Art News: January 2023

Artist Of The Month Becomes Art News

During the past 12 years we have run an Artist of the Month page to celebrate and showcase local Artists in all mediums; Painting, Sculpture, Music, Literature, Photography, Theatre and more. 

There was always more demand then could be fulfilled by showcasing just one Artist and running all others in the Events page or through Snippets in the Community News or Profile of the Week pages, or as stand alone Features.

Although these options will still remain open to local Creatives, an Art News page dedicated to helping Artists reach their local audience, and including everyone, launches this Spring so you can not only catch-up on what's been happening but also see what's coming up locally or further afield, especially when a local Artist is part of that Event.

If you have something coming up, something to say, or something to showcase, we want to hear from you. What you need to include in your 'package' to make it easier for us to help you:

  1. A biography of yourself: include what you have done before
  2. A portrait (photograph) of yourself
  3. What the Event is: and when and where it will happen
  4. A sample/s of your work

Once you have those four 'needs' ready, email them to with the heading 'Art News'. 

Remember it's always a great idea to give people advance notice of your Exhibition or Event, so once you have firm dates, get in contact.

‘A three-storey, luminous birdcage with suspended hanging gardens and an extensive crypt below’: Sydney Modern is open at last

Aerial view of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new SANAA - designed building, 2022. Photo © Iwan Baan
Sasha GrishinAustralian National University

The Sydney Modern Project had the odds stacked against it since its inception in 2013. It has surely been the most controversial state gallery extension to be built in Australia.

Michael Brand – a Canberra-born, ANU and Harvard trained art historian with an outstanding museum career in Australia and America – was appointed as director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2012. This was on the retirement of Edmund Capon, who held the post for the preceding 33 years.

Brand launched the unfunded plan for a new building in 2013, the Tokyo firm SANAA won the architectural competition in 2015 and construction commenced in 2019 with a budget of A$344 million. The knives were quickly out for Brand and his project.

Some, like Paul Keating, did not like the location and called it a “gigantic spoof”.

Others did not like the design; a book was published by a former gallery employee attacking the project; and the new culture at the gallery. Prominent people in the Sydney art scene lined up to attack the project and the director.

Aerial view of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new SANAA - designed building, 2022. Photo © Iwan Baan

There were some people who simply did not like Brand. He is a reserved, scholarly individual with a brilliant eye, in total contrast with the flamboyant, media savvy Capon.

There were faults with the original architectural design and significant modifications were implemented before construction commenced.

There were also external circumstances that impacted on the project: the murky world of NSW state government politics, bush fires that shrouded Sydney in smoke, COVID-19.

However, Sydney Modern, now that it is open, is a spectacular achievement. The floorspace of the gallery has almost doubled, creating a gallery precinct (Brand prefers to call it a “gallery campus”) with two buildings connected by an art garden.

On one side we have the stately neo-classical building that looks like a traditional 19th century art gallery with a series of extensions by Andrew Anderson, on the other side, a new 21st century structure.

Interior view of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new SANAA - designed building , featuring Takashi Murakami Japan Supernatural: Vertiginous After Staring at the Empty World Too Intensely, I Found Myself Trapped in the Realm of Lurking Ghosts and Monsters 2019. © 2019 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved, 2022, photo © Iwan Baan

A Luminous Birdcage

The new building may be described as a three-storey, luminous birdcage with suspended hanging gardens and an extensive crypt below. The main architectural concept is that of three limestone-clad, cascading pavilions leading down towards the water with a huge supporting rammed earth wall.

Below is the crypt, locally called the “tank”, in recognition of its origins as a fuel storage reservoir secretly and speedily constructed at the start of the second world war to store fuel for Allied shipping.

It reminds me of the huge water cisterns in Istanbul constructed by the Byzantines to store water for the city.

Installation view of Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. © Adrián Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

The tank is presently occupied by Adrián Villar Rojas’ “time-travelling sculptural forms” dramatically lit by constantly changing light sources. The smoke and mirrors display is deliberately disorientating, evoking more of a mood than a visual assessment of the artwork.

In the upstairs birdcage, it is very easy to orient yourself and be aware of your location and the various possible exits. In the crypt all is murky and unpredictable as you gradually negotiate the spaces and dodge the pillars and protruding sharp edges of the sculptures.

Indigenous Art At The Heart

Although there is an emphasis on Indigenous art with the transfer of the Yiribana Gallery from the basement of the old building to the entry gallery of the new one, this is more than simply a symbolic gesture to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the heart of the gallery.

Indigenous art is found at all levels of the new building and is integrated into the display of non-Indigenous Australian and international art.

