Tag Archives: NGV

Everything is not as it seems

GOU PEI, Chinese Fabric Artist 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.

If Melbourne wanted to grab a snatch of the Artistic cyclic pie, they are heading in the right direction. This 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. From the Australian Aboriginal world, without excess to the pre-communist decadance, up the spine into the heart and soul of the human mind.IMG_1147

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.

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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.

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.

 

Against the odds

How hard is hard? What is our mortal capacity?

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.

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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.

 

A.Forward

 

 

based on interview with Louise Paramor NGV

The Fabric Architect

“I wanted to be an Architect” Dior

French designer Christian Dior craved an artistic life as the economic world collapsed under the weight of the war machine that had eaten into Europe. He fell into the company of artists, and sought the bohemian path in the aftermath of terror. They had new hope, a brighter path, where he could be an artist or an architect and became a Fashion Designer.

Dior learnt the sophistication of simplicity through his training with designer Robert Piguet from 1937, yet his spatial designs grew out of his visual comprehension of Architecture, creating elaborate folds and abundant material to create contrasts that would highlight a slim waistline through his A-line skirts that dropped just short of the floor to make the model appear taller.

“I drew flower ladies” Dior

This return to the former traditions and the excessive indulgence of fabric angered the post-war women that had achieved a degree of independence through taking on jobs during the war that required sensible attire. Material was still rationed and his designs also mocked the practice accessibility of the ‘new look’.

“The women were very closely tailored and it wasn’t easy, there was no freedom, morally women were veering toward a freer , more equal way of being, of course 68′ proved this many years later. Dior was fastening them into inconvenience with skirts like the BON BON dress that must have used 30 meters of fabric. It was tailored to the waist……tight fitting shoulders..breasts lifted with bra and corset, the dress even had an inner frame” Pierre Cardin

Dior’s vision was a cog that sent women back to the home, as the men returned from war and re-entered the workforce. Fashion that ornamented womens figures, new kitchens and pushing prams was the road into the 1950’s. Celebrities, Royalty and Movie stars modelled his frocks and set the scene in womens magazines for women to admire and sew.

Dior designed all of the dresses worn by Marlene Dietrich in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic ‘Stagefright’.

 “So long as I have the dress I am the one who decides how long this show will run, .. and everything else(quote from movie Stagefright)

Dior did not enjoy the celebrity life, he preferred life outside of the spotlight of his Haute Couture kingdom, however his business acumen rarely failed him. Despite his success, he didn’t have a Fashion House until he was 42 years of age.

‘Australian women were among the first outside of Paris to witness, model and purchase original Dior designs. Less than a week after Dior’s dramatic debut of February 1947, articles celebrating his talent appeared in local newspapers.’ NGV

Up until the late 70’s most women could sew clothes for their families and magazines promoted dress patterns over shop purchases. Fashion designers had to be a step ahead of their acute audience and the dazzle of Dior’s complex silhouettes continued to challenge women who tried to make what few could afford. David Jones (Sydney) presented a Dior fashion parade in 1948.

The elegant French designs were tempered into frocks that marked ‘the look’ of the 50’s. As fashion relaxed in the 70’s, puffed up in the 80’s and went grunge in the 90’s, the Dior sophistication excites a retrospective desire for elegance.

During the week the NGV was wall to wall with women visiting the gallery, marking the Spring Carnival of fashion in Melbourne.

 

 

 

 

Christian Dior The Man behind the myth, Phillipe Lanfranch

 

 

 

Beyond the Pale

Australia Day tribute:

“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.

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NGV

 

 

ref: page 73, Household Help: The Servant Problem. The Australian Home Beautiful  from Hills Hoist to High Rise  Hardie Grant Books Oliver J.

Melbourne Tourist tips

For warm weather the best time to come to Melbourne is between November and April. The winters may not be as harsh as Europe or Canada but Australia is not built for cold weather, it is a beach culture. Houses are poorly insulated and the southerly winds will cut through a thin coat. Melbournians wear layers because random weather changes are expected.

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Summer, long weekends and Easter

When the sun is out the locals are basking. There is a mass exodus to the coast in January, Easter and Public Holidays, if your planning an Ocean Road tour during these times book early. Bayside beaches fill up and most Tourists head for St Kilda but South Melbourne and Brighton Beaches are more relaxing.

