In Arts + Entertainment

Artistic Director Kate Britton’s Guide To Sydney Art Month

For one month every year, Sydney’s art makers and appreciators turn out in droves to celebrate what makes the city’s art scene unique. March is aptly titled Art Month, and it’s when the city comes alive with a diverse program of exhibitions, workshops, talks, tours, studio visits precinct nights and more. In 2018, the ninth consecutive instalment of the event, there are over 100 events to choose from.

This year sees Kate Britton, a curator with a multi-disciplinary background, take the helm as artistic director for the first time. Britton, who previously worked at the Campbelltown Arts Centre, hopes to expand the program even further than previous years.

Art Month Sydney’s artistic director Kate Britton Photo: Art Month Sydney

“Art Month is usually pretty visual-art focused,” she says. “I’m interested in bringing a bit more performance into it this year. I want to shine a light on interdisciplinary practice and emerging practice. I think a lot of younger artists are still experimenting with different forms tend to work across a lot of different mediums, so this year is about capturing some of that diversity and energy in the programming.”

With so much on offer, it can be tricky to know where or how to start. Britton recommends starting with the Precinct Nights. “They’re really accessible, she says. “You can basically rock up to any of the galleries in the area on that night, pick up your walking map or access the map online – you can have it on your phone. You can just dip in and out of quite a few spaces between 6pm and 8pm.”

If all else fails, turn to the trusty calendar app on the Art Month website. “Almost any day you can click on the day and see what’s happening,” Britton says.

What else does Kate recommend? As the festival’s artistic director, asking her to pick five must-sees is a bit like asking a mother to choose a favourite child. Nevertheless, Britton persevered.

Here are her suggestions for making the most of Art Month 2018.

Paddington-Woollahra Precinct Night

Gallery view, National Arts School Photo: Facebook

Of all the precinct nights in this year’s Art Month program, the Paddington-Woollahra Precinct night is the biggest, featuring an Oxford street length party peppered with performances, exhibitions, open studios, and a bit of wine for good measure.

“It’s mammoth,” says Britton. “There’s also a live night with performances and video by Caroline Garcia, Leila El Rayes, Salote Tawale and Kira Piru happening at the National Art School after the gallery crawl.”

March 8, various galleries

Clay Date: Contemporary Ceramics from the studio

Exhibition view of Clay Date Photo: Sydney Art Month

Clay Date features contemporary ceramics from emerging artists working at the studio, on display at 541 Art Space in Glebe.

“This will be a really fun show,” Britton says. “It’s been a really joyful experience for me doing the studio visits and seeing all these artists working separately but alongside each other. I love the community space.”

Exhibiting artists include Mechelle Bounpraseuth, Angela Butler, Jan Downes, Scott Duncan, David Helmers, Caitlyn Hurley, Vivienne Hill, Rachael McCallum, Luke O’Connor and Madeleine Preston.

March 16 – 541, Art Space, Glebe 

Collectors’ Space closing talk

Collectors’ Space returns for the fourth year in a row, to “demystify or encourage people who’re starting to collect their own art,” Britton says. This year’s collection has been curated by Britton herself, and includes works from the collections of Abdul Abdullah, Tony Albert, Tess Allas, Daniel Mudie Cunningham and Emma Price.

In the exhibition’s closing talk on March 17 at May Space in Waterloo, these “art luminaries” will share insights into their collections. “They’ll be telling wonderful stories about how they came to own some of the works, and talk about their relationships with those works,” Britton says.

March 17, May Space, Waterloo 

Art at night: St Leonards & Art Month closing weekend block party

“People don’t necessarily think of arts and culture when they think of St Leonards, but we’re going to change all that,” Britton says. “There’s a whole bunch of galleries and new artist studios that’ve opened up there over the last 3-4 years. This is basically a 3-block precinct party, with a lot of alleyways that’ll be open to explore that night.”

Britton says one of her goals this year is to change the perception of Sydney’s art scene revolving only around inner-city suburbs like Surry Hills and Chippendale.

“This year is a bit of a baby step, but something I’d really love to do is grow that kind of precinct feel in a broader sense across Sydney rather than just in the city.”

March 23, TWT Creative Precinct, St Leonards

Open Studios, Parramatta Artist Studios

Artist’s in residence at Parramatta Artists Studios Photo: City of Parramatta

According to Britton, Art Month is the perfect opportunity to head out west (Parramatta is only a 20-minute train trip from the CBD) to explore Sydney’s newest arts hub in the Western Suburbs.

“I’ll be leading a tour through some of the artist studios on March 24, and doing a bit of a Q&A,” she says. “There’ll be some performances happening as well. Parramatta Artist Studios is such a breeding ground for great artistic talent – we’re really keen to be celebrating what’s happening there.”

Parramatta Artist Studio artists this year include Khadim Ali, Tom Blake, Emily Parsons-Lord, Garry Trinh, Justine Youssef and more.

Britton recommends combing the trip to Parramatta with a visit to Campbelltown Arts Centre, where artist Lisa Reihana will be discussing her work Cinemania with Mami Katoaka, the 21st Biennale of Sydney Artistic Director.

March 24, Parramatta Artist Studios

Art Month 2018 runs from March 1 – March 25 at various locations around Sydney. Peruse the full program and book tickets for events on the Art Month website.

(Lead image:  Claudia Nicholson, Don’t let me down/Let me down, 2018, installation view, 2017 Visual ArtsEmerging Fellowship, Artspace, Sydney. Photo: Zan Wimberley)

Published 02 March, 2018