My Archibald 2016 (and Wynne & Sulman)

My favourite painting at the exhibition currently hanging at the Art Gallery of NSW is Craig Handley’s “The Banker”.

Craig Handley
Craig Handley’s “The Banker”

The house is as quintessentially Australian as those in Robyn Sweaney’s paintings but in Sweaney’s work the attention to detail, deserted scenes and lead skies convey a calm that is absent in Handely’s image. Here, the fading acquarello jade tones, cliff divers and dodgy house stilt conjure an image of precarious fun that beautifully captures the current Australian psyche.

My favourite work at the Sulman is Craig Loxley’s “Exodus”.

Craig Loxley’s “Exodus”

I love the snake skin effect of the pattern that only at close inspection reveals the individual tent components of the “scales” of a refugee camp so big it bleeds off the canvas.

Nick Stathopolous’ “Deng” is my favourite Archibald entry.

Nick Stathopoulos’ “Deng”

Nick Stathopoulos’s “Deng”

I find it impossible to go past Stathopoulos’ hyper real technique, skin details, the sitter’s gaze. The “lens distortion”, trademark unfinished outfit and framing all contribute to an arresting result.

I also really enjoyed Melissa Ritchie’s “Rhys smart mouth”

Melissa Ritchie’s “Rhys smart mouth”

The matchbox double portrait, red theme, theatrical light, pose and costume just work.

Other paintings I like from the Wynne are:

Steve Gough’s “Bush Zero, Darwin River”

Steve Gough’s “Bush Zero, Darwin River”

For its pink sky, beautiful bush and stubborn marooned litter.

Yukultji Napangati’s “Untitled”

Yukultji Napangati’s “Untitled”

For the woven waviness of the image

Max Miller’s “The mountain and me”

Max Miller’s “The mountain and me”

Because anyone who paints with egg yolk on gold leaf ought to get my vote.

And Peter Gardiner’s “North/black lung”

Peter Gardiner
Peter Gardiner’s “North/black lung”

Again for a depiction of the Australian bush that struck a cord.

Maurizio Viani


(*) All images courtesy of the Art Gallery of NSW’s website:


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Kalpona Akter


Kalpona Akter was recently arrested in New Jersey and detained for a couple of hours. She was accused of trespassing while attempting to deliver a letter to the CEO of US retailer The Children’s Place. Kalpona is a labour organizer from Bangladesh. I met her last year, when she was campaigning in Sydney; she is passionate but soft spoken, articulate and very brave: labour organizers get killed in her home country on way too a regular basis.

The Children’s Place supplier code of conduct states:
Suppliers will respect the rights of workers to associate, organize and bargain collectively, in a lawful, respectful and peaceful manner, without penalty or interference, and in accordance with the law and international labor standards.
Where freedom of association is restricted by law, workers shall be free to develop parallel means for independent and free association and collective bargaining.


Full news item below:

#kalponaakter #thechildren’splace #Bangladesh #labourorganizer #Bangladeshgarmentindustry

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Australia Day Treat


Australia Day Treat

It has become a tradition for my wife and I to spend the Australia Day long weekend on the Gold Coast: we entrust our son to our best friends and drive up; we check into a ritzy hotel and spend a couple of days the way we used to holiday pre-kids.

On our first afternoon off the leash this year we headed to the lobby for high tea. The champagne was lovely, the spread generous, the tea too strong and unrescuable… The people-watching was terrific.

There was the usual quota of loud dresses and hair extensions, middle-age spreads, straight and gay; couples enthralled by each other’s company and couples more interested in their phones than their better half. We were blessed by the presence of a Greek wedding party: fake boobs, strapless bride with a dad who could not stop talking about money…his money: “Party and be merry, it is ALL paid for!”.

We were also blessed by delectable neighbours. My favourites were a plump elderly couple who looked thoroughly content, relaxed and attuned to each other; they sat there conversing, he drinking beer she sipping white wine and when the traditional 3-plate high tea tower arrived it did not resemble our selection of sandwiches and petit fours, it was heavily laden with cuts of cold meat, smoked salmon and king prawns. We half-enviously christened them the meat-lover tray couple and watched them order another round of booze and quietly but effectively demolish the tower.

My second favourite was the chocolate lady: next to our table was a group of young Chinese women, imperious when ordering staff around and obsessed with their electronic gizmos: either photographing themselves, their food or obsessively scrolling their social media feed. They sat there intermittently interacting with each other or with their devices and I did not think much of them until we noticed that one of them no longer behaved like the others. One of the women had taken the rich chocolate ganache treat on the highest tray on the high tea tower and was slowly & creepily licking it. She had abandoned her friends’ conversation, forgotten that she was in a public space and seemed to have left the planet altogether. She kept licking – transfixed and enraptured in a mix of ecstasy and guilt – for a very long time. She did not allow herself to bite into the soft ganache ensconced in the heart of the truffle. Licking its surface seemed to be all the guilt that she was willing to bear.

They don’t call it the Gold Coast for nothing.

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Asgeir at Sydney’s Opera House

When I told my flatmate that I was going to Asgeir’s concert he did not know who I meant so I showed him one of his album covers. He observed it for a long moment then said approvingly: “cute”.

Asgeir played Sydney’s Opera House tonight. He was accompanied by the gang of musicians he is traveling with (two hipster bearded and two clean-shaven guys; vintage hats, Nordic looks) and a small orchestra of four strings and three brass. He played guitar, electric piano and occasionally “DJ-ed” a looping synthesizer deck.

The orchestra was used sparingly and to effect and the light beams gave movement to a show where the star did not move much. All aspects of the performance designed to showcase Asgeir’s amazing voice. I know it well: his songs pepper each and every mix tape I made last year but even so I was surprised by his huskiness, tone and range: his vocal tonality goes from saxophone to oboe to flute in the space of a phrase. Even when he talks he sounds a bit other-worldly: warm and a couple of octaves out of scale.

He did not talk much on stage: he thanked the audience repeatedly and said that he never imagined he would one day play this venue. I wonder what it is like to pack the Concert Hall of Sydney’s Opera House twice over? His concert sold out so fast that they had to add an earlier one to match demand and still I found a ticket out of sheer luck. To pack an icon on the other side of the world with a crowd that followed the bull’s eye and unwaveringly focused their undivided attention on this Angel of the North; were thrilled every time he played a favourite – King and Cross, Summer Guest, Going Home & Head in the Snow all featured – were enchanted when he sang in Icelandic and gave him a standing ovation at the end. I wonder what it is like to strike a chord with so many people’s imagination?

I really did not want the concert to be over and toyed – briefly – with the idea of hiding in the toilet and then sneak back in for the second show… I walked out instead in Circular Quay’s warm and windy dusk and made a mental note to buy the album with his Icelandic songs. If Asgeir’s tour passes your home, grab a ticket. He is the real thing.

Maurizio Viani

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