art and about: my friend Fiona

Fiona Crawford (2013) at the Opening of “Anastasia – Woman of Eureka”

Artist and friend, Fiona Crawford, passed away in October last year. Fiona was my ‘art buddy’. For both of us, our passion to create art was put on hold while we worked through those decades of life, family, career. When we did burst forth, we enthused about all new learnings. Moreso, Fiona and I shared a zeal for travels, history, all things inter-related to art. Over a wine, or two, we discussed upcoming plans – always ‘the next trip’, what places to visit – our current art projects, mutually supportive. We visited local exhibitions together. Curiosity and excitement doesn’t wane. It rejuvenates.

As an artist, Fiona was an intelligent story-teller.  As a woman, she was fervent about equality. Her approach to artmaking reflected both. Fiona’s 2013 exhibition “Anastasia – Woman of Eureka” was a testament to her integrity and commitment to women’s rights and family history. Anastasia Withers was one of the earliest women on the Victorian goldfields. She was also Fiona’s great-great Grandmother. Anastasia was trusted to hide the miners’ gold under her petticoats. She and two other women are believed to have designed and sewn the “Eureka Flag” (1854) which became, and remains, a symbol of the battle for people’s rights.

“Anastasia – Woman of Eureka” originally exhibited at Gasworks Arts Park in Albert Park, then later at MADE (Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka) in Ballarat, regional Victoria, site of the Battle of the Eureka Stockade. Fiona told Anastasia’s story through painting, printmaking, sculpture and textiles.

Photos:  Gasworks Arts Park – Fiona’s exhibition Opening

Importantly, we had fun!  At the Mirka Mora exhibition (Heide Museum of Modern Art), we were incredulous at the many glass cases bursting with Mirka’s little sketch books. We combed over these drawings, amazed how she prolifically practised her skills. Then, Mirka’s glorious paintings and a gallery space full of her dolls. Deciding it was ‘play time’, we busied ourselves in the children’s activity room.

The David Hockney exhibition at the NGV inspired us. We’d so looked forward to it. Those explosive colours and Hockney’s new works on drawing tablets. Keeping up with kids, showing us how it’s done!
Photos:  Play time at Heide, Mirka Mora exhibition; ‘colour our world’ at Hockney, NGV.

Another exhibition that delighted us was South African artist, Robin Rhode’s “The Call of Walls”. This was his first solo exhibition in Australia (NGV) and his work was new to us. All the more reason to explore. The street is Rhode’s workspace, as he creates using photography and animation.  Wonderful!
Photos:  Watching and marvelling at Robin Rhode’s exhibition.

In 2016, I was in Sinalunga (Tuscany, Italy) for an art history/en plein air painting workshop, while Fiona was a little further north in Assisi, undertaking a residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle. Her intention was to paint, but in Assisi, Fiona discovered Punto Assisi, an embroidery tradition practised by the local women, that pre-dates the Renaissance. Punto Assisi resonated with Fiona on every level. The linen, the threads’ colour palette, this women’s work, unique to Assisi.

Back here in Melbourne, over another glass of wine, I clearly recall Fiona telling me, excitedly, about her ‘find’. It set Fiona off on a whole new artistic journey and became the subject not only for her next creative project, but she was awarded an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship through Federation University Australia Arts Academy for a Master of Arts (Research).  Here was a different ‘canvas’ to give voice to women, drawing with thread, to “honour the unknown makers of this art.” (Fiona).  She returned to Assisi in 2019, spending more time with these women, buying their fabric and threads.   The culmination of Fiona’s work was titled “When you go looking for me I am not there”.  It was – and is – exquisite. Exhibited at the Post Office Gallery in Ballarat early 2019, her Punto Assisi embroidery was to continue on to La Storta (through Venezia Contemporanea, Venice). But, the Covid 19 pandemic hit.  Victoria went into lockdown just as her works were assembled in Ballarat.  Another journey for Fiona, when she was diagnosed with cancer. We didn’t get to see “When you go looking for me I am not there” until her memorial service in February this year, back in Gasworks Arts Park.
Photos: “When you go looking for me I am not there” Gasworks Arts Park, February 2022; Fiona’s grandchildren play at Gasworks. 

Gosh, I miss my friend, Fiona.

A glass of wine, chatting all things art, history, travel, religion (at the NGV).

