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


It’s a triumph: National Gallery of Victoria’s Triennial 2020.

Quantum Memories – Refik Anadol

A gift to the people of Melbourne, when we needed it most!  For four seasons – autumn, winter, spring and summer – 2020 has been without the tangible art experience, the ‘being there’. My last blog http://www.pamelareid.biz/home-is-where-the-art-is applauded what we could share in the arts and entertainment worlds, from my home and with friends internationally.  What I missed most during those long months was sitting in a concert hall, pre-performance, the orchestra tuning as audiences shuffle in their seats, and the ‘up close’  pleasure of gallery space.

At this time of writing, we still can’t attend indoor concerts, but the National Gallery of Victoria has exploded with the Triennial 2020, welcoming all ages, celebrating that ART IS FOR EVERYONE!

On entering the NGV, grandiose colour and movement invites. It looms against the grey stone backdrop, ever-swirling. “Quantum Memories” by Refik Anadol (Turkey). While its purpose relates to the complexities of AI (artifial intelligence), it is the vast scope of colour, spilling out from the frame, that mesmerises.  In my professional entertainment industry world, this is ‘one helluva an opener’. The show hasn’t started and, already, people are seated, watching, photographing, anticipating.

Exquisite in blues, Australian artist, Dhambit Mununggurr’s “Can we all have a happy life” exhibits fifteen bark paintings and nine hollow poles (larrakiti).   The reason for this spirited colour differentiation from the usual ochres and earth tones is because Mununggurr is confined to a wheelchair – the result of an accident – unable to manage the physical tasks involved in making and applying the necessary pigments. She was given permission by her Aboriginal community of Yirrkala (Northeast Arnhem Land) to use acrylic paints for her blue palette in Yolŋu art.

Stepping up onto (Australian Designer) Danielle Brustman’s “Coloured In” carpeted stairs, you relax into your own sense of style, overlooking Leonard French’s cut glass ceiling and the NGV Great Hall.   I recall equally enjoying her (Finalist) Art Deco “Inner-Terior” at the Rigg Design Prize 2018.  http://www.pamelareid.biz/ngv-on-design

Photos: Quantum Memories – Refik Anadol; Can we all have a happy life  – Dhambit Mununggurr;  Coloured In – Danielle Brustman

It’s in the eye of the beholder, and there are many works at the Triennial to attract an individual’s senses.  “Venus”, that very goddess of love, glistens and scintillates. Sculptured in stainless steel by American artist, Jeff Koons, her much larger than life figure stands alone – not your usual representation of one of Roman and Greek Mythology’s best-known beauties.

A glorious garden of fabric covering surrounds the walls, enhancing the NGV’s 16th and 17th Gallery.  “Natural History 2020″ (David Allen Burns and Austin Young / Fallen Fruit) was inspired by the American artists’ research trip early last year to Melbourne’s Royal Botanic and other gardens.  More than an “immersive” experience, Natural History is a stroll through the gallery, with added colour, warmth and appreciation.

South Korean artist, Lee Ufan’s “Dialogue” is a work that calls you across the room. Its apparent simplicity is what attracts, alive in its own space.   If I was to pick a ‘personal favourite’ on my first visit to the Triennial – I haven’t seen it all – Dialogue would be the one.
Photos: Venus – Jeff Koons; Natural History 2020 – David Allen Burns and Austin Young / Fallen Fruit) ; Dialogue – Lee Ufan

The expression “Its all smoke and mirrors” originally pertained to stage magicians, conjurers who used actual smoke and mirrors to deceive the audience.  Nowadays, it can reference obscuring or deceiving the facts, but when it comes to art, I welcome the creator as a ‘trickster’.

Alicia Kwade’s “Welten Linie is such fun.  German born Alicia, really does weave illusions with mirrors, asking ‘which is the reality and which the reflection?’ It looks good, playful as you step in and around the steel-framed hexagonal structure. At a time when everyone uses mobile phones to capture the moment, finding where you are in the space and how to frame your own image is amusing, tentative as you step forward, unsure if you’re heading into another mirror.

When you walk in to view “Plastocene – Marine Mutants from a disposable world(South African artist, Porky Hefer) it looks like a playground for big and little kids. Colourful, oversized sea creatures are suspended from the ceiling and a giant octopus spreads across the floor space.  But, the message here is a serious one, envisaging mutated outcomes of environmental pollution, disposal of cigarette butts, plastics and other trash.

Anyone who has inspected, purchased or rented a contemporary apartment will recognise “Walls 4 Sale: near new and supersized”  (Zurich based Bosshard, Tavore, van der Ploeg, Vihervaara). It’s a giggle as you walk through the all-white interior, trying to reach light switches or ‘on tip toes’ to the kitchen sink – I’m a short person, I get it!  Balconies with over-sized airconditioning units and a cityscape “view” that just about swallows you. Nothing is what it appears to be in the advertising. I congratulate them on this.  Those around me where enjoying the experience.

“Biole, Carson, Dasha, Marisa,” are nine, small, hand-carved, wooden portraits of real people. Artist Tomaoki Suzuki was born in Japan, moved to London to study in 1998 and now resides there. These meticulous, figurative sculptures are carved in lime wood, a lengthy process that commences with Suzuki selecting his model, taking many photographs, videos, working over several months from both real life and these images.
Photos: Welten Linie – Alicia Kwade; Plastocene – Marine Mutants from a disposable world – Porky Hefer; Walls 4 Sale: near new and supersized – Bosshard, Tavore, van der Ploeg, Vihervaara; Biole, Carson, Dasha, Marisa – Tomaoki Suzuki 

“Botanical Pavillion” (Kengo Kuma, Japan, and Geoff Nees, Melbourne). What draws you into this pavilion, are the gentle shadows along the pathway, reflections of its intricate and cleverly interlocked wooden construction.  Architect Kengo Kuma and Artist Geoff Nees collaborated, working in a Japanese carpentry tradition, on this visually pleasing semi-circular structure. Using trees previously felled in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, the Pavillion has that sense of being amidst a natural environment, while you admire the craftsmanship.

There is some wonderful, bold and captivating photography exhibited in the Triennial. But, as these are usually framed behind glass, it is difficult for a visitor to photograph. I would love to take Ethiopian, Aïda Muluneh’s “Memory of Hope” series home with me, hang them on my walls and admire them every day.  Aïda uses culturally significant strong colours and linear patterns in her compositionally compelling images.

It’s difficult to capture the impact Dutch-American Artist, Lara Schnitger’s “House of Heroines” as it comprises a Grecian style frieze around the walls, with four large columns suspended from the ceiling, along the centre of the gallery space. House of Heroines has an obvious feminist theme, quilted and sequinned in two-tone fabric with Schnitger’s drawings and text. You have to read your way around this exhibit to fully appreciate.
Photos: Botanical Pavillion  – Kengo Kuma and Geoff Nees;  Memory of Hope – Aïda Muluneh; House of Heroines – Lara Schnitger

The gallery’s waterwall is a constant, always photogenic and inviting to visitors. I recall the scale of public outrage when the NGV was being redeveloped by Italian architect, Mario Bellini (1999 – 2003). Two aspects could not be removed: the waterwall and Leonard French’s ceiling in the Great Hall. They remain popular with all ages – touch the water, lie on the carpet, look up at the ceiling.

The Waterwall also integrates with current exhibitions, whether looking from outside into the gallery, or from inside the gallery towards St Kilda Road.  Glenda Nicholls’ “Miwi Milloo” (Good spirit of the Murray River) splendidly complements the waterwall, her fishing net strewn above the gallery entrance. Glenda (a Waddi Waddi, Ngarrindjeri and Yorta Yorta artist – her cultural name is Jule Yarra Minj, ‘little river girl’) has hand-woven this delicate work, enhanced with hundreds of feather flowers. Miwi Milloo reinforces her cultural messages, ancestral techniques and knowledge.

What a treat! National Gallery of Victoria’s Triennial 2020.  I’m going back for more. Exhibition is on until 18 April, 2020. Entry is free, tickets on website.
NGV International: NGV Triennial & General Admission | National Gallery of Victoria

Photo: Children play at the waterwall. Glenda Nicholls’ “Miwi Milloo” fishing net.

© Photographs and Text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2021








home is where the art is

My place. Photo credit: Sanjeev Singh ‘Housebound – A Portrait Project in Isolation’

Staying at home.  Worldwide, where we’ve been for three seasons.  Here in Australia that’s Autumn, Winter and now, Spring.  Throughout, I have been recording these COVID-19 times, photographically, making art and appreciating the abundance of visual and performing arts made available from galleries, theatre, opera, ballet companies and museums globally. Locally, many talented friends have been creating online performances and literary events. At commencement, back in March 2020, I thought this project had an end date. Now, I don’t know. When I started to itemise my pictorial collections, it became a series of headlines, categories.

“Trees of life”
At the very beginning, there was intense anxiety, fear.  Around Europe, much loved countries – Italy, Spain, France – were ‘in lockdown’ (a now familiar phrase), with extraordinary and increasing numbers of people suffering and dying from the virus.

My first project then was to suggest to friends on social media that everyone ‘has a go’ at drawing trees or plants. I drew trees around my neighbourhood, taking photos on my morning walks, then sketching in different mediums, various textures.  Friends too would draw trees and plants, send them to me.  I looked forward to my afternoon sketching, and found real joy in drawing trees. I still do!
Images: First sketch in my backyard, Derwent colour pencils; ink sketching; gum tree in pastels; watercolour and ink; ink sketching; pastels on black paper (local walking track). 

The best place to be in autumn is ‘my place’, Victoria, Australia.  The sometimes oppressive heat and wind that can hit in Summer has passed, along with our bushfires season.  Daylight, from beginning to end, is welcoming, colours are rich and outdoors beckons.  I’ve walked in the mornings since my late teens.  Daybreak is my favourite time of day.
Photos:  Morning walks around Middle Park and St Kilda beaches; Albert Park Lake; it’s autumn!
Photos: Locals stroll the beach at the end of the day, as light turns golden, mauves, reds, oranges, greys and deep purple; that’s autumn!

There’s beauty in isolation.
Isolation can be a wonderous place. I’m content in seclusion when rambling around UK’s Lake District or strutting that cornucopia, Rome. But, when it becomes law-enforced for the purposes of your own health, protecting not only your community, but also a global population, its emphasis shifts hugely. “Isolation” (a.k.a. Iso) is the new vernacular, “social distancing” the common idiom.

“Easter – Home Sweet Staying Home”  (my second project).
I stayed in touch with friends around the world, aware of the varying restrictions, thankful that here in Melbourne I could still walk, walk, walk.  Easter is a family occasion, a vacation, often a ritual of returning to the same holiday destination year after year.  But, Easter 2020 meant everybody would be staying home. Wanting to connect with friends, I asked them to send photographs. Gallery below.
Photos: Ailsa – Sydney, Australia; Amy – Brooklyn, NY, USA; Jason, Angela, Alice and Cookie – Woodend, Vic. Australia; Bella & Byron, Melbourne,  Australia; Carl – Melbourne, Australia; Charlotte – Mornington Peninsula,  Australia
Photos: Clive & Michelle – Bintulu, Sarawak, Malaysia; Donna (Berkhamsted) & Oli (London), UK; Jane & Elizabeth – Edinburgh, UK; Emilie, Richard & Cooper – Estepona, Spain; Phil, Charlie & Fiona  – Hepburn, Vic. Australia; Roger & Jacquie – Church Point, NSW, Australia
Photos:  J
oan, Amy & Allan – Rickmansworth, Herts. UK; John & Jen – Wilmslow, Cheshire, UK;  Julie – Melbourne, Australia; Laurel,John & Lottie – Melbourne, Australia; Natalie – Melbourne, Australia; Yves & Monica – Quebec, Canada; Joanna – New York, USA; 

Photos: Natalie – Melbourne, Australia; Victoria & Carmen, Sevilla, Spain; 
Colin & Katrina – Cooroy, Qld. Australia;  Honor, Ripley & Mum, Miranda – Melbourne, Vic. Australia; Sue & Barry – Safety Beach, Australia; Peter – Mornington Peninsula, Vic. Australia

ANZAC DAY – 25 April 2020
The first time I haven’t marched for my Dad (Pte Norman Robert Reid VX34575, 9th Division Cavalry) since he passed away in 2001. I created an artwork for Norm – pastel portrait, collage of mixed media using copies of memorabilia my Nana had kept – and titled the work “My Dad, My Hero”. With telegrams from when Dad was wounded and later removed from the critically ill list, a Christmas card he’d sent home from Bethlehem, newspaper announcements of those wounded, missing, killed in action and family photographs, I painted intense colour and torn fragments to depict the chaos of war, the anxiety for those who love and wait at home.

