Back to All Events

Project 16: The Agency of Things

Melanie Upton,  Stacked , 2015, Timber, cement, plaster, powder pigment, foil, paper, plasticene, polystyrene, besser block, acrylic, enamel, steel, clamp, dimensions variable

Melanie Upton, Stacked, 2015, Timber, cement, plaster, powder pigment, foil, paper, plasticene, polystyrene, besser block, acrylic, enamel, steel, clamp, dimensions variable

Curated by Kent Wilson


Held in February each year, the Project exhibition series at Anna Pappas Gallery has become a stand out event of the Melbourne art scene. Project 16: The Agency of Things will bring together artists Sarah Contos, Chris Dolman, Betra Fraval, Michaela Gleave, Justin Hinder, Zoe Kirkwood, Sam Leach, Melanie Upton and Mark Whalen, under the curatorship of Kent Wilson, Assistant Curator at the Town Hall Gallery.

Featuring a selection of artists working across a variety of mediums, The Agency of Things is at once a rallying cry for the life of objects and a celebration of the networked nature of our reality. Artists based in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Los Angeles have been drawn together for the next instalment of the Anna Pappas Gallery Project series. All chosen for their capacity to carefully marry conceptual rigour with material acuity, the exhibition promises to provide a sweeping insight into the ideas driving Australian contemporary art.

Proponents of art have faith in the idea that the things we call art propel themselves into the world with something akin to a life of their own. That objects, materials and evidence of process have agency to affect their immediate environment and influence the world of which they are a part. The Agency of Things is an exhibition that takes this notion as its premise, an exploration into the idea that the non-human elements of the universe may well have the sort of agency we normally only attribute to the conscious choices made by humans.

Originally from Perth, Sydney-based artist Sarah Contos completed a Masters of Art at the College of Fine Arts, Sydney in 2010. She has held several solo exhibitions as well as being included in group shows – including Future Primitive, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2013–2014) – building a name for her sensual forays into soft sculpture, embroidered images and quilted works that broach multiple pop-cultural, personal and art-historical strains and references. Merging the totemic with the kinky and the historical with science-fiction, Contos works with her materials to draw out emotional and psychological resonances from deep within.

Chris Dolman’s practice uses the formalist Modernist tropes with an irreverent and self-deprecating humour. Moving across painting, printmaking, ceramics and video, and drawing on the histories of geometric abstraction, Pop, and Surrealism, Dolman employs non-traditional self-portraiture to explore absurd notions of identity and themes of loss and failure.

Dolman graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2010. He was the recipient of the Wallara Travelling Scholarship, as well as New Work (early career) and ArtStart grants from the Australia Council for the Arts. He has undertaken residencies at Hill End, Bundanon Trust, BigCi NSW, Ceramic Design Studio (Sydney Institute), and St George Institute of TAFE. He has exhibited nationally including shows at Alaska projects, Firstdraft, West Space, Seventh, FELTspace, Wellington St projects, MOP projects and [MARS]. Dolman runs the project gallery TWENTY THIRTYSEVEN, and is currently a research candidate at Sydney College of Arts, with an Australian Post Graduate Award from Sydney University.

Justin Hinder is an emerging artist, writer and curator based in Melbourne. His practice investigates human movement and the decision making process. Hinder’s interest lies in combining daily normalities with ideals of pre-determined destiny and storytelling. He explores ideas of satisfaction of self by focusing on the everyday – acknowledging the cause and effect of idiosyncratic thoughts, decisions and actions.

Zoe Kirkwood works in an ever-expanding painting practice. Generally taking the form of large-scale installations, her work traverses a range of media to create visually engulfing worlds. At the center of her practice is an interest in the spatial qualities of painting and a relentless desire to investigate new ways in which painting can move into the physical space of the viewer.

Kirkwood is an emerging artist based in Adelaide, South Australia. She graduated with first class Honours in Visual Arts in 2013 from the UniSA. She has been involved in numerous exhibitions locally and interstate and in 2015 travelled to New York to exhibit with CHASM Gallery. She is the recipient of a number of prizes including the prestigious Doctor Harold Schenberg Art Prize, 2014; The Helpmann Academy and Hill Smith Travelling Art Prize, 2014 and The Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Prize, 2013. Her work has been shown at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, MARS Gallery, Canberra Contemporary Art Space, FELT Space, Hugo Michel Gallery and the Contemporary Art Centre of SA.

Sam Leach’s virtuosic oil paintings are thematically and stylistically informed by the traditions of 17th century Dutch painting. His mimetic works conflate the poles of the metaphorical and the empirical, the analogous and the objective, in an ongoing investigation of the relationship between humans and animals. While the delicate interplay between formalist figuration and modernist abstraction in his paintings operates on one level to distance the viewer – to encourage them to look objectively at the subjects – on another level each animal depicted has a symbolic currency that resonates with the audience on a personal level. The paintings extend their focus on animal life to the spectrum of all life itself, encouraging the viewer to contemplate their role as living creatures on this shared earth.

2015 will see Sam Leach feature in ‘Time Space Existence’ as a collateral event of the Venice Biennale, and a major monograph with essays by Andrew Frost and esteemed fiction writer Tim Winton. In 2010 Leach won both Wynne and Archibald Prizes at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and he was a finalist for the Royal Bank of Scotland Emerging Artist Award in 2009. His work has been extensively exhibited nationally and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include Sam Leach, Future Perfect, Singapore, 2013; The Ecstasy of Infrastructure, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Victoria, 2012 and Cosmists, 24HR ART, Northern Territory of Contemporary Art, Darwin, 2010. Leach was recently included in the group shows Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2013; SkyLab, La Trobe Regional Gallery, Victoria, 2013; Haunts and Follies, Linden Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2012 and First Life Residency in Landscape at Xin Dong Cheng Space for Contemporary Art, Beijing, 2011.

Melanie Upton is an artist working across sculpture, installation and 2 dimensional media. Exploring the intersection between the natural and built environment, Melanie’s work is invested in an investigation of material. She finds inspiration in the urban and natural spaces around us, the evolving process of decay and renewal, spatial evolution, and the inherent power of things.

Upton graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art from the VCA in 2006 and has shown in group and solo exhibitions throughout Melbourne and Brisbane. In 2015 Upton ‘s sculptures were featured as part of a collaboration with Australian accessories label Mimco, she undertook research in New York and was also published in Scottish online journal ‘Unthunk’. She is a recipient of local and federal government grants and has been awarded the Dr Rosenthal Award for Sculpture, the National Gallery Women’s Association Encouragement Award and the George Tallis Foundation prize.

In Mark Whalen’s work science, geometry, illustrated perspective and construction are depicted in outer space environments, as if an alternate universe is starting from scratch. Since 2006, Whalen’s work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Italy and Australia. He was included in 2009’s Apocalypse Wow! exhibition at MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome and more recently SPACE INVADERS at the National Gallery of Australia. Whalen has appeared in numerous publications such as Juxtapoz, Modart Europe, Arkitip, Nylon, Artist Profile, Australian Art Collector and Monster Children. His work was recently animated for Autolux’s film clip of their single ‘The Science of Imaginary Solutions’. His work is held in the National Gallery of Australia, Art Bank and Mainland Art collections.

Click here for more information on Michaela Gleave.

Project 16: The Agency of Things is presented courtesy of Roslyn Oxley 9 Gallery, Sydney; Galerie pompom, Sydney; Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney and blackartprojects, Melbourne.

Earlier Event: December 11
Group Show 2015 – Various Artists
Later Event: April 1
Michael Prior – Slow Air