Tag Archives: Moreland

Cross Currents @ Moreland Civic Centre

Cross Currents, paintings by Wen Jun at the Moreland Civic Centre would be almost entirely irrelevant were it not for the Chinese government currently throwing their weight around with attempts to censor and sabotage the Melbourne Film Festival. And the local debate in Moreland  usefulness of having sister cities. Moreland has three sister cities: Xianyang, in China, Viggiano, in Italy and Sparta, in Greece. Moreland does have a large Italian and Greek immigrant population but the connections with China are far more tenuous.

This is the 20th anniversary of contact between Moreland and Xianyang that was established by Wen Jun, Geoff Hogg and the then Mayor of Brunswick (now part of Moreland City). During this time Geoff Hogg has become an expert in public art and cultural exchanges. In 2006 he became the first Australian to be appointed an Honorary Professor of Art at Xianyang Normal University in China.

Moreland and Xianyang City Councils jointly sponsored the exhibition. At the opening of the exhibition there were of course the usual speeches, first by Robert Dorning, the Convenor of the Moreland and Xianyang Promotion Committee. The mayor, Cr Lambros Tapinos noted in his speech that Council has 2 of Wen Jun’s paintings in the council collections. In such low level diplomacy there is always talk about the benefits of such cultural exchanges without any evidence. It is an old line and probably no longer true in a time when there are many more routes for cultural exchange than just diplomacy. Wen Jun made a speech in Chinese, with a translation delivered by his daughter in English, about his art. About 40 people, including the artist, mayor, and city councilors, attended the opening of the exhibition. There was choice of a Long Vern 2008 Shiraz and Loire 2007 Sauvignon Blanc to drink and plenty of delicious finger food, typical of Moreland Council functions.

The best of Wen Jun’s paintings are reproductions of Tang Dynasty tomb frescos. His watercolor paintings are the same size as the original frescos. Xianyang was the imperial capital of the Tang Dynasty and the location for the famous Terra-cotta warriors. In Wen Jun’s paintings of the frescos every crack, lacuna, faded colors and other blemishes on the frescos are carefully reproduced. There are extensive didactic panels in Chinese and English. His earlier work, described as ‘traditional’ or ‘spring festival’ paintings are chocolate box sentimental images.

What is the public to conclude from this display of petty diplomacy hiding behind art and culture? That is all about putting on a good face and political junkets. That art and tourisms celebrating China’s imperial past are favored by China but documentaries critical of China’s imperial present are not. Is there any evidence that after 20 years that such diplomacy there has been any positive benefit for the ratepayers of either city? There is currently a local debate about the expense of Moreland City Council’s gift of a statue of King Leonidas to another sister city Sparta. I think that the debate should be about which local sculptor will receive the commission.


Moreland Sculpture Show 2009

Early Tuesday morning I bicycled to see the Moreland Sculpture Show 2009 at Bridges Reserve in Coburg. Although it was only 10am I was not alone in the park. Some people were walking through on the way to the shops and they stopped to look especially after walking over Kitty Owens and Mary Zbierski pavement painting ‘Magic Carpet’ (Ghost Chinese Market Garden). And, also a class of children from Coburg Primary School, from just across Bell St., were looking at the sculpture with their teacher.

Kitty Owens & Mary Zbierski - "Magic Carpet (Ghost Chinese Market Garden)"

Kitty Owens & Mary Zbierski - "Magic Carpet (Ghost Chinese Market Garden)"

At the entrance of the park Tim Craker’s “Botanical Data Files” is a banner of images of leaves cuts from orange plastic fencing. Craker leaves the cut out remains under the installation. Over the years there has been an increased focus on the annual theme of the show; this year’s theme was “Growth”. There is increased interest in ephemeral art rather than traditional sculpture in permanent materials with the inclusion of a $1,000 Ephemeral Award (non-acquisitive). And the definition of the sculpture for the show has been expanded to definitely include installations. Last year’s winner “The Future is Now” by Joel Bliss is still on exhibit in the park. (See my review of last year’s Moreland Sculpture Show. )

Stephanie Karvasilis -  'The Grass is Greener'

Stephanie Karvasilis - 'The Grass is Greener'

Many of the works on exhibit were by artist-gardeners that incorporated living pants in the sculptural work; (see my entry on Artist-Gardeners). ‘The Grass is Greener’ by Stephanie Karvasilis is a portable garden, a suitcase full of grass. Karvasilis’s work exists in multiples, one of which can also seen in the Victoria St. mall, in Coburg’s shopping strip. Amanda Hills includes growing parsley in her sculpture/installation ‘Apiaceous (liked by bees)’. And Gina Cahayagan’s ‘Bird’, although basically a pot plant holder in the shape of a bird, is ingeniously made of mostly of plastic cable ties.

