Tag Archives: memorials

Rest In Peace

R.I.P. pieces are a tradition in graffiti generally they are tributes to comrades. R.I.P. tribute pieces are not a big part of Melbourne’s graffiti scene as there is a much lower death rate in Melbourne’s youth than in some American inner city youth. They are the street equivalent to death notices in the newspaper or the temporary unofficial memorials of candles and flowers (see my post Melbourne’s Shrines – especially the unofficial).

A 20m long tribute piece was painted along the eastern wall of Melbourne’s iconic graffiti zone of Hosier Lane to murdered ABC employee, Jill Meagher. An unknown artist painted the tribute on Sunday the afternoon of 30th September before 7pm. It must have been a huge effort to buff the walls and spray the whole wall. (See the report in The Sun Herald.)

Jill Meagher was not connected with Melbourne’s graffiti scene; the “Rest In Peace Jill” piece is part of the huge public response, first to her disappearance and then to news of her death. The footpath where she was last scene is blocked pile of flowers and there was a 30,000-person march on Sydney Road.

I’ve been searching my photo files for other Melbourne R.I.P. graffiti tributes and I finally found another one. I have seen a few more than I have photographed, they are not common in Melbourne, let’s hope that it remains that way.


Art Deco Coburg

According to real estate agents there are plenty of art deco houses in Coburg but real estate agents are not experts on architecture and most of these claims are based on some ceiling moulding and a few other left over features. There are some art deco buildings in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Coburg but art deco in Coburg was not prestige buildings rather it was new facades for old factories, pubs, shops, garages, houses and a community hall. Art deco architecture was a sign that the upwardly mobile working class industrial suburb was keeping up with the times.

Now that the old Union Knitting Mills has been gutted and transformed into multi-story flats I started to consider how the “modern geometric style” (as art deco was then known) was received and used in Coburg. The new building is a dramatic change but sensitive to the old streetscape and preserves the best aspects of the architecture. The renovation retains the original curving banded art deco façade and entrance. Even the original factory sign has been restored.

A block down from Union Knitting Mills the Post Office Hotel also has an art deco façade covering an older building. The façade has recently been restored – I’ve enjoying several meals at the Post Office Hotel and the pub has gained a reputation for its superb food both in its restaurant and counter menu. The iron ribbon lettering of the Post Office Hotel sign is similar to that of several pubs in North Melbourne.

There are other touches of art deco in the suburb. Richard Broome, Coburg – between two creeks, (Lothian, 1987) reports a building boom immediately after the Great Depression, people had been waiting for better economic times before starting their construction. There are modern/art deco elements in facades of a few Coburg factory facades along Sydney Road dating their construction.

Akins Auto Service on Nicholson St. is another example of the modest art deco buildings in Coburg. Akins Auto Service was established in 1932. There are also art deco elements in design of the façade on the Progress Hall and parts of the memorial opposite the Coburg Town Hall on Bell Street. The memorial is dedicated to the first Coburg resident killed in WWII: the griffons on the memorial are impressive.

For more of Melbourne’s art deco buildings see Art Deco Buildings blog by David Thompson. Although he has not written about Coburg, Thompson does look Art Deco in many of Melbourne’s suburbs.


Ievers Remembered

I walked past the George Ievers Memorial Drinking Fountain on Gatehouse St. along Royal Parade in Parkville. Erected in 1916, granite (bluestone) steps ascending to shrine-like architectural structure, made of Harcourt and red Finland granite, surmounted by life size bust of George Ievers, dressed in the archaic robes of a city councilor made from white Carrara marble. The drinking fountain element was located in the base under a canopy but it has been removed years ago. I’ve seen it from the tram hundreds of times but I never knew to whom was dedicated. George Ievers (1845-1921) was on Melbourne City Council, a JP and on the board of various hospitals.

George Ievers Memorial Drinking Fountain, Parkville

Even though there are two other similar memorials to the Ievers family in Carlton and an Ievers St. further along Royal Parade. Ievers is not a familiar name to Melbourne residents. I only became aware of them when researching memorial drinking fountains in Melbourne. I’m not saying that the Ievers should be remembered but the family did try to put their mark on Melbourne at the turn of the 20th century. William Ievers (Sr.) (1818-1901) was an estate agent and city councillor who had three sons: William (Jr.), George and Robert. There are no surviving members of the family as none of the three brothers had any children.

All three of the Ievers memorial drinking fountains are by Charles Douglas Richardson. Richardson made another memorial drinking fountains of a similar architectural design and materials dedicated to Councilor William Cook, 1910 located in Hardy Reserve, Carlton North.

William Ievers (Sr.) Memorial Drinking Fountain, Carlton

The William Ievers (Sr.) Memorial Drinking Fountain, 1915 stands in Argyle Square on Lygon St., Carlton. At the top there is a life size bust of William Ievers Senior again dressed in his the collar and robes of a city councilor.

