They took all the treesPut 'em in a tree museumAnd they charged the peopleA dollar and a half just to see 'emDon't it always seem to goThat you don't know what you've gotTill it's goneThey paved paradiseAnd put up a parking lot
Surrealism was born during the lunch break between the wars, a century ago. What had become of the precious Earth, of life. Nothing made sense anymore. The bombing catastrophes of crushed homes and disfigured people. Normal life was a nightmare and people couldn’t talk openly anymore, so surrealism became a language also; a visual code.
In 2009 the NGV hosted the Dali exhibition ‘Liquid Desire’ and the most haunting and disturbing painting was Mountain Lake (1938). The painting captured the helplessness of what was coming.
The backstory was that the communications between Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister; and Adolf Hitler were cut, leading into the horrific 2nd War. Dali’s works are full of crutches, just as Melbourne artist John Brack’s shop windows, are of artificial limbs, for the war veterans that came home.
The war broke out in 1914, but before the turn of the Century the Pre-Rapaelites were encouraging people to return to nature.
What will the artists say now. Apartments have become prison cells. The health concerns are genuine, but we need to think in our isolation, where Australia will be in the future. Not just for us, but for all of us. We are not media fodder, we are an educated and intelligent community.
Armies have fought for our freedom.
The world has not been that kind to its creative minds. They are different, and when they warn, nobody listens. Our country was de-regulated when our Government was looking into its pocket, instead of the future. Property was once just a home, not a card deck for speculators; but without industry what else can we offer. We have crushed the hope of young families having a home. What is the option?
The Agenda 21 folk have an idea, I don’t think its a very good one. De-populate and put people in high rise ‘Commission’ type of flats. I personally like fresh air and a step to sit on, in a yard, with a nice tree.
Local street artist Peter Drew is looking forward to a hug.
The power of the word is omnipresent, we can all view it in unique perspectives, and although many witness it , at the same time; our moment is personal. The word ‘universe’ translates as ‘one-short phrase’. One Word, in a biblical sense created life. Words are used daily to encourage, to hurt , to build prejudice, and so forth. Advertisers use words with the motive to sell; Evangelists use words to save souls and graffiti artists use the word to engage.
Peter Drew; Adelaide born artist has plastered the country with elegant portraits of Aussie’s that enable us to question the meaning of being Australian; a concept beyond a backyard BBQ.
“When your sneaking around the City at night you feel like a kid again.”
Drew is a peace activist that pastes a sense of reason into the hearts of the commuter. A casual glance at his picture-word statements is a thought provoking experience. He recognises that the street is an equaliser and draws the spectator into a dialogue of connection. Drew questions identity and inclusion. In a hi-vis vest, the artist has plastered up to 4000 artworks with a glue bucket and a broom.
What began as local phenomena, has boomed into an International experience; his reaction has become a political dialogue. He is an Artist with a message.
The NGV is currently hosting an exhibition that highlights the rise of New York Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat whose career began with writing simple and convoluted statements on city walls, under the identity of SAMO. Influenced by Andy Warhol, the artist leapt from advertiser to agitator, using the concepts of ownership and branding in a broader concept.
Basquiat entered the art scene as an urban nomad notorious for couch-surfing and graffitiing the homes within which he stayed. With word and form the artist took ownership of the material, ownership was translucent, a tender shift from theirs to mine, with a simple C within a circle around it and it was copyright; it was his.
Within the Warhol tradition the ‘Radiant Child’ used graffiti to promote his brand and identity, the ME generation was born, already bored with life. Basquiat however, possessed a passion that his mentor lacked; a statement involving the treatment of the ‘Black People’ in American.
Mr Eternity was a media title endowed upon a graffiti artist that wrote the word ETERNITY in perfect copper plate using chalk and crayon around the streets of Sydney for over 20 years. He kept his identity secret, until he was caught in the act. On the New Years Eve of 2000, the Harbour Bridge blazed with the word ETERNITY in honour of its humble artist.
Arthur Stace was a broken man when he walked into a Church for some tea and rock cake. He was an alcoholic born into domestic violence and palmed off to foster care, he fought in WW1 and lost the mental battle. Waiting for his cake and tea he was subject to a sermon that resonated within him and he became transfixed with the concept of eternity. He left the Church in the dark and broke down into tears, beneath an urban fig tree. This was his turning point, he never drank again.
“You’ll soon be back in the gutter again.”
Local police scoffed at the ‘new man’. He was back in the gutter but this time , not to lay in it, but to save souls and feed the homeless; he was on a mission. His practice was to rise at 4am, help the homeless and graffiti the word ETERNITY though-out the City.
Australian Artist, Ben Quilty explores the depth of death, particularly murder, and the brutal assault of hastening it’s arrival. He is on tour through the desolate heartland of emptiness, an intrepid explorer, however climbing Everest is not his goal, his road leads into the deepest darkest terrains of the human experience.