Installation view of the Making Worlds exhibition in the new building at the Art Gallery of New South Wales , featuring Shireen Taweel tracing transcendence 2018-21 (foreground) and Mabel Juli Garnkiny Ngarrangkarni 2006. Photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Zan Wimberley

One of the highlights for me are the newly commissioned woven metal pieces by Lorraine Connelly-Northey. Her huge metal handbags made from discarded, well-weathered metal sheets from the outback have a stark sense of presence and are laced with wit.

Her work looks out onto the most ambitious project, the sprawling art garden by Jonathan Jones scheduled to open mid-2023.

Installation view of the Yiribana Gallery featuring Lorraine Connelly - Northey Narrbong - galang (many bags) 2022 © Lorraine Connelly-Northey. Photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Zan Wimberley

Less a deliberate policy and more as part of the process of what Brand describes as selecting the most interesting new art, women artists make up 53% of the 900 exhibitors in the new building.

The major thematic groupings, or exhibitions, in the new building are Dreamhome: Stories of art and shelter, Making worlds, Outlaw and Rojas’s The end of imagination in the crypt. These will remain in place for the next six months before there is a new set of exhibitions.

Installation view of the Dreamhome: Stories of Art and Shelter exhibition in the new building at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, featuring Samara Golden Guts 2022. © Samara Golden, photo © Iwan Baan

An Elegant Build

Despite the slings and arrows, Sydney Modern (now known somewhat unimaginatively as the North Building of the Art Gallery of NSW) has come to fruition.

Possibly not the most magnificent art gallery in the world, as the NSW premier and his arts minister spruiked at the opening, but an elegant, formidable and very functional new building.

Exterior view of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new SANAA - designed building. Photo © Iwan Baan

Politicians in Australia have always been very good at throwing money at new buildings, the true test will come if this doubling in size of the gallery will be accompanied by a substantial increase to the operating budget of the institution.

With new gallery spaces projected for Melbourne, Adelaide and possibly Canberra, funding is required for more than rammed earth, glass, bricks and mortar. Australia does not need a stampede of white elephants. The Conversation

Sasha Grishin, Adjunct Professor of Art History, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

ART Gallery On Palm Beach Summer Focus On Little Treasures

Situated 1095 Barrenjoey Road, Palm Beach.

Sculpture. Art. Ceramics. Photography

Just a short walk from the Palm Beach ferry jetty or a leisurely drive from Sydney CBD to the Northern Beaches, ART GALLERY on Palm Beach has something for everyone.  Either for your home or as a special gift, customers from all over Sydney have discovered the little gem of our unique gallery with prize winning artists at reasonable prices from the artists studio to you!

This is an Artist run gallery of art, ceramics, sculpture, comprising 20 professional and prize winning artists creating work for the Barrenjoey peninsula, tourists and locals. Here you will find affordable original art.

More at:

Currently showing Ingrid Kwong's Little Scapes and Vicki Ratcliff's Little Paintings

Ingrid Kwong's Little Scapes 

Living by the sea is so inspiring I am compelled to paint it. 

I have spent many happy days in and around beautiful Pittwater. Swimming in her, boating on her, camping by her, renovating a small shack on the edge of her and painting her! Always changing, yet at the same time always familiar. Pittwater is my inspiration, my home. It’s where I love to live and where I love to capture the feeling of the landscape, the ever changing light and movement in the sea and sky, through my paintings on salvaged wood. 

I enjoy sitting in the landscape as I paint it ... on a rock beside the sea, under a tree in the bush, on the sand at the beach, holding a brush in my hand and mixing the colours on a palette with sea and rain water. I also use the many photographs I have taken and sketches as inspiration for my work.

I create these paintings to capture lasting memories and connect us with nature. 

Hope you enjoy my little scapes!

More at:

Vicki Ratcliff's Little Paintings

Mona Vale Artist Vicki is a multi award winning painter. 

The magical play of light on water allows us to be mesmerized by the surface glints and reflections or dive into the depths of what lies beneath.

I am drawn to respond to this in my work, painting either in watercolour or oils. I adore delicacy that only watercolour can bring but I am equally as passionate about the energy and flow of painting with oils.

My current works reflect my love for the abundant natural beauty of Sydney’s Northern Beaches but mostly I am inspired by the wonderful characters that share each morning with me at Mona Vale rock pool, their warmth and strength, their love of life, camaraderie, age defying beauty and that clear and lovely morning light.

