UNSW Art & Design graduate, Chloé Wolifson, is a busy woman. Last year alone, she conducted 49 interviews, transcribed endless hours of audio material, published 33,565 words, wrote 60 articles, curated 1 exhibition, facilitated 5 panel discussions, worked with 12 clients, and attended 5 art fairs. And that was before she wrote an auction catalogue for leading New Zealand artist, Shane Cotton, and undertook a residency at Redfern’s Bearded Tit to develop the exhibition ANIMAL/MINERAL/PHYSICAL/SPIRITUAL.

Now she’s won the Dominik Mersch Gallery (DMG) Curator Award. While relatively new (the prize was established in 2015), it’s become an award much sought after by emerging curators – the reason being that the winning curator gets to stage an ambitious show based on his or her own research interests wholly supported by an established commercial gallery – the Dominik Mersch Gallery. As a result, many elements required to ensure an exhibition is successful – a good space with display and lighting options, availability of technical and install staff, professional marketing, catering, etc – are simply guaranteed.

From the perspective of Dominik Mersch himself, the award ensures that the gallery is able to uphold standards of exhibition-excellency but is also able to explore “new territory for the gallery and its artists in the realms of curatorial practice in a commercial gallery setting”.

All award applicants are required create an original concept (in line with the DMG ethos of supporting challenging artists at the forefront of contemporary art); determine a list of artists and specific artworks to be shown and reasons why; make recommendations for speakers or additional activities that would support the proposal’s core themes; provide a detailed budget including transportation and insurance costs; and draft ways in which the gallery space would best be used considering the artworks involved. Wolifson’s proposal was according to Mersch, “outstanding in all areas”.  

Working with the thematic and title of ‘tensions/translations/transitions’, Wolifson nominated 6 artists to be in her show. They include Melbourne based-artist, Jon Cattapan, known for urban narrative paintings and what he calls “manifestations of the urban psyche”; renowned Sydney-based artist, Janet Laurence, who explores “art, science, imagination, memory and loss” through installation and immersive environments; artist, curator, and researcher at UNSW Art & Design, Anna McMahon, who makes small and large-scale plant-based and themed artworks; Mathew McWilliams, best known for his photographic explorations of the colours blue, green, pink, white and black; photomedia artist, Emily Sandrussi, who layers fragmented strips of images in abstract horizontal formats, what she terms “the domino theory”; and Charlie Sofo, an artist interested in the incidentals of life and makes what are often described as “whimsical” artworks in the mediums of sculpture, video, performance, text and drawing.

The goal in bringing together these 6 practitioners according to Wolifson is to reveal “physical and psychological markers and layers to evoke the tensions, translations and transitions occurring in our relationships with space and place.”

Tensions/translations/transitions is on display at Dominik Mersch Gallery from 5 May - 28 May, 2016