Sydney Contemporary art fair promises an exciting journey into the pulse of contemporary art, where diverse artistic expressions from around the globe converge in one vibrant space. Taking place at Carriageworks from September 7 to 10, the fair’s dynamic atmosphere and curated selection of artists offer an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in a world of creativity and tap into new inspiration and perspectives. But, identifying the standout artists at the fair isn’t always easy – the vast number of participants, variation in styles and mediums, and the sheer size of the space can be dizzying.
To help you plan your trip to Sydney Contemporary 2023, here’s a list of 10 must-see artists selected by Michelle Grey and Susan Armstrong, co-founders of Sydney-based creative studio and cultural programming platform Arts-Matter.
James Lemon, Sullivan + Strumpf
James Lemon is one of the most exciting emerging artists to burst onto the scene over the last couple of years, having exhibited recently as part of Melbourne Now at the NGV and at Melbourne’s Design Week. His sculptures are tactile, dynamic objects that traverse contexts of art and design. He often weaves references to religion, pop culture, insects and global ceramic forms into his typically colourful, highly textural and sometimes slapstick works. While James primarily works with clay, he often embeds other objects such as bricks, precious stones and discarded ephemera to develop his expressive, sculptural vernacular.
Jedda Daisy Culley, Yavuz Gallery
Jedda Daisy Culley’s paintings are both deeply emotive, rife with introspection and feeling, and at the same time beautiful and fluid. Her practice spans painting, drawing, textiles, video, and sculpture, with each medium telling a story of the inner tension and transformation of its maker – of her urge to hide but ultimate unwillingness to do so. Jedda often explores the darker side of the female experience with a focus on feminist ideas of sex, expectation, motherhood, birth, and objectification. Interested in how cultural narratives have framed women as otherworldly monsters, she dismantles complex and misleading gendered archetypes.
Nick Modrzewski, Coma Gallery
At first it seems like an incongruous mix, artist and lawyer. But Nick Modrzewski’s work tells stories about the absurdities of social engagements in a unique and fascinating way. Densely layered acrylic paintings form the backbone of his practice, where he depicts figures enmeshed in legal processes or bureaucratic systems: naked neighbours wrestle over a fencing dispute; a congregation of medieval noses gather to draft legislation; and suited men compete in a plant watering competition. In each of his scenes, Nick picks apart the rules of social engagements, rendering them in a sensuous and fluid painterly language.
Mia Middleton, Coma Gallery
Mia Middleton’s career is exploding at a meteoric pace – captivating viewers with her innovative fusion of vibrant visual elements and thought-provoking narratives, pushing the boundaries of traditional art forms. Originally from Australia, she currently resides in Portugal, whose pictorial works explore interiority, memory and evocation. Middleton’s small-scale paintings capture a tension and threshold between conscious and subconscious, desire and aversion, reality and fantasy. In these intimate freeze-frames, ephemeral moments are stripped of their context and suspended in time, intimating a narrative without creating one and inviting viewers into a psychological framework of uncertainty and discovery. Mia Middleton has exhibited widely in Australia and abroad, most recently with PPP London, Cob Gallery London, No Gallery NYC, Like a Little Disaster Italy and Haydens Melbourne.
Karla Dickens, Station Gallery
Karla Dickens invigorates the art scene with her profound ability to weave Indigenous stories and experiences into her mixed-media creations, fostering dialogue on cultural heritage and social issues. Her work resonates with authenticity, inviting viewers to engage with the rich complexities of Australian Indigenous identity in a contemporary context. Karla is of Wiradjuri, Irish and German heritage, living and working in Goonellabah, Lismore, on Bundjalung Country in New South Wales. With a diverse artistic approach encompassing painting, photography, video, collage, sculpture, and installation, Dickens introduces a darkly comedic touch to her unwavering exploration of race, gender, and societal inequities. Known for repurposing found objects, her work frequently recontextualizes disregarded or abandoned items, prompting an investigation into Australian culture, challenging historical narratives and advocating for change.
Saxon Quinn, Saint Cloche Gallery
Saxon Quinn’s art is a thrilling convergence of vibrant colors and intricate geometries, forming a visual symphony that dances between abstraction and meticulous detail. Quinn’s strength is the energy he injects into each composition, welcoming viewers into a dynamic realm, where every work holds a compelling narrative waiting to be discovered. He is a self-taught artist with a background in Visual Design, whose work takes cues from the sprawling asphalt vistas of the city and the Australian countryside. His signature stained and marked canvases map the environments he has lived, tracing everyday encounters through geometric shapes, distressed markings and recognisable symbols and signs. Set to present a new body of work History Repeating at Sydney Contemporary 2023, Quinn continues to explore motifs and marks from monsters, kisses, hands, kites, pirates, and cowboys, all exemplary of his nostalgic and mischievous humour.
Amelia Lynch, Arthouse Gallery
Amelia Lynch is an exciting emerging ceramicist whose tactile exploration of form and surface responds to the natural environment, casting conceptual and visual links with geological phenomena such as rock erosion and stratification. Through formal experimentation with oxides, stains, crackle, crawl and crater glazes, Amelia’s painterly surfaces evoke fragments of flora and fauna. In these biomorphic and geomorphic forms, personal experiences of the landscape collide with shape, scale, and glaze technologies to create sculptures that are intuitive and free, yet refined and technical.
Marisa Purcell, Olsen Gallery
A curious study of the interplay between light, color, and texture, Marisa Purcell creates mesmerizing compositions that evoke emotion and contemplation. Her innovative techniques and mastery of abstraction make each canvas a unique visual experience that transcends traditional artistic boundaries. Marisa works in abstraction, layering fields of transparent colour to create an uncertain optical realism. Long interested in art’s reception, the subjects of her works cannot be found in her paintings but arise through experiencing them. Drawing inspiration from historical painters, from Fra Angelico to Mark Rothko, Marisa similarly explores the mystical power of painting. You’ll find this in the voids created between swathes and splashes of brilliant saturated colour.
Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910-1996), Tim Klingender Fine Art
Emily Kame Kngwarreye remains a lauded figure in the realm of Indigenous Australian art, celebrated for her profound impact on the global art scene. Her dynamic and expressive paintings evoke the essence of her Anmatyerre culture and the vast landscapes of the Utopia region. Kngwarreye’s unique artistic journey began in her late 70s, resulting in a prolific period of creativity that produced a diverse body of work characterized by bold colors and mesmerizing brushwork. Her ability to channel the Dreaming stories and spiritual connections of her people into art imbued her pieces with a transcendent quality. Emily’s legacy endures through her art’s ability to bridge cultural divides and inspire a deeper appreciation for Indigenous traditions.
Julia Gutman, Sullivan + Strumpf
After her historic Archibald win this year (she is only the 11th woman to win the esteemed prize in 102 years, and the youngest winner in 85 years), Julia Gutman’s work continues to consider how women were depicted historically and reimagines them as contemporary figures. Her practice is anchored by an experimental textile process, with which she tells personal stories that draw on the language and history of western oil painting. Tender and vulnerable, Julia’s work invites viewers into her world, interrogating her own relationships and the performance of selfhood, using donated clothing and other found textiles as a vehicle for connection and collaboration.
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Bottom left: Nick Modrzewski, March, 2023.
Middle: Marisa Purcell, The Time it Takes, 2023.
Top right: portrait of Julia Gutman by Magdalene Shapter
Bottom right: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Untitled (Summer Transition), 1991