Meet Me Under the Dome Alex Seton, 2019-2020. Sculpture: Wombeyan marble / framed work: pigment print on cotton rag. dimensions variable.


Sullivan+strumpf | Ursula Sullivan & Joanna Strumpf

Art + Australia caught up with Sullivan+Strumpf and gallery artists—Lindy Lee, Michael Lindeman and Lynda Draper—to discuss the exhibitions and projects that took place during the lockdowns that took hold of Sydney across 2020 and 2021. We asked how did the pandemic effect your working processes? What impact did it have on your practice and has it changed how you will do things moving forward?

During the pandemic we operated from home, for the whole time. Everyone in our gallery was pretty much set up for working online, we got used to it in the first lockdown, and the second time around I think we were more confident, as we knew what to expect. Except none of us thought it would go on as long as it did! The days stretched on, and it was all so disconnected, we all missed working as a team, everything felt very much like a solo pursuit. Of course, we were so very lucky to still be able to work and stay busy selling works, promoting our artists—which is wonderful and largely due to the fact that we have a good website. In 2020 we introduced viewing rooms of our exhibitions, which allowed people access to good images, essays, walk through films, interviews with artists, artist statements, and importantly, prices for works. The online experience is not the same as being in the gallery, but I think many people liked being able to digest the show and see prices for works without having to ask.

We found that the greatest impact on our artists during this time was not being able to have audiences engage directly with their exhibitions'—that body of work that you have been labouring over for months, even years. Even though exhibitions have continued, the online experience is no substitute. For artists, to not have the feedback from collectors/supporters, peers, colleagues and family on the exhibition, I can imagine, is quite gutting.

Ouroboros | Lindy Lee
 + The Dragon that never sleeps Lindy Lee, 2021. Eucalyptus wood, fire. 70 x 98 x 19 cm.


I feel extremely lucky that the attendant restrictions did not impact too much upon my Museum of Contemporary Art show. It still managed to stay open, although in a limited fashion. I’m very grateful for that. Many other artists had shows postponed or canceled, which is devastating. All things considered, the lockdowns have actually been quite a positive experience for me. It’s been enjoyable to spend more time in the studio at home, in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. The landscape around where I live is very inspiring for my practice, so in a way I have used this time to feel re-energised by living quietly in a place of great natural beauty.

 + Artist Lindy Lee with a maquette of Ouroboros Lindy Lee, 2021.

Pre-COVID, I would’ve travelled with my team to China, probably every 6-8 weeks to work on fabrication for various public art projects. However, now we work in the studio and have had to amend certain studio practices to get the same work done, but in Australia, not offshore. The large sculptural work I do is more often than not, larger than my studio space. We’ve had to develop a system of working on half-scale maquettes, which are then digitised and the files are then sent to the various workshops that help fabricate the sculptures.

Art Habits | Michael Lindeman
 + New Types of Art (Self-Promotional Painting) Michael Lindeman, 2021. acrylic on canvas. 152.5 x 102.5 cm.

Art Habits

The whole COVID-19 thing has been confusing and surreal, I still find myself asking 'how did we end up here?'.  On the one hand I’m fine with restrictions—my practice doesn’t rely on maneuvering in social situations, it’s all about the work, and I get my fill of banter with friends via text, email or phone. On the other hand, I couldn’t wait to travel again, to visit museums and learn about different cultures—it’s so important for an artist, forcing oneself to look and think.

 + Cheese Michael Lindeman, 2021. Installation view of Cheese in the exhibition Art Habits. acrylic on canvas, rat traps. 265 x 730 cm.

I’ve been at home in Sydney over the last eighteen months, where the inner west meets the suburbs, working in my studio. When not thinking about what’s happening with the pandemic I had a fun time in the studio working towards my recent show Art Habits. As usual I’ve been busy researching, writing, making art and meeting deadlines. Some artists are used to working in isolation, I love being alone and creating a show—I’m built for it.

 + Art Habits Michael Lindeman, 2021. Installation view. acrylic on canvas. 152.5 x 102.5 cm.

It’s been business as usual with the art-making but as always I’ve been thinking about ways to expand the work further, to reach a wider audience in a warmer, more endearing way. For the recent show I mailed over one hundred hand-written postcards to people as an invitation. I also commissioned Matthew Tumbers to create a hilarious audio tour—you must listen to it, the man is truly gifted. The gallery commissioned a piece by the celebrated writer Martha Farquhar and made a great exhibition walkthrough video, which my young son wrote and performed the music for. Sullivan+Strumpf made all of this available through the viewing room on the website, which was a blessing as lockdown started when we were installing. So unfortunately, it was eighteen months of work and not one person saw the show in the flesh—ouch!  Although, I’m grateful to the gallery for working hard to make the show a comprehensive and entertaining experience online.

 + Farewell cultural cringe (October 26, 1993) Michael Lindeman, 2021. acrylic on canvas. 15 x 127 cm.

Flowers Of The Night | Lynda Draper
 + Seraph Lynda Draper, 2021. ceramic, various glazes. 130 x 62 x 45 cm.

Flowers of the Night

The last eighteen months were challenging but I managed to adapt and keep working towards my first solo Flowers of the Night at Sullivan+Strumpf. The body of work was installed, my vision realised, but because of lockdowns the exhibition was presented professionally online. It was impossible to fully capture the sense of scale, complexity of forms and surfaces of my ceramic sculptures without being present in the exhibition space. Fortunately, the wonderful team at Sullivan+Strumpf created a great online presentation, which included a film by the talented Simon Hewson that captured the essence of the exhibition, a series of photographs, and a catalogue essay by Naomi Riddle. I was happy with the sales; several works have found homes in some good collections including a significant art institution.

 + Flowers of the Night Lynda Draper, 2021. Installation view, Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney. dimensions variable.

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