‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ artwork will no longer be

Posted November 21, 2017 06:19:03

The artist behind Oxford Street’s striking pink and blue T2 building at Taylor Square said he was disappointed the well-known facade will soon disappear from the streetscape.

Reko Rennie said he had decided to paint over his artwork, which covers the whole building, after learning the City of Sydney was putting the prominent building up for sale.

“There’s no way I want my artwork to be associated with a gaming venue or any licensed establishment,” he said.

“So unfortunately the City of Sydney gave me no other choice but to have the work removed because it couldn’t guarantee the future of it.

“I’d rather have the work taken down rather than glorifying some misappropriated venue.”

The artwork covering the entire facade of the council-owned building is entitled Always Was, Always Will Be and was commissioned by the City of Sydney in 2012.

Rennie, a Kamilaroi man, wanted the painting to pay tribute and acknowledge the original Aboriginal custodians of the land.

Peter Lonergan from Cracknell and Lonergan Architects worked with Rennie on the art project and said he would be sad to see it go, although he recognised it was a “reasonable commercial decision” by the council.

“I think it’ll be a great loss for the city … for a work that’s become iconic in the years it’s been there but I totally understand the reasons why Reko wants the artwork removed.”

Mr Lonergan said while the colour palette stirred up controversy among residents when it was proposed, the building has now become something of an icon on the corner of Oxford and Flinders streets.

“It seemed to certainly resonate with the gay community who almost took it on as their headquarters.”

An online petition has been calling for the building to be retained by the council and used as a LGBTI community museum.

“If this sale goes ahead, we’ll just end up with another convenience store, empty shopfront or apartment block on Oxford St — and our history still won’t have a permanent home,” the petition said.

The ABC understands the artwork will be painted over next week.

The council declined to be interviewed, but in a written statement said while the artwork would be removed it would live on the council’s website.

The webpage for the artwork already states the artwork is “no longer at this location”.

Topics: urban-development-and-planning, visual-art, sydney-2000, surry-hills-2010

Botanical art: Why drawing plants and flowers is back in fashion

Posted November 19, 2017 15:49:18

The art of documenting plants and flowers is having a resurgence, with more and more people wanting to draw what they see rather than take photos.

Illustrations of native Australian plants and flowers have come into fashion, especially with young adults keen to learn the artform.

Botanical art involves documenting plant life, not only for art, but also for science and environmental research.

“We’re having an issue as all our workshops are full, right across Queensland,” Dr Nita Lester, president the Botanical Artists’ Society of Queensland, said.

“People now see it across the world as an important artform.

“It’s been wonderful to work one on one and to show anyone how to create the work and see the flowers unfold on the paper.”

Drawings better than photos

Although photos are often taken to document plant life, Dr Lester said drawings were more important.

“A photograph is great as you get an instant record, but a botanical artist records the whole life cycle of the plant, so in one composition it can have the buds, dying flowers, right through to the fruit and seeds,” she said.

“It’s all captured, whereas with a photo it’s only one moment in time, so that’s the big difference.”

She said before artists put paintbrush to paper, many botanical artists undertook months of research.

“Sometimes they choose a species first as it could be endangered; in other cases they have been commissioned for the work to be placed in records,” Dr Lester said.

A changing artform

As the artform evolves, Dr Lester said insects and animals were being added to the images, which was not done traditionally.

“Many of the botanical pieces now also include the pollinators like the bees, ants or birds, whereas in the past it was just strictly the plants,” she said.

“We look at things we grow in our gardens or what we see while we walk the dog and then record it.”

Most artists use watercolours, pen and ink, scraper boards and acrylic to record the plants.

“There is such an array of works which botanists create, colourful works, green works and black and white … it’s so varied,” Dr Lester said.

“When you look at the pieces, everyone sees the same thing in a different way.

“You could have an exhibition just on violets, and that’s what makes it special as well.”

Award-winning botanical artists

Dr Lester said the botanical artists’ community was a very passionate one, especially Queenslanders.

“We’re at the top of the game,” she said.

“We have botanical artists and illustrators that are recognised around the world and have obtained gold and silver medals in the UK and been printed in National Geographic.

“They are kind, gentle and caring and have a good understanding of the whole environment.”

The Botanical Artists’ Society of Queensland exhibition Floressence runs till November 20 at Mt Coot-tha Auditorium, Brisbane.

Topics: visual-art, human-interest, science-and-technology, gardening, mount-coot-tha-4066, brisbane-4000

Grasshopper found embedded in 130-year-old Van Gogh masterpiece

Posted November 09, 2017 12:51:03

A small grasshopper has been found embedded in a Vincent van Gogh painting.

