Four Adelaide Sculptures

Considering two sculptures at the Adelaide Station Environs and two in Rundle Mall. The former are two prominent local late-modernist sculptors; large sculptures focused on formal qualities. The latter are contemporary sculptures focused on facilitating interactions.

Robert Kipple’s Bronze Sculpture Number 714 1968 has a reflexive quality like all of Kipple’s mature sculptures; its subject refers to its own creation. An assemblage of wooden parts used for casting steel machine parts cast as bronze sculptures. The machine aesthetic of Dada and Surrealism played out a casual conglomeration.

There is a balance of tones, curves and straight lines in Akio Makigawa’s Elements and Being 1989. It is one of his largest sculptural groups with five separate elements: a column with a pillow on top, a square pavilion with a round roof, a curved form and two obelisks topped with a flame and a cloud. Lyrical, but its black and white stone appears cold and unapproachable.

Makigawa’s time in Australia reminds me of the end of the White Australia Policy (before that, Australia was an apartheid state like South Africa and now Israel). Makigawa was only allowed to move to Australia because the policy was officially over. For more on Makigawa, see my earlier post

People passing by barely glance at these sculptures. The Makigawa looks like it is part of the entrance to the Intercontinental Hotel. Both the Kipple and Makigawa sculptures project the statement that this is art, so do not touch.

Compare this to sculptures of the animals in the Rundle Mall: the four pigs and the pigeon. A bronze pig is going for bronze rubbish atop an actual rubbish bin. It is not high art, it doesn’t mean much, but it does a lot of work in the mall. A Day Out 1999 is the work of Sydney-based sculptor Marguerite Derricourt.

These are much-loved pigs; their noses and bodies polished by the hands of many people. Sat on by children and a few adults. The pigs were named by members of the public in 1999. Horatio, Truffles, Oliver, Augusta; plaques record the pigs’ names and the names of the namers. 

A boy runs up and taps the chest of the stainless steel and brass Pigeon before running back to rejoin his family; his younger sister follows suit. This is not some feral pigeon; the ring on its leg indicates it is a racing pigeon or a pet. The angular metal pigeon, geometric rather than realist, is a recent addition from 2020. It is the first public sculpture of Paul Sloan, not the American actor, director and screenwriter, but the Adelaide-based artist.

These are more than selfie-props; they serve as waymarkers, physical elements of the mall outside the commercial. Unlike Kipple and Makigawa, neither Derricourt nor Sloan are well known. The aesthetic difference between these four sculptures is reflected in a debate in the Adelaide City Council about replacing words in their public sculpture commissions from “cheeky” and “subversive” to “beautiful”. If they want “beautiful” they should quadruple their budget because it is that much rarer.


Posts on Paul Yore

Given the upcoming exhibition at ACCA, “Paul Yore: Word Made Flesh,” I’ve brought together all my posts on Paul Yore. Most of them are about the police raid on the Like Mike exhibition in the middle of 2013 and the subsequent 2014 trial. There are also two about his 2016 exhibition at Neon Parc.

Paul Yore, Computer World, 2016

My post Gallery Crawl November 2011 records my first encounter with Paul Yore’s art with his exhibition “Monument to the Republic” at Gertrude Contemporary in a single sentence: “Not that there was any deeply political work in any of the galleries or on the street, except for Paul Yore’s ‘Monument to the Republic’ at Gertrude Contemporary, a piss-taking piece of slacker art that represents the Australian Republic perfectly.”

Police Raid Art Gallery

Political motivations behind police raid

Follow up Like Mike

Barry Keldoulis is Fucked is about the censorship at the Sydney Contemporary 2013.

Censorship, Barry Keldoulis, and Paul Yore gives Keldoulis a right of reply.

Paul Yore Justice Delayed  

Justice Repeatedly Delayed

Paul Yore contest mention more on the legal proceedings as I morph from art critic to court reporter.

Paul Yore’s trial day 1

Paul Yore’s trial day 2

All charges dismissed Oct 2014

Paul Yore at Neon Parc, an exhibition in 2016

Paul Yore Artist Talk at Neon Parc 2016

Paul Yore, Love is Everything, 2016 (front view)

Taste & Personality

Have you had key lime pie before?

