Welcome to the latest instalment in our series of Member Profiles, where we get to know our Contemporaries a little better. Sharne Wolff is an arts writer and former lawyer who is based in Lennox Head in the Northern Rivers, but visits Sydney regularly for a combination of work, family and of course, Contemporaries events. As well as writing regular columns for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Art Life, Sharne is a keen cyclist and avid walker and is writing a thesis on artists who walk.


How would you explain your occupation to someone from a different industry?
When I heard your question, I immediately thought of the internet meme, ‘What people think I do/What I actually do’. Those about writers always seem to end with a picture of someone surfing the internet or banging their head on the desk. Sometimes the reality isn’t that much different – although somewhere in between is the exciting part. I see numerous exhibitions, talk to artists, curators and gallery owners, and do lots of research – all of which I love. I’m also writing a Masters thesis – so multiply that by two.

What’s your favourite thing about Sydney, and what would you change about it if you could?
Perhaps it’s because I haven’t lived in Sydney permanently for over 20 years, but I’m a huge fan of Sydney (and cities generally). In particular, I’ve noticed the greening of the inner city villages. Even the traffic doesn’t bother me much because I generally walk or use public transport. I always enjoy walking around and looking at all the things I missed when I lived here. Two of my kids live here so that’s also big drawcard.

In recent years, I’ve had a bit more freedom to move, so for me there’s nothing better than the contrast of swimming at Byron in the morning and having a glass of wine in a Kings Cross laneway later the same day. While on the subject, I’m glad to see that the lockout laws are currently being scrutinised. A few changes to the current system would definitely improve things.

What made you decide to turn your passion for art into a career?
It’s a career? I suppose it is. But it’s a second career for me. I’ve been a practising lawyer for 30 years on the 4th of July this year. My art writing is totally accidental although I think was probably meant to be… I grew up in a small town without much exposure to art but when I moved back to Sydney to attend university, the whole world opened up. It was only much later that I started studying art history, began writing reviews, was commissioned to write essays and so on.

Do you have a favourite gallery, museum or theatre?
Tricky question – I have lots of favourite galleries. My favourites are those who are welcoming, make everyone feel comfortable and enjoy sharing their enthusiasm for the artists they represent. Of the big institutions, it’s Carriageworks that’s doing some really interesting and edgy shows. In theatre, I’d have to go for any of NORPA’s homegrown Northern Rivers productions – they’re the best regional theatre company in Australia (and I’m not biased).

If you had $5000 to spend on art right now, what would you buy?
Right now? You couldn’t go past Heath Franco’s latest video work, Home Town Two and something from Kenny Pittock’s A series of self poor traits [both showing at Galerie Pompom at the time of interview] because if you bought those two works you’d be doing fabulously and still have plenty left to spend. Glenn Barkley’s crazy pots are also well within the price bracket. If it’s still unsold, I’d probably also buy a work by Will French that I’ve been chasing for years and, given the money, if I didn’t buy a new ceramic piece from my artist friend Amanda Bromfield (who has several upcoming shows) she’d never forgive me.

What event on the Contemporaries calendar have you most enjoyed, or which are you most looking forward to?
The terrace house for Tamara Dean’s recent show in Paddington was such a terrific setting for her work – it would be hard to top. On the other hand, there’s nothing better than visiting an artist in their studio. Also, one of the reasons we joined Contemporaries was to attend the event in Orange later in the year – I haven’t been there in way too long so I’m hoping we can make it.

If someone wants to start a conversation with you at the next event, what should they ask?
Ask me anything – then try and shut me up!