Tag Archives: Bernard Caleo

Pygmalion’s Nightmare

What would happen if, like in the story of Pygmalion, Melbourne’s public sculptures were to come to life? It is a story from Yell Olé, a Melbourne underground comic from the mid-90s, by Bernard Caleo and Brendan Tolley.

J.E. Boehm, St George and the dragon, 1876

The statues are resentful for their spirits having been “locked in city buildings for reasons generations old.” The figure from the art deco Manchester Unity Building is the first to rampage through the city. Later he is chased down by the two warriors on horseback from outside of the State Library, the unlikely combination of St George and Joan of Arc.

I won’t tell you about the story’s outcome but point out that Will Self conjures a similar scene for London’s in his novel, The Book of Dave (2006). This is not an accusation of plagiarism but an example of convergent evolution out of similar urban environments. Probably there are more stories set in different cities have been told by other people. For this is a psychogeographical exercise of imagination animating statues by their totemic spirits through comic-book metaphysics.

My current version of this scenario in Melbourne is no picnic in the park. There are more sculptures. The atmosphere is more partisan and far more brutal spurred on by the animosity of the culture wars. Callum Morton’s Hotel would be booked out by dolls, miniatures, and teddy bears in town to watch the fight. Yellow angular shards would grow at various angles around the city, like alien mineral deposits from the planet DCM.

On one side a strange assortment of creatures; amongst them the Cowardly Lion of Fitzroy (Eicholtz’s Courage) and the big black rabbit (Floyd’s Signature Work) from the Docklands. Their best defence is the dogs of this war, FIDO and Larry LaTrobe; FIDO is huge. Although Larry is far smaller, as his studded collar would suggest, he is far more vicious.

On the other side is a cavalry unit of equestrian statues, metal men with suitcases staggering down Burke Street Mall like zombies. World War One servicemen, the many golems in the service of the imaginal throne of the eternal empire rampage through Melbourne as if it were Cairo. Bronze explorers unable to navigate the cities streets get lost in the suburbs randomly claiming properties on behalf of the King. Intoxicated statues of former State Premiers punching it out in Treasury Gardens after drinking with Robbie Burns and General Gordon’s statues.

And just when you thought the fight was over Bunjil, along with the Genie from Queen Victoria Gardens, fly in to save the day.

Bruce Armstrong, Eagle, 2002, Docklands

Desire Lines @ Brunswick Arts

On Friday night there was an opening at Brunswick Arts Space, an artist-run-space. In the main gallery there is a group exhibition, “Desire Lines” with thirty-five works by Jo Waite, Leon Van De Graaff, Alex Clark, Martin Nixon, Jess Parker, Sarah Howell, David Blumenstein, Michael Fikaris, and many other artists. ‘Desire lines’ are informal paths that people make to get where they want to go.

The exhibition was mix of contemporary art, psychogeography, illustration, comics and zines that all remember and record Brunswick. It might sound like an odd mix but the local details illustrations of the suburb in the pages of comic books are a rich vein of psychogeographical research. There is a whole wall of art work for comic books that illustrate this point, like Martin Nixon’s “The way to the entrance to the entry to Squishface” (Squishface is an open comic artists studio in Brunswick). Melbourne underground comics have a long tradition of mapping the city, going back to, as far as I can remember, Yell Olé! by Brendan Tolley and Bernard Caleo where the heroes battled the architecture of the city.

The most comprehensive and democratic map of Brunswick ever constructed.

The most comprehensive and democratic map of Brunswick ever constructed.

At the opening the focus of attention and discussion was an open collaboration on a wall sized map of the suburb: “The Most Comprehensive and Democratic Map of Brunswick Ever Constructed.” Everyone at the opening was writing and drawing on it, adding their landmarks and details. The local artists are aware how much Brunswick is changing as apartment blocks are built around the gallery in the former factory space.

It was good to see Victor Gris, the curator of the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick, at the opening, not just personally but also that he is engaged with the local art community.

In the upstairs gallery was Denise Hall’s series of five paintings “Creature”. Hall’s expressionist paintings with a limited palette have been torn apart and reassembled, like the butchered meat they depict.


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