Yes, but I was a different person then.

Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994)

How does taste define personality? We want it to say something and think it says something about other people. However, we know this isn’t true, even as we try to use it on dating sites, with lists of favourite books, movies, and music.

To what extent does aesthetics influence our lives? From the moment we awake, we are concerned about our appearance, even when we are dead. We live in a world of imagination and visual appearance. We both want our tastes to define us. Wearing the t-shirt and other displays, and yet favourite books, movies, and music says almost nothing about the person. I once met someone who told me their favourite bands were ABBA and Def Leppard. 

We want to use taste displays to indicate our personality, mood and desires. We also have a taste as a personal preference. Statements of favourite books, movies and music are signals. What book would make you instantly walk away if you saw your blind date reading?

Two polarities are operating here, a complex code of interpersonal communication and personal preferences. Dressing for personal aesthetic preference, like little children, differs from dressing as part of a code. You may still have aesthetic preferences within a code, just as a writer prefers one word or phrase over another.

Recorded music that we listen to privately may differ from the music we put on for others to hear. The two polarities of personal preference and coded communication expose the polarities of private and public in art and culture. Aside from book readings, reading is private. The performing arts, before home viewing technology (videotapes, DVD, streaming), were the most public of the arts. Consequently, music changed when private listening (headphones) became standard technology in the early 1970s.

Cultural codes can be used as a language that some consider stylish, elegant, or simply functional. So a person’s fashion sense could be compared to a writer’s style. This is not about personal preferences; it is not about favourites but coded communication. My party music list differs from the music I want at my funeral. These are displays of implied character, identity and perception; dressing like a wanna-be someone else. 

How do your aesthetic choices signal your personality? Your choice of clothes is part of your preferences, but you also have a limited wardrobe. And that wardrobe will indicate much more than personality: cultural background, class, occupation, etc. These aspects of personal identity contribute to the selection process. So there is a difference between what I think is great art, my personal preferences, and my own art collection.

Taste is more about background, experiences and education than character. Yet people with the same background may very different tastes. And people with very similar character traits may have very different tastes. Even extremes, like musical anhedonia, where people get no pleasure from listening to music, don’t reveal anything about the person.

Yet taste defines personality because we, or others, want it to. The human right and desire for identity are transferred into our tastes as it is onto other aspects of our life.


Presgrave Place

A place where the art is glued to the wall.

The picture frames glued to the brick wall were the first elements to appear. These had cheap prints of European art in them at first. The prints have long since decayed, but the frames are still on the wall and used by other artists. Over the years, more frames and more original art has been added. Frames now cover much of the wall. It is a story of accumulation because Presgrave Place has never been buffed, unlike the aerosol-covered laneways.

In 2007, the lane and its frames appeared in ABC’s Not Quite Art presented by Marcus Westbury, when Melbourne’s street art scene had been around for about a decade. In 2008 there was also Melbourne’s smallest art gallery, Trink Tank, a small glass vitrine outside Bar Americano. (My 2008 blog post on Presgrave Place.)  

Presgrave Place is a remnant of the service lanes of Melbourne, an open-air dead end trapped between several small shopping malls. A few businesses still store their bins around the corner, but it is not an unpleasant place. It is not the easiest place to find as it is off Howey Place, which is off Little Collins Street (opposite David Jones).

At the entrance to the lane, high up on the wall, there is a cast concrete sign, a geometric panel with a sign announcing the Capital Theatre and emulating the crystalline ceiling of the theatre. According to eMelbourne, the Capitol Theatre’s workshop was in Presgrave Place in 1961. Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahony designed this piece of mid-century modernism. 

Kranky’s art and energy revived the location in 2016. (See my post Presgrave Place Renaissance.) Now, the continued presence of work by the Ninja of Street Art and many other artists keeps it active.

Presgrave Place ranks number 18 in Stephen’s 24 Best Laneways in Melbourne. I would include it in my top 10 street art locations in Melbourne’s CBD. It is the smaller, lesser-known, long-running location for Melbourne Street art, but Presgrave Place rarely disappoints. Few things change in Presgrave Place, not even the street art. The art will be left on the wall until it rots away, adapted into another work, like the original frames glued to its walls.

