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THINGS WE LOVE | Olivia Mai - The Arty issue

We love discovering new artists both locally and internationally. Olivia Mai is one artist here in Australia who's work we really admire. Its fun, quirky and full of colour. Which is exactly the ray of sunshine Olivia is in person.

Having featured her work on the Benah blog before we invited Olivia to share Ten artists she is loving right now to celebrate Sydney Art Month. We love what she has come up with, along with her witty and honest comments.

one. Bill Viola : The Messenger

When I was asked to compile a list for Benah's arty Top Ten, this was the first work I thought of. I was 17, had just finished high school, and very naive when I saw The Messenger at the Art Gallery of NSW. Up until then, I thought water boring: only good for washing and drinking. Who knew watching this man's naked body gently floating closer and closer awash with ripples and flurries of air bubbles could be so calming? I finally understood the cathartic power of water.

Liam Stevens is probably my favourite artist right now. His work, particularly his Shapebook series, gives me that warm feeling. Even looking at it now, with its perfect marriage of shape, colour, and space, I am a bit in love again. There are bits pointy, wavy, straight, round, thick, thin, big, small all working together to make something harmonious and whole. I find the idea of harmony fascinating because trying to achieve it in my own work takes hours of shuffling around dozens of magazine cut-outs before they start becoming friends. Liam Stevens' elements look like they have known each other for years.

Malin Gabriella Nordin's Vacation collages is another series that gives me warm feelings. Just look at it and marvel in its splendour! I love this series for the same reasons I love Liam Stevens' Shapebook: another jumble of shapes made harmonious (with the added bonus of some luxe silky waves).

I find Elizabeth Peyton's paintings appealing because her subjects are the scruffy, couldn't-care-less, Brit-pop-era idols of my youth. They are young and androgynous with dreamy eyes, pointy chin, and small mouth. I want to stroke their hair and high cheekbones and tell them everything is going to be okay but they would probably just push me off and call me a weirdo.

This is a bit embarrassing but I only discovered David Hockney after reading Matilda Tristram's funny comic about his exhibition at the Royal Academy of the Arts last year. I liked Matilda's reproductions of this man's paintings so much I just had to look him up. David Hockney? Sounds familiar. Oh, he is, like, only one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century (according to Wikipedia)! 

six. Zhong Chen

One day on the way to work, a pixelated painting of a Chinese girl reading a book stopped me mid-stride. Why? I think it was because there are few depictions of Asians in art in my everyday life so I was surprised and because this girl was painted in warm pinks and blues and was very beautiful. I asked the gallery owner about the work and that is how I found out about Zhong Chen. This painting (above) was a finalist for The Archibald Prize in 2011. When I first saw it, I giggled at its childish brushstrokes, the size of the horse and its slightly panicked eyes, and because I was reminded of a photograph from my childhood where I too had two black buns in my hair.
seven. Gavin Hurley

I had just seen a documentary about Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, the unassuming New York art collectors, in 2011 and I was telling a friend about them and he told me he recently bought an art work by Gavin Hurley and I should take a look at his new exhibition. So I went and was pretty much blown away because I am not sure if you can tell but I love paper-based works, lots of colour and shape, and portraits. Did you see how he disguised a join at the eye as crows feet? How about the detail in the hair and definition of the jawline? Amazing.

This William Edmonds is quite something. I know his illustrations and work with Nous Vous and have some of his risographs but now he is making ceramics? Some wow, indeed!

nine. Fumi Koike

Do you know I like paintings of interiors too? There is something very comforting about Fumi Koike's work. I would love to come home after a hard day's slog to a clean kitchen and friendly dog. Have you seen her illustrations of food and jumpers? Comfort city! 

ten. Ken Done

You are probably rolling your eyes and stifling sniggers but, come on, everyone gets a little choked up at the sight of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge and no one captures their glory quite like Ken Done. There, I said it. 

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