David Marshall - 'Petecormic Growth'

David Marshall - 'Petecormic Growth'

David Marshall’s sculpture ‘Petecormic Growth’ is also clearly a gardening sculpture. ‘Petecormic Growth’ is a fantastic concept using the Pete plastic bottles stuck into a large burnt log. During the drought in Melbourne people have these bottles stuck around their garden and Marshall has made this ordinary object look like beautiful crystals.

Laurie Collins - 'Seed'

Laurie Collins - 'Seed'

There are sculptures in the show made of more permanent materials. Laurie Collins sculpture ‘Seed’ is a circle of found metal objects with a painted green sprout at the centre. And looking closer, on the green sprout a male and female figure sprout. Tony Farrell’s ‘Out of the Ashes’ a metal base relief scene made using found materials. Regina Wells followed recent trends of using mirrors in sculpture with her work ‘Still Reaching For The Sky’, a cluster of pine logs with mirrors on top reflecting the sky; the school kids said that it looked “like sushi rolls”.

Regina Wells - 'Still Reaching For The Sky'

Regina Wells - 'Still Reaching For The Sky'

The exhibition included two political works Liz Walker’s ‘Advance Australia Where?’ that was damaged on Sunday 14/6 had been replaced with a photo and a notice from the Moreland Council. Moreland Sculpture Show has had problems with vandalism for many years but vandalism with a Australian nationalist political agenda is new.

There was also an anonymous inclusion of a site-specific, post-minimalist, plastic-crate sculpture with collage details from the ‘High School for Coburg’ group that was not officially part of the show.

Marynes Avila - 'Ancient'

Marynes Avila - 'Ancient'

Alice Parker’s ‘Growth’ fabric minimalist installation didn’t really work. Dawn Whitehand’s ‘Earth Eggs’ made from unfired clay that would naturally decay was unspectacular. Helen Pollard’s ‘Carry the Message’ made of junk mail origami cranes were very ordinary. And Jo Zito’s ‘Roba Trovata’ was simply ugly.


Legal Street Art in Brunswick

Aeroskills, Brunswick 

 

Aeroskills, Brunswick

 

There are some great fresh aerosol pieces in Brunswick along the Upfield train line. Both of these works employ a dynamic ribbon design that ties these very long works together. At Brunswick station there is very large legit works, replacing a piece from last year that had been viciously vandalized. Maybe that is why there are some very angry figures in the piece near Brunswick station.

Street art near Brunswick Station

Villain presents AWOL DRS ALPHA near Brunswick Station

Each year I try to do a survey of the graffiti and street art along the Upfield train line. It is of course easier to see it all on bicycle as the bike path runs along the train line and the trains on the Upfield line only run every 20 minutes at their best. Prompted by an article in The Moreland Leader (9/3/09) “Writing’s on the wall” by Brigid O’Connell this year I decided to focus my attention on the legal street art.

In “Writing’s on the wall” by Brigid O’Connell provides a balanced report on the Moreland Council’s policy of promoting businesses to use legal street art as a way of stopping tagging. The opinions of the extreme anti-graffiti faction were reported, along with the experiences of local traders. A photo of a smiling convenience store owner Hamid Jalal next to his beautifully decorated shop wall says it all.

Brigid O’Connell refers to two Brunswick businesses that have employed legal aerosol art to reduce tagging: Lygon Convenience Store, on the corner of Brunswick Rd. and Lygon St. and Ling’s Fish and Chips on Glenlyon Rd. (Ling’s Fish and Chips is by Kinyobidesigns) Both are in areas with medium level graffiti, that is, you can see a few tags and bombs on disused surfaces and in alleyways. Hamid Jalal told me that some of his neighbours didn’t approve of his new street décor but that he was still happy with it.

Lygon Convenience Store

Lygon Convenience Store

Ling’s Fish and Chips

Ling’s Fish and Chips

Many businesses and private houses in Moreland commission street artists to paint walls with street facing; I looked at dozens on my bicycle ride. Many of these works have lasted for years, even decades: Jamit’s coffee cup, the first two colour stencils I ever saw, is still on the wall of a house along the Upfield train line a decade later. The piece with the anarchist robot on the side of a terrace house near Moreland station has been up for many years. The owners of the terrace house have had the advertising billboard removed preferring street art to advertising.

House, Moreland Station

House, Moreland Station

It is difficult to determine if legal aerosol art reduces unwanted graffiti in the area. Only in areas of very intense graffiti was there any damage to legal pieces and in areas of moderate graffiti there was no damage at all to legal pieces. It is obvious that in the Moreland area legal street art reduces unwanted graffiti on the area covered by the legit art. It is impossible to asses the fallacious argument of Scott Hilditch from Graffiti Hurts Australia that legal aerosol art attracts unwanted graffiti any more than because that is a post hoc ergo hoc (y came after x therefore y was caused by x).