More at:

The Studio At Careel Bay Features Art From The Beach This December To January

Local Artist, Surfer, and Mum Nikki Quarry is being hosted by The Studio in the Careel Bay Marina this December and January, with 20% of all original painting sales going to Living Ocean. 

The Studio is a community-focused hybrid creative space at the Careel Bay Marina in Careel Bay, at 94 George Street. An initiative of Laing+Simmons Young Property and husband and wife team Matt and Amy Young, The Youngs are passionate about supporting locals and feature regular new exhibitions in support of local volunteer organisations that 'put back' into community.

Art from the Beach is Nikki's first solo exhibition.

Nikki studied Design & Visual Communication at UTS and began Fine Art at the National Art School in Sydney, although she has been painting her whole life. Historically, her work has tended to reveal vast spaciousness in her canvases, suffused with both mystical and natural elements. The warm, welcoming open spaces in her paintings draw the viewer in to discover the finer, mesmerising detail.

As an accomplished and versatile artist who has travelled widely and spent many years overseas, she has always had an eye for the richness of different landscapes and is inevitably drawn to the ocean.

When she turned her attention to the power of the cliffs surrounding her at our beaches, Nikki applied a new way of seeing to recreate beautiful scenes in what many describe as her characteristically immaculate style. These are truly great works, amazing in the detail and range of subjects - if you don't have your favourite artwork of your favourite beach yet, Nikki's work is highly recommended.

Original works are completed in oil and wax mediums on Canvas which are ready to hang. Prints come in both regular and square formats. Commissions accepted. Find out more at:

Amy and Matthew Young with Nikki, holding one of her works, during the setup for the Art from the Beach 2022-2023 exhibition at The Studio. 

Sally Campbell Handmade Textiles Pop-Up Shop 2023

At Avalon Rec. Centre: 14-22 January, 10am to 5pm
The wonderful and brilliant Sally Campbell has her annual Summer Pop-up shop in the Avalon recreation Centre at present, pop in and have a look. More at:

Art Exhibition: 'Rewilding'

Curl Curl Creative Space, 105 Abbott Rd, North Curl Curl
Exhibition: 7 - 18 December (open Wed - Sun, 10am - 4pm)
Artists' talks: Saturday, 10 December, 11 am

Elvina Bay residents Michelle Ball and Lisa Atkins, both keen bush regenerators, will be exhibiting their artworks at Curl Curl Creative Space for two weeks in December.

Their paintings and sculptures explore the beauty of a disappearing environment. Although the exhibition is centred around the destruction of native flora and fauna, it manages to share the artists' joy in what remains of the bush, as well as their hopes for its future.

'Rewilding is what bush regeneration is all about', explains Michelle, a former creative director in the publishing industry. Lisa and I spend hours removing the weeds that are taking over the beautiful bush surrounding us around Pittwater. As we worked, we both thought about our artistic practices. And so the idea for the exhibition was born.'

From the spotted pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus) flying high in the canopy, to the majestic soaring trunks of the eucalyptus (Corymbia maculata), Michelle has focussed on documenting species that Northern Beaches Council has listed as endangered. In the work shown to the left, Michelle, using oil on cotton, has placed a branch of the endangered spotted gum in an 18th century vase, while tiny pardalotes, who are also under threat of extinction, sit on the branch.

Lisa's focus is the flora surrounding her home. With her awareness of the native landscape and its capacity for regrowth, she forages and recycles, turning what she finds into sculptures.

Sydney Art Space At Mona Vale: End Of Year Exhibition + School Holdays Workshops 2022-2023

What a fabulous exhibition it was! and a magical opening night enjoyed by all. The standard of artwork was excellent and Onespace was a great venue to showcase a year of hard work :) Congratulations everyone! 

Our people’s choice awards went to:  

Joint award for sculpture:  

Brenda Ingram – Spring

Hayley Simpson – Mother and child

Award for drawing:  

Julian Ellis – Nude in child’s pose

People’s choice award winner Hayley Simpson and friends for Mother and child.


Sydney Art Space offers fabulous school holiday programs with art workshops for teens and kids throughout the year covering painting in various media, drawing, collage, printing, stitching, weaving, clay hand-building and sculpture! Workshop prices include all art materials and tuition for children and teens sessions.

Workshops are 2.5 hours duration, running mornings 10am – 12:30pm and afternoons 1pm – 3:30pm. Book in at:

Mona Vale School Of Visual Arts

Shop 6 / 18-20 Park Street Mona Vale


Mona Vale School of Visual Arts is a professional art studio in the heart of the village. We provide a place for school age students to explore their creative side in a fun and relaxed environment. Our programs are designed to build technical skills through the use of a variety of mediums. Students are then able to apply these skills to develop their own style and choice of subject matter. There is the opportunity to visit exhibitions as a group to develop a deeper understanding of art, artist and world.