“I am interested in humans”
Quilty was engaged as a War Artist for Afghanistan. The experience brought him face to face with Australians that are endlessly jeopardising their own mortality and live within a violence that has been raging for 18 years. Many have lost their lives and limbs, whist Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has gorged trenches, within the soldiers minds.
The Gallery visitor that has just had a glass of wine over lunch is taken into a war torn Earth, of shores littered with abandoned life-jackets from a fleeing population, naked soldiers shivering with PTSD and picnic spots that robbed Aboriginals of their life, dignity and history.
The crisis of war washes up on the Grecian shores, as refugees flee their homeland to find safety abroad. The refugees have left all of their belongings and donned lifejackets to cross, freezing sea’s in the black of the night. The reality of the Syrian crisis has not infiltrated the ‘connected world’ and the lack of response, drew the artist in. He intends to make the public aware of the trauma these young children are experiencing, by publishing a book of artwork by young Syrian victims.
“My work is about how to live in this world”
In his homeland, Quigley explores landscapes of the Australian Genocide against its Aboriginal population. In his Rorschach landscapes of Fairy Bower and Amata, the artist documents a howling dark presence in place of a tribal home where children would have ran happily through the trees and bathed in the waterfall and its streams.
Quilty explores humans wrecking havoc on other humans, because they can, or are obliged to, within the social framework of the current systems. Environment’s may appear inviting and innocent but Quigley examines that which is lurking beneath. There is an anger in Quiltys work, he is hurting and you must too.
Quilty is a proficient landscape and figurative artist that can morph into a nightmarish surrealism. Quilty is battling a demon much larger and more connected than he. He wants justice, the paintings are the evidence and the gallery space is the court room. Quilty has managed to captured the attention of the art public with his profound statements in thickly plastered paint.
Like Van Gogh, he uses sculptural paint and his tortured metamorphosis are in keeping with Brett Whitely and Francis Bacon.
Quilty’s has witnessed war and it has taken its toll on him, as an artist and a human he has walked amongst the disenfranchised and documents their experience. Where journalists have dropped off , the social issues, like leaves, Quilty has become Australias fourth estate, placing the news, no longer in the paper, but on the walls. Quilty challenges us to look into our own backyard.
“What it is to be human ……..Art really did matter, not to escape, but fundamentally to reflect and improve society.”S. Grishin
Sydney heavy-weight, art star Brett Whitely is ‘put in the ring’ with an obscure Melbourne, printmaker and sculptor George Baldessin at the Ian Potter, Federation Square Gallery. The shared show is ‘Parallel Visions’, however apart from sharing a generation and meeting Francis Bacon, there is very little to link them. A fairer state rival for the brash Sydney-sider, may have been the dark and menacing Peter Booth. Despite the weak link it is an excellent exhibition and for Whitely fans, the collection of his work spanning his wanderings with line and continents, is intriguing and includes the English Christie series; the American Dream and hometown Bondi and the Harbour.
The exhibition resurrects the career of Baldessin that was cut short when the artist died young in a car accident. The prints are the highlight of his work and invite the viewer to linger over the subtle details. The NGV reminds locals of an artist that could have fallen into obscurity, his work remains relevant in our generation embracing the inward, awkward Melbournian disposition.
Whiteley’ bold and confident work reads like a visual autobiography, tracing the influences and mood of the time. The Christie murders reek of Bacon’s violet influence and remains as some of his strongest work in form and colour. The American Dream that creates a (hotel) room within a room, is scarred with a haphazard spray of lipstick red, not typical of his earlier paintings. Although the area is cluttered with detail, there is a startling emptiness in the work, that may have been why the Americans rejected it; maybe it struck to close into the New York bone.
When Whitely returns to Australia he is crushed, dispirited and convicted and in need of a BEX to sooth his aching head. Lazing on the beach and staring out into the harbour restores the man and the artist, bringing forth some of his most recognisable work such as ‘Evening coming in on Sydney Harbour’ 1975. Whitely travelled far and wide, to come home with fresh eyes.
‘Summing them up as morbid or deathly, but their very primitiveness, their sledge hammer effects, reinforce this mentally; naked extreme art’
Profoundly Art-Critic G.R.Lansell is describing Peter Booths early ‘Field’ work, a slate of black and grey on a minimalist canvas however he could have been describing his later dramatic figurative art.
Although the artist’s work morphed into an entirely different style, the essence of the artist’s style was conceived.
The Field exhibition launched Melbourne’s art scene in 1968 however it was not fully embraced by the locals.
The battle between Figurative Art that was the flagship of the Melbourne art tribes such as the Reed’s at Hiede and the Boyd’s at Murumbeena, had rallied against the American influence of the exhibition. At the time the exhibition was not organically Melbourne, nor was it entirely ‘International’.
