I am going to Brightspace Gallery, St Kilda, to see an exhibition called “Punk Journey, St Kilda + Beyond . I am excited. It was a movement I first encountered in London in 1979, where it spawned a vibrant and dynamic art, and music culture . At home in Melbourne, and as a Stkilda resident of the early 80’s, I loved going to the now defunct Crystal Ballroom, in Fitzroy st, part of the Seaview Hotel. It was seedy, distressed, dirty, dingy, but with exhilarating music, and outlandish costumes, I loved it. Heady times, exuberant passions, and visually stimulating art, I was part of a movement. It was a movement without peer, its like not seen again, and it spawned many talented Australian artists eg Rowland. S .Howard, and Nick Cave , from the band, “The Birthday Party”.
Fashion was sublime in this period, and dress sense was avant garde, and personal, anything goes, with safety pins, studs, chains, and tartans abounding. In the UK, Vivienne Westwood ruled, and as one time partner of Malcolm Mc Laren, original punk god, she had her finger on the pulse, of all things punk! In Australia, Jenny Bannister officiated, and I was disappointed I was unable to book into a free workshop, at Brightspace, to punk up an item of clothing. It’s booked out by all the dormant punks in StKilda.!
I hope to meet Lauren, my ex VU Buddy, and we will enjoy the exhibition together.
My time at Victoria University, studying the Visual Arts Diploma 2014, is drawing to a close. The studios are swept, work is displayed, and final submissions are being pulled together. Tomorrow is the Final Assessment Day, other assessments having already taken place last week. Relief washes over most, as the door is closed on a years work. A period of nervousness will ensue, indecision being the lot of most visual artists
Hope is writ large as we scramble to secure one of the Fiona Myer Travel, or folio awards. It is with some sadness I will bid farewell to my fellow classmates. Much of their work is exemplary, and I expect their imagery will stay with me through the years. I hope to see their trajectory rise, all of these “bright stars”. I will retain my fond memories of them as VU collaborators, and thank them all, they have taught me much.
In this blog I want to describe my artistic practice at the beginning of 2014, and my artistic practice at the conclusion of 2014.
I am an inveterate collector. I use found objects in my art, and to inspire me. My visual diaries, are a record of my daily journeys. They record, and sometimes act as a repository of my found objects. The focus of my artistic practice in 2014, has been beach washed detritus. Specifically I have used destroyed, aged, sea washed,rusted, crushed, and tattered cans. My work has involved sculptural pieces, using plaster, and metal frameworks amongst other found objects. I have completed a folio of many paintings, drawings and prints, based on cans, at various levels of decay. My printmaking work has also embraced the theme of destroyed, abandoned, and deserted post industrial landscapes, such as Detroit, USA , Cockatoo Island, Australia, and Hashima Island, Japan.
At the completion of my 2014 studies, I believe I have produced a cohesive body of work, that addresses my principles of the use of the damaged found object, ie cans, and has directed a burgeoning interest in the post industrial landscape. I have learnt many new skills, eg; drypoint, intaglio printmaking, and re-awakened old ones of life drawing, and perspective placement. Involving myself in a daily training environment has been most beneficial, as has access to a brilliant studio space. I look forward to completing my studies in 2015, particularly in the area of painting.
It has finally arrived. Our final folio submission. Months of hard work, dedication, studio toil , self doubt and creative output are drawing to a close.
Gruelling final hours, are being put in at the studios, as final touches are added to works, tweaking of folios, and stretching ourselves to the limit is occurring, in a final, vain, effort to get our work just right. Its a long, difficult, and laborious process and one that doesn’t come easily. Mountains of work has to be sifted through, pieces selected and finals displayed in our cramped, newly cleaned studio spaces. I spent the better part of my Saturday cleaning, choosing, tweaking and self doubting. Pinning countless pieces to the walls, I marvel at my huge output but obsessively question the value of the work and the validity of my artistic statement. An inveterate collector, recycler and re-houser, my work tends to overwhelm even me and I find my creative output massive and un-harnessable. Its excruciatingly difficult putting your life on the line, figuratively not actually. Always questioning, seeking solution and completion, whilst perpetually searching and depicting, is the artists lot. No arrogance or bravado for this mature age student, just hard graft, my resilient work ethic pushed to the limit. Whilst I envy the exuberance and arrogance of the young practitioners on my course, I value my experience, my compulsion for my work, and my questioning, and restless mind. I am impatient now, want the assessment to be over, and want to house my work and establish a working space over the long summer break. I have enrolled in a framing course at the CAE, over the next month as I wind down, and share my burgeoning mound of prints, drawings and paintings, with friends and family.
Mawkish sentimentality aside, goodbye VU, 17th Floor Studio Space, its been a bumpy ride, you’ve taught me a lot, and witnessed many upheavals in my daily life, and whilst I’ll miss you, I am lucky enough to be re-visiting you in 2015.
A plan was formulated, some time ago, to plan, and write my final essay for Context and Culture, a second semester subject of my Diploma of Visual Art.
I believe I chose a suitable topic, but research proved problematic, as not much documentation, of the art work produced in this period, was recorded. Still sticking with the original topic another attempt has been forged, but I am stuck. First and second paragraphs are written, but the stumbling block is the next two paragraphs and conclusion.I want it done, it has hung around too long and invaded the edges of my conscience, an unwelcome intrusion when all I really want to do is spend time in my studio and complete pieces for my final folio assessment.
I am frustrated and bored with it but seem locked into inaction, a paralysis of the brain, preventing my arm from piecing it all together. I know I will just need to sit down and give it a bit more time. I will myself to get organised, collate my notes, marshall my thoughts, and produce a cohesive piece of writing. I just can’t seem to pull it together, with so many other demands on my time to complete my final drawing folio and display it in a cleaned studio, the essay keeps getting relegated to the ” to do ” pile. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow! Watch this space.
The day had arrived, we were to submit our final printmaking folio. Despite many instructions and warnings, last minute printing was still to be done, under the close scrutiny of our class mates, also anxious to use the printing presses. We scarpered from the Context and Culture Class, without a backward glance or word of apology to our teacher, as we raced toward the print room, to grasp our elusive final submission.
Work benches were cluttered, students clustered around any remaining, scant work space, and the queue for the printing presses peaked at six workers in tandem, churning the lino-cut relief prints out. Prints were spread over table tops, in drying racks, between drying boards and across benches. Exclamations of surprise, or groans of anguish accompanied each print as it rolled off the presses. The maker was either thrilled with the result, or in the deepest of despair with the outcome. The back of the room saw students curled over visual diaries pasting and writing, fulfilling the brief fastidiously.
The submission deadline grew steadily closer, with notes being scribbled frantically, prints collated, and half dry prints being wrenched from their repository. One of our number needed assistance, and we all banded together and collated his many prints. To no avail, as he confided later he forgot to submit his visual diary. Grr! Safely stowing our work, we exited the print-room gleefully, stumbling towards our homes or studios in a post production daze of exhaustion. A job well done we are now at the mercy of the assessors. Its now time to concentrate on our final folio submissions, for painting and drawing.
Gough Whitlam, was a legendary figure of Australian History. The consummate politician, his legacy is great . As Australians we owe him much He ended conscription, established free health care via Medicare, provided free tertiary education, through the TEAS scheme, granted aboriginal land rights, and gave huge funding to the arts. With his wife Margaret, and the Australian Labor Party, they initiated change in the Australian political landscape, and adopted a great social justice program, for all Australians. It was one of inclusion, and addressed many wrongs in our society, and sought equality of opportunity for all, across all walks of life.
As a young student I lay down on the tram tracks before the Victorian Parliament House, in Spring St, to protest conscription by ballot for young Australian men, to fight in the Vietnam War. My brother, who could have been conscripted, also protested. It was an old style protest, its type not seen on the streets of Melbourne before, or since, and was one of the last times my brother and I agreed politically, and fought our corner together. Gough put an end to this barbaric conscription. Whilst too young to vote in the historic 1972 Election Campaign, Labor won, Gough became leader, and its catchy “Its Time ” campaign song, and black and white TV ad, is one I remember well.
Ironically the day after Gough died, on 21 October 2014, his birthplace, a humble cottage in Kew, was demolished. When I bemoaned that the great man had passed, a fellow Victoria University student asked, who was Gough Whitlam? I shuddered at the inadequacies of our Australian, education system.
