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July Exhibitions at Firstdraft Opening Night

  • Firstdraft 13-17 Riley Street Woolloomooloo, NSW, 2011 Australia (map)

Gallery 1 & 2

Curated by Talia Smith
Featuring zoe wong, daniel mudie cunningham, clara chon / blue blank, d.a.n.c.e art club, kenny pittock, janet lilo, natasha matila-smith, marc etherington, low cost cosplay group, raquel caballero


I started working at Gaffa gallery in 2014, while cleaning the office I discovered letters – either handwritten or typed – addressed to Australian tennis star Pat Cash. The letters came from what seemed like older European men who were either genuine fans or autograph collectors. There was this wonderful yet painful kind of earnestness from these men, they shared their lives and hopes with Pat and hoped to meet him in person one day. After some research I found that Gaffa Gallery’s address was listed in a very out of date celebrity fan club address book. I wrote back to these men, returning their money and a small note letting them know that this was no longer the fan mail address for Pat and that I had even tried to get in contact with him but to no avail (I sent him multiple messages on Twitter).

I became semi-obsessed with these letters and the men that wrote them, what drove them to send a hand written letter detailing their lives and personal stories with a few euros to an ageing ex-tennis pro?

Examining the concepts of celebrity, fandom and popular culture in art, You’re my Number 1 brings together a group of artists from Australia, New Zealand and Thailand that each respond to the current celebrity obsessed world we live in. Whether it is a real or imagined relationship or a want to belong, to be noticed and admired just as much as the idols we see on our televisions and movie screens, You’re my Number 1 will question what compels us to want to connect with celebrity and all that it entails.



Talia Smith is an artist and curator of Samoan, Cook Island and New Zealand European descent. Originally from New Zealand she is now based in Sydney, Australia. Her visual arts practice utilises the mediums of photography and video to examine the emotional and physical traces we leave behind on the landscape, the histories we build and the ruins we leave. Her curatorial practice predominantly engages with photographic and video practices, specifically those that push the boundaries of what photograph is. She has exhibited and curated shows at artist run spaces in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and New York with solo shows in both Australia and New Zealand. Smith has contributed texts to Art New Zealand magazine, catalogue essays and Auckland based publication Magasine. She is a board member of Runway Australian Experimental Art Magazine and is the founder and Co-Director of new artist run initiative Cold Cuts. Smith is 2017’s emerging curator at Firstdraft, the Critical Animals exhibition curator and will be competing a residency with Bundanon Trust in August, 2017. In 2018, Smith will be undertaking her Masters of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales.


Zoe Wong is a Sydney based emerging artist whose practice explores her Australian born, Chinese queer heritage through photography and installation. She has exhibited at Blindside Gallery in Melbourne, Gaffa Gallery and Stacks Gallery in Sydney. In 2016 Wong completed her Bachelor of Design in Photography & Situated Media (honours) at the University of Technology.


Daniel Mudie Cunningham is a picture and performance with curator blood. Active as an artist since the mid-1990s, Daniel’s practice draws upon and remixes the image streams of art history, queer politics, pop culture, performance and music through video and performance. As a child he wanted to be Bono, as an adult he got to be Tina Turner.


Blue blank is an interdisciplinary art project headed by Clara Chon, an artist based in New Zealand. With its range panning extensively from customised jackets to intricate handbags and accessories, all pieces are painstakingly produced and made by hand. Collections are released as ideas occur. Blue Blank seeks to create visually stunning and evocative pieces that blur the demarcated boundaries between fashion, art and wearability. Blue Blank has featured on international publications such as Interview, Schon! and The Fashionisto.


D.A.N.C.E. (Distinguished All Night Community Entertainers) Art Club consists of Linda T. Tanoai, Ahilapalapa Rands, Vaimaila Urale and Chris Fitzgerald. The four visual artists met while studying art at Auckland University of Technology and formed in 2008. Since then, D.A.N.C.E Art Club have staged a number of self-curated and self-funded events with a strong focus on collaborative practice. D.A.N.C.E. Art Club’s practice celebrates the social dynamic as a creative platform. Utilising themed music, entertainment and refreshments are some of the ways D.A.N.C.E Art Club encourages audiences to come together.

D.A.N.C.E Art Club’s focus on collaboration has led them to work with a number of arts organisations, including Artspace, Enjoy Art Gallery, Letting Space, Papakura Art Gallery, Snake Pit, RM and ST PAUL St Gallery. Their exhibition I Go Where the Party Takes Me was shown at James Wallace Gallery, Auckland in 2009 and Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui in 2010. In 2012, they were also invited to present a commissioned project at Next Wave Festival in Melbourne. They have also participated in The Wellington Collaboratorium, where they presented a seminar alongside New York-based collaborative artist Gregory Sholette.


Every year 133 million human babies are born, and in 1988 Kenny Pittock was one of them. In 2008 Kenny received a scholarship to complete a Diploma of Visual Art at Swinburne.
In 2009 Kenny Pittock died. (He didn’t really, he just had major spine surgery. Click on this sentence for more about that).

From 2010 to 2013 Kenny completed a four year Honours degree at the Victorian College of the Arts, and although majoring in painting he works across a large range of mediums including ceramics, drawing, text and photography.