Our little street held a dawn service. It was important and personal. I went out walking as daylight broke through the skies.  LEST WE FORGET.
Photos: Look up! Walking around Albert Park Lake, back along St Kilda beach.  “My Dad, My Hero”.

May 25th – Horror!  Again and again we watched vision of an American policeman pressing his knee into another man’s neck, literally squeezing the life out of George Floyd who cried out that he couldn’t breathe, for his Mother.  Other policemen stood around, doing nothing to stop blatant murder.  At home, we were helpless. This reality immobilised us all, this slaughter should change how the world thinks. People protested. I drew in coloured pencil on black paper, an artwork titled “I Can’t Breathe”.
Photographers unknown: Policemen in USA go down on one knee in solidarity and respect for George Floyd’s life;  (credit AP) Black Lives Matter  on a Washington Street; Protesters in Australia.   “I Can’t Breathe” pastel on black paper. 


Winter has two faces here in Melbourne: either clear, blue skies with cold, crisp air or ….bleak!  I think I was born with old people’s bones as I feel every chill and wind, struggling to find that “warm and cosy.” From childhood to high school years, I suffered painful chilblains on my hands and feet. Back then, girls were not allowed to wear trousers to school. Stockings under a tunic never kept my legs warm.

Layers of clothing, that’s me all winter. I determined to add some degree of colour or attractiveness during these lockdown times, but it remained dull shades of black, grey, brown starting with tracksuit pants, sox, skivvy and jumper, scarves (they do add colour) and – ask any Australian – Ugg boots. Leaving the house adds puffer jacket, gloves, beanie plus mask – don’t forget earplugs to listen to the radio.  My day always starts in quality walking shoes, but there have been several times when I’ve left the house, unintentionally still wearing Ugg boots. Just too many layers to remember!
Photos, Morning beach walks: storm on its way; layers of blue; 2C degrees; fog over St Kilda; icy waters; Kerford Rd pier.
 Foggy around Albert Park Lake; paddling swans; those blues; Late afternoon; Rugged up; windy at dusk.

That Great Ocean Road
I’ve missed not being able to get to the coast, opening the windows to the sound of surf and smell of ocean air, strolling the coastal walk, soaking up the every-changing colours and light.  In early July – when restrictions had momentarily eased – we  travelled out of metropolitan Melbourne. “We” is my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. Three precious days at Aireys Inlet, before returning to the city as our Premier announced the next ‘Stage 3 lockdown.’
Photos: Aireys Inlet sunrise coastal walk; towards Lorne; clouds roll over the Inlet; dusk walk along Painkalak Creek, back around the bird sanctuary.
Photos: Family time at Aireys Inlet;  Split Point Lighthouse; “the pub with no beer” Aireys Pub closed during Lockdown; painting by the fireswide. 

Everybody Loves Good Neighbours
I’m grateful for my neighbourhood, particularly the traders in our little village. Food providor, Gum Tree, has everything in the way of yumminess; fresh fruit and veg, the best of international cheeses, an excellent charcuterie, and sweets. My “local hero” is Italian Restauranter, Donato at Tacco & Tosca.  With the restaurant closed, Donato is baking bread daily in his wood fired oven, as well as biscotti, and fresh pasta made to order, bringing a little bit of Italy to my place as he greets me  “Buongiorno”. His veg lasagne has become a favourite.  Coffee!  Mine from Jack the Geezer.

We celebrated “Christmas in July”, lighting up our houses to bring some joy to this challenging winter. Neighbours made mulled wine and shortbreads. These festive care packages were placed on our verandahs and we toasted our street, a row of small Victorian cottages.
Photos: Gum Tree; Buongiorno Donato; Happy coffee on the walking track: festive “cheers” Michael & Lindsay; with libraries closed, this new street library has been added to the neighbourhood; local laneway art. 

Art & Entertainment Online
Mid-winter I started two hour online life drawing with the-art-room.com.au. Preferring a live model situation, I was surprised how enjoyable it was on a Saturday morning.  All the models were good, individual. The Art Room had done specific photo sessions, poses were challenging.

I have been a little over-excited at the visual and performing arts online.  Fortunately, I’m not sedentary or I would never leave the computer, absorbing as much as possible.  From early on, I enjoyed weekly (virtual) matinees with a theatre-going friend. We prepare a snack platter, pour a wine, and simultaneously – from respective homes – watch outstanding theatre productions. Top of our list: National Theatre Live ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk and the Royal Shakespeare Company www.rsc.org.uk, but so many more including the Zurich and Glyndebourne Opera companies. I’ve watched innumerable talks and virtual tours from galleries and museums around the world: our National Gallery of Victoria www.ngv.vic.gov.au; the National Gallery, London www.nationalgallery.org.uk and Tate www.tate.org.uk are my ‘regulars’. It is an entertaining and educational opportunity to view one specific artwork or a particular artist.  There is a wealth of works on show when you visit, it’s impossible to give dedicated time.  As well, I have enjoyed many dance and song performances on social media feeds by local friends and international artists.

I confess, I’ve become a glutton for it all!
Photos: National Theatre Live “Small Island” (mesmerising); National Gallery, London “Mr & Mrs Andrews (entertaining); Drawing with NGV (fun); RSC “Two Gentlemen of Verona” (always excellent); National Gallery, London “collage inspired by Henri Rousseau”  (enjoyable and immersed); NGV Dora Maar, a favourite  ( informative).; Aust Ballet, beginners classes.

Mandatory Masks here in Melbourne, as we moved into Lockdown Stages 3 and 4.
Photos: 23 July, our first day of mandatory mask wearing;  masked-up builders, struck a ‘Staying Alive” pose for me; ‘selfie’ in a mask outside local restaurant, Donovans; 6pm, an eerie dusk walk on the eve of Lockdown Stage 4, Sunday August 2nd.

Cyclists and I appreciate the same waking hours. When going through my photographs, I realised how often I had photographed those Early Birds on bikes, in the past months.


It’s mid-way through September. Spring burst forth seemingly overnight: earlier daylight, birds singing, cygnets and ducklings on the lake, coloured cottage gardens, and warming temperatures.

I had not intended this blog to be lengthy, but nor could I have known we would be at this stage of a ‘never ending story’ when COVID-19 first surfaced early 2020. Staying home – one day at a time, Autumn, Winter, Spring!
Photos: “Hello Spring” blue skies; Birds of Paradise; morning exercise; selfie with the cygnets; catching warm rays; afternoon paddling in the sandbars.

Photo credit: Sanjeev Singh ‘Housebound – A Portrait Project in Isolation’

© Photographs and text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2020
(Excluding photos sent by friends at Easter, and those by photographer Sanjeev Singh, with thanks.)



Art and about Europe: Painting in Provence, Fr.

My second Walk the Arts (www.walkthearts.com) experience. Last time was in Tuscany, Italy (2016), my introduction to hosts, art historian Prof. Yves Laroque and Mónica Marquez. I already knew what to expect when I ‘signed up’ for Atelier Provence: the location would be authentic and inviting; the program rigid; a small and varied group of people; jovial hospitality and special dining experiences.  What more could I ask for?

Location: BANON (in Alpes de Haute, Provence, south-eastern France). A winding road trip from our meeting point in Manosque. Up, up to where the village nestles 760m above sea level, overlooking the Coulon Valley. Its beginnings are pre-historic (discoveries of Paleolithic remains have been numerous), with buildings structured mostly from ancient limestone and a history that ‘speaks’ as you explore.

Photos: the drive from Manosque to Banon; perched up high, with limestone buildings and sweeping views of the Coulon Valley.

Banon feels cosy, self-contained. My early morning walks were discovery adventures. Upwards through the cobblestone streets towards blissful blue skies, I was keen to capture the textures and enchanting house facades.

Photos: Morning walks, look up!

Photos: Homes sweet homes

On one morning, after a light shower, I was fortunate to catch this image where the cleared skies and lavender reflected a mauve wash onto the road.

Banon’s History – a delightful walking tour.
The first – and exciting – discovery was the Portal. There it was, looming above me on my first morning. Constructed end 13th/early 14th century for defensive purposes and to protect against epidemics, it was built by local corvée (obligatory unpaid labor). Mid 16th century, the Portal was rebuilt with a small shop inside which can still be seen when you walk through the underpass.
The Square Tower, at the foot of the path to the Portal (built early 17th century), its purpose was to provide additional protection to the surrounding buildings.
The Old Town Hall and Courthouse. Opposite the Square Tower, at the bottom of the pathway up to the Portal, it was used as a town hall, a classroom for education and the Palais de Justice (Courthouse). There was also a prison in the basement.