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Inner city Melbournians, get up early on Saturdays and have breakfast together in Cafes, the best places fill up quickly. On a hot afternoon, the South Melbourne market has  great outdoor seating under a large golden canopy, enjoy Mediterranean cuisine and a glass of wine. Expect to eat dishes from all over the world, each new flood of settlers has brought their food culture with them and each gets its day in the spotlight. Currently everything is ‘infused’ with something Asian.

If the weather turns foul, which means the ‘cool’ (freezing) change came early, head to the NGV Gallery at Federation Square and take in some Australian Art. The City is proud of its Artists but Sport is given most sponsorship. The Art is world-class but under promoted.

The Docklands is a relatively new development with ‘state of the art’ architecture, just behind the Southern Cross Station on Spencer St. It has a futuristic opulence , a skating rink and the Southern Star.

Trains and trams are the main form of transport and very well mapped, it’s easy to follow.The MYKI card works for locals but is not visitor friendly as you have to buy it to get around. Transport inspectors can be a bit intimidating so it’s important to get one. Currently the City has all night transport on Friday and Saturday nights.

Great places for dinner are Smith, Gertrude and Brunswick Streets in Fitzroy. It’s a fabulous block of ambitious ambiance. A historical area where hustlers and artists have had ‘their day’. but currently it is urban cool.

Melbourne has great theatre but if you want to catch a local act for under $30, after dinner there are some quaint venues; The Butterfly Club, La Mama, The Owl and Cat and The Meatworks, (just to name a few) are close to town and have their own character.

Bars are numerous and many are tucked into the lane network that are the life beat of the town, most often decorated with great Street Art. Roof top bars are great on hot nights but most places have outdoor heating when it’s not great.

The highlight of Summer is the Australian Open and the best place to watch it is at Federation Square in a sun-chair. Despite Australian pride of designer beer and class wine most public places are dry. On New Years Eve drinking is banned on public Bayside beaches so cancel the beach party.

Melbourne was once called the ‘Garden State’ as we like our trees. When its too hot for the beach there are great Botanical gardens and the Ripponlea Estate offers shade and a cafe. The changeable weather has created a fashion consious culture and there are plenty of shopping strips and malls to cater for discerning tastes or a bargin.

Summer essentials are thongs and light coat. We all talk about the weather; we complain when it’s hot and when it’s cold. It is so unpredictable it is treated with suspicion.

A typical conversation.

“Its going to be hot on Thursday”

“I’ll believe it when I see it”

Australia’s patchy history

1800-1950

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.

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The Rajah Quilt

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.

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unknown artist

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.

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Enter a caption

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.

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The Westbury Quilt  1900-03

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.

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Mariann Gibson Crazy Quilt 1891

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.

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The Goodnight Quilt by Mary Jane Hannaford

 

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’

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Nursery Quilt Artist unknown

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.

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Wagga

‘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.

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Inserts from NGV
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until Nov 6

Why Degas mattered

The terrors of recent France and the Edgar Degas exhibition in Melbourne, may seem to have nothing in common, but look again.

“Have we loss the supremacy on the field of Fine Arts as we have lost it on the field of battle? Are our Artists like our Generals the victims of a treacherous illusion of seeing themselves invincible?” Ross King

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Petite Danseuse de quatorze ans ou Grande Danseuse habille ; once in NGV permanent collection in 70s-80s

This was the general critical response to the 1872 Exhibition held at the Salon;  the heartbeat that informed the public of what was regarded as Art.The committee that held tight to conservative principles had got it wrong. The times were changing.

The French had loss a war to the Germans and the terms of defeat were so disagreeable to the French that there was Civil war on the streets. Scorched buildings, street executions and dead bodies scarred the city. The public no longer wanted Art or Artists that celebrated Napoleon Wars.

Manet the mentor of the Impressionist who had been made ridiculous by the Salon, it’s critics and the public, for most of his career, was suddenly the ‘toast of the town’. The Socialists were imprisoned and shot after the riots at Montmarte, however the tide had turned. People wanted artists that told their stories, not those of the Ruling Class and its Generals.

“Suddenly , as if in reaction against the grim drabness and horrors of the Siege and the Commune, the Impressionists burst forth into a new,passionate, glorious blaze of colour, redolent with the love of simple, ordinary existence.” Alistair Horne

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detail of The Bellelli Family 1860

The Salon was losing its hold and the cafes where rogue artists congregated were taking hold as the places which informed Artists.It is in this environment that Degas and the Impressionists went forth and re-created new ‘ways of seeing’.

