Monthly Archives: March 2010

Rupert Bunny @ NGV

I went to the Rupert Bunny exhibition media preview at the NGV at Federation Square. It was what I expected. There was orange juice, tea, coffee and nibbles (mini hot-cross buns and full-size lamingtons). Followed by speeches by NGV Director Gerard Vaughan, Arts Minister Peter Batchelor and the assistant curator, Elena Taylor (as the curator, Deborah Edwards was delayed flying in from NSW).

There was about 50 something people in media pack – I only recognized a couple of people – no TV reporters and only a couple of photographers. There was a reporter with a cool looking microphone digital recorder combination but most weren’t even taking notes. Most of them, I assume, were going to crib from the NGV media kit. In the “media kit” there is a bookmark, an A4 handbill, notes from the exhibitions and a media release from the Minister for Arts.

After the speeches the gallery doors smoothly slide open. Elena Taylor, the assistant curator gave a quick tour of the exhibition followed by impromptu speeches from Peter Batchelor and Gerard Vaughan. Although the exhibition is subtitled “artist in Paris” all of the speakers were keen to emphasize the local connection with Rupert Bunny. Bunny was born in Melbourne, received his early training in painting at the NGV school and returned to Melbourne at the end of his life. Peter Batchelor remembered paintings by Bunny that hung for a time in the Victorian Premier’s office. Batchelor demonstrated that he can think about the arts, noting the influence of the Ballet Russes on Australian culture, and didn’t mention party politics.

The speeches exhorted the media to “get out the message” to promote the exhibition. But I am not going to proscribe this exhibition to anyone, there is no need to see this exhibition; it will not change your life, your view of the world, or make you a better person or artist. Rupert Bunny was a dedicated follower of art fashions, making him a popular but not a significant artist. He started painting in a symbolist style, and following the example of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he painted some British Christian images before painting his wife and model, Jeanne Morel for the next decade. To prevent himself from falling asleep, like many of the women in his paintings, Bunny changes his style in 1912 to suit the modern fashion. Post-WWII he changed style again and turned to painting landscapes.

If you like Rupert Bunny’s paintings you will like this exhibition; it is the first major retrospective since the artist’s death. Some of the paintings have been recently cleaned by the conservation staff at the NGV and were looking fresh and bright. I don’t like Bunny’s paintings, I hate his pallid pastel colors and his insipid themes, but I found the exhibition interesting perspective on art history and I was glad that I didn’t have to pay the admission fee. I met my neighbor, Marge on the train coming home from the media preview; she was on her way back from her u3a choir practice. Marge didn’t like Rupert Bunny’s paintings either.


Last Week

Thinking back over the last week and trying to make a blog entry out of it.

I finally saw No Vacancy’s new location on the other side of the QV centre (I do try to vary the galleries that I visit). No Vacancy has also slightly changed artistic direction, moving away from street art and is now exhibiting more illustrations. This is a move that other galleries associated with street art have also made as illustrations are more saleable. The illustrations on exhibition at No Vacancy when I visited were by Eveline Tarunadjaja, and full of detailed long hair, hence the exhibition’s title: “Dandruff”. Tarunadjaja’s illustrations are influenced by art neuvueau right down to the fonts and the use of gold ink on details.

On Saturday afternoon Federation Square was crowded with young women on Saturday attracted by the free catwalk shows, DJs, hip-hop dancers and other features of this fashion fairground, it was still more of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. (See my other entry on exhibitions in the festival) Catherine and I are still looking at fashion festival associated exhibitions. E.G. Etal had a good exhibition, Figment, curated magnificently by Fleur Watson. The jewelery was displayed on old overhead projectors. You could look at the piece back-lit on the projector or look at its shadow projected on the wall. (See Melbourne Jeweller’s review of this exhibition.)

Until Never also had an exhibition associated with the fashion festival. “The World of Kmossed” is exhibition by Rosie Kavanavoch with photographs from the limited edition book. The exhibition poked fun at the fashion festival, label bags and stupid, celebrity models, ripping the glamour to shreds with satire. In 2005 Kate Moss’s contract with Chanel was not renewed due to her reprobate behavior and Kavanavoch doesn’t hold back poking fun at this – and why shouldn’t she?