Photos: Walking up to the Portal, through it and from above; the Square Tower; the Old Town Hall and Courthouse.

The Upper Church, Romanesque, named after Saint-Marc and Saint-Just, Banon’s patron saints. It’s wrought iron bell cage can be seen from almost any aspect within the township or walking to the hilltop. The church was deconsecrated and is now a cultural arts space (see below for the exhibition I visited).
Family Houses, built along the Portal ramparts at the end of the 17th century.
Photos: Looking up to the bell cage of the Upper Church; Family homes

The Village: As with everything about Banon, I felt completely ‘at home’ as I observed early morning set-up for market trading and headed towards my morning coffee.
Photos: Market traders set-up their produce while locals stroll and I sipped coffee.

With a population of 970 (at 2016), the compact shopping strip offers all necessities; post office, pharmacy, general store, banks, delicious local produce and attractive hand-made giftware. Le Bleuet independent bookstore is widely-known, offering 189,000 titles.  Banon has primary and secondary schools, a hospital and sports clubs.

A happy coincidence that my coffee spot, Les Voyageurs, was also my wine bar, where I watched the Banon world go by and sketched during our late afternoon ‘down time’.
Photos: wooden sculpture outside Le Bleuet bookstore; pâté and a whole lot more fabulous food; giftware lavendar shop; an impromptu glass of wine with Ellen, Amy and Carol; Les Voyageurs at night.

The Colours of Provence.  Fields of lavender! The first thought that comes to mind. It’s there, an abundance of lavender, but we were also taken to other colour-rich settings.

Our first painting location was the Ochre Colorado Provencal near Rustrel. Unexpected, as strikingly similar to Australia’s central desert colours, the origins of ochre pigment. Here near Rustrel, it seemed more ‘creamy’ and cascading, in contrast to the infinite might and vastness of our deserts. What a joy to mix those colours and paint en plein air.
Photos: painting the ochres near Rustrel

Deep greens and heavy rain on the day Yves took us up Montagne de Lure to the abandoned chapel, Notre-Dame de Lure (12th century).
We were ambitious in setting up easels and preparing to paint amidst those majestic trees, but mostly we stayed inside the cold walls of the chapel.
Photos: Outside and inside Notre-Dame de Lure 

Lashings of Lavender!

Photo: Yves, striding through rows of lavender

With various shades of purple, Lavender is known as the springtime flower that produces a ‘calming’ fragrance. Embroidered lavender-filled sachets, essential oils, soaps and giftware are used to aid relaxation, sleep and other healing. Lavender also has symbolic associations with serenity, purity, the vitality and innocence of youth.
Photos: Hot, early morning, painting in front of Chapelle St Michel de Bertranat (constructed 1720); Heather, Cheryl and Claire taking some shade; Yves giving Claire instruction; Mapping the landscape; Lavender fields alongside our accommodation; Ellen with her artworks. 

“Respect the mountain,” (Yves yelled at us). Another steamy, hot day and we set out early ‘in the footsteps of Cézanne.’ Oh yes, respect the mountain. Cézanne painted it more than 60 times, carrying 20kgs of art equipment from his studio, a long walk to the foot of Mont Sainte Victoire.

Afterwards, we strolled the streets of Avignon, sharing a fresh and delicious lunch.
Photos: Our group (from left) Claire, Heather, Cheryl, Carol, Amy, Ellen, Jean and me; yummy salads and pizza lunch, Carol and Amy; busy al fresco lunching in Avignon.

Next stop, the great Master’s home – Cézanne’s studio.
Photos: interior and exterior of Cézanne’s home and studio. 

The Critique. On the last afternoon of the workshop, we displayed our works and had a group discussion about everyone’s art, including our own efforts.
Photos: Yves discussing Ellen’s work; Heather and Yves; Claire and Mónica; our group of artists with Yves and Mónica.

While our schedule was busy, I sought out ‘my time’ daily, not wanting to miss anything that Banon may have hidden. This group exhibition had just opened in the Upper Church. Serenely curated, it moved slowly amidst the white-walled spaces. Those Pilgrims were made from recycled plastic bags.