Christmas Workshops on Tuesday 20th December 9:30 - 11:30am or 1 - 3pm. Every child leaves with a framed artwork. It would make a great gift! You can use a Creative Kids Voucher for 2 children to attend  either the morning or afternoon workshop. Check the website for details or email

We also offer Term Art Classes, Holiday Workshops, Manga Drawing Classes, and more. Visit our website for details.

Elanora Players: January 2023 Production



Written by David Williamson

Directed by Bill Akhurst

The “operator” is a familiar figure from any workplace where the opportunity for promotion exists. Generally defined by finely tuned charm and salesmanship skills that conceal actual laziness and lack of talent, the operator tends to spend more time working colleagues than actually working.

Jake is the Operator, the sociopath who exploits everyone on his climb to the top. He manipulates his kindly and competent co-worker Melissa, charms his CEO Douglas, outwits his trusting manager Alex and so it goes on.

Set in the product development department of a small gym equipment manufacturer, the play displays the usual Williamson style of compact action, slick dialogue and ironic humour.

Alex  Gerard Hawkins
Douglas  Hans Wrang
Jake  Patrick Richardson
Melissa  Zale Binge
Irena  Caroline Pearce
Francine  Chris Richardson

Friday 13 January, 8pm (Opening Night)
Saturday 14 January, 3pm & 8pm
Sunday 15 January, 11am & 3pm
Friday 20 January, 8pm
Saturday 21 January, 3pm & 8pm


Elanora Players - About

When a handful of locals joined together in 1966 to provide entertainment for themselves and the young community of Elanora we didn’t imagine they considered the long-term outcome. Since then hundreds of members have performed on stage, directed and worked in the many technical and backstage areas. They have learned new skills, developed and shared them, with many going on to professional work.

We are thrilled to be back and performing again in our new home, North Narrabeen Community Centre, 2-10 Woorarra Avenue, North Narrabeen.

Save Oxford Falls  Art Exhibition At Creative Library Manly


On At Many Art Gallery & Museum This Summer

Three great events are happening at Manly Art Gallery and Museum this December 2022 and continuing throughout January and February 2023; Fair Play, Barely Wearable and the return of Manly by Ferry.

Barely Wearable

Opening December 9th Ruth Downes latest touring exhibition, Barely Wearable, explores body adornment for the age of overconsumption.

Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan said the artworks were a great reminder of how much we consume and throw away each day.

“What a fantastic exhibition that creatively explores the issue of overconsumption and the potential of upcycling everyday objects,” Mayor Regan said.

“It’s a delightful exhibition, with works that I’m sure many people would proudly wear, while challenging us to think about just how much we actually throw away.”

The 30 wearable artworks were crafted from computer keyboard parts and adaptors, airplane headsets, discarded razor blades, used coffee capsules, disposable face masks, bra underwires, wire springs, beer bottle caps, single use toiletries, cosmetics, pens, garden hose, coat hangers, disposable spoons, lightbulbs, rubber bands and many other everyday items.

Natural items have also been salvaged and crafted into fashionable works including Norfolk Island pine needles, jacaranda needles and eucalyptus pods.

The artist said the exhibition is more than a simple ‘up-cycling’ exercise.

“Each of these items has an intrinsic beauty that is often taken for granted. By reappropriating these materials, I am celebrating that beauty, while questioning our accepted values,” Ms Downes said.

“These items have a preciousness that confounds our expectations irrespective of their humble origins. I am projecting these materials into the real of art to question how we decide what is and isn’t valuable.”

Downes' work was featured in the 2021 Environmental Art & Design Prize with Masking the problem – an Elizabethan neck ruffle made of disposable face masks, which highlighted the amount of waste created from discarded everyday items. Barely Wearable extends on the theme with Covid-related items incorporated into some works.

Sculptural explorations using everyday materials have been an ongoing obsession as was visible in her previous exhibitions. ‘Tea Party in the Mayoral Garden’ (2001 - 2010) won the inaugural NGA Sculpture Prize ‘People’s Choice Award’ and then toured to New York and Washington, followed by an extensive Australian touring program.

The follow-up exhibition ‘Lunch for the Trades’ (2007 - 2010), was also toured with the assistance of Manly Art Gallery & Museum, and travelled to many regional galleries in NSW and Queensland.

Manly Art Gallery & Museum has a long relationship with the local artist, who was first commissioned to complete a Mondrian-inspired mural in Manly’s Market Lane 20 years ago.

