Tag Archives: jewellery

LMFF Culture Part 2 – or is it?

Wandered around the city on Saturday looking at elements in the L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF) Culture Program. As I was near RMIT Gallery I went there and found textiles exhibitions that are not part of the LMFF Cultural Program. The LMFF Cultural Program is so large that you would think that every fashion/ textile / jewellery related exhibition in Melbourne would be in it but you would be wrong. Just as if you imagined that every good window display in Melbourne was part of the LMFF’s “Windows by Design” but more on that later.

“1st Tamworth Textile Triennial
- Sensorial Loop” at RMIT gallery is an impressive exhibition. Most impressive is the relationship that two of the pieces make of video and performance and textiles. Martha McDonald’s “The Weeping Dress” is seen in a video of a performance and in the washed out relic from the performances of a once black Victorian style mourning dress stained with a fugitive dye. (It was part of last year’s LMFF – see Vetti’s post about it.) Carly Scoufos’s “Panels from the Interlaced Manuscript” also has a video and some of the panels, part of a wall from a shed, containing two doors, onto which Scoufos has embroided with woollen thread and nails. Amongst the exhibition there are also two impressive works of post minimalist sculpture Tania Spencer’s wire donut, “Would you like some cake”, and Lucy Ivine’s black, groovy and curvy, “Continuos Interruptions” made from irrigation pipe and cable ties.

“Joyaviva: Live Jewellery from across the Pacific” and “Double Happiness: Portrait of a Chinese Wedding” were also at RMIT Gallery. “Joyaviva” captured something of the personal, magical and interconnecting aspects of jewellery with its pin board style of exhibiting. “Double Happiness” is a set of contemporary Chinese wedding fashion for the whole family.

Nicholas Bastin’s “The Sleepless Hero” at Craft Victoria is part of the LMFF Cultural Program. Bastin’s funky mixed media jewellery is beautifully installed on diagrammatic depictions of partial figures. But Bastin’s jewellery is too “hyper-real”, too much in the realm of art for the magic of jewellery to be credible. Craft Victoria’s three exhibitions are typical of its avant-garde approach to craft; the other two are more contemporary art than craft.

The NGV at Federation Square has a fashion exhibition of the work of Australian designer, Linda Jackson that is part of the LMFF Cultural Program. Jackson’s designs are from a very foolhardy era of Australian fashion – the 1980s. Some might be kinder and say that these are ‘brave and bold’ designs but the kind of bravado seen in Jackson’s 80s fashion lacked any good sense.

Detail of Zambesi's window

In the windows of Zambesi we saw one of the LMFF “Windows by Design” by Marcos Davidson. The windows are full of a variety of pillars of readymade objects carefully arranged and curated. Between these pillars you can just make out some mannequins in fluorescent clothes. Shop window displays are an interesting aspect of culture. Almost every time I go past Aesop I have to remind myself that I’m not passing a contemporary art gallery but an up-market cosmetics shop. The design is so elegant and minimalist. What is the difference between a shop window display, especially those in the windows of Aesop or Alphaville, and an art installation? I always think about Walter Benjamin wrote about shop windows. For more about Walter Benjamin and shop window displays see “Speculative Windows text” by m-a-u-s-e-r (Mona Mahall and Asli Serbest). http://www.m-a-u-s-e-r.net/?p=4

Art Bloggers

Who are the other bloggers writing about the visual arts in Australia? What motivates them to do all this work creating original content for their blogs?

Ace Wagstaff – Dead Hare Melbourne Art Review (started May 2008). The title, Dead Hare is a reference to the Joseph Beuys work “Explaining art to a dead hare” (and also one work by his BFA teacher, Geoff Lowe as part ‘A Constructed World’ entitled ‘Explaining Art to Live Eels’). Ace Wagstaff wants “to document and share events and exhibitions that were and are almost invisible comparatively to the larger commercial and government galleries.” He focuses on Melbourne’s smaller gallery spaces, student spaces and ARI’s.

Steve Gray – Art Re-Sources (started Sept 2008) grew from an idea of a resource for Yr 11+ Visual Art Students. Art Re-Sources features many interviews with artists, as Steve Gray explained: “I wanted to offer students and artists a bit more than the usual fix of art magazine heroes and maybe/wannabees who were the flavour of the month. I had a few contacts and a bunch of questions to pose them in a question and answer format.”