The New York art critic Clement Greenberg criticised the first NGV Contemporary exhibition as ‘ second-rate.’
The exhibition aimed at awakening a sleepy town, after the failure of the 1956 Gallery of Contemporary Art. The new NGV curator John Stringer thrust his ideas forward and imposed his stipulations on the artists; they were happy to comply as careers and reputations were being made.
In today’s climate the work stands the test of time but to mark the journey of the Abstract Movement there is no greater example than Ron Robertson’s ‘Vault’.
The Vault was placed in the City Square in 1980, twelve years after the exhibition but the local reaction marks the cultural journey of Melbourne. The sculpture received such disfavour that it was nicknamed the ‘Yellow Peril’ by journalists and removed from its place due to public demand. It was a displaced work and was thrown into the shadows until 2002 when it found its home outside the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.
Dale Hickey Malvern 67
Dale Hickey 1967
The art of The Field exhibition sits comfortably within our minimalist technological community . The ideas that may have seemed cold, isolated and sterile during the ‘flower power’ period have a greater relevance in 2018, within a world disconnecting with nature and embracing the virtual.
The Field Exhibition was the first piece of the NGV journey that began in 1968 and was 50 years before its time.
The show stopping art storm is fixated on capturing the Melbourne imagination with no expense spared, and this year it is free.
The journey starts and ends in the Moroccan coffee house but our focus is on the second floor, up the Reko Rennie elevator, an elevator that is part of the Galleries structure; not imported. From the Australian Aboriginal world, without excess to the post-communist decadance, up the spine into the heart and soul of the human mind.We arrive at the GOU PEI exhibit, a Chinese Fabric Artist that engineers her Masterpieces, stitch by stitch, bead upon bead, golden thread and a mantle of dreams. Inspired by an ancient past with dresses that would inspire the Pope. Her exhibit arrived in Melbourne, as precious as the Emperors Palace treasures and is located in the eye of the TRIENNIAL storm at the NGV.
Pei claims her work denies what it succumbs to, human vanity. Heart, soul and creativity, with a barrage of craftsmen on the floor, and this has happened before, in Dynasties past, a royal glass slipper for the ball. Rhianna , contemporary Diva, herald in the Artist at the Met Gala, formally the Costume Institute Gala, in New York.
The NGV hive, houses the Queen in an exhibition that begins in a blaze of glory.
Like Michelangelo, one can imagine that she is ripe for Vatican success.
The NGV has gone wild, Curated by Simon Maidment’s team, a wonderland passing from one installation to another, a mind altering experience of Art.
As art-life drifts out of the fringe into the mainstream an unholy alliance bridges the gap between today and tomorrow. The current stream sedating, a war brewing.
Guo Pei couture
It’s an epic bombardment, a Cultural revolution in it’s full thrust of life bordering on the ruin of decadance. Ron Mueck explores the human condition and its vulnerability in the wake of God-like delusions.
Artist, Mel O’Callaghan explores these questions through her dramatic Video Art currently on display at NGV Australia. Resistance and endurance is a rite of passage each of us will pass through eventually, a relative condition at every age.
Ensemble within the NGV space is cinematic, with life-size actors in a war-like water-battle. O’Callaghan uses the violence of the force to explore existence. It is when we let go , that life spirals and the body is swept away.
‘What a single body is capable of when enduring a voluntarily experience of duress is a powerful thing to behold’ Callaghan
Australian O’Callaghan lives in Paris and gave a live performance at the Serralves, taking it out of the dark theatre space and into the light of day.
O’Callaghan considers the body as a vehicle of ‘imposed labour’. The resistance of a ballet dancer perhaps or an underpaid worker forcing him/herself out of bed? Consider the Soldier preparing for death, or worse. Each day we battle, not to win, just to remain standing.
‘To fall, to begin again which is where the virtuous aspect comes into violence. It’s not being purely negative but rather a creative force’ O’Callaghan
Her work also relates to the Political and Economic climax point that is coming into focus.
‘…. those mounting feelings of deep despair that force acts of extremism’
Now showing within the perfect space, the deconstructive architectural venue at Fed. Square.
‘Prior to the visit I had heard plenty of favourable comments and recommendations about MONA; surprisingly they were coming from a range of people varying from art lovers to people with typically little interest in the arts. This intrigued me on the lead up to the visit. After visiting the gallery I understand its broad appeal; it’s a place where enjoyment and the experience are placed as the ultimate priority over pretension. Before any art is viewed, visitors have already been captivated by fun from the roaming roosters, kids trampoline, boat ride (dependent on arrival method), Tasmania’s oldest vineyard and the spectacular and awe-inspiring architecture – it has already been a successful venture. From here on it’s all a bonus, but it continues to intrigue with atmospheric galleries that range from tight quirky spaces to vast open areas. The art itself is diverse in its appeal with a little something to tickle everyone’s interest.’ MONA Visitor
MONA is not what you would expect regardless of all you have heard. We took ‘the journey ‘ beginning on the historic Station Pier for a Bass Straight crossing on the Spirit of Tasmania. The large window portals in the cabins gave a haunting view of the black water peeling back into white foam as the ship cut into a calm night sea. We arrived on the chilly Devonport coast at 6am with a temperature of zero.
