Monthly Archives: November 2011

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. None of the three brothers had any children but their sisters did.

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 (1854-1910).


Stencil People

Looking at my collection of photographs of Melbourne’s stencil scene, trying to sort them into some order, I was struck by the use of human figures. Most of the stencils are anonymous and I have no idea who created most of these images. Sometimes the figures interacts with the wall that they have been sprayed on, other times the wall is simply a support.

So without any further analysis here is a slideshow of stencils with figures.

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Gallery Crawl – November 2011

It was a pleasant late November day in Melbourne – blue sky and sun – a perfect day for a walk around some galleries.

Paste-up on Gertrude Street

At Kick Gallery the lighting was still being adjusted for the opening that evening. The gallery was full of small sculptures, in a couple of different styles, until I was given a room sheet I was unsure if it was all the work of one sculpture; Craig MacDonald. One of his styles, the spun profile, reminded me of Renato Bertelli’s “Continuous Profile of Mussolini” 1933, but MacDonald has made a spinning fat woman instead of an Italian dictator. Most of his quirky bronze sculptures have an underlying quiet sense of humour, like the figure of an astronaut without pants.

Ben Millar’s “The Colour Notation Project” in Seventh Gallery front space had an electric guitar plugged in, if anyone wanted to attempt to read the colour notation. It was all explained and the score was on the wall, in several minimalist looking works. The backroom of Seventh contained a video installation (as usual) this time “Place of Tears” a haunting installation by Hermoine Merry and Henriette Kassay-Schuster.

69 Smith St. had one of many end-of-year student exhibitions at this time. I don’t know what to expect of NMIT Diploma of Visual Arts graduates but the exhibition was roughly hung and most of the work reminded me of art fads that I’ve seen several years ago. They really should have been looking at the work at Gertrude Contemporary, if they wanted to do contemporary art and exhibit it well. When I was looking around the “Gertrude Studios 2011” exhibition I thought that the art students rather than gone to NMIT should have just worked on a building site and learnt to build walls, an essential skill in the contemporary art scene. Josh Petherick’s “Leaning, with accompaniment” is a great example of this trend in cutting chunks out of plasterboard walls.

“Gertrude Studios 2011” is a good end of year exhibition at Gertrude Contemporary. I’m consider going to their open studio on Saturday 26th – I went to one several years ago and I wonder what else I have on that day and what the weather will be like.

CPSU demonstration in Melbourne

The day was made even more pleasant by the band on the back of a truck grooving away accompanying the CPSU demonstration that was rallying near Parliament. With music in the air and the day so pleasant I decided to forgo the trams and walked to Collingwood. On the way back I saw many nurses returning from another strike rall. Good luck to both of them; this is why there is an Occupy movement around the world. It is these underpaid but vital care workers who do need better pay and conditions rather than the executive mangers who are getting the pay rises.

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. The boutiques, cafes and galleries along Gertrude and Smith streets looked apolitical, absorbed in their own style. There were lots of things to see on the walk; including an exhibition of modified top hats in the window of Smart Alec’s, and, of course, the street art down the laneways.

"From the Neck Up" - hats by Lu Skace J, Louise Blyton and Henry Maas

Commercial Galleries

I arrived at Sutton Gallery just as one of Gordon Bennett’s large canvases, “(Abstraction) indigene” 2011, sold for $38,500. The gallery assistant goes over the wall and sticks a red pin in to the wall beside the painting. Sutton Gallery would get about half of the $38,500 sale price on the Bennett canvas – what do they do that is worth $19,250? Commercial galleries are at the business end of the art world. They are galleries reviewed most often and that sell the most art to major art galleries and collections. And they control the art cannon through promotion, authentication and appraisal.

