Art and About: for all to see

David Noonan’s exhibition “Only when it’s cloudless” at TarraWarra Museum of Art.

Still riding the wake of our lockdowns, I’ve been slowly stepping out and around Melbourne. My city is again welcoming, bursting with liveliness in visual and performing arts. Focussing on exhibitions, here’s some of my highlights.

There’s a whole lot of queer going on at the National Gallery of Victoria, an abundance of this and that, colour and movement. “Queer” here refers to an eclectic mix that explores gender, sexuality and sensibility through drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, video and, of course, flamboyant fashion.

The exhibition has been assembled from within the NGV’s collection. Some artists are those who identify as LGBTQ+, others are those who have lived and worked within that “queer” world.

Photos: Romance was Born – Luke Sales, Anna Plunkett; Gumnut Ball Gown – Paul McCann; Body Language – David McDiarmid; Pacific Sisters – Rosanna Raymond; Flamingo Park – Jenny Kees/Jan Ayres; Ruel and Bram – Drew Pettifer.

It’s widely known that sexuality plays an historical role across the arts spectrum, from authors to theatre-makers, performers, photographers, painters. “Queer” and the avant-garde are usual bedfellows. There’s a gallery space dedicated to this. Its diverse and interesting to read the accompanying notes.
Photos: The Victory of Faith – St George Hare; Ring Gymnast 1 – Eugene Jansson; Bronze by Gold – Richard Hamilton; Glad to be Gay – Ponch Hawkes; The Bathers – Duncan Grant; Ntozakhe II – Zanelle Muholi.

Queer is at the NGV until 21st August

A Trip to TarraWarra
Leaving Melbourne for a weekend away in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, we drove directly to TarraWarra Wine Estate and Museum of Art.  On arrival, the vista is sweepingly beautiful. The wine cellar awaits, but first we wanted to see David Noonan’s exhibition “Only when it’s cloudless”.

The gallery itself is a stunning construction, loads of space to roam, with large inviting windows that look out onto the valleys, bringing shards of daylight within.

Photos: Vista from TarraWarra Estate; around the Museum of Art spaces. David Noonan’s “Only when its cloudless” exhibition.

Australian artist, David Noonan’s exhibition (curated by Victoria Lynne) is engaging on every level. His black and white images are collage, using all the greyscales within.  You can sense the spatial distribution, with some works choreographed in a theatrical manner.

Photos: Works and detail from David Noonan’s exhibition. 

After soaking up “Only when it’s cloudless”, we indulged in a glass of TarraWarra 2021 Pinot Noir Rosé with a plate of terrine and cheese.  A visit to TarraWarra can’t be recommended highly enough.  It’s a delicious experience for all the senses.

David Noonan “Only when it’s cloudless”  closes 10 July.

At the Jewish Museum in St Kilda there’s an exhibition that resonates with my early life. It’s a celebration of Helmut Newton’s photography (born Helmut Neustädter 1920, Berlin) whom I came to know as Australia’s most famous fashion photographer.

Helmut had his first camera at 12 years of age. He left school at 16 to become apprentice to Berlin portrait photographer, “Yva” (Else Neuländer-Simon). He fled Hitler’s Berlin, living in Singapore for two years, before arriving in Australia on the Queen Mary in 1940.

My memories of his black & white photography are that he transformed the ‘focus’ on women in fashion. They were proudly sexy, evocative, he captured female beauty as something remarkable. Always these women had an alluring presence.

Photos: Helmut Newton, Photographer:  Women – fun, beautiful, sexy, evocative.

Helmut Newton set up his studio at 353 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, the beginnings of our rag trade strip known as ‘The Lane’, where clothing and millinery designers emerged with glamour and pizazz. His photography featured in Vogue and other respected fashion magazines. His subjects became ‘cover girls’, notably Maggie Tabberer, perhaps Australia’s best-known fashion model of the times, and forever into her career.

Included in the Helmut Newton In Focus exhibition is a video room of short films. I sat through them all. They told much history of what I remember about growing up in Melbourne as a little girl whose Mum had worked as a pattern maker/seamstress in Flinders Lane during the 1930/40s. There were gowns in Mum’s wardrobe that dazzled with satin and sequins. These were ballgowns and bridesmaid dresses, embroidered and appliquéd. Mum could make a pattern for anything from a light summer dress to a lined, winter coat. Watching the videos, it amused me to hear that, back in those exciting times for Melbourne fashion, mothers told daughters, “It’s not good to work in Flinders Lane. It’s not proper”. I bet my Mum, Vera, loved it!

Helmut Newton lived a celebrity life, photographing his famous, creative friends around the world.  What his camera captured was elusive to most. It’s a truly wonderful exhibition.

Photos:  David Bowie; David Hockney, Andy Warhol; Vogue magazine covers featuring Maggie Tabberer; b/w photography; Helmut Newton; my Mum, Vera (left), strutting her style in Flinders St, April 1935. 

Helmut Newton In Focus is on until 29 January 2023

The NGV is for everyone!
I’m finishing writing this blog back where I started – at the National Gallery of Victoria, where there’s so much for children’s interest and interaction.   On arrival, Julian Opie’s illuminated birds stroll the lawn strips outside the gallery. The NGV’s waterwall on the front façade has been there since the gallery opened its site in 1968. Thirty years later, when the NGV was re-designed, there was public protest that this popular feature would be removed with the new plans by Italian architect, Mario Bellini. The waterwall stayed for generations, families, tourists, all visitors, their joy and playfulness.  I’ve taken many photos of the waterwall over the years, with my daughter when she was little and we’d regularly visit the gallery, and now with her son, my grandson.

Photos:  Julian Opie birds; the waterwall; looking around; another Julian Opie favourite, the “wee wee boy” fountain.

The current interactive kiddies’ section has a room for building shapes, another room has fun interactive where their face is photographed and they create a Fornacetti style body.  The information desk provides ‘scavenger hunt’ cards based on colour and finding objects. The little ones can roam any gallery space, looking around, observing, always excited to find a lady wearing a hat or a dog in a painting.  Our favourite place for colour is the Great Hall, where we lie on cushions, pointing to colours in the Leonard French glass ceiling. What is most engaging, as a parent/grandparent, is that you don’t lead or suggest. The children engage solely on their own understanding, while you sit back and enjoy.  Further, the NGV offers online learning sessions from Under 5s up to secondary level education for teachers and students to participate.

Photos: building; making Fornacetti face and body; collage; seeing colours; found ‘wood’

Victoria is fortunate to have our wonderful National Gallery of Victoria.
The NGV is open 10am-5pm daily 

Photo: Helmut Newton In Focus exhibition. 

© Images of all works belong with the artists/photographer
© All photos and text Pamela Reid/tPRO 2022