Kenny Pittock uses humor and sentimentality to playfully respond to contemporary Australian culture, having fun with the overlaps and boundaries between the public and the personal.

Kenny is currently working full time from his studio in the Nicholas Building, in Melbourne. Click on this sentence to read an essay written about his work in 2014 by New Zealand born artist and writer Jess Johnson.

Pittock’s work is featured in many collections including the City of Melbourne State Collection and the Melbourne University Union Collection.

During the last two years Kenny has exhibited his work in many galleries including the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, the Monash University Museum of Art, Artspace in Sydney and Galleria 291 in Rome, Italy.

Pittock says “I’ve been lucky enough to show my art in some pretty amazing exhibitions, but nothing compares to the time I kicked an apple core through a basketball ring from half court using my left foot.”


Since graduating from Auckland University of Technology with a Master of Art
and Design in Visual Arts in 2006, Janet’s career has been incredibly vibrant. In 2008 she was the New Zealand delegate to the 10th Pacific Art Festival in America Samoa. Shortly after, in 2011 Janet was the recipient of the Creative New Zealand Contemporary Pacific Art Award. A diverse career including residencies and exhibiting in both group and solo shows has resulted in both a national and international presence for this community centric artist. Janet’s practice, at times localized is affected by immediate surroundings and global

Janet has exhibited in a number of group and solo exhibitions including:Shout Whisper Wail! The 2017 Chartwell Show, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2017; Status Update, Te Uru Waitakere Gallery, 2016; Hit Me With Your Best Shot (commissioned by The Physics Room) for Christchurch and Wellington City Gallery, 2013; Right of Way for the Fifth Auckland Triennial at Artspace, 2013; In Spite of Ourselves: Approaching Documentary; Contact, Frankfurter Kunstverein, 2012; Home AKL, Auckland Art Gallery, 2012; Identi-tee video, Auckland War Memorial Museum, 2012; Residents in Residence, Lopdell House (Offsite New Lynn) 2013; Auckland, Identi-tee film, Tamaki gallery, Auckland War Memorial Museum 2012; As well a number of residencies including Massey University, Wellington, 2012; Residency, Tjibaou Cultural Center, Noumea, New Caledonia, 2011; Residency, Sapporo (S-AIR) Hokkaido, Japan, 2009.


“…my ethnicity and culture is inherent in everything that I do, but it doesn’t define my artworks and art concerns. It is always something in the back of my mind and often at times, I address it directly, but for me to claim an authentic notion of Pacific-ness, Maaori-ness or European-ness, would be a lie. My practice interrogates the institution and ingrained socio-political ideas, though I always try to include a sense of satire and humour because that is just my personality. I also grew up hugely influenced by 90s pop-culture and internet culture and at the same time, I am a huge fan of Brutalist architecture and minimalist structures. A lot of my work is just me trying to navigate the World as a hybrid, faced with countless influences and muddied cultural ideas.”

Natasha Matila-Smith is an artist, writer and curator based in Auckland. She has a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Auckland(NZ). She is a self-proclaimed opportunist, changing between being a writer, curator and an artist, to lend voice to marginalised communities, some of which the artist herself belongs to. Natasha’s exhibitions include Lonely Island, Te Tuhi (2016) and this sky, too, is folding under you, Corban Estate Arts Centre, (Feb 2017), Dark Objects, The Dowse Art Museum (Mar 2017) and the upcoming group exhibition Cold Islanders, Waikato Museum (August 2017). Natasha has written for art publications Runway, Matters, Art New Zealand, Hashtag500words and Eyecontact with commissioned work for Toi Poneke Gallery and Artspace (NZ) to be released in late 2017. Her practice to date, responds to current events and happenings, and her role adapts to whatever mode is best for conveying the correlating concerns.


Marc Etherington’s works take pop culture, childhood memories and everyday domestic life as their subject matter, rendering them through a darkly humorous and sometimes absurd lens. References to Jurassic Park, Freddy Krueger, old-school video game aesthetics and boom-boxes point to experiences of coming of age in the 1980s and 1990s, while landscapes and interiors are depicted with an eye for amusing detail. Self-taught, Etherington has maintained a consistent practice in painting and small sculpture for over a decade and more recently has worked with larger scale sculptural installations and ceramics. His sculptural works touch on themes such as mass production and collectibles. Etherington’s portraits of fellow artists, Ken Done (2016) and Del Kathryn Barton (2015) have been finalists in the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery NSW. He has also exhibited in John Fries Art Award at UNSW Art & Design and The Fisher’s Ghost at Campbelltown Arts Centre (both 2014). In 2015 Etherington held a solo exhibition at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery.


Raquel Caballero is an exhibited artist, reformed librarian, and literary obsessive. Her work occupies a peculiar space between homespun craft and pop culture, merging outsider influences with celebrity fascination in unpredictable, engaging ways.


Low Cost Cosplay is a community run by a small group from Thailand. Using everyday items from around their home they recreate favourite characters, scenes and imagery from television and film. Full of humour and their tongue firmly in their cheek, Low Cost Cosplay celebrate the cosplay community abiding by the rule that 'everything is cosplay'.


