Five Ways is a quiet, leafy suburban treasure nestled in the backstreets of Paddington. It's a world away from the bright lights and dingy bars of Oxford Street, and it's an area where you're likely to find some of Sydney's nicest cafés, bakeries, restaurants; a place where ladies who lunch roam the streets with children and Chihuahuas in tow.
As luck would have it, it's also home to a fantastic little exhibition space called the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, which has commissioned a solo exhibition that's simply not to be missed.
Erasure is the work of Vietnamese American artist Dinh Q. Lê, who is perhaps best known for his photography dealing with the themes and sense of conflicted identity that come with his dual nationality.
For this exhibition, Dinh Q. Lê drew direct inspiration from the terrible events occurring in Christmas Island last year, in which a boatload of asylum seekers was tragically wrecked off the coast.
The Sherman Gallery is transformed into a kind of shipwreck, complete with a video projection, and the floor lined with original photographs of Vietnamese men, women, children and families.
These images that pile on the ground almost like sand – and of which there are more than 100,000 – serve to remind the viewer of the stories of countless Vietnamese refugees who took to the sea following the war that plagued their country during the 1960s and '70s.
This is an interactive exhibition in the true sense. The public is invited to pick up and examine the photographs and even to help scan them into an online database that is being established.
It's an exhibition that is not only timely and a poignant reminder for the public and politicians alike that the immigration debate is about more than just statistics; it's about people. This is a must-see.
Erasure is showing until mid-September.
The Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation is located at 16-20 Goodhope St, Paddington. It is open Wed-Sat from 11am-5pm.
William Dobell's Archibald winning portrait of Olley.
Ok, so this is really two exhibitions, but they're both small and housed in adjacent rooms, so you can easily cover them in a single trip. It's no secret that Margaret Olley is one of the country's most beloved artists, and with good reason. She was unmatched in her contribution to the arts in NSW, not simply as a true master of still-life painting, but also as one of the country's most generous benefactors – during her 60-odd years as an artist, she gave countless donations of cash and artworks to the gallery.
Her sad passing last month brought renewed attention to her work. For those unfamiliar with her, this modest display of paintings will serve as a fantastic introduction to her art, and for those familiar with her style, it is worth being reminded of her talent.
The Margaret Olley Tribute is showing until August 21.
It's hard to know what Olley, who was famously dismissive of contemporary artists, would have thought of David Aspden's work.
In any case, Aspden may not be as well known as Olley, but his influence is not to be underestimated. This show – entitled The Colour of Music and Pace - is the first in-depth exhibition of his work and it offers a genuinely interesting look at how his techniques progressed over the years. His true talent was the depiction of sensations, whether it was the sound of jazz music, or sunlight playing on the surface of water. At risk of sounding pretentious, you really do get a sense of movement in his work as his shapes and colours seem to jostle and leap and dance around the canvas.
David Aspden's work is on show until September 4.
The Art Gallery of NSW is on Art Gallery Rd, The Domain. It is open every day from 10am-5pm.
If you've never visited the Australian Centre for Photography, you've really been missing out. Firstly, it's free. But more importantly, it hosts a regular cycle high-quality exhibitions that always have something to offer everyone. As you might expect, the concept behind 100 Portraits is fairly simple: images of folks going about their lives. But although it may sound straightforward, there is an astonishing amount of variety in the shots presented here, so don't worry, you're not going to see photo after photo of people staring straight at the lens.
This is largely thanks to the fact that the photos were sourced from the 1300-image strong Flakphoto.com archive, an online collective that features the work of artists from all over the globe. It's a great way to get a look some artists whose work might otherwise go unseen and it's also a reminder of just how much talent there is out there, if you know where to look.
There are also two other exhibitions on show at the gallery. The first, Disappeared but Remained, displays the work of three renowned Korean photographers who deal with the concepts of memory and collective consciousness. The other is Lloyd Godman's Entropy, a sombre but strangely beautiful collection of images relating to Victoria's devastating bush fires in 2009.
Three exhibitions for the price of none, how's that for value?
100 Portraits is showing until August 27.
The Australian Centre for Photography can be found at 257 Oxford St, Paddington. Open from 12pm-7pm, Tue-Fri; 10am-6pm, Sat & Sun.
No self-respecting design nerd should miss any of the events in the current Sydney Design 2011 festival, but although they're certainly not expensive, not all of the exhibitions are free of charge. As luck would have it, Built: Is Old New Again? Won't cost you a cent. This exhibition sees four talented artists/designers reinterpret traditional furniture and architectural forms to bring them into the 21st Century.
By combining traditional techniques with contemporary technologies and materials – think armchairs inspired by skyscrapers, or constructed out of foam, for example – this quartet of dynamic designers gives a much-needed reinterpretation of everyday objects.
Built is showing until September 3.
Artreal Gallery is located at 747 Darling St, Rozelle. Open 11am-5pm, Wed-Sat.
For the next month or so, First Draft's is home to the work of a bunch very different, very interesting artists. Its four exhibition rooms will feature acclaimed artist Jacquelene Drinkall's video performance piece shot underwater at the Great Barrier Reef that was previously shown in Melbourne earlier in the year and is now making its appearance in Sydney for the first time. Thanks in part to the natural beauty of the location, it is a truly stunning and almost dreamlike exploration of nature. She is also exhibiting a series of supernatural paintings that deal with the idea of telepathy in art, which are also well worth a look.
Other artists on show include Seth Birchall, whose portraits focus on male painters who have influenced and shaped his work over the years – Gauguin, Basquiat and others are all pictured.
Sydneysider Stella Rosa McDonald's work is the culmination of an extensive video project that's been two years in the making. It explores the development of the city in which she lives, by examining the impact people have on their environment and the legacy they leave. A fascinating piece of work.
And finally, duo Claire Finneran and Hossein Ghaemi are collaborating for an installation performance work that focuses on the idea of a 'higher power' in relation to their religious upbringings. It looks at the idea of worship, and questions the meaning of religious rituals.
These exhibitions run until at least August 28.
First Draft is located at 116-118 Chalmers St, Surry Hills. It is open 12-6pm Wed-Sun.