Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Nature of Australia By 2

Most exciting - a friend's exibition coming up ‘The Nature of Australia by 2’ Artists – Marta Lett & Vino Nukaiya Special Opening Night Event – Saturday 23rd November 2013, 6-9pm This exhibition is collaboration between two friends, showcasing vastly different visions of the nature of Australia in paintings on canvas and paper. Vino’s paintings are journeys in storytelling of actual events and places through landscapes, portraiture, still life and vibrant native wild flowers. Vino was born in Fiji, a fifth generation Southern Indian and English Fijian. He has been a working artist from the age of seven, helping to support his family, then as a young man bringing his natural talent to Australia. Marta’s intricate & vibrant paintings feature Celtic patterns and calligraphy interlaced with native plants, birds & insects. Her environmental themes speak of our human interconnection with the natural world and express the artist’s sense of place and heritage. Marta has been exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions for over 20 years. Visit to view a selection of Marta’s paintings. Opening night: 23rd November 6-9pm Exhibition dates: 24th November 2013 to 12th January 2014 Venue: Zigi’s Wine & Cheese Bar, 86 Abercrombie street, Chippendale For inquiries contact Marta on 0423 947 472 or email at

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Australian Ballet in La Sylphide and Paquita

Here's my thoughts for artshub Technically the Australian Ballet is in top, sizzling form and this double bill will greatly delight dance purists. The main work is a revival of the Bournonville/Bruhn ‘La Sylphide’, the iconic Romantic ballet which was given a dazzling performance. It tells the story of a Scottish farmer who falls in love with a Sylph - a woodland sprite. Ty King -Wall was magnificent as James, the man caught between two women and worlds. His elevation and batterie were superb and he was sensational in his showy solos. He seemed genuinely in love with his fiancée Effie but is driven slightly mad in his search for the elusive Sylph (the ideal, unobtainable woman) and loses everything in the end. The mysterious Sylph, the epitome of Romanticism, was exquisitely danced by Lana Jones. Generally she was fluttering and teasing, seemingly as light as thistledown, delicate and otherworldly, ghostlike and mysterious, with soft big ballon and a regal line in arabesque penchee. A powerful, magnificent performance that showed the precise batterie, fragile rounded delicacy of the upper body, an emphasis on the upward trajectory in jumps, the softest of landings and clear mime as demanded by Bournonville. The ensemble of sylphs in Act 2 was beautifully presented and you can see the hints of ‘Giselle’ to come in the fine unison work. Some of the poses looked straight out of the original lithographs. Gurn his cousin was terrifically danced by Brett Simon and Effie his fiancée enchantingly danced by Natasha Kusen. Tall Matthew Donnelly played the witch Madge and I was perhaps a little disappointed. For me, he gave a quite satisfactory performance but it was rather two dimensional, played for laughs and not scary. The ensemble was terrific in the huge displays of showy Scottish celebratory dancing in Act 1 (lots of plaids and tartan everywhere). Which brings us to ‘Paquita’, or rather the distillation of the wedding celebrations act from this Petipa ballet, which opens the programme. It is a shining example of the traditional 19th century Russian ballet (1881) and superbly danced. Technically it was well done but the choreography at certain points was very obviously repetitive. There was a feel of it being almost neo-classical abstract dance - you could see how it influenced Balanchine for example - as for this extended divertissement there was no real plot or narrative as such, just ‘dance’ as spectacle, a diamond bright illustration of the form. There was extremely simple staging, with two huge chandeliers against a starry backdrop and some black tabs. Hugh Coleman’s heavily detailed lavish costumes were in mustard yellow and black except for the ‘bridal couple’ in white. Particular mention needs to be made of Laura Tong in the first solo with harp and flute in a mesmerising, hypnotic display. The two leads ( in this performance Daniel Gaudello and Leanne Stojmenov) were excellent and in the showy male solos you could see how this work prefigured the later ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Stojmenov was toothily regal and coolly elegant, an enchanting princess. The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under the dynamic leadership of guest maestro Paul Murphy (from the Birmingham Royal Ballet) was tremendous. From the very first darkly dramatic notes we were in a mysterious other world and the Lovenskjold score was shaped delightfully. A most impressive performance, a wonderful glimpse of a major Romantic ballet superbly danced 4 stars 8 November 2013 Running time - 2 & ½ hours (approx) two intervals The Australian Ballet’s La Sylphide and Paquita runs at the Opera House until November 25

