In the thriving metropolis of Kuala Lumpur the Kuala Lumpur Visual Arts Gallery is Malaysia ‘s most under utilised cultural resource.
Located in a central part of town , opposite a large school , it was totally empty apart from bored looking women ushers . Even the cab driver requested a map from the hotel concierge , and confessed that he had never been there before .
Housed in a large white modern building , the receptionist proudly informed me there were six galleries . Two on each of the three floors . Entry to all exhibits was free.
The ground floor housed the portrait gallery , fairly mundane stuff of colonial rulers and historical figures . Two , impasto , expressionist portraits provided some relief.
Indigenous Malay art was housed on the first floor and was a mix of realistic peasant scenes , batik work , and black and white photography . An avante garde show was on the second floor exhibiting work by a local Malay artist , exploring the effect of Islam on his work . In his writings accompanying the work , he attributes his creativity to his religious beliefs . The work was a series of large canvases painted in oil with graduated cloud like effects , with rows of Sanskrit written across them , in abstract format .
At the pinnacle of the gallery , was the finest work , in my opinion . It was the Malaysian equivalent of our annual VCE top arts exhibition .
Here young artists had occupied the entire top floor gallery space with a large variety of work . It included installations of plastic mesh , sewn pieces and collages , bitumen and earth paintings , led lights , epoxy resin and enamel work , origami , and spray paint on Perspex . Many paintings also adopted the more traditional format of oil , acrylic and water colour mediums on canvas and paper .
What was apparent was the sheer exuberance of these young artists , their ability to work across many mediums , and the trial and experimentation of their work . It provided a cornucopia of ideas , styles and mediums for this budding artist . The talented bunch will lead Malaysia into a bright future for visual art , with their creative skill and innovative mark making . The gallery deserves greater patronage than it had on the day I attended . I wasn’t able to buy a catalogue of Malaysia arts 14 , as the gallery shop was closed . Like most of KL it seems to be under renovation !
It seemed like a good idea to go. The 16 year old and I were stranded in cold, dank, London, at the time, and needed a change of scene. Cheap flights
were offered via ryanair , it only needed navigation through their tricky website, no I don’t need a ryan air emblazoned travel bag, and the astoundingly cheap tickets were purchased. An apartment was booked via airbnb in a restored, historical building, in the old part of town.
Prague proved to be a vibrant, bustling, global metropolis, steeped in history, drenched in tradition, and picturesque . The twisting curving streets were negotiable via hop on, hop off trams, and the natives were friendly .
Upon arrival we visited the museum, and national art gallery. Many scientific inventions are attributable to the Czechs, and they are a resilient, clever race of people, proud of their traditions, and deeply influenced by an inquisitive mind, and a love of the Catholic Church . The narrow streets revealed many hidden delights. The tram took us to the pinnacle of the mountain range above Prague, and we journeyed back on the conjoined tram to dine at the very fine river side of the Vltava River,near the famous Charles Bridge. Driven by tourism, there is still a rebellious streak in Prague, addressed by the prominence of posters everywhere proclaiming rallies, and inciting the locals to action. The historical buildings are massive, and the underground rail system impressive by its sheer sophistication. It is a city of contrasts, of old versus new, religion against communism, and rich versus poor. One overriding factor is the sheer brilliance of the Czech mind, their sense of social justice, the beauty of the place,and its pivotal role in the European hierarchy .
Time poor, I didn’t get to any modern art galleries, but the little I saw has whetted my appetite for a return visit in the not too distant future .
Lower East Side Manhattan, was my home for one glorious month in November, 2010. A low rise, brownstone apartment housed four of us in modest style. It was noisy, exhilarating, a relentless sea of people and cars, but never dull .Whilst there I experienced Halloween, the five consecutive night baseball playoffs, between the Mets and Yankees, both local NYC teams, and the Melbourne Cup . It felt like the whole city was in a permanent party mode.
Fittingly Americain, won the Cup that year, we celebrated by finding a late night bar run by an expatriate Melbourne father and son team, and watched the big race, in the wee small hours. The Halloween Parade that went for multiple city blocks, was hugely popular with paradees and viewers alike, and seemed to host an all night subway party. Baseball blared from every bar, coffee shop and restaurant, on a nightly basis, as the 2010 World Series Games were played out.
A highlight of the trip was multiple visits to MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, who were hosting a Van Gogh retrospective exhibition, and the Guggenheim Museum. Both exemplary viewing spaces and innovators in the visual arts. I loved the Staten Island Ferry, and the vintage shops on the Island. The Bowery was home to great bagels and cheap booze. Flea Markets abounded in Brooklyn, and inexpensive, end of season shopping, was to be had in New Jersey. Legendary, cavernous, warehouse sized thrift shops, threw up priceless gems,eg; Vera Wang new black satin cocktail pants, and Jimmy Choo barely worn heels, all with bargain price tags .
It was an inspiring visit and one I hope to replicate in the not too distant future .
Went and saw the movie ” Advanced Style ” today , at ACMI 2 . It was screening as part of MIFF , Melbourne Film Festival .
Based on a popular blog by Ari Seth Coen , the film features six elderly New Yorkers , all women , and the way they dress .
Each woman is sensitively portrayed . It shows their lifestyle in NYC and the sublime way they attire themselves . Innately individual they each have a unique mode of attire from vintage to classical , they are living art . Each day is a creation of couture and the backdrop of Manhatten is a perfect foil to their folly . As equally impressive as the outfits is their massive age , 95 , 92 , 87 , with the youngest being 67. Just proves true style , fashion sense and grace is ageless .
It was many smallish stands , spread over the two main floors of the building .
Interactive displays , installations , gigantic canvases , small & large prints abounded .
It was sensory overload as I gazed upon this vast display of contemporary Australian art . Exhibitors had come from far & wide within Australia , including Brisbane to Perth . The creative output of Aussie artists is enormous . Old stagers like Andrew Sibleys portraits of the 70’s , nestled beside Del Kathryn Barton’s , stunning , recent portraitures . Cars , chocolates , flowers , and roving champagne carts were all in the mix .
Particular favourites included one of Adam Cullen’s paintings from his Ned Kelly , the Bushranger series , & ” the Skipping Girl , Little Audrey 2014 , Jim Thalassoudis . I love the bold use of colour and strong figurative style of the former , and the childhood memory the latter evokes .
An interesting, interactive performance , titled ” love is in the Fair ” challenged onlookers . It was a bold , fun concept , cleverly conceived and innovatively performed , by charming hosts Adele and Peter .
Our group of VU visual arts students have been covering the subject matter of indigenous art , for Culture and Context .
We have watched an informative 3 part series , made by the ABC , made and presented by Hetti Perkins , entitled “Art and Soul “.
The aboriginal people are an incredibly talented , naturally intuitive race of mark makers .Their work embraces every aspect of their life and informs and sustains them . They are natural creators at all levels and their work is multi disciplinary .
Some of the work I loved included :
The textile artists , women dying their yarn and fabric with plants and abandoned machinery
The visual artists telling the story of our ” mob “with dot paintings
The Cape Baron descendants constructing shell necklaces from black shells . These are Truganini “s tears . Truganini is believed to be the last full blood Tasmanian aboriginal , whose race was subjected to genocide by the white settlers .
Their work is powerful , evocative and deeply moving .
And yes I am descended from the white settlers, who stole their land , forcibly evicted them , and attempted to destroy and desecrate their life , home and culture . Ironic really , as this prejudice , disrespect , starvation and cultural annihilation is exactly what my Irish forbears were fleeing from .
The aboriginal people are a strong , proud , resilient race and their work and life in art is be admired and revered . This was brought home when I attended the Sacred Heart Mission Concert at the Palais in StKilda recently . An aboriginal entertainer , actor , raconteur and musician named Jack Charles ,70 years old , 5 foot tall and a survivor of the stolen generation , took the stage , and held the audience in enraptured silence as he performed . We have much to be grateful for , that they let us share their country , culture , and creative gifts .