“The museums are run, more or less, by the dealers. In New York, the Museum of Modern Art is completely in the hands of the dealers. Obviously this is a manner of speaking, but it’s like that. The museum advisers are dealers.” Marcel Duchamp to Cabanne (p.98)

There are about 100 commercial art galleries in Melbourne; it is hard to identify them precisely as there are several types of commercial galleries operating. You can see the obvious differences – a designed gallery space, the staff area and office space. The two big differences about commercial galleries that are not immediately obvious are the staff and the stock room. The staff and gallery director know what they are doing and what they are selling  – art. They know their products and they knew their clients, they have been cultivating some collectors and corporate clients for years. They may also have a gallery space featuring examples of work from their stock room.

You can’t see the gallery’s business plan and there are degrees of the commercial nature of the gallery and a variety of particular business plans. Most commercial galleries do not focus on a particular type of art but try to balance their exhibition program – some like, Paul Silverman Gallery only exhibit a certain type of art, in this case animation frame art. However, for the purpose of this post I will focus on high-end commercial galleries that are part of ACGA (Australian Commercial Gallery Association) as these are the galleries that have the close relationship with the institutional art museums, the art magazines and the remaining broadsheet newspaper reviewer.

Anna Schwartz Gallery in Melbourne is a notable example of a commercial gallery that regularly sells work to the NGV and other institutions. It has regularly rotating exhibitions from artists represented by the gallery. They represent their artists not just during exhibitions but the whole time they represent the artist. They do this by documenting their work, pursuing ongoing sales and exhibition opportunities for the artist outside the gallery including commissions. The gallery advocates for and monitors the artist’s interests and legal rights. And the gallery collaborates with the artist on competition, grant and commission submissions; explaining why their artists receive the bulk of these opportunities.

“ACGA members represent and exhibit Australian artists, driving standards, excellence and innovation in the representation and presentation of contemporary Australian art. ACGA members represent artists in the full sense, developing and promoting their interests with honesty and integrity over their professional careers.” (ACGA website)

The ACGA website has some interesting documents about green gallery practice, authentication, guidelines for art prizes and competitions.

(For more information about other types of galleries see my post about Types of Galleries).

The Atlas Intervention

Raymond Gill in the Age (November 13, 2011) asked six curators who they considered to be the top 10 artists who “are continually pushing boundaries, investigating new methods, forging new forms of expression, influencing their peers and shaping the way artists, curators and audiences might look at art in the coming decades?”

CDH "Atlas" November 2011

Gill didn’t ask me who I would include in this list. I don’t mind; I’m one of the least influential people in Melbourne’s art world. But if I had been asked one artist that I certainly would have included is CDH, simply as a way to introduce my second blog post for the year about his art. Normally I don’t write more than one blog post about an artist as there are so many artists, galleries and other events to repeatedly write about one artists. So wanting to write a second blog post this year is an indication of CDH’s significance.

I meet up with CDH for lunch in the city at a burger bar – the day that the Age reported about his “Atlas” intervention.

CDH’s “Atlas” urban intervention with John Robinson’s ‘The Pathfinder’ is a significant work of unauthorized street art. The statue opposite the NGV in the Queen Victoria Gardens has been neglected for twenty years. The repetitive theft of the hammer that simply unscrewed made it impossible to maintain. CDH’s planning and the bravado of the daylight execution, disguised in a bright safety vest, was perfect and the result is an amazing transformation. CDH reverses the theft of the hammer with a replacement.

It was a big risk that might have gone wrong if the globe had been removed a day or so after the intervention. “Street art is generally cheap and is produced in multiples but I invested a lot into this.” CDH told me and then explained the time and money that he’d put into the project. Adding welding to his skill set and improving his angle grinding skills in the process. The globe had to be manufactured in China and imported to Australia. CDH said that he would have liked to have had the globe fabricated locally but could get Australian manufacturing.

How long will CDH’s intervention last? What will the official reaction will be? The tourists wandering around the Queen Victoria Garden today certainly appreciated the intervention. They also told me about the tagging of other sculptures in the garden. The intervention challenges the notion of vandalism because it is gift repair.

”Atlas” was “bestowed up the people of the City of Melbourne by courtesy of Rio Tinto and CDH” (according to the plaque that CDH added). The statue has been renamed “Atlas”, after the titan who carried the world on his shoulders. CDH’s post-modern Atlas swings the world around; the natural world has been unbalanced by the activities of man, including mining giants like Rio Tinto.