The insect was stuck in the thick paint in the lower foreground of the famed artist’s Olive Trees, Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art said.

Van Gogh was known for painting outdoors.

“I must have picked up a good hundred flies and more off the four canvases that you’ll be getting, not to mention the dust and sand,” he mused in an 1885 letter to his brother Theo.

Nelson-Atkins conservator Mary Schafer made the grasshopper discovery while examining the work under magnification.

The bug is not visible through casual observation.

“I think it’s not uncommon to find plant material, bugs, sand stuck in the paint of works but in this case we’re able to talk about the grasshopper with our visitors in a fun way, learn about Van Gogh’s process and how he painted,” she said.

A paleo-entomologist said the thorax and abdomen of the insect was missing and that there was no sign of movement was evident in the paint, suggesting the grasshopper was dead before it landed on the canvas.

The close study of the painting is part of an effort to create an online catalogue of the 104 French paintings and pastels at the museum.

Van Gogh painted a series of canvases depicting olive trees during his stay at an asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in southern France where he committed himself after a series of breakdowns.

“The murmur of an olive grove has something very intimate, immensely old about it,” he wrote to his brother.

The canvas one held by Nelson-Atkins was painted in 1889.


Topics: visual-art, arts-and-entertainment, art-history, human-interest, offbeat, united-states, netherlands

Abandoned cars in desert turned into ‘ghostly’ works of art

Updated November 06, 2017 08:58:21

The roads of the remote APY lands, which straddle the Northern Territory–South Australian border, are strewn with abandoned and rusting cars, but one artist has turned these forgotten objects into a canvas.

Robert Fielding is also helping to redefine what Indigenous art looks like.

He has produced a series of long-exposure photographs of the old vehicles, which he has painted with reflective materials and lit up with tealight candles.

“I’m salvaging what belonged to the elders of our communities, throughout the APY Lands and from Indulkana and Mimili … and bringing these cars to life,” he said.

“[This car] belongs to somebody, and it belongs to the artist also, which is I, but it belongs to the family members who know who this vehicle is.”

Artist turns to new digital media to experiment

Mr Fielding is an established artist in the APY Lands, winning the work on paper category in the esteemed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards this year, and in 2015.

He has also held solo exhibitions in Adelaide and Melbourne, and has work in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

But now he is experimenting with digital mediums, in a way that many Australians would not associate with art from remote Indigenous communities.

“The reason I like new media is the camera is a tool that Indigenous people are very strong and proud to be in front and behind the lens,” he said.

He has painted about a dozen cars around his community of Mimili, on the eastern side of the APY Lands.

The photographs of the cars are all taken at night with exposures of around 30 seconds.

“I’m lighting them up with tealight candles and giving it another feeling and another ghostly effect with what’s going on,” Mr Fielding said.

“There’s a light within this vehicle that’s hidden in crevices throughout.”

Topics: contemporary-art, arts-and-entertainment, visual-art, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, community-and-society, alice-springs-0870, sa

First posted November 06, 2017 08:22:42

Stories of regional Australia projected onto landscape along Murrumbidgee River

Posted October 28, 2017 16:08:00

On the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, the town of Narrandera has played an important role in the agricultural life of Australia with its rich pastoral land.

As a major travelling stock route the town became famous for transporting goods and produce, as well as the stories that linked the Riverina communities.

A new art installation called Shadow Places is set to highlight those stories as it stretches for a kilometre along the famous route featuring a spectacular display of lights, sound and textiles.

Audiences walking along the route can take in 15 different artworks, including video and light installations projected onto hay bales and trees.

Artistic Director of The CAD Factory Vic McEwan said the exhibition was inspired by the work of Australian environmental philosopher Val Plumwood who described Shadow Places as locations that we rely on, but don’t really know.

“The project is shining a spotlight on the importance of food and fibre production to Australia but also internationally,” he said.

“But also to say amongst that, there’s people, there’s a human story.”

Art exhibition years in the making

The event has been two years in the making, originally commissioned by the NSW Rural Women’s Gathering which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Beryl Brain from the group said it was formed to better recognise women’s contribution to the land.

“It was started through women of the land wanting to get together and empower themselves and increase their knowledge and also network with other people of like minds.”

One of the video artworks by Wiradjuri elder Lorraine Tye tells the story of the creation of the Murrumbidgee River through the goanna — the local totem.

“How the Murrumbidgee got its name was through the strong goanna women,” she said.

