Why do we do what we do here at RealTime? The Monthly’s Anwen Crawford offered a highly articulate case for supported arts criticism after Fairfax announced cuts to culture coverage. Lauren thinks the issue is bigger than Fairfax, and speaks to a wider breakdown in the arts ecology and democratic journalism in Australia: 

“Effective criticism is timely, and alert to the times in which it is made; it forms one strand of a wider public conversation that we are each entitled to join, by virtue of being alive. But in Australia we are all, increasingly, being denied participation in, and exposure to, art and arts criticism. The two go together, never mind the well-worn cliché that artists and critics are sworn enemies.”


Lt. Col. Kent Graham Solheim, U.S. Army. Credit President George W. Bush, source: www.nytimes.com

How do you critique a war criminal’s paintings? His political legacy feels feeble but George W’s new book of paintings—oddly naïve, flat, juvenile portraits of war veterans—has been greeted nostalgically by NY Times critic Jonathon Alter as an act of political atonementWe wonder how tightly a critic can squeeze their conscience. Time to decry fake art? 

“In the introduction to his new coffee-table book of oil paintings, Bush readily—perhaps pre-emptively—admits that he’s a ‘novice.’ Three years after leaving the White House, he set out to adopt the pastime of Winston Churchill, who painted to relieve the ‘Black Dog’ of depression. But age 66 is awfully late to achieve proficiency, especially for a man with a famously short attention span. Bush recalls playfully informing his first art instructor, Gail Norfleet, of his objectives. ‘Gail, there’s a Rembrandt trapped in this body,’ he told her. ‘Your job is to liberate him.’”


Louise Zhang, Instagram image courtesy the artist

Don’t panic—get some real art on your phone screen. Sydney artist Louise Zhang’s Instagram is a delightful feed. She conflates Western and Chinese iconography in candy colours on circular, painted surfaces. Horror films contribute more recently to her visual language—but abstracted just beyond the figurative.


Listening to Blade Runner. This brilliant new video essay by Nerdwriter1 goes beyond an analysis of Ridley Scott’s film’s soundscape, including Vangelis’ classic soundtrack, to encompass a wider appreciation of how sci fi has sounded across the decades:

“A movie without its music is not the same movie. [In Blade Runner] the music isn’t laid over the top of the visuals, it’s baked into the DNA of the movie itself. Everything you hear—the score, sound design, dialogue—is tightly integrated with the others. This integration is really what separates Blade Runner from other science fiction films. After all, electronic music had been a staple of science fiction cinema for three decades going back to Bernard Herrmann’s use of the theremin in The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

Top image credit: Nerdwriter 1, video still courtesy the artist

Nola Farman is a quirky doyenne of Australian interdisciplinary art, whose practice spans from the 1960s to the present. Her work ranges from large-scale environmental installation and media art through to smaller installations, paintings, drawings and artist books, such as those on display in Flight at Gallery East in Sydney’s Clovelly.

A Clovelly resident, Farman has been stealthily upping the neo-Fluxus quotient in the seaside suburb with this exhibition and also her regular experimental poetry and prose readings, Off Track, held at a local restaurant. There’s a sense that Farman, now in her late 70s, is bringing her career as an artist home to roost, and Flight presents itself as an assemblage of various aesthetic curios, accompanied by a series of wall texts that engage the viewer in all manner of absurdist banter while simultaneously giving a conversational coherence to the show.

While wall texts are usually austere and minimal, Flight’s paratexts put language on a level with the art objects, and in his curatorial statement the mysterious Permangelo E Regularis stresses that the key to Farman’s work, “whether she be engaged with electronic installations, digital (media works), painting, drawing, artist books or sculpture from the tiny to the monumental—can be found in her use of language.”

Inertia, Flight, Nola Farman, photo Greg Weight

A banner hanging in the gallery window reads “The Ministry for the Future of Art”—the organisation that ostensibly represents a stable of Permangelo’s artists including Farman. There’s a hint that some of these artists, such as Nora Fleming and Noel Farina who share her initials and also provide the commentary on the works, may be Farman’s alter-egos. Alongside the first oil painting, Inertia (of a rather psychedelic garden snail, not unlike the kind of naïve artwork you may find in the corner of an op shop), Noel Farina free-associates about snails: “the first one now will later be last”—and another commentator, Tiny Bubbles, replies “Nola is a ‘master chef’ who has in my mind re-instated the big, fleshy escargot as simple and marvellous.” With the work’s touches of gold leaf and inflated price of $12,250 it’s clear that this exhibition is playfully tongue-in-cheek.

A conceptual centrepiece of the exhibition is an incomplete canvas, Unfinished and Untitled, a beguiling self-portrait of the artist in sunglasses surrounded by various everyday objects. An elaborate contract titled “A Whiff of the Oily Rag” has been drawn up to allow the work to be either bought outright or borrowed for periods of up to three months. Alternatively, in what seems like an analogue to and possible spoof of crowdfunding, but also perhaps a reference back to the snail and slow art, donations can be made to motivate the artist to finish the work within two years.

On a table at the front of the gallery are Farman’s artist books. Being a poet myself, these are my favourite things in the exhibition and include Kulinaria: Recipes for Disaster with food stains from various meals the artist has eaten—hence a page with balsamic vinegar or one with now rancid whole grain mustard—alongside the tongue-twisting “Parking Places I Could Have Had If I Had Needed a Parking Place in Paris.”

Flight invites us to consider the strange currents and currencies of contemporary art: from framing ripped cardboard in a work titled Artwork Not Made By An Elephant to a gaudy mirror with a small attached plate engraved with the word “Entitled.”

Narcissus, Flight, Nola Farman, photo Greg Weight

Nola Farman, Flight, Gallery East, Sydney, 4-14 May

Top image credit: Ein Ei Fur An Eye, Flight, Nola Farman, photo Greg Weight