I had a look at Hosier Lane and there were plenty of people doing the same on Saturday. And Catherine and I went on the Giant Sky Wheel at Birrarung Marr (not the broken white elephant of a giant wheel in the Docklands). It afforded some unique and pleasant views of the city and the Yarra River and I was happy to be going around in a big circle.

Fashion Festival Exhibitions

The L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival is a very democratic fashion festival; unlike many fashion festivals most events are open to the public, although there are a few industry only events. There are public catwalk shows and if you are in the city you can’t help but notice that the fashion festival is on.

The exhibitions associated with the festival add to the accessibility of the festival. I have been aware of it for about a decade due all the associated exhibitions that I’ve seen in galleries that I regularly view. My wife, Catherine and I have enjoyed seeing exhibitions and a few catwalk shows that are part of the L’Oreal Fashion Festival for several years. This year we saw exhibitions at Craft Victoria, at Bus gallery and in fashion boutiques in Crossley Street. A few weeks ago we saw the exhibition at RMIT Gallery (see my review). We also saw “The Garment-Body” by Sarah Berners in the Main Space of Bus (see Goodbye Bus).

Crossley Street is an interesting little street, well worth a wander with its range of boutique shops, antique dealer, tailors and a bar. Gallery Funaki has jewellery made by a variety of local jewelers with a strong interest in the craft of jewellery. Japanese couture designers are on display in the window and a tight crowd of mannequins at Madame Virtue & Co. The fashion is playful in materials and design. Failed to see the earring festival at Glizten, also on Crossley St. and also in the fashion festival exhibitions, but then neither Catherine nor I wear earrings.

Craft Victoria has an ordinary exhibition; I’ve seen it all before and not just because I’ve seen the exhibition twice. I’ve seen empty exhibitions before, I’ve seen art made by cutting into old books before and I’ve even seen braided horsehair on exhibition before. And these were not exciting examples of this sort of art.

Catherine and I have, in the past, gone to see Circa Nocturna. Circa Nocturna is Melbourne’s alternative fashion show (for “alternative” read “goth” except that word doesn’t market well to a goth audience). It was more fun, interesting and punctual (!) than the professional fashion shows that I have attended. It featured amateur models that come in more shapes and sizes than the anorexic professional models. The models had more drama, personality and choreography than the regular fashion parade. And there was plenty of drama in the fashion show – it was a spectacular performance and I expect nothing less from goths. In 2007 the catwalk featured two giant puppets of a girl and drunken rabbit and models accessorized with living giant stick insects.

“What Goth has that distinguishes it from most youth subcultures is 400 years of history to plunder.” wrote Helen Stuckey (L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival Arts Program, 2004)

Not that the eleven designers featured in the Circa Nocturna 2007 plundered the whole 400 years for this one fashion show. The bustle that featured prominently in last years show has gone – it was only a brief fashion trend when it first came around. Dragonsblood showgirl outfits were inspired by the 1940s including the spectacular peacock showgirl outfit. GeoMythik also feature burlesque and carnival influences including a model with two red ostrich feather fans.

Circa Nocturna 2008 was a debacle and we didn’t go again, although this year friends who attended told me that it went well.

Another exhibition that I saw at the 2006 fashion festival was Noble Rot at Como Historic House and Garden in South Yarra. Noble Rot was a major installation occupying many rooms in Como House, including the normally unseen spaces like the servants stairwells. It was about the ephemeral nature of fashion, the damaged, stained, unfinished garments, fripperies and accessories. Such curatorial driven exhibitions are self-indulgent wank but in this case it was a fascinating and subtle change to the boring historic house routine. The stains on fabric, the garment maker’s labels, the faded folds in a silk ballroom dress and the room of black mourning cloths had a real sense of time past.

(This blog entry includes edited versions of two entries published in my old blog, Culture Critic @ Melbourne. My old blog has since been taken down for reasons beyond my control but I thought that this entry was worth republishing.)

