Neil Ernest Tomkins, ‘Corner of Wampana Road’, 2023, acrylic on linen, 90.5 x 120.5cm

THERE ARE very few events capable of bringing the who’s who of Australia’s art world together quite like Sydney Contemporary. In 10 years, it hasn’t just grown into the country’s premier modern art fair, but one of the Asia-Pacific’s most exciting cultural events. Like many of life’s most captivating things, it’s here for a good time, not a long time—the fair is taking over Sydney’s Carriageworks from September 7th to 10th—yet this year’s edition will be the largest to date, with the work of more than 500 artists and 96 galleries taking part.

Serious collectors and curators will be trawling the halls, looking for works by early career artists and established names alike. But the coolest thing about Sydney Contemporary is that anyone can go. If you want a vibe-check on the state of Australian art right now, and modern art more broadly, trust us: this is the place to do it.

Needless to say, the whole spectacle is a lot to take in (on opening night, I needed a Campari Spritz and a sit down after an hour of walking around, and I’d probably only covered a quarter of the fair). So, to advise us on some of the most exciting early career artists whose work you can see (and, indeed, purchase) at Sydney Contemporary, we spoke with Susan Armstrong and Michelle Grey of Arts-Matter, a pioneering Australian arts membership platform dedicated to connecting local creatives from diverse backgrounds, and shaping culture in the process.

Below, Armstrong and Grey tell us about six artists whose work and ethos they find compelling, and who are destined for big things here and abroad. You can view pieces by these artists and 494 more at Sydney Contemporary all weekend. We’ll see you at the Campari bar after.

/ Adam Parker Smith

Adam Parker Smith, ‘Contrapposto Pool Float (Tiffany Blue)’, 2023.
Adam Parker Smith. Photograph courtesy of the artist and Piermarq.

“Adam Parker Smith’s work challenges conventional artistic boundaries, blending humor and the surreal to create thought-provoking and visually arresting pieces. His innovative use of materials and techniques pushes the boundaries of traditional art, offering viewers a fresh perspective on contemporary artistry. With a penchant for creating immersive experiences and pushing the limits of artistic expression, Adam Parker Smith’s work consistently captivates and inspires audiences worldwide.”


/ Jack Lanagan Dunbar

Jack Lanagan Dunbar, ‘Shell’, 2023.
Jack Lanagan Dunbar. Image courtesy of the artist and COMA, Sydney.

“Jack Lanagan Dunbar’s work explores the tension between materiality and time with an eye on history, whimsy, archaeology, the classical, romantisicm, humour and tragedy. He works across media, typically incorporating elements of drawing, painting, printing, sculpture and photography in his pieces, often imposing them upon one another.  His individual pieces are best described as ‘vignettes’—brief but intense expressions of ideas drawn from contemporary, historical and mythological sources. When shown together the vignettes produce more complex sequences or chains of meaning that vary in character and potency from viewer to viewer; unique, flickering odes to the ancient, pan-cultural tradition of storytelling.”


/ Cybele Cox

Cybele Cox, ‘Capitoline Baubo’, 2023.
Cybele Cox. Photography: Jessica Mauer

“Cybele Cox’s ceramic sculptures are meticulously crafted, dreamlike worlds often feature whimsical characters and surreal landscapes, inviting viewers into a captivating realm of imagination and fantasy. Cox’s artistic technique is exceptionally detailed and masterful, creating a sense of wonder and intrigue that keeps collectors coming back for more. Her ability to transport audiences to these ethereal realms makes her work a source of joy and fascination, offering a delightful escape from the everyday and a unique perspective on the limitless possibilities of art.”


/ Matt Bromhead

Matt Bromhead, ‘Captains Table’, 2023.
Matt Bromhead. Photography courtesy of the artist and Olsen Gallery.

“The work by artist Matt Bromhead encapsulates a profound exploration of the human psyche and emotional depth. His intricate and emotionally charged paintings delve into the complexities of the human experience, inviting viewers to reflect on their own emotions and vulnerabilities. Bromhead’s use of color and texture creates a visceral and captivating visual language that draws viewers into his narratives, sparking a deep connection with his art. Moreover, his ability to convey universal themes through his unique and highly personal style makes his work both relatable and artistically compelling, contributing to the excitement and intrigue it generates in the art world.”


/ Zara June Williams

Zara June WIlliams, ‘Hypnopompia’, 2023.
Zara June WIlliams. Photography courtesy of the artist.

“Zara June Williams’ innovative approach seamlessly blends traditional and contemporary techniques to create visually striking and emotionally resonant works. Her ability to convey complex narratives and emotions through her art invites viewers to engage deeply with her pieces, fostering a meaningful connection between the art and its audience. Exploring Zara June Williams’ portfolio offers a glimpse into a world of artistry that pushes boundaries and invites viewers to explore their own emotions and experiences through her captivating creations.”


/ Neil Ernest Tomkins

“Powerful and expressive, Neil Ernest Tomkins works are often called landscapes, but perhaps are more aptly described as abstracts. His use of colour arrests and surprises, his exploration of form shifts from the natural to the abstracted. Tomkins has been painting from an early age, a graduate of Sydney Collage of the Arts he has maintained an active drive towards his art practice and creative pursuits. Through landscape painting, Tomkins explores ideas of spirituality, physical and emotional displacement, and shamanism. With a ritualistic approach to painting offset by frantic impulses of gesture, Tomkins provides a dynamic reinvention of the traditions within landscape painting.”


Neil Ernest Tomkins, ‘Corner of Wampana Road’, 2023.

Learn more about Arts-Matter’s membership program here.