Marcus Bunyan – Art Blart (started Nov 2008) reviews exhibitions in Melbourne and around the world. As a photographer Marcus Bunyan has a particular focus on photography exhibitions, he is often the official photographer for exhibitions and consequently his blog has some great photography along with exhibition reviews.

Karen Thompson – Melbourne Jeweller (started March 2009) has a special focus on jewellery exhibitions in Melbourne. Karen Thomspon started the blog with advice and encouragement from Brian Ward who writes Fitzroyalty. Thompson wanted to write her blog: “to document exhibitions (for future interest, and for others outside of Melbourne to read), explore my own reactions, to expand my language and visual ‘well / bank’, and to open up discussion to invite others to give their opinions (not just on exhibitions but also on topical issues).”

Stephanie Pohlman and Ashleigh Clarke – Brisbane Art Collective (started Aug 2010) write their blog because they “felt in Brisbane especially, a city that supposedly is a ‘cultural wasteland’ in comparison to Melbourne and Sydney there was a lack of critical feedback in regards to the art scene. I guess, fundamentally what we wanted to do was to show people that there is an amazing art scene in Brisbane and offer people a forum in which they could read about it.” The Brisbane Art Collective writes about more than just exhibitions, their posts range across a variety of topics including: street art, silence in the gallery and art history.

All of these people write because they are interested in the subject and the by writing a blog they can connect with the subject and other people with that interest. Writing is an outlet for their curiosity. For Ace Wagstaff and Karen Thompson it is a return to the kind of thinking that they missed after graduating. Karen Thompson notes: “the public readership gave me a framework and a kind of discipline I may have not developed without that framework.”

Karen Thompson, Ace Wagstaff and Marcus Bunyan all balance their own art practices with blog writing. Marcus Bunyan commented about this balance:

“… one practice informs the other, they are not mutually exclusive. I usually make 2-3 bodies of works each year, so that when I am not working on my artwork I am studying for Uni (I am studying a Master of Art Curatorship part-time), reading, working on reviews for the blog. All of these things interweave, are intertextual, one informing the other.”

So why write about art exhibitions? Many of these bloggers want to supplement the meagre coverage of the many art exhibitions. The Brisbane Art Collective put it this way: “basically we write art criticism because we want to give people an objective outlook to the art industry, we aren’t publicists and we aren’t interested in just talking about pretty pictures.” Steve Gray is motivated by his own experience: “I have looked at hundreds of shows over a 30 year period, some years more than others. I would see reviews, see the show and agree or disagree. I would also see shows which had not had an ounce of media attention. There was a chance to chat about some of these things and explore it further.”

When I asked the bloggers “who inspires you?” I was surprised to find how many other bloggers are an inspiration to them.

One point that I was relief for me to know – it might also be a relief for artists too – most of bloggers selection of exhibitions to be reviewed is largely random and personal. Only Melbourne Jeweller is so focused that finding out about exhibitions require searching via reader suggestions, gallery websites and internet searches.

It does take encouragement to start a blog and to keep it going. I wish that more people would write blogs about the visual arts in Australia and that more readers would comment on the posts. When Ace Wagstaff considered his doubts and insecurities about writing a blog he then noted:

“I’m reminded of how few people do write about the work that I’m writing about, and how good it is to start dialogues and how affirming it is as an artist to receive feedback, so I swallow my ego and try not to think about whether I am going to embarrass myself with my writing or whether or not I am going to finally expose myself as an art-scene poser, and channel one portion of punk cajones and one part Nike slogan and just do it.”

(Thanks to all the bloggers mentioned for their help in writing this post. There are more bloggers writing about the visual arts in Australia – see my blogroll at the bottom of this page.)

November 2010 Exhibitions

Tim Sterling’s solo exhibition, “Metamaterials” at Michael Koro Galleries is a post-minimalist exercise in sculpture and drawing. Post-minimalism is like minimalism but with a lot more. Sterling’s sculptures use a lot and lots of paper clips held together with cable ties most impressively a small I-beam (17x73x80cm) supported between two perspex pillars. His drawings are made up of a many, many small marks with a pen, his drawing “Wall” is made up of repeated marker pen marks that form bricks in a wall.

