Adrienne Doig. What do we want? 2020 (detail) created for Archie Plus 2020. Adrienne Doig
Archie Plus
26 September 2020 – 10 January 2021

 This spring and summer, alongside the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes exhibition, the Art Gallery of New South Wales celebrates people, portraiture and the power of community with Archie Plus, a free program of art, music, performance, spoken word and dance that marks a year of challenge and change and pays tribute to the acts of care, support and human resilience that have lifted, protected and inspired us during 2020.

For Archie Plus, the Gallery is working with New South Wales-based artists, performers and community collaborators to create vibrant alternative experiences of portraiture in many different media. Artists in the program include Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Angela Tiatia, Studio A, L-FRESH The LION and Nardean.  The Archie Plus offerings will be revealed in many Gallery spaces across a three-month period, with the first appearing on September 26 when the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes exhibition opens. Some of the artists and performers will make work onsite at the Gallery, allowing visitors to follow their creative process.

 Director of the Art Gallery of NSW Michael Brand said Archie Plus builds on the responsiveness of the Gallery’s online social project Together In Art, with artists reflecting on the shared experience of the past year and what might lie ahead for us.

 “Through art, performance, song, dance and words, the Archie Plus program creates a portrait of our local artist community in action, a portrait of a year, and a portrait of a city whose strength lies in its diversity.

 Archie Plus emphasises the particular spirit, humour, energy and heart of art made in difficult times. Expect to encounter moments of joy, reflection and provocation as we come together to reconnect and discover the power of a collective creative voice,” Brand said.

Highlights from the first month of Archie Plus:

 From 26 September, visitors will be greeted at the front steps of the Gallery by the Archie Plus youth-led takeover of the building banners. Children from the Asylum Seekers Centre and – working with Sydney artist Abdul Abdullah – students from Plunkett Street Public School in neighbouring Woolloomooloo have created the ebullient and imaginative banner designs. Featuring self-portraits and masks made during artist-led workshops, the banners reveal the hopes and concerns of the children and their imagined super-powers to help them confront a challenging world.

In October, artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran welcomes visitors to the Gallery with an exuberant party of guardian and protector figures in the Gallery’s historical entrance vestibule, titled Avatar Towers. Nithiyendran has created more than 60 sculptures in bronze and clay, their polymorphous bodies embellished with luscious glazes in super-charged colours. Inspired in part by the Gallery’s Asian art collections, Avatar Towers combines humour with reverence. A key concept is the double-sided figure, which gestures to both past and future, beginnings and endings. Nithiyendran’s work appears alongside two important historical sculptures from the Gallery’s collection, selected by the artist as a reflection of his connections to Hindu and Buddhist cultures.

Messages of hope, messages of love. 2020 is a major new public artwork by artist Michaela Gleave, which will be projected from the roof of the Gallery as part of Archie Plus. For three consecutive evenings, a ring of searchlights will brighten the night skies of Sydney with Morse code messages to connect the community in socially distanced times.

 Gleave’s work will be composed of messages submitted by the public via the Together In Art website during an open call from 14 to 27 September. From these submissions, Gleave will arrange selected messages to form a collective tribute that will be beamed across physical and digital space. Messages of hope, messages of love will be on view in the sky above the Gallery and via a live webcam stream accompanied by text translations on Together In Art on the evenings of 16, 17 and 18 October.

What do we want? 2020, a mural created by artist Adrienne Doig will be on display as part of Archie Plus from 26 September. Created from painted cardboard cut-outs and cherished second-hand textiles enlarged digitally across 25 metres, the mural tells the story of 2020 through Doig’s eyes. Combining sharp wit with a generous spirit, What do we want? is a playful and polemical portrait of the artist and her community. Giving heroic scale to everyday events, Doig’s work is a nod to the friends, colleagues, Gallery staff, and people she met through her Together In Art toilet paper roll doll project project in April. For Doig, this year of social distancing has also been a rare chance to explore what we want together.

 Also coming up in the Archie Plus program:

 New additions to the Archie Plus project will appear across October, November and December, among them ‘pocket exhibitions’ on timely themes such as healthcare, tenderness and resilience, and displays of portraits from the collection, by artists including Richard Lewer, Peter Drew and Francis Upritchard, which resonate with the shared experience of 2020.

 An alternative label trail will offer fresh perspectives on dozens of portraits from the collection, while Sentient Portraits, a series of audio projects created with Aboriginal artists, will offer an understanding of self as expressed through Country as well as culture. Major mural projects and an innovative program of dance, music and spoken word will also be announced in October.

 Visit the Gallery website for further information and follow the Archie Plus journey via Together In Art and the Gallery’s social channels to see artists at work, go behind the scenes with installation of projects and catch live commentary from curators, artists and performers

 Michaela Gleave’s Messages of hope, messages of love 2020 is supported by the City of Sydney and the NSW Government through Create NSW.

 Many of the Archie Plus artist projects are supported by the Gallery’s generous donors.

Featured image : Artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran at work on his project for Archie Plus at Parramatta Artist Studios in Rydalmere. August 2020. Pic Diana Panuccio AGNSW