The road to the museum of OZ has a few enchantments on the early Spring morning that perpetuate the unfolding drama of the landscape. As a typical Melbourne crew we anticipated a home-grown cuisine and strong coffees at the next town, we were mistaken, as each village was merely half a dozen rooftops and no signs that pointed us to a cafe. We regretted not dropping into the All Nice Things Bakery that beckoned from the corner, with the signed promise of a warm breakfast, if we had have known that cafes were few and far between, we would have eaten and stocked up.
Rumbling stomaches and caffeine withdrawals aside ,the natural resplendent views that the winding roads were drawing us into, satisfied the Winter frayed mind. Each scene was vast and framed within majestic snow-capped peaks. Our first stop was within the heavily mossed rainforest of the Liffey Falls , a gushing river flowing into cascading waterfalls. This area was once heavily populated by the Pattittore Aboriginal people, they held their social gatherings there, on this day there was only our small group.
The second wonder on the journey was the ice stalactites along the roadside, rain that was petrified into a dripping beauty. A short journey onward and random clumps on snow begin appearing on the side of the road unfolding into an expansive snow field amongst the lakes. Naturally a snow fight ensued.
When we arrived at OZ, or rather MONA we were expecting a Glass City, not an old Vineyard, chooks and a small building set amongst outer shed like structures. It’s appearance is provincial, as though it was being considerate of the natural beauty that encased it. The real drama was yet to come.
Moody bar within deep bedrock
Gold coin cuppa
Mona is built into the ground, not above it. The evaluator takes us deep into her interiors and we arrive at the lower floor of a towering bedrock wall, flanked by a contemporary Bar at one end and a 50’s Tea Room at the other, passing by a waterfall of words.
The current exhibition is the The Museum of Everything and although Mona is a highly contemporary venue , this exhibit invites you into wallpaper drawing-room with a random collection of worldly works and audio stories to match the vision.
Is Mona the interior of a rich persons fantastical world? – Yes
Is it Art-worthy? – Yes
Is it magnificent? – Absolutely
Catch the ‘Spirit’ and sleep in the dark waters, it’s a genuine adventure, but eat before leaving Devonport, or you will be hungry.
The tale of Aboriginal plunder is a never-ending ballad that sings in the winds of this great country, a land that Elea (Albert) Namatjira painted so lovingly in watercolour. Namatjira’s world-renowned artistic status may have provided him with a thin shield against racism but it was easily shattered, even his greatness, wealth and innocence could not protect him from incarceration.
The legend begins when Artist , Rex Battarbee took a painting trip into the Outback, after returning from the devastation of War in the 1930’s. He met Namatjira and it was through their collaboration that the 30-year-old Aranda man learnt to paint and exhibit. They went onto become lifetime friends, able to see pass the bigotry of the day.
International success took this humble man to great worldly heights, he was awarded the Coronation Medal and was the toast of the town. His exhibitions sold out shortly after they opened and most kitchens had one of his reproductions on a calendar or tea towel.
Before the 1967 Referendum, Australian Aboriginals where denied Human Constitutional Rights and were categorised as part of the wildlife or wards of the state. They were denied most basic human rights and in an insipid twist of irony could not own their land as it had been acquired by the Commonwealth.
Namatjira’s unprecedented rise on the world stage would require him to have a passport and his growing wealth attracted taxes, thus him and his wife Robina were given Australian citizenship in 1957, enabling him to buy a house in Morris Soak .
Unfortunately his children were not granted citizenship and were regarded as ‘Wards of the State’ as all Aboriginal people were. They did not have the right to choose their marriage partner, be legally responsible for their own children,to change location or socialise with non-aboriginals. It also meant that when the Great Artist and his wife died the Legal Will that aimed to financially protect their children was made void as his children belonged to the state. Their financial copyright royalties were ‘acquired’ by the state and sold on.
The Namatjira Project began as an objective to buy back the royalties (which will expire shortly) but has become a legal investigation.
The most moving part of the film is when Namatjira’s homeless grandson gives his artwork to the Queen in her palace and walks away empty-handed. The documentary is a thoughtful journey, full of beautiful archives and an artistic vision, they tip toe over a mine field but I think they have let off a bomb.
