Monthly Archives: February 2013

Steampunk Objet d’art

Synergy Gallery presents “Alchemy” by Erno Berkovics Sanders an exhibition of beautiful, steampunk, sculptures/lamps. Based on the solar system the lamps include: Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Earth, the Sun and the Moon in solid bronze, copper and brass and 24 carat gold guitar strings.

Erno Berkovics Sanders, Earth, (image courtesy of Synergy Gallery)

Erno Berkovics Sanders, Earth, (image courtesy of Synergy Gallery)

The stands are made of old fire hoses, large solid polished brass gears from pastry mixers and pistons from a tea bag making machine. Some of these object d’art have kinetic elements, rotating to create small lightshows, and all are electric and fantastic. The quality and beauty of the design, craftsmanship and materials in these Erno Berkovics Sanders’s alchemy is awe-inspiring. Alchemy is turning base matter into gold and that has clearly happened here.

Erno Berkovics Sanders migrated to Australia in 1956 from Budapest worked as builder for most of his life and this is the first exhibition from this “reclusive mature artist”. (Dare I call him an ‘outsider artist’? This ambiguous term has been abandoned in art-speak for almost a decade.) It is evident that Sanders did not waste his time as a builder obviously adding many skills and collecting much of the recycled, found and re-purposed materials in this exhibition.

Alchemy at Synergy Gallery

Alchemy at Synergy Gallery

Synergy at CERES, environmental park is a small works gallery in the Red Train. The 100-year-old red rattler carriage is a wonderful setting for this exhibition. The carriage has been refurbished with some of the sections of seats removed, track lighting installed but the old wood panels, mirrors and pressed tin ceilings have been preserved.

The old train carriage reminded me that there almost was a steampunk Melbourne. The cutting edge technology of brass tubes and cables of the steampunk world was here in “marvellous Melbourne”. There was a steampunk future for the city complete with the longest pneumatic power and communications system in the world. But it was a future that never was, due the Australian banking crisis of 1893 and the end of the gold mining boom.

Steampunk Melbourne would have been an odd kind of future city where there were telephones before there were sewers. And where parts of the public transport system was degraded before it was expanded. Melbourne could have had two rail loops, north and south of the Yarra, but they were both scrapped in favour of a spoked pattern radiating from the city. (I didn’t use public transport to get to Ceres; I am continuing to ride my bike to exhibitions. Melbourne’s poor public transport is damaging to its culture.)


Audacious Art

“I am for an art that does something other than sit on its ass in the museum. I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a starting point of zero. I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap & still comes out on top.”

– Claus Oldenberg “I Am For Art” 1961

Lush, Brunswick

Lush, Brunswick

The anarchic nature of street art and graffiti, the illegal work, questioning of the law is one of the main strength of street art. The audacity of street artists in climbing and trespassing is an aspect of street art that cannot be transferred to the art gallery.

The classic mythic avant-garde artist who lived and died in garrets have been replaced by the new professional artists in clean studios and promoted by curators and galleries. The artist has become an administrator, writing submissions, applications and project specifications. This is not an interesting story – it lacks romance and drama. The public wants art that has romance and drama that doesn’t sit coolly in an art gallery self-assured of its own immortal relevance.

Street art collector Andrew King sums this up: “What I really like is when people go up on the side of buildings, weird dangerous places. They’re literally risking their lives just for their art. You’ve got to admire it. They’re not going to sell it or get anything out of it, except the kudos that they get from their mates and their crew and other writers.” (The Bureau Magazine, v.1 no.2 p.11)

I could go on to write about climbing and writing high up in the heavens but I’m going to look elsewhere.

Jetso & Pezzer, Fitzroy

Jetso & Pezzer, Fitzroy

The audacity of street and graff artists is something that is admired about street artists but they can also royal pains in the ass in annoyance, persistence and lack of respect. Lush and the team of Jetso and Pezzer currently Melbourne’s most audacious royal pains in the ass are. (Not that I mean this in a bad way – my wife’s favourite song is Wire’s “I am the Fly” and she love’s Lush’s cats, so I’m guessing that this is one of the reasons she loves me. And not, that they are the only street and graff artists in Melbourne who are annoying pains.) If one of the purposes of art is to make you think then art that is annoying is a logical move.

Jetso & Pezzer

Jetso & Pezzer

Jetso and Pezzer tag everywhere they can get. Lush is a cheeky fellow.

Lush, Brunswick

Lush, Brunswick

I also like this quote from Bombing Science interview with Lush.

BS: What’s your sign?

Lush: I’m under the sign of the black mark.


Brunswick Galleries by Bike

Black Dot Gallery – Brunswick Art Space – Tinning Street presents…

This week I’ve been riding my bike to a few galleries in Brunswick. It was fun to ride my bike to the Counihan Gallery last Sunday (see my review January @ Counihan). It is much better than using public transport to get to a gallery. Plus I got to see all of the graff along the Upfield bike path and around Brunswick. Lush has been bombing so many of his cats along the line. There were half a dozen people painting along the bike path on Sunday – they were only up to the outlines and blocking in – so there will be new pieces to see next time I ride that way.

Lush, Brunswick

Lush, Brunswick

I hadn’t been to Black Dot Gallery in Brunswick East before. There is a gift shop/office space in the front and then a separate long room with a wood floor, white walls and track lighting. Black Dot Gallery is an aboriginal artist-run gallery space with a regular program of exhibitions.

Their current exhibition “Dandy Boy” is part of the Midsumma festival’s visual arts program. It is a group exhibition so the quality of the work varies. I was impressed by Cecilia Kavara’s “Identity Negative’ a 9 min projection of a high contrast image of Kavara removing white tape that covers her body, slowly disappearing, right until the final moment when she walks off with a few scraps of tape still on her.

On Friday night there were two exhibition openings in Brunswick and at each all the poles around both of the galleries had bicycles chained to them.

At Brunswick Art Space, there was “Entry”, the 8th annual Brunswick Art Space Contemporary Art Prize. With 91 works on exhibition there was a lot to look at and some obvious trends. Art with text was a major feature of many of the better works, like Lesley O’Gorman “No Shoes” but art text has been a trend for a century. There was also a lot of good art that was raw, brutal and rough; the best of these was Courtney Wills “Internal Series: ILEUM”, a lumpy chunk of wax that was slowly bleeding something sticky and red onto its elegant glass and steel plinth.

Belinda Wiltshire "Bask" 1985 & 2013 at Tinning Street presents...

Belinda Wiltshire “Bask” 1985 & 2013 at Tinning Street presents…

Tinning Street Presents… had “Your Old Self” an exhibition of artists reinterpreting an artwork from their childhood. It is an excellent theme for an exhibition, the artist’s childhood artwork and a current artwork united in painted circles on the gallery’s wall. It takes Picasso’s remarks about painting like a child to a new level. The exhibition included works by notable artists Sam Leach and Shaun Tan. Tan did a painting based on a childhood drawing “Fighting a Monster”.

I was riding my bicycle because I’m tired of public transport as a way of getting to see galleries. Myki is getting me down (my card has broken down twice) on top of the decades of neglect and poor service; Melbourne public transport is simply not good value for money. So I’m going to try to see more local galleries for a while. I still haven’t been to Ceres small works gallery Synergy Gallery @ The Red Train. Last month I rode my bicycle to the Library Gallery; I missed the Ros Bandt performances but saw the installation of her instruments. There are plenty of galleries within easy riding distance from my house and when I get my fitness level up there will be more.


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