Rapture Blister Burn at the Ensemble

Here's what I said over at Artshub about this tremendous show’s script is punchy, witty and challenging. At times it is hilarious with some terrific one liners. Four women from three generations critique and analyse feminism, love, friendship and loneliness in this thought provoking play. What do women want? Can a woman have both a career and a fulfilling home life? Has anything really changed since the 1960s? Dark beauty Georgie Parker is magnificent as Catherine, giving a superb performance as the dutiful returning daughter. The questioning yet vulnerable feminist agent provocateur makes challenging connections between porn and pop culture in her books. With virtually rock star status as a now famous academic, how does she define feminism? And does she really ‘have it all’? Throughout the play Catherine’s loneliness is a recurring theme. She will need support once her mother has passed away, and the steadfastness of love and friendship. The summer course that Catherine leads has the women vehemently discussing the debate between ‘second wave’ feminist leader Betty Friedan and anti-feminist crusader Phyllis Schlafly, with Schlafly surprisingly seeming to have the upper hand at certain times. Anne Tenney gives a terrific performance as Gwen, Catherine’s ex-roommate who snaffled Don (Glenn Hazeldine) away from her a decade ago. She is lonely and dispirited, seemingly trapped in her unhappy marriage to Don and has become a mousey stay at home housewife. She is always moaning about how she wishes she could escape, complete her university course, travel and change places with Catherine, but always shies away from the chance for change. Young Chloe Baylis as Avery is exuberant and opinionated and at times inattentive to the feelings of others when asking very blunt personal questions and uses lots of coarse language. Her views on feminism cause heated discussion and she goes through heartbreak herself. We are meant to see her as the ‘new’, futuristic’ voice of feminism. Graham Maclean’s beautiful set design is in pale wood and soft blue with delightful large windows.The changing of the blinds, and blackouts, are a nice touch which indicate the passing of time over the summer. A top cast give sizzling performances in this very topical play that recognises that life is infinitely messier than theory and examines how women, and men, find happiness and conquer disappointment. Running time 2 hours 30 (approx ) including one interval 4 stars 6 November 2013 Rapture Blister Burn runs at the Ensemble Theatre until 7 December 2013 Rapture Blister Burn by Gina Gionfriddo

