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  • Fiona Prior

William Yang PARTY (verb) and Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2019

William Yang Party (verb) and Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2019

A weekend in Sydney of mixed wonders.

I was privileged to be the ‘+1’ of a dear friend at the ‘William Yang PARTY (verb)’, a photographic exhibition and event at Sydney Opera House last Saturday night.

image (detail): courtesy of the photographer William Yang

PARTY (verb)’ was homage to life, dance parties and love compete with DJs and the diminutive Yang (on stage) giving a guided tour – by way of his intimate images – of the party period from late 70’s to the present day. Yang’s work records the iconic queer underground’s halcyon party nights, revelry and togetherness.

To note was that this was an evening that snapshot (quite literally) the emergence of Sydneys gay scene parties from pre-AIDS, through to the present day where Wang’s later period images snap the antics of all-girl parties that are as high octane as the boys!

At times beautiful, at times sexy and at times squalid, Yang noted that for a period young men were working in gay owned businesses on Oxford Street (Sydney), partying there and living in all male houses in the vicinity (such as the legendary ‘Ponderosa’ where another dear friend resided for a period). This virtually closed system – a model found in so many of the world’s great cities – was possibly one of the many contributors to the AIDS virus gutting the gay community so tragically. Yang noted that in this period people frequently learnt the hard way and far too late that sex had become something that could be both ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’.

As you can imagine the night was as sad as it was joyful and the packed auditorium responded genuinely and emotionally to the images and the anecdotes.

The extraordinary creativity of those early parties, the wit, talent (and heartbreak) are in this treasure trove of historical and cultural coverage.

And the photos of my friend? Beautiful! So proud of her!


On Sunday I went with one of my favourite men (my nephew) to the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes exhibition at Art Gallery of New South Wales 2019.

image: 'Yeah the Boys, Wollonging Boys' courtesy of the artist and Art Gallery of New South Wales

Definitely better than last years in my humble opinion, my stand out piece was Sulman Prize entrant Paul Ryan’s ‘Yeah the Boys, Wollongong Boys’ A great snapshot of the confusion and sadness of contemporary life, I immediately thought of all those angry young men of varied cultural persuasions – not quite sure of who they are or should be - who are such easy targets for less-than-honourable political and religious forces.

image: ‘Tjuparntarri – women’s business’ courtesy of the artist and Art Gallery of New South Wales

My handsome companion selected David Darcy’s magnificent ‘Tjuparntarri – women’s business’ as his pick of the Archibald; the strength and nobility of Daisy Tjuparnntarri gaze unmissable and eloquent among many high calibre portraits in this year's contenders.

Art Gallery of New South Wales

Until 8 September 2019

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