Gallery 3
Emily Morandini

Source & Return is a series of artworks that explore and reimagine the materiality of electronic technologies. While most modern electronic devices obscure nearly all discernible connections to their source, they are always intertwined at multiple levels with the energies and materials of the environment. Using traditional crafting methods, cooking, and chemistry, this exhibition examines ways in which humans have engaged materials in their efforts to divine and manipulate electrical energy.

Far from the standardised, pre-packaged electronic components we are familiar with, the works in this exhibition employ craft as a means of identifying and re-examining otherwise heavily encoded technological objects. In doing so, these works bear an appreciation of the labour, resourcefulness and imagination inherent in the invention of such technologies, while also conscious of the accumulative environmental implications in regards to energy consumption, resource extraction, toxicity and waste. The artworks themselves consist of handcrafted, open, raw, functional, and hypo-functional electronic circuits using a minimal collection of substances such as fabric, rocks, salt, and minerals.

From finely sewn reproductions of digital schematics, to sounds of lightning emanating from home-cooked crystals, the works in Source & Return are the result of in-depth interrogation into the interiors of electronic technology.


Emily Morandini is a Sydney based artist, educator and researcher. Her art practice explores the junction of materials and energy, using traditional and unconventional crafting techniques to search for signal in unexpected places. Currently she is a PhD candidate at UNSW Art & Design.

She has exhibited in galleries such as Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, Campbelltown Arts Centre, 55 Sydenham Rd, Firstdraft Gallery, Gaffa, ICAN, and Canberra Contemporary Artspace. She has performed for the Underbelly Arts festival, What Is Music? festival, the NOWnow festival, and High Reflections.


Gallery 4
Holly Macdonald

Does the description ‘dysfunctional’ imply that something isn’t working? Or does it imply that something is working in ways that it shouldn’t? It is a relative term that responds to the way a thing is defined in the first place i.e. is the thing a teacup or a t-shirt or a sculpture? If the thing is undefined or ambiguous, function and dysfunction become interchangeable in positioning ourselves in relation to the thing.

Dysfunctional, the exhibition, presents as a series of trials that use conventional ceramic techniques and materials subversively in order to destroy the idea of the functional vessel. Obsolescence of function is realised by uncoiling the vessel, cutting into and away at its form, pummeling it out flat. The vessel departs the plinth, and is relocated on the wall, suspended from the ceiling, and relegated to the floor. As the clay object is deconstructed the focus shifts from form to medium, eluding definitions such as ‘bowl’, ‘vase’ or ‘cup’. Theatrical small-scale installations use humour and the absurd as exuberant strategies to implicate the vessel in its own reimagining.

In this project of redefinition, one might look to theorist (and ceramicist) Paul Mathieu who observes that, “If handmade objects have become largely useless in a practical sense, they nonetheless remain socially essential, as receptacles for the imagination and memory of humankind, memory of knowledge and experiences” (p. 125, 2007). More recently, Jenni Sorkin has looked past the ceramic object to the temporal, spatial and psychological conditions of its production. Sorkin examines the recent history of the discipline through recourse to key women practitioners whose engagement with the medium was performative, collaborative and pedagogical in nature (2016).

The impulse to redefine seems ironic, considering Dysfunctional reacts against the characteristic limitations of definition. A new set of criteria expands into the vacant space of possibility that the functional vessel previously occupied. A pause between is in order. As Albert Camus said “Avec le vide, les pleins pouvoirs” (“With the void comes unrestricted power!”) (My exclamation.)


Gogarty, A, Mireille, P & Chambers, R (eds.) 2007, ‘Object Theory’ by Paul Mathieu, in Utopic Impulses, Ronsdale Press, Vancouver, p. 111-127

Sorkin, J 2016, Live Form, University of Chicago Press, Chicago


Holly Macdonald is a maker of objects and material observations. Her art practice is founded in ceramics and combines painting, drawing, installation and hand building in clay to explore notions of memory and the uncertain nature of perception. Using the handmade ceramic object as an agent, she interrogates the relationship between process and product, touch and vision, object and image.

Holly graduated from NAS with a BFA (ceramics) in 2014. For her graduate body of work she was awarded the Sabbia Gallery Exhibition Prize and the Mansfield Ceramic Prize. Since graduating she has presented work in a number of exhibitions including in 2016 her first solo show About Place (Sabbia Gallery), group shows including Permanent Vacation (ALASKA Projects [William St]), Stuck in the Mud (Verge Gallery, Sydney), Landlines (Curve Gallery, Newcastle) and the 30th Gold Coast International Ceramic Award Exhibition. In 2016 Holly was a resident artist at Experimental Ceramics and was featured in the Thames & Hudson book ‘CLAY’. She is a board member of The Australian Ceramics Association and has contributed time and enthusiasm to organisations such as Firstdraft, Kaldor Public Art Projects and more recently West Space (Melbourne). Holly is currently completing Honours in Fine Art at RMIT, Melbourne.

Earlier Event: July 4
Abrahams & Avenaim
Later Event: July 5
SOURCE & RETURN - Emily Morandini