Tag Archives: Richmond

Taxidermy Spectacular

Julia deVille: Phantasmagoria and Leslie Rice: Bacchanalia at Sophie Gannon Gallery.

Julia deVilla, Rocking Alpaca

Julia deVille, Rocking Alpaca

After the dinning room theme of her installation, Degustation in Melbourne Now, deVille’s Phantasmagoria is more from the bedroom and the nursery. In Beatrix, a rabbit, wearing a black formal coat with tails, sits alert on an antique high chair. Rocking Alpaca has a white, baby alpaca standing on a rocking horse base. In other works a fawn and a rat lie in a crib and a piglet, decorated with antique lace, lies in an antique baby carriage. There are wind up keys in many of the taxidermy animals suggesting toys with a clockwork mechanism.

Julia deVille’s art is beautiful but it is the emotions that it causes, ranging from cloying sentimentality to mawkish horror, that amplify the charge this beauty. The spectacular sensationalism of her taxidermy installations give them a neo-baroque style. Her art makes it seem that aesthetics, like cute, horror, sentimental and nostalgia are more about emotions than beauty and that beauty is only another quality, added on top of an emotional response.

To concentrate on deVille’s taxidermy, especially the delicate work with the extremely tiny young animals, is to forget other aspects of the exhibition. The contemporary techniques of assemblage and installation, most notably in her jewellery work and the installation itself. Jewellery has always been a kind of assemblage technique, reusing old materials, resetting old stones but deVille makes it contemporary art. Her installation aspect combines with collecting antiques with contemporary art’s interest in the mechanics of display.

Although the installation of antique furniture that the work is displayed on does somewhat, alleviate the clinical white of the gallery. The paintings of Leslie Rice, dark bacchanal scenes painted in acrylic on black velvet, also help with the atmosphere. When I first saw Rice’s paintings I thought that they must have been bad ‘old master’ paintings with fugitive colours, that had been dug out as an accompaniment to deVille’s Degustation. Now that I am aware of them, I still have the same opinion; they seem stuck in the past and lack the contemporary sensibility that deVille brings to her assemblages of antiques.

It has been a couple of years since I have been to the galleries in Albert Street, East Richmond and things have changed. Where there were once half a dozen galleries now only two cling on (or three if we include the artist run space that was closed when I visited). Along with Sophie Gannon Gallery, Anita Traverso Gallery is still in Albert Street. It is not that they have all closed. John Buckley Gallery is now located in Prahran, Jenny Port Gallery is now in Collingwood and Karen Woodbury has moved to Flinders Lane.


Illustration Bombing

The name of my file for these street art photos is “bomb illustration” – I don’t know what else to call it. They are throw-ups, as in a quick bit of graffiti using one or two colours and it is an illustration. They are about style and imagination. There are artists who do a lot of these like MaxCat and Sims who can fill a whole wall with it. There are artists who do it as a kind of visual tagging, drawing the same thing over and over. And there are unknown artists who draw or paint on walls when the opportunity and the environment presents to them. I enjoy them.

Makn, Brunswick, 2011

Makn, Brunswick, 2011

Robots, Brunswick, 2008

Robots, Brunswick, 2008

Sims, East Richmond Station, 2009

Sims, East Richmond Station, 2009

MaxCat, Brunswick, 2009

MaxCat, Brunswick, 2009

unknown artist, Melbourne, 2009

unknown artist, Melbourne, 2009

unknown artist, Melbourne, 2009

unknown artist, Brunswick, 2009

Altered buffing, unknown artist, Brunswick, 2011

Altered buffing, unknown artist, Brunswick, 2011


Baby Guerrilla Wins

‘Baby Guerrilla’ is the recipient of their inaugural art prize, Two Years on the Wall. Two Years on the Wall is a $9000 prize biennial art competition for emerging artists working in mural designs. The winner has their work on the feature wall space at Union Dining Terrace where their work will be displayed for two years, receives a $7500 monetary prize from sponsor TarraWarra Estate and a $1500 celebratory dinner at Union Dining. The restaurant, Union Dining is located in the heritage-listed ‘Union House’ in Richmond.

Baby Guerrilla at Union Dinning Terrace

“The piece I have done for Union Dining Terrace is influenced by life and people around me, as is all my work. The eagle to me represents life, it’s so quick, it’s cruel, but it’s beautiful. I’m the women in the picture, most certainly, but I really trust my subconscious and work very instinctively, so it’s then hard to put into words what the work means to me,” Baby Guerrilla comments on her winning entry.

Two Years on the Wall is not exclusively a prize for street art but street artists have an advantage because of their experience with wall pieces. So it is not a surprise that it’s first winner is a person whose work has spanned both the galleries and streets.

