Dominoes, no not the age old game I played as a child, but a living art installation played out in Melbourne’s CBD, on a hot, lazy summer afternoon last Saturday.
My niece was in from out of town for a few days and cajoled me into going. I’m glad I did. The circuitous route of the domino path embraced parts of flinders lane, the Melbourne Town Hall, St Pauls Cathedral, Degraves St and even beat a path through the Crumpler store.
The domino pieces, which were blocks of chalky, lightweight concrete mix had been placed in perfect symmetry along the route, some lying, many upright but all in perfect accord of the overall plan. This plan was for each to tumble onto the other, causing all to fall in a sequential order. Volunteers were placed along the route to hand out information and guard the blocks. From my vantage point our “marshall ” complete with walkie talkie told us when they had started and how far away they were. A victory yell went up from the crowd as they tumbled toward us. Yes they fell in perfect formation, spectators stood transfixed, and it was evidence of an art installation involving all that captivated and engaged the audience.
Graduating, studying, and past and present students, were asked to submit works to exhibit and compete for two prizes. Six honourable mentions were made to other exhibitors. The prizes, were for $1000 and $500 respectively and were won by students, in the Creative industries Course, at Victoria University. The major prize winner was an impassioned painting, of outback Australia, a mountain range, executed in thick impasto paint, and even included the artists paint brushes. The other prizewinner was a more delicate watercolour, with a photo image transposed over the top. Both were worthy prize winners as were the honourable mentions.
The indefatigable curator was Peter Burke, who did an excellent job of hanging works with the assistance of local, emerging artist, Sarah Hayes. Megan Culhane, graduating VU student is exhibiting two lino cut prints, as am I.
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.
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.