“Drawing is not what one sees but what others are made to see” Degas

Manets tireless battle with the Art Establishment that would have worn down most; forged a path for Modern Art.

“Of Manet’s circle the closest to him in age, intellect and temperament was Edgar Degas,whom Manet first met in 1853, the year of his first rejection from the Salon.” Denis Thomas

Degas purchased a camera on a trip to America and it informed his work, he chose to paint unconventional angles. The Modern Era needed a new voice.

 

 

by April Forward

 

Banner photo by Degas

Alister Horne/ The Fall of Paris

Ross King / The Judgement of Paris

Denis Thomas/ The Impressionists

 

Melbourne’s Modern Renaissance

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.

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.

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Arthur Boyd the Ochard 1943

‘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 work is strong.

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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.

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Joy Hester photo by Albert Tucker at Exhibition Gardens

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.

 

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We,Us,Them 1983 Bracks comment on human behaviour

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.

 

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     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.

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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.

Heide Museum of Modern art is revisiting its roots.

MAKING HISTORY: THE ANGRY PENGUINS  

until Nov 6

ARTISTS AT LEISURE: ALBERT TUCKER PHOTOGRAPHS

until Aug 7

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Mirka Lane with St Kilda local

 

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

street photo & article by A Forward

 

 

History in Fabric

200 years of Fashion at NGV Australia is a fashion warp of cultural remembering. It is commonly acknowledged that written history is told through the eyes of the ‘white man’, Aboriginal history through Art and Womens history through fashion.

The Suitors

This bride isn't shrinking away from a bold statement, there will be 2 suits in this marriage.
This bride isn’t shrinking away from a bold statement, there will be 2 suits in this marriage.

‘…the Colonial taste (which might differ from Melbourne suburb to suburb) was capricious, so different as to be sometimes absurd.’  Margaret Maynard

Revolution

‘Australian fashion from the early twentieth-century broadly emulated international trends and ideas of glamour inherited from Paris and Hollywood, but by the 1960’s, Australian designers were beginning to have there own impact on the world stage with work that no longer followed..’   Nadia Buick

Its political; burn the bra,womens lib,sexual liberation due to the pill & frighten your parents all at once.
Its political; burn the bra,womens lib,sexual liberation due to the pill & frighten your parents all at once.

 

 

Prue Actons ‘Youthquake’ reveals a sheer jumpsuit that sold for $60. David Jones marketed it to mainstream as sexy but for the Flower Power generation; ‘it was a symbol of passive resistance .. anti- war  protests..its changed attitudes and allegiances’   NGV

Meet Mr. John

All this suit needs is a perm,thick moustache, reflecting glasses. Its more trip than hip.
All this suit needs is a perm,thick moustache, reflecting glasses. Its more trip than hip.

House of Merivale and Mr. John Sydney, introduce the corduroy belted suit for men in 1973.

‘The 1970’s trend towards unisex attire, which saw traditionally ascribed masculine and feminine codes of dress become more androgynous.’    NGV

As the 70’s seep into the 80’s, The Chai Jumpsuit 1978, reveals fashionscapacity as a medium for artistic expression’   Danielle Whitfield.

Doing time with the Pistols
Doing time with the Pistols

the PUNK period, was no longer passive resistance, it was anarchy. The Melbourne music culture embraced punk, Sex Pistol films were played at Uni. events and the alternative scene was self supporting.

‘As the band reappeared for an encore, Sid showed the audience an obscene gesture and Steve yelled, “You must be mad to want more of us’             Dangerous Minds, Gallagher.

Less is Best for NOW

Inspired by Mondrain and conceptual minimalism and Kraftwerk.
Inspired by Mondrain , conceptual minimalism and Kraftwerk.

Tina Salivas studied fashion at Adelaide’s Marston College her 2007 creation draws inspiration from European Artists.

‘the cloth contributes to the overall design of the garment..to fully realise their artistic visions …they must not only develop form, but the textile as well.’    Paola Di Trocchio

 

 

 

extracts from 200 years of Fashion NGV publication.

