Surrealism and DaDa at NGV Federation Square

Joined together shoes, one long fingered glove, and a hat with a zip, all are absurdly silly pieces made by Barry Humphries, in the fifties whilst a dadaist studying at Melbourne University.


Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries, Dada pieces 1950’s

These and other pieces by working Australian artists are featured in the “Lurid Beauty Exhibition” currently showing at the NGV’s Ian Potter Centre, Federation Square. Many of my favourite Australian artists are showing including Pat Brassington, a Tasmanian photographer and printmaker whose work features disembodied parts of the female body.

Starlight 2001 colour digital print
Pat Brassington,Starlight 2001
colour digital print

Exhibitors include Rosslynd Piggot, whose massive white bed imposes an improbable and powerful presence above the space inviting all to dream.

High Bed, 1998 construction of painted wood, metal, cotton etc
High Bed, 1998
construction of painted wood, metal, cotton etc

The gorgeous black and white photography of Max Dupain of the 1950’s models portrays images of a graceful and bygone era.


Shadow of Ballet Dancer 1938 silver gelatin photograph
Shadow of Ballet Dancer
1938 silver gelatin photograph

Early collage work by Sidney Nolan and David Noonan are featured. A taxidermied black cat waves goodbye to us at the end of the show. It looks like a stage prop or TV show persona and not a gallery piece. Such is the depth and wonder of this show my eyes were opened to works by artists I knew but didn’t know were part of the Dada and Surrealism movements. Being removed from Europe and the USA these artists created their own version of the movement. It is a brilliant show and many of these influential artists are currently teaching and working in Australia.

Judith Wright 2011 Mixed Media A journey
Judith Wright, A journey (detail) 2011–12 mixed media – See more at:

I found particularly poignant and whimsical the installations by Judith Wright in the foyer. They are assemblages of found objects of childhood relics eg horses heads, child’s toys and a rowboat. These works depict the loss of her child, and are the artists imaginings of how her child’s life would be if she had lived and grown through childhood.

This exhibition educated and exposed me to a vast area of work by Australian artists working in a wildly inventive field of exploration.

Bavarian Boozehounds


Swaggering down the narrow aisle of flight H1273#, from Leipzig to London, came two large drunken examples of german manhood.
Flinging themselves into two seats opposite, they began a loud conversation with the little blonde fraulein, cowering in her window seat.
Nestled in each giant paw was an oversized can of German beer offering 5 % gratis. They began a loud, guffawing, drinking session extolling to all, in loud German, their travel plans. Dressed in top to toe camouflage gear they were ready for anything, but were we ? their fellow travellers.
For the next forty minutes the cacophony of guttural sounds, brought forth from their beer lubricated vocal cords, was deafening.


Manchester Canals

With our eardrums ringing, the refreshments trolley appeared, being dragged along by a harried, Celtic beauty.
You cannot bring your own beer sir, she politely admonished. Nein nein, they responded, as both gallantly purchased a token Heineken, from the diminutive lass. Having quickly scoffed that down, the bavarian boozer deftly produced yet another jumbo can from his seemingly endless supply, stashed in his leather coat pocket.

The musical backdrop to our flight became the ripping sound of rings pulling, loud exclamations in german, farts, belches and rapid beer quaffing noises. Spill overs were rubbed into seats, cheeks and apparel, as a thick acrid beer film formed a barrier round our seats, and gave my fellow passenger, residual hiccups .

Astride the aisle seat Rolf, refused to be constrained by a mere seatbelt. His assault on the overhead locker, during landing brought gasps of disbelief from his fellow seated passengers, and feeble admonishment from the cabin crew.

Upon landing, the two belligerent, and by now extremely intoxicated, bavarians staggered down the aisle , careering into anything that crossed their path. They drunkenly charged down the flight steps, tore through airport arrivals, and blundered out into the cold London night, oblivious to the havoc they had wreaked on their fellow Ryanair travellers, and staff.

Kuala Lumpur Visual Arts Gallery

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 !


Street Art
Street Art
Sad sarajevo
Veiled in mist ,shrouded in rain
It weeps for those who,ll never come home again
Carries an air of mystery , of turmoil and deceit
A city held to siege
Mothers , daughters , children , all brought to their knees
Now she strides into the sun
Resettling a proud life no longer afraid of the gun
Homeless dogs ,flower pedlars , market traders , gypsy beggars
All in the mix
It’s a city rebuilding , restructuring , struggling on
Against the age old battle of who,s right and who’s wrong
Gentle , sad , lonely face
She struggles and subsides , with a weary grace
Nestled in hills , beauty abounds , an uneasy truce , mortar holes litter the ground
Pockmarked buildings , ravaged countryside
They look to the east and draw them onside
A proud nation divided in three
It has always been rich in a troubled history
Mostar jewel of the mount
Speeding bus drivers bring you in
Sluggish Swedish trains take you out
It carries an air of sadness, of trouble and woe
And seems to be a nation tottering on the abyss
Not quite sure where to go


” The Tunnel Museum “


Herring salad
Herring salad

Old town , new town , definitely got the beat down
Sepia toned young punks gyrating around
imitating american hip hop trying to run the moves to ground

Beat , feet , music
Drinkers , thinkers , high energy tinkers

Warsaw is big town , hip town , no rigor mortis in this town
Rebellious , querulous , inventive , and nazi preventative
A town steeped in history , shrouded in religion
Burgeoning , bustling , never repetitive
Arty , crafty , everyones at the party
Incense , priests , cobbled streets ,
night skies , artificial fireflys ,

Herbal tea caverns , more ice cream than you can imagine
flower sellers peddling ancient wares , red roses are everywhere

Red & white flag , purity and blood
Polish eagle astride her proud , gritty city

Pole Beer
Pole Beer


Manchester Canals

Manchester jewel of the north , gritty urban cobbled sprawl.
Twisting tidy streets, grandiose old buildings, mixed in with newer, silver steel high rises.
Teenag e mums with bleached hair extensions, large Botox enhanced lips and tattoos, wheeling tots roughshod over the cobbles , bellowing in harsh manchurian accents .
I am in the home of ” Corrie ” , the UK’s , 50 year young , longest running and much loved soapie.
The old city has a grace and dignity not easily reconciled to the smoking chimneys , grey skies and discarded remnants of the industrial tools of a working past .
Soft rain cloaks my steps as my wheelie case bounces across the cobbles .
It is a city of contrast, abandoned olde worlde 18th century , orange brick buildings , sprouting elaborate stained glass windows depicting British bird life. A brash steel and perspex triangular edifice houses the football museum where homage is paid to the twin religions of Man U or Man City.
It is a town divided by where your allegiance lies , to the big powerful all conquering ” U ” fans , or the humbler ” City ” supporters .
Tattoo parlours balanced above vintage clothing shops proffer fresh needles for every new client housed in three storey Dickensian tumbling ruins.
Tea shops abound paying tribute to the national tipple , their windows offering Victoria sandwich sponge cakes or the fractured Eton mess .
Primark , that UK shrine to consumer heaven is encased in Victorian stone surroundings , contrasting the permanent and impermanent.
Jamie’s Italian is here, housed in a turn of the century bank and pubs perch on every corner offering a multitude of amber ales .
Vivienne Westwood opens her doors in a soft grey stone edifice , her iconic signature , tilted crown and sabre proudly displayed above the door in gold .
The royal theatre , a grandiose old dame , offers live theatre in a tubular tardis like contraption .
I view a two man play whose main prop is a huge life like tree , the main character hidden in it’s branches , whilst I sprawl on green velvet couches below , last minute tickets costing a mere twelve quid .
Twisting, curving, gracious and fastidious architecture, mixed in with newer trashy incomplete and impermanent structures, scattered together like pieces of a child’s flung jigsaw puzzle .
The intriguing art gallery , offers temporary exhibition ” do it ” on the top floor, which seems to sum up Manchester’s attitude perfectly.


60 ‘s burnt orange is my body armour , bilious fake tan the shade. Anoxeric weight  proportions are a mere   2.1 kg .  Fast and speedy ,   never needy , wheels are my feet. Malvern spawned ,  Eastern Europe borne ,my neck is a steel double strut with black softtop . I have zips , zips , zips everywhere ,  zips to spare that go nowhere .



My Case
My Case

I am flashy ,

a tad trashy .


Portable , expandable , expendable , and dependable . Ryanair reject me if you dare .Comfortable , reliable , undeniably viable , packed tight with my tourist treasure trash , and forbidden glorious stash .

Relentless pleasure seeking , airborne , and always peaking , on another adventure and travel trail . Look out , I’ll  soon be in your town  , shouting the baggage carousel down , with garish tones of orange hue , zips , a handle , and a scuff or two . I am your ultra light , dynamic dream holder who won’t let you down , flight bound and constantly touring around .