America: Painting A Nation

This huge ewxhibition has just opened at the Art Gallery of NSW Well worth repeated visits Here's my Sydney Arts Guide review AMERICA: PAINTING A NATION is the most expansive survey of American painting ever presented in Australia. With over 80 works ranging from 1750 to 1966, this summer blockbuster exhibition examines more than 200 years of American art, history and experience. The works have come from four major institutions in the USA: the Terra Foundation, Chicago; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Museum of Fine Art, Houston; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. ( The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has lent its major work, Edward Hopper’s ‘ House at dusk ‘ 1935.) The huge , at times rather overwhelming ,exhibition , beautifully presented , features works by major artists including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe, James McNeil Whistler, Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent. Most of the works have never been seen in Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales is the only Australian venue for this exhibition. The exhibition is part of the Sydney International Art Series, bringing the world’s outstanding exhibitions to Australia. It has been made possible with the support of the NSW Government through Destination NSW. Over its eight rooms, and quoting from Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson among others where appropriate, the exhibition guides the observer on a course from New England to the Western frontier, from the Grand Canyon to the burlesque theatres of New York, from the aristocratic elegance of colonial society to the gritty realism of the modern metropolis. One of the very first paintings we see is of No-Tin (Wind), a Chippewa chief 1832–33 by Heny Inman contrasted with the white European style dandy Edward Shippen IV By Robert Feke We also see a glorious landscape by Gifford ‘October in the Catskills’ thrilling, glowing and golden (1880) which has a huge, ornate frame. Moving along slightly, a stunning ‘Portrait of Misses Mary and Emily McEuen’ by Thomas Sully (1823) is found among rather stilted ,very formal other ones of the period . This is a fascinating indication of changes in fashion too – look at the incredible detail in the collar of the portrait of the Fields and the very tight curled ringlets in the portrait of Ms Clarissa Cook . A room called ‘The Nursery of Patriotism ‘ , darkly lit , features huge landscapes .Thomas Moran’s ‘ Grand Canyon’ dominates the room and there are breathtaking pictures of the Hot Springs at Yellowstone and also the Yosemite Valley . In the room , ‘Chronicles of National Life’, there are ‘genre’ scenes capturing what were already lost traditions of huntsmen et c ( eg Remington’s ‘The Herd Boy ‘, or Homer’s ‘Huntsman and Dogs’ – which has a fabulous swirling energy and great use of line and composition . ) You can also perhaps see the precursors of abstract expressionism with the unusual ‘Rack Picture ‘ by Peto. The ‘ Gilded Age’ of American painting , with elegant Sargents, luscious luminous Cassatts ,starkly dramatic Whistlers etc is then featured as are some incredible Victorian era still lifes of flowers etc. Also daily life, with travel on the Boston ferry depicted and Hassan’s ‘Rainy Midnight. Late’. Some are photographic realist in style, others far more Impressionist. Chases’ ‘Mother and Child’ is starkly dark and dramatic, in some ways similar to Whistler’s ‘Arrangement in Black’. They are such a contrast to the glorious ‘Tannis’ by Daniel Garber, with the stunning light and trees. When you enter the next room there is a definite change to Modernism with the development of modern art for modern cities and the development of abstractionism ,Cubism etc .as well as yet more sensational landscapes . Shinn’s ‘Theatre Scene’ reveals a possible Toulouse -Lautrec influence. This room features the major work by Edward Hopper’ House at Dusk’ , as well as looking at the diversity of San Francisco art in the 1920’s. It also features a Georgia O’Keefe ( ‘Red and orange streak ‘) where the colour sings vibrantly. ‘The American Scene’ room challenges the national narrative and we see depictions of slaves and First Peoples. Khun’s ‘Clown With Drum’ is very powerful,( quite ‘Paglicacci ‘ish )and there is O’Keefe’s sort of almost abstract , quite erotic in a way lily painting . Jackson Pollock is also included. In the final room, ‘The sublime is now’, taking us through to the rise of Abstract Expressionism , I was immediately drawn to the superb Robert Irwin untitled work using light and shadow. There was also the explosive powerful paintwork of Gotlieb’s ‘Penumbra’. There is a fascinating, detailed timeline on the wall of the corridor as you exit and head for the shop. AMERICA: PAINTING A NATION runs at the Art Gallery of NSW 8 November 2013- 9 February 2014. For further information,-

