The art world calendar is punctuated each year by the Archibald, Wynne, and Sulman Prize presented at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Artists from around the country try their luck, pay $50 and cover the cost of freight to the gallery in order to enter their work into the prize. With over 1000 entries coming through the packing room doors it is a competitive process for all artists involved, but you have to be in it to win it!

Given the sheer scale and competition of the prize, it is unsurprising that the final selection and overall winners are always a talking point that not everyone agrees on. But, this is my blog and I decide what goes to print. Although the winners are yet to be released, here is a list of some favourites from each selection with commentary for your reading pleasure.



I’ve long admired Clara’s work. Her paintings make me feel quiet and reflective, like I have travelled to a different time and place that is simpler, somewhere with less social media. I especially loved her 2015 series that showed at MiCK Gallery.


Natasha Bieniek took the 2015 Wynne Prize AND the 2015 Portia Geach Memorial Award. Get it, gurl. Natasha creates miniature works inspired from time spent in Japan post finishing her degree in painting at the VCA.



Nick Stathopoulos paints beautiful, mesmerising portraits. His work has been in the Archibald Prize many times, as well as the Salon des Refusés, and the prestigious BP Portrait Awards.


Mirra Whale is a talented,  talented artist. She has the unique ability to paint expressively in an incredibly nuanced way. Her works have a true ‘likeness’ to the sitter. Often looking away from the viewers gaze, her sitters seem to be captured in a moment of thought, unaware of being watched.


Imants Tillers. Praise. Bow down.

From top to bottom:
Clara Adolphs Terry Seiro oil on canvas, Natasha Bieniek Wendy Whiteley oil on board, Prudence Flint Shower oil on linen, Nick Stathopolous Deng oil on canvas, Mirra Whale Philip Nitschke oil on canvas, Imants Tillers Double reality self portrait acrylic, gouache, on 64 canvas boards



Craig Handley I have always loved and probably always will. Do you also want to go to this house and drink tea in the kitchen and then jump off the cliff into the ocean and have a bonfire in that front yard? How can you not? His paintings are the Raymond Carver short stories of paintings.


Stuart Watters; a gentleman and a scholar. Stuart’s works stand out as different from the rest. They can’t be hemmed in by labels. It’s abstract, but it’s also kind of contained and composed. What does this mean for artistic representation of the Australian landscape? Where do we even go from here? I’m not sure but I’m excited.

Top to bottom:
Craig Handley The banker (or the kind of comedy) oil on linen, Stuart Watters Kultureland oil on canvas




Liberal MP Craig Kelly felt the wrath of Twitter last year when he tweeted a picture of this #fabulous work by famed artist Wendy Sharpe with something along the daft lines of ‘Do you really think this is suitable for Parliament House?’ What’s another arse in Parliament, eh Craig? I think it’s outrageously fantastic that is has been included in the Sulman Selection, a well deserved accolade.

Top to bottom:
Esther Stewart Flatland dreaming acrylic on board, Wendy Sharpe The witches oil on linen

Prize winners will be announced Friday 15 July, exhibition opens Saturday 16 July. The best of the rest, the alternative Archibald and Wynne selection is on display at
S.H. Ervin Gallery Salon des Refuses exhibition from Saturday 16 July



To say Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, from the Jaques and Natasha Gelman collection has been a highly anticipated exhibition is an understatement. I have been planning my trip for a year and my stomach flipped with anticipation each time I thought about it. Media outlets have pushed the exhibition; a casual write up here, a mention there, a cover of Art Almanac here. Mexican art + AGNSW + Frida + murals = exciting. This was an art cult favourite that most of us had only ever seen in books before. If you are like me, maybe you also ate tacos and enchiladas while flipping through the pages to make it somehow feel more authentic. It didn’t, that was a stupid but delicious idea.

FYI, Jacques and Natasha Gelman were long time friends and supporters of Frida and Diego. Their collection developed from their patronage of Frida and Diego. This exhibition contains 33 significant works from the collection and over 50 photographs by contemporaries such as Edward Weston, Lola Alvarez Bravo, and Guillermo Kahlo (Frida’s father). Collectively this exhibition presents a unique insight to the artists world; their relationship, their politics, their art, and their friendships.