*Due to the humane efforts of The Namatjira Project, the Royalties have been returned.
Another victory in justice for the family
The Namatjira Family continue the water-colour tradition as their cultural inheritance.
A Message from the Family
It is a with a heavy heart that we write to let you know that our dear friend and watercolour artist of true talent, Kumantjai K Namatjira has passed away. On Saturday afternoon 3rd November in Alice Springs Hospital, he bid farewell, surrounded by family. One year after his cousin, Kumantjai L Namatjira, and 5 years after meeting The Queen at Buckingham Palace.
by April Forward
THE NAMATJIRA PROJECT
DIRECTOR & CINEMATOGRAPHER Sera Davies
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS (CULTURAL)
Art is language and in many countries pictures are a part of dialogue. The inviting interiors of Cue, De Souza, Hughes and Selleck examine the priorities of pretext and invite interactive, participation. The exhibition moves away from traditional painting and allows a multi-media vioce.
Let’s meet the ART
Living Room, 2016
The Living room, sets an exotic stage for a classical diva in what appears like an ancient setting. The bold artwork seems to have a Cubist influence with an early Century twist. Both powerful and beautiful, the photographic work ,an inkjet on rag-paper, is a central work in the exhibition.
Lapin Plague, 2016
This is an engaging installation, on many levels, firstly it invites you into it. It is a homely domestic scene with what appears to be, occupied by small rabbits. On closer examination the (heated) rabbit skins have no heads, therefore they are not alive. ‘Outside of the cage’, it would appear that the rabbits and humans are enjoying a shared space and when you touch the skins they are robust and warm, but they are not.
KEG DE SOUZA
We built this city
This impressive structure is made from salvaged tents and plaid laundry bags. Within the interior is a communal area with milk crates to sit on and books on the history of the Tent Embassy in Canberra. Coming off the main ‘room’ are an array of small tent rooms. It is the perfect Festival space, providing your guests have house manners, better than a Tipi because there are rooms, however a tad flammable.
The concept of tribe and tent and engaging in the environment as opposed to destroying it, is an old age concept, in Western Culture according to the old testament, the Christian/ Jewish God lived in a tent.
The added beauty whist in the tent is listening to the haunting sound of traditional Fado singers, from the outside film by Jacobus Capon that examines memories of a home gone. The Australian factor is that we came as refugees, yet our memories resonate. Are we adapting or are we all in a state of diaspora.
Forgiving night for day.
Multiple films projected onto the Art Gallery wall are of lone characters watching the dawn above the rooftops of Lisbon, Portugal. Capone examines the state of nostalgia. It is an absorbing work, visually engaging as the sound-scape floods the skies above the sleeping town.
All of Your Women and Some of Mine, 2016
An interior space with a strong Mattise influence, using decorative abstract contrasts in colour and pattern, appearing like a digital construct..
Exotica (Mid Century Modern)
Albert’s political comment on the state of our country as an ashtray, is in dire contrast of the pristine land that was taken from its previous owners.
‘Albert has developed a universal language that seeks to rewrite historical mistruths and injustice.’
The Long Kiss Goodbye
‘The winning work of art is titled Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye and brings together personal remnants of Contos’ practice from the last four years’. Contos was awarded $100,000 for this mixed medium collaged ‘quilt’.
Includes kangaroos, koalas, bike hire, pick ups from Adelaide and a stack more.
“It’s always been about sharing stories, identity loss and grief, determination , imagination , self belief, cultural integrity, hope and justice, reliance , cultural pride, and more than anything it’s about my people’s survival of spirit.” Hill
Noongar woman, Sandra Hill was a stolen Aboriginal child that was forced into foster care at the age of seven by the Australian Government due to the Assimilation Policy that was still active in 1958. Four children were removed from their mother’s house, they included her self , her two sisters and a brother. They were the 3rd generation of children removed from this family line.
‘In 1994 Hill was employed as the Aboriginal Community Cultural Officer. During this period she applied for, and was awarded, a Creative Development Fellowship from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. This afforded her the time to carry out research relating to her life experiences as a member of the Stolen Generations’ (extract from Design & Art Australia on-line)
Hill’s work is held in many private collections and is also represented in Major Art Galleries throughout Australia, currently her mixed media work “Beyond the Pale’ is on display at the NGV Ian Potter Gallery at Federation Square in the Australian Art Exhibition. She explores domestic labor as part of the ‘Assimilation Project’.
In the past, Domestic colleges were set up to train poor white girls and ‘half-caste’ Aboriginal children to attend to the needs of the wealthy.
‘In the early issues of Home Beautiful there was a feeling of nostalgia for the passing of an age in which almost everyone in the middle and upper classes could afford to keep a live-in maid. Even at the turn of the century , architects and designers were discussing the ‘servant problem’ and trying to come up with ways to help women face a future without servants’The Australian Home Beautiful, from Hills Hoist to High Rise.
ref: page 73, Household Help: The Servant Problem. The Australian Home Beautiful from Hills Hoist to High Rise Hardie Grant Books Oliver J.