CDH, "Pacman: the street art guide game", 2011

CDH has experimented with water-activated paint, with the fire graffiti to paint a portrait of Mishima and next, oxidizing iron filling. He has made interactive street art maps of the city (Pac Man and Logic Deductive Test – my first blog post about CDH). The range of his activities is impressive – he is not from an art school background and does believe that artists should be creative, politically engaged and street.

In the emails before the meeting CDH asked me who my top 10 Melbourne street artists and the 10 international street artists that I would like to see paint in Melbourne. The list of Melbourne street artists was easy (CDH was on that list) but I’m not that interested in the international street art scene – street art is such a mass movement and often anonymous. I thought again about his question – street artists that I would like to see paint in Melbourne. The surviving high school students from Homs who started the current uprising in Syria by painting anti-regime slogans on their high school wall – I would like to see them painting in Melbourne.

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.

Urban Sculpture @ Fed Square

Today I went to see the exhibition of six finalists for Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2011 in Federation Square. I looked at the sculptures and observed how the public was reacting and interacting with the sculptures.

The exhibition contrasted the obvious and constant sculptures and the intermittent and obscure sculptures. “The aim of the 2011 Prize is to focus on the urban environment and importance of sculptural practice, in its all its forms, and its role of informing and enriching public life and civic space.” How does the obscure inform or enrich public life? And how does an intermittent sculpture enrich a public space?

Greener & Maddock, "Apostle No.2", 2011

Isaac Greener and Lucas Maddock’s “Apostle No.2” is a reinforced polyester resin version of the original natural tourist icon that collapsed in 2005. People still pose for photographs with this smaller, semi-transparent version, as they did with the original monolith, but this time they can touch it.

Hester, "a world, fully accessible by no living being", 2011

Bianca Hester, “a world fully accessible by no living being”. Although this sculpture is the winner of the Melbourne Prize the public were ignoring it; a man lights his cigarette in the shelter of the breezeblock wall and Xavier College students sit with their backs to the wall as they are lectured about the cathedral’s architecture. I didn’t see anyone else take the tabloid of proposals/propositions, stacked in a hole in the wall. The grey breezeblocks merged with the grey stone of the square.

Leber & Chesworth, "We, The Masters", 2011

Sonia Leber and David Chesworth “We, The Masters” (vinyl, 2 channel audio, speakers etc.) was only partially there. I saw the small vinyl banners text in the trees but in the text filled environment of Federation Square they made less of impact anymore than the other signs and advertising logos. I tried to hear if there was any sound coming out of one of the many speakers but I didn’t hear anything; I leaned so close that I bumped my head against the speaker – definitely no sounds were coming from them.

Murray-White "Sara Delaney - a head of her time", 2010

Clive Murray-White “Sara Delaney – a head of her time” is the most traditional sculpture in the exhibition; a face made of Chillagoe marble with a plinth of granite and galvanized steel. It was attracting some attention from other people in Federation Square; I had to wait for the cyclist to finish looking at it before I could photograph it.

Stuart Ringholt & Mark Holsworth

Time to look for Stuart Ringholt’s “Do you want to talk about sculpture?” Today I was the first person who had said “yes”. He said that it was difficult to get people to talk about sculpture. Stuart is recording the conversations to document them and photographing his contact. Stuart had a yellow plastic children’s seat with him as a token object or sign of sculpture.

I didn’t get to see Tom Nicholson’s “Unfinished monument to Batman’s Treaty”. This sculpture was another public action; for the duration of the exhibition with off-set printed black and white sheets, except that the woman had run out of copies by the time that I encountered her.

Dface, spray cans, 2011

Not part of the exhibition but also temporary sculpture in Federation Square, were Dface’s two concrete spray-cans that appeared to break through the pavement. I don’t know if Federation Square is a good environment for sculpture, as the architecture of the square denies focal points. The square is designed to control the civic space and restrict public interactions.

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