The exhibition itself was held in the smaller galleries on the top floor of AGNSW. It is an intimate space. It wasn’t an entire retrospective, but it was enough to let me feel like I had worshiped at the alter of Frida and Diego while I continue to save moollah for the day I can head to Museo Frida Kahlo.

I already knew a brief history of their lives before I visited. I knew about Frida’s tragic accident and the role it played in her life work. I had a vague understanding of their romantic and platonic relationships, but of course I had no concept of what was really true and what was folklore. Like other great artists whose lives have been marked by tragedy and adversity, the story of Frida and Diego is legendary, filtered through art history textbooks and Hollywood interpretations. Knowing all this is very different from seeing it though.

I find artists self-portraits fascinating. On the rare occasion that I have attempted to do a self portrait, I’ve found the activity quite confronting. You can’t ever hide from your own face. And, I guess it is for this reason that quite often, artists say it is easier to paint a self-portrait than a portrait of someone else. There is less room for offense and vanity when the task at hand is quite simply just to paint or draw your own face, imperfections and all.

Frida’s self-portraits are not concerned with re-creating a simple likeness. Her portraits are frank, striking and cement her standing as the queen of resting bitch face. Frida captures her whole sense of self by filling the canvases frame with not just her own presence, but other imagery that alludes to who she is. There is as much attention to detail taken in capturing her necklaces and cultural dress as there is in capturing her eyebrows, mustache, and headdresses that altogether present a kind of emotional intensity that is not typically associated with self-portraits.




At first I was struck at how flat both Diego and Frida’s paintings were. And the fact that their aesthetics were strikingly similar. In works by Frida and Diego, finer details like a lace collar were traced with a thin brush and can almost be missed if you don’t get up close enough to the work.

Diego is famously known for his murals and political alliances, I was struck by how quiet his subjects were. Without trivializing the darker connotations these pieces had, the flower picker series made me want to believe in an idyllic way of life where we could all tend to flowers and work together, young and old. But that is a shallow reading. What does the burden of the flowers represent? What social status of these girls is articulated through their dress and bowed heads? And what are we to think of the man trying to maintain the weight of the calla lilies in the background? Without seeing his face all we know of him and his working life is a to be read by a quick glimpse of hit hat and hands.


Although this exhibition was not a blockbuster show, it is valuable in its intimacy. The range of photographs and works on display are all intriguing and act as a small piece to a larger puzzle. It would be impossible to fully articulate the lives and tales of these legendary artists, and it refreshing to be free of that expectation.


Long live Frida and Diego’s bohemian spirits and artistic freedom, and the dedication, appreciation, and friendship of patrons like Jacques and Natasha Gelman.


June 17 2016 was a national day of action for the Australian visual arts sector in reaction to the recent Australian Council funding cuts. Arts administrators, artists, organisations, and institutions were called to wear black and share their unity with #istandwiththearts

The message of June 17 call to action was to draw attention to the arts and remind politicians that what they consider ‘tiny cuts’ have fundamental impact across a range of institutions. Additionally, the call to action aims to make the arts a campaign issue. There is an alarming lack of coverage in the current election campaign that runs for another 2 weeks despite the fact that the arts industry in Australia employs more people than mining and has contributed a massive $50 billion to the economy.

Without arts and culture, what are we even living for?!


The Sydney art scene is blessed by a stellar showcase of emerging and established artists whose works remind us that painting is still very much alive and, more importantly relevant, as a creative medium. Sure, the Biennale is filled with video works and large scale installations that are inspiring in their own right, but at the crux of the Sydney art world, in it’s homegrown heart; painting rules.

Successful paintings can be as exciting and inspiring to see as a Clark Beaumont performance or a Nam June Paik visual loop. Successful painting has vibrancy and vitality that captures a viewers attention and carries them away. Successful paintings articulate the subjects context through application of paint and colour, as well as the the energy of brushstrokes and positioning of subjects. And if you’re still not convinced let me just tell you: when you see a good painting, you just know, you know?!