Downes has had a parallel career in design and public art. This has included commissions for site-specific 2D and 3D public artworks.

Barely Wearable

9 December 2022 – 26 February 2023
Manly Art Gallery & Museum
West Esplanade Reserve, Manly
Open Tue – Sun, 10am – 5pm
(closed Mondays & Public Holidays)
Free entry

MAG&M Society Exhibition Preview
Fri 9 Dec, 10 - 11am

RSVP here

Exhibition Opening
Fri 9 Dec, 6 – 8pm

RSVP here

Meet the Artist
Sun 12 Feb, 3 – 4pm

Ruth Downes will talk about her exhibition and her career as a multi-disciplinary artist.
RSVP here

Fair Play

Fair Play is a wonderfully inspiring new exhibition on display from 9 December 2022 – 26 February 2023.

Each artist chosen uses sport as a motif or a metaphor to inspire the viewer to reflect on broad social issues facing contemporary society such as post-colonialism, environmentalism, belonging, masculinity, and mental health.

Featuring work by multi-disciplinary artists including Billy Bain, Amber Boardman, Michael Garbutt & Sehar Naz Janani, Rew Hanks, Lyndal Irons, Kellie O'Dempsey, Ben Rak, Abdullah M.I Syed, and Gerry Wedd, visitors can expect a far-ranging set of works that inspire and uplift.

Amber Boardman, Trophy Melt, 2022, oil on canvas 152 x 183cm. Image courtesy the artist

The exhibition includes artists working across painting, video, printmaking, ceramics, installation, and performance.

The Mayor of Northern Beaches Council said the exhibition will appeal to locals and visitors by offering something everyone can relate to.

“Both art and sport are important cultural phenomena that enable us to connect and communicate with others at home and around the world — letting us venture across borders, cultures, languages, and generations to find common ground.

“There is a myth that sport and art are natural enemies, as exemplified by the ongoing debate about the allocation of public funding by governments at all levels in Australia, but this new exhibition Fair Play seeks to bridge the gap between these two cultural forms,” Mayor Regan said. 

The exhibition curator, Ben Rak said that; “It’s an insightful show that demonstrates how art and sport both empower us to express ourselves physically, emotionally, and intellectually.”

In addition to the artists’ works, the curator has selected works from MAG&M’s collection of paintings, ceramics, and sporting paraphernalia, to encourage the viewer to further consider the fundamental roles of sports and art.

RSVP or book for all events here

Exhibition Opening: Fri 9 Dec, 6 - 8pm. Free event. RSVP required

Artists in Conversation: Sat 10 Dec, 3 - 4pm. Free event. RSVP required

One on One: Amber Boardman Sun 15 Jan, 2 - 4pm. Free event. Book via email

Clay Character: Billy Bain: Wed 18 Jan, 10am - 12pm. Bookings required.

The Playful Eye: Michael Garbutt Mon 6 Feb, 10am - 1pm. Free event, bookings required.

Digital Drawing: Kellie O'Dempsey Thu 23 Feb, 6 - 9pm. Bookings required

Manly By Ferry

Manly by Ferry presents a fascinating pictorial history of the beloved Manly ferries, as a free exhibition at Manly Art Gallery and Museum (MAG&M).

Back by popular demand, this exhibition celebrates a quintessential Sydney icon and reveals insights into its evolution across the decades.

Drawing from MAG&M’s photography, painting, and museum collections, the exhibition explores the inherent duality of these much-loved vessels as they balance carrying care-free day-trippers and busy local commuters, across boisterous swells and peaceful waters.

Featuring photographs by Max Dupain, Frank Hurley, and Frank Bell that typify nostalgic scenes of Manly Wharf and Manly Cove, the iconic Manly ferries make a fascinating subject.

Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan said the Manly ferry is not only a mode of transport but part of our local folklore on the Northern Beaches.

“Immortalised in art, music, and literature, the Manly ferry is embedded into the cultural fabric of Sydney and has long evoked all kinds of emotions and imagery so it’s no surprise this popular exhibition has returned.

“For over 140 years, artists have captured the Manly ferry journeying across Sydney Harbour in all its ever-changing moods. Through seasons and across generations, the Manly ferry’s to-ing and fro-ing has set a familiar rhythm in the life of the city,” Mayor Regan said.

Part of the ‘Treasures from the Vault’ series, this exhibition is designed to reveal some of the rich history and stories of Manly, and of the artists themselves who called this part of Sydney home.

