Archive for April, 2016

Sydney tenor colossus James Ryan’s Sonic Mayhem Orchestra has been committing sonic mayhem every Monday night at Marrickville’s Lazybones lounge since… well almost since Captain Cook invaded Australia.

Much of their new album, LIVE MAYHEM, was recorded there (bar 2 tunes recorded over at Surry Hills’ 505) and the album captures the Orchestra’s intensity and power probably better than any studio effort possibly could. Possibly? Definitely.

Opening with one of my favourite Ryan charts, ‘Frogs’ with its ribbetting horn counterpoint lines, the Sonic Mayhem Orchestra rolls out its mission statement: tough, funky and sharp, with plenty of smart colour in the arrangements and an embarrassment of Sydney’s best and brightest players in the ranks. Mayhem regular Aaron Michael’s tenor break jumps with the kind of joy this band brings out in its soloists and audiences alike. Nic Cecire’s drum feature takes us way out to Cecireland and back again – cool!


‘Frogs’ has that big-shouldered toughness and plenty of mid-range grunt that recalls any Mingus big band and some of Basie’s more funk-soaked moments. It is a unique and thrilling sound that is all across LIVE MAYHEM.

The Trish Delaney-Brown led ‘Sunshine’s Out’ shows Ryan’s more soul-jazz side. In Delaney-Brown he has the perfect voice for the Mayhem band – not the little-girl voice, too pretty for the bruised indigos of the horns, but a grown, worldly woman-voice, one of happy and sad and all the gospel colours in between.

The be-bopping titled ‘Ba Ba Do Beep’ is just that – a bop thrill ride at eye-watering tempo. The soloists fly in its slipstream – Adrian Keevil’s Bud Powell spray, Simon Ferenci and Kim Lawson’s horns eating it up. The ensemble passages are chops-busters but chops are what these players have for breakfast. Seeing this music played live is edge-of-your-seat stuff – but this recording comes excitingly close enough for me. sonicmayhem2

Ryan’s Spanish flavoured arrangement of Hoagy’s (Ray’s?) ‘Georgia’ stuck in my mind from a Blue Beat gig a couple of years back. Some tunes are too beautiful to mess with and I thought this was one of them, until I heard this chart. Dave Panichi’s trom solo rides the arc up and the arc down as perfectly as Delaney-Brown sings the sweet ol’ (reharmonised) melody. Make sure you check it out.

Ah, Paul Cutlan, that national treasure; he never lets any of us down. His bass clarinet feature over the top of the humid colours of the Mayhem band’s ‘Bess, You is My Woman Now’ is a thing of wonder – aching, arching, questioning, almost-answering, laughing, sobbing.

The Apple iPhone takes great pictures, and it apparently records pretty good sound – judging by ‘Hey Which Way’ which was recorded here on altoist Kim Lawson’s iPhone (seriously). Thank you Steve Jobs (and mastering engineer Michael Lynch), for it is a stunning performance. Beginning with James Ryan stretching and exploring the baritone horn – á la Hamiett Bluiett – he is soon joined by Lawson’s alto in a twin solo that coils and rubs and dances until the band joins them.

Sydney is blessed to have more than our share of unique jazz orchestras – think the Ethiopia-via-Newtown boogie of he Sirens, the sophisticated jazz classicism of Jenna Cave’s Divergence band. LIVE MAYHEM is more than a document of the toughness and smart writing of James Ryan’s Sonic Mayhem Orchestra. Like all truly worthwhile live albums it stands on its own as a valid document of this unique ensemble.


Published April 2016 on






Dirk Kruithof is a Sydney artist whose work really zinged my eye the first time I saw it. I was struck by the raw emotion coming off the pictures; I loved their Punk skin. There was a directness which lay over (or under) the layers of possibly poetries in the works – a directness that called for a response by city dwellers to their urban environment, just as Kruithof responds to his. It was real.

Prior to Kruithof’s first solo show in a while – ‘City of Illusion’ at Christie Cotter on April 6, I asked him six questions.




John Hardaker: Dirk, your work strikes me as being highly reflective of your environment, with signs and buildings and graffiti-like scrawls, the urban environment.

Dirk Kruithof: That’s a pretty accurate reading – A big part of my work has that urban environment theme going on: I go for walks around my area (Darlinghurst) and surrounding suburbs and get ideas for paintings – sometimes I’ll take a photo or 2 to remember ideas, or I just see things and keep it in my mind ’til I get back home to paint. Something as simple as liking the combination of textures and colours on a wall that’s been graffitied, or seeing a real-estate sign with ludicrous text like: ‘Exclusive authentic warehouse living, only $900,000.’ This sparks many ideas for me. I take this everyday imagery which I then recycle and recombine in my paintings. If I wanted to sound more pretentious I could describe myself as a Flaneur, wandering poetically around the city getting inspired. I often find physical material on these walks too, boards paint canvases etc on the street which I take home to use. So thematically and physically it all comes from the street, Images and materials, which is a neat little circle. Hey I may even get a grant going with that angle.

The other element to the work (which still relates to the urban environment) is that I use consumerist symbols – (bar-codes, QR codes) and icons from online and social media. They all become architectural elements I use to ‘build’ the painting.

