Auckland Art Fair this year was a smaller affair. Key exhibitors from 2011 including Peter McLeavey, Darren Knight, Ivan Anthony, Robert Heald and Neon Parc were absent, and dealers Hamish McKay and Michael Lett presented artist projects only (by Rohan Wealleans and Michael Parekowhai respectively). One can’t help but wonder what effect Sydney’s new art fair Sydney Contemporary - spearheaded by ART HK founder Tim Etchells – has had on participation at AKAF. (For further musings on this, and on art fairs in general you can listen to this Circuit podcast with Mark Amery, Andrew Clifford and yours truly).
Still, sales were by all accounts healthy and LOL hunted out the good stuff, herewith this year’s Top 5:
1. Jess Johnson at Utopian Slumps
Jess Johnson installation view, Utopian Slumps’ stand
In an art fair context, the solo stand is a powerful thing. When you’re dealing with a mass of work it’s nice to be able to concentrate exclusively on one artist, and Director Mel Loughnan chose well. Johnson hunts out weird stuff. She’s interested in alternative belief systems, ‘outsiders’, nerds, and her works on paper contain strange artefacts from this research. Raelian symbols, pop cultural references to films like Mad Max and tiny floating genitals abound, fastidiously rendered in ink pen and felts. (The show was a complete sell-out too).
2. Martin Thompson at Brett McDowell
Detail of a work on paper by Martin Thompson
The work of ‘outsider’ artist Martin Thompson conveys an obsessive interest in order and pattern making. Thompson individually fills in 1mm squared graph paper with fine point ink pens according to complex, self generated mathematical formula. An exercise in positive vs negative patterning, each work is meticulously replicated in reverse/mirror format and hung as a pair. (Another sell-out).
3. Richard Collins at McNamara Gallery
Richard Collins, ‘Marie and Lagoon, Pakiri’, 1979
The work above by Richard Collins was included in the curated group exhibition, ‘Available Light’ and held its own despite the tight hang. It’s pretty rare to see Collins’ work around these days, despite his influence on contemporary photographers like Gavin Hipkins. Collins photographed facets of NZ counterculture in the 1970s and this is a classic example of his fusion of documentary and romantic imagery.
4. Octavia Cook at Anna Miles Gallery
Installation of rings by Octavia Cook
Departing from signature cameo jewellery of herself and family members presented under the guise of fictitious family company Cook & Co., Octavia Cook’s new pieces at Anna Miles’ stand take costume jewellery to the extreme. The generous scale of some of her rings, complete with paisley-shaped protrusions and finely polished and pinned pieces of bone look equally at home on the neck, and as stand-alone objects in their own right too, of course.
5. Saskia Leek at Jonathan Smart
Installation view of two paintings by Saskia Leek
Included in Jonathan Smart’s group hang were two recent works by Saskia Leek. As always, her interest in ‘bad painters’, ‘outsider’ artists and the modernists is evident. These styles are absorbed and reinterpreted in Leek’s modestly scaled, delicately coloured paintings which are resolute in their ‘quietness’ (an attribute LOL’s always respected).