It’s fascinating to imagine that female convicts on ships to Australia, were sewing beautiful quilts. They were leaving heavily populated cobble streets and embarking on a tour into the wild unknown.It was a place where currency was rum, women were few and some unthinkable dark terrors took place.The unfree made free and the free made unfree.
This quilt was created by the women on board the Rajah in 1841, they were taught by Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker reformer.
‘The Australian quilting tradition developed in response to a unique set of factors that sets it apart from other quilting traditions internationally.’ NGV
There was the odd sailor that picked up a needle and thread and made his own quilt.
This example is a work of Art, an intricate geometric design, with a contemporary feel. The beauty of the quilt is that it is also functional. The time poured over the work creates a meditative element that transfers an emotional or spiritual quality to the work.
During WW1 and WW2, ‘quilts were a means of rallying support’.
To this day, some churches still create quilts to place over the unwell. The quilt can also serve as an historical piece, recording the members of a congregation, club or school.
Some stitched a bit of wisdom to guide the next generation.
The charming Westbury quilt was created by a Tasmanian family, it was intended to be a raffle prize. Its a mix of British domestic influence and Australiana.
Others competed to be the ‘craziest’ of the ‘crazy quilt’ fashion, that was the sewing movement at a time, when European Art was shaking off the shackles of the past. The British settlers had no cultural roots in Australia, they could push the boundaries of traditional Arts.
Some caught the eye of the galleries to be immortalised. Mothers often sewed quilts for their children or were given to them by a loving friend or family member. Mary Jane Hannford’s ‘Goodnight Quilt’ was made for her 11 year old grandson.
‘The subject matter of Hannafords quilt includes patriotism, religious faith, the love of Australian wildlife and the marking of key family events’
Some works were sewed roughly, not for beauty or art but for warmth. The gathering of discarded clothes, recycled into a rug. The perfect art for Depression and War when materials are few and patience is limited.
‘real rag bag waggas, hessian bags or patchwork-covered army blankets, but still rich in the memories embedded in their cloth.’ Annette Gero
It’s a pictoral exploration into our past, through fabric. Mostly, but not exclusively a womens history. Sewing groups were also social and community acts. It’s an engaging exhibition.
Rapid urban development cast’s new shadows on the streets of old St Kilda, yet shreds of its artistic culture remain.
106 Barkley Street has been Tamar Dolev’s studio for 8 years, she uses ‘found’ objects to create. Each surface and shape is carefully considered before being morphed into the voice of the quietly spoken Artist.
The works are bursting with wild vitality, shes uses colour like an electric force, there is a vibrant sense of movement and emotion similar to that of Aboriginal Artist HU Wedge.
HJ Wedge 2002 Sea Rights too
Dolev also enjoys the effects of shadows.
“Whatever wall it goes on, the piece changes. if it’s a blue or black wall, it adds and evolves by the shadows it makes.”
Self Portrait 2015 is full of holes, it is a chameleon blending into its environment. It is partly her and partly the surroundings, that dictate its nature.
‘Billy’s Adventure’ 2015, is a long narrow work that invites the eye to travel through the composition as a narrative. The concept of an art piece outside the ‘eye of a camera’ explores our natural visage, a technique familiar to Chinese scrolls.
Dolev’s journeys are captured in her haunting silent photography of the place outside.
Both of her parents are Architects and her fascination with buildings seeps into her art. She is currently pre-occupied with her sculptures of dwellings made from bay-side spillage.
Artists Studio Gallery / 106 Barkly St, St Kilda; next to Mirka Mora lane.
During war years, the Melbourne art scene dragged itself away from the safe bush scenes and began making social comments through expressive art. Urban hardships were the realities of the day, and the war brought home Surreal experiences. The struggle for survival opened up a marginal void, that the new bohemia were ready to fill. Eccentric aristocrats were the lifeblood of Melbourne Artists during the new Modern Movement. There were two major camps that drew in the cream of new art. The Reeds established a shelter for artists at Heide, in Heidelberg and Meric Boyd’s ‘Open Country’, in Murrumbeena, challenged the status quo.
Both had an open door policy for emerging artists; Meric Boyd built a kiln on the property and encouraged his children to be active in the hub that gathered there. The kiln would eventually fire-up Arthur Boyd and John Perceval’s, emotive and provocative sculptures.
John Percival The Acrobat Angel
Perceval; The Acrobat Angel : Boyd; 30 Pieces of silver
Boyd’s style grew in Open Country but manifested in the South Melbourne paintings. During the dark war years, he suffered from a depression.Like Perceval he saw the depravity of urban life and drew upon motifs that would be symbols to became part of his pictorial dialogue.
