Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sculpture @ Coburg Lake Reserve

Coburg Lake Reserve is a large park built along the Merri Creek and in the old granite bluestone quarry where prisoners cut the stones for the walls of Pentridge Prison. A dam on the Merri creek has made part of the former quarry into an ornamental lake. It is the most attractive place in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg.

In the last decade the park has acquired some sculptures; there is a winner of previous sculpture shows, a donation from sister cities and even an abandoned sculpture. However the scale of the park with its the tall eucalypts tends to dwarf even large sculptures. (I have written blog entries about the sculpture “Man of the Valley” and about other sculptures in the City of Moreland in Sculptures in Brunswick and the Moreland Sculpture Show).

The Moreland Sculpture Show was shown in the park for several years and this has contributed two permanent sculptures to the park by Melbourne-based artists. The sculpture show was moved out the Coburg Lake Reserve due to persistent vandalism to the sculptures (and the annual sculpture show was last year replaced with an installation show).

Lisa Jane Miller, “Fish Out of Water”, 2002, ceramic tiles on ferro cement

“Fish Out of Water” by Lisa Jane Miller was Moreland Sculpture Award Winner and Public Choice Award Winner at the Moreland Sculpture Show 2002. Decorated with a mosaic of ceramic tiles on ferro cement, with a large fish rising out of a dry basin. This sculpture is a plea for Australia to treat refugees more humanly, written in the glaze of the ceramic tiles. Another “Fish out of Water – Inhumanity 1” won the Northcote Pottery Award at the 2005 Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show; it was, again, in Miller’s preferred media is ceramic tiles and ferro cement. When the sculpture was first installed the area of the park was largely undeveloped and it really looked like a fish out of water. Now it looks at home as there is a children’s playground next to it with a giant game of Twister, swings, a flying fox, seating and some colourful play-sculptural elements.

Liz Hewitt, “Ship to Warf”, 2003, painted cement

Liz Hewitt’s “Ship to Warf” is a series of three red knots of cast concrete. The sculpture was abandoned by the sculptor at the end of the Moreland Sculpture Show, donating it to Moreland City in 2003 (a donation that the council has foolishly yet to officially accept). “Ship to Warf” works well as public sculpture in that it is elegant, provokes the imagination and you can be stand or sit on it.

Coburg Lake Reserve is a popular park and a great place for a picnic. The park is well equipped with a hall/meeting room, a stage, several children’s playgrounds, picnic and BBQ areas. When I was photographing “Ship to Warf” there were a couple of galahs walking around on the grass (for more about the birds at Coburg Lake Reserve see Eremaea Birds).

Gahlah @ Coburg Lake Reserve


Art @ Monash Medical Centre

Standing in one of the many corridors in the Monash Medical Centre Clayton with the curator, Rebecca Lovitt trying to look at the paintings in the hospital collection as cleaners working around us, patients and staff walking past I understand what a challenging environment this is to curate. The curator, Rebecca Lovitt is stoic as she shows me a frame scratched by a cleaning trolley and she remains calm when we discover a new pencil-sized hole in another canvas. “It is surviving well,” she tells me as she inspects the damage that would have sent other curators into a spiral of panic, “considering the amount of traffic that it experiences.”

A hospital is a difficult place to curate: the lights in the hospital are on 24 hours a day, the public corridors where most of the art is exhibited are extremely busy not just with people but equipment and simple wall repairs and repainting may take years to be carried out. It is also a vast space to curate; Southern Health is spread across 6 sites, the largest of which is the Monash Medical Centre at Clayton. And everything is, naturally, of greater priority than the hospital’s art collection.

Monash Medical Centre Art Gallery is registered as an art gallery for tax and administrative purposes so that people can donate or loan art to the hospital’s collection. A hospital does need an art collection, the paintings makes the long corridors less soulless. The art provides a distraction, a point of reflection, something else to think about other than being in a hospital.