©   2022 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo

morning glories at NGV Australia

Maree Clarke “Me in Mourning”

My city, Melbourne, went back into lockdown in July.  For those who counted, it was lockdown number six.  My city, Melbourne, gained the infamous title of “the world’s most locked down city”.  In these last weeks, we have been slowly re-emerging, some cautiously, some oh-so-ready to bounce back into Melbourne’s lifestyle, welcome a New Year (it’s not that long ago we were “the world’s most liveable city” several times over).

I’d especially missed our National Gallery of Victoria. Back in July, we’d planned to view the Maree Clarke exhibition, Ancestral Memories.  Happily, the exhibition is still on.  Of equal interest, a new exhibition Found and Gathered, a coupling of works by Rosalie Gascoigne and Lorraine Connelly-Northey. Two exhibitions, three women artists, so grounded in their vision, respectful of the environment, heritage and belonging.

We went to NGV Australia early, at ‘doors open’, knowing there would be few people, safety in space in these Covid times. On entering the foyer, there’s an immediate sense of Found and Gathered as you walk around Connelly-Northey’s Fish trap, made from corrugated irons strips on rings of wire.

Ground floor, Found and Gathered.  My immediate response was to the NGV’S curation and concept in such a magical pairing of artists. Stepping into each gallery space, the impact is of the ‘whole’, then moving around the room, looking closer to explore the re-cycled textures and elements, their meanings.

Photos: Gallery foyer, Connelly-Northey’s “Fish trap”; Gascoigne’s “Takeover bid” against the rear wall; Connelly-Northey “A Possum Skin Cloak: Hunter’s Duck Net”;  detail as Ducks fly into the “Hunter’s Duck Net”;  Gascoigne’s “Feathered Fence” (swan feathers) in foreground, “Afternoon” on rear wall.

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917–1999) was born in New Zealand, where she went to Auckland University, studying English, French, Latin, Greek and Mathematics, graduating with a BA.  She married an astronomer, they moved to the Mt Stromlo Observatory outside Canberra, Australia. With no formal arts training, it was here Gascoigne explored the landscape, searching for discarded materials, developing her new-found creativity. It wasn’t until she was 57 that Rosalie exhibited and, in 1982, she became the first female artist to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale.

Born in Swan Hill, Victoria, on the traditional lands of the Wamba Wamba people, Lorraine Connelly-Northey gathers bits and pieces, re-purposing to reference her Indigenous traditions. Her sculptural works include reflections of traditional weaving techniques and cultural objects. Throughout, there is a strong presence of Aboriginal commitment to, and custodianship of, Country.

Photos: Gascoigne’s “Suddenly the Lake”;  Connelly-Northey’s “A Possum Skin Cloak: On Country”  sculpture is installed across two walls. Details from different viewpoints; some of Connelly-Northey’s Lap Laps (groin covers) woven from coarse and sometimes sharp materials, to bring attention to the ‘barbed’ sexual relations between Aboriginal women and Post-European settlers.

Maree Clarke’s exhibition Ancestral Memories is a deeply intimate experience. A Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung woman, it is the first major retrospective of Clarke’s works across three decades, comprising a range of mediums and materials.

Most striking, and throughout, are 84 black/white photographic portraits Ritual and Ceremony. White ochre is painted on the faces and hair of the women, and on the eyes and t-shirts of the men. This ceremonial body painting represents the mourning practises of Aboriginal people along the Murray-Darling rivers.

Jewellery, printmaking, sculpture, glass and video works are all within Ancestral Memories. It feels sacred, reverent to be in the midst of such personal engagement with the artist’s ancestry.

Photos: “Ritual and Ceremony”; “River reed necklace set”; “Ancestral memory I and II”; “Long Journey Home”; “Me in Mourning”. 

Found & Gathered exhibition is on at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Fed Square, until 20 February.  There’s a virtual tour
Ancestral Memories – Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Fed Square, Level 3, Indigenous Art, until 6 February

Photo: visitors at Found and Gathered exhibition

©   2022 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo

Armchair art travel

Photo: The spectacular Charles Jencks landform at Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh.

Here in Melbourne, Australia, restrictions are easing after lockdown #4 and our international borders will be closed until next year.  That doesn’t need explanation.  Traveler friends around the world have been staying at home since early 2020.  Those of us who are art-lovers have been spoilt by galleries and museums throughout these difficult times: virtual tours, conversations, education, so much knowledge shared. One could sit in front of the computer all day, but I’m not good at sitting still for long.