More Street Art Sculpture

Now that I’m looking for it I’m seeing a lot more high quality street art sculpture. Junky Projects and Malfunction have both been busy, or maybe I am just seeing more.

I don’t know who does these well-constructed boxes: “Suggestion Box”. (Vetti says that they are by Nick Ilton, see her comment). The Suggestion Box person has also done another box: “In Case of Paranoia…” (A friend rescued this one from destruction by M/train). Both are very clever sculptures, the subversive suggestion of interactivity that they present is fun. The suggestion box idea has been done before, for example see this photo, but it is still repeatable.

In several of Melbourne’s lanes there are these castings of the space between styrofoam packing. Casting the interior space is a very Rachel Whiteread kind of idea. These sculptures show that not all street art is figurative.

How will street sculpture develop? Melbourne desperately need more sculpture in an increasingly uniform urban environment and if the government won’t do it then individuals will take action.

Anyway here are some more photos of street art sculpture from around Australia; and if you want more see my street art sculpture video.

A legal street sculpture wall next to a parking lot in Adelaide.

A detail of that same parking lot wall in Adelaide

Seen on a wall in Brisbane's West End

Junky Projects, Melbourne

Mal Function, Melbourne

Goodbye Bus

A post-minimalist jellybean on pin installation, “one jel-ly bean, two” by Natalie McQuade, covering all the wall space in Bus’s foyer. It was so beautiful, so minimal and so fun with the red and orange jellybeans pinned in a modernist grid.

Continuing the fun there was a kitsch over-load of plastics and cleaning products of  “The Lodge” by Bree Dalton, Sarah Lynch, Cherelyn Brearley, Sarah Oldham in the Skinny Space. Not all of the artists seemed to be on board with this eccentric program and the paper cuts works didn’t work with the rest of the installation.

Then there is the blackness of “The Garment-Body” by Sarah Berners in the Main Space. “The Garment-Body” is part of the fashion festival, part PVA sculpture, part photography, part ugly, part stupid and all fun. Black is used with playful and magical effect; in one photograph the model’s legs are the only things visible amidst the blackness. I loved it partially because I wear black a lot of the time.

“Days Of Our Lives” by Melanie Chilianes is a quadraphonic soundscape, a condensed version of the TV soap opera. It is installed elegantly in the Sound Space with a single small tapestry of a man’s face by Michelle Hamer pinned to the wall. It didn’t really do much for me but I was impressed with the quadraphonic effects.

This is the last show for Bus Projects, “an independent art space”; I will miss the space, whatever it is called: “gallery”, “projects”, “art space” or “artist run initiative”. I’m not going to gush that I loved all their shows; sometimes I was disappointed after hiking over to the boring northeast side of the city, walking along Little Lonsdale Street and climbing up the wooden stairs. It wasn’t the best space for art, but they fitted in as many exhibitions as they could with all the various spaces and there is a surplus of exhibition space in Melbourne. I started this blog because I thought that there were exhibitions in spaces like Bus that were worth reviewing – good or bad. One of my favorite recent exhibitions at Bus was an exhibition of Indonesian art (Indonesian Art @ Bus); Bus may have been a small gallery but it had a vision of its place in the world.

Goodbye Bus.

Urban Art 10A @ BSG

Do not read this review of Urban Art 10A at Brunswick Street Gallery (BSG) as it is biased. I work with the curator, Tessa Yee in the Melbourne Stencil Festival. I own a work by Boo, so I have an interest in promoting her work. You have been warned.

Urban Art 10A is a group exhibition, a sampling of street influenced art. In this case street-influence includes aerosol stencils, cartoon influence illustration and custom toys. There is no free hand aerosol art, no vinyl toys, no street sculpture, no guerrilla gardens, etc. but you can’t have everything on a single floor of BSG.

The mini-exhibition of custom toys within the exhibition from the Australian Guild of Toy Makers is fun. Featuring custom soft toys by Amy Calton, Antonia Green and Rob Thompson. It is also the only sculptural element in the exhibition aside from Jak Rapmund’s pile of broken skateboard decks. His rough supports, the broken decks, the chunk bitten off with great teeth marks, are savage. His stencils are fun with a pop sensibility and neo-baroque backgrounds.

