Sunday, 5 August 2012

Confettii, coloured varnish, Pom Pom animals, mahjong encrusted peep shows ... Being amazing at the Melbourne Art Fair

Ok ... I've said it before and I say it again, if I had the money I would collect art. And there's no better way to shop than at the Melbourne Art Fair. Numerous galleries showcasing their wares all under the hallowed roof of the Exhibition building. It was a pleasant way of spending a Saturday afternoon rubbing shoulders with all those creative types in their textured black and their bottomless pocketbooks, being suitably inspired by the craft and imagination of the artisans who make this world of ours just that little bit more bearable. We spoke to enthusiastic gallery owners who were eager to spruik their collections without the pressure of necessarily making a sale. But given the number of red dots we saw, they weren't doing too badly with their bottom line. In actual fact, from a purely investment point of view, the Melbourne Art Fair is a great way of spotting new and upcoming talent, and those red dots, particularly if they are concentrated round a single artist, is a great way of divining where to plonk your hard earned cash next.

It would be an arduous task to put down all the works we liked in a single post, so here are some of our highlights. But first, let me start with our best picks of the day. For me, it was hands down the Melbourne based scottish artist Euan Heng. The piece I loved was called Centre Forward. There's a sort of deco poster quality to his pristine clean lines and pastelly hues. And the silver dot completely made the picture for me.

 Centre Forward - but with a black dot (pic courtesy of Boutwell Draper Gallery from the Melbourne Art Fair website)

Little Lamp Painting (pic courtesy of
Semaphore (pic courtesy of

He also does neon sculptures with equally simple lines that are just as stunning.

 e is for elephant (pic courtesy of

momento dome (pic courtesy of

M was fascinated by New Zealander Gregory Bennett's digital artpiece Omnipolis. A post apocalyptic urban scene scape populated by showroom dummies gesticulating amongst wartorn buildings and plumes of fire and smoke. We were equally blown away by the accompanying video loop. It reminded him of childhood games playing with toy soldiers, although the stark colours and shiny black backdrop pointed towards something a little more sinister. The examples below give you some idea of the intriguing and strangely hynoptic artistic nightmares this animator indulges in. The real thing, of course, had greater impact.

Another New Zealander that turned our heads was Martin Thompson. Using marker pens and graph paper, he constructs amazing geometrical patterns that just burst with colour and unassuming symmetry.

Untitled by Martin Thompson (pic from the Otago Daily Times)

Purple (pic from

The piece by Israel Burch called Kawakawa fairly leapt off the walls and immediately drew our eyes in towards its polished steel surface carefully layered with dark orange laquer. The picture below simply does not do it justice. Burch is a Maori artist who tries to incorporate his culture and traditions into a contemporary visual medium. The end results are rich in colour and texture.

Kawakawa (pic from

David Noonan, a London based Australian artist dealing in mainly screenprints, had an installation that made me feel like busting some Saturday Night Fever moves. Just looking at his birch ply figurines of a moustachoied lothario replendent in flares and platforms and I was Bianca Jagger complete in floppy hat, oversized sunnies and belted jersey dress, sashaying throgh the gallery on my way to Studio 54.

Installation (pic from

Although I am more partial to the non-colour end of the spectrum, every now and then a bright shiny calvacade of colours in swirly patterns can make my creative heart sing. Reuben Paterson, another Kiwi, uses glitter and gold dust (can there be a better medium??) to compose his Maori motifs. The series we saw was called End of Phase, but the picture below gives you a little idea of the richness this artists mines.

The Chinese artists are always ones to watch and I absolutely adored Qin Chong's abstract strokes of ink on paper. Qin Chong divides his time between Beijing and Berlin and perhaps its that melding of Eastern and Western sensibilities that really appeals to me and understandably touches a chord.

11th January doesn't matter (pic from

Oliver Watts, a Sydney artist, is a bit of a clever cogs, having studied Arts and Law before turning his attention to more creative pursuits with shapes of coloured paper and dada poetry. I would love to commission him to do a portrait of M and me, but sadly we do not exist in that stratosphere. We actually met Oliver at the stand and he is so lovely!

Andre Breton (pic from

The Elevator Carried A King (pic from

Brisbane artist Grant Stevens had M metaphorically reaching for his wallet with his lenticular print series called Love is a Drug. It would be hard to get the full effect on the 2D representation below, but lenticular prints are those pictures or photos that change from one image to another as you move them. It was used a lot for religious iconography and (oddly enough) dirty pictures of old. You know, Jesus with clapsed hands in prayer, then wow! Jesus with outstretched hands. Or Betty Grable in 50s pant suit, then Ooh! Betty Grable topless! Anyhoo these were amazing. You could buy a single edition with one aspect of the colour spectrum, or buy the lot and have the whole rainbow at your disposal.

And finally, if you have lasted the distance of this post, we have saved the most whimsical for last. Troy Emery!! Amazeballs!! Taking cues from taxidermy, Troy's animals were not hunted, skinned and formaldehyded, they were lovingly pummelled to "death" by the local community craft society. Taxidermy with coloured pom poms, pipe cleaners and golden tassles ... where do I sign?!

You are probably reading this after the fact, but if you're thinking of going next year, make sure you give yourself enough time. We only managed to walk through the ground floor and never made it upstairs. Its exhausting but you get to see so much.


  1. Pleas tell me where I can find that stripe poster with eyes that you have as header picture on this blog. - you can email me at

    thanks a lot


    1. @yogi3400 Hi John, I'm not sure if the poster is still available, but it is by art collective "Friends With You" - They may have other prints available that you might like. I bought my framed one in Melbourne at Outre Gallery -


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