Tag Archives: Parkville

Ievers Remembered

I walked past the George Ievers Memorial Drinking Fountain on Gatehouse St. along Royal Parade in Parkville. Erected in 1916, granite (bluestone) steps ascending to shrine-like architectural structure, made of Harcourt and red Finland granite, surmounted by life size bust of George Ievers, dressed in the archaic robes of a city councilor made from white Carrara marble. The drinking fountain element was located in the base under a canopy but it has been removed years ago. I’ve seen it from the tram hundreds of times but I never knew to whom was dedicated. George Ievers (1845-1921) was on Melbourne City Council, a JP and on the board of various hospitals.

George Ievers Memorial Drinking Fountain, Parkville

Even though there are two other similar memorials to the Ievers family in Carlton and an Ievers St. further along Royal Parade. Ievers is not a familiar name to Melbourne residents. I only became aware of them when researching memorial drinking fountains in Melbourne. I’m not saying that the Ievers should be remembered but the family did try to put their mark on Melbourne at the turn of the 20th century. William Ievers (Sr.) (1818-1901) was an estate agent and city councillor who had three sons: William (Jr.), George and Robert. None of the three brothers had any children but their sisters did.

All three of the Ievers memorial drinking fountains are by Charles Douglas Richardson. Richardson made another memorial drinking fountains of a similar architectural design and materials dedicated to Councilor William Cook, 1910 located in Hardy Reserve, Carlton North.

William Ievers (Sr.) Memorial Drinking Fountain, Carlton

The William Ievers (Sr.) Memorial Drinking Fountain, 1915 stands in Argyle Square on Lygon St., Carlton. At the top there is a life size bust of William Ievers Senior again dressed in his the collar and robes of a city councilor.

The William Ievers (Jr.) Memorial Drinking Fountain, 1916, is located in Macarthur Square, Carlton. William Ievers (Jr.) (1839-1895), like his father and brother, George, was also a local councilor but his interests also included amateur acting and rowing. He was an original member of the Melbourne Shakespeare Society, a committee member of the Melbourne Athenaeum and its president in 1880. With his brothers he founded the Melbourne version of the Beefsteak Club in 1886. (Now they are beginning to sound a bit more interesting.) He presided over a royal commission on banking for only a few sessions before he had a rowing accident that lead to his death in1895.

There is no memorial to the youngest brother, Robert Lancelot Ievers (1854-1910).


Grainger Museum

You don’t have to be a fan of Percy Grainger’s music to appreciate the Grainger Museum; you don’t really need to know anything his music. You can look at this remarkable little museum as an exhibition of the life an early 20th century eccentric. It is half a biographical museum and half a music museum specializing in musical invention.

As a music museum the collection of instruments focuses on the eccentric and innovative. Grainger was a great musical inventor and experimenter, late in his life Grainger made a programmable electronic organ powered by vacuum cleaners. Grainger’s great  “Cross-Grainger Kangaroo-pouch Tone-Tool” completed by 1952 is on exhibition (Burnett Cross writes about his experience collaborating with Percy Grainger on this and other experiments). Grainger’s eccentric position isolated his  work from other electronic music pioneers at Melbourne University programming CSIRACto play digital music in 1950 or 1951.

Cross-Grainger Kangaroo-pouch Tone-Tool

There are less of Grainger’s folding suitcase pianos and his collection of European folk instruments on display now. They have been replaced with a whole room of Australian musical inventions and musical instruments. There are new instruments by Garry Greenwood (1943-2005), Colin Offord and Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack (1893-1965), who went from the Bauhaus to Geelong Grammar School. These inventors of musical instruments are also visual artists because musical instruments are also sculptural aesthetic objects and there are paintings by Colin Offord and drawing by Garry Greenwood that compliment the sculptural beauty of their invented instruments.

Instruments created by Garry Greenwood

The biographical part of museum presents an unvarnished biography of Percy Grainger, the way that he would have wanted it. The museum is notorious for its exhibition of Grainger’s collection of whips and other relics of his sadomasochism. Grainger should be more notorious for his proto-fascist attitudes about the Nordic race and anti-Semitism. Other of his eccentricities such as vegetarian and passion for jogging (Grainger was known as the “running pianist”) appear ordinary today.