In the past, I’ve written about cities I’ve visited, the textures of landscapes, history, cultures and, particularly the art.  As I (we) can’t travel, I’m writing this blog about a couple of my much-loved cities.  Hopefully, you’ll make yourself comfortable, pour a nice wine, and vicariously travel with me. Enjoy!

Starting with EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND with it’s never-changing beautiful face, rich in everything art, famous for its annual performance, Fringe and literary festivals. I stay with dear friends whose hospitality and learned appreciation for their home is contagious.  Each day starts with one of my favourite sprightly walks, up Arthurs’s Seat, overlooking the city of Edinburgh and beyond.

At the other end of the day, we regularly drink at The Sheep Heid Inn, Duddingston. Dating back to the 14th Century, The Sheep Heid is Scotland’s oldest pub, boasting famous patrons from times gone by including Bonnie Prince Charlie, writer Robert Louis Stevenson and poet Robert Burns.
Photos: The walk starts around Dunsapie Loch; towards the peak of Arthur’s Seat; along the pathway: the small track down to Duddingston Village; The Sheep Heid.  

On past visits, I’ve become aware of Scotland’s vast history of female artists, as well as seeing wonderful contemporary works by women.  My last trip, I was introduced to painter Victoria Crowe (London born 1945,) whose breadth of creativity includes interiors, landscapes, portraits and still life. As her subject changes, so does her palette, the impact of light, as her painting techniques become familiar.

Born in London (1945), Victoria Crowe made Edinburgh’s Pentland Hills her home from the late 1960’s. The seasons and cold climate play a role in many of her works.  Her art was further impacted by travels to Italy, particularly the early Renaissance works. What is enticing about Crowe’s work is the awareness of its passages, seemingly a reflection of those movements within in her life, in the aptly titled exhibition, “Victoria Crowe, 50 years of Painting”.
Photos: Four from Victoria Crowe’s exhibition including Portrait of pioneering Psychoanalyst, Dr Winifred Rushforth and Near Rialto, Venice; stroll the city’s Dundas Street for a variety of contemporary glass and art.

Art ‘of all sorts’ abounds in Edinburgh:
Photos: Pleasance is one of many hubs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Nathan Coley’s “Everything is going to be alright” across the facade of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; sculptural stones in the old dressing rooms at Dovecot Tapestry Studio and Galleries (formerly Victorian Baths); weavers work on the floor at Dovecot: The Queen’s Gallery.

There’s everything to love about Spain, I’ve been a few times and can’t name a favourite place or city.  I could start with the food! Like everything Spanish, it explodes with colour and textures.  The people too are vibrant, as are the street sights, the music, architecture, history and climate, hence sunny Spain.  On my last trip, we visited friends in Seville – capital of the Andalusia region – my first ‘taste’ of its delights.

Photos: mouth-watering jamon, carved from the bone;  Al fresco dining – in the gardens alongside Plaza de España , “Cheers” Richard.  Victoria, spoilt for choice at Chiva restaurant (the best hospitality).  Salads and sausages beside the Canal De Alfonso XIII; “Cheers” Emilie. 

Strolling Seville, there’s much to absorb.  As an Australian, the tiling around Spain is always enticing, something we don’t see at home. Their colours of yellow and blue, also represented in the yellow and white architecture, are pretty against the skies. Look up, down, over there!  Let the photos do the walking.

Photos: Postcards from Seville; Plaza de España, loads of loveliness.

Photos: Look up as you wander; fishing under the Puente de Isabel II; view of the city from one of the undulating walkways of Metropol Parasol (known as “the Mushrooms”, Las Setas), built 2011. 

Formerly a Convent built 1594, Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla (Museum of Fine Arts) has an extensive collection housed in five rooms: 15th century Sevillian painting and sculpture; Renaissance; Mannerism; Naturalism: Murillo and Sevillian Baroque. There’s much to see as your eyes roam the decorative arches, walls, ceilings, before taking in the breadth of art history and works.  I’ll have to return to absorb and learn more. Here’s a small sampling.
Photos: Sculpture by Italian artist of the Florentine school, Pietro Torrigiano. He was important in introducing Renaissance art to England, but his ‘violent temper’ impacted his success. He died in Seville in 1528; Retrato de señora y caballero orantes (Portrait of a praying lady and gentleman) by Francisco Pacheco, a Spanish painter and teacher whose textbook “Art of Painting” was an important study source of 17thC practice in Spain; along the cloisters in the (former) Convent; furniture and wall sculptures; Nicoloso Francisco was an Italian painter and sculptor, based in Seville, his Virgen con el Niño (Virgin and child).