Dirk Kruithof 'Sunset' acrylic on calico, 2015

Dirk Kruithof ‘Sunset’ acrylic on calico, 2015

JH: Would you say it has a Pop sensibility – are you heavily influenced by Pop artists past and present – or are you reacting as an individual set of eyes, ears and nerve endings?

DK: I’ve described my work as Abstract-Pop / Post-grunge / Signwriter Expressionism (!!) and yes I owe quite a debt to Pop Art. Perhaps the more messy or anarchic American and European pop artists have influenced me: Kippenberger and Polke, Rauschenberg, Wool, Basquiat and earlier artists like Schwitters. I share the same love-hate relationship to culture and advertising that Pop has, plus the use of text. The collage technique of taking things from here and there – hoarding and re-combining images is a classic Pop technique, all the way.

I feel like I’m increasingly ‘commenting’ in the work now, analysing or critiquing these things that I’m taking from here and there.


JH: There seems to be anger among the playfulness in your work. What makes you angry?

Dirk Kruithof 'Facial Recognition (skull)' acrylic, oil on canvas, 2015

Dirk Kruithof ‘Facial Recognition (skull)’ acrylic, oil on canvas, 2015

DK: The anger in my work and in particular in this show ‘City of Illusion‘ is mostly to do with the stresses and frustrations of daily city life, often related to how expensive or restrictive things are (that’s Sydney for you). Perhaps my heckling, griping or gonzo commenting is more a quizzical or bemused confused anger than rage. To give an idea: in this show there’s a painting called ‘Big bad rent time‘ (pretty self-explanatory really!) Another that has ‘Billion dollar sunset over re-development city‘ written on it, and another ‘Connect, complain, entertain‘ which is like an inspirational / motivational quote for cynics. Another piece ‘Welcome to Sydney‘ is an oblique comment on the anti-culture sentiment Sydney seems to be undergoing – lock out laws and noise complaints. In that painting I’ve used beer-bottle tops for a frame. I’m railing against what appears to be the increasing attempt to tame this cities vibrancy. I think we should have an event called ‘Art Year‘, art all year round, every year. One viewer said of my work ‘It’s political but I’m not sure what it’s saying‘. I like that ambiguity too. I hope I’m not preaching too much in the work. Ultimately the painting has to work as an interesting image, regardless of my intentions of meaning. The anger is a bit of a front or persona I like to exploit in my work too, I’d like to be the Mark E Smith of painting.


JH: You told me that someone viewing your work once said you should have been a signwriter. Why the text?

DK: Ha ha, yes that’s right! Some of the work in this show I’ve stripped right back to painting just text and nothing else so they are kind of ‘signs’. Why text? Well I can’t be the ONLY contemporary painter not using text!!!  But I’m allowed to because I invented text-art back in the year 2000 at art school. Seriously though, being a huge fan of serial texters Basquiat and Christopher Wool really influenced my work. Also whilst studying I became interested in the work of Adam Cullen who would often have bits of text sprayed alongside the creepy figures in his paintings – seemingly unrelated text and image that you’d then create your own connection between. Sometimes he’d use a quote or a song lyric or title, something out of context against the image. I really liked this strange collage-like effect, it was kind of like the text was a separate disembodied voice commenting on the image at times. These influences as well as advertising and now increasingly social media, where you get bombarded with things like a picture of a sunset or rainbow with some inane inspirational / motivational quote over the top . This combination of things has got me hooked on persevering with making my own word pictures.

Dirk Kruithof 'Entertainity (24/7 Troll)' acrylic, oil, enamel on canvas 2016

Dirk Kruithof ‘Entertainity (24/7 Troll)’ acrylic, oil, enamel on canvas 2016


JH: Dirk, is your show at Chrissie Cotter a significant one for you?

DK: Yes this show is significant for me, it’ll be my biggest show to date. I’m really looking forward to getting my new work out there and getting everyone’s feedback. I’m building on artistic themes and momentum that has been slowly gathering for me over the past 5 years or so. I participated in ‘The Other Art Fair’ in Sept last year and this is my first show since then, and my first solo show in 2 and 1/2 years so I’m rearing to go. Chrissie Cotter is a great gallery because it’s a large community-minded space and is not prohibitively expensive like so many art galleries in inner Sydney.


JH: What can we expect to see at CITY OF ILLUSION at Chrissie Cotter?

DK: ‘City of Illusion’ is the culmination of several years’ work exploring the theme of the urban environment, about 25 mixed media paintings in all, many of them using recycled / reclaimed or found materials. A few of the works feature the use of textas/markers but mostly acrylic paint, oils, and enamels are the mediums used. A large number of the works feature extensive use of words and bright colours. There will be a short live music performance on opening night, and drinks. All works for sale reasonably priced. Everyone welcome. Mention ‘Art Month’ and you can pay double for any artwork.


Dirk Kruithof Solo Art Exhibition – City of Illusion.

Chrissie Cotter Gallery, Pidcock Street Camperdown.

6 – 17 April, 2016.

Gallery Hours: 11am – 4pm Wednesday to Sunday.


Published March 2016 on