And a curator is needed to look after the permanent collection, search for funding and donations, curate temporary exhibitions, assist in building the collection, de-accessioning work in the collection and working with the artist-in-residence, Efterpi Soropos to create a multimedia installation in the palliative care unit. Rebecca Lovitt is a curator without a gallery; she has worked in commercial galleries before and has no intention of returning, the challenge of exhibiting art in a hospital is far more appealing. And she is working on strategies to better display, protect and more easily rotate the collection – the installation of hanging rails has removed the need to repaint walls. Creating designated zones for art with recesses in the walls for the security of the art and the safety of patients. She has been working with architects on the new Dandenong Emergency Room to put art on ceiling.

There is no shortage of wall space along the hospital’s long corridors and most of the collection is on public exhibition. There is so much wall space that Rebecca Lovitt has been able to create an “Art Space” for temporary exhibitions with hanging rails and track lighting in one of the small lobbies. When I visited Melchior Martin was exhibiting a series of bold dynamic landscape paintings, five of which had sold.

Although the priority is in on public display in the corridors and wards senior medical staff and administrators need to have art in their offices that they like. And a hospital’s art collection does needs champions in the senior medical and administrative staff to ensure that it is not completely ignored.

Some of the hospitals departments are better funded for their art collection like the children’s cancer ward and the new heart centre. I see a new work for the heart centre on Rebecca Lovitt’s desk, a yet unframed embroidery work by Melbourne craft artist, Sayraphim Lothian.

Most of the hospital’s collection dates from the late 1980s, when the Monash Medical Centre was built. They are large paintings with thick heavy brushstrokes of paint by emerging local artists, none of them were famous at the time but now that has changed for a very few, most of the artists in the collection are not. We walk past one of the two Bill Henson photographs in the collection. The collection needs to be diverse to suite the taste of a diverse staff and public at the hospital. Some of the collection was inherited from the Prince Henry and Queen Victoria hospitals including a series of watercolours from 1910, the “Cheer Up Children Paintings” that may be earliest paintings made especially for a children’s ward.

I’m not recommending a trip to the hospital to see the art but to consider public art collections outside of galleries and the important role of curators in managing those collections.

 


January 2011 Exhibitions

Not that there are a lot of art exhibitions on in Melbourne at the moment as most of the galleries are closed in January but I did get to see a couple of other exhibitions (besides Reframed @ Counihan Gallery).

“Look! – the art of Australian picture books today” at the State Library of Victoria features the original artwork for picture books by some of Australia’s best illustrators including Graeme Base, Shaun Tan, Jane Tanner and many other  artists. Amongst all the art there are a few exhibits that show the development of artwork including one from Graeme Base showing the progress from photographs, pencils drawings to the finished illustration with a blank frame for text. This exhibition is not only well timed for the school holidays but also for the new audience for illustration in Melbourne that grew out of the street art scene. There was plenty for the kids to do at this exhibition and some of the exhibits were designed specially for them but this is not an exhibition that is just for children.

Phil Soliman’s best photographs are grids of close up details. Spread across one whole wall of Hogan Gallery in Collingwood is a grid of images of male skin. So many individual hairs, spots recorded in the photographs that Soliman (?) describes as “between the erotic and clinical”.  This series of 7 photographs, “Surface Data” gives its title to the exhibition and is by far the best work in the show. There are also several good close up photographs of the male body but the rest of the photographs in the exhibition are more ordinary but competent images of male nudes. The DVD projection part of the exhibition was not on when I visited during the week. The exhibition is part of the arts programme of the Midsumma Festival – see my reviews of exhibitions in Midsumma Festival in previous years.

Hogan Gallery has comfortable suede benches to sit and contemplate the images. There was jazz playing on a sound system along with the thwack of the staple gun from the frame making business at the back of the gallery.

 


Reframed @ Counihan Gallery

“Reframed” is an exhibition of art from the Moreland Art Collection on exhibition at the Counihan Gallery. It is post-modern collection because of its post-colonial view and its inclusion of naïve artists. Although much of the work is in traditional media – the one installation in the exhibition by Kirsten McFarlane is a charming reminder of Sydney Rd’s vaudeville history – this is itself a feature of post-modernism.