The William Ievers (Jr.) Memorial Drinking Fountain, 1916, is located in Macarthur Square, Carlton. William Ievers (Jr.) (1839-1895), like his father and brother, George, was also a local councilor but his interests also included amateur acting and rowing. He was an original member of the Melbourne Shakespeare Society, a committee member of the Melbourne Athenaeum and its president in 1880. With his brothers he founded the Melbourne version of the Beefsteak Club in 1886. (Now they are beginning to sound a bit more interesting.) He presided over a royal commission on banking for only a few sessions before he had a rowing accident that lead to his death in1895.

There is no memorial to the youngest brother, Robert Lancelot Ievers (1854-1891).


Melbourne Shrines – especially the unofficial

Melbourne has many shrines, memorials and monuments, official or unofficial. They are one way of understanding Melbourne’s culture and its variety of religious practices. Although many Australians claim to be Christian their actual religious practice, as indicated by Melbourne’s shrines, includes Australian rules football, culture heroes and ancestor worship.

The Shrine of Remembrance and its the surrounding gardens are the most obvious, best known and largest of Melbourne’s shrines. The MCG is also frequently described as a “shrine to footy”, indicating its religious significance in Melbourne. There are a few Catholic shrines in Melbourne in Kew there is a shrine dedicated to “the Mother Thrice Admirable and Queen of Schoenstatt” (an obscure title of the Virgin Mary) and the St. Anthony National Shrine is in Hawthorn.

It is a curious feature of Melbourne that there are so many shrines, memorials and monuments to people unconnected with Melbourne. There are plenty of 19th century monuments in Melbourne to monarchs and heroes of the British Empire, including Queen Victoria and General Gordon. The Treasury Gardens contains an ornamental pond with a monument to President John F. Kennedy created by sculptor Raymond Ewers in 1965. This shrine to an American culture hero physically marks Melbourne’s transition from the British to the American sphere of political and cultural influence. The Shrine to Elvis in Melbourne General Cemetery is the only officially approved Memorial to Elvis Presley outside Graceland in Memphis. The religious significance of the immortal Elvis is further explored in an essay by Jennifer Phipps, the Curator of Australian Art – Late Modernism at National Gallery of Victoria.

Roadside shrine in Brunswick

So far I have mentioned only official memorials but there are many temporary and unofficial shrines and memorials in Melbourne. Roadside memorials to the victims of traffic accidents are a common custom. Bunches of flowers, photographs and other mementos are attached to poles or laid on the side of the road close to the spot where the accident occurred. These traffic accident memorials in turn become dangerous distractions to other drivers.

There is a large improvised shrine in the gardens of the Collingwood housing commission flats for the stolen generation and other members of the aboriginal community. It is maintained by the Parkies Inc., a local aboriginal group.

Shrine to the stolen generation

On my explorations of Melbourne’s laneways I encountered an improvised memorial shrine to Nicholas Kennedy (1980-2004). There are a neat row of candles and a vase of sunflowers behind some rubbish bins. Who is remembering him with such dedication all these years later?

“Sue Anne Ware, a landscape architect, has pursued her investigations to a conclusion with a temporary street memorial to people who have died of heroin overdoses [Melbourne Festival 2001, St. Kilda] and a memorial to young people who have died on a country road [2003 ongoing, Gippsland].” (Leon Van Schaik Design City Melbourne, Wiley-Academy, 2006, England, p.113)

Official or unofficial these memorials, these public shrines and monuments map changes in culture and values in Melbourne.


Keith Haring in Melbourne

At the old Collingwood Technical College, American stencil artist, Peat Wollaeger has memorialized the work of Keith Haring with writing and a stencil portrait of Keith Haring on the gate.

Keith Haring Stencil at Collingwood Technical College

Peat Wollaeger’s stencil of  Keith Haring Stencil at Collingwood Technical College

For me, Keith Haring, 1958 – 1990, is one of the most important artists of the 20th Century. He was certainly the most important artist of the 1980s for me. I have a scrapbook full of photocopied articles and magazine clipping about him that I collected at the time. And considering the rise of street art in the early 21st Century, Haring has to be regarded as an important precursor.

The Collingwood Technical College may not be the most famous wall that Keith Haring painted but it was the first public mural that he painted outside the USA, it was the first time that he used a scissor lift and it is the only surviving exterior mural by Haring in its original form.  It is also not the largest nor the most famous wall that Haring painted; in 1986 Haring painted 107m of the Berlin Wall. The mural at the Collingwood Technical College was painted on the 6th of March 1984. Keither Haring wanted to paint the mural for the kids at the Collingwood Technical College and had fun doing it. He found the scissor lift a liberating experience.

