Installation view of Room 107, Chalk Horse, Sydney.

Spring1883 Art Fair by Victoria Perin

Victoria Perin

Spring1883 Art Fair, Void_Melbourne, Sarah Scout Presents, Niagara Galleries, Chalk Horse, Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art, Neon Parc, CAVES, Arts Project Australia, Michael Lett 10 Aug – 12 Aug 2023

Walking out into Spring Street I ask Charles Lai, doyen of Naarm art openings, what was his favourite suite this year? He told me it’s not about favourites. I pestered, “best bathroom? Best bed??” He told me he’d been to all eight iterations of Spring1883. I asked him to rank them. He demurred.

Is Charles right? Do artists need support more than critique? A round of eight-fingered applause (two fingers occupied by a thin stemmed champagne glass)?

Installation view of Room 307, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne.
Installation view of Room 307, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne.

The text-art scattered around left us under no illusions. Artists don’t want your applause, or your glib comments. They want cash. “GENERATION RENT” snaps Elvis Richardson’s new steal-work at Void_Melbourne. “UN / PAID” is painted on an insistent set of drawers by Nadine Christensen at Sarah Scout Presents. Yet, by the time I stumbled into the great Michael Stevenson’s underwhelming grant application beanbag at Michael Lett’s suite, I got the point. When I caught sight of Angela Brennan’s apathy-core paperweight, Who Cares? (2020) at Niagara Galleries, I knew we were out of the relatively breezy days of dole-wave. This is recession art, and our only strategy seems to be directly asking for what you’re owed. Not so much concrete poetry as cold, concrete floor. These naked appeals get horribly muffled among the heritage jabots and swags of the Windsor’s curtains.

This reminds me that Spring1883 is not a straightforward setting. By contrast, it feels like Sydney galleries Laila and Chalk Horse finessed the suite format. At first, the Chalk Horse leans into gags and goofs like ceramic condoms and Connect-Four cuteness. So, I was totally disarmed when I encountered Clara Adolphs’s window-sized crowd-scene in the back bedroom. Adolphs’s recognisable style is sort of like a paint-by-numbers that gets abandoned before it can become un-chic. It’s usually a little too sober for me. But being confronted by the curious stare of two dozen bathers was intoxicating. I felt like they wanted me to join their cult. I felt overdressed.

Installation view of Room 218 LAILA, Sydney.
Installation view of Room 218 LAILA, Sydney.

Established 2022, Laila has taken on several young locals and served them back to us. Work that Jasper Jordan-Lang and Bronte Stolz showed recently at Conners Conners looked brilliant at the Windsor. Metal pressed into bedding and cutting into that iconic carpet, these confident, sexy, aloof sculptures are revealed to be engrossing domestic pieces. I ate it up.

Installation view of Room 407 Neon Parc, Melbourne (Abella D’Adamo, centre).
Installation view of Room 407 Neon Parc, Melbourne (Abella D’Adamo, centre).

In 2021, I reviewed Spring1883’s online portal and wondered why the late Howard Arkley’s spray-paint works “seems to have no real progeny among today’s artists”. As if it wasn’t bad enough having to review an online art fair, I was also wrong. Kalli Rolfe is showing at least three black and white spray works by Arkley that could make me cry. I am less of a fan of his unhinged Head Transformer (1992) propped on the mantlepiece, but recent VCA graduate Abella D’Adamo would probably disagree. Her two irrepressible spray-paint works at Neon Parc proves that she’s a worthy heir.

Sorry Charles, here at Memo Review, it is absolutely about favourites. My nominees are as follows, go get your own:
Favourite hang: Robbie Rowlands in the wardrobe at Blackartprojects.
Favourite bathroom: Lionel Grijalva and Daniel Pace at Arts Projects.
Favourite art fair: Spring1883!

Artists: Elvis Richardson, Nadine Christensen, Michael Stevenson, Angela Brennan, Clara Adolphs, Howard Arkley, Abella D’Adamo, Robbie Rowlands, Lionel Grijalva, Daniel Pace, Jasper Jordan-Lang, Bronte Stolz

Victoria Perin is a PhD student at the University of Melbourne.

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