Fluid collaborations between Guangzhou and Sydney

An artwork called Mr Humidifier is bringing the humidity of the Chinese megacity of Guangzhou to an art gallery in Sydney – quite literally.

The Hong Kong-based artist Trevor Yeung has used a dehumidifier to condense the sticky summer heat of Guangzhou into water, and that water is being used to steam up a the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.

It’s the result of a collaboration between 4A and the Guangzhou Observation Society, one of China’s most exciting contemporary art project spaces.

Trevor and the Sydney-based artist Lucas Ihlein have spent time in both cities, and the work they have made during those residencies is now on display at 4A in Sydney.

Lucas’ work also deals with water, mapping how climate change induced sea level rises might affect Guangzhou and the surrounding Pearl River Delta, which is one of the most densely urbanised places in the world.

I spoke to Lucas and Trevor for ABC RN’s Books and Arts and you can listen to the interview here.


The Art of Giving: Dr Gene Sherman AM

IMG_0315-Recovered35 years ago, a young South African academic called Gene Sherman lost her job teaching French at the University of Sydney, when the university shifted its focus from European to Asian languages.

Even though she was devastated, Gene thought if you can’t beat them, join them!

When she opened a commercial art gallery, Gene decided to specialise in contemporary Asian art, after falling in love with Japan art, culture and fashion.

She ran Sherman Galleries, one of the most influential commercial galleries in Australia, for 21 years.

In 2008, she reopened the gallery as the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to contemporary art from Australia, the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.

For my Books and Arts series on Australian art philanthropists, I met Dr Gene Sherman AM in the zen garden at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation in Sydney. You can listen to the story here.

Katherine Brabon’s The Memory Artist

9781760292867Since it began in 1980, the Vogel’s Literary Award has launched the careers of some of our most cherished writers, like Tim Winton, Kate Grenville and Gillian Mears.

The prize, which is worth $20,000, is Australia’s richest and most prestigious award for an unpublished manuscript from a writer under the age of 35.

While many of the past authors have set their novels in Australia, this year’s winning novel is set entirely in Russia.

Katherine Brabon won the award for her debut novel, The Memory Artist, which follows a man called Pasha Isanov, the son of dissidents who is struggling to come to terms with his country’s brutal past.

I produced this story for Books and Arts on ABC RN, and you can hear the story here.

Nude dance work celebrates real women

Women performing in Trilogy (Photo: Will Potts)

Women performing in Trilogy (Photo: Will Potts)

More than 100 women are dancing nude in the Australian premiere of a work called Trilogy that seeks to celebrate women of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities.

After the exuberant nude dance, the second section of Trilogy revolves around a landmark discussion in New York in 1971 in which author and commentator Norman Mailer took on a panel of passionate feminists including Germaine Greer, Diana Trilling, Jacqueline Ceballos and Jill Johnston.

But in a world that still judges women on their appearance and the shape of their bodies, why does this work centre around female nudity?

I speak to the creator of this work, Glasgow-based artist Nic Green, and participants Claire McAllister and Felicia Lannan.

I produced this story for Books and Arts on ABC RN, and you can listen to it here.

Lally Katz puts the spotlight on her parents


Playwright Lally Katz, with her parents Lois and Dan Katz and her nephew. (Tiger Webb, ABC RN)

The ebullient playwright Lally Katz is known for her semi-autobiographical plays.

Her latest work, Back at the Dojo, was inspired by the story of her parents Dan and Lois – although they stress that she has taken considerable creative licence with the truth!

After several years travelling around the US and experimenting with psychedelic drugs in the mid-1960s, Dan returned to his hometown in New Jersey looking for away to get his life back on track.

He was drawn to the discipline of karate, and trained in karate very seriously for 12 years.

It was at that karate training gym, or dojo, in Trenton New Jersey that Dan met Lois.

Lally grew up hearing this story of redemption and romance at a karate dojo, and a few years ago began karate herself to help heal a wounded heart.

I spoke to Lally, Lois and Dan Katz about the role that karate has played in their family, and how the family reacted when Lally said she wanted to stage a fictionalised version of her parents’ story.

I produced this story for ABC RN’s Books and Arts, and you can listen to the story here.

Exploring Dark Mofo’s Dark Park


The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra preparing to perform at Dark Park (Georgia Moodie)

Dark Mofo, Mona’s midwinter festival of large-scale public art, food, music, light and noise, draws crowds on an annual pilgrimage to the freezing southern island of Australia. While most of us are lamenting the fact that the nights are getting shorter and the mornings colder, Dark Mofo embraces Hobart’s long nights and biting winter winds.

One of the highlights of the festival is Dark Park, Dark Mofo’s industrial art wonderland at Macquarie Point on Hobart’s docks.

Visitors are encouraged to leave their comfort zones amidst unsettling installations by Australian and international artists.

We meet artist Michaela Gleave and composer Amanda Cole who have worked together on a new work called A Galaxy of Suns.

The pair have transcribed constellations into a musical score that is being sung live by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus, singing the stars as they rise and set on the horizon.

I produced this story for ABC RN’s Books and Arts, and you can hear the story here.


The TSO chorus on stage at Dark Mofo’s Dark Park (Georgia Moodie)

The TSO chorus before their performance of A Galaxy of Suns on Saturday evening (Georgia Moodie)

The Art of Giving: Tim Fairfax AC

Tim Fairfax

In the second in my series on Australian arts philanthropists, we meet Tim Fairfax AC.

Fairfax is the great-great-grandson of John Fairfax, who began the Fairfax media empire by buying The Sydney Morning Herald in 1841.

But instead of becoming a media mogul, Tim Fairfax tried his hand as a jackaroo, and then spent much of his career as a grazier in central Queensland.

Now, he has quietly become one of Australia’s most generous arts philanthropists.

He’s the largest single donor to the National Portrait Gallery and he’s on the boards of numerous boards and trusts for the arts.

Since 2008, he has given more than $16 million to community-based arts, music and sporting projects in regional Australia through his own foundation.

We meet Tim Fairfax at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, where an exhibition showcasing the more than 70 contemporary artworks that Tim has supported the gallery to acquire opens on the 11th June.

I produced this story for ABC RN’s Books and Arts, and you can listen to my interview here.