Grainger’s unbridled creativity and inventiveness is on display throughout the museum. Along with his musical inventions there are his designs for his published edition covers with the free-hand typography and his clothing creations (Grainger may have also invented the sports bra). The remarkable clothes that Grainger made for himself from towelling reminds me of the costume designs of Matisse for Diaghilev ballet.

And there is art from Grainger’s collection, portraits, cartoons, photographs, erotic Norman Lindsey prints and Grainger’s father’s collection of cartoons by Morris & Co. Grainger’s collection of Native American beadwork is on exhibition (beadwork was also one of Grainger’s hobbies).

Fortunately not all of Grainger’s desire for the museum have been carried out; such as, his bequeathing his skeleton “for preservation and possible display in the Grainger Museum” and his stipulation that the museum be lite by “daylight only, and to contain no electric lighting or other lighting (to avoid fire danger)”. It is a remarkable and unique museum; what might have been intended as an egotistical plan to fetishize the relics of Grainger’s life has changed with history to tell a different story.

Percy Grainger was born in Melbourne and left a museum to Melbourne; for most of his life he was in Europe and America. The old brick museum at Melbourne University doesn’t attract much attention; it looks similar to the toilet block/changing rooms at the sports fields further along Royal Parade. The museum has been refurbished since I last visited a decade ago and the exhibits have been rearranged to create a more coherent exhibition, so even if you have seen it before the Grainger Museum is worth another visit.

The Grainger Museum @ Melbourne University

Not Overlooked

On Wednesday night “Looking at the Overlooked” opened at the George Paton Gallery in the Union House at the University of Melbourne. Curator, Joleen Loh has balanced the art of three Melbourne artists: Brooke Williams, Leah Williams and Mia Kenway in an exhibition of calm visions of the constructed world. Joleen Loh is an art history student at Melbourne University who also works at Fehily Contemporary in Collingwood.

Brooke Williams is in her final year at the Victorian College of the Arts. Her impressive installation, “Circle” is a series of dry mounted lithographs on metal brackets mounted floor to ceiling.

Leah Williams is showing two graphite drawings of paint splatter concrete floors, three videos of the play of sunlight and three photographs of views through partially curtained windows. Leah Williams’s art has the serene objectivity of relaxed observations of the ordinary world.

Mia Kenway has a scatter of objects in the gallery, fleshy blocks of pink colored plaster, the sheet of aluminum and tiles on the floor, a piece of glass leans against one wall, a screen hangs on the wall. Although this untitled work does fit with the rest of the exhibition I’ve seen too much of this kind of work in the last year.

The exhibition focuses on the subtly of material, the overlooked in a meditative mood. Of course, at the opening, with about a hundred people drinking wine and talking in the gallery it is hard to even remember such a mood.

The little ‘L’ shaped George Paton Gallery has regular exhibitions every two weeks. There is an old  poster by Peter Tyndall advertising the gallery at the entrance. The gallery has been around since the mid-70s and was one of Melbourne’s first contemporary art spaces but it has been overlooked as more and more spaces have opened.

The Rubble of History

“Cultural Rubble”, 1993, by Christine O’Loughlin, was re-installed on the façade of the new Ian Potter Art Gallery at Melbourne University in 1998. “Culture Rubble” is a large scale, site-specific installation of 4 panels in very high relief; statues and vases stand our almost complete above the surface. It represents the rubble of the classical world reinterpreted in the antipodes.

The idea that a site-specific installation could be re-installed on a new building is made understandable by the moving of the contents, the Ian Potter Art Gallery, from the old building to the new one. The Ian Potter Art Gallery contains a collection of classical antiquities.

“Cultural Rubble” samples past images and recombines them to create a new meaning. It was the first public sculpture that said post-modern to me (although Paul Juraszek “The Sun & the Moon” 1989 is historically the first post-modern sculpture in Melbourne).  For me, “Cultural Rubble” was a visual proof of a paradigm shift in the collective consciousness. It demonstrates a post-modern sense of history, as opposed to the modernist rejection of history. It looked back not just to the classical Greek world but also to the history of art museums such as the paster-cast gallery in the V&A Museum. “Cultural Rubble” contains, in a way, the entire sense of art history embodied by the Louvre’s collection, including the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Discus Thrower.

The rubble has been broken, a symbol of no value, and then reassembled in a different order. It is like the Japanese Buddhist monks that cut up and reassemble a patchwork of fabrics or broken ceramics. It is not an effort to restore what has been sacrificed but find new meaning and order in the sacrificial offerings. Sacrifice is the reciprocal action to terrible destruction, however the sacrifice, itself is a terrible destruction require yet another sacrifice in order to restore the balance. The Christian iconoclasts and the modernists failed to clear up all the rubble of their destruction of the classical pagan world.

The artist, Christine O’Loughlin had lived and worked in France since 1979 and cast the sculptural elements for “Cultural Rubble” at the Louvre. “Cultural Rubble” is an early anomaly in Christine O’Loughlin’s sculptural work, in that it is not representative of her other work, except in its use of the poetics of displacement. She has continued to exhibit in Europe using the environment as her main sculptural material.

Post-modernism was not the end of history rather it was a different sense of history. It was a sense of history with multiple different views. It was sense of history that was evident not just in O’Loughlin’s sculpture but also in the photography of Bill Henson and in the paintings of Gordon Bennett, Imant Tillers and Juan Davilla. However, as Melbourne moved from post-modern to contemporary art the sense of history has faded.

Stolen & Restored Statues

In 2010 thieves stole Loretta Quinn’s sculpture “Within Three Worlds” from Princess Park stolen using an angle grinder to cut the bronze statue off at its feet. Now, in 2011, new edition of the statue has been cast and it has now been installed in its original location.

Loretta Quinn “Within Three Worlds” 1995 original

Loretta Quinn “Within Three Worlds” 1995 restored

The new version of “Within Three Worlds” is different from the original, almost completely different but the three boats in the pond are still original. The new statue is better than the original, it is less clunky, the shoes, hands and dress are more detailed and the hair curves more elegantly. Most obvious difference is that the new statue has a green finish on the dress and shoes. It has also been moved a metre closer to the pond.

It is good to see the statue back and the restoration of the stolen has been completed with refilling of the ornamental pond that it is located beside (the pond was dry due to a prolonged drought in Melbourne). The statue is dedicated to the memory of Angela Jane Esdaile (1969 – 1993) and commemorates the contribution to the community of childcare workers like Angela. (See my blog post about the Missing Statue.)

Stolen public sculpture in Melbourne receives little attention, as Melbourne’s public is more interested in an art scandal than an art theft. The bronze dog, “Larry LaTrobe” was stolen from the city square in 1995. The current “Larry LaTrobe” is another edition courtesy of Peter Kolliner, the owner of the foundry where the original was cast. The regular theft of the hammer from “The Pathfinder” by John Robinson, 1974 in the Queen Victoria Gardens required that the replacement be unscrewed every night. The recurring theft of the hammer from the statue became such a problem that the hammer is now rarely installed (or has the replacement been stolen?).

None of these stolen statues have been recovered; it is unfortunate but these bronze sculptures were probably stolen for the scrap metal. This was probably the fate of the 1m metal statue of Christ stolen from a Templestowe Church in August 2010 reported in Manningham Leader. The only stolen public sculpture that has been recovered is “the boy with the turtle” (artist unknown c.1850) that was stolen in 1977 from Fitzroy Gardens and recovered two and a half years later abandoned in a Richmond carpark. It was saved because it is only made of cement and cement has little intrinsic value.

An English fantasy illustrator told me that he’d returned home to find that his flat was being burgled. The two burglars bailed him up and asked if he’d done the art; he told them it was his and they complimented him on his art and left taking nothing. The Marius-Jacob gang went even further on discovering that they had broken into the house of a French poet they left money to replace the pane of glass that they had broken. Robbing artists or stealing public sculpture for scrap metal lacks any dignity as a crime, like stealing from charity bins.

More winners

On Wednesday, the final night at the Basil Sellers Art Prize 2010 two associated awards were presented. Ponch Hawkes won the 2010 Basil Sellers National Sports Museum Creative Arts Fellowship. The fellowship is valued at $50,000 dollars. And Juan Ford for won the $5,000 Yarra Trams People’s Choice Award voted by the visitors to the exhibition.

