May is a pretty major month for art in Sydney—so as the temperature drops and a dip at the beach feels less and less likely, spend your weekends roaming galleries instead.
Inspect a changing and shifting installation involving 300 tonnes of dirt, witness the first exhibition from iconic photographer Bill Henson in seven years and drop into a one-night-only exhibition centred on reconnecting us with nature (and you can also shop house plants).
Here are seven exhibitions you absolutely need to see this month.
Sam Holt: Caught Between Snorkelling And Drowning, We Swam
Of his process, painter Sam Holt says he avoids overthinking. “I aim to work loosely and with speed, so that as I get caught up in the process the painting itself starts to orchestrate and direct my strokes, creating an intuitive relationship that is constantly being redirected and shifted.”
Produced with the same swiftness, the artist’s latest works are luscious, stretchy tablets of paint that stir a place between painting and sculpture. By layering and stitching together the canvases of his old paintings, the artist recycles his past to dream up a fresh perspective. Poetic, stream-of-consciousness titles such as Seeing it all now, I’d never have imagined it back then add another layer of mystique to the works, embodying the mood of the maker. Head here for more details.
When: Until Saturday 1 June
Where: Artereal Gallery, Rozelle
Bill Henson is a major international talent by any measure. He was just 19 when he presented his first solo exhibition in 1975. It was at the National Gallery of Victoria, of course, and he has since become a national treasure. Though his subjects are varied, ranging from portraits of adolescents to emotive landscapes, his photographs are united in their shadowy and sensitive contemplations of the human condition.
For two nights only on the 22nd and 23rd of May, enjoy the poetry of the photographic works accompanied by the dreamy sounds of the Art Quartet performing a response to the work, aptly named Chiaroscuro referencing the contrasts between light and dark used in the artist’s work (from Italian: chiaro, “light,” and scuro, “dark”). More info is here.
When: Friday 17 May - Saturday 8 June
Where: Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery
For months there has been mysterious construction happening on the ground floor of The Clothing Store at Carriageworks. This month, Kaldor Public Art Projects and Carriageworks have unveiled Absorption by Asad Raza, a new work presented free to the public for just over two weeks.
The project will be the Australian debut for New York-based artist Raza, who has brought 300 tonnes of soil into the space for a large-scale installation that will evolve and change throughout the duration of the exhibition. Working with local artists, scientists, and special invigilators whom the artist calls "cultivators", the artwork will play host to a series of special public programs. The installation was developed in collaboration with a team of scientists at the University of Sydney Institute of Agriculture and draws together art and science.
Highlights include a special choreographic collaboration between Ivey Wawn, Ivan Cheng, Daniel Jenatsch, Eugene Choi, and Taree Sansbury, a pop concert by Rainbow Chan and a reading by feminist group Composting. You'll also be able to take some soil home at the closure of the exhibition. More info is here.
When: Until Sunday 19 May
Where: The Clothing Store, Carriageworks
@d_a_n_b_o_y_d is one of nine Australian artists whose work features as part of Absorption. Boyd’s window vinyls are installed along one side of the Clothing Store, affecting a mottled light that plays on Raza’s fragrant ‘neosoil’. �� Image: Daniel Boyd, Untitled (-33.894728, 151.189099), 2019. window installation, adhesive vinyl on glass 23 panels. Photo: @pedrogreig
Church In The Wild
Purchasable indoor plants, dynamic art and a collaborative zine raising money for our beloved WIRES Wildlife Rescue? It sounds like the holy grail of a good-natured art event to us. Set at Goodspace Gallery, the one-night event centres on strengthening our connection with the natural sublime. Set in the urban sprawl of Chippendale, the gallery’s surrounds speak to the need for this conversation. More information is right here.
When: Wednesday 8 May, 6 - 9pm
Where: Goodspace Gallery
Next week at Goodspace! ‘Church in the Wild’ is a group show that explores the romantic notion of the sublime in nature through a contemporary lens. As our world becomes increasingly urbanised, the need to strengthen our connection to the natural world becomes even more essential. . Featuring: Rory King, Sophie Joyce, Richard Healey, Kim Phan, Francesca Zak, Nyssa Sharp, Caitlin Shearer, Nick Mckinlay, Rosemary Lee, Samantha Gregory, Lisa Broms, Jeremy Plint, Daniel Bockanic and curated by Neva Hosking. . There will be a variety of indoor plants available for purchasing on the night, bring some nature home with you! . A collaborative zine will also be for sale on the night, with all proceeds donated to WIRES Wildlife Rescue. . One night only, Wednesday May 8th from 6pm. . Flyer art by Rosemary Lee
OK Democracy, We Need to Talk
In the lead up to the federal election, Campbelltown Arts Centre presents OK Democracy, We Need to Talk, a discussion of democracy and its future spoken through the visual language of ten artists.
Staged during a time of nation-wide political nail-biting, the exhibition features some heavy hitters including of Abdullah MI Syed, Eugenia Raskopoulos, Louisa Bufardeci and Kuba Dorabialski, among others.
From Lara Thoms’ video work featuring the 9- year-old who politicians called a brat after their refusal to stand during the national anthem at school, to Deborah Kelly’s homage to Yoko Ono and John Lennon's iconic 1969 War Is Over artwork, the exhibition is bound to provoke healthy discussion amongst friends and political rivals.
When: Saturday 18 May - Wednesday 31 July
Where: Campbelltown Arts Centre
Head On Photo Festival
Head On Photo Festival returns for its tenth year and promises to be bigger and better than ever. Featuring artists hailing from every corner of the world, the festival presents curated exhibitions of fine art photography, portraiture and photojournalism. Six of the curated exhibitions will be presented at the Festival Hub at Paddington Town Hall, with the remaining exhibitions staged at Delmar Gallery, Ashfield, Lyons Gallery, Paddington and Watt Space Gallery in Newcastle.
There are a few strong contenders in the running for a prize pool of $60,000—judged by internationally renowned photographers, picture editors and curators. Standouts include Masayoshi Sukita with iconic portraits of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Swiss Jenny Rova who explores how we look at people we love with 55 photos taken by the artist’s 9 partners over a 25 year period, and David Dare Parker with his harrowing portraits of refugees crossing the Myanmar border in 2017. Don't miss Julijana Griffiths' powerful photo series I Arrived With One Suitcase at Maunsell Wickes Gallery, which paints the story of the artist's mother's arrival to Australia. From the sweet to the sublime to the tear-jerking, there’s something to pluck at everyone’s heartstrings. Head here for more details.
When: Saturday 4 May - Sunday 19 May
Where: Multiple Venues
Here are 14 awesome things do to in Sydney this month.
Image credit: Absorption, Asad Raza for Kaldor Public Art Projects.