Tag Archives: North Fitzroy

The Architect’s Shopfront

Thursday evening, another 6 pm art exhibition opening; what is different about this one is that it is in an architects office in North Fitzroy. A couple of times a month, the studio of DiMase Architects become a small gallery, Shopfront-342. Shopfront-342 has a theme, interpreted broadly, art with a relationship to the built environment. 

That night at Shopfront-342, a small group of people had gathered. (How many people would you feel comfortable inviting into your office?) But small is good, small is sustainable and small is friendly; charmingly inviting in an interested person passing by. And there was even a sale while I was there.

A unique hanging system made of wood (architect designed) for displaying work on the internal walls allows for quick and easy hanging. And a shelf facing the shop’s front window for displaying sculptural work.

It was like one of those opening at an artist-run-space where everyone is an artist, except everyone was an architect, even the two exhibiting artists: Bruce Katsipidis, an architect/sculptor and an architect/painter Elaheh Mohamed. Had I slipped into an alternate reality? Memories of reading about Frank Lloyd Wright’s claim to be the first non-figurative abstract artist because he did a panel for a house a year two before Kandinsky (really, it was neither man but a woman many years earlier).

Melbourne-based Iranian artist Elaheh Mohamed is showing two series of abstract paintings. An earlier series inspired by Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow by the acclaimed Greek auteur Theo Angelopoulos and her most recent paintings by locations around Western Port Bay. Calm abstracts with sweeping atmosphere and lyrical gestures created in the manipulations of the picture plane with layers of paint.

Katsipidis inspired by Brancusi, including the combination of carved wood on a cast concrete base and the erotics of the smooth curving forms. His four wooden sculptures are made with hand tools only as he made them in his architect’s office from found timber.

Alternate exhibition spaces in shopfront windows support local artists and culture. Businesses should look at what they do for the local community, not just their clients but also the people who have to walk past it or wait for a tram in front of it. For example, Shopfront-342 started as a way to engage local children on their school walk. Further along, the tramline is another shopfront art gallery, Dolls House.

Bruce Katsipidis, Penguin

Plinth Projects

It is like the start of a joke… A man walks into a plinth

Annie Wu, A man walks into a plinth...

Annie Wu, A man walks into a plinth…

It is Annie Wu’s sculpture for Plinth Projects in Edinburgh’s Gardens in Melbourne’s suburb of North Fitzroy. Plinth Projects, an artist-run public art program supported by the Yarra City Council, first used this vacant pedestal in March 2013. A suburban version of London’s Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, temporary public sculpture on an unused plinth.

Edinburgh Gardens is a large park that was established in 1862. The centrepiece of the park, amid a semi-circle of mature elms is an empty pedestal that once held a statue of Queen Victoria. The plinth stands a circular garden bed.

The old plinth had been erected for a temporary memorial statue for Queen Victoria in 1901 immediately after her death. Melbourne would have to wait until 1907 for the permanent white marble and granite memorial to Queen Victoria paid for by public subscription. It is not known who was the sculptor for the statue of Queen Victoria In Edinburgh gardens but it is similar to the figure of Victoria on top of James White’s marble figure on top of the permanent memorial, depicting the Queen holding an orb and scepter.

The marble plaque on the plinth: “ Presented to the citizens of Fitzroy by the Hon. George Godfrey MLC 1901.” George Godfrey (1834 – 1920) was solicitor born in London who arrived Melbourne 1858. He was the representative for the seat of South Yarra in the upper house of the Victorian Parliament from 1895 to 1904.

The original statue is often described as ‘timber’ but from an image on an old postcard it likely that it was made of ‘stuff’ an inexpensive mix of plaster, straw and timber frame that was often used for temporary statues in the 19th Century. The statue of Queen Victoria went missing over a century ago – council workers probably removed it after the period of official mourning and when it started to deteriorate and the timber frame was exposed.

The plinth remained, left empty almost a century. Plinth Projects’ has a seasonal exhibition calendar with a five-month-long exhibition over the winter and month long exhibits during the more pleasant seasons. The old plinth is in remarkably good condition and has been repainted by the Plinth Projects.

In March Oscar Perry placed a cylindrical bale of hay on the plinth in his Harvest Showdown / Early Classics, Hits and Rarities. It was a strange memorial to the death of ELO’s Mike Edwards in 2010 when a bale of hay rolled down a hillside and collided with his van. In April Spiros Panigirakis, A Tentative Sign examined the privileged position of the plinth adding an overturned lectern in front and a ladder up to the plinth. Mutating over a period of five months between May to September, Sarah crowEST presented a human proportioned lumpy form of paint splashed material on the plinth. Renee Cosgrave painted colourful designs on the plinth in October.

Annie Wu A man walks into a plinth… painted the same colour, Wu’s sculpture doubles the hight of the plinth and mirrors in a pared down, in a simplified modern form, the three steps at the base of the plinth. The title brings a sense of irony to its austere form.

I went to see the current installation; I would have gone to the official launch in the park but the weather last Sunday was unpleasant. There are other temporary public art programs in the city. On my bike ride to Edinburgh gardens I went past a few remaining installations in MoreArts, another inner city suburb temporary art exhibition organized by the Moreland City Council (see my post on this years MoreArts). There is a lot of graffiti and street art along the bike track, another part of Melbourne’s temporary public art.

Liz Walker, Estate, MoreArts

Liz Walker, Estate, MoreArts

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