At the end of the Day (or perhaps, leaving the best ’til last).
Aperitifs, then wining and dining. This is when Mónica reigns, our busy day left behind while she and Yves entertain, the perfect hosts. No doubt they enjoy this as much as their guests. It’s the time to relax and get to know each other, indulge in everything, including laughter. Our evening meals were served on the terrace.
Photos: late afternoon, Amy with a beer and paint brushes; pre-dinner drinks, Cheryl, Yves, Amy and Heather; Mónica on the terrace; Yves in charge of the bbq; Ellen enjoys dinner; another delicious meal is served. 

Say CHEESE, please! I have to write about it.
Banon, famous for its goats cheese wrapped in dry chestnut leaves and tied with raffia strings, produces over 600,000 individual units each year. The cheese factory employs 38 people (to whom I’m forever grateful). Banon cheese is the only appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) in the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region. Imagine that, protected species of cheeses! The annual Banon Cheese Festival – in conjunction with Le Bleuet bookstore and invited authors – is dedicated to the pleasures of table and mind. Cheese & books, Books & cheese…..just add local crusty bread and bottles of rosé. What a swell party.

Along with copious amounts of regional rosé, each meal at Atelier Provence finished with cheese, smothered on bread and sometimes dribbled with lavender honey. Let the photographs speak for themselves.
Photos: cheese and wine; Claire; Yves; Mónica and me; Carol and Jean; Yves and Mónica

Back at home with loads of memories, my camera bursting with images, artworks to mount and frame and a signed copy of Let Go! The Artist’s Way of Cooking, Yves and Mónica’s cookbook. It was in development when we were in Tuscany, they talked to us about becoming culinary “artists”. The 300 page book is a melding of their shared passions for Italian art history, fresh produce and colour. All recipes are Mónica’s as prepared and served at their workshops https://theartistswayofcooking.com 

Photos: bubbles of fun with two of my favourite people; en plein air “painting in Provence”, late afternoon mist, les ochres de Rustrel, Cézanne’s Mont St Victoire; mounting and framing artworks; those two! 

© Photographs and text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2020





NGV – On Design!

Photo:  Inner-Terior by designer Danielle Brustman

The National Gallery of Victoria always delivers and there’s currently two exhibitions to enthrall: at NGV Australia on Federation Square there’s “Rigg Design Prize 2018”, while at NGV International on St Kilda Road, there’s the newly opened “Julian Opie”.

The Rigg Design Prize was established in 1994 as a triennial exhibit acknowledging contemporary design and architecture. Named after Colin Rigg, a former secretary of the Gallery’s Felton Bequest Committee, the Rigg Design Prize was originally for invited participants from Victoria, but in 2015 became a national Australia prize. This year, the Rigg Design further expanded. With a brief of “domestic living” and using double the gallery space, ten participants were each given a budget and area to shape, create and build using their team of carpenters, renderers, joiners etc. Unusually, NGV curatorial staff had no involvement in presentation, as designers determined viewing areas, some with minimal access while others are deliberately restrictive. These domestic living spaces represent the artists’ influences, interests and passions.

Photos:  Atelier; Our Natural Needs in a Digital World; Imaginarium; We’ve Boundless Plains to Share

Danielle Brustman’s theatrical experience is evident in her Art Deco influenced Inner-Terior. It’s one of the exhibits that allows you to enter the space. I found it welcoming, I love Art Deco and could happily sit there, sipping a martini, feeling 1930’s glamorous.

Atelier is Martyn Thompson’s creation.  Formerly a fashion photographer who moved into textile design and styling, Martyn now resides in New York.   His domestic living has the feel of home and studio, a spatial ‘artwork in progress.’

My first impact of Richards Stanisich Design Studio’s Our Natural Needs in a Digital World was the textures – rustic and earthy. The environments are the basic essentials, bed and bath rooms. When it comes ‘alive’ with the vibrancy of blue light, the purpose of this installation – the changing face of digital age and blue screens – is evident.

Sibella Court’s Imaginarium is like stepping into a library and leafing through the pages of well-loved books. It’s a mini-museum, a curiosity of ‘things’, items reminiscent of a life or lives, where they’ve been, what they collected.

Golden opulence flourishes in Flack Studio’s We’ve Boundless Plains to Share. Principal, David Flack, describes himself as a ‘maximalist’ and there’s plenty of Wow factor here. But the message is to look deeper.  The installation’s title draws on the Australian national anthem – ‘We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil’ and ‘For those who’ve come across the sea, we’ve boundless plains to share’ – inviting us to see beyond the interior glamour to the world of indigenous and diversity of cultures.