On my last trip to Europe, I visited MONTPELLIER in SOUTHERN FRANCE, staying with Melbourne friends in their apartment. It felt immediately like a ‘happy home’, not just because of their generous hospitality, but also the compact size of this old University town. From Montpellier’s heart, Place de la Comedie Square, with its theatres, old buildings and people-watching, it’s easy to wander the charming narrow streets, finding ‘little places of interest’. The tram system is efficient, but as a walker, I was happy to stroll around Montpellier’s medieval history for hours. We dined al fresco for lunch and dinner and, on one evening were treated to an outdoor music recital.

The University’s Faculty of Medicine, is a fascination, not just visually, but historically. Originally St. Bendict’s Monastery founded in 1364, it became the Faculty of Medicine in 1795.  The Faculty contains a library of 900 manuscripts, 300 incunabula and 10,000 volumes printed before the 18th century.  I can’t imagine the awe and excitement of today’s medical students, walking through those looming wooden doors, knowing it’s so old that Nostradamus studied there. (I’ve read this great astrologer and prophesier had a few ‘run ins’ with the learned faculty members and was asked to leave, not achieving his Doctorate.)

Photos: The Montpellier Aqueduct – Les Arceaux ; Looking up to the apse of St Peter’s Basilica (first stone laid in 1364, consecrated in 1373);  entrance hall to Faculty of Medicine; one of the many lists of Bienfaiteurs (Benefactors) from as early as 1180 Guilhem VIII; the Law Courts Building.

Strolling Montpelier, enjoying the street sights and lifestyle.
Photos: Eye-pleasing trompe l’oeil; these bicycles were attached to walls around various parts of the city; leisurely summer reading.
Photos: “Look up!”;  Oh yes, we enjoyed the outdoor dining in summer’s evening light.

We roamed a couple of art galleries, but Montpellier’s Musée Fabre is it’s ‘gem’ – considered one of the finest art museums in Europe, with a collection ranging from Renaissance through to contemporary and present day works.
Photos: Stairway up to one of elegant gallery spaces in Musée Fabre;  traditional & contemporary art and sculpture; detail from Montpellier artist Frédéric Bazille’s (1868) Vue de Village; portrait of  Fernande Olivier by Dutch painter Kees van Dongen (Fauvism, 1905).  Fernande, herself a French artist and model, seems to have been much loved and admired. Pablo Picasso painted more than 60 portraits of her. Twenty years after their relationship she published a book about their time together. Picasso hired lawyers to suppress publication. Ultimately only six articles were published, but apparently Fernande lived well off the financial rewards. 

Edinburgh, Seville, Montpellier. Three abundantly colourful and beguiling cities.  It’s challenging right now, not being able to travel, to stroll familiar main streets, explore winding village paths, gape in galleries, sip coffee while people-watching. Most importantly, missing the excitement of booking flights, those months of forward planning to see friends ……. and then, there you are again. Together, “as if it was yesterday”, dining under the night skies, laughing, seated at a favourite restaurant, tasting the deliciousness of foods and local wines. ….. catching-up.

So near but so far.  We’ll be back!Photo:  Montpellier – look closely. This romantic building is, in fact,
an apartment block covered in trompe l’oeil art. 


© 2021 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo





top of the class!

Photo: Sr.M.Ursula with English & History teacher, Miss Costigan, 1960s

Ask a friend about their favourite schoolteacher and everyone has a story.  Mine was Sr. M Ursula, my art teacher at Santa Maria College. Way back then, I had no idea how enduring her instructional and observational lessons would be.  Sr. Ursula would take us on tram rides into Melbourne city, telling us to ‘look up’ at the local, historic architecture above shops and offices. That one expression, look up, was to become my refrain throughout future journeys, exploring what she taught my eyes to see.   One tram trip was to the National Gallery of Victoria, to see the American Abstract Expressionists.  What an eye-opener!  I had no idea that lines and shapes with bold colours could have such impact.