I have written about many artists in other blog posts: SunfigoPhoenixCalmVKM (Vikki Murray), Mr Dimples, and Facter. Other artists whose work that you might see include Manda Lane, who created all the foliage, pot plants and the wonderful paper-cut cats at the end of the lane. Crisp is the thinking person’s sci-fi fan; if anyone needs a stencil spray-painted Star Wars meme, then Crisp can supply them with added political content. Stencils of birds by Edie Black. Paste-up women by Suki. Jayeff with the smiling eye. Kambeeno’s red, white and black paste-ups… G.T. Sewell, Michael Fikaris, Vinks, Happy … it would would take hours to list them all.

If you have been breathing those aerosol fumes or straining your neck looking at those giant murals for too long, then Presgrave Place is the place to go. It is distinctly different from the aerosol paint and fame of Hosier Lane.


Gertrude Street Cool

What do I think about Time Out naming Gertrude Street as “the second coolest street in the world”? Time Out’s opinion was based on the combination of food, fun, culture and community. I will focus on one of them — the culture.  

The magnolias were blooming as I examined the street’s current cool state. It is pleasant to walk along, although the car sewer in the middle makes crossing dangerous. However, it is absurd to say, as Time Out Melbourne editor Eliza Campbell suggests, that it hasn’t been “gentrified” like Brunswick and Smith Streets. Don’t tell me that the street hasn’t been gentrified. All those boutiques and fancy cafes are gentrification defined. The Foodworks supermarket is still there, the one ordinary shop left on the street. A new apartment block has been built where the paint and hardware shop once stood. The barbershop has closed… How when barbershops open all over Melbourne?

If you like street art and graffiti, then the lanes off Gertrude Street are well worth looking at. That hasn’t changed; it has, if anything, improved in both quality and quantity. My first blog post on this blog (back in 2008) was about Debs, Phibs and others painting one wall. 

I’ve been up and down this street many times in my life. Amongst the first was going to an opening at Max Joffe’s gallery, Melbourne Contemporary Arts Gallery (MCA), in the mid-80s. Later Joffe would be jailed for stealing paintings from Albert Tucker. It was next recommended as the best place to avoid the uncool 1988 bicentennial of the continent’s colonisation. The old post office, then the Aboriginal Health Centre, was painted with the Aboriginal flag’s red, black and yellow. In the 1990s, it was the centre of Melbourne’s heroin dealing.

Oigåll Projects

Once seven art galleries were on Gertrude Street, there are now four: Art & Collectors, Australian Printer Workshop, Oigåll Projects, and This Is No Fantasy + Dianne Tanzer Gallery.

Art & Collectors is a recently opened art dealer in upstairs rooms. Whereas the Australian Printer Workshop was established in 1981. It was showing the works by the 2020-2022 APW George Collie Memorial Award exhibition for contributions to the field of Australian Printmaking recipients Barbara Hanrahan, Deborah Klein, Hertha Kluge-Pott, and Ann Newmarch.

Oigåll Projects has a photography exhibition by Annika Kafcaloudis, “Family History”, that spilled onto the street with a large paste-up. Oigåll Projects describes itself as a “gallery and conceptual testing ground”, as well as “a love letter to her (Gertrude Street)”.

This Is No Fantasy + Dianne Tanzer had Michael Cook’s new series, “Enculturation”, a parody reversal of the stolen generation. This Is No Fantasy shows how much commercial gallery practice has changed over the decades it has been on the street, exemplified by its name and the table with chairs in its front window.

There have been many art galleries on Gertrude Street. Still, amongst all of them, 200 Gertrude Street (later Gertrude Contemporary) stood out. It was Melbourne’s first contemporary art space. Gertrude Contemporary has moved to Preston South, and Gertrude Glasshouse is a project space of Gertrude Contemporary in Collingwood; both retain the connection to the street in their name.

Maybe it is the coolest street in Melbourne (but not the coolest lane).