As part of the exhibition, there is also an opportunity for members of the public to come and share their memories of Manly Ferries as stories in a special event hosted by the exhibition curator.

‘Treasures from the Vault’ features works acquired through MAG&M Society, the Theo Batten Bequest, Northern Beaches Council, and the artists and donors through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

Highlights: Photography by Max Dupain, Frank Hurley, and Frank Bell that capture distinct scenes of Manly Wharf and Manly Cove. Historical signage ‘Seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from care! Tourist brochures and memorabilia plus posters featuring the famous SS South Steyne. Watercolours depicting scenes of Manly Cove and paddle steamers in the late 19th century. Paintings by marine artists Robert Carter and Charles Bryant, plus contemporary works by Nick Hollo, Peter Kingston, Wendy Sharpe reveal changing moods of the Harbour.

MAG&M Society Exhibition Preview, Fri 9 Dec, 10-11am, Free event RSVP via MAG&M Society Eventbrite

Manly by Ferry Exhibition Re - Opening, Fri 9 Dec, 6 - 8pm, Free event RSVP via MAG&M Eventbrite

Click here to learn more about the exhibition. Click here to experience the Children’s Exhibition Trail and view Exhibition Catalogue online.      

Jubilee Water Pageant - by Charles Bryant, 1927

For more information about these exhibitions visit 

Good Space Festival At Ultimo

Some of our local creatives are a part of this.

GOOD SPACE Festival - 80 Bay Street, Ultimo, Sydney: 11 January – 5 March, 2023

The GOOD SPACE Festival is a community-run, participatory creative space in the heart of Sydney, featuring music, arts and culture in a repurposed empty, historic department store. Good Space is THE alternative culture hub in the heart of Sydney for creativity, community connection and innovation.

Works include paintings, photography, waste-to-art sculpture, mixed-media and other visual art by a broad range of talented artists in a group exhibition celebrating creativity and alternative arts.

There are also a range of events running as part of the GOOD SPACE festival throughout its run. Visit: and

We're so excited about the space and the amazing creative community we’re co-creating with you – and so you’re invited to come and be a part of the new era of Sydney’s people-powered cultural revolution!

Some of the visual artists contributing work to the Good Art space include;

  • Rudy Ardianto
  • Bea Pierce
  • John O’Driscoll
  • Slime City Art Collective
  • Sean Torstensson
  • Alyx Guidi
  • Mariel Corbett
  • Harrison Grima
  • Damo
  • Flo Samus
  • Camilla Emerson
  • Layla McNeil
  • Jesse Chard-Perez
  • Jackson Dionysiad
  • Eloise Wajon
  • Maia Pierce
  • Elliot Guerrisi-Watson
  • David Pita
  • Breanna Pita

An Exhibition of Visual Art by Sydney’s emerging and established alternative artists runs 11 January – 5 March, 2023

Good Space Festival
80 Bay St, Ultimo
Multiple gallery spaces over 2 floors (level 2 & 3), including art collectives, working studios, artist shops, and maker spaces.

Christmas Ransom: I quite enjoyed watching this (terrible) new Aussie Christmas film

Ari MattesUniversity of Notre Dame Australia

There’s something about the wintry quality of so much Christmas iconography – snow, mistletoe, fireplaces – that just doesn’t gel with the Southern hemisphere. So it’s not really that strange that Australian Christmas films have been so few and far between.

There is, of course, the classic adventure Bush Christmas from 1947, starring Chips Rafferty, its remake from 1983 starring Nicole Kidman, and Crackers from 1998. But until a few years ago, aside from a handful of cartoons and solid Christmas horror thrillers, festive offerings have been rare in Australia.

Stan have been doing something about this, with 2020’s A Sunburnt Christmas followed in 2021 by Christmas on the Farm, and now Christmas Ransom.

Derrick Harrington (Matt Okine) is the proprietor of a toy store that has seen better days.

When crooks Nan (Genevieve Lemon) and Shez (Bridie McKim) hold Derrick and his lead employee Pete (Ed Oxenbould) at gunpoint, demanding a ransom from Derrick’s well-heeled sister Terri (Vivienne Awosoga), it is up to pregnant security guard Gladys (Miranda Tapsell) and shoplifters Brady (Tahlia Sturzaker) and Wombat (Evan Stanhope) to foil their evil plans and save the day.

You can tell from the character names how hard Christmas Ransom strains to seem Australian. The opening sequences involve Santa hat wearing koalas and a giant blow up kangaroo Santa, Christmas letters deposited in her pouch.

There are some quirks about Christmas in Australia and, sure, everyone might have a koala ornament or two, but most of the paraphernalia in Australian Christmases is of the generic Northern hemisphere kind. So the effect seems inauthentic, straining too hard.

This is the film’s major weakness – it just tries too hard. It tries too hard to be funny, to be light-hearted, to be Australian and, most of all, to be a cheesy Christmas film. It’s not particularly effective in any of these aspects.

Straining To Be Clever

There is something endearingly lame about many of the best Christmas movies. Even critically-acclaimed films like It’s a Wonderful Life and the brilliant 1945 version of Christmas in Connecticut are schmaltzy to a degree that would be seen as a fault in a non-holiday film. The cheesy quality is a major source of their charm.

But it doesn’t work if a film is simultaneously trying to be clever. Christmas Ransom wants to be both a heartfelt cheeseball Christmas film and a witty, knowing take on the Christmas film genre. The mix doesn’t work.

Two people being held up.
Christmas Ransom wants to be both a heartfelt film and a witty take on the Christmas film genre. Stan

There are numerous “wink-wink” moments to other Christmas films for viewers in the know – Harrington’s father is named Clarence, for example, recalling the angel in the Capra film. But Christmas Ransom feels the need to take things one (irritating) step further, making already obvious references explicit.

At one point, Gladys throws a Santa out the window to get the attention of the fire engine who think they’ve been mistakenly alerted, directly recalling the similar moment in Die Hard. Later, Gladys says “so this is what it means to die hard,” spelling out the reference to the infinitely better Christmas ransom film. It’s hard to understand the point – is this meant to be funny? Clever? Is it being deliberately stupid?

Some of the material would have worked well on paper – it’s Home Alone meets Die Hard with a dash of The Ref, filtered through a daggy Aussie sensibility – and you can understand why the script would have been greenlit.

There are some funny and cute ideas: an assault with a swimming noodle; thieves hiding in a ball pit; hostages tied up with tinsel and Christmas lights. As the camera pulls back to reveal the very ordinary building at the beginning of the film, Gladys’ voiceover tells us Harrington and Sons is “the greatest toy store in the whole wide world – or at least in the greater metropolitan region.”

The thief holds a pool noodle.
There are cute ideas, like an assault with a swimming noodle. Stan

Christmas Ransom could appear fresh, engaging, sweet but also clever in its approach to the Christmas movie. There’s romance. There’s action. There’s fractured relationships between partners and siblings overcome by the end. There is a general waning of Christmas spirit that is remedied – a common trope of the genre – with the toy store transformed into the kind of thriving wonderland of movie-world (think the toy store in Home Alone 2) in the final sequences.

But it all seems rather forced. The kind of comedic overacting that works in films like the Hulk Hogan-starring Christmas masterpiece Santa With Muscles doesn’t pay off here. The numerous fart jokes may appeal to very young children, but probably not many others. The music labours to keep us engaged, but also seems deliberately hammy and thus pointless in a film that isn’t quite committed to being a spoof.

The Good And The Bad

This is not to suggest it’s not worth watching. In fact, I quite enjoyed watching this terrible Aussie Christmas film.

For aficionados of Christmas cinema, the good and the bad, Christmas Ransom is light-hearted and silly enough to be bearable. There are some endearingly daggy zany moments and the lameness of much of it isn’t necessarily a problem for this kind of fare. But it just doesn’t work as well when it tries to be clever, because it’s not.

A ball bounces off Miranda Tapsell's pregnant belly.
Christmas Ransom is light hearted and silly enough to be bearable. Stan

And even if its 83 minute run time seems overlong, it compares favourably with much of the other straight-to-streaming Christmas films – next to Santa Girl it looks like Vertigo – and it’s fun watching a bad Christmas film from Australia for a change.

Christmas Ransom is on Stan from December 1.The Conversation

Ari Mattes, Lecturer in Communications and Media, University of Notre Dame Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Clothes women wanted to wear: a new exhibition explores how Carla Zampatti saw her designs as a tracker of feminism

Carla Zampatti middriff top and pants, 1971. Photograph: Warwick Lawson
Peter McNeilUniversity of Technology Sydney

The late Carla Zampatti is celebrated in a splendid retrospective Zampatti Powerhouse at the Powerhouse Museum. Planned well before the fashion designer’s untimely death last year, the unveiling of her legacy will be bittersweet to her many fans.

Zampatti is often referred to as “Carla” by friends and those who worked for her, rather than her brand name, Carla Zampatti. Here, the simple name “Zampatti” removes the emphasis from Zampatti as designer to a simpler assertion: businesswoman, mother, philanthropist-entrepreneur.

