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
The award-winning Architect, Enrico Taglietti, created his Brutalist building for the St Kilda Library, with the aim of it to be
“a place where people feel more alive’.
The St Kilda Library’s bold and embracing architecture is a place of respite within the busy clutter of Carlisle Street. The building invites its visitors to sit on the ledges, gather in its courtyards and participate in the experience of the creative word.
Italian born, Mr Taglietti is one of the country’s national treasures and winner of Australia’s most prestigious Architectural award, the RAIA Gold Medal in 2007. The St Kilda library is one of his earlier works and was officially opened May 14 1973. The St Kilda library promotion committee was established in 1951 to rally support for its erection. Sheer determination paved the way through episodes that could have derailed the project on several occasions.
In 1954, Twelve Councillors refused to give the city a free library.
‘I rely on you ladies to get the councillors wives on our side’ quoted The Angus in its December issue 1954.
As Mr Taglettis prominence as an important Australian Architect grows, examples of his work become highly valued. Builders, M. Notkin Construction of South Caulfield, were appointed to construct the building which cost $417,000 at the time, the current price of an apartment in the area. The Brutalist design is a contemporary period piece of 1960-70’s architecture and within the interior, a mural by Mirka Mora adds to the artistic collateral of the project.
“Visitors may then be able to relax around coffee tables, admiring or criticizing displays of paintings…Mr Taglietti wrote in his original proposal.
The architect planned for the building to be used as a refuge.The public are sheltered within its thick walls and can linger in its quiet Japanese courtyards. The outside world keeps its noisy distance. Warm timber ceilings contrast the cool grey concrete that is sculptured into a solid earthy structure. The lofty outdoor roof provide shade and shelter as people gather beneath it on the massive trapezoidal walls ledges to chat or access the Wi Fi.
The Australian Library Journal of 1973 claimed that the building was ‘handsome and visually exciting’
The building has since been renovated to cater for the expanding community, without consultingTagletti, The changes to the building include a side entrance and a new front section. The original counter was situated under an elevated roof with a skylight, in what is now the middle of the building. The new front section is expansive and moulded into the shape of a book. The changes are admired and appreciated by some but not all.
Mr Taglietti was not impressed, he was baffled as to why he was not consulted or at least notified of alterations to the original building. The Architect claimed that the entry was a key aspect. Mr Taglietti was disappointed and hoped plans were being made to return it to its original state.
“They totally disregarded the original’ Mr Tagletti claimed in an exclusive interview.
The entrance courtyard was to be “the nucleus” of the design. This area has since been built over despite the council overlay that regards the building as significant and claimed that the front , including the original air conditioner tower was ‘ integral to the design’.
Mr Tagletti said that “it was a shame’
“There should be protection of my moral right in that building, it should have been recognised by another”. He claimed in a tone of sheer disappointment.
Mr. Tagletti came to Australia to break away from the confines of tradition in Europe and explore vivid modern constructions. He has designed the Dickson Library, the Italian Club, the Apostolic Nunciature, Giralang Primary School and the War Memorial Annexe, in Canberra where he resides.
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.