I was grateful too for my Catholic education which gave me an understanding of how biblical and art history are intrinsically enmeshed; the power and wealth of Catholicism, the Medici family’s might throughout The Renaissance. In the decades to follow, Sr. Ursula’s tuition travelled with me:  as I stood in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, remembering lessons in early perspective – Paolo Uccello’s The Battle of San Romano; seeing in real life Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus;  Michaelangelo’s David and the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel ceiling; of course, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre; in Barcelona and London, those confident lines of Picasso and Matisse; the waterlilies and haystacks of French Impressionists Monet and VanGogh; painting en plein air at the foot of Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire.  So many occasions exploring old and new art. But, the most memorable moments were the overwhelming emotions on the first sighting of Vatican City, and arriving in Venice. As the vaporetto moved slowly along The Grand Canal, my nose was pressed to the glass, mouth almost gaping at the Doges Palace, Bridge of Sighs, St Marks Square.  Sr. Ursula was close and I thanked her for everything she taught me.

Last week I visited NGV AUSTRALIA’S TOP ARTS 2021 exhibition, an annual opportunity to admire what VCE Art students are creating. Last year, they were further challenged with 2020’s lockdowns due to COVID-19.  I am in awe of their teachers and collective imaginations under such constraints. Works are diverse, using drawing, painting, sculpture, installation and multimedia. Not only is this Top Arts an excellent representation of schools’ curriculum, it offers an educational resource for younger students and budding artists.

With such a diversity of works, I can only give a representation here.
Sarah Hare, Ocean  (Presbyterian Ladies’ College)
I’m a ‘water baby’ and happily immersed in this artwork, all those blues, feeling underwater. Made from squares of acrylic on paper, hole-punched, threaded to one complete work.
Bronte Green, Streets of your town  (Santa Maria College)
Painted in gouache on paper, I was delighted to see an artwork from my old school, Santa Maria College. Bronte depicts my neighbourhood and many Melbourne suburban streets.
Lara Atkinson, Untitled (Clair de Lune) (Korowa Anglican Girls’ School)
Lara’s digital animation was one of my favourites.  I was drawn to the sound of Clair de Lune before realising it was the soundtrack to the changing images. Untitled is Lara’s life story, trying to both explain and understand what it is like for a person with autism. I also noted, that Untitled stood alone in a boxed gallery space, highlighting the importance to approach and step closer.
Charlotte Grimes, Lament from the series The ineffable, (Damascus College)
The shallows and an ironing board! Charlotte’s photographic content drew an immediate response from me.  She writes that she was “influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, expressing how our worlds have recently been turned inside out. It also shows that our 2020 existence has been defined by our home lives and new-found connection to the natural landscapes around us.” As someone who has, for decades, walked Port Phillip Bay each morning  – add the domestic chores – this could have been a visual representation of my life during 2020 lockdowns.  I noted Salvador Dali is an inspiration to Charlotte. At her age, not only was I also exploring photography, particularly the works of those fabulous Time/Life photojournalists, but I repeatedly borrowed Dali’s book ‘Diary of a Genius’ from the library.  Charlotte’s work (inkjet print on glass) spoke to both the young and much older me.
Angelina Innocent, Unsubscribed  (RMIT Urban School)
Angelina’s message is potent, moreso in the shadows cast by her suspended doll, grimly twisted and tortured, shackled.  Using felt, ribbon, chain and acrylic on canvas, you can sense Angelina’s intellect and experimentation evolving. Congratulations, Angelina, on your gender expression.
Photos: Sarah Hare – Ocean ; Bronte Green – Streets of your town; Lara Atkinson – Untitled(Clair de Lune); Tahlia Reisacher’s Elephantus Submerged is reflected in Charlotte Grimes – The ineffable; Angelina Innocent – Unsubscribed. 

