Let the Gladiatorial Games begin…


(Above, top, l-r) The ACT Burleys, The Ref and HG, The NSW Molongolos. (bottom) The incomparable HG Nelson with the CLAW Trophy, WIN TV’s Jessica Good, and Art Monthly’s Deb Clark.

Well it got hot and sweaty down at the ANU Exchange when Teams ACT and NSW strapped-up and went head to head in a battle to the death for the inaugural CLAW Trophy last Saturday afternoon. In an arts version of State-of-Origin-meets-Iron-Chef  two teams of extreme artists took their craft to the absolute limit of what’s probably legally acceptable in a public place – and you’ll never see a sexier set of cauliflowers, we kid you not.

Running on for the ACT (Burley Bastards) was ceramicist (muddy) Bev Hogg, and sculptors Hannah (Hoon) Hoyne, Tony Steel, Rosalind Lemoh and Dan Stewart-Moore. 

NSW’s (Molongolo Mongrels) fielded designer Tom Skeehan, textile (fluffy) artist Bronwen Sandland, ‘woody’ Jono Everett, and sculptors Ellis Hutch and Steven Holland.

It was a really funny afternoon’s entertainment courtesy of HG Nelson, Jessica Good and Deb Clark who kept up a running commentary on what can only be described as an epic 2 hour art-off; with art historic references flying thick and fast – and surely every  art movement known to man represented at one stage or another, if only for a fleeting nanosecond…

Megsie was the Ref for the day and, armed with the rules of engagement, she found herself seriously busy handing out penalties across the paddock for all manner of nefarious infringements and subterfuge. At one stage the Burley Bastard’s were able to work their way out of the sin-bin with a very credible group enactment of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,  and a highlight of the comp had to be Tom Skeehan’s penalty presentation of The Birth of Venus – Botticelli woulda been proud.

Hoon Hoyne sported a fantastic set of manly love muscles, and Tony Steel got himself totally plastered in an incredible demonstration of the lengths artists are willing to go for their craft. It was one of those kind of days.

But in a final twist the fierce competition melded into a collaborative piece called “No Borders” – in which the souls aboard the good ship NSW were pulled to safety and sanctuary by the caring hearts and hands of the ACT(!) It was a whimsical piece of heart-tuggin’ societal aspiration, in anybody’s language – and a brave public stand given the current menace of Little Johnny’s sedition and small-t-terrorism sensitivities.

The commentators/judges consequently declared a draw….(but one suspects that the crowd was secretly disappointed that there wasn’t a little more blood on the ground…)

And the Gang? Well the Gang was torn – because while it is our want to champion the rights of the underdog and the down-trodden, nonetheless there was something a tad…what, soft-cock perhaps?….about the whole happy ending thing.  Yes, yes, yes…we know, we know. There are no winners in the arts – but sometimes, you know, ya gotta give the mob what it’s baying for, and on the day it was most definitely hanging out for a bit of biffo. Maybe next time it should go into extra time and the teams can have one last shot at emulating a classic arty tableau – something Ivan Durant or Damien Hirst, perhaps….

Check out the mayhem on


 The CLAW Trophy, by the way, was made by Megsie – a lost wax cast crystal ‘crab craw’ (Blackwood’s crystal, mais naturellement.)

Of course the biggest accolades really belong to Su Hodge’s Canberra Arts Marketing hard-yakka-crew-on-the-ground: Events Co-ordinator Lia Tajcnar and Stage Manager Bernie (Bernd) Weise, who were responsible for the all-important foundation (and clean up!) work. Two unsung heroes if ever there were.

For a full critique of the “State of Belonging” competition, and more info about ongoing Canberra Living Artists Week activities go to


ArtWranglers has it all tied down…


Last Friday saw the launch of the ArtWranglers blog and business (a comprehensive arts service providing artist representation, collection and exhibition management, condition reporting, art authentication….you name it, they do it) and their inaugural show At Home: an exhibition of images of hands, featuring the work of Axel Poignant, Ben Gauchi, Jon Rhodes, William Yang, Maryam Rashidi, Patsy Payne, Patrick Hartigan, and Catherine Rogers.

