Showcasing the diversity of Sydney’s commercial galleries in one month could seem like an impossible task, but it is something that Art Month, now in its ninth year, has been doing every March. This year is no different, and with art in Sydney constantly morphing and evolving, new artists, galleries and programs have been added to Art Month’s line-up.
This year, for the first time, Art Month is staging at Darren Knight gallery an exhibition of artists who are not represented by commercial galleries. Entitled Present, the show will highlight the diversity of practices among unrepresented artists in which artists can no longer be confined to a single medium or style.
Artistic Director Kate Britton, who spearheaded this show, notes how this reflects emerging trends within artistic practices.
“A lot of younger artists and a lot of artists I've worked with, they're a little bit harder to pin down and say ‘oh every time they put a show on it's going to be photographs,’” said Britton. “They work across different practices so I think increasingly commercial spaces and galleries are starting to take an interest in those more fluid forms and creative practices.”
In many cases this fluidity is working across both visual art and performance, blurring our understanding of these two distinct modes of practice as well as the genre of performance art. Britton highlighted the art of Get To Work, a collective who make video work and also live performance, as well as Kalanjay Dhir, profiled (https://www.backyardopera.com/art-culture-2/2017/11/19/artist-in-context-kalanjay-dhir) in Backyard Opera in November, who is one half of grime/hip-hop duo Slim Set, and also a mixed-media artist.
Bridging these worlds of performance and art will be the precinct nights, each of which will be followed by an after party. This year galleries within the Waterloo and Green Square precinct will be highlighted with their own program, which will showcase their unique character. Britton notes that each precinct night will provide participants a way to grapple with the artistic sensibilities of each area.
“What the precinct nights are really about is about saying ‘this area has this particular vibe’ and you can hop from space to space and get involved in it.”
While all the spaces that are included in the Art Month program have year-round exhibition schedules, what Art Month provides is a way to easily get a taste for the diversity of art on show across Sydney’s commercial galleries.
“Something that Art Month has always tried to do is to demystify that idea of collecting and buying art. Part of that is getting people through the door of commercial galleries and saying ‘Look you can just come in and see some great art and leave again and no one is going to pin you down and sell you a 60 000 dollar painting,’” noted Britton. In addition to opening up the galleries that exhibit artists’ work, Art Month includes open studio days, so that audiences can see where artists produce work. As Britton explained, “it's also about just checking things out and not being afraid to explore artists' world. To chat with them about how they make things.”
In addition, with constantly rising property prices across Sydney, artist’s studios are becoming an increasingly endangered species leading to artists exploring alternative working arrangements. One of these is kil.n.it, a creative space split between two campuses in Glebe devoted to ceramics, which encompasses studios, workshops and classrooms.
This is the first time kil.n.it has been part of Art Month and is part of a broadening of the event to not only showcase commercial galleries but the relationships these spaces have to studios and spaces where artists produce work. While there is no theme to Art Month as a whole it is this diversity and relationships that are always on display.
Britton encapsulated this by saying that “the way I'm framing it is to think about the ecology of those galleries and for me that means thinking about the relationships that happen between all of these different kind of elements that make up this art scene.”
Making this accessible and relevant to a broader audience than the public who regularly visit galleries has also necessitated a focus not only on inner Sydney. Art Month programs stretch from Mona Vale to Campbelltown and Woollahra to Smithfield. In a somewhat reciprocal manner, Britton sees this as part of extending the gallery going public, as well as the galleries that the current public may visit.
“I think Art Month's mandate is to try and create new audiences for those galleries and so for us it is pushing people that might visit galleries to get out and explore a bit further and hopefully likewise bring people in who may not necessarily visit city galleries.”
However, the core of the program remains the commercial galleries that are exhibiting year round; representing artists and providing a space for their work to be shown.
“There's hundreds of them, and it's where art happens all year round, from artists that are living and working in Sydney.”
To see the full program for Art Month head here http://www.artmonthsydney.com.au/. As Art Month progresses, Backyard Opera will be highlighting exciting aspects of the program, so stay tuned for more!