Snapshots of Australian Life: tragic, happy, funny, sad
Sydney's lunchtime scene can be a confusing pecking order of status; an animal kingdom of hierarchy, from the pretentiously understated harbourside restaurants to the melting-pots of casual hotel-pubs. If it sounds exhausting, it's because it is!
One of Sydney's central landmarks seen from Art & About: Centrepoint Tower
Why not avoid the stress, and instead head outside during these spring weeks, enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, and take in some free pop-up art within earshot of plenty of healthy and fast food.
Enter Art & About Sydney: a series of art exhibitions in central Sydney. Art & About Sydney has been an annual temporary public art festival for 13 years, historically running for one month, but now extending to a year-long calendar of "major projects, intimate exchanges, and thought-provoking exhibitions in unusual spaces throughout the city."
In Hyde Park (north), just near the Elizabeth Street St. James Station entrance, leading to the central Archibald Fountain, are a series of large photographs with a unique focus on Australia as a culture and nation. This is Australian Life. With 22 finalists in this year's Australian Life, these photos are of everyday life, but with strong undertones of emotion and the unspoken.
Looking east along the Australian Life exhibition, towards Archibald Fountain and St. Mary's Cathedral
The photographs line the wide pathway, 11-aside. Interspersed with runners and walkers, tourists and prams, lawyers and suits, and book-ended with St. Mary's Cathedral at one end and Centrepoint Tower at the other, it may take an effort to disengage from the working day / your smartphone / lunchtime jog and engage with the photographic stills. It is, however, vastly rewarding.
For instance, there is the colourful and absurd Caterpillar bulldozer pushing patterned Bronte Beach sand like a giant toy, with surfers in the foreground. Or Kent Johnson's Sydney Ladies Party, which could easily be a scene from Roald Dahl's 'The Witches,' with the three subjects' shallow eyes, false smiles, extravagant dresses and sideswiping competitiveness. Darren Saul's Human Nature offers either a glimpse at the simple innocence of an older man admiring a female runner, or the more sinister interpretation of something deviant and potentially ominous.
There is the artwork of Ess Vaun's Bedroom Settings, a heartbreaking photo depicting a homeless person's nest of sleeping bag and earthly goods, in front of the plush bedroom setting of Zara Home's window display. Some photos are simply refreshing and enjoyable eye candy, such as the black and white barber shop of Jon Lewis, John Appleyard's aerial view of a housing estate in Western Sydney, and Cameron Cope's puzzling optical illusion of a pedestrian blending into the cityscape. Each photo is a story, a thousand words, as it were, that is told only in the eye of the beholder. They are beautiful from the perspective of their artistic qualities, but perhaps more so, for the unknown and infinite possibilities behind them.
I would have loved more time in Sydney to explore the other exhibitions and displays, and the beauty of the pop-up nature is they can be admired in moments, or studied for longer. Australian Life runs from Thursday the 15th of September through Sunday the 9th of October, and details can be found at artandabout.com.au andhttps://whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/events/art-about-sydney-australian-life.