ArtWranglers Director Willameena Gentle and consultant Nigel Lendon threw a celebratory reception to ‘christen’ the multi-dextrous venture, inviting the movers and shakers of the arts establishment to both enjoy the exhibition and to meet their ‘stable’, their blog team and, most importantly, the blog itself…


Peter Fay gave the speech and formal benediction, and a lovely party was had by all. More snaps at


The Canberra Glassworks hosts the Ranamok 2007, and the winner is…


Evelyn Dunston’s Ngahere Karauna (Forest Crown).

This year’s Ranamok was launched at the Canberra Glassworks, and the prize went to New Zealand glassie Evelyn Dunston, whose quite amazing cast work was a deserving winner for technical difficulty alone (it’s pretty damned awesome.) She’s been a serious contender for the last couple of years, so it was not before time that she picked up the guernsey. 

The Ranamok is one of those annual events that we always look forward to, and it never fails to entertain. The very nature of the beast delivers a visual cacophony of work that pretty much represents the entire range of studio glass technique, and demonstrates the spread and diversity of Australian and New Zealand glass practice. And due to the (choice by image) selection process the competition is strangely democratic; it’s always a real hit and miss affair, inevitably resulting in a bit of a dog’s brekky (and some real dogs, without fail, manage to make the cut.)

In an interview in Saturday’s Canberra Times the show was touted as ‘the best of the best contemporary glass from Australia and New Zealand’ – which of course is merely that noisome Australian/Canberran tendency to hyperbole, and patently just not true. It’s always quite interesting to see who does get in, but more so in the light of those who didn’t crack it – and frankly it’s always a bit of a mystery. This, by the way, is intended as no reflection whatsoever on either the winner or any number of pieces in the show – but we figure it’s pretty much like all good block-busters; as long as there’s a fist full of pearls, everybody leaves happy.

The Ranamok, of course, has historically been one of those shows that does deliver something for everyone (ie it caters for every possible taste, and then some), so it’s entirely possible that the inclusion of the odd piece of dross is a deliberate ploy on the part of the management…perhaps it’s even a psychological device to encourage more people to have a go next time. But whatever the case may be, we for one certainly don’t want to discourage it – for some years now we’ve been running a book on ‘Dog of the Show’, which amuses the bag out of a few of us – all of whom, of course, shall remain nameless. (And in case you’re wondering, no we haven’t posted a photo of the dog.)

The Gang’s actually been mulling over the possibility of running a Salon des Refusés for some time now – and hopefully we’ll pull our finger out in time to launch it in concert with next year’s kick-off. Haven’t decided on a name; we’ve been tossing around The Sedately’s or The Run a Country Mile , but we’re far from married to anything concrete at this point in time. More of that further down the track…

Oh, but we digress…back to the opening. It got the usual turn out, though mainly a local crowd – and it’s always great to catch up with everyone, again(!) And, like we said, it was an entertaining evening all round. As a gallery venue for the Ranamok, the Glassworks worked surprisingly well – there’d been lots of speculation as to whether there’d be sufficient room to squeeze it in, the gallery space being so curiously spare (in odd ratio to the scale and purport of the building.) Not a problem, as it turned out – and actually it was nicer to have the show strung out across the different areas, as opposed to housed in one uniform, conventional gallery space. But, oh, what was with the lighting in the foyer? We can’t remember it being so harsh at the Glassworks own galah opening. Ghastly. Lit up like a Westfield mall, it was – but perhaps that was the point.

The relentless pressure to volunteer for all and sundry duties pertaining to the general running of the facility appears to have perhaps taken its toll on/run its course with the local glass community and students from the ANU. On this occasion it was the gold-and-silver bods who’d been press-ganged into servicing the bar – and it seems that the hospitality belt has been tightened yet a further notch or five right across the board; not only was it a paid-bar, but the catering was nothing short of an embarrassment. Lordy knows what poor bugger was roped in to do it (because it wasn’t a paid professional job, surely), but the Glassworks picks up our ‘Oh yeah, you’re all class’ award for perhaps the most tragic art event catering we’ve witnessed for many years.

Picture the offering: a plate of sliced (possibly Presto Hungarian) salami on white bread, a plate of (very indifferent) sliced camembert on a cracker, and a plate of chopped-up bits of quiche (bearing all the hallmarks of a supermarket freezer)…all doing a bland and unappetising circuit of the room, over and over again one would imagine. The only thing missing was the chunk of tinned pineapple. Fair dinkum. Not a splash of colour or a lonely twig of garnish to be seen. Catering doesn’t have to be expensive, or over the top – but our advice is that if you can’t do it effectively then don’t do it, period. (And this would have the added advantage of not costing anything at all, which we suspect will appeal to what is shaping up to be the Glasswork’s overriding corporate credo.) We would have taken photos, but even the camera couldn’t be tempted.

And then the bar ran out, a good forty minutes before the reception’s end! The explanation given was that far more people had turned out than expected – yeah, well that always happens – which we could perhaps understand if the Glassworks were putting on free drinks (god forbid!) themselves. But, you know, when you’re charging for the plonk then it’s no big deal to have extra supply on hand (especially when most wine merchants run a sale or return arrangement for precisely this sort of occasion.)

Never mind, we all took ourselves off to that nice Belgium beer pub in Kingston, and had a lovely time happily picking over the evening’s bones of inevitable contention.  All in all it was a great night out. Give it an eyeball at


John Brack opening at Old Parliament House


Straight after the Drawing Prize opening the Gang rounded Brenny up and we waded across the lake to the King’s Hall opening of the John Brack exhibition at Old Parliament House. Great show of course, so many iconic paintings…

Speaking of which we snapped some additional iconography ourselves (Gough, Ming, Viv…)

There were plenty of happy chaps all ’round…except Jacqu, who absolutely-point-black refused to have her portrait taken, dead set.

The coalition of the willing can be found at


ANU drawing prize


Last night the most extraordinary thing happened…the ANU School of Art Gallery mob (mine hosts James and Julie) put on a reception for the Art School Drawing Prize – free tipple and fang – and it was a very pleasant, if rather sedate, affair…because something was missing. And then we figured it out…the usual throng of free-loading students! There was barely a one! Absolutely unheard of!! Ordinarily the vaguest hint of free booze and tucker has the student body descending in droves. What on earth is going on?

Never mind, the faithful can, thankfully, always be relied upon – check ’em out at


Meanwhile the prize will be judged and announced during the ANU School of Arts Open Day, this coming Saturday (25th August). Apologies to all those whose drawings we didn’t snap – no agenda, just time constraints…

Media Launch for Canberra Living Artists Week (CLAW)


The Gang was off snapping the Canberran paparazzi at ANCA, Dickson, yesterday morning during the media launch of the inaugural Canberra Living Artists Week; an event that’ll go off like party popcorn across the length and breadth of the city over the next week and a bit. Canberra Arts Marketing has pulled together an Organising Committee made up of the Who’s Who of hip pro-active arts management (yep, there is a pulse in Canberra’s pompous arts cadaver, despite scurrilous reports to the contrary…) and the resultant ‘festival’ promises to be an absolute hoot.