Saw Fiona somerville’s show at bright spaces gallery in st Kilda last week .
It’ was titled “ruined ” . Conjures up many pre – conceived ideas and visual images . The show was not what I was expecting . The artist has a unique choice of subject matter . Her work is about the detritus of Australia’s more recent rural past. She depicts the remnants of shacks, humpys and dongas lying about in our landscape . She depicts them in a clean , almost candy box like format . The lines are clean , the palette pastel and their is an absence of the bush landscapes and people native to the region of her work . An engaging and visceral body of work it challenges the viewer to disassociate ourselves from the obvious expectation of the title to view the work .
As a visual artist I work with of sea ravaged , gathered and ruined objects . It challenged and expanded my expectations of this subject matter .
It was big , unwieldy and eminently untransportable . How to get it to VU ? certainly not on a slow moving Sandringham line train . I could just hear the shouts of indignation , and rude expletives as I tried to wedge it sideways onto the commuter train at 8.03 am monday morning .
Nothing for it , it would have to be driven in !! Gasp ! its like ! huge , t he 17 year old learner driver exclaimed as I attempted to secure it to the roof of the car . Not my car , its too small , but the larger other car had to be called into service . Dangling tent guy ropes , old shoelaces , torn rags , any binding agent that I thought would work was used to secure it .
Hmm , didn’t look that big when I first rescued it from the hard rubbish , and skewed it home , hanging out the boot of my car .
A slow procession was made through the sleepy sunday morning streets of Elsternwick . No speeding I exhorted to the hapless driven , or we might become airborne ! A foray into chaotic Kings Way saw us take the outside line , proceeding at a gentle 55 km per hour . I was on tenterhooks as we sometimes accelerated , waiting for the dreaded ripping sound as the canvas left its moorings and pirouetted into the path of the oncoming traffic . Didn’t happen . Town loomed and I exhaled gradually . Stopping in Flinders St I finally breathed and gleefully congratulated my daughter on getting us there intact . Trembling , I unloaded the canvas easing it out of its haphazard bondage , and sauntered into the lift at VU . It was a Sunday , and it would insist on stopping only at the 15th floor . I couldn’t cajole it to go any further despite frantic swiping with my fob . Exiting , I plunged toward the stairwell , and feverishly dragged the enormous canvas up the two flights of stairs to level 17 . Finally , secured in my studio looking resplendent with a coat of gesso , its all ready to go . Now what to do with it !! Watch this space .
A studio space has been enjoyed for the second half of 2014, by grateful VU students. It on the 17 th Floor, 300 Flinders St, commanding great views over the city, and giving us a taste of what its like to work in a commercial studio space. Most days it has provided a refuge, an escape, a study retreat, a repository of our efforts, and an inspiring place to work. A unique view of the CBD, is afforded us on three sides of the building.
Looking east across Swanston st , to Russell st and beyond , offers the interesting sight of the back of the dilapidated, iconic, Nicholas Building, resplendent with graffiti, and damaged fittings, and fixtures .
A northern aspect reveals, modern apartments, complete with swimming pool, shadowed by 1970’s high rises of rounded concrete and many windows .
My view, which I consider to be the best, is West facing, and also offers a corner view of the South. The river, bay, and riverbank are revealed. It foreshortens the Casino, exposes parts of South and Port Melbourne, and extends to ” Jeff’s Shed ” and beyond on a ceaseless horizon .
I have relished this studio space, made it my own, and installed the essence of my work, the found object. Alas , it is now time to begin to pack it up, clean the area for the final presentation of folios ,and bid goodbye .
Whilst I am sad to leave, I know it is not the final adieu. Being a part time student in 2014, I will return to complete my diploma in 2015. As a painting student, I will be afforded the luxury of again using a studio space, at VU.