Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 14 - Life and Death
Log 14 - Life and Death

The Melbourne Years
Anna Daly


Still full of New Zealanders and more arriving every day. Folks once spoke in hushed tones about the ‘yellow peril’. These days they’re more likely to mention the ‘black and white plague’.

Five interesting exhibitions, all in all, and still counting maybe.

T.C.B re-opened on Waratah Place with Eat My Art, a show that hung well in the space. Shame about the name. There were a lot of works to view since each of the twenty-five artists was given two small canvasses on which to imprint his or her inimitable style. The format worked and made for a gallery full of works that appeared united, due to the size of the works, without being too much of a boring sameness, a testament to Michelle Ussher’s curatorial nous. The work of artists who have been exhibited many times recently really stood out, indicating the use/value of showing frequently. As such, honourable mentions go to Hayley Arjona, Nadine Christensen and Spiros Panigirakis. Semi-honourable mention goes to Blair Trethowan, whose works to date show great ideas in a mixture of textual mediums/genres but tend to be realized in a manner that lacks finesse.

Seventh Gallery, on Gertrude St in Fitzroy, looks more and more promising. It used to be that a passing glance through the window revealed an ex spiral-art stronghold. The gallery mission statement might have read "The aesthetics of presentation are a bourgeois construct." These days, though, a new direction is apparent with the last two exhibitions displaying all the hallmarks of professionalism and evidenced by the fact that the majority of works sold. At the time of writing, Drew Martin’s collection of detailed, cardboard cut-out suburbia and silhouetted kangaroo wall decorations gave the viewer a taste of ‘strayana’. One side of the gallery hosted a set of blue-toned works that depicted suburban houses, which (to this viewer) emulated the style and scope of Robin Morrison’s photography. The other side was devoted to brown-toned works of the same cardboard cut-out nature, depicting scenes of big cars and beer bottles, on the move against an urban backdrop. Interspersed were large, beige, metal cut-out kangaroo’s, affixed to the wall in diminishing proportions, like the famous set-of-three ducks, except these were sets of about six or seven. Nice.

200 Gertrude St houses the monthly Slide Show, a 10cm3, tiny alcove space with a glass frontage that is set into the doorway of ‘The Street’. All you need to do is push a button and the space lights up to reveal a new microscopic work every month. This one is a classically illogical sculpture of the Mobius or Escher type (see fig.1) rendered in card, timber and ‘nylex cover it’ by Martin Gill. Aside from the fact that I have an unfair predilection for art that you can play with, I think this, in particular, was a masterful use of the space in terms of scale and realisation.

This might be the only time you ever see the N.G.V (National Gallery of Victoria) referred to, so lap it up. It’s Top Arts time, an exhibition of the work that received the best marks in V.C.E (Bursary) Art. There are about seventy pieces all up, representing the old favourites, painting and sculpture and newer disciplines like video and digital art. There is even room for installation. Overall, the standard this year is better than last year’s, but don’t we always say that? I wonder if it’s simply the case that I am now more accustomed to the didactic angst that is the teenage mindset. If it had been possible, I’m sure the works would have been rendered in the blood of their own slashed wrists. (Harsh and edit-worthy comment, I know, but true.)

One work stood out for not being like this, neatly contradicting this inadequate summary of the adolescent mind. A set of three turned pots evolves into giraffe necks and heads at the top. Apart from the well-considered use of natural glazing (the sort that gives the wood soldered look), the works are precise, neat, self-contained and resolved. And you won’t be seeing them, so I’ve provided a diagram (see fig.2).

The C.C.P. is hosting a show of German photographers, funded by the Goethe Institute. Called The World as One it is described in the catalogue as "an exhibition of 1990s professional documentary photography in colour and features 17 groups of works by 19 photographers."

The most (deliberately) striking/disturbing work is that by Peter Hendricks, displayed in the front space of the gallery. A set of 18 C prints on A-Frames (or, sandwich boards), the piece is called Living by Proxy and is described as "depictions of drug-dependent women who earn their money through prostitution, seen in a downward spiral - tripping, coming down, deceased". This use of the present tense implies an activity that is noticeably absent throughout the collection. Somewhat akin to the style of a Weddings/Families/Portraits style of commercial studio photography, the studies are stark, but not glaring, conveying warmth for the disturbing matter of the subject without descending into a patronizing gaze. The set of works is comprised of facial close-ups and full body nudes, as would be expected of classical portraiture. The most confronting elements reside in the photographer’s obvious conviction that these women are not pitiable. Raccoon-ringed eyes, muscle-wasted skin and deep, red sores are depicted in the same dispassionate manner that ye olde master was meant to have adopted towards his naked ladies, had he been able to keep his tongue inside his mouth long enough.

The other outstanding work was a sculpture/photography hybrid created by Corinna Wichman. The images in themselves (60 in all) were pretty enough but it was their method of housing, designed to guide the viewer from East to West, that really captured my attention. Set like slides into a rectangular, gessoed wooden box, the framed photos had to be each pulled, one by one, to their outer edges making the viewer a pseudo-mechanical arm guiding this discrete process of slide-frame viewership (see fig.3 for an artist’s impression of Corinna Wichmann’s thing).

Outside the classic institutions and on to the institute of fashion, what is ‘new’ in sartorial Melbourne? What do our streets look like compared to yours?

Young ferals in late-model Fiats adorn the gutters, whilst all around people wear rip-offs of that Burberry check (which is unsurprising when you consider that an Alice band hair piece, in the original, costs $99 at Myer). Boys are still wearing those white-soled gym-shoes, as are some teenage girls and everyone who is anyone has gotten a dose of the ‘flu.

Anna Daly lives in Melbourne.  She likes to run barefoot across the sand, with a glass of Bernardino.


Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room