At Mailbox 141 Tasmanian sculptor Ange Leech has a small solo exhibiting “Hand of the Composure”. Leech has carved small wooden puppets and masks along with collages that are pinned together. These collages are subject to alteration like the articulate joints of the puppets.

This time of year there are many exhibitions by graduates of art, design, photography and jewellery courses.

RMIT Diploma of Photoimaging Graduates are exhibiting at First Site (“photoimaging” is a portmanteau word includes both photography and digital imaging technology). The reality that photography once implied has been replaced with fantasy and glamour. There is a lot of fantasy in this exhibition to the extent of visionary art, fashion and glamour model photography.

Box Hill Institute jewellery graduates their work at Guildford Lane Gallery. It is not just rings and necklaces there are wall pieces, cups, spoons, an hourglass of luminous sand and a wizard’s staff with a crystal ball. Some of the jewellery is inspired by Alice in Wonderland themes from a course assignment.

Guildford Lane Gallery is strange place to visit during on a weekday; they obviously don’t get a lot of visitors. It is an old factory/warehouse with a music space/bar on the ground floor. Whenever I go in someone asks if I’m here for some exhibition, I say yes and they tell me that it on the 2nd floor. They then follow me up the stairs to turn on the lights.


Fashion Exhibitions

There is a museum of textiles in Lyon, a museum of fashion in Brussels, in Antwerp there is a gallery of fashion with a very contemporary style, and in Bath another museum of fashion. In Melbourne the National Gallery of Victoria on St. Kilda Road and at Federation Square both have galleries devoted to fashion. They are not a large spaces considering Melbourne’s fashion industry but the NGV does strive to put on a varied program of exciting temporary exhibitions on fashion.

Melbourne also has many fashion and textiles students who regularly exhibit their work, generally at the end of the year exhibitions. I often see exhibitions by RMIT fashion and textiles students, especially at First Site gallery at RMIT. Fashion photography is another way in which fashion enters the art gallery and exhibitions of fashion photography are common – I must see one or two a year without searching them out.

Galleries in Melbourne often have exhibitions where art, jewellery and textiles meet, especially during Melbourne Fashion Festival and Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. Every year both fashion festivals have a program of associated events that takes fashion into the art galleries and exhibitions into fashion boutiques and other venues. There is often has several fashion photography or jewellery exhibitions along with other fashion associated art.

This year the programme of exhibitions associated with the Spring Fashion Week has included exhibitions at the NGV and State Library. There is an exhibition by The Age, “The Age of Fashion” in the square at the QV centre featuring fashion photographs from The Age’s archives and 5 mannequins displaying designer labels. It is an elaborate temporary exhibition made up of plinths, vitrines and platforms. On a different scale of exhibition and funding are the exhibitions: “Sue Barnes Studio” and “Black: an Exhibition”. “Sue Barnes Studio” is a small display of 8 photographs of fashion images, advertising and logos on the street at the Journal Bar viewing space, a vitrine near the café’s door. “Black: an exhibition” is contemporary all black jewellery by Vikki Kassioras and black ink drawings by Katherine Bowman. The temporary cardboard gallery space created for the exhibition in the Nicholas Building was elegant and functional. (See Melbourne Jeweler for a review of Black: an exhibition).

Considering all of these temporary exhibitions and temporary exhibitions spaces, the regular fashion exhibitions in Melbourne both at the annual fashion festival and during the rest of the year, it appears that Melbourne needs its own gallery of fashion and textiles with room for both permanent and temporary exhibition a gallery devoted to fashion. This would bring Melbourne in to step with other fashion capitals and add to the city’s cultural attractions.

Last Week

Thinking back over the last week and trying to make a blog entry out of it.

I finally saw No Vacancy’s new location on the other side of the QV centre (I do try to vary the galleries that I visit). No Vacancy has also slightly changed artistic direction, moving away from street art and is now exhibiting more illustrations. This is a move that other galleries associated with street art have also made as illustrations are more saleable. The illustrations on exhibition at No Vacancy when I visited were by Eveline Tarunadjaja, and full of detailed long hair, hence the exhibition’s title: “Dandruff”. Tarunadjaja’s illustrations are influenced by art neuvueau right down to the fonts and the use of gold ink on details.