Top Photo: Kate Durham ‘Sentimenta romantica de l’amour et glamour: Wedding ensemble 1982’ If this was the veil, imagine the reception.

review and photographs by A Forward

Chinese Palace treasures in Melbourne

The life of a Chinese Emperor was that of extreme wealth and power, his role was to govern and unite the country. He was known as the ‘Son of Heaven’ and expected to have spiritual influence over the elements. Confucius ideology influenced the aristocratic place of the ruler; historically the roles had been degraded by a series of abusive and debauch rulers. Confucius believed in the feudal system however he intended that the leader would be honourable and exemplify the finer qualities of leadership. Parental care of the autocrat would aim to establish order amongst the obedient subjects.

Qianlong, fourth Emperor of the Quing dynasty (1644-1911), was one of Chinas most successful leaders and ruled for over 60 years (1736–1795). He brought prosperity and peace to the region, although he came from a military background. He was a descendant of the Manchu, which was a small ethnic group. Qianlong adopted Chinese manners and followed the guidelines of Confucius ethics, to influence the 150 million Han Chinese that he ruled. The treasures of this royal court are currently on display at the National Gallery of Victoria.

“The Victorian Government is grateful to the Palace Museum for entrusting the NGV with its treasures as part of a ground-breaking partnership between the two institutions.” Mr. Foley said.

Dr Mae Anna Pang, Senior Curator of Asian Art, NGV and Curator of A Golden Age of China very generously gave time to the Melbourne Press and revealed details that are hidden within the beautiful objects, of the Forbidden City. She explained the Emperors interest in art. He employed artists to depict royal life, he collected art from around the world and he also practiced drawing and calligraphy.

There were two types of artwork in Imperial China, one that was to be shown and the other for private meditation. Some of Dr. Pang’s favorite pieces in the exhibition are Qianlong’s private drawings and his poetry. Private drawings were to aid inner contemplation, not to impress the viewer. She remarked that the exhibit is less grand than the surrounding works and could be overlooked, however the drawings give us insight into the state and mind of the Emperor.

The Emperors landscape scrolls are encased in a glass cabinet, they depict nature and the favorite places that he had visited. Dr. Pang explained that he was a determined traveler at a time when the task was a difficult one. When he was fascinated by a place he would attempt to recreate an aspect of it in his drawing or have its feature installed, in the palace gardens.

The visually beautiful characters of the Chinese language are an esteemed part of its literature. Although the language develops and changes, its intrinsic core meaning can still be understood in modern China. The Emperor was a prolific poet and wrote over 40,000 poems and 1300 pieces of prose. Dr Pang read the calligraphy of a large poem Poem about East Mountain Brush-rest peak that was written by Qianlong and is framed on the gallery wall. The poem elevates people that seek inner spiritual development over those that adorn themselves in jade and corals, who care only for outer appearances. Within the poem, he creates clever puns and plays on words to give them multiple meanings. This duality is represented in many of the works on display.

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“Everything is not as it seems” Dr Pang explains.

Symbols and color are used to portray status, longevity and luck. The yellow silk costumes that are used for ceremonies are rich in such detail. Yellow was the distinctive colour of the ruler; it was exclusive to the royal court. A death penalty would be the punishment of anyone who breached this code and incorporated the color in his or her garment.

Leadership entitled the Emperor to a vast array of wives and concubines for his pleasure and procreation, however it also required eunuchs to service them. To ensure a faithful court, many men forfeited their patriarchal rights. They were often sons of the poor who had been sold to the Palace. They were donned with red hats to distinguish their rank, as depicted in the composition, Imperial Banquet in the Garden of Ten Thousand Trees by Giuseppe Castiglione.

“One of his 41 wives was Moslem” Dr Pang adds

Dr. Pang discussed the details of a large work of coloured inks on silk, titled Envoys from vassal states and foreign countries presenting tribute to the Emperor

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The composition has a warped aerial perspective to show the viewer multiple angles. Walls, to ensure royal privacy, separate the private and public areas. At the entrance of the Palace, visitors are assembled from around the world. The flags depict the country that the ambassador is from and it includes European nations. Due to the successful leadership of Qianlong, China had become a great empire and was held in worldly renown.

Most of the items within the collection are adorned with symbols and references to good fortune. The Melbourne Press asked the Palace Museums Vice Director Song Jirong what the Chinese would regard as the most important ‘type of luck’.

“A long life” she replied.

