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What's on in the Canberra arts scene: May 20, 2017

Wax and clay

This Way features the work of emerging ceramic artist Heidi Strachan, who graduated last year from the ANU School of Art and Design. The exhibition is the latest in Canberra Potters' exhibition awards presented annually through the ANU's Emerging Artist Support Scheme.

Heidi's strong graphic work moves between traditional hand-built vessels and wall installations and uses an eclectic mix of materials that includes clay, beeswax, charcoal, oil paint, graphite, ochre and sand. Most of the works in this exhibition reference Coppins Crossing Road and sights seen along its way but there are others where homage is paid to the traditional Korean stoneware known as Buncheong.

This year's exhibition is a departure from previous years with just one graduate selected for the award instead of a small number of graduates sharing the exhibition space. Strachan's strong works, and the large sizes of the wall pieces, take full advantage of the spaciousness of the gallery. At Watson Arts Centre until June 11. 

Distinctive voice

Internationally acclaimed musicians, pianist/composer Satoko Fujii, and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura will collaborate with the Sirens Big Band at The Street on June 2. They'll perform Fujii's extraordinary Fukushima Suite, which is a response to the 2011 nuclear catastrophe. The 2016 premiere of the piece in New York City played to a packed house.

The New York Music Daily called it a "haggardly wrenching, angry, aggressively haunting four-part work…white-knuckle intensity". Sirens Big Band is an 18 piece predominantly female ensemble that is fast becoming a major creative force in Australian improvised music. Fujii has always focussed on the special distinctive voices of her ensembles, seeing them as major elements in the overall fabric of the piece.

Playing chicken

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Canberra based mixed media artist Karyn Fearnside is showing in the FAUNAcation exhibition at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre. Sixteen local artists are challenging the viewers' perceptions of animals and how our actions cause them harm. Fearnside's work seeks to expose truths to the audience about the chicken industry in an engaging way, but without distress. She saw photos someone had taken of a poultry truck driving past and used the photographs in her work, combining photography with ink painting. She created two pieces in this fashion, Chicken Sandwich and Chicken Stock. There is a free Meet the Artist event on Saturday, May 20, at 2pm. FAUNAcation runs until May 27.

Chicken Sandwich, by Karyn Fearnside.

Chicken Sandwich, by Karyn Fearnside. Photo: Supplied

Sculpture prizewinner

Canberra artist Peter Vandermark has won the Canberra Grammar School Harris Hobbs Sculpture Prize for 2017 for his piece Conductor V. Vandermark will receive $10,000. In 2014 the original Conductor was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia. Competition was tough, the school grounds are littered with outstanding pieces for the Outdoor Sculpture Festival, which runs until June 18. But judges Neil Hobbs and Karina Harris, Deborah Clark (Senior Curator CMAG) and Denise Ferris (Head of the ANU School of Art and Design) were captured by the simplicity of the galvanised metal ducting elbows and acrylic spheres.

Julian Laffan, On the way to Salzburg, wood cut, gouache and pencil on ply, 21 x 21cm

Julian Laffan, On the way to Salzburg, wood cut, gouache and pencil on ply, 21 x 21cm Photo: Supplied

Of identity and impact

Two new exhibitions at Beaver Galleries. In Le Monde: observations of place, Julian Laffan's hand-cut and coloured woodcut paintings explore themes of history and identity. This particular series captures moments in time and are inspired by his recent travels, with the meticulously hand-cut images a direct contrast to the fleeting moment he portrays. Laffan's work is greatly admired and held in the collections of the Canberra Museum and Gallery as well as the Print Council of Australia. This is his first solo exhibition at Beaver Galleries.

In Tread Carefully, Julie Bartholomew's ceramic pieces offer "a double edged warning about the dangerous impact of meddling with the environment and simultaneously, our attempts to fix intrusions into natural cycles with scientific methods". Bartholomew has been exhibiting both nationally and internationally for more than 25 years and her work is represented in collections including the National Gallery of Australia and the WOCEK International Ceramics Collection, Korea. In February 2017 she was appointed Head of Ceramics at the Canberra School of Art and this is her first solo exhibition with Beaver Galleries. The exhibitions run until June 4.

Short takes

The 2017 Canberra Short Film Festival has introduced a new category dedicated to Indigenous films and filmmakers. CSFF director John Frohlich said he hoped to provide a platform where Indigenous Australians could tell their stories and give them the chance to have their work seen throughout the film industry.

In its 22nd year, the festival will run from September 13-17 across Dendy Cinemas, Smith's Alternative, Tuggeranong Arts Centre and Belconnen Community Centre. There are nine film categories: international, national, Canberra made, documentary, under 18s, animation, music video, two-minute film and Indigenous films. Film submissions are currently open to the public and are due by June 30, 2017. csff.com.au