The Exhibitions Easing Us Into The New Year

Is there a better way to ease into a new year than in the presence of art while downing some complimentary booze? I think not.

The start of 2021 has been a little jarring, to say the least, but never fear, exhibitions are back. This January, the art world is already serving up a number of socially-distanced shows for us all to enjoy, and be simultaneously distracted and engaged by—particularly if (and when) things get weirder. As proof, here are four must-see exhibitions coming right up in Sydney.

Jerico Contemporary, Matthew Graeme Johnson ‘With Altitude’, 2020

Anna Harrison & Matthew Graeme Johnson, Stillness Is A Fiction, Jerico Contemporary

On Thursday 14th of January, Jerico Contemporary will open their first collaborative exhibition with Australian artists Anna Harrison and Matthew Graeme Johnson, Stillness Is A Fiction. Bringing together Harrison’s poetic translations of Johnson’s abstract photographs of sunlight on the ocean’s surface, the show illuminates how the written word and natural world are inherently tethered to one another. Viewing the ocean as a repository for universal language, Harrison has responded to each of Johnson’s works with four of her own. In turn, Johnson has reflected her interpretations in the titles of his series; two perspectives swirl together as one. To attend the exhibition opening on Thursday from 5 to 8 pm, register online at, or drop in to see the show until Saturday 30th of January.

JD Reforma, Acid Mantle

JD Reforma, Acid Mantle, COMA Gallery

Taking skincare products out of bathroom cabinets and onto gallery walls is what JD Reforma’s Acid Mantle is all about. Opening at COMA Gallery on Friday 15th January from 6 to 8 pm and continuing through to Saturday 13th February, the exhibition examines the rituals and economies of beauty through a series of new paintings and installations. The ‘acid mantle’ describes the fine, acidic veil of oils, lipids, amino and fatty acids on the surface of human skin that acts to preserve the skin’s microbiome. This slippery barrier mustn’t be disturbed, protected at all costs by rigorous, commercialised skincare routines that promote skin-whitening, tanning and anti-ageing properties. Exploring this threatening notion, Reforma uses skincare products and ingredients known for their efficacy—specifically papaya soap, coconuts, and silk—to create a dialogue about the inner and outer thresholds our bodies navigate.

Christopher Ulutupu, Treadmill (2021), from the series New Kid in Town. Commissioned by Cement Fondu and supported by Creative NZ

​Christopher Ulutupu x Lizzie Fitch & Ryan Trecartin, Attention Tourist, Cement Fondu

When you hear the word ‘tourist’, the mind instantly goes to velcro, Google Maps, and the phrase ‘it’s practical’. But, it also evokes the idea of discovery. Exploring the concept of new encounters, Cement Fondu presents their first joint exhibition of the year with emerging Samoan Aotearoa artist Christopher Ulutupu and US artistic duo Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin, Attention Tourist. Despite their differing aesthetics, the artist’s works create a dialogue around the construction of identity in relationship to place. Looking at themes of colonisation and tourism, a video series by Ulutupu titled New Kid In Town considers first encounters between travellers and Pacific Islanders, while his cinematic trio T​he Romantic Picturesque: The Postcard Trilogy observes exoticised tourist postcards from the 1900s. Shown alongside are selected works by Fitch & Trecartin, who observe the outdoors and jabbering characters within it, through their signature style of frenetic filmmaking. Playing with surreal scenarios and exaggerated impersonations of cultural stereotypes, Attention Tourist is on from Saturday 16th January through to Sunday 7th March 2020.

Chevron Hassett, Head in the clouds, Artspace

Chevron Hassett, Head in the clouds, Artspace

First recognised for his powerful portraits and breathtaking landscape photographs, Wellington-based, Aotearoa multidisciplinary artist Chevron Hassett brings his solo exhibition Head in the clouds to Artspace from Friday 16th January to Sunday 7th February. Drawing on recent global events including the topping of colonial statues, the Black Lives Matter movements, Indigenous land protests and marking 250 years since the arrival of James Cook to the Pacific, Hassett presents two new works that respond to the histories of these significant colonial events and reclamation of identity through themes of hope and resistance. With the heart of his practice firmly community orientated, stemming from the Māori foundation of whanaungatanga (sense of connection and relationships within communities), the artist explores the interrelatedness of both individual and collective experiences.

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