Sarah Cottier Gallery is based in Paddington, Sydney, and over the various lockdowns of 2020/21 we have operated from a selection of laptop computers!
The gallery was very keen not to sacrifice the hard work of artists to an empty room, so when in lockdown we devised and installed a series of group presentations that functioned online, we suspending the solo exhibition program until work could be viewed again in the space.
The ability to improvise and reschedule constantly has proven interesting, and sometimes challenging. For the most part, being compelled to act nimbly has brought an immediacy of response that is very rewarding.
Our represented artists all had very different experiences during the lockdowns. Some were necessarily consumed with home-teaching, others had uninterrupted access to the studio, some had great difficulty accessing materials and services, and all of us suffered the emotional rollercoaster of anxiety in dealing with shifting parameters.
+ White Cross on White John Nixon, 1994. Exhibited in “White” - first exhibition (group show) at Newtown premises February 1994. acrylic and enamel on masonite. 245 x 245cm.
In June of 2020 John Nixon died. John was a mentor and pivotal artist in the gallery stable, joining us at the very beginning in 1993, and very influential in the gallery’s conceptual architecture. The sense of grief and melancholy we feel at his loss has certainly permeated this period of instability.
During Sydney’s 2020 isolation we staged a group exhibition titled Apparition which included a series of directly lockdown-based works by artist Jelena Telecki. Produced at home, on the ubiquitous wrappers of 'Who gives a Crap' toilet paper, these whimsical musings gave voice to our shared experience. In between lockdowns, the absence of international travel has meant that our local audience has become more focussed on Australian artists and the attention has been very welcome.
We were fortunate to have a year's worth of programming possible between June 2020 and June 2021 and the public were very enthusiastic to be out and looking at art again. During this time we showed new work by Justene Williams, which I feel was imbued and informed by lockdown magical thinking; wishful unicorns, lucky pennies and mysterious portals through which to escape.
+ Vulvarine Justene Williams, 2021. closed cell foam, resin, convex security mirror, acrylic paint . 257 x 122 x 70cm.
Julie Fragar’s exhibition Wash Your Face in Cold Water had a painfully brief moment in the public eye, closing after only one week, but I also feel her lyrical, painterly montages addressed the precariousness of our pandemic existence, using water as a metaphor for the slippery state of pressure, endurance, resistance and surrender we all experienced.
Emerging once again from isolation in 2021 we were able to stage three exhibitions, which were produced in their entirety during Sydney’s 100 days of lockdown. In November, Jonny Niesche’s Fairlight, a huge body of new work that has been extraordinarily successful. In December will exhibited a new series of kaleidoscopic paintings by Gemma Smith that were built gradually in successive layers over intermittent visits to the studio and without any pressing deadlines. Also in December we launched a new suite of paintings by Jelena Telecki that were produced alongside her contributions to the Adelaide Biennial.
+ Fairlight Jonny Niesche, 2021. Installation view, Sarah Cottier Gallery .
Author/s: Sarah Cottier & Ashley Barber