Cool Hunter Predictions: Sarah Contos

Working across a variety of media including sculpture, collage, painting and installation, Sarah Contos employs an intimate emotional framework to explore broader narratives of desire.

Words: Chloé Wolifson

2014 was a series of successes for Sydney-based Sarah Contos. As the year kicked off the artist’s work was already on display at Heide Museum of Modern Art in Victoria as part of Future Primitive alongside the work of noted artists including Mikala Dwyer, Fiona Hall and Ricky Swallow. This was closely followed by a solo exhibition Shadowboxing at Gallery 9 in Sydney, where the artist showcased a body of work which included her trademark mix of found and craft materials.

In May, curator Melissa Loughnan included Contos in a five-person exhibition at Sydney’s Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. The artist’s background in theatre design informed an installation that included standing and hanging sculptures and quilted relief work infused with sexual overtones. Roslyn Oxley9 announced its representation of the artist soon after, bringing her into the gallery’s stable of local and international art world heavyweights including Yayoi Kusama, Lindy Lee, Tracey Moffatt, and the late Rosalie Gascoigne.

Working across a variety of media including sculpture, collage, painting and installation, Contos employs an intimate emotional framework to explore broader narratives of desire. She reclaims the objectified female body by incorporating sensual, erotic and fetishist elements with a tongue-in-cheek approach.

Visitors to Melbourne’s Spring 1883 art fair in August experienced a site-specific sculptural installation by Contos in Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery’s Windsor Hotel suite. With curtains drawn, lights down low and a fire burning on the flat-screen, the artist’s cheeky take on the hotel’s elaborate décor was unforgettable, inviting viewers into a deeply immersive theatrical setting that revealed a careful consideration of the space.

Contos was also included in the prestigious 2014 NSW Visual Arts Fellowship (Emerging) at Artspace in Sydney. The title of the installation, Just Another Manic Monday, reflected the sometimes joyful, sometimes feverish conglomeration of elements in Contos’s work. Sequinned door snakes surrounded screen-printed collaged figures in kinky poses, illuminated by the soft glow of lamps incorporated into freestanding and suspended sculptures.

Contos is undoubtedly one to watch in the coming year and if the last 12 months are anything to go by, it seems that curators, gallerists and collectors alike have already cottoned on.

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 71, JAN – MAR 2015. 

Image: Sarah Contos, Just Another Manic Monday, 2014. Installation views, 2014 NSW Visual Arts Fellowship (emerging) exhibition, Artspace, 2014. COURTESY: THE ARTIST AND ROSLYN OXLEY9 GALLERY, SYDNEY.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Jamie O’Connell: 23-Hour Party person

In the go-go-go of our everyday lives, artist Jamie O’Connell asks, will we ever be able to stop?

Oliver Watts: Real Made Strange

Oliver Watts’ latest suite of seductive paintings explore spaces of retreat, sanctuary and exclusion in Sydney.

What’s in the Stockroom: Roslyn Oxley9

This week we visit Sydney's Roslyn Oxley9, with the eminent gallerist Roslyn Oxley.

Art Auction for FBi Radio

More than 70 of Australia’s established and emerging artists join the auction line-up.

Karla Dickens: Lost and Found

Employing anything from rusty lids and souvenir spoons to taxidermy birds and vintage fabrics, Karla Dickens unearths underlying narratives of both the tender and the traumatic.

Michael Cook: Keeping up with the Joneses

Michael Cook’s latest photographic series mines the inherent racism toward Indigenous people, and the impact of materialism on community.