Tag Archives: Australian War Memorial

Peter Corlett

I have never met Peter Corlett but his sculpture is very familiar to me, as they are to most people in Melbourne.  Peter Corlett is responsible for so much of the sculpture in Melbourne. His sculptures have been with me since I first came to Melbourne. As a child I played with my younger siblings in the bubble of his Tarax Play Sculpture (1966-1968) at the NGV. I thought that it was a fun sculpture and I enjoyed its ultra-modern bubble look. I also remember his sculpture of a man in underwear at the NGV, Connoisseur 2 (1984), a cheeky irreverent image but I didn’t connect it with the abstract Tarax Play Sculpture. I see his fantasy sculptures (1992) that part of the architecture of the Melbourne Terrace building on the corner of Queen and Anthony and Franklin streets building every time I visit West Space and Michael Koro Gallery.

Peter Corlett – Melbourne Terrace

These architectural works marks a change in Corlett’s style. The mix of neo-classicalism and symbolism in the architectural works at Melbourne Terrace are conservative, although more extravagant in than his later bronze portraits work. The faux bronze patina on the concrete sculptures is a move towards his later bronze sculptures.

For the past two decades Peter Corlett specializes in bronze sculptural portraits. His portrait figures are all around Melbourne from Governor La Trobe (2006) out the front of the State Library to the statutes of former Victorian Premiers out the front of the State Government Buildings. There are more of his sculptures at the Docklands, the War Memorial and Trinity College at Melbourne University. There is even one modelled on one of my former housemates, Adrian Rawlins, Mr Poetry (1994) on Brunswick Street Fitzroy.

Peter Corlett’s sculptures have always been popular; it is the feature that links his Tarax Play Sculpture, the Connoisseur and his later sculptures His sculptures become more conservative, in both materials and style, from ferro-cement, resin and fibreglass to traditional bronze. The demands of commissions have made his sculptures more conservative. His sculptures no longer have his original playfulness and sexy curves because the political realities have changed in Melbourne.  Sculpture is rarely radical or cheeky because it relies on commissions, especially for expensive large bronze sculptures. Peter Corlett seems to have received half the government commissions for Melbourne sculpture in the last two decades. He has received a lot of commissions for sculpture connected with war memorials. It is a demonstration of the continuing popularity of figurative sculpture in Melbourne but also the increasingly conservative politicians (both the Labor and Liberal parties). Melbourne has become more conservative and less playful in the decades around the turn of the millennium.

Peter Corlett’s  Tarax Play Sculpture  now is on long-term loan to the McCelland Gallery in Langwarrin, Victoria.

Article from the Age about Peter Corlett: “Thinking with fingertips” March 22 2003.

Brown & Green @ Arc One

Arc One Gallery has, “The Approaching Storm” an exhibition of Lyndell Brown and Charles Green’s photography. “And” paintings, the “and” is written on the wall connecting the small side gallery. Brown and Green are best known for their paintings that are cut and paste works based on photographs. Exhibiting photographs could be like an actor appearing out of character and breaking the illusion but it is not like that with “The Approaching Storm”. The photographs are clearly photographs just as Brown and Green’s paintings are clearly paintings, even if they are sourced from photographic images.

I have admired the art of Lyndell Brown and Charles Green for many years. Their faux collage paintings juxtaposing diverse images seemed quintessentially post-modern. Brown and Green have been working together since 1989.

The photographs in“The Approaching Storm” were taken when Lyndell Brown and Charles Green traveled for six weeks through the Middle East, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf as the Australian War Memorial’s official war artists. Attached to the Australian Defence Force (ADF), they visited various Australian bases. I’m uneasy about this kind of collaboration. How would the hand of the ADF influence their art?

Brown and Green don’t forget why the war is being fought, quoting from the artists’ statement describing the photographs as a “portrait of force, of the hard edge of globalization”. In their paintings Brown and Green are more direct. In both paintings they juxtaposing the newspaper photo of the innocent victim, Dr Mohamed Haneef, “facing uncertainty” with images of Bollywood and mountain passes. In one painting they juxtapose an old illustration of the tree of life that places humans at the top with actual Afghans.

There are enough mass media images of the war in Afghanistan but Brown and Green focus on other aspects, the landscape and the changing light. The hand of the ADF is evident on the bleak landscapes and military architecture. The rows of concrete blast walls are covered in painted insignia and other emblems. The best photograph captures the Australian troops own subversion of the meaning of the war: “ROAD TO NOWHERE” is stenciled on the door of an Australian army vehicle; it’s small flag at half-mast.

I have not seen a great deal of quality art about “the war on terror”; war as the subject of art has lost its ethics, its romance and its purpose. Brown and Green’s paintings and photographs do not glorify, vilify, sympathize or empathize but exist as artistic documents about the war.

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