Described as an art fair for a new generation of art buyers, The Other Art Fair in Sydney presents a selection of over 100 independent artists with works ranging in price from under $100 to over $1000. Presented by Saatchi Art and held at The Cutaway at Barangaroo, The Other Art Fair also delivers performance art, DJ sets, art installations, as well as food trucks and a bar. Cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, The Fair is back bigger and better than ever with an interesting range of works spanning from photography to mixed media canvas and even tattoo artistry.
Wandering around the venue there were some very clear trends and overarching themes: large florals and just general images of nature make numerous appearances, animals, and in particular, Australiana are a huge influence, circle canvases are surprisingly popular, as are aerial paintings and photographs (amazing what you can do with a done these days) and the always popular, fan-favourite, disciples of Impressionism are heavily represented.
Although impressed by many of the artists represented, there were four who stood out from the crowd.
Jon Setter takes close up photographs of seemingly mundane, everyday urban objects – a yellow fence, a tiled step, a metal post – and elevates them to works of curiosity. It is clear that colour, shape, pattern and depth are aspects that heavily inform Setter’s subject matter, the artist often elevating the unseen. The geometric style and vibrant colours are reminiscent of Australian painter Jeffrey Smart. In particular, the similarities between Setter’s Yellow, Black and Grey 2 (2018) and Smart’s Portrait of Clive James (1991-92) are hard to ignore. The vibrancy of his work, coupled with the macro style of photography, will ensure you never look at your old fence in the same way again.
There is something intensely joyful about the work of Nicole Law. Perhaps it’s the bright colours, the incorporation of glitter or the fact she calls her small canvases ‘Disco Babies’ – but something about Law’s work makes me smile. There is a distinctive stylized quality to the canvases that gives them an almost Mambo-esque appeal. The bold lines and even bolder colours are attention grabbing and if I ever needed proof that colours can elevate your mood, I found it in Law’s work. In particular, Sturt’s Desert Disco (2021) is a stand-out.
Now to something completely different, Josh Dykgraaf specialises in image manipulation and illustration. Skilled at Photoshop, the artist takes photographs and creates fascinating and detailed images that make you question what you’re seeing. With a desire to create work which has an impact on people, the series of images presented at The Other Art Fair certainly achieves this. At first glance the work appears to be large scale images of Australian native animals, however, upon closer inspection, the echidna’s spines are actually tree branches, and the galah’s feathers are burnt leaves, embers falling from its tail. You realise the artist has created the images using landscape photography from the aftermath of the 2019 –20 bushfires, and your heart sinks. You’re holding Koobor (2020) is an image of a koala with a baby on its back, but instead of fur the animal is covered in smouldering bushland – it is a poignant and devastating site. Dykgraff’s work is not what it appears to be on the surface and it has a depth I was not expecting.
Marisa Mu is a force to be reckoned with. Her intricate and vibrant paintings centre on the female form and are a celebration of all women. Her figurative works could arguably be seen as political, with pieces depicting Pride and Black Lives Matter, but that would be over-simplifying what is actually an incredibly intricate and deeply personal expression. Perhaps it is the bright colours, but there is a sense of celebration in Mu’s work, of solidarity and community, of the power of speaking out. Maybe this is why her work feels so relevant and timely. It’s definitely why I decided to purchase one of her pieces – along with many, many other collectors that day.
Perhaps you’re embarking on a mild flirtation with art, or perhaps you are already embroiled in a full on relationship with it – whatever your situation – The Other Art Fair is for you. For anyone interested in starting an art collection but fears they know nothing about art, The Other Art Fair is less intimidating than a gallery and a lot less expensive. I love that you can interact with the artists and speak to them about their work, there’s no pressure on you to purchase anything and while the pretension ordinarily associated with the art world is still present, it is far less obnoxious.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
While the in person event is done, a virtual edition is on now. For more information on The Other Art Fair, head to the website.
Reviewer attended on 18 March 2021.