Unlike The Gaurdian’s art critic, Adrian Searle, who recently wrote about this year’s Turner Prize, I do not prejudge the judges of art prizes. I do not think that it is the art critic’s role to do this (unless they are the appointed judge) any more than it is a crime reporter’s role to judge the case (if they did it would be contempt of court). It is the art critic’s role to explain, examine and comment on the art prizes and awards not to prejudge them.

The novelty of Juan Ford’s series of anamorphic images proved popular with the visitors to the exhibition. The visitors would have been familiar with the use of anamorphic images employed by advertisers in major sporting events – the logos that are designed to be viewed at particular angles. The visitors might have also been comforted by Ford’s familiar reference to sports art history with his anamorphic version of ancient Greek runners. Or, maybe they just enjoyed the theme of running.

The openings of Juan Ford’s exhibitions have always been packed with people – his art is popular. This is not just because of his fine figurative painting technique but because his engages the viewer with anamorphic images that emphasising the viewer’s relationship to the image.

Melbourne photographer Ponch Hawkes has worked with Circus Oz since its inception, the unresolved narratives in her photographs invite the viewer to speculate. So expect to see some of Hawkes dramatic photographs at the National Sports Museum at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It is good to know that art at the MCG extends beyond the dozen bronze statues of sporting heroes by Louis Laumen.

My congratulations to Juan Ford and Ponch Hawkes.

And the winner is…

On a cold Thursday evening, on the 5 August 2010 sport and art luminaries walking on the green astroturf carpet that had been laid outside the Ian Potter Museum of Art. Amongst the crowd was legendary football coach, Ron Barassi who turned up to support a relative, one of the finalists, the artist, David Ray. Inside the Basil Sellers Art Prize 2010 was about to be announced (see my preview of the prize and exhibition).

And the winner is… The Gymnasium 2010 by Perth video artists, Pilar Mata Dupont and Tarryn Gill. The Gymnasium is a new work created for the Basil Sellers Art Prize.

Gymnasium, 2010, Courtesy the artists and Goddard de Fiddes Gallery, Perth

Pilar Mata Dupont and Tarryn Gill’s video is fun, like a 4-minute music video clip. You can watch it over and over again. The aesthetic image of the gymnasium from an era, prior to branding with corporate logos and exercise machines, has the ironic appeal of nostalgic propaganda. The video ends of the smiling, laughing faces of the athletes with the Australian flag waving in the background.

The Gymnasium was filmed in a boy’s school in Perth; the attention to detail in the video is amazing. Along with the location, the casting, hairdressing, soundtrack and the costumes perfectly fit the era and nationalistic propaganda style. The artists have beautifully captured choreographed movement.

The Gymnasium lives up to the objective of the Basil Sellers Art Prize as it challenges the perception of sport through the use of visual arts.  It examines the link between Australian national identity and sports. The national identity of the white Australia is based on a sporting body culture and this video gets to the heart of the aesthetics of athletics.

The video is ironically inspired by Lenni Riefenstahl’s classic film, Olympia, of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The video images also have a direct relationship with one of Australian’s most famous photographers, Max Dupain. Isobel Crombie in Body Culture – Max Dupain, Photography and Autralian Culture 1919-1939, (Peleus Press, 2004) examines the fascist body culture that inspired Max Dupain’s photography. These images echo the aesthetic aspiration of ancient Greek athletes for control of their bodies, as examined by Michel Foucault in The Uses of Pleasure, the history of sexuality: v. 2 (1984). Foucault highlights the ethical relationship of this control to ancient Greeks. And the ethics of this body culture is displayed in The Gymnasium; the different athletic activities of the men and women demonstrate the use of sport to emphasise gender differences, as well as, control of sexuality.

Gymnasium 2010 Courtesy the artists and Goddard de Fiddes Gallery, Perth

Australia needs to acknowledge and better understand the history of its sporting culture in order to move beyond the nationalism and fascism. And Pilar Mata Dupont and Tarryn Gill’s The Gymnasium 2010 is part of this cultural re-evaluation.

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