‘the man in wheelchair, the cripple on crutches, the tormented naked lovers, the beast, the chimney stacks and the gargoyles.’ Sasha Grishin
Boyd, Percival and Tucker explored the moral decline brought on by the American troops stationed in Melbourne; the confronting work does not shrink from climate of prostitution in the City. England sent Australian troops to India to guard its riches and the Americans stepped in to protect our land and befriend it’s women.
Albert Tucker Victory Girls 1943
The Reeds harboured Sidney Nolan as he avoided military duty and the Kelly series expressed his new outlaw status.Nolan was Sunday’s prize bull, she wanted Europe to embrace him, but the modern world rarely looked our way.
Joy Hester was coaxed and chastised by the wilful Sunday and she would occasionally slip over the river to the Boyd’s camp. Tucker would have a love/hate relationship with the Heide crew, as his personal involvement with Hester intensified.Their Love Child Sweeny, brought Mike Brown into the brood during the later years.
The Reeds were determined for Melbourne to be the capital of figurative art and hoped to expel the growing appeal of the American movement of Abstract Expressionism.The 1959, Antipodean Exhibition drew in artists from other camps who signed and battled over the direction of Melbourne Art. John Brack supported the figurative art stance but withdrew from the show due to the politics. He had avoided the ‘hot-bed of art groups and shared a studio with his life long friend, and fellow artist Fred Williams.
During the war years the Paris Art scene was kept in darkness. American Abstract Expressionists stole the limelight, it could have been the Australian figurative movement and for good or bad, it could have led world art into the heart of Melbourne. It was a radical and unique period in art history.
The other major art groups in early Melbourne were Dunmoochin which included Clifton Pugh and John Olsen. Montsalvat was set up by Justus Jorgensen and drew strongly from European influences, particularly in its architecture.The town was relatively young and most of the artists had studied and knew each other through the Gallery Art School.
Mirka Mora arrived in Melbourne, like many immigrants, her family was escaping the persecutions and atrocities of the war. Local artists frequented the Mirka coffee shop and Mora flirted between Heide and Open Country camps.She sewed a dress for Sunday and her children played amongst the Boyd’s kilns. She supported Joy Hester by exhibiting her on the café walls and as her families hospitality businesses grew, so did her presence as an Artist.
Mirka Cafe opening
Charles Blackman was a regular customer at Mora’s cafe, the family had a reputation for supporting and feeding local artists.Despite the energy and personal finances Art Patrons offered, the artists knew that they would have to leave Australia to further their careers. The public enjoyed modern housing,appliances and clothes but they were closed to new ideas and clung onto Colonial Art.
Open Country at Murrumbeena
‘In 1963 after having achieved a degree of recognition and financial security, Percival and his family joined the general exodus of artists and left Australia.’ Sasha Grishin
Boyd had already moved his family to England. Open Country was torn down, to make way for a block of flats.
Banner Photo Athur Boyd butterfly Man 1943
John Brack NGV 2009; p156
Australian Surrealism and its Echoes NGV 2015; p70
The Heart Garden Sunday Reed and Heide Janine Burke Vintage 2004
Australian Art A History, Grishan S, The Miegunyah Press,2015; p333-347
Crowds gathered around NGV International on the crisp cool Saturday night, to enjoy the White Night projections. The mood was relaxed as the audience waited for the remains of the day, to become night.
The projection used the entire space of the facade, a perfect blank canvas for award-winning artist Josh Muir. Emma Donovan and James Henry provided the haunting soundscape, it was a flawless collaboration. Still Here was a visual feast with a political edge.
It began with a bird flying peacefully across the building, followed by an eruption of circular abstract formations, representing creation. The new scene was of Aboriginal men on the beach, with a catch, as the women sat in circles, chatting.
On the horizon, crosses that symbolised the coming of a new culture, draw closer and a storm thunders down, closing the curtains on that era.
In the new scene ,the landscape is less sympathetic, however the newly clothed Aboriginal people continue on with family life. A white van drives down a road to a family sitting together. A white man comes out of the van and pulls the child away, the parents fight the intruder but they are over powered. The child is put into the van and driven off. The mother wails as the father collapses with despair.
There is a shocked murmur in the audience.
“They are taking the kids” is voiced throughout the large gathering.
In the next scene City life has taken over, trams ‘ding’ and cars roar by. It was a blatant statement. Muir was evoking the viewer through the power of Art. It was stunning.
‘I am a proud Yorta Yorta/ Gunditjmara man, born and living in Ballarat, Victoria. I hold my culture strong to my heart – it gives me a voice and a great sense of my identity. When I look around, I see empires built on aboriginal land. I cannot physically change or shift this, though I can make the most of my culture in a contemporary setting and use my art projects to address current issues of reconciliation.’ WhiteNightMelbourne
If you saw no other projection, White Night Melbourne was a great success.