Much loved local icon, the Palais Theatre is under threat! Local rocker and frontman of the Dark Horses, Tex Perkins has stepped up to its defence. Mysterious scaffolding has encased the mighty structure for some time now. Apparently this is not a renovation precaution, but is in place to prevent bits falling off and striking the general public, and theatre goers.
She is a much loved piece of the St Kilda landscape, and integral part of the Melbourne theatre, and performance scene. Concerts are regularly held there, and she continues to host local and international acts. Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones singer, referred to the Palais in his recent Melbourne Show saying they performed at the Palais in 1966 and urged fans to save the venue.
I have attended many memorable performances there. Annually the Sacred Heart mission’s, Heart of St Kilda Concert, to raise funds for the local homeless, Missy Higgins, Rockwiz tribute night to Vanda and Young, Birdy, and Boz Scaggs.
In 2010, I was privileged to win a ballot to tickets to a guided tour of the Palais, as part of the StKilda Festival. We got to go backstage, stand on the rolling stage, check out the dressing rooms, view the juliet window, site the projectionist room, and even climb up into the roof to inspect the domes, and building structure. A memorable tour, firmly etched in my memory, and probably not possible now, due to Health and Safety regulations. The craftsmanship, attention to detail and sheer beauty of the grand old dame, a fine example of art deco architecture, was breathtaking. It was also sad to see how much she had fallen into disrepair through neglect and lack of maintenance. Impossible to believe she was still exisitng at all, but she has a tenacious hold on StKilda, our hearts and minds, and is the venue of our dreams. She’s not going down without a fight, and the locals are just passionate enough to save her. Prepared to take on both the local and state governments they will fight for her survival. The infamous triangle site fiasco is brought to mind, where they repelled the attempts to build a Chadstone style complex, on the vacant land around the Palais Theatre, abutting Luna Park, and the St Kilda Foreshore
. A virulent battle between protestors, and developers, and local and state government ensued, which saw the protestors victorious, and the site remains vacant until a suitable compromise can be reached.The StKilda Pier Kiosk was burnt down, the StKilda Sea Vaults closed, St Moritz demolished, and it would appear the Astor Theatre is beyond redemption, but the Palais is hanging in there and we will save her, wrangling a truculent Local and State Government to assist.
As a visual artist, I have always found the old girl, aesthetically inspiring and have photographed, painted, and drawn her for many years. She is a big part of my local history, and I too will do whatever it takes to keep her standing. Too young to have seen the memorable 66′ Stones Concert within her hallowed walls, I remember a Dame Edna aka Barry Humphries, concert there of 30 years ago, where the grand old dame played host to the magenta haired, grand old Dame, and gladiolus, flew through the air in a floral frenzy.
The Palais will not go down without a fight, it will emerge from its encasing cocoon like a chrysalis, and I expect to be along for its bumpy ride, to re-emergence.
They finally made it. Mick, Keith, Ron, and Charlie . I last saw them live in Melbourne at Kooyong Tennis Stadium in 1973, when I was a groovy 15 year old. The impression they made on me that fateful day was indelible, and confirmed my allegiance as a lifelong Stones fan . There was something magical about their raunchy rock and roll way back then . Tonight, 41 years later, the spindly legged Lizard King aka Mick Jagger, was at his best, Keef ( Keith Richards ) was clearly enjoying himself belting out the song ” Happy”, Charlie kept them all ticking over with his hypnotic drum beat, and Ronnie strutted the stage like a demented marionette . It was loud , it was funky , it was visually stimulating, with back-screen graphics flashing throughout all of their songs .
Rod Laver Arena, hosted an intimate crowd of 5,000. Not for us the big stadium affairs like the Adelaide Cricket Ground where they paid host to 40,000 fans. It was the spectacle of the greatest rock and roll band in the world, and I wanted to be able to see them, not gaze at some big screen where they appeared as a far off speck on the horizon .
It was worth the wait . The show was dynamic with Mick gyrating his way around the podium with his accomplices also playing their part. I loved it and danced my way through ” tumbling dice ” like I was that 15 year old teenager again .
Thanks Mick and the boys for giving me a great night out, rekindling old memories and reminding