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Daily Archives: June 7, 2014

Dark & Light

Two current exhibitions one dark and the other light.

RMIT First Site Gallery describes this exhibition as “probably the darkest show we have ever had…” on their Facebook page.  The trio of exhibitions at First Site are dark as in obscured rather than dark subject matter; obscured by lacunas, palimpsests and dark spaces. Lacunas and palimpsests were popular subjects at the height of post-modern in nineties because they referred to areas of uncertain and indeterminate meaning.

Eugenia Raftopoulos, Some things last a long time is a series of uncanny and subdued oil paintings that often featuring lacuna, a missing section, a hole in the illusion of the painting. Nicholas McGintity, Parallel, a 47 sec video loop features palimpsests, crossed out black and white pornographic images, shown sideways, out of focus and otherwise obscured as they rapidly click through the loop like a demented slide show.

Wilson Yeung, Trace, features 31 boxes with pinhole photographs using a monotype transfer process. In the darkness of the gallery, the blurry images of the faces are almost unrecognisable as the images in the back lit boxes pulse from light to dark.

No Vacancy’s exhibition Look Mum! couldn’t be more different, it is light like a child’s drawings on the fridge. Look Mum! is a group show featuring eight Melbourne-based illustrators: Eveline Tarunadjaja, Sean Morris, Fiona Lee, Gnashing Teeth, Stevie D, Sass Cocker, Jeremy Ley and Jospeh Keena. Each of the illustrators are showing their mature work next to drawings and toys from their childhood displayed on fridges, just as they were in childhood. Each of the fridges has the artist’s name displayed on it in magnetic letters. Beside each fridge there is a shelf of toys and other memorabilia from the artist’s childhood. The gallery has a domestic feel with a lounge area and a table with paper and crayons for doing your own drawings. It is a great look for an exhibition about illustration and I don’t know why I haven’t seen it before.

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Drewery Lane

Wandering the streets and lane ways of the inner city I found myself once again in Drewery Lane. The lane extends less than 100m between Lonsdale and Little Lonsdale street and runs parallel to Swanston Walk. I’ve never had any reason to be in Drewery Lane and have only wandered into once or twice before by accident.

It is a surreal location, suddenly removed from the main city streets and dominated by a large white sculpture, on the front of Baroq House, depicting an entwined male and female figures about to metamorphosis into one the London plane trees planted along the lane. The London plane trees, although common street tree in Melbourne, are an unusual feature for a Melbourne’s lane.

Like many of Melbourne’s lanes it is virtually a pedestrian zone because you would never expect a vehicle to actually drive along it. Mostly because there is generally a van making deliveries blocking one section so that even pedestrians have to squeeze past.

The short lane contains a mix of the boutique apartments, the backdoors of businesses and the nightclub, Baroq House. Melbourne Fresh Daily provides information about the patrons of Baroq House and its cocktails, along with photographs of the lane way and some of the street art.

As usual for Melbourne’s lanes there is plenty of street art. Dean Sunshine has, of course, photographs of one of the larger works of aerosol art in the lane by Putos, Seige, Caper et. al.

Amongst the other buildings along the lane there is Dovers Printery (also called “Sniders and Abrahams Warehouse”). Snider and Abrahams were manufacturing tobacconists in the 19th and early 20th century and their seven storey Chicagoesque style office, factory and warehouse building, now heritage listed, was constructed in 1909 – 1910. It has now been converted into two bedroom, two bathroom apartments with secure parking.

It is “the world’s oldest example of a flat plate reinforced concrete structure” according to real estate agent Mark Connellan; a slight exaggeration. It was the first in the Australia, there were serval earlier buildings in the USA that used the then patented Turner Mushroom System including the Johnson-Bovey in Minneapolis (1906; razed) and the 1906 Hoffman (a.k.a. Marshall) Building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The architect of the Dover Printery, the American-Australian Hugh Ralston Crawford had obtained the license to use Turner Mushroom System of flat-slab reinforced concrete floors that allowed for thinner slabs and broader spans. Basically it is the first building in Melbourne to employ the modern construction technique typical of modern multi-story buildings.

The some debate about the name of the lane, currently underlined in red to indicate a spelling error. eMelbourne suggests three possibilities. Was it changed from Brewery to Drewery? Or was it named after London’s Drury Lane as suggested by historian Weston Bate in his book Essential but unplanned: the story of Melbourne’s lanes (1994)? Most likely it was the named after the chemist and city councillor Thomas Drewery, as these local politicians love to have their names recorded for posterity.

There are three side branches a lane, an alley and a place leading off Drewery Lane, most of them are also called Drewery, although one is name Snider Lane. The dead end Snider Lane is the one that most retains the aspect of service lane packed with rubbish bins. Taped to the wall above the rubbish bins of the restaurants and hotels is a printed note of complaint in English and Chinese telling the businesses to lock their bins to prevent junkies from going through them and leaving a mess.

Junkies going through restaurant rubbish bins? As I turn back into Lonsdale Street, a groups of three young men pass me and I can hear their conversation. “What are you on?” asks one. ‘Methadone,’ his companion replies.


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