Photos:  Panic room; Take it Outside; Home: feast, bathe, rest; Wunderkammer

Panic Room by designer David Hicks. Perhaps more than any other Rigg Design Award participants, Panic Room screams its intent. It’s a living room, of course, but with an explosion of screens and lights. It’s “real” but not welcoming, it feels impersonal with such a collision of luxury and technology.  There’s an overt blurring between private and public, the psychological invasion of social media on our lives. There’s a sense of anxiety, somebody is watching.  For me, this was the most powerful ‘domestic living’ space.

Take it Outside by Amber Road design studio is my favourite, created by the two youngest participants, sisters (both under 30), Yasmine Ghoniem and Katy Svalbe. As their names suggest, they come from a diverse cultural background: same mother, one with an Egyptian dad and the other a Latvian dad.  This is the Australian farm porch, where the family has spent countless hours talking over their lives spent in Middle East, Europe and USA. It feels like a hot night, warm breeze, chilled wine or frothy beer. There’s mixed mediums of mud and hand rendered surfaces and ‘props’ that represent Australia. I could have sat with them all night, listening to their stories.  A beautiful composition.

Arent&Pyke design studio’s Home: feast, bathe, rest is a pleasing experience, a bit like visiting a friend’s home. It addresses what we need to nurture our souls: to replenish (feast), restore (bathe) and retreat (rest). Our essential domestic needs in an elegant setting, cleverly composed.  It also features artworks. On the back wall in the photo above is an exquisite tapestry from Paris – food for my soul, indeed.

Sydney architect, Scott Westin, is currently renovating his home, an 1889 Victorian Italianate terrace called Villa Carmelina. Wunderkammer (German origin “wonder chamber”) is a place where rarities and curiosities are collected.  Scott’s home is his Wunderkammer and the installation is a sequence of six rooms, dioramas of his living spaces. This is an incredibly detailed work that includes not just the ‘show’ of each room, but a small cabinet with samples of materials, a piece of music selected for ambience. These rooms depict the colours, patterns, textures, light, art and mood. Extraordinary, and I can only imagine what Scott’s home, his castle, is like ‘in the flesh.’

And the winner of the 2018 Rigg Design Award is…

The table is the base by design studio Hecker Guthrie.  And, deservedly so! What a cleverly executed, simple concept. That’s not to suggest the design is simple, but the premise is that the table is the ‘subtle muse’ of domestic living. The central living force, described as “a domestic totem summoning familiarity”.  With two materials only, Victorian ash and terra cotta, in a minimal colour palette, they have used variations of table form to create their space.

What Hecker Guthrie did was go back to the principals of design,” said international judge and architect, Shashi Caan (President of the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers), “For me this one scheme simplified a purity of thinking about art and craft.”

Photos: Winner of 2018 Rigg Design Award, The Table is the Base

The 2018 Rigg Design Prize runs until February 24, 2019 at the Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria. Visit: ngv.vic.gov.au

Julian Opie – just his name, no exhibition title.  “Here I am” at NGV International.

A British artist of popular culture, Julian Opie’s work is immensely enjoyable. Mainly figurative  – many in this exhibition were drawn around Melbourne – his style is recognisably of bold lines, minimal, but effective in depiction of body language. These individuals are anonymous but familiar: their gait, pace, dress, what they’re carrying.  In an interview about the exhibition, Julian Opie said, “All good art involves movement. Usually the movement is of the viewer’s eye as it travels around and across the artwork – cleverly guided by the artist. This is the timing and rhythm of the work that holds you there.”

Interestingly, the first thing I noticed, when observing those who came to the exhibition, was that these onlookers became part of the art and its movements.


Unmissable, as part of the Julian Opie exhibition, are the towering skyscrapers in Federation Court. Light floods over them as you wander through the NGV.  Also, while it’s in the children’s exhibition space, equally delightful for the ‘big kids’ is a draw like Julian Opie feature where you can photograph yourself, then draw and colour in a self-portrait. Such fun!

Photos:  Figurative movement; Skyscrapers in Federation Court; self-portrait in the children’s space.

Julian Opie is on until 17 February, 2019 https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/julian-opie  

Photo: Our natural needs in a Digital World
Rigg Design Prize 2018 at NGV Australia

©  Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo 2018