NotFair: Faith in Australian Artists

From 20 to 30 May 2021 ‘NotFair’ will celebrate its tenth anniversary as an alternative art fair. On view in Melbourne, the exhibition will showcase 32 artists who Founders and Curators Sam Leach, Tony Lloyd and Ashley Crawford deem under-represented, but worthy of our attention.

NotFair presents art in intriguing locations; this time around we are invited to explore the Kardinia Church, Windsor, a former community hall and place of worship. This year’s theme ‘Leap of Faith’ is not entirely a reference to the location, it points to the creativity in adversity artists have shown in the past year with the advent of the pandemic. Works are for sale in person and on their website priced $200 up to $15,000, with most at the affordable end of that range.

We spoke with Leach and Crawford ahead of the opening of this special event.

Simon Attwooll, As seen, another Bull sculpture

Why do we all need to see ‘a leap of faith’ visualised?
Ashley Crawford: Well, the reasons are fairly obvious – we’ve been through almost Biblical times just in Australia alone – floods, fires and most recently plague. Obviously, the art world has suffered in numerous ways, not just here, but globally.

But although the setting is a former place of worship, our ‘Leap of Faith’ was more in the gesture of support for the artists on show who have taken their own leap of faith by simply choosing the perilous career of being a visual artist. Their ‘faith’ in their own skills, resilience and persistence.

Do you think the pandemic has influenced the artists on view to change course in their practice or have they focussed on the core value of why they make art?
Sam Leach: Every artist has responded differently. For some, it has been a period of introspection and revision, resulting in some new experimental directions. But for a lot of artists used to working long solo hours in the studio, the last year has actually meant less time is free to make work and more time has been taken up caring for family and home-schooling children. So for some artists there has been a pause in production.

Looking at the works that have come to us for this show, we can see themes of people exploring inner landscapes, and a surprisingly colourful, upbeat and exuberant output.

Laetitia Olivier-Gargano, Sometimes when I feel empty, I eat a second breakfast.

How have you worked with your unique venue and have there been hurdles?
AC: Every NotFair has its hurdles. Our last venue was a deserted margarine factory which was a nightmare to convert into a functioning exhibition space. This is a former church and community centre – the biggest pain was dismantling a giant kids play set.

Can you give one example of a stand-out artist/work and why you feel this way?
SL: For me it must be Nicholas Burridge. I did not know much about his practice before the show, but seeing the work installed and understanding how it is was made has been really fascinating. He works with volcanic stone, suspending it, working with it and even melting it back into magma and allowing the rock to re-form. So much of Victoria is a volcanic landscape, active in the comparatively recent past. Burridge’s work makes us think about deep time, and also how something as seemingly permanent as rock is really just matter in an ongoing state of transformation. It helps us to remember that 2020 was no more than a blip!

Nicholas Burridge, Dragline

Aside from your theme, are there any unexpected ideas that have emerged as a trend in your group of artists?
AC:  In what seems to be an increasingly black and white world in terms of politics and social inequality there is a strong sense of colour – almost hallucinogenic and psychedelic in tone – in many of our artists’ works. There’s both beauty and the beastly on show. NotFair is deliberately never curated as a thematic creature.

What advice do you have to an artist who feels ‘under-represented’?
SL: Keep working. Keep looking for opportunities to show work – you don’t need to feel limited to the commercial gallery system, or even the network of artist run spaces.  Keep in touch with artists you admire or who you think your work relates to. On the whole artists are surprisingly friendly, and most of our recommendations come from other artists.

Keep your powder dry, gird your loins – it can be a long haul. Befriend other artists, they supply the perfect support group – Ashley Crawford.

Experiencing NotFair is a great idea for an art lover. Can you suggest some other tips for growing a collection?
AC: As easy as it may be don’t get trapped into dealing with a singular gallery or consultant. Take time to work out what’s really your own personal aesthetic and hunt from there. Visit a broad array of outlets – not just the ‘blue chip’ galleries.

Please don’t buy art by living artists from auctions, it is much nicer to support artists directly by buying from them or their gallery if they have one. The main thing is to buy things you like or find interesting. I have visited the homes of many art collectors and the most exciting collections are often the most idiosyncratic and eclectic – Sam Leach.

Jack Rowland, Alice

Images: Simon Attwooll, As seen, another Bull sculpture, 2021, Silver gelatin print of artist eyes recessed in found cmyk printed postcard framed in it’s own image screen printed on museum board 175x125mm, Photo courtesy of the artist; Laetitia Olivier-Gargano, Sometimes when I feel empty, I eat a second breakfast., 2020 , Cast resin, Dimensions variable, Photo courtesy of the artist; Nicholas Burridge, Dragline, 2021, Basalt, volcanic glass, steel cable, mild steel, bearings, bronze counterweight, Photo credit: Nicholas Burridge and Jack Rowland, Alice, 2016, Oil on linen, 100cm x 140cm, Photo courtesy of the artist