Baby Guerrilla is best known for her paste-ups of floating figures high up on walls. I’ve been watching guerrilla territory for years growing on the walls of the city, Fitzroy and Brunswick. I had seen her paintings on exhibition at the City Library and so in 2010 I knew where the illustrations that started being pasted up around Melbourne’s laneways came from. I had been impressed with her early figurative paintings; her painting was good but her subject matter with references to genetic modification was a bit odd. Still there was the image of floating figure of a woman in the exhibition that is now the central to her work.

Her early paste-ups were very “toy” both in the graffiti sense of the word, as in, someone toying at the scene, and in toy scale: “my first ‘paste-ups were tiny, about 20 cm long”. At the time Baby Guerrilla had her studio at Blender Studios. And as Blender Studios maintains a mix of gallery and street artists had lots of contact with Melbourne street artists and lots of encouragement to work on the streets.

Baby Guerrilla persevered working in the streets; she increased the scale of the figures and was much more daring in positioning her figures high up the wall. (There is a formula here kids – keep working on an image and do it large.) But what really makes the art of Baby Guerrilla is the image that her art presents of a Nietzschean avant-garde artist, full of the will to transfigure the city, bravado, adventure, fearless and indifferent to life or death.

Baby Guerrilla’s prize win is part of a trend of street artists winning mainstream art prizes or at least being in the prize exhibition, like E.L.K.’s entry in the Archibald prize last year.


Graffiti & Architecture

If graffiti is a major design movement, the contemporary equivalent to art deco, a total style from graphics to fashion to architecture. When I first wrote about street art and architecture in 2009 there was very little to write about apart from bigger walls. Now there are whole buildings.

Reka on building in East Richmond

Painting whole wall or whole building is becoming more common in Melbourne with works by Reka, Ears, Ghostpatrol and others. Most pieces use a section of wall as simply a support for the paint without consideration about the size of piece in relationship to the size of the wall. Going around the corner, looking at the whole wall or painting a whole building is something else.

But it is still just another façade.

Hive Graffiti Apartments in Carlton

In 2011 ITN Architects built Hive Graffiti Apartments. Located in the inner city suburb of Carlton. The project is the architect’s home; I went along to see it when it was open to the public as part of Open House Melbourne 2012. It is a joint development by the architect Zvi Belling and Melbourne old school graff artist ‘Prowla’, both of whom reside in the building. For more images and a floor plan of Hive see DeZeen Magazine.

‘Prowla’ was a member of the Rock Da City graffiti crew (1987 – 2009) – his dog was calmly watching all the people waiting in the garage from the stairs to his apartment.

On one side of the building large concrete letters and windows spelled “Hive” along with a couple of arrows on the upper floor and some dynamic old school design. But what apart from the façade was graffiti about the apartments? It is hard to know as this may well be the first graffiti style building in the world. The Hive is the first in a promised series of Hip Hop buildings designed by ITN Architects maybe when we see some more it will be easier to say. Perhaps, it is the collaboration in the design, or, incorporating existing urban elements – from the original street face of the old tailor’s shop, the old brick walls and the laneway entrance. The house is like a fresh new piece in an old laneway. Inside the lines are crisp, it is compact and the angles flow with a cool direction.

The street art collection hanging in the house was familiar – I’d seen some of it at a Melbourne Stencil Festival exhibition many years ago. The house was also familiar in a way, there was no feeling of being unable to imaging living there; it is like a typical flat only cooler.


LMFF Culture

L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program – Material Culture – Counihan Gallery – Fashion Loves Art Loves Fashion – Sophie Gannon Gallery

Spinner at the opening of Material Culture

Spinner at the opening of Material Culture

All the exhibitors in “Material Culture” at the Counihan Gallery are RMIT Textile Design alumni. The hanging of “Material Culture” is exceptionally well done; the exhibition looks exciting from the women spinning on the podium outside before the opening, to John Brooks “The object in flux II” hanging from the ceiling in the foyer, to Gina Gascoigne “Siphonomore” made from optical fibre and light, the exhibition enticed the visitor in. At the far end of the gallery, Plush! had set up their workshop with mannequins, loom and sewing machine with their paper patterns and yarn hanging on the wall. 785cm of Kim McKechnie’s linen and cotton “Memory Cloth (Notes from my Grandmother)” hung in a great curve. In the online information Carmila Stirling wondered if her delicate hemp and cotton piece would survive being pinned to a wall but it did and looks fantastic. Really, the curatorial team should be congratulated. The macabre skeletal knitted wool one-piece bathing suit by Michelle Browne “La vie, la Mort” really appealed to my taste.

Michelle Browne “La vie, la Mort”, knitted wool, 2012

Opening of"Fashion Loves Art Loves Fashion" at Sophie Gannon Gallery

The best parts “Fashion Loves Art Loves Fashion” at the Sophie Gannon Gallery are the collaborations between the artists and the fashion label, the reason for the exhibition. Del Kathryn Barton and Romance Was Born created a quilt with painted figures by Barton and material that Romance Was Born use in a very long dress that is also on exhibition. Lucas Grogan and Rittenhouse also have an impressive collaboration with clothes made Grogan’s distinctive blue and white patterns. Grogan is also exhibiting a large embroidery, “Welcome Home Babe” 2011. Julia Devila and Material By Product also have a harmonious collaboration with surreal gothic style. John Nichoson and Josh Goot take 70s heels to a new level exploring the post minimalist possibilities of coloured Perspex heels.