Laura Jones’ recent exhibition Wildflower at Olsen Irwin Gallery encapsulates all that is great about painting. In Wildflower, Jones’ imagery is larger than life. Large bouquets of native flowers expand to fill the frame and stretch beyond the viewers gaze.

Flannel flowers

Laura Jones, ‘Flannel flowers’, oil on linen, image via Olsen Irwin

When she is painting, Jones is always moving; marching toward the canvas to apply paint and stepping back for perspective and to see the overall picture. The effect of this is thickly applied paint that has been well worked in the canvas.

Studying Jones’ painterly trajectory it is clear to see how she has perfected this technique. Earlier works are looser with wider brushstrokes and planes of flat colour. In Wildflower, Jones has tighter compositions created with smaller daubs of paint that results in more detailed works that viewers are instinctively drawn into, eager to see more. By filling her canvas and leaving parts of the composition spill over the edge of the stretcher, the artist is able to create a sense of mystery of what lies beyond the viewers vantage.

Although her painterly technique has progressed, Laura’s interest in painting floral still life’s seems to remain the same. Having worked for Grandiflora as a florist, flowers and floral arrangements have become the centrepiece to much of her work.

While Jones’ often uses a signature bright colour palette to create a lively and uplifting scene, there is an occasional dark undertone that filters through the canvas that mirrors the ideology of her subject. We typically think of flowers as being Romantic, capital ‘R’. But their undercurrent is tragic. Flowers are associated with happy occasions: weddings, celebrations, anniversaries. But they also represent sad events: funerals, loss, and apologies. This dichotomy has always been an undercurrent in her past work. But in Wildflower, we see a slight break away from this.

Burnt banksia's and hollyhocks

Laura Jones, ‘Burnt banksia and hollyhocks’, oil on linen, image via Olsen Irwin

Still-life’s in Wildflower do not seem as fragile as in prior series. In  Wildflower, Jones develops her traditional still life to include Australian native flora almost exclusively. Not only are the flowers that Jones has selected are chosen for their beauty or aesthetic, but for their durability and sturdiness. These are flowers that are seen unrestrained in the Australian landscape, able to withstand our harsh climates and seasonal changes.The effect of this is that it creates a sense of place and identity formed from our natural landscape.

By creating a suite of works that speaks to the Australian sensibility of place and landscape, Wildflower speaks to the time and inspired-painterly-place that Jones is working in.

Flannel flowers and banksia

Laura Jones, ‘Flannel flowers and banksia’, oil on linen, image via Olsen Irwin

Laura Jones is represented in Sydney by Olsen Irwin Gallery and in Exeter (NSW) by Gallery Ecosse. To see Jones’ portfolio and read artist updates, you can view her website here.

Wildflower, Olsen Irwin Gallery, 2 to 20 March 2016


Chris Dolmans, installation shot ‘Empty Vessels’, image: Wellington Street Projects

One of the great things about Sydney is that there is so much fantastic art to see, on the mainstreet, and off it. Those who want to explore the art scene do not have to wander too far; institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art sit proudly by the water in Circular Quay, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is perched at the top of the city’s Botanical Gardens. For out of towners and tourists who want to explore off the beaten track and find some hidden gems behind the main streets, I went exploring to find these top 5 galleries for the Culture Trip to share some of Sydney’s local spots for good art.

View the full article here

The amazing gals at Lumi have asked me to be regular blogger and I’m super chuffed!

Lumi exists to connect, inspire, and empower women to reach their full potential in their personal and professional lives. I am passionate about supporting strong women and believe in everything that Lumi represents. I feel so blessed to be able to support their cause through my writing!

I you haven’t already you should follow them on WordPress and on social media @Lumi on Facebook and @WeareLumi on Instagram and be inspired!

See my latest article for them below, that looks at the power of saying ‘yes’ when what you really want and mean is to say ‘no’.