The collection is based on the work of Noel Counihan who “never received the recognition afforded their rival Angry Penguin Associates.” (Trudi Allen, Cross Currents in Contemporary Australian Art, 2001, p.53) Counihan was more interested in socialist realism than the Angry Penguins’ expressionist Australian modernism. The Counihan Gallery received a substantial donation of works by Noel Counihan from art historian, Robert Smith. The exhibition has prints from the “Noel Counihan Tribute Folio” on the back wall of the gallery, like a base to the structure of the exhibition. Not that the exhibition (or even the tribute folio) is full of socialist realism but it is alternative starting point in art history for the collection. The collection shows that art and the understanding of political issues have developed from socialist realism to include wider issues, like the environment, and a variety of cultural vocabularies.

The exhibition’s narrative starts with a substantial and diverse collection aboriginal art and moves to more art exploring themes of identity, culture and place. Curator, Edwina Bartlem has organized the exhibition into several block that highlight themes in the collection: the environment, feminism, multi-cultural Australia and Moreland’s recent history.

One of the standout works of the show, for me, is by Turkish artist Füsun Çağlayan of a Turkish-Australian wedding. This powerful realist painting with its somber colors, the patterned border top and bottom with yellow photos of Turkish-Australian life on the top border. William (Bill) Kelly’s bronze Tiananmen Square Monument using the image of the man in front of the tank had a suitably vast base. I also enjoyed seeing Nusra Latif Qureshi’s “Balancing Act II” again, this time I noticed the way that flowers permeate the borders and outlines in her paintings.

The City of Moreland’s art collection shows what can be done over 20 years with a $10,000 annual budget and some good curatorial advice. It is not the perfect collection and Cr Alice Pryor speech admitted that mistakes that had been made; she regretted passing over a painting by Sam Leach before he won the Archibald. Some of the collection has been purchased from previous exhibitions at the Counihan Gallery; regular visitors to the gallery will recognize some of the art on exhibition. Unfortunately the exhibition did not include the dates of acquisition of the works so that visitors could see how the collection developed.

On Thursday evening local city councillors launched exhibition and the 2011 program at the Counihan Gallery with catering by local business, Poplars Café. It was a beautiful evening and as I ride my bicycle home I couldn’t help but notice the local art that wasn’t represented in the exhibition – all the anarchic street art beside the bicycle path.


Award winning junk

Daniel Lynch won the best sculpture award at the 2010 Australian Wood Design Exhibition in Orbost. Most of the awards in the Wood Design exhibition are for furniture, musical instruments and carving. The sculpture award is only $500 but it is good to see Daniel Lynch gaining further recognition, as he is a remarkable sculptor.

Junky Projects at Sweet Streets 2010

Daniel Lynch’s sculptures are made from recycled materials, wood, tin cans, bottle caps and other junk. These simple materials are nailed together to make anthropomorphic sculptures of little junk people. Lynch’s sculptures are the descendents of the assemblages of Marcel Janco, Kurt Schwitters and Max Ernst that have grown up on the streets of Melbourne. For Daniel Lynch is the street artist, also known as, Junky Projects. Turning junk into sculpture is a neat trick that many artists have accomplished; Daniel Lynch goes one step further in returning this junk as sculptures back to the streets, completing the recycle. There are many more entries about his sculpture in this blog – try using “junky” as a search term in the search box on this blog.

I wasn’t in Orbost to see the exhibition but I did read about it in the Moreland Leader (17/1/2011 p.3). The Moreland Leader does a good job covering the local arts scene (although they did misspell Daniel’s name). There are always several stories about the arts in every issue of the Moreland Leader. If only the reporters would occasionally report on the arts rather than just promote the arts.