PEOPLE’S CHOICE  The Top Arts exhibition invites a People’s Choice Award. I didn’t really have to make a choice, because Phoebe Thompson’s Coexistence (St Margaret’s School) charmed me. The seeming simplicity of combining an object of nature, placed within a ceramic block; each piece stood alone, while mingling with the surrounding works. It is evident that Phoebe has an innate observation and connection with the environment.  So beautiful and serene. Thank you, Phoebe.
Alice Jakobus, Nostalgia & the future (Sacré Cœur)
Generally, I don’t feel kindly to work as “an homage” to great artists, however I found the overt wink to John Brack’s “Collins St, 5pm, 1955” delightful and meaningful. (graphite pencil, paper stumps, watercolour paper).
Greta Linehan. 1 in 5 Australian women over the age of 15 are victims of sexual assault (St Aloysius College)
A compelling title! Greta has intelligently created a work that expresses her degree of discomfort with this reality. She writes, “I achieved this by drawing raw, chaotic portraits of my loved ones adjacent to real victims from the media (Jill Meagher, Eurydice Dixon). The use of multi-media embellishment visually represents the trauma and injustice of such a ruthless crime”.  (Post it notes, ballpoint pen, ink, thread, copic marker, pins, gouache, gauze, bandage, staples and double-sided tape on foamex board.)
Arie Sawyer, People are cocoon weavers, whether they know it or not  (Alice Miller School)
This work greets you on entering the Top Arts exhibition. Using wool, plastic, plant matter, electrical cord, synthetic hair, hoop iron, Alice’s “person” represents its title, depicting individual metamorphosis. With David Bowie as her inspiration, I am sure he would have been delighted with Alice’s cocoon weaver.
Sophie Yang, Imagine how much more you could be (Yarra Valley Grammar)
I was first attracted to the vibrancy of Sophie’s (inkjet print on paper) art, the overt use of complementary colours. But, reading her purpose concerned me – more likely, the maternal me. This strong graphic and palette is a representation of the demands Sophie places on herself, her striving and ultimately, as she writes, ‘burnout’.
Photos: Phoebe Thompson – Coexistence; Alice Jakobus –  Nostalgia & the future; Greta Linehan – 1 in 5 Australian women over the age of 15 are victims of sexual assault; Arie Sawyer – People are cocoon weavers, whether they know it or not; detail from Sophie Yang – Imagine how much more you could be.

She-Oak and Sunlight: Australian Impressionism
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains.   (From My Country)

At school, we were taught Dorothea Mackellar’s “My Country”.  And, we learnt about the Australian Impressionists art movement. I recall practising the title of Arthur Streeton’s The purple noon’s transparent might, committing it to memory.

She-Oak and Sunlight is another major exhibition of more than 250 works, currently at NGV Australia. I love this period of art and its storytelling in depicting Dorothea Mackellar’s changing landscape. Featuring the best know Impressionists – Tom Roberts, Charles Condor, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton – along with other notable artists –  it is the colours and textures of Australia’s terrain that brings life and place to these works.

When painting en plein air, there’s so much enjoyment in sitting on the ground, midst the landscape, mixing the colours on my palette. In viewing the works of our Australian Impressionists, I wanted to “be there”, watching and learning, up close to their techniques in capturing our countryside, skies, gum trees and nature.
Photos: Tom Roberts’ narratives (detail).  A Break away!;  Bailed up; A Quiet day on Darebin, Creek;  Shearing the Rams.
Photos:  Textures and technique (detail).   Jane Sutherland – Obstruction, Box Hill; Arthur Streeton – The railway station, Redfern; Arthur Streeton – Sirius Cove; Tom Roberts’ bush brushstroke.

Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,

The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.  (From My Country)

Top Arts 2021 is on at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia until 11 July.
She-Oak and Sunlight is at the Ian Potter Centre; NGV Australia until 22 August.

Photo: Art tuition (at the Carterisville homestead).

© Photographs and text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2021

Take two: at the NGV Triennial 2020

Photo: Strolling past Tony Matelli’s bronze sculpture “Hera”

The Triennial isn’t an all-in-one visit. We went back to explore more and, on this occasion, began our adventure with the NGV’s “Follow the light” self-guided tour on Level Two.

Why leave the best to last? Dive right in, with the hypnotic Salon et Lumière.  Reminiscing on the theme of 17thC Paris’ Académie des Beaux-Arts, the NGV’s Salon Gallery – with over 150 paintings and sculptures – has transmogrified into an ambience of activity as shadowy people stroll across artworks, birds swoop through landscapes. It embodies all those adjectives that shout “mesmerising, captivating, riveting.”  You have to sit, linger, overwhelmed at the extent of work in creating Salon et Lumière.  And, the music is glorious, integral to this spellbinding exhibition. I can’t rave enough. You have to see it for yourselves.

