The Other Art Fair
We have all heard of the Archibald Prize but what about The Other Art Fair?
It’s when the artists are as colourful as their work.
It’s when the energy in the room on opening night is super-charged with emotion, ideas, expectation and exuberance.
No wonder with 100 of Australia’s most talented emerging artists gathered under one roof for four days in late October.
It was at Waterloo, on the outskirts of Sydney’s CBD … just past Redfern and Surry Hills.
The artists were selected by a committee of contemporary art experts comprising Ben Quilty, Roslyn Oxley, Amanda Love and Leif Podhajsky.
Newly appointed international fair director Laura Richardson said the artists were selected based on their merit rather than experience, social status, gender, ethnicity or their financial position.
Richardson is loving being back in Australia after working in her native London.
As a creative producer for Sydney’s most iconic organisations such as Biennale of Sydney, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Theatre Company and Sydney Dance Company, she is suited to the physical platform The Other Art Fair provides to connect artists with gallerists, curators, critics and collectors.
For her, this project represents the perfect marriage of her experience and passion; helping creatives connect and commercialise.
Speaking after the highly-successful opening night Richardson was incredibly proud that so many artists were selling, while others were using it as a valuable promotional tool.
“I feel proud of the artists, the team, obviously, and the partners who go together to make it the best fair ever.
“We are the sum of many parts.’’
A surprise of the Sydney fair was the level of female artists selected … 73 females out of the 100.
The highlight was the artists, Richardson said.
“I been overwhelmed with the quality and diversity, the energy and professionalism.’’
Roslyn Oxley, writing on the BresicWhitney blog, described the fair as a great way of exposing the talents of raw and undiscovered artists.
Ryan Stanier founded the fair in the UK as a platform for emerging artistic talent and since 2011 has presented editions in London, Bristol and Sydney.
Each year it showcases a new collection of self-represented artists.
The 15th edition offered an expanded vision curated around the theme of Making Art Fair.
Waterloo’s warehouse event space, Commune, was the venue for the fair which ran from October 27-30.
It was a place of both business and pleasure, according to Richardson, re-framing the way we consider art and art galleries.
Put simply, the fair connects artists with commercial opportunities. It’s a place where if you’re able to speak to the artist, learn his process, hear her story and what influenced the work.
The fair also offers the often inexperienced exhibitors some much-needed training and promotion, with artists briefings and workshops in the lead-up advising on how best to present their work and get the most out of their participation.
A large part of the fair marketing is focused on promoting the artists, which helps to grow their online presence before, during and after the event through the support of Saatchi Art.
From a visiting artist’s viewpoint this art fair did many things.
Encouragement for one. Styles and standards. Varied stages and ages. It showed it is never to late or too early in life to become an emerging artist.
The ideas and execution of them resulted in textures, colours, size, media and presentation.
Some artists were able to display a range of their output. Others were simply there to make a statement and contacts.
The variety of people added to the excitement, all artists commenting so personally on how they see the world.
Artist statements were interesting as well. Some so wordy and convoluted, others so simple and straight-forward. They simply liked to paint.
Artists presenting at The Other Art Fair 2016 included Chrysa Koukoura, Celeste Wrona, Mark Collis, Ben Hosking, Joe Helmore, Sarah Beetson, Timothy Jones, Bianca Beetson, Martine Vanderspuy, Chocolate Einstein and Kirsten Jackson, representing a range of mediums including painting, resin, photography and illustration.
Newtown artist Lisa Kotoulas was quite a revelation on opening night with her works that focus on moments where the masquerades of daily life are disrupted.
I aim to create images for introspective reflection whereby the canvas is considered as a type of mirror, the artist said.
“Expression and gesture remain the primary focus of my work. By capturing moments of suspended time, the chance to engage in an exploration of self, identity and truth often presents itself.
“Creating dimensions where the real and imagined collide, where reality is indistinguishable from the fabricated and where consciousness meets sub-consciousness meets unconsciousness are my main objectives. The disorientations of time and space continue to motivate my work.’’
But saying that, the artist confided on Day 2 that she really had sore feet as a result of the VIP opening the night before.
“My eyes feel like they’re popping out of my head. And that was only after Day 1…
“It’s been a positive experience. I was surprised by the vibe last night which was fun, refreshing. Generally my anxiety gets the better of me in anticipation of openings so it was nice to feel relaxed.
“A highlight has been meeting people like you who are interested in art.
“It’s great to see folk enjoying or experiencing my work. I get that the themes I choose can be a little heavy but it’s nice to see people really taking the time to feel the work.
“I have learned that talking about my work is actually not that scary … and sensible shoes are a must.’’
Britt Dunbar from Western Australia had good success at last year’s fair and enjoyed early sales again this time.
Dunbar draws inspiration from the coastline, switching between the south coast and areas up around Exmouth.
She focuses on creating abstract paintings that reflect her personality and surrounds.
After exhibiting in Sydney last year she has transformed her art by using even bolder colours and compositions, developing a style that expresses gesture and expressionism.
Her work brings about a sense of wonder and lets the audience determine their own meaning or narrative.
This year most are ocean based and the deep blues draw you into the picture … so bold and yet so evocative. They could be any beach you have been to.
Taking a different look at our beaches is 19-year-old photographer Bryce Thomas.
I probably saw him on site at a shoot in mid 2015 but didn’t realise what he was doing.
Thomas set up on the sand at South Bondi beach to snap surfers as they emerged from the waves.
He was intrigued by the whole concept of people gathering at sunrise in the middle of winter to surf.
He would approach the surfers as they emerged from the surf even though the temperature may be as low as six degrees centigrade.
He did this each day through winter. The result is a book of more than 150 portraits of surfers, caught in their element.
Another photographer who welcomed the chance The Other Art Fair offered to get wider exposure for the travel, food and lifestyle work she has produced to acclaim in South Australia and Victoria was Adelaide-based Josie Withers.
“It was great to be surrounded by so many emerging artists of such a variety of mediums.,’’ she said
“Having the opportunity to meet other artists, as well as network with galleries and potential future clients was very beneficial.
“It was a very rewarding experience.’’
Roslyn Oxley probably sums it up best.
“Artists are surprising. Most really good artists spend a lifetime doing it. They are not your sort of ‘Sunday painters’.
“They start working early in the morning and they go all day.
“Good artists have an incredible work ethic.”
Yet art is fun as well. Like life itself, you have to jump right in.
That’s certainly what these artists were doing at Sydney in October.