Up-and-coming artists on show at Primavera

Liz Hobday |

There’s some compelling recent evidence of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s annual Primavera show as a predictor of artistic success.

A few months after Julia Gutman’s work was hung in the 2022 showcase of work by artists under 35, she went on to win the Archibald Prize.

“Primavera is really that next step for a lot of these artists,” says 2023 curator Talia Smith.

“It’s leading them into that next part of their careers, so I do think it’s an incredibly important exhibition.”

So, who knows what might be just around the corner for this year’s crop of emerging talent.

The 2023 edition of Primavera in Sydney includes installation, video, painting, sculpture, and text, with a theme of protest, perseverance, and reimagining.

The six artists on show come from around Australia, with works from Victorians Moorina Bonini and Nikki Lam, NSW artist Tiyan Baker, Queenslanders Sarah Poulgrain and Christopher Bassi and Truc Truong from South Australia.

Bassi uses the techniques and composition of the old masters in his series of nine oils depicting shell monuments, but these paintings are indeed a reimagining for the Meriam and Yupungathi painter.

Bassi uses the audience’s broad familiarity with the tropes of western painting to talk about his Cape York and Torres Strait Islander history and culture.

The paintings become a way for the artist to insert himself and his culture into a western art history that did not include him, Smith told AAP.

“It has a mass appeal, but it’s still punchy and strong and has a really big message,” she said.

As well as being quietly political, the images are elegant too.

“They’re just stunningly beautiful and warm and rich, you can almost feel the heat from northern Queensland area coming from them,” said Smith.

Born in Brisbane, Bassi has to connect with his family in north Queensland across a great distance, and he sees the ocean, along with the shells he uses to represent it, as a way of bridging that gap.

The paintings are also an engagement with the ways history is constructed through monuments and images, Bassi told AAP.

While painting them, he found some of the shell constructions began to take on other forms, such as chalices or crosses, or even anthropomorphic human forms.

Primavera is in its 32nd year, and runs at the Museum of Contemporary Art until February 2024.