The Indonesian collective’s LED screening of Tromarama could juxtapose its historic exhibition setting, but it doesn’t. This giant digital simulation of a moving, changing marine eco-environment, features a jellyfish species that has evolved in Indonesia, a significant scientific study regarding the impact of climate change on our planet.
Photos: Light moves around Salon et Lumière; Tromarama

It’s an obvious pun, but English artist, Stuart Haygarth’s Optical (tinted) is more than eye-catching. Made from over 4,500 optical prescription lenses, Haygarth’s contemporary ‘chandelier’ is itself a play on words.  Created from re-cycled objects – a reference on consumerism – this ball of light requires closer inspection to ‘see’ its real substance.

We had to go searching for Zaha Hadid’s light. It was in a corner and we walked past, circling the gallery a couple of times until we found it. This positioning made it difficult to photographically capture the impact. I would have liked to walk around it.

The (late) Zaha Hadid was the architect of my favourite contemporary gallery, MAXXI national museum of contemporary art and architecture, in Rome. It’s a compelling building, everywhere your eye is lead to what’s above or beyond.  A must on every visit to Rome.
Photos: Stuart Haygarth’s Optical (tinted); Zaha Hadid light in NGV, also the exterior and an interior pic of MAXXI, Rome. 

FABRIC FOLDS and TEXTILES feature throughout the Triennial.  Hera by Sculptor, Tony Matelli (USA) is a delicious bronze Greek Goddess, moreso because she has (hand-painted bronze) watermelons on her shoulders, and partly-eaten at her feet.  These fresh fruits leap out as ‘real’ in contrast to the greys of the sculpture and surrounding NGV garden exterior surfaces.

Hovering above the NGV’s 19th and 20thC collection is Danish artist Cecilie Bendixen’s Cloud Formations. Cecilie works with textiles, hand-making these beautiful, luminous and translucent clouds.

Pierre Mukeba was a child when his family fled the Democratic Republic of the Conga, later seeking asylum and making Adelaide home.  Mukeba’s Impartiality was another favourite on my second Triennial trip.  His vibrant work of four women, looking directly at the viewer is entrancing. Drawn with brush pen on unprimed cotton, merged with striking batik fabric, has a strength, especially the female in the middle.  I loved everything about this!

Richard Quinn’s Look 2, Ensemble is attention-grabbing as it stands alone, ‘showing off’ its pearly magnificence.  But, the lady, Joanne, who spotted it as we approached, had to share her exuberance, marvelling at every detail.  What a delight to engage with her appreciation.  British artist Quinn’s Look 2, Ensemble is a long way from those “Down at the Old Bull and Bush” pearly kings and queens I remember from theatre restaurant days in England!!
Photos:  Tony Matelli’s Hera; Cecilie Bendixen’s Cloud Formations; Pierre Mukeba’s Impartiality;  Joanne ‘Wows’ at Richard Quinn’s Look 2, Ensemble. 

I jumped straight ‘into the frying pan’ and the fun of American Jim Shaw’s lively, surrealist style Capitol Viscera Appliances mural. The symbolism is easily recognisable in Shaw’s large work – all that debris of consumerism on Capitol Hill.

In contrast, Turkish sculpture, Guido Casaretto’s, As far as I recall / I–II is solemn. It has a sense of aged, incarcerated. Deliberately working against contemporary digital formation, Casaretto created these busts of the same man viewed from slightly different angles, making firstly in clay before casting, than hand colouring with shades of charcoal to render reality to the figures.  Mounted on one wall space, standing alone, commanding its space, it gripped me.

A single voice, film and music sound work by Susan Philipsz (born Scotland, lives in Berlin) is visually pleasing, but it’s a work with a complex explanation that I didn’t understand.  While it writes about the deconstruction of the violin sounds, I couldn’t ‘deconstruct’ the inspiration and its interpretation.  That happens sometimes, so I just stood back and enjoyed the experience.

In my first blog on the NGV’s Triennial 2020, I wrote about Refik Anadol’s Quantum Memories, but as the Grand Entrance to the exhibition, it deserves an encore. It’s thrilling and exciting.  So, I snapped another photo as morning’s natural daylight washed across it.
Photos:  Holding onto the frying pan in Jim Shaw’s Capitol Viscera Appliances mural; Guido Casaretto’s, As far as I recall / I–II;  A single voice by Susan Philipsz; Refik Anadol’s Quantum Memories.

National Gallery of Victoria’s Triennial 2020 exhibition is on until 18 April, 2021. Entry is free, tickets on website NGV International: NGV Triennial & General Admission | National Gallery of Victoria

 Photo:  Shadows stroll through Salon et Lumière 

© Photographs and Text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2021