The Contemporaries 2016 events calendar wrapped up on Thursday 24 November with a special evening of art and conversation with world-renowned artists, Polly Borland and Tony Clark.

Members and guests were invited to enjoy an exclusive advance preview of Borland and Clark’s highly-anticipated solo exhibitions at Sullivan + Strumpf Sydney, followed by an intimate Q&A, hosted by Gillian Serisier, where we delved a little deeper into the evolution of the artists’ individual practices and long-term collaboration and friendship.

In the main gallery space, guests viewed Clark’s Myriorama and Other Projects, a continuation of the artist’s series that he started in the 1980s based on toy consisting of a boxed set of interchangeable cards, each showing a vertical landscape view. Tony revealed that the series had become a kind of diary for him, documenting the changes in his practise as he extended and embellished the original restrictions of scale and colour he’d worked with.

“I’ve been working with these ideas for a long time, but I really feel I have nailed this particular idea with this show, and I’m very happy about that.”

Tony also reflected on the time he spent in Melbourne during the 1980s,  where the friendships and professional connections he developed with artists who are now icons of Australian contemporary culture – like the musicians Nick Cave and Ed Kuepper, the painter Howard Arkley, and of course Polly Borland – saw him involved in many interesting projects.


Exhibiting in the gallery upstairs, Polly’s first Sydney solo exhibition, Not Good at Human, was initially a project with her teenage son Louie, after the family moved to LA. The series displays Polly’s ongoing fascination with people, identity, self-image, insecurities, and the more fundamental psychologies of personality. Across the series, cocoon-like figures undergo a transformative process, producing an uncanny and raw sense of beauty. Experiencing these images is at once deeply engaging and somewhat repelling, reflected in the mixed-responses from the Contemporaries audience on the night.

“I’m fascinated by people — I love meeting them, I love photographing them, I love finding out about them. The best portraiture is when you get beneath the skin of someone, it’s psychologically revealing.”

Before focusing on art projects, Polly was best known for her commercial portraits and photographic documentary. The artist shared with the group stories about what it was like behind-the-scenes when taking photos of celebrities such as Nick Cave, Cate Blanchett, Gwendoline Christie (who is also the subject of 3 lenticular prints in Not Good at Human) and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.


The evening was a fascinating insight into the two artists’ individual practices, with members and guest enjoying the opportunity to meet the artists and socialise over drinks, courtesy of Rogue Society Gin and Lisa McGuigan Wines.

Read more about Tony and Polly’s work in our interview with the artists here.

Tony Clark’s Myriorama and Other Projects and Polly Borland’s Not Good at Human are currently showing at Sullivan + Strumpf until 23 December, 2016.