Other Aboriginal Artists represented on White Night Melbourne were Reko Reno at Federation Square and Pitch Makin Fellas, a group work at The Exhibition Buildings.
“To celebrate the works that neighbours have done.”
The evolution of Art is a process that requires, curiosity, appreciation, skill and patronage. Not every person that attempts art will be apt in its curly concepts, many will find that the creative pursuit is an end, in itself. The banal and the grand begin at the same place, which is the opportunity to access it. Many regional art centres throughout Victoria are seeking a cultural voice, the most well known are Castlemaine, the Yarra Valley, Ballarat, Daylesford and Bendigo.
Local artists in Nathalia (Nth Victoria) were working in isolation before the local art centre forged an artistic hub. William Kelly a local artist had suffered violent neighbourhoods in his past and sought to unite the township together through art. It’s a functional non-for profit Art Centre and it has become the focal point of creative energy in the region. They have tried to engage every person in the community and encouraged them to participate in the workshops.
‘I hope you realise what you have achieved
Because it’s fairly plain to me,
Your introducing culture! God forbid, have you no shame!
What was wrong with up the pub, getting full as a boot?
The beer, the blood, the spit on the walls….
…………….the gardens are full of sculpture!’ (Poet, Tammy Muir)
The G.R.A.I.N store gallery and workshop, opens its doors to all in the community who are willing to explore their creativity. They do not discriminate and in this melting pot of Art and Craft, originality can rise to the surface. They invite school children and the elderly to be involved. The early involvement of local children in cultural projects ensures future growth of the Arts in the region. Locals are offered a space to explore their ability in a non-threatening, appreciative environment.
The culture has changed from being sceptical of art and its artists, to becoming active in its progress. The Regional Arts Council claims it has become a model project. Patron of the Arts, Bernie Ryan (4th generation dairy farmer) supports local artists and provides a gallery space. He commissions work from his local art pool and has enhanced the creative strength of the area. He believes that most patrons in Australia over fund sport and neglect the Arts.
Original Artists that have been nourished by the community include Linden Lancaster and Bella Angyal. They have forged a path that leads back to future artists in the area.
Linden Lancaster was applying Nathalia landscape into her quilts, creating visual pieces that few saw until she showed her work in the local G.R.A.I.N.store windows. She is now an international success. She applies 3 layers to produce multi-dimensional and textural work, through material collage. Her landscapes are reminiscent of Hockney’s later work but her palette is fabric and her brush is a needle
Bella Angyal, a self-taught artist, depicted stark realism through sculpture. His statues are erected in the town centre. His war sculpture ‘Mateship’ depicts the trauma of violence; his ‘heroes’ are local lads struggling through travesty. It’s the excessive detail that gives the work its haunting reality.
All forms of Art, Craft, Music and Poetry, are supported by the Centre. They invite international talent into the town to give talks and workshops that provide a means of access through exposure. The art seed has germinated in Nathalia, it has all the support networks necessary to allow it to develop.
“You do what you think will make the world a better place” Artist Veronica Kelly claims.
Top image: from AQC 2015 Quilt Show/The Letter by Linden Lancaster
When Sunday Baillieu walked out of Toorak and into the arms of emerging Australian Artists, she forsook society to dwell with bohemia. It’s not easy, to move from one class to another within a single generation. The artists may have regarded her as bourgeois but her old neighbours had labeled her a communist. She was an idealist, a task master, a romantic and art critic. Heide was her home and she welcomed artists to reside there.
Sunday and John Reed championed major artists such as Sidney Nolan, Charles Blackman, Mirka Mora, Joy Hester, John Perceval, Albert Tucker, Moya Dyring, Sam Atyeo and Mike Brown. They founded the Angry Penguins Literary magazine in an effort to evoke a response from the disinterested city.
The Reeds supported and bought emerging Melbourne and Australian art. They were overly possessive of the artists they supported but they took their task seriously. They flew the flag for Australian Art and they paid for it with Baillieu cash.
Today the twisted path Melbourne artists walk is barbed with opportunists and a sleepy audience.
Melbourne’s current Art culture is in crisis. Galleries charge artists to exhibit and the costs are high, few artists can afford to pay the weekly $1000 costs and then the 20-40% commission. For those that can afford to pay ,there is no guarantee of an effective marketing strategy. Most exhibitions draw other artists and few attract genuine patrons. At the end of a two-week exhibition the gallery stands to make profits even if no purchases were made. The artist is broke.
Australian artists rely on the generous support of philanthropist, collectors and galleys that do not charge their talent to exhibit.
Albert Tucker talks about his time with Sunday Reed at Hiede.