Artists Jeffrey and Alex Frith pulled out their chainsaws for a bit of wintery ice sculpting while guest speaker (fortepianist) Geoffery Lancaster announced the star guest for the upcoming weekend program of live mayhem and funky art havoc; the incomparable HG Nelson. (The gang is seriously excited, we love HG.) A jolly launch was had by all, due in no small measure to the bucket of gluwein. All in all it presages plenty of fun ahead…

For a run down of the CLAW program go to


and for more happy snaps from yesterday’s media scrum go to


 The art in the background, by the way, is:

(i) The Colour of ABC, an exhibition of paintings by Joy McDonald (in the ANCA gallery until Sept 2nd), and

(ii) Mothers of the Revolution, figurative ceramic sculpture by Vivien Lightfoot (in the ANCA courtyard, also until Sept 2nd)

The Anarchy Files: hard copy bloggin’


Leap blogging: (above) me-blogging-Nige-blogging-the-hard-blog, first chapter, second chapter, blog hole & cover-up, and the exposé. (Thanks Bridget for your kind assistance.)

Don’t it just warm the cockles of your heart when you finally catch a glimmer of anarchy lurking in the foyer of the art school. The arch conservatism that now abounds has had us all scratching our heads for some time – is it the Howard factor?/ is it the harsh reality of economic rationalism?/ is it the sedition frights?/ come on people, this is arts school for faff’s sake, what the hell happened to angst and bollocks? 

So frankly it’s a great relief to come across a nanosecond of scatological cage rattling. The phenomenon is now into its second week – we’ll let you know how/if it progresses…

Stop press: our spies have just informed us that the artists responsible for the petit frisson in the foyer are Liang Luscombe and Jessica Herrington. Good work, chaps, we’re damned proud.

Nigel at Large: glass spotting in LA LA land


Nigel’s been out glass spotting for the Gang around the environs of LA, and reckons he’s found both ends of the glass spectrum.

In this corner, ladies and gents, is the Chihuly nugget; no need to waste all those years studying in a program, Nige surmises – Chihuly appears to have rendered art school entirely redundant…just pick up the package from the San Jose Museum of Art!

But omigod how seriously gorgeous is the decodent Studio Glo building (click on the snaps for enlargement) that he clocked on his way to the San Jose Quilt and Textile Museum…..

Nigel at Large: California dreaming


The Gang’s (part-time) padrone Nigel Lendon is over in California as we speak, presenting a Rugs of War lecture at UCLA. Ever sartorial (and looking every inch the potentate!!) Nige took time out to spiff up the old dogs before hitting the streets and taking in the art at the university’s Fowler Museum.

The art in question (shown above) is work by El Anatsui Gawu (Ghana/Nigeria): astonishing, huge constructions of industrial waste, says Nige – very big at the Pompidou and Venice this year. Well, we can see why – absolutely stunning.

See ya on Tuesday Nige…and keep away from those gambling dens (Nige just dropped $23 in a poker game – but unfortunately didn’t manage to record the moment for posterity…we really must provide a hidden camera next time around.)

Accent on the French


Last night was Trish Roan’s opening at Alliance Francais (along with ceramicist Cristina Baratinskas-Goodman and painter Ian Robertson.) The usual mob came out of the woodwork, and a beeline was made to the bar – Alliance always turns on superior French tipple (mais, naturellement.)  And the cheese aint bad, neither. Not that we were partaking (the Gang’s on the perennial diet…)

Meanwhile Gordon Bull opened the show with customary panache, and Trish – shy as ever – did her best to inhabit the shadows, though we dragged her out for a photo op regardless. The work has a more cryptic than metaphysical edge this time around, with more of a pop feel (…if that makes any sense.) She shares a studio at ANCA with Charlie Sofo now – so there’s bound to be the odd stray tendril of influence, mutually inclusive (actually, I’d like to see a two-man/Trish and Charlie show sometime not too far down the distant track [note to Nigel.])

There wasn’t a lot of goss to be had around the room, except a whisper from Phil (Spellman) that he’s super-busy making work for several destinations at the moment – one of which being this year’s Sculpture By The Sea, of course and that it’s been such a bumper year that his accountant is extremely pleased with him. Gotta love that. And Timo had just arrived back from an opening of his own at JK Gallery in Thredbo. For everybody else it was merely business as usual.

Check the dials on