On Saturday afternoon Federation Square was crowded with young women on Saturday attracted by the free catwalk shows, DJs, hip-hop dancers and other features of this fashion fairground, it was still more of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. (See my other entry on exhibitions in the festival) Catherine and I are still looking at fashion festival associated exhibitions. E.G. Etal had a good exhibition, Figment, curated magnificently by Fleur Watson. The jewelery was displayed on old overhead projectors. You could look at the piece back-lit on the projector or look at its shadow projected on the wall. (See Melbourne Jeweller’s review of this exhibition.)

Until Never also had an exhibition associated with the fashion festival. “The World of Kmossed” is exhibition by Rosie Kavanavoch with photographs from the limited edition book. The exhibition poked fun at the fashion festival, label bags and stupid, celebrity models, ripping the glamour to shreds with satire. In 2005 Kate Moss’s contract with Chanel was not renewed due to her reprobate behavior and Kavanavoch doesn’t hold back poking fun at this – and why shouldn’t she?

I had a look at Hosier Lane and there were plenty of people doing the same on Saturday. And Catherine and I went on the Giant Sky Wheel at Birrarung Marr (not the broken white elephant of a giant wheel in the Docklands). It afforded some unique and pleasant views of the city and the Yarra River and I was happy to be going around in a big circle.

Fashion Festival Exhibitions

The L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival is a very democratic fashion festival; unlike many fashion festivals most events are open to the public, although there are a few industry only events. There are public catwalk shows and if you are in the city you can’t help but notice that the fashion festival is on.

The exhibitions associated with the festival add to the accessibility of the festival. I have been aware of it for about a decade due all the associated exhibitions that I’ve seen in galleries that I regularly view. My wife, Catherine and I have enjoyed seeing exhibitions and a few catwalk shows that are part of the L’Oreal Fashion Festival for several years. This year we saw exhibitions at Craft Victoria, at Bus gallery and in fashion boutiques in Crossley Street. A few weeks ago we saw the exhibition at RMIT Gallery (see my review). We also saw “The Garment-Body” by Sarah Berners in the Main Space of Bus (see Goodbye Bus).

Crossley Street is an interesting little street, well worth a wander with its range of boutique shops, antique dealer, tailors and a bar. Gallery Funaki has jewellery made by a variety of local jewelers with a strong interest in the craft of jewellery. Japanese couture designers are on display in the window and a tight crowd of mannequins at Madame Virtue & Co. The fashion is playful in materials and design. Failed to see the earring festival at Glizten, also on Crossley St. and also in the fashion festival exhibitions, but then neither Catherine nor I wear earrings.

Craft Victoria has an ordinary exhibition; I’ve seen it all before and not just because I’ve seen the exhibition twice. I’ve seen empty exhibitions before, I’ve seen art made by cutting into old books before and I’ve even seen braided horsehair on exhibition before. And these were not exciting examples of this sort of art.

Catherine and I have, in the past, gone to see Circa Nocturna. Circa Nocturna is Melbourne’s alternative fashion show (for “alternative” read “goth” except that word doesn’t market well to a goth audience). It was more fun, interesting and punctual (!) than the professional fashion shows that I have attended. It featured amateur models that come in more shapes and sizes than the anorexic professional models. The models had more drama, personality and choreography than the regular fashion parade. And there was plenty of drama in the fashion show – it was a spectacular performance and I expect nothing less from goths. In 2007 the catwalk featured two giant puppets of a girl and drunken rabbit and models accessorized with living giant stick insects.

“What Goth has that distinguishes it from most youth subcultures is 400 years of history to plunder.” wrote Helen Stuckey (L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival Arts Program, 2004)

Not that the eleven designers featured in the Circa Nocturna 2007 plundered the whole 400 years for this one fashion show. The bustle that featured prominently in last years show has gone – it was only a brief fashion trend when it first came around. Dragonsblood showgirl outfits were inspired by the 1940s including the spectacular peacock showgirl outfit. GeoMythik also feature burlesque and carnival influences including a model with two red ostrich feather fans.