Grey rain its Melbourne’s turn  to be bleak again
Windows streak
Rain turns to sleet
Gums wave in the night sky
Sodden branches flex and fly
Icy freezing artic winds make my coat spin
This winter has been grim
unrelenting cold has made me feel old
I yearn for summer
Her warm embraces and
Soft gentle touch that lanquidly grazes


Sydney unleashed its tawdry charms for a stolen weekend  .


Its slightly down at heel scruffiness captivated me . The nonchalant beauty of it’s spectacular harbour . Seediness of Kings Cross , coiled energy of downtown , decaying splendour of the inner city , griminess of Darlinghurst and spectre of abandoned monorail . Dishevelled Surry Hills sheltering beneath the spindly branches of nude plane trees revealed its markets , cafes ,tri level houses , and dogleg lanes , sprinkled with  pocket handkerchief  parks . Brashness of Kings Cross overlaid with a faded , old worlde charm of ravaged gentility. Gritty Redfern spewing ghetto , burnt out terraces and sheltering the homeless , disadvantaged and desperate . Glittering Mosman  , the jewel in the harbours crown , reveals ordered streets , manicured footpaths and sprawling federation mansions . The cacophony of disparate noises tells the tired traveller they are in Chinatown , gateway to the newness of a swashbuckling , Darling Harbour . Far below the subterranean city , the surge and retreat of the restless harbour waters fuses Sydney’ s life force plying the steamy air with compressed energy .



Kings Cross
Kings Cross



Languid , gorgeous and slatternly she teases her dowdy younger sister , the sedate Melbourne , who cannot compete with her effortless beauty ,  easy grace and fecund charms .


botanica sydney style
botanica sydney style

Rumpled Ruschutters Bay , bawdy Bondi , bucolic Glebe , and bustling Paddington are an affront to classy Camberwell , hectic Hawthorn,  timeless Toorak  and brash Balaclava. The Coathanger , Sails , and nostalgic Ferry trade , captivate and titillate . A lone Anzac warrior stands , a silent sentry , at the entrance of the flyover to the West , encircled by primeval Gymea Lillies  , that most majestic of indigenous botanica .


Betty was my mum . Dimunitive in stature but feisty in nature she was born in 1926 in rural outer Melbourne .  She grew with an older sister and enjoyed a bucolic lifestyle in the period between two wars , a forerunner to the  Great Depression .It is a shared history of many older Australians  .

These events helped shape my mum’s early life , as did a bout of peritonitis when she was 14 , that required a 6 month stint in hospital , and precluded her further education . Betty went to work at 15 in the British Australian Tobacco company , Swanston st , Melbourne .  First sweeping the floors for discarded tobacco skeins , later graduatiing to the sorting bench . Lifelong friendships were forged and happy events shared , particularly when VP day was announced  . Dancing  in the streets and all out revellery was enjoyed as a young spirited nation could put the grim spectre of war behind them .

Mum married ,  moved , lost a baby  , and subsequently raised my brother and I in Colac , a country  town in the Western District of  Victoria . She was an astute baker , sewer and gardener and seamlessly re -adapted to rural life . Independence presented itself in the form of her tiny Morris Minor and a driving licence .  She was soon seen careering around country roads , only travelling marginally faster than the pedestrians , with us , and the corgi “Taffy ” firmly ensconced in the back .


Betty Ellen Kiernan
Betty Ellen Kiernan


A move to  Melbourne saw Betty take on the joint running of  a pub. The first in gritty industrial Port Melbourne circa 1969 . A subsequent move to a South Melbourne  pub , where she remained for 30 years followed . Betty nursed her partner through cancer and retired to the home she had made for herself . Some uneventful years followed . Mum travelled , gardened , entertained and viewed the world at a more leisurely pace .

Warning bells began to ring when phone calls became discordant  , words jumbled and sentences incomplete . Heating was unable to be turned on or off and letters were attempted to be posted at flinders st railway station.Taps were left on and keys were lost . Falls in the street , and further falls late at night alone in an empty house , indicators to Betty’s world slowly unravelling .Inoxerably Betty ‘s progress towards a nursing home was charted .

Comfortable , modern ,    great views and caring staff replaced her much loved home .  She mourned for and lamented with flickering anxiety her home . It was mirrored in her plaintive cry of ” I just want to go home ” . Betty survived for 4 years in the new regimented environment , daily submitting her will to greater indignites and submerging her independence . The slurred speech , unkempt appearance , wild hair , and muddy eyes , signified her gradual descent into madness . Her final act of rebellion , I believe administered by what remained of her addled brain was to stop eating . Betty peacefully slipped into oblivion on the 27 september . There is not a day goes by that I don’t miss her and rue her passing . Dementia is a cruel , remorseless disease .