Safeways and Connex and are the two corporations most intolerant of graffiti and street art in the Moreland area. Neither corporation has done anything to improve the aesthetic quality of their area, sometimes at great expense, like Safeway’s chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.

Safeways, Brunswick

Safeways, Brunswick

If you want to support beautiful street art then shop at businesses that give local artists opportunities.


Platform & Counihan

At Platform Cecilia Fogelberg and Trevor Flinn collaborated to produce ‘The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain’ (there is an image from the exhibition on the cover of this months Trouble magazine and an article inside). This exhibition was previously shown in Dunkeld’s old train station in November, 2007 and was part of the Next Wave’s ‘regional kick of grant’. I wonder how it was installed in the old train station as the exhibition made good use of the cabinets at Platform for installations and dioramas.

The quality of work in this exhibition varies tremendously: the puma suits and their installations are excellent. Whereas, the rock band part is cardboard cut-out quality. I recognize the re-use of Flinn’s fake Marshall speakers from Fogelberg’s SuperGroupie show in January, 2008. Ultimately, I was disappointed with the loopy narrative of “The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain”. This crazy story about fantasies of the legendary puma of the Grampians was further confused by the paintings and prints exhibited.

The Next Wave festival’s publicity has been annoying my eyes and I don’t want to look at the colors over text in the festival guide.

 

The Counihan Gallery has two exhibitions on this month from artists with immigrant experiences.

In Gallery One there is Helen Anderson and Jillian Kellie “Salvaging the fray: stories in two voices”. This collaboration between two sisters is a word heavy exhibition. I don’t want to stand around an art gallery reading; I prefer to read while sitting in a comfortable chair. Combining poetry, prose and art that incorporate words in it was too much for me.

Amer Rashad’s exhibition in Gallery Two was a relief from all the words, like an oasis for the eyes. Although Rashad, an Iraqi exile has been a writer and editor he let his paintings speak for themselves. Rashad is a modern artist who paints both abstract and figures in a divisionist style; divisionism is the name that the post-impressionists, cubists etc. were called at the time, it is a useful term for describing modern art with divisions in the colours and picture plane. Rashad especially enjoys painting women, including hieratic images of mother and child. Although they are not avant-garde Rashad’s paintings are beautiful and painted with a light heart.


Street Art Locations

First a quote from Moreland Mayor Joe Caputo: “We must do something about this (graffiti along the Upfield Line). Find these people and get them to finish it as they are our great artists of the future.”

Mayor Caputo has a vision where the energy and creativity of street artists are promoted and protected. And there is a lot of great street art in Moreland worth promoting and protecting. The best street art locations in Moreland are along the Upfield train line, between Jewell and Moreland. The carpark around Jewell Station and the small streets around Brunswick Station have some excellent work, especially the work of Henry St. Some of these are commissioned work by the house owners and factories.

My favourite street art locations in Melbourne’s CBD are:

1. Hosier Lane, along with Rutledge Lane, its side alley. It is the famous street art location and still the best street art location in the city. Still keeping it real, even council approval and professional photographers using it for a location. There is a lot of work filling this laneway, mostly aerosol and stencils. It also has the advantage of City Lights project and Until Never gallery in Rutledge Lane.

2. Centre Place, in a central location with a lot of variety but often looks a mess. There is a very high turn over of art in this location.

3. Union Lane, a large colourful legal collaboration of professional piecer in a central location, perfect to show tourists, children or your grandmother.

4. Caledonian Lane, a variety of scattered pieces; including high up, some faces by MIC.

5. Little LaTrobe Street, stencils and other aerosol pieces

6. Pesgrave Place (off Howey Place) frames, stickers and tags. This is also the location of 20×30, a hole in the wall gallery, outside of Pushka’s.

7. Lush Lane, stickers and a few stencils and other pieces

8. Corporation Lane, a few scattered pieces

9. Higson Lane, paste-ups and few scattered pieces

10. I can’t decide; there are other locations like Donaldson Lane, the unnamed alley off McKillop St., the unused elevator door in the Degraves St. subway with its stickers and the carpark off Anthony St.

I decided to write this entry because of all the tourists or high school art teachers trying to plan an excursion around the CBD’s street art. If any high school teachers do use this entry could you send me your lesson plan? To help me further understand the wider picture of street art and art education. Maybe, you could share it with everyone (I’ve always wanted to say that to a teacher) and post it in the comments.


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