The Woman Who Stole Vermeer

“We are looking for either a master thief or a madman.” Scotland Yard incorrectly assumed. For it was a woman, Rose Dugdale, who was the mastermind behind art thefts and one attempt at an aerial bombing of a police station. The book could have been titled: “the woman who stole Vermeers” because she probably stole two.

This biography of Rose Dugdale follows a strictly chronological narrative. Consequently, it has a prolonged start with her childhood and education, including her PhD. Followed by the development of her earnest politics. And then more chapters on the background of the Irish Troubles, Bloody Sunday and other revolutionary politics of the 1960s. 

There are 262 pages in the book, including the author’s note, bibliography, endnotes and acknowledgements. It is only on p. 99 that any art is stolen, and then they are unnamed paintings from Dugdale’s family home. And not until p.147 that a Vermeer is stolen.

Not that it takes the police long to arrest her and recover the stolen art. Famous stolen art might not be able to be sold, but there are often political motivations for art theft. And Dugdale was all about politics.

Despite defending Dugdale’s autonomy and leadership in his introduction, author, Anthony M. Amore fails to provide evidence that anyone ever suggested otherwise.

Amore, the Director of Security and Chief Investigator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, has written two other books about art crimes Stealing Rembrandt and The Art of the Con. However, his “investigator and security practitioner” background was a problem because his subject, Dugdale, wouldn’t talk to him for fear her interview could be used to convict former IRA members. Not that his background in security seems to give him any insights into the three art thefts. Unfortunately, this means that he can’t examine Dugdale’s intellectual life, nor does it provide any insight into Irish politics.

From my background in Melbourne, I could see how Dugdale’s attempted ransom of the Vermeer could have influenced the Australian Cultural Terrorists to ransom Picasso’s Weeping Woman and their choice of the word ‘terrorist’. 

Furthermore, my own research shows that although there are less than forty authentic paintings by Vermeer, it is remarkable that at least five were stolen in the 1970s (something Amore fails to mention). Even more notable of those five, at least three were stolen for political reasons (to aid the IRA and Bengali refugees of East Pakistan). The small size of his paintings made Vermeer the perfect target for art theft.

Anthony M. Amore The Woman Who Stole Vermeer (Pegasus Crime, 2020)


Where walls are wild

Alchemical calligraphy that turns walls to gold. Pieces that slant, inter-connect, curve and bubble, with eye-popping colours (how did they get brown to look fabulous?). Along with some great supporting characters (who remembers Alf?).

One hot spot for graffiti in Brunswick is an area bounded by Sydney Road, Moreland Road, Albion Street and the railroad tracks. It has a network of laneways in the light industrial area around the Brunswick tram depot. There are other locations for seeing quality graffiti in Brunswick – like the land of Sunshine

This is not an example of Melbourne’s laneway culture, with cafes and bars. Although that is developing with Red Betty’s, a bar run by artist and extreme printmaker Joel Gailer, hidden in Houdini Lane. Mostly it is repurposed car infrastructure surrounded by brick and concrete walls. Some of the bluestone paved lanes are the more disgusting rubbish-filled lanes I’ve seen. Someone needs to get a recycling bin for all the aerosol cans and beer bottles (graffiti is sign-writing partying).

The car park, off Sydney Road, has long been a location for great graffiti. For about a decade, a mural of a train with old-school graffiti on carriages ran along the opposite wall, the colours slowly washing out with the weather. Now Paris and Peril have returned to paint the other wall (covering up the work of a prolific and irritating street artist). Paris and Peril are veterans of Melbourne’s graffiti. Love the way that they have shaded around some of the actual bricks bringing the whole wall into their piece.

Ilham Lane has a bit of quality street art, including a large mural by Civil and some small pieces by Phoenix; however, most of the work in the area is graffiti. 

Graffiti thrives in liminal zones like this area in transition, where multi-storey apartments are replacing factories and the light industry. Not all light industrial buildings in the area are currently being used for industrial purposes. There are artists’ studios scattered amongst them, or in clusters like at Tinning Street, and a commercial art gallery, Neon Parc. Where walls are wild.


%d bloggers like this: