Tag Archives: archeology

The Flâneur’s Surface Archaeology

Public sculptures, old buildings and ghost-signs are the surface archaeology of the city. Surface archaeology is established archaeological practice for providing data on settlements. The urban archaeologist conducts a pedestrian survey of the surface features, digital camera on my belt to collecting samples. By looking and researching the history you can see distinct layers in the psychology of Melbourne through its history.

The Duke & Duchess of York Memorial Drinking Fountain, 1901, corner of Elizabeth and Victoria St.

The Duke & Duchess of York Memorial Drinking Fountain, 1901, corner of Elizabeth and Victoria St.

The city is both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time; there are so many unfamiliar areas and so many changes to familiar routes. There are constant changes, sometime ago I asked Terry the postman, whose route is in the CBD, if there was more building work going on, but he didn’t think so.  So accustomed am I to my various routes that I note the smallest changes.

I take note the ephemera of the city, the layers of posters and graffiti, like a detective gathering evidence on the endless mystery of the human existence that exists, so tightly packed together, in all directions. For this reason I find myself interested in buildings for different reasons other than their architecture; I warm to their history and function. Look at the modifications, alterations and their changing functions. For this reason I like to look at the back of buildings rather than their façade.

This week I’ve continued to wander the city. In my perambulations I saw the Platform exhibitions; I could not resist the opportunity when passing through Flinders Street Station to walk down Degraves Street. Sophie Neate and Sean McKenzie Glass Room was engaging installation about the mystery of the machine made. I particularly enjoyed Chris Rainer’s Topographic Schematic no.24 because of the musical composition. Rainer’s installation suggested the idea of military interception of all communications, symbolized by tape going through the plastic model watchtower and German soldiers.

Blue Elephants on the curb of Rutledge Lane

Blue Elephants on the curb of Rutledge Lane

Equally I could not resist the opportunity when in the city to walk down Hosier Lane. I could get all excited about the Banksy that got painted over last week but I’ve seen it all before, these things happen every couple of years and nobody expected them to last forever. (see the report in The Age).  I’m just taking more photographs of the city before it disappears. My photographs of the city become like a stamp collection and I enjoy looking at the collections of other of Melbourne’s flâneurs. Do utility boxes have to look utilitarian? (See ones painted by notable Melbourne Street artists at Land of Sunshine.)


Francis Bacon’s Studio

The most important thing that I can think of seeing in Dublin is Francis Bacon’s Studio. Not that Francis Bacon is an Irish artist – he left the country when he was 16 and never returned. And his studio was in London but it has been moved, posthumously to Dublin City Gallery. Bacon is, in my opinion the most important post-war painter, his use of paint to create images are powerful with progressive and experimental techniques.

On a rainy Sunday, at 10:45 I am standing with one wet shoe at the door of Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane Gallery, although it is actually at 22 North Parnell Square. Addresses in Dublin are so confusing, streets will change their name every block, although why this should be confusing for someone from Melbourne where a street will change name when it goes into a different  suburb or just have two different names, I don’t know. Actually the gallery is named after its founder, Sir Hugh Lane, not a street by that name.

15 minutes later I am let into the gallery, there is no queue, just me and three French women and one Irish man.  I go to the bathroom to dry my wet Dunlop tennis shoe and the sock on the hand-dryer. I fear that I might kill the machine before it dries outs the shoe but it does.

Then I go upstairs to see the Francis Bacon studio. The studio is behind glass, you can look in through the door, the two windows and two new viewing holes that allow close up views of paint on the wall and paint brushes. The studio is still a mess, Bacon never cleaned it up his studio (he did keep the rest of his small flat tidy), but every object has been documented by a team of archeologists. So as well as, looking at the actual studio I spent time looking at the computers with the documentation of the studio. Of interest to the street artists who read this blog Bacon did use Krylon and Humbrol spray paints, as well as, basic stencils of arrows and the head of Bacon’s lover, George Dryer.

There are photographs of Francis Bacon and his friends in another room; and unfinished Bacon paintings on exhibition in other rooms. It is a powerful experience and after looking at Bacon’s studio the rest of the gallery seems to be designed around Bacon’s art. The raw canvas of Patrick Scott’s “Large Solar Device” (1964) or Edward and Nancy Kienholtz “Drawing from ‘Tank’” (1989) with empty tin cans, photos etc. All the rough paint, all the drips or splatters, all seem to be influenced by Bacon, of course, this is not true but the effect is that powerful.

Other exhibitions in the Hugh Lane gallery, a room of Sean Scully paintings with their large, rough, geometric brick shapes of paint, and a surprising number of paintings by Canadians. There is an exhibition of portraits of artists by artists: “The Perceptive Eye: Artist Observing Artists”. Whistler paints Sickert and many self portraits, including a late, unfinished self-portrait by Bacon (1991-92). And an exhibition of Ellsworth Kelly “Drawings 1954-62” – Ellsworth Kelly is my least favorite artist, he is so boring but at least his drawings do not take up as much space as his large minimalist paintings.


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