Keith Haring mural, Collingwood

The wall on the Collingwood Technical College with its now fading but still visible iconic Haring figures riding a giant centipede is the only surviving Haring wall in Melbourne still visible to the public (there is another piece, a large guardian angel, at a school in Toorak where John Buckley was teaching at the time). The mural shows humanity under threat from computer technology – in 1984 the personal computer was Time Magazine’s “person of the year”.

Keith Haring visited Australia between 18th February and 8th March 1984. Haring was invited to Australia by gallery owner John Buckley (which is why there is a Peat Wollaeger stencil of Haring  by the door of his gallery in Albert St. Richmond). Buckley had seen his work in the New York subways. Haring was on the cusp of his international celebrity status when he came to Australia and John Buckley was very lucky to have invited him to Australia at that time because after that he was far too famous.

Haring also painted the NGV’s famous water wall; watched and filmed as he painted, it was a real performance. Keith Haring would paint to hip-hop music played on a tape-deck radio was decorated by Kenny Scharf. The painted water wall was destroyed by a vandal before I could see it because it was thought that Haring had stolen aboriginal motifs. While in Australia Keith Haring also went to Sydney where he painted the large wall in the foyer of the Art Gallery of NSW. Edward Capon, the director of the gallery had not been informed about this due to a missed communication. Nor had he heard of Keith Haring and was reluctant to have the wall painting proceed. John Buckley tells about how he showed Edward Capon the then current issue of Vanity Fair; it had a Keith Haring on the cover and a large interview with him inside. This convinced Edward Capon and within half an hour Haring was up on the sissor-lift painting the wall.

Also in Sydney that year Keith Haring helped with a Keith Haring float for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Although Haring was not yet a mainstream celebrity artist, his art was already well known in the gay community and a float depicting his art was already planned. Haring’s involvement made the float authentic rather than just a tribute.

Keith Haring’s technique was simple lines. He started working with just a large marker pen and then went over the lines with a paint brush. The mural on the Collingwood Technical College was done without any preliminary drawings apart from a demo chalk demonstration drawing of the centipede. Haring’s images that could fill any space from a wall to the body of Grace Jones. His genius was in the iconic figures that populated his images, most famously the radiant child.

Keith Haring studied at art school and was very aware of art history. His early influences were Pierre Alechinsky and Chinese calligraphy. Influenced by Wm Burroughs Haring started to do paste-up of fake New York Post headlines in 1980. And Wm Burroughs influence continued with the iconic images that Haring became famous for, from the centipedes to Mayans.

“I was aware of, and respected conceptual artists like Vito Acconci, or artists who were doing guerrilla art actions – things like that. I studied it and read about it, and respected it.” Keith Haring. (Notes from the Pop Underground, ed. Peter Belsito, The Last Gasp of San Francisco, 1985 p.106)

It is time to review the art of Keith Haring because what appeared to be an oddity of New York the 1980s has turned into an international movement. In particular is time to review Haring’s influence on Melbourne’s street art. It has taken an American street artist, Peat Wollaeger who was exhibiting his “Luchador Collab-o-mask” project at Per Square Metre to commemorate an important part of Melbourne’s street art history.

P.S. In 2013 The Age reported on finding the lost door from Keith Haring’s Collingwood mural.


Street Art Notes – July

Street art is not just aerosol art; the idea of street art has created so many more possibilities: memorials, drawings and sculpture.

The temporary memorials to traffic accident victims, the flowers, messages, photographs taped to poles, that appear at the site of the accident are another form of street art. Nobody complains about this type of street art; there is still respect for the dead.

Geoff Dyer’s article in the The Guardian Weekly (6/6) made me aware that with the ghostbike project. These street art memorials have become type of political street art in the USA and Canada. A white ghost bike chained to a location with a sign as a reminder that a cyclist was killed at this spot. This is an excellent street art project as it goes to core elements in traditional art, the memorial, and street art, political content. And, as a bicycle rider, myself, I believe it is a very important message.

There are a lot of beautiful things to see on the street. Maxcat has drawn on a vacant white billboard on Sydney Rd. north of Bell St. showing that a simple black marker pen can create beautiful work. Maxcat’s innovative use of lines and the sense of poetry with the bird on the figures head reminded me of Picasso. Not that the drawing is a copy or imitation, but the bold, confident and yet whimsical lines of this drawing are similar.

And there is Crateman, Melbourne’s best street art sculptor who creates figures using the ubiquitous plastic milk-crates. I have seen his work on the Williamstown line and on a rooftop in Richmond but I have been told that there have been other figures in other locations.

 

On a slightly different topic, the Melbourne Stencil Festival will be on August 1st to 10th. I have volunteered to help hang the exhibition and do a few other things. Last night I meet up with Coop and other volunteers for pizza and drinks. The range of ages and backgrounds of people volunteering to help at the festival surprised me; the volunteers are not just street artists. If you want to become more involved and volunteer just contact the festival (and you will probably end up in contact with me as I am coordinating the volunteers).


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