“It’s so connected to country with art and art does connect people to country.”

Aim of the project is ‘communication’

Other artworks include hay bale projections designed by local school students, telling their stories about growing up on the land.

“It really tells the story of their life — their perspective of rural life.

“What it means to be growing up in an area that’s somewhat isolated,” Mr McEwan said.

“Those sorts of materials that they use — hay bales for example, which they see as very practical — all of a sudden they’re seeing them as a way that a story is being told and that something’s being shared with their community.”

The words of Wagga Wagga poet David Gilbey skim across the ripples of the water, accompanied by the natural soundscape.

“We went to install some sound just to accompany it but we noticed hidden under that water are just so many frogs that are just singing this song every night that we decided it would be easier for the frogs to do the soundtrack every night for that site,” Mr McEwan said.

But he resists comparisons to Vivid, the big artistic light show in the city.

“None of this work’s really about a wow factor… it’s really about slow ways of sharing deep stories that have come out of deep and long processes with people here,” Mr McEwan said.

“What the real aim of a project like this is, is it’s kind of about communication.

“It’s about allowing a space where people can talk about some of the issues that are confronting us about life in regional Australia.”

Topics: contemporary-art, arts-and-entertainment, street-art, visual-art, regional, narrandera-2700

The fading art of Papua New Guinea’s sailing canoes

Posted October 23, 2017 08:48:19

Riding through rough open waters aboard a chartered motorboat, Harry Beran looked out to the remote islands off Papua New Guinea’s east cape.

It would be hours until his first destination, so the art historian settled in for a long voyage at sea.

He was on a mission to research the elaborate tribal art carvings that adorn the region’s traditional sailing canoes, before they disappeared forever.

“The majority of the artworks that were made, say a century ago, are no longer made,” Dr Beran said.

“My guess is that in 50 years’ time, perhaps the whole art tradition will have disappeared and I’m trying to describe this art tradition while it’s still possible.”

Almost half a century ago, the retired scholar first ventured to the vast Milne Bay Province, also known as the Massim region.

Since then he has returned more than a dozen times to collect hundreds of artefacts and discover the legends behind their designs.

It was an obsession that led him to own what was once probably the largest private collection of Massim art in the world.

“It’s a very rich art, complex iconography, so it’s easy enough to get interested in it,” he said.

While many locals choose the speed and convenience of motor-powered dinghies, sailing canoes remain vital for transport and ceremonial trade around the province.

The largest type of boat, the nagega, can measure up to 11 metres long and easily ferry a dozen people.

The ends of the hull are ornamented with shallow-relief, handcrafted wood carvings, often depicting animals and celestial bodies.

Dr Beran is fascinated with the tribal aesthetics, but believes the nagega is now made on only a handful of islands in the region.

“The keel of these canoes is cut from one tree, and this keel is again represented on the washboard as well as on the wave splitter of the canoe,” he said.

David Payne is the Curator of Historic Vessels at the Australian Maritime Museum.

As a yacht designer, he came on the journey to lend his skills and knowledge to draw plans of the various canoes and document their construction techniques.

“It is all actually a very early means of sailing, but it all works extremely well and they actually make good progress. They’re very fast boats,” Mr Payne said.

Whenever they encountered a canoe of interest, Mr Payne waded ashore and asked the villagers for permission to measure up their boats.

Working in the intense tropical heat, he often attracted a crowd of curious onlookers, but being up close gave him a unique view of the weathered watercraft.

“Some of the things that I’ve been able to draw up, I don’t think anybody else has been able to measure it as accurately and as detailed as I have,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Beran interviewed local men about the recurring motifs carved on the canoe splashboards and wave splitters.

While museums and art galleries around the world hold large collections of Massim canoes and components, Dr Beran said most of them were poorly documented.

“One of the objectives of my research is to collect information so that all of these huge numbers of objects we have and look after can be documented much better,” he said.

After he listened to the ageing craftsmen and village elders tell their stories, Dr Beran stressed that the future of canoe-making rested in the hands of the next generation.

“Either the young people will be taught by the older people or the skills will disappear,” he said.

At 82 years old, it may be the last time he ventures to this remote part of the world.

But for him age is no barrier to ambition, so he plans to return and continue his research.

“Recording a great art tradition, which is in very considerable decline, for future generations of Milne Bay Province people and for the rest of the world is a worthwhile job.”