So, let’s talk a little bit about yes and no conditioning. We’ve all been in those situations where someone catches you with your guard down, ‘Hey, you want to help me move/pretend you’re Santa/cat-sit while I’m out of town?’ In the moment, you gaze vacantly towards your thinking-spot ‘uhh…?’ Your brain goes into overdrive and pulsates with the mantra think of an excuse, think of an excuse. You look behind the person to see your partner/mother/best friend gritting their teeth with wide eyes, shrugging their shoulders emphatically. But all you can come up with is ‘uhhhhh, yes sure, sounds great!’ WHAT THE HELL, BRIAN?

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Studio W is an artist run initiative near Woolloomoolo pier. With two levels and an outdoor courtyard space, it’s the perfect venue for emerging artists to displays their latest and greatest works of art. I visited Studio W to see the exhibition Inanimate objects that was on display recently. The exhibition consisted of 8 emerging artists working in ceramics. Although all work in ceramics, the exhibition showcased a great range in styles, making it an extremely diverse show.

Mechelle Bounprasueth’s Circle of life series displayed pieces such as Pigeon & Vomit, which were as real-to life as it’s title. Mechelle’s display of quirky pieces reflected not only the urban environment that the exhibition was hosted in, but interestingly, the daily lives of the show’s patrons. Although these sights in the every-day are not exclaimed about nor documented on most mainstream Instagram account, it seems that everyone has at some stage witnessed a pigeon eating vomit or a pigeon doing something equally as gross and for this reason the works served great purpose in fostering this conversation – how gross are pigeons?! Let’s talk about that.

Other works in this series such as Ciggies and Carlton Draught long neck act as a social comment, again reflecting a sense of inner-city urban grit that all viewers, at some point or another, can or have related to. In their humour and un-filtered take on city life, these works presented an astute observation of the artists immediate environment.

Artist Rachael Harrex takes us away from the inner city feel of Mechelle’s work and presents a unique view of landscape in her work. Harrex deconstructs landscape views and re-creates fragments of scenes in porcelain ceramics and when presented collectively, individual works come together in a collage effect to create the final work.

Within an exhibition context, Harrex’s works explore the relationship between tactile installation elements that enhance and alter her pieces in playful and experimental ways. For example, in her work Mirage, porcelain shapes are exhibited on a mirror and lit at an angle to propel their shadows on the wall behind.

'Mirage', Rachael Sawyer, Wood-fired and saggar fired porcelain, dimensions vary

‘Mirage’, Rachael Harrex, Wood-fired and saggar fired porcelain, dimensions vary

The effect of this is intriguing in it’s exploration of visual elements, and stunning in it’s execution. The effect is like a mountain sitting behind a lake a sunset. At first glance you see the work as a whole and as you move closer towards it, the light and mirror merge with the colours of the porcelain fragments that becomes an overwhelming feast for the visual senses.

Similarly, we see an exploration of ceramics with tactile materials in the work Shardscape. In this piece, we see Harrex breaking away from traditional displays of ceramics. The ceramic movement that is sweeping across Sydney and Australia at large is inspired by artists such as Rachael Harrex whose inspired works are breathing new life into the display and creation of ceramics as a genre. No longer are we subject to considering ceramics to be practical or solely ornamental pieces, and works such as Shardscape are evident of this.

'Shardscape', sagger-fired ceramics on folded cotton stretched over frame, 120 x 40cm

‘Shardscape’, sagger-fired ceramics on folded cotton stretched over frame, 120 x 40cm

In Shardscape we see individual porcelain pieces displayed on folded cotton stretched across the frame, reiterating the playful experiments that Harrex explores in her exhibiting practice. This work represents a meeting point between two dimensional and three dimensional displays, like if Rauschenberg was intrigued by wood-firing fine porcelain and curious about how it would look on a canvas. This work perfectly articulates the ceramic movement in contemporary culture, as Harrex’s creative experimentation clearly breaks from traditional notions of what constitutes porcelain works and indeed, how these are to be displayed. ◼︎

You can read more about Rachael Harrex on her webpage here and view information on Studio W exhibition schedule here