Tag Archives: South Melbourne

Arndt Migration

On the first really hot Tuesday of this spring I arrived to see Berlin gallery owner, Matthias Arndt for a tour of Migration, his first Melbourne pop-up exhibition at Ormond Hall in South Melbourne. I was waiting for him in this amazing ballroom with a few other people. From the outside Ormond Hall looks like a modest gothic revival building. It was built for the RVIB (Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind) in 1891 but on the inside it was remodelled in 1922 in the art deco style when a new dance floor  was installed. It has seen performances from Dame Nellie Melba, AC/DC and Skyhooks.

This is the way that I want to be treated for an exhibition opening; a glass of good champagne on arrival, a media pack and then a tour around the exhibition before the general public arrived. It is good to be introduced and to have the opportunity to talk with people involved in the exhibition. This was not just another exhibition invite in the email box where I have to introduce myself and identify the exhibiting artist. (I hope some people are taking notes.) Gabrielle Wilson, of [art]iculate, the publicist for the exhibition has done a great job promoting the exhibition and after the second glass of champagne I honestly wanted to tell people to see this exhibition.

I was a bit concerned before seeing it that this would be yet another slick commercial gallery with a lot of prints and other multiple editions from some big name artists. But the list of artists intrigued me, as did the mention of ”the Berlin style of staging exhibitions in abandoned and unexpected spaces.” The art on exhibition is serious and impressive – not just the names. In the end I wasn’t so impressed with the Berlin style of staging as it was like is seeing another artist-run-space. The art was exhibited in the stripped-out former offices and classrooms on the upper floors of Ormond Hall. They still have their fluoro lighting and ceiling fans but anything is better than another white cube.

Matthias Arndt explains the art, Gilbert and George “Killers Straight” 2011 in background

Matthias Arndt was honest about the reasons for his own migration to Australia; there are personal, professional and strategic reasons. In the week that the Australian Government released their Asian strategy white paper Arndt has made this own strategic move for the Asian art market. His Australian wife and 4-year-old son were the personal reason. He has already had a pop-up exhibition in a building in the Rocks in Sydney and now he is announcing his presence in Melbourne.

I asked Arndt if this was basically high-end art for institutions and other serious collectors. “No” he replied, padlocking the built-in cupboards that had been converted into display cases with the addition of a few glass panes, “there is work from $50 and up.” Indeed there was art jewellery and DGTMB, a street artist’s limited edition t-shirts, trucker caps and bags. Along with the jewellery there was a small Renaissance altarpiece and a smaller painter by Joe Coleman in the cupboard. In another room there is modern furniture.

I would recommend a visit before the 15th of December at least to see the world famous artists, like Gilbert and George, Georg Baselitz (“can’t avoid certain German artists” Arndt remarks), Joseph Beuys. Martin Kippenberger, Eko Nugroho and Sophie Calle surrounded by walls of peeling paint and to see Ormond hall’s art deco ballroom.


Project Melbourne Underground

South Melbourne Street Fair – Graffiti Exhibition at Emerald House

The beautifully painted mini parked out the front was an excellent announcement of the exhibition on 3 floors of the underground carpark of Emerald House in South Melbourne. I mean almost every wall and pillar in the whole carpark – the ventilation ducts were painted to look like different types of trains. It is huge, “covering more than 800 square meters of space” and claiming to be “Australia’s largest private exhibition of graffiti art”. This is what the Medici’s carpark would have looked like in the Renaissance, if they had a carpark and cars.

This impressive exhibition has work from 90 local and international artists. It features many of Melbourne’s well-known aerosol artists, along with some paste-ups from Urban Cake Lady. The only obvious stencils were by Kirpy, Vexta and Stabs, although a lot, like Duel, were using stencils for background patterns. There was also some brushwork from a few artists.

With so many impressive pieces on show it would take me forever to finish this post if I commented on all of them. There was Makatron’s wall of bees – “for all the bee boys and girls”. And Phibs’s style worked so well on the pillars.

The main problem with this exhibition was how they handled the public – everyone wants to re-invent the wheel. The idea of having artists leading tour groups around might sound good but it meant hanging around the entrance for an artist who had no experience in leading a tour group hoping to wing it with impromptu comments and couldn’t answer my first question about who did a piece. Who is the artist who did this wall and another magnificent piece, also with Monster, at Sparta Place in Brunswick? Answer: Werner “Nash” Zwakhalen.

Nash, South Melbourne

Nash, Project Melbourne Underground

Nash, Sparta Place, Brunswick

On my way back home I saw the AWOL crew working on the wall at Brunswick Station. At the time they had a few outlines up and were carefully moving a long strip of masking tape from one part of the wall. The AWOL crew have taken their collaborative approach painting a wall to a whole new level. Isn’t this the dream of all painters to completely fill you field of vision?

AWOL crew, Project Melbourne Underground

Slicer & Adnate (AWOL crew), Brunswick

You can see more and better photos of Project Melbourne Underground at Land of Sunshinepart one and part two. Yes, I know, you just want to look at the pictures.

Phibs, Project Melbourne Underground


Australian Tapestry Workshop

Catherine and I went to see the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Catherine is more interested in textile arts than I am; textile arts still dominated by women and most of the people working on the workshop floor are women.

The Australian Tapestry Workshop was formerly the Victorian Tapestry Workshop; the name changed in 2010 and the V logo of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop has been turned upside down to form an A. It is still located in the same 19th century building in South Melbourne that once held a knitting mill. The large work floor has become the tapestry workshop. Lace ironwork pillars support a saw tooth roof over the main floor. South Melbourne once had many textiles works and carpet factories; it now has restaurants, boutiques and media companies.

An observation deck allows visitors to watch the tapestries being made on the four large looms on the main floor. Scattered around the main floor are pin-board dividers with samples, b&w and colour images of the art for the tapestries. When Catherine and I visited they were working on John Young’s “The Navigator” (2.3 x3.02m.) for the National Library of Australia. The weavers work in teams across large tapestries. Watching the one of the weavers mixing strands from half a dozen colours to create exactly the right blend of colour.

The observation deck also allows the visitor to observe the yarn dyed in the small colour laboratory safely from behind glass. The workshop produces a 366 standard colour range of wools for sale at their shop and also dye their own wool specifically for certain projects.

The Australian Tapestry Workshop has a shop and two gallery spaces exhibiting work for sale. I was particularly impressed with Merrin Eirth “Black Tomato’s Fleshy Heart” 2003, a tapestry in the shape of a kimono.

Translating images from one media to another is not a simple task; woven wool is a very different material than paint. (Goya’s painting style always reminded me of tapestries and I was not surprised to learn that he had started painting the designs for tapestries.) The weavers at the Australian/Victorian Tapestry Workshop interpret the source artwork and the workshop has a reputation for translating contemporary art.

Tapestries became popular in the Renaissance, as they were capable of covering the massive stonewalls of palaces dampening the echoes and they still serve this function in contemporary architecture. Over the 30 years of its operation, the Victorian Tapestry Workshop has made most of the large tapestries that currently hang in Australian public buildings.

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