As we perch on witty designer chairs in Clinton Bradley’s cosy apartment in inner Sydney, surrounded by sculpture, video works, taxidermy and books, it’s clear that this is the home of an innate collector. Even when the now 36-year-old IT manager was growing up in Orange, New South Wales, Bradley was always collecting something – crystals, bottles, carnivorous plants. “I’ve always had that [desire] to collect, relate things to each other.” His collection embodies this sense, displaying aesthetic and conceptual links and entanglements.
Bradley moved to Sydney at age 19 and began visiting the galleries around his then home in Paddington, but didn’t start collecting until later. “The first work I ever bought was the Louise Weaver,” he says, indicating Ice stalker, a lithograph by the Melbourne artist depicting a polar bear in a sea of pink. That purchase was followed by a large Brook Andrew photograph, Parrot, which Bradley recently gifted to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Bradley’s realisation that these first works both featured animals led to his decision to only collect work that in some way references creatures.
This methodology helps to narrow down the field, but Bradley keeps his approach loose, enjoying the process. “I’ll sometimes spend a lot of time relating the work back to an animal,” he says. A mechanised spinning tyre sculpture by Marley Dawson discreetly depicts the brand’s animal mascot. Snakes get a mention in one of Agatha Gothe Snape’s ongoing PowerPoint series. Animals also feature in more prominent ways (the ears of Michael Parekowhai’s giant inflatable sculpture Cosmo McMurtry touch the ceiling in one corner of the apartment). However Bradley is currently focussed less on this aspect of his collection than on bringing together the work of a group of artists of his own generation, particularly Koji Ryui, Agatha Gothe Snape, Christopher Hanrahan, Marley Dawson, Brian Fuata and Charlie Sofo. “Where they’re at and where I’m collecting at is kind of the same pace,” says Bradley. “I’m sure it will expand as time goes by, depending on circumstances.”
The works of these artists share what Bradley terms “an accidental beauty,” a use of everyday materials realised in a pared-down elegance. Several are friends with each other and these relationships inform how Bradley sees the works and how they inhabit his home: “Marley [Dawson] and Chris [Hanrahan] are mates and their work hangs out together a lot,” he says, gesturing towards two sculptures communing nearby. “The relationships of the artists is something I really like and that builds up over time.”
Ryui’s sculptures appear throughout the home, and Bradley’s collection spans a decade of the artist’s practice. “It’s amazing to see all that together, how it relates and [has] changed.”
He points out two rhizome-like sculptures Techno Homo, 2006, constructed from straws, and a more recent acquisition, an elegant tangle of hangers. “You can tell that it’s the same DNA.”
Bradley’s advice to those contemplating starting a collection? Collect work by nice people, from nice people. The gallerists who represent Bradley’s favourite artists are “the most amazing people in the universe for me. If it wasn’t for them I could not collect at all. They’re appreciative of your support of the artists and willing to allow you the scope to collect those artists over time.” And Bradley is in it for the long haul. “At the end of the day I’d like to look back and think … even though it’s changed from where I [started], that it’s a cohesive collection.”