Sydney Indpendent Opera's Don Giovanni

This was excellent here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide It’s a great shame that there were only two performances of this excellent production of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ by Sydney Independent Opera. Sung in English – generally a very good translation – musically and vocally under the energetic , expressive yet controlled direction of Steven Stanke, the show featured marvelous playing by the rather small but excellent orchestra and an interesting use of the delicate harpsichord during the ‘recitatives’. It is interesting to note that this production was based on the 1777 Prague version. It was a ‘semi staged’ theatre using the heavy proscenium arch and the rolling acoustic panels at the back as the set with swirling cloaks and small handprops, where appropriate, augmented by excellent costumes and lighting. The sparse staging allows the audience to concentrate on the music, plot and characters. There was hot and steamy lust and passion, and the darkness, cruelty and depravity of the story was also acknowledged. The narrative is a morality story cloaked in heavenly music,- all of the characters are damaged in some way , and Don Giovanni ends up being dragged down to Hell ( ‘The punishment of the libertine’). Rakish ,debonair Don Giovanni was excellently sung by Randall Stewart in magnificent voice in a most impressive performance .He is presented as a Mafia Don with guns , knives etc and in a very expensive looking suit and waistcoat . His seductive aria /duet ‘Là ci darem la mano’ or here in English ‘There will my arms enfold you’ with Zerlina was lyrical and melting .No wonder she was almost swooning! We first see Donna Anna (Qestra Mulqueeny ) in a pink shirt making wild passionate love to Don Giovanni and then oddly smiling as her father is killed, –is this a Surrealist Brechtian nightmare? Mulqueeny is then later revealed as an ultra-elegant, almost Valkyrie, with blond upswept hair and stunning black dresses , with a very strong voice, particularly in her showy arias . As naughty , saucy , downtrodden yet stylishly dressed , cynical Leporello, driven to distraction by his master’s bedhopping hijinks and lack of concern, Paul Smith was excellent .His ‘catalogue aria’ in Act1 that cruelly informs Donna Elvira of the overwhelming number of his master’s conquests was excellent . Donna Elvira (Salina Bussien ), passionately obsessed and in love with Don Giovanni, is presented as tall, imposing ,pale and in Gothicky black with the initials DG tattooed on her breast as revealed by the slit in her costume. Bussien is a marvellous,very strong actress who gave a terrific performance. As the Commendatore Iain Fisher gave a tremendous, chilling performance particularly in the terrifying denouement of the second act that sent chills down the spine. Bravo. Zerlina and Masetto , the young bride and groom whose relationship and wedding day Don Giovanni almost destroys ,were wonderfully played and sung by Maia Andrews and Joshua Salter . Zerlina’s ‘Batti batti or as here in English ‘beat me beat me ‘ stopped the show . A most enjoyable production that was quite dramatic and seductive. Running time 2hours 45mins (approx) including one interval DON GIOVANNI, by the Sydney Independent Opera, had two performances – 1 & 3 November 2013- at the Independent Theatre

Michael Philp

Here's what I said for my Sydney Arts Guide review There are twenty five medium to large sized works very well displayed in this gallery tucked away in a side street in Paddington. It is a vivid, bold exhibition, quite abstract essentially, incorporating a marvelous eye for colour and composition that captures the imagination. For Michael Philp, of the Bundjalung people, home is the Caldera – the land that stretches from beneath Wollumbin following the Tweed River down from Murwillumbah to Cudgen, Chinderah, Fingal and Duranbah and out to the ocean.The path of the river maps the home of his people. This latest, very autobiographical series of paintings is an intimate personal history, representing Philp’s loving relationship with home and country. The exhibition focuses on questions of identity in a fractured community and changed landscape. Son to a white fisherman and a Murri woman, Michael grew up in the Caldera indigenous community and landscape. Recollections of family ,childhood and Catholic schooling are blended with the Midjinbil waterways and coast of Northern New South Wales in a singularly intimate and personal statement about history and place . Both nostalgic and damaged, the paintings are a triumph of healing, reconciliation and optimism. The memories depicted in the series occur roughly between the seventies and eighties, a time when the area we know as the Tweed,Wollumbin, Cudgen, Chinderah, Fingal and also the Gold Coast to the North were going through massive change and development Philp has been in several exhibitions, both group and solo , and received a commendation in the New South Wales Premier Art Prize. His painting ‘The Warrior’ was accepted into a traveling exhibition of the Regional Galleries of New South Wales. The coast, the saltwater sections , rivers and ocean all feature in the paintings , as an actual working part of identity, personal and collective. The series is as much ‘portrait’ as it is ‘landscape and environment’ . The simplicity of application together with bold expanses of pigment, reach a raw cadence of potent symbolism. The exhibition could also be entitled ‘Blue series’ or ‘Water’ as the colour blue (many different shades of it !) dominate the exhibition. Aboriginal dot painting style is used for some representations of water and also for some of the fishing nets etc . A lot of the paintings are of crayfishing, oystering , ‘pippying’ at night and the hard work involved in fishing . Looming block like silhouettes of human beings are mostly represented as being dominated by the landscape but there are a couple of paintings where the emotional impact is huge and they are instead large blocklike almost paper cutout like figures (for example ‘My Father’s Embrace’ , and possibly ‘Calming Times’ . ) A delightful , fascinating exhibition. Michael Philp: My Saltwater Murris is exhibiting at Mary Place Gallery ,29 October to 10 November, 2013