Jak Rapmund, photo courtesy of Tessa Yea

Jak Rapmund works, photo courtesy of Tessa Yee

There is plenty of work in the cartoon and illustrative direction; Timothy Molloy had a whole comic on exhibition. Apeseven has been painting on more bottles, I’m not surprised as he was very proud of this technical achievement when I spoke to him at his solo exhibition at Famous When Dead (see my review). And like James Panic (I own one of his t-shirts, more reasons for bias) Apeseven is including collage elements into his work. Boo combines both illustration and stencil art in her scenes that are surrounded with paper-cut sacred hearts.

Urban Art 10A did include urban images; the photographic quality of stencil art was on display. Kirpy’s stencils of urban images have a realist tone compared to the more romantic images of urban decay by Logan Moody. E.L.K.’s stencils of mosh-pits, was less about urban images and more about an urban experience.

Urban Art 10A Opening Night @ BSG, photo courtesy of Tessa Yee

I’m not so compromised over the other shows on the first floor of BSG; but I’m less interested in photography than street art. Jayne
Moberley’s “Schattenspiel
Show” is a series of misty color photographs of Melbourne and Sydney. Tebani
Slade’s “Lost & Found” is a series of sentimental still life black and white photographs. The only one that I could get into was Bridget
MacLeod “Ephemera”, black and white photographs preserving the ephemeral images of lace table clothes used as stencils on the street, but I have seen this idea used several times before.

I was distracted again by the stock on display at BSG; there was some stencil work by Ben Howe and a painting by Jean Lyons, who I had seen on exhibition at Flinders Lane Gallery last weekend. There were more people at the opening with skateboards than the usual exhibition. Milly, the gallery cat was greeting people with affection. I was there early before it got too crowded to move and I’d been on my feet for hours looking at other galleries that afternoon. I wanted dinner and a cocktail more than to hang out in a gallery.

Capping & Toy

There is vandalism, criticism, jealousy and insults within the street art scene. What do you expect? Peace, love and mung beans baby? It is the street and there is no control about what happens to the work on the streets. Accusations that another artist’s work is “toy” are a common insult in Melbourne. Happy made fun of this insult in a series of paste-ups of toys calling other toys “toy”.

Happy, Toys, Melbourne

Capping, that is tagging or painting on top of a work of street art. The question of damaged egos of street arts due to capping was raised at the artist’s talk at the Melbourne Stencil Festival 2009 (27/9/09). Capping and or other signs of disrespect tend to disturb the friends and fanes of the artist more than the artists. At the artist talk HaHa said he particularly enjoyed seeing one his robot stencils altered with his signature ‘HaHa’ painted over and the street number painted in. “I go with whatever.” He said with a big smile. Any attention after being noticed is just more attention for the artist.

Originally those who don’t think that they represent the core of street art will dismiss a writer as an amateur “toy”. At other times on the streets of Melbourne this insult is used by those jealous of the artist’s success. There is always someone who will attack an artist showing any sign of success.

Then there is the dumb vandalism of street art, where pieces crossed out or an aerosol line in an obnoxious colour wiggles across it. There are vandalism crews that use tags to obliterate graffiti. “More worrying is the ‘CTCV’ (or Cops That Catch Vandals’ vigilante campaign designed as a smear to Graffiti artworks and excellent pieces to dismay public interest in the artform. The rail operators and Victoria Police deny involvement; but the fact remain they are the perpetrators of such an insidious campaign. Somewhat like the person that went around tagging ‘Steve Beardon’; funny -but immature at best.” Rock the Boat commented on my entry Anti-Graffiti. Rock the Boat is not the first person to link the CTCV to employees of the suburban transport system or the police taking vigilante action where they couldn’t legally stop graffiti along Melbourne’s train lines. There are other common capping tags, but I don’t want to give them any fame for their vandalism. Is senseless destruction better or worse than destruction based on jealousy?

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