There are some less impressive collaborations in the exhibition. Two large photographs by Nan Goldin derelict sheik style from a series with American model Erin Wasson are used in publication by Scanlan & Theodore. Rittenhouse used Gemma Smith’s curves in fabric for a little black dress. And Something Else used digital remixes of Ken Done coral reef paintings in their fabric print.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of the LMFF Cultural Program. Vetti has photos of the LMFF Windows By Design at David Jones (part of the LMFF Cultural Program).


Graffiti Makes Great History

Oriel Guthrie and Spencer Davids’s Writers Bench: The Evolution of Melbourne Graffiti and Street Art Culture 1980 – 2011 tells a social history of Melbourne graffiti in a neutral, balanced and insightful manner. In telling the history its answers the question of how Melbourne arrived at this current state of flourishing diversity in graffiti and street art. It is a story that progresses from crude beginnings to the current sophistication and inclusion in art galleries.

The documentary’s title, Writer’s Bench, comes from the congregation of graff writers on the benches at Richmond Railway Station. Graffiti and street art are mass art movements; there are hundreds of artists in Melbourne alone. There are so many artists that to pick favourites is just an exercise of personal taste. And the documentary interviews so many of the artists involved in Melbourne’s graffiti scene. There are so many people interviewed in this documentary that their numbers swelled ACMI’s largest cinema to near capacity for the premier.

The documentary is not just interviews. There are extensive images of Melbourne in the 1980s from the archives of news and artists. There are no trite moments of documentary film making with artists walking around or long panning shots; when there is music there are plenty of relevant images to go with it.

Writer’s Bench neatly edits the many interviews and images to tell a social and art history in three clear chapters: the Sharpies tags and political slogans, the hip-hop graffiti and finally the stencils and street art. Each chapter has a beginning and end that leads on to the next; how hip hop replaced the gang culture with aerosol art and music, how the impact of age, the police and heroin addictions on hip hop generation opened the space for the stencils and street artists.

Many art histories highlight certain artists as stars. In doing this they ignore so many other artists or suggest that they were either helping or hindering the success of the star. Writers Bench does not do this – the artists are presented as people involved in the history and not aesthetic masters. Writers Bench looks at an evolution that responds to the urban environment and not the development of the current style. It does not glorify the artists – it discusses the problems along with the achievements. You can make your own aesthetic and other judgements; Writers Bench documents the history.

For reasons of full disclosure I’m proud to call the co-producer, source, soundtrack and more, Spencer David my friend.


Letting it all Hang Out

On Thursday afternoon I was walking around looking at galleries and the street art in Richmond and Cremorne. Why not they are just on either side of the Richmond train line. Well, Block Projects is further down Stephenson Street than that but there was some street art to keep me amused along the way.

Block Projects had a great exhibition by Richard Grigg. At first I thought have I walked into an exhibition by a group of intellectually challenged individuals. It looked awkward, stumbling and obvious. “It is a very brave exhibition,” Malcolm, from Block Projects told me. It is indeed; he is letting it all hang out, as they would say in the sixties. Grigg’s unconscious is so close to the surface you can see its periscope, conning tower and the wake

I walk around again to appreciate just how much Grigg’s is pushing himself in all directions. There is the crude, the childlike, the doodle-like, comic book, symbolic, text-based, graphomania, and ultra-fine drawings splashed with other stuff. Grigg’s large pencil drawing on paper are excellent, especially the sleeping crocodile being teased by branches and bladders in “tickle, tickle, I will save you” and the pile of dead animals in “after the flood”. It is all wonderfully surreal in an entirely contemporary way.

Across the railway tracks I wandered the back streets looking for galleries and street art – a few good pieces including this magnificent side of a house by Reka. Finally I found Place Gallery amid the many warehouse conversations.

Reka, house wall Richmond

Place Gallery had an exhibition by Glenn Morgan. There are 8 paintings along with 3 of the wood and tin diorama sculptures that are Morgan’s signature work. Morgan is also letting it all hang out with his art; in his large panoramas he shows the turmoil of everyday life in detail with speech balloons. There is a series telling the personal story of his relationship with his uncle.

Glen Morgan is also exhibiting a series of paintings that tell the story of Victoria’s drought. There is including one great, epic history painting, “Global Warming” that shows drought, bushfires and floods. You don’t get many history paintings anymore; they used to be so popular.

It struck me looking at Glen Morgan exhibition and considering Richard Grigg’s exhibition that Glenn Morgan doesn’t appear to be such an outsider artist anymore. It is not that Morgan’s art has changed the world has caught up with him. On the streets and in the galleries the artists are letting it all hang out.


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