Tag Archives: art

Liminal visual delight in the city

Birds of Australia. Artwork by Egg Picnic.

Sometimes living in a big, vibrant, noisy and expanding city like Sydney has some surprising moments. Like when you come across one of the City of Sydney-commissioned artworks on an enormous building site. The city is full-to-bursting with cranes and construction of all kinds at the moment as the land and sky scape eternally changes around us.

I call these moments of seeing things like this ‘acts of liminal visual delight’. They’re fleeting and precarious. They exist in snippets of in-between time. On a threshold of before and after. And they’re a little bit ephemeral too. Once the building is complete and the scaffolding dismantled, the artworks will be gone. And ‘visual delight’, because works like this one (see photo above and below), Birds of Australia by Egg Picnic, are a splash of lively colour on what would otherwise be a bland old black or white external hoarding outside this Bay St, Glebe residential building site. Pleasure, joy, thrill, delight.

This sense of precariousness is communicated in another way too. Egg Picnic’s work was created to remind us of the vulnerable nature of Australia’s wildlife. Birdwatchers and designers, Camila De Gregorio and Christopher Macaluso (aka Egg Picnic), want us to look at the artwork. To notice it. To take a moment out of our busy day to marvel at the kooky bird life that inhabits our big brown land. Australia, home to the quirky kookaburra with their chortling evening laughter. The squawking cockatoo. The swooping magpie.

Birds of Australia

Having colourful art hoardings like these on building sites all over Sydney does something a little bit magical. It alters the zeitgeist of the city. It uplifts and reshapes it. It includes creativity into the everyday, the unexpected, and even the usually ugly.

Acts like this add colour and movement, and create moments of contemplation. They allow for the development of another dimension to city living. More than just commerce, cities are for people are for the natural environment in which the city sits and is surrounded. We need uplifting junctures like this to remind us of our connectivity with others and our natural world.

There are 10 new works like this being commissioned for building sites all of Sydney. What’s really heartening is that the City of Sydney received more than 520 submissions of artwork to be part of their plan to inject more art into the city. I’m going to look out for the 10 that made it through. I suspect it will be a bit like bird watching.


What visuals can tell us if we really look

shoe last wall

Wall of shoe lasts at the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney

Instagram is a visually powerful medium. Anyone with the slightest interest in aesthetics will attest to that. I find it both compelling and strangely addictive. Being pummelled with one exquisite image after another has a potent effect on the eyes and brain.

Artists and designers have been fully on board with Instagram since its beginnings in 2010. It’s impossible to tell just how many are using Instagram, but a quick search through hashtags like #workinprogress (or #wip) #artiststudio #studio #contemporaryart #designlife #designing will give you an indication of what’s going on in this space. Many are using social media platforms like Instagram as part of their virtual studio practice.

As researchers like Gillian Rose have said, visuals, especially those generated by digital spaces, are now a massive part of our lives. How do we make sense of what’s happening in these places/spaces? Continue reading


The relationship between art and design

This week’s guest post is by Alli Burness. I used to work with Alli and we’ve done visual research together using Instagram. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we will have a publication out soon which shares that research. We’ve had lots of conversions about art, and could probably have tons more. So I asked her if she’d like to write a guest post on why art matters to her.

These days, Alli is a designer at ThinkPlace. She has previously worked as a digital producer at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Over to Alli… Continue reading


Why does art matter in 2017?

we the people_shepard fairey

Image: ‘We the People’ by artist, Shepard Fairey

In 2016 when I began this blog, I wrote a post titled ‘Why art matters’ because I felt I needed to articulate these ideas, although I’m absolutely not the first to have done so. Even universities, like Standford, have said something on this topic albiet as part of their marketing strategy to recruit more students.

The ideas in my first post still hold now more than ever. Continue reading


Designer profile: Jacquie Moon

ginger beer label_Jacquie Moon

Ginger beer label designed by Jacquie Moon for Plump Design

If you’re like me you probably know there’s a lot of work that goes into bringing beautiful, functional graphic design into the world but perhaps less aware of the ‘why’ that sits behind the designer who creates the end product. My next profile of graphic designer, Jacquie Moon, from Plump Design, will shed some light on her design values and beliefs. Having known Jacquie and her design skills magic for more than a decade I was as interested as anyone to know more about her thoughts on why design matters. Continue reading


The minimalist guide to art in Melbourne

Dome reading room, State Library of Victoria

Melbourne is an amazing city. I left it to move to Sydney just two years ago and my heart still often wishes it was there. But enough of my nostalgic wistfulness. This post is about you and simplifying your Melbourne art visit. Hot on the heels of The minimalist guide to art in Sydney, this post uses similar strategies to set you up for a Melbourne cultural experience that won’t wear you out. Because as we all know, visiting a big city like Melbourne can leave you with too many options. Where do you start? And how do you begin to see all the art? Continue reading


What does it mean to be human? Art-science and ethics

human cell

Art and ethics. Science and ethics. And more and more, it’s about art-science and ethics because we live in interesting times where technology is opening up possibilities most of us never imagined might be possible. Where do you draw the line?

Here is one example currently on my radar.


How would you feel about the idea of growing your child’s skin portrait from their own cells, and then producing these on casts made of glass or other materials? Imagine you could watch that 3D portrait grow over time as the cells were fed and nurtured. So not a photograph or painting of your child, but something three dimensional that resembles their face in shape and structure, and has been grown with their own biological matter. Continue reading


Art manifesto

Lebbeus Woods, Manifesto

Manifesto by Lebbeus Woods (image via noever design)

The artist manifesto. A document of ideology. It reveals intent. It aims to motivate and promote change. Historically manifestos have been crafted to publicly declare the philosophy, aims and ambitions of an artistic movement, and really came into their own in the 20th century. Think Realists, Symbolists, Futurists, Cubists, Dadaists, Surrealists…

Writer and cultural theorist, Lee Scrivner even wrote a manifesto on how to write an avant-garde manifesto in 2006 and then taped to the front door the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, later presenting it in a British Library exhibition in 2008. Continue reading


A guide to looking at art

I sometimes hear people say they don’t know how to look at art. This is particularly the case with contemporary (and sometimes modern) art. It’s almost like there’s a reluctance to engage with art because there’s a fear of not knowing how to do it ‘right’. Or sometimes people think they just won’t ‘get it’. What’s the point, they ask? It’s all too obscure, eccentric, or downright weird.

You might be surprised to know there is no magic formula to this. Continue reading


The minimalist guide to art in Sydney

Yang Xin Original

‘Original’ (detail) by Yang Xin, 2015. As seen at White Rabbit Gallery.

Visiting a big city like Sydney or even living here can be overwhelming at times. Too much to see. Too much to do. Where do you start? And how do you begin to see all the art?

Unless you live in Sydney and don’t work much you won’t be able to see all the art. That’s my view anyway. There’s simply too much going on. It’s the same in any big city but I’m devoting this post to Sydney. So I’ve created a minimalist guide to art to get you through your visit. In case there’s any confusion this is not a guide to minimalist art, but a minimalist guide to experiencing art in Sydney. A way of making sense of all the options that will prevent you from feeling swamped with art choices. Continue reading