Topics: historians, visual-art, anthropology-and-sociology, papua-new-guinea

Brazilian design meets Aboriginal art for National Gallery of Victoria’s first international Triennial

By Alex Barwick

Posted October 22, 2017 12:13:56

In the middle of the Australian desert, a gigantic soft sculpture is beginning to take shape.

The work is a collaboration between internationally acclaimed furniture designers from Brazil, artists from Larapinta Valley Town Camp, and Alice Springs-based designer Elliat Rich.

Commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), the piece will welcome visitors to the Gallery’s first international Triennial of contemporary art and design, opening in December.

“You’ll be presented with a seven-metre-wide dome structure; it’s a steel structure which is clad in embroidered panels,” said Ewan McEoin, a senior curator at the gallery.

“People will be able to walk in and lie down on furniture that’s been designed by the Campana brothers’ studio and look at this universe of embroidery and the shared stories of the artists and designers.”

Brazilian furniture designers, the Campana brothers, were keen to collaborate with Aboriginal artists.

Humberto Campana travelled from Sao Paolo to Alice Springs, where he visited the Yarrenyty Arltere Artists in Larapinta Valley Town Camp. He was immediately captivated by their use of materials, as he has previously integrated soft toys and characters in his work.

“Humberto saw the creatures that the artists were making with embroidery, and it really spoke to him because he’s included material like that in his furniture design over the years,” said McEoin

“There was this nice kind of synergy … there was just an instant dialogue.”

Art creating social inclusion

Studio Campana has a history of working with indigenous communities, but this is their first collaboration with Indigenous Australian artists.

“I see my work, me and my brother’s work, today heading in the direction of working with the communities,” said Humberto Campana.

“When you work with the communities you bring social inclusion, when you include fragile communities in the work you create labour for them. I think this is important.”

The Brazilian designers introduced a “water” theme to the project, but have encouraged the town camp artists to interpret that how they wish.

“Humberto was looking at the Amazon River and the waterways of Central Australia and really what is the shared dialogue across these places,” said McEoin.

Art centre a ‘safe place’ for community

Large balls of brightly coloured wool tumble across the tables of the art centre. The Yarrenyty Altere Artists of Larapinta Valley Town Camp have been busy embroidering 40 panels with careful needlework to create waterholes, falling rain and windmills in their vibrant designs.

The art centre provides more than just a creative space for the town camp residents; set up in 2000 as a response to chronic social issues in the town camp, it’s played an important role in rebuilding strength in the community and creating economic opportunities.

“It’s a place where people can come in, sit around or just play with their kids,” said artist Marlene Rubuntja.

“It is a safe place for people, we care what problems we have, we sort things out.”

Marlene says the project has been a great opportunity to demonstrate both the strength of their art and the community.

“And doing this big thing, the world can see, I’m so proud of myself, what I’m doing in my life and to show my grandchildren I’m strong.”

Taking Central Australian creativity to the world

Winner of the 2017 Australian Furniture Design Award, Alice Springs-based designer Elliat Rich is responsible for managing the project in Central Australia.

“What makes me really excited about this project is bringing other artists and makers into this fantastic opportunity,” she said.

“Working with Studio Campana is an honour for me, but equally it is working with the artists from Yarrenyty Arltere.

“It feels great to really build on the amazing creative strengths of Central Australia and deliver that to the world.”

Ms Rich runs a studio-cum-workshop with partner and bespoke shoemaker James Young.

He and his team are tasked with upholstering over a kilometre of fabric that provides the canvas for the artists to embroider.

“I’ve approached this upholstery work as a shoemaker,” he said.

“There’s a lot with regards to the upholstery work … that speaks directly to lasting leather over the ‘last’, which is the form a pair of shoes is made on.”

Men of steel

Sparks fly at the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) where a team more familiar with making hot water tanks are welding together a surprisingly ornate but gigantic steel structure.

Traditionally this not-for-profit company that employs Indigenous people has focused on remote communities, but a cut in Government funding has led the organisation to diversify, taking up work in Alice Springs.

CAT and Elliat Rich have had previous success working together, producing the Anerle-aneme chair (which means “sit a little while” in the local Arrernte language), which featured at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale.

With the dome almost complete, all that’s left is to pack it up and ship it to Melbourne in the next few weeks ahead of the exhibition opening in December.

Workshop Manager Aaron Bolger says it’s been a process of trial and error, but he’s enjoyed the current challenge.

“I’m just a basic boilermaker … so to come out here and be given the opportunity to work with people with such high profiles in different industries, it’s great,” he said.

Topics: contemporary-art, visual-art, art-and-design, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, alice-springs-0870, nt, melbourne-3000, vic