The Other Art Fair

In talking art after psychoanalysis and Said, the term ‘other’ might be the most wonderfully, acrobatically flexible word in the dictionary of artspeak. Now up to its fifth Sydney iteration, with some 120 artists under its wing, The Other Art Fair is set to testify to the glittering array of work we might consider ‘other.’ Giving platform to emerging and early-career artists, self-taught makers, unrepresented artists, and those whose work treads boundaries between fine art and craft or design, the fair aims to bring audiences – and buyers – face to face with fresh, surprising work.

A diverse public program, as well as new and enriched partnerships, accompany the show this year. A new collaborative effort with the APY Centre Collective is positioned as part of the fair’s endeavours to champion emerging talent. Selected artists from the Central Australian Collective (which comprises some 500 members in total) exhibit their works as part of the fair. Localising its gaze even more tightly, the fair this year deepens its partnership with the National Art School, which will surely bring some of the most topical work to the show, across painting, photomedia, ceramics and all other manners of making.

What we might mean by ‘other,’ according to this year’s fair, includes both self-trained artists and those with a background in tertiary education. The appearance of artists with an array of training backgrounds alongside each other makes the show fertile ground for considering the place of institutions of higher education in the art world. Kirthana Selvaraj, a graduate of UNSW Art and Design, brings a body of work that navigates the experiences of queer people of colour within the context of structural violence and erasure. Formally, her work lives in the interstice of contemporary realism and abstract visualisations, roaming across painting and audiovisual practices.  Working within academic genres of still life and landscape, yet self-taught and humorous, Raj Panda’s paintings engage the academy in still a more compellingly oblique way.

Figurative painting tends to feature quite strongly in the fair. In its 2019 incarnation, abstract works, or works straddling both figuration and some degree of abstraction, promise to be some of the highlights of the offering in painting. New Zealander Darren White’s practice riffs on coastal iconography, using linework that gestures to waves, rocks, and cloud formations to structure a palette of understated neutrals and cool tones. Texture is important in implying the coast for White; painting onto timber, the material of his work enacts, as much as it depicts, the littoral zone that preoccupies the Pacific imagination. Harry Bayston’s practice, similarly reaching across the abstract and the figurative, takes a more inward turn. Bayston’s pairing of flat paintings with sculptural painted works is pitched, in a somewhat expressivist way, as an exercise in catharsis – an explication, or externalisation, of some biographical story.

A strength of a fair that focusses on emerging artists might be – and is, in this case – that the personal and professional histories that shape many of the works are impressively wide-ranging. Marisabel Gonzalez’s paintings, for instance, take for their representational source material images that Gonzalez encounters in her work as an ultrasound technician. Informed by a professional background in medicine, as well as the artist’s personal experience of illness, these works chew over the effects of pathological processes on the affective lives – as well as the bodies – of those affected by illness.

Of course the dichotomy of art and (or, perhaps, against) design and craft has long been disregarded. In this show, the presence of artists like Miranda Russell and Catherine Tate insists upon the value of work in ceramics, in Tate’s case, and work that positions itself as sitting within interior design, for Russell. Tate declares explicitly that she ‘see(s) the canvas of (her) vessels reflecting the harmony between the discipline of the graphic artist and the freedom of the fine artist.’ Russell, comparably, refers to her works as ‘styling pieces,’ describing the functionality of minimalism and the embeddedness of the movement within the everyday as a formal influence on her practice.

A vibrant public program runs across the four days of the Fair’s residency at Eveleigh’s Australian Technology Park. A partnership with Art Month sees the Open Studios project happening within the show. Here, Experimental Ceramics Studio and Campbelltown Arts Centre’s Little Orange bring their studios to the fair, inviting audiences to participate in artmaking practices of their own. Workshops in calligraphy and paper embroidery, and the demonstrated blowing of a miniature glass cloud by Mark Elliot, fill up more of the public program’s highlights reel.

The Other Art Fair
14 –17 March 2019
Australian Technology Park, Sydney


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