Many symbols of the artwork promote longevity. The court women adorned themselves with hairpieces that have knots embellished within the design, to represent an extended life. They also wore extremely long nail protectors and the pair that is currently on display is made of fine gilt silver wires formed into symbols of happiness and a long life. Some of the items on display incorporate storks, dragons and the number 9; these are keystone symbols that perpetuate the life-force. Many of the symbols used are unique to eastern culture and can be overlooked by western visitors. At the hem of a semi formal robe for the Empress are waves of colour that represent the sky. Chinese artists represent the sky as having many colours, not just solo blue.

The final room of the exhibition is a slide show of the Forbidden City so the visitor gets an idea of the expanse of the Palace. It’s the size of a suburb, with magnificent engineering feats. It was built between 1406 and 1421 and involved a workforce of 10,000 craftsmen and 1,000,000 labourers. The Palace has 9000 rooms and the Forbidden City occupies a vast expanse of more than 72 hectares. The two dynasties of the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) households and their 24 Emperors enjoyed this exclusive luxury. In 1925, the Palace Museum opened the heavy gates of the Forbidden City to the public.

One cannot underestimate the level of negotiations and the transport considerations of the exhibit. Valuable Chinese antique treasures are currently on loan at the NGV. Air China was given the task of the safe haul. Melbourne is in the entitled position of host to this important collection. It is an opportunity to view a cultural legacy in its prime.

Modern Art broke its ties to its European Masters and drew inspiration from the East. It is important to understand the influence that Chinese art has had on the West. It was exposure to these types of works that influenced artists such as Henri Matisse. Matisse worked extensively in the breaking down of image to essential form. Strong lines, negative spaces and flat dimensions became the new vision that the Modern Master employed.

Dr Pang remarked that the NGV and Melbourne reminded her of the Palace and prime places in China. She noted that both are very orderly and have garden areas that are reminiscent of Chinese aesthetics.

Rio Tinto is a major sponsor of The Golden Age of China; they have arranged free entry for all school children, to the exhibits. The Exhibition will be open to the public until June 21st. There will also be a series of talks and films for those that desire a deeper understanding of Chinese culture.

PHOTOS of ARTWORKS

QIANLONG EMPEROR Chinese 1711–99

Poem about East Mountain Brush-rest peak, calligraphy 弘历咏东山笔架峰贴落Qing dynasty, Qianlong period 1768

signed by Qianlong Emperor in the autumn of 1768 and with 2 seals of Qianlong Emperor

ink on paper 157.5 x 216.0 cm (image and sheet)The Palace Museum, Beijing

Envoys from vassal states and foreign countries presenting tribute to the Emperor 清人万国来朝图轴Qing dynasty, Qianlong period 1736–95

coloured inks on silk 365.0 x 219.5 cm The Palace Museum, Beijing

 

Shrigleys Definitive Deployment of Art

David Shrigley’s drawings, sculpture, happenings and films follow the anti-art traditions of Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. ‘This is not art, this is not important’. Then why did the NGV host his work and float his head-less toy swans in the moat.

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The seduction of Art refusing to be Art is like a conquest behaving coy and disinterested. Its chic, its naughty but its mostly irreverent. It’s the cat and mouse game that the art world has been playing with itself since the 1880s when Modern Art decided to challenge the status quo of ‘what is Art?’

Shrigley has a mass appeal. Since 2005 he has produced a weekly cartoon for the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Michael Leunig cartoons, that have appeared weekly in The Age draw similar references, however Shrigleys message, is less emotive and more ‘slap stick’.

The exhibition came wallpapered, with roughly drawn cartoons and captions such as;

“I don’t have a head but still I must go to work”

The exhibition housed an interactive life drawing class where the live model was replaced by a naked cartoon sculpture, like a garden cupid fountain, it too, relieved itself. A motorized head entertained visitors and there were ‘boring’ films. The film of a cartoon figure sleeping ‘A Napping Station’, is a parody to the Andy Warhol film, Sleep.

The NGV website noted a remark by the English art critic Adrian Searle.

‘Shrigley’s work is very wrong and very bad in all sorts of ways. It is also ubiquitous and compelling. There are lots of artists who, furrowing their brows and trying to convince us of their seriousness, aren’t half as profound or compelling.’

The most important thing to have when examining his work is your sense of humor.IMG_0787