Too busy to waste time gazing at dozens of art work looking for thrills? We’re here to help – The Art Life’s 40 Minute B.O.S. Tour will guide you through selected highlights of this year’s Biennale of Sydney: Zones of Contact. All you’ll need is a spare 20 minutes to look at the works and an idling taxi waiting outside the venues. With time for travel, obligatory visits to coffee shops and bookstores, you’ll be in and out of there so fast the rest of your busy, busy executive-lifestyle day will be free to manage mergers, handle acquisitions and do whatever else it is you do with your time…
Adrian Paci, Noise of light, 2006.
Installation with chandelier and ten generators. Chandelier, 6×4 meters, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist,Gallerie Francesca Kaufman, Milan.
Start at Pier 2/3 Hickson Road, The Rocks. The first work will be easy to spot – it’s Adrian Paci’s Noise of Light chugging away in the exhibition space. The work is a witty, erudite and contemporary alchemical synthesis – sounds [generators] become light [the chandelier]. Strangely and unexpectedly spiritual Noise of Light has exactly the right level of impressive showmanship and material simplicity.
Antony Gormley, Asian Field, 2003.
Clay from Guangdong Province, China, 210,000 hand-sized clay figures made in collaboration with 350 people of all ages from Xiangshan village, north-east of the city of Guangzhou in south China. Courtesy of the artist, Jay Jopling/White Cube, London and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne.
Antony Gormley’s Asian Field, a massive installation piece which takes up the entire second floor of the Pier 2/3 space, is the Biennale showstopper. Although some cynics have suggested that Gormely is the consummate capitalist Westerner artist jetting into a third world country to cheaply fabricate his sculpture [and assuming that there is anything wrong with that], any doubts are immediately dispelled by the sheer magic of Asian Field. The first of the two rooms is a series of photos of the men and women who created each individual figure next to a photo of the figure they made. The second room, viewable only from the doorway to the massive space, is to look upon a vast sea of figures stretching seemingly to infinity. The most unanticipated reaction to this work is the profound sense of humanity it evokes, certainly in the numbers pressing forward and the god-like perspective of the viewer, but more directly in the realisation that every single figure is ever so slightly different. One-world-feel-goodism? Maybe, but the theatre is stunning and the emotion is real.
Milenko Prvacki, Building, 2001.
Oil on canvas, 300x400cm. Courtesy of the artist.
Over at the MCA there is plenty to love – Julie Mehretu and Stephen Vitiello’s Open Work is one of the best installation pieces we’ve seen that’s utilised the large first room of the gallery. Drawing directly onto the high walls in pen, ink and wash, and using hanging speakers at different levels, the work is an action drawing done in response to the pulsing electronics. In a similar fashion of free association, Dimitry Gutov’s video installation Thaw uses the burnt, left over floorboards from a previous show as the artificial roof to one of the MCA’s tiny downstairs galleries. In the video a man comically falls into icy water in a desolate piece of wasteland before accompanied by dour music and a quote from Dostoyevsky. Those darn Russians invented irony. Upstairs and equally noteworthy, the time stressed should try to catch a glimpse of Navjot Altaf‘s video installation Lacuna in Testimony – Version 1, a calming, meditative piece that wisely takes the non-narrative route. You’re in, you’re out. The first sighting of a painting in the B.O.S was for us Milenko Prvacki‘s series of large scale canvases such as the one illustrated above, Building. It’s a remarkable sight to see such a mild mannered and pleasent work in the Biennale. Born in Yuogoslavia, the artist now lives in Singapore, which may explain the paintings soft approach, but it is nevertheless welcome among all the projections.
Ghada Amer, The Big Red Rose RFGA, 2004.
Acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 182.9 x 162.6cm. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery, New York and London.
At the Art Gallery of NSW, there are far fewer works than at the MCA or Pier 2/3, but what they lack in numbers they make up for in show biz. The big wall to your right as you walk in is a massive painting installation called Cloud, by John Reynolds, made up 6944 canvas squares, each featuring a colloquial saying from his home country of New Zealand. Many are trans-Tasman [“Technicolor yawn] others more mysterious – “maori time”, “kia ora” and “couch kumara”. To your left, almost hidden away in the area usually reserved for recent acquisitions and Australian modernists, Liu Xiadong has a multi panel painting called Hot Bed, which might be mistaken for an internationalist contemporary leisure class art but which we took to be a sly parody of just such an emerging class in the artist’s homeland of China. The final work on this flash tour of the B.O.S. is a series of canvases of semi-abstract erotic scenes by Ghada Amer, an Egyptian artist resident in New York. Using embroidery, acrylic paints and gels, the works alternate between semi-abstract nudes to luxurious and colourful abstraction. Now it’s time for a coffee.