It is a move as deft and elegant as the rest of the exhibition choices.

In one of the best-looking fashion exhibition designs Australia has seen, creative director Tony Assness serves up a dynamic vision of clothes punctuated by a vibrant red (one of Zampatti’s favourite design choices) that encourages excitement and discovery. Clothes are arranged by themes – jumpsuit, jungle, graphic, blouson, power – rather than date.

Curator Roger Leong leverages his years of experience to do a relatively new thing for Australian museums: tell the stories of clothes through the stories of women who wore them.

‘Animal’ group with close-up of beaded ‘Carla’ cape, 2016 . Zampatti Powerhouse exhibition. Photograph by Zan Wimberley.

A Migrant Story

Zampatti’s story is an Australian migrant story. Born Maria Zampatti in Italy in 1938 (not 1942, as is often believed), she did not meet her father, who had migrated to Fremantle, until she was 11.

In Australia, she was forced to change her name to Mary. It was claimed the other kids could not pronounce Maria. She did not finish school. When she moved to Sydney in her late 20s, she reinvented herself as Carla.

The fashion business started on a kitchen table in 1965 under the label ZamPAtti. By 1970, Carla had bought out her business partner husband, and was sole owner of Carla Zampatti Pty Ltd.

Zampatti flourished in fashion. She had a finger on the pulse, was in the right place at the right time, and knew a more glamorous role was possible for a fashion designer than the industry “rag trader”.

Zampatti Powerhouse exhibition. Photograph by Zan Wimberley.

In the 1970s, the markets suggested that the ultra-expensive haute couture was about to disappear, to be replaced by informal ranges created by a new type of designer often called a “stylist”. It was the decade of flower power, retro dressing and ethnic borrowings.

Until the 1960s, fashion had been dominated by the rise of haute couture and the “dictator-designer” system – mainly men who determined hem lengths and silhouettes for women. But in 1973, the French body governing high fashion added a new layer of designers, créateurs (literally “creators” or designers), who produced only ready-to-wear.

In 1972 Zampatti opened her first Sydney boutique, inspired by informal shops she had seen in St Tropez. Zampatti offered women bright jumpsuits, art deco looks and peasant-inspired ease.

Model promoting the Carla Zampatti Ford Laser and Ford Meteor, 1987. Photo courtesy of the Carla Zampatti archives

She aimed to provide women clothes they wanted to wear. She draped the cloth and colours on herself. Like many women designers historically, she was alert to how her clothes made women customers look and feel. Zampatti remained the fit model for the whole range and would not produce anything in which she did not look and feel well.

Zampatti saw her “clothes as a tracker of feminism”.

The 1980s cemented Zampatti’s rise to prominence. She became a household name, even designing a car for women. In this time, personal expression became more important than unified looks dictated by designers. Zampatti’s Australian designing coincided with a new development in Italy: the stylisti. Small, focused family businesses alert to the zeitgeist and understanding quality flourished. It was an approach that emphasised quality and glamour.

Zampatti identified talent. She employed well-known couturier Beril Jents on the shop floor after she had fallen on hard times. She then employed Jents to improve the cut of her designs.

Zampatti continued to embrace the services of stylists and other designers including Romance was Born, whom she recognised could take her work to the next level.

Carla Zampatti preparing models for Spring - Summer 2010 show. Photo courtesy of Prudence Upton

The Stories Of Clothes

Worn equally by politicians and their circles on the right and the left, Zampatti injected more than power dressing into women’s wardrobes. She inspired a sense that women wore the clothes, not the clothes them.

In this exhibition we are given many examples, from Linda Burney’s red pantsuit worn for her parliamentary portrait to a gown worn by Jennifer Morrison to the White House.

Zampatti Powerhouse exhibition. Photograph by Zan Wimberley.

The exhibition viewer can turn from serried ranks of brilliantly styled mannequins and enter large “listening pods”, screening brilliantly edited videos in the manner of artist Bill Viola. The women, who include Dame Quentin Bryce and Ita Buttrose, discuss the creative mind of Zampatti or reflect on their own Zampatti wardrobe. They are amongst the best such “talking heads” I have seen in a museum.

Like many designers, Zampatti was not that interested in her own past. She did not keep substantial archives and records, which is a testament to the skills demonstrated by the museum in bringing us this show.

Zampatti never turned her back on her personal story, but she was a futurist, one who looked forward rather than backward.

Zampatti Powerhouse is Powerhouse Ultimo, Sydney, until June 11 2023.The Conversation

Peter McNeil, Distinguished Professor of Design History, UTS, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.