Junky Projects in Brunswick

Junky Projects in the city


Artist Market

The Charles Street artist market was set up in the carpark of the Sporting Club carpark in Brunswick. There were paintings hanging on the fence but I’d seen the best of them two years ago at the Yard in 696. There were stalls around the edge of the carpark and people were painting on easels in the middle. The paintings were mostly awful amateur efforts. There were also painting activities for children for a gold coin donation that were proving popular. The dozen or so stalls were a mix of more painting, craft, new age craft and two excellent wooden furniture makers. One of the furniture makers, Benjamin Hitchings Designs, also had elegantly spiky wood and clay objets-d’art.

Well-known Melbourne-based, street artist, Drew Funk was spray-painting a scene on the side of shipping container as a guy plays acoustic blues guitar.  The usual scene of angular Chinese style trees along with a turtle and birds was emerging as Drew casually sprayed, chatted, cleaned the nozzle of his spray-can and sprayed some more. Drew Funk is a hard working artist – is there a bar in Melbourne that doesn’t have a wall painted by Drew Funk? I’ve asked this rhetorical question before and I soon had the answer as in the Sporting Club’s beer garden there is a large aerosol mural by Yowza. Yowza’s intense scene has a ruined temple, lots of lush vegetation and strange mutant Pliocene creatures.

I sat in the beer garden writing up my notes and drinking pear cider. I’ve never had pear cider before. It was smooth and refreshing compared to an apple cider that I expect to have a crisp dry finish. What should I expect from pear cider? What am I expecting from a small artist’s market? I wasn’t expecting much from either. The weather was beautiful; the sun shone and a cool breeze caressed the skin. It was good to see what was happening in Brunswick on a summer Sunday afternoon.


Graffiti & Censorship II

Are chalk drawings illegal under local laws? Moreland Council city infrastructure director, Nerina Di Lorenzo said that chalk drawings were illegal under Moreland Council laws. (Tessa Hoffman, “A message for all” Moreland Leader 27/9/10 p.1) I have tried but have been unable to get a comment from Nerina Di Lorenzo but it does appear that Moreland Council has made it illegal for a child to draw a hopscotch pattern on a Coburg sidewalk.

The Moreland Council is highly unlikely to prosecute a child drawing in chalk on the sidewalk. The legal threats were the council’s response to the political demands of the chalk marks as that were part of the campaign for a high school in Coburg. Letters to the Moreland Leader the following week were all in favour of the chalkboard hoarding. The campaign for high school in Coburg doesn’t care they have also been using a sticker campaign to get their message out.

One un-stated reason for the state to enact draconian anti-graffiti legislation has been to censor and control the public space. And anti-graffiti legislation goes further in providing an excuse to censor computer games, films and magazines about graffiti because they promote illegal activity. For example, in 2007 70K, a local film about graffitists, including Renks who was a member of the 70K graffiti crew, has been censored by the OFLC (Office of Film and Literature Classification) and cannot be shown in MUFF (Melbourne Underground Film Festival). “The Classification Board also refused classification for the film, 70K, because it deals with crime (the defacement of public property) in such a way that it offends against the standards of propriety generally acceptable to reasonable adults. The film features documentary footage of people, with masks, disguises or their faces blurred out, vandalizing passenger trains and applying graffiti to walls in Australian cities, including Brisbane and Melbourne. The film is edited to rock music and does not feature commentary, interpretation, justification or explanation. In the Board’s majority view, the film glamorises and attempts to legitimise what are criminal acts committed in Australia and which have a negative impact on Australia and the Australian people.” (OFLC Report p.57) The filmmaker’s obvious mistake, as far as the OFLC is concerned, was not to have a pompous pedantic narrator and a soundtrack by Hildegard Von Bingen.

For more about graffiti and censorship see my blog entry from 2009: Graffiti & censorship. Trying to control and censoring the messages on the street is a reason for enacting anti-graffiti legislation. Anti-graffiti legislation is about censoring the young and poor. People passionately quote Heinrich Hein about burning books but anywhere that they destroy and censor they will also destroy people.


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