Circa Nocturna 2008 was a debacle and we didn’t go again, although this year friends who attended told me that it went well.

Another exhibition that I saw at the 2006 fashion festival was Noble Rot at Como Historic House and Garden in South Yarra. Noble Rot was a major installation occupying many rooms in Como House, including the normally unseen spaces like the servants stairwells. It was about the ephemeral nature of fashion, the damaged, stained, unfinished garments, fripperies and accessories. Such curatorial driven exhibitions are self-indulgent wank but in this case it was a fascinating and subtle change to the boring historic house routine. The stains on fabric, the garment maker’s labels, the faded folds in a silk ballroom dress and the room of black mourning cloths had a real sense of time past.

(This blog entry includes edited versions of two entries published in my old blog, Culture Critic @ Melbourne. My old blog has since been taken down for reasons beyond my control but I thought that this entry was worth republishing.)

Contemporary Craft – politics & blogs

Contemporary craft in Melbourne is street wise, informed about art history, political and fun. It is not fluffy, twee granny craft, but radical, cool craft. To understand how radical contemporary craft can get see:  Radical Cross Stitch, “seriously seditious stitching”.

“A more interesting role for the word ‘craft’, perhaps, rather than leave it marooned as a pejorative cultural refugee, is to return to it updated to its function as a politicised response to modernization.” Paul Greenhalgh The Modern Ideal (V&A Publications, 2005) (p.93)

In this political response craft is: un-alienated labour; it is vernacular/ethnic rather than global; and eliminating perceived class hierarchies in the arts and society. Craft is still seen as a political resistance or a personal antidote to the worst effects of modernism. Contemporary craft is often marketed as an ecologically responsible form of production and a way of creative recycling. The variety of recycled materials used in contemporary jewellery is amazing. Contemporary craft is also marketed a way of showing support to an ethnic group or a local artist by purchasing their vernacular versions rather than a modern globally available Ikea version. (In an extreme version of this political vision, another hierarchy emerges where craft is ethical and the fine arts are, in contrast, amoral.)

To make a living from their craft hobby is the ambition of many workers. Some do ‘down-size’ their lifestyle to become full-time craft workers in preference over a larger salary. The more professional of these contemporary crafts are for sale in Melbourne’s alternative art boutiques (see my entry on Art Boutiques). There is a great variety of unique jewellery, accessories and other craft items of fashion in Melbourne. But it is not just the professionals who are doing crafts; many women are doing crafts as a hobby (and it is mostly women as most of the young men are doing street art see my entry on Gender & Street Art, not forgetting that street art emphasises many craft techniques from calligraphy to stencils).

How much of the idealistic politics of craft is a reality? Morris & Co. hand blocked printed wallpaper merely replaced one form of repetitive work with another. The industrial work places of the ancient and medieval world are not good models for a good life. The art/craft distinction is interpreted by socialists as a class hierarchy and by feminists as a gender hierarchy but the hierarchy of arts and crafts has largely disappeared in contemporary art galleries, they are often seen side by side in the same gallery. However there still are hierarchies within crafts (that are still being challenged by both contemporary art and craft): the hierarchies between respectable crafts and other crafts, for example, imagine the outcry if a high-school needlework class swapped sewing needles for tattoo needles. And although craft does promote the regional, the vernacular styles and technique there has also been international modern and contemporary craft styles, from the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau onwards, that replace the vernacular.

Political arguments, aside, due to the interest in contemporary craft there are a lot of really interesting craft blogs, The Melbourne Stiches and Craft Show 2009 had a craft bloggers corner, where people could talk to craft bloggers and look at the craft blogs online. Here are a few craft blogs that I’ve found interesting:

Melbourne Jeweller – information, reviews and thoughts about Melbourne’s jewellery scene.

Craft City Melbourne – a directory of local crafty favourites, written by a number of authors (they welcome contributors) and organized by suburb and pursuit.

Polka Dot Rabbit – another interesting craft blog from Melbourne.

Embroidery As Art – for the textile artist.

Glass Central Canberra – more than just glass art

Page 63 of your Manual – Sayraphim Lothian artist’s craft blog

Thanks to my wife Catherine, who enjoys cross-stitching and greeting card making, for the inspiration and additional research.

%d bloggers like this: