoto Art Center Residency Exchange now open for applications

The Australia Council for the Arts has announced a partnership with the Kyoto Art Center that will allow one Australia visual artist to live and work in Kyoto, Japan, as part of a September – October 2019 residency exchange program.

The successful artist will receive two months access to a studio inside Kyoto Art Center, a multi-art form venue in Kyoto that contains performance halls, exhibition spaces and artists’ studios. The Center also acts as a hub for visual arts and dance organisations in Kyoto and across Asia.

In addition to the studio residency, the artist will also receive accommodation at a private apartment located 10 minutes walk from the Center, and a $7,500 living and travel allowance from the Australia Council.

Residents at Kyoto Art Center work alongside other international and Japanese artists and can engage in local cultural activities, including tea ceremonies, traditional performances and workshops.

Expressions of Interest are now open and close 16 April 2019. To learn more visit: regionalartsnsw.com.au

Major acquisition by NT gallery

In a first for an Australian public institution, the most significant collection from  Kimberley artist Jarinyanu David Downs (c.1920-1995) has been acquired by The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

Jarinyanu David Downs consistently visualised ancestral beings in human form, and this innovative, figurative style set him apart from other Western Desert artists.

This collection, spanning the artist's commercial painting career from 1982-1995, captures a significant historical period when very few artists were producing works in the Kimberley. Significantly, he was one of the first of his desert peers to shift from creating artefacts to paintings.

This collection constitutes two parts. Part one is a historic collection of the first known paintings on canvas by Downs, collected by Lord Alistair McAlpine of West Green, and part two is a series of later works commissioned by visionary collector and dealer, Duncan Kentish, who came to Fitzroy Crossing in 1986 in search of Jarinyanu.

11 of the 23 pieces gifted are the first contemporary works to feature and honour ancestral figure Kurtal -–The Rainmaker, and the connection between rain and the replenishment of life.

Jarinyanu’s son Paddy Downs said: ‘These paintings ending up in NT for all the mob to see is important. It's what Wabura [Jarinyanu] always wanted. He wanted them to educate people. He would be happy … This is our history. Very important paintings.’


The Ashes Urn, image supplied.

State Library Victoria scores The Ashes Urn

For the first time in more than a decade, the iconic Ashes Urn will leave Lord’s Cricket Ground to feature in a new exhibition at State Library Victoria – Velvet, Iron, Ashes – the Library’s largest ever free exhibition exploring the surprising connections between some of Victoria’s greatest stories.
Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) has exclusively loaned the Ashes Urn for the inaugural exhibition in the Library’s new world-class gallery space. Visitors will learn how the Ashes are connected to the story of Ned Kelly, Yallourn power station, and even Nappy Wash.

State Library Victoria CEO, Kate Torney said: ‘We are thrilled to have the chance to bring to life the wonderful stories surrounding the Ashes tradition, which of course, began here in Melbourne. The history of the Urn is very much woven into the history of this state…’

Velvet, Iron, Ashes is set to establish a global benchmark in library exhibitions. It will be housed in the new Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, which has been established as part of State Library Victoria’s ambitious $88.1 million redevelopment, Vision 2020. It will be on display from December 2019.

Sydney Cabaret  Festival Announced 

An inaugural Sydney Cabaret Festival has been announced to celebrate both international and Australian cabaret artists. 
The 2019 Sydney Cabaret Festival will feature the Tony Award-winning Jennifer Holliday, appearing for the first time on Australian soil, alongside Phil Scott and Jonathan Biggins, and Natalie Joy Johnson. 

UK duo Frisky and Mannish return after a ten year hiatus, as does the  Alison Jiear, described as having a 'bring down the house voice' by the New York Times. 

Sydney favourite Tim Draxl will appear in a world premiere of his new show, along with Kim David Smith, Reuben Kaye and Brian Nash, plus circus and variety show Cheeky Cabaret.

The Festival also includes a cabaret for children, Petit Cabaret, and masterclasses with Jennifer Holliday and Alison Jiear, as well as the Grand Final of the restored Sydney Cabaret Competition.

'I invite you to celebrate this truly life changing artform, and hope that you’ll join not only artists you know and love, but take a chance on someone you’ve never heard of before. Every single one of these acts is at the top of their game, and I can’t believe we will have them all in one place at the same time,' said Festival Artistic Director Trevor Ashley.

Melbourne trials new Quick Response Arts Grants

A new program of Quick Response Arts Grants is being trialled by the City of Melbourne, in a bid to give the city’s creative communities more flexible access to funding.

Artists, creative practitioners and organisations can now apply for up to $4,000 in funding at any time, with support considered for unforeseen or unexpected opportunities arising at short notice.

Chair of the City of Melbourne’s Arts, Culture and Heritage portfolio, Councillor Rohan Leppert, said the trial would test Council’s ability to cut down wait times. ‘We’ve taken on board the creative community’s feedback by giving a new opportunity to access grants,’ said Leppert. ‘These new quick response grants are open to artists and creatives across all disciplines, from music and dance to theatre and visual arts.’

The quick response model will see grant applications assessed on a monthly basis, with an initial pool of $49,000 set aside for the trial.

‘While we continue to encourage applicants for the Annual Arts Grants Program, these quick response grants will allow us to respond to artistic events or programs which arise outside the normal timeframes,’ Leppert added.

The Quick Response Arts Grants trial will run until 20 September 2019. Emerging artists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists are encouraged to apply.

For more information, or to apply, visit the City of Melbourne Quick Response Arts Grants website.

Façade decoration signals start of Royal Exhibition Building restoration

This week, Museums Victoria unveiled a 26 metre tall temporary facade, Sylph of Spring, adorning the scaffolding over the front of the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building.

Taking its cue from the building’s interior dome decorations by John Ross Anderson for the opening of Federal Parliament in 1901, ‘the new scaffold artwork signals the beginning of the Building’s next chapter’ said Lynley Crosswell, CEO of Museums Victoria.

The $20 million Commonwealth-funded project will help to preserve and secure the future of the Royal Exhibition Building – one of only three World Heritage listed culture sites in Australia – will soon feature a new façade and rooftop deck.

Part of the project deliverables include the reintroduction of the 360-degree Dome Promenade, a popular attraction from the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition and the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition. It is expected that the project will be completed by early 2020. 

Public mural in heart of Liverpool promotes human rights

The University of Wollongong (UOW) has supported the creation of a large-scale public mural in the heart of Liverpool, in South Western Sydney.

Created by Claire Foxton, UOW alumna and muralist, it captures the strength and determination of Adi Holmes, a mother-of-two who moved to Australia from her native Fiji eight years ago, was inspired to become a human rights lawyer after her involvement as an activist in the Free West Papua Movement.

Holmes said: ‘I realised that if I really wanted to make a difference, I needed more background behind me. That’s why I decided to study law, because… advocating for people’s rights alone wasn’t going to hold much weight without having a law degree.’

Professor Alison Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Health and Communities), said ‘Adi is a testament to the power of education to change someone’s life.’

The mural comes two years after the University opened its South Western Sydney Campus. It is located at Bigge Street, Liverpool.

20 years of Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship

An exhibition of artworks by 20 young Australian artists celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship opens next week at the S.H. Ervin Gallery in Sydney (22 March - 5 May).

The Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship was established by Ms Beryl Whiteley (1917-2010) who generously allocated funds for the scholarship in memory of her son, Brett Whiteley, to provide young painters the opportunity to travel to Paris and explore Europe in order to develop their artistic practice.

Since its inception in 1999, 20 young painters have followed in the footsteps of Brett Whiteley, who won the Italian Government Travelling Scholarship in 1959.

The exhibition presents the four paintings by Brett Whiteley that secured him the Italian Government Travelling Scholarship, which displayed together for the first time since 1959, alongside the winning works of the 20 artists that resulted in their residency at the Cite Internationale des Art, Paris.

Those artists are: Sally Anderson, Alice Byrne, Mitch Cairns, James Drinkwater, Petrea Fellow, Becky Gibson, Nathan Hawkes, Alan Jones, Nicole Kelly, Belem Lett, Lucy O’Doherty, Wayde Owen, Timothy Phillips, Tom Polo, Ben Quilty, Karlee Rawkins, Samuel Wade, Amber Wallis, Natasha Walsh, and Marcus Wills.


Image courtesy of Candy Bowers. Australian Booty by Black Honey Company 2018.

Artists hit the road across the country

Victorian artists will pack their bags and tour across the State and Australia, as Regional Arts Victoria’s 2019 touring roster begins.

Through touring services, Regional Arts Victoria works with regional venues and artists to demystify creative experiences, and supports the development of independent creative practice.

“The 2019 program really highlights the incredible talent of Victorian artists with tours reaching all corners of the state and the country. We are inspired by the artists and venues we work with who bring their unique performance, story and cultural practice to the stage.” said Dale Packard, Touring Services Manager.

Touring Services delivers high quality arts experiences to a range of venues throughout Victoria and across the country.

The shows traveling Australia are: Australian Booty by Black Honey Company, Picasso and His Dog by Lemony S Puppet Theatre, By A Thread by One Fell Swoop Circus, Mission Songs Project by Jessie Lloyd Music, and Shostakovich Raff & Brahms by Melbourne Chamber Orchestra.

WA Governor stays in touch with state's culture

Earlier this week, the Honourable Kim Beazley AC, Governor of Western Australia visited BREC – Banbury Regional Entertainment Centre – as part of the Governor’s first official regional visit to Bunbury and Greenbushes.

‘It is clear they have a keen interest in the role that arts and culture can play in building community in Western Australia,’ said BREC's Chair Simon Jacob.

‘BREC plays an incredibly important role in developing the creativity of young people in our region and BREC offers many different ways for them to continue that engagement with the arts throughout their life.’

The Governor’s Regional Visit Program enables the Governor to continue to develop a good working knowledge of the State and to engage with and acknowledge local government representatives, volunteers, school students, and many other people that make up the fabric of our rural communities.

Sydney Dance Company perform in their first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade 

The Sydney Dance Company has performed in their first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Saturday 2 March in honour of the Company’s 50th Anniversary.

 A troupe of 80 Sydney Dance Company dancers, staff and wider community danced in a tightly rehearsed routine set to ABBA’s Dancing Queen, Kylie Minogue’s Spinning Around, Madonna’s Vogue and other hit songs.

Sydney Dance Company Dance Class Manager Ramon Doringo led the procession alongside dancers Kevin Chen and Chris Mifsud on an extravagant Sydney Dance Company float complete with ballet barre, mirrors and trimmed in gold.

Playlist. Photo by Alex Wisser.

PYT Fairfield Announces Ambitious 2019 Program

PYT | Fairfield has announced an ambitious 2019 program. The year ahead includes: a major new partnership with the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Project creating events exploring the Australian experience of women in institutions; a return to the Sydney Opera House stage for the third time, and the company’s first national tour with Helpmann-Award winning production Jump First, Ask Later

The year ahead also involves multiple artist collaborations, strategic partnerships and artist-in-residency projects as PYT continues to create new work and strengthen existing partnerships with artists from across Western Sydney. Working with more than 150 artists in 2019 alone, PYT once again engages with contemporary Australian stories to confront the most critical issues of our time. 

PYT | Fairfield is the only leading professional theatre company in Western Sydney that supports emerging artists as its core practice. Situated in Fairfield, the company aims to create new, innovative and inclusive performing arts opportunities. Their work is inspired by their local community and engages with concepts of cultural diversity. 

The Children’s International Film Festival (CHIFF) comes to Sydney and Melbourne

Premiering in Sydney and making a return to Melbourne, The Children’s International Film Festival (CHIFF) will open on 24 May and run until 10 June, 2019.

Catering for children aged 4-16, the festival program will be bursting with workshops, visiting international guests and the very best family films handpicked from world-class film festivals, including a short film program by Little Big Shots.

CHIFF is the very first film festival of its kind in Australia and presents a curated selection of feature length local and international cinema dedicated to the youngest of film buffs.

The Children’s International Film Festival will take place at Ritz Cinema in Sydney from 24 May – 3 June, and Classic Cinemas, Lido Cinemas and Cameo Cinemas in Melbourne from 24 May – 10 June.

For more news.

About the author

To contact the ArtsHub news desk email editor@artshub.com.au. Keep up-to-date with the latest industry news; be part of the conversation and an engaged arts community by following ArtsHub on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr.