Category Archives: Gallery visits

Another town another gallery

A big detour on my way to the Waverley Patchworkers Retreat brought me to the Latrobe Regional Gallery in Morwell. Their current exhibition is René Magritte: The Revealing Image. This consists of 130 photos and eight films made by the surrealist artist Magritte but only discovered ten years after his death. They provide insight into the creative process of the artist and his imagination.

The exhibition is divided into six sections each one exploring the purpose behind the making of the photographic image. They move from documents showing the chronology of his life and his relationship with others of the Brussels Surrealist group to interactions with completed paintings and stagings leading to the creation of a painted work.

No photos are permitted in the exhibition area however they are encouraged in the Kid’s Space where there are lots of activity sheets, props and settings to stimulate visual play.

Two of the many images I really liked were available in postcard form.

If you can’t bear driving down the Monash Freeway, then maybe go by train. The gallery has recently been refurbished and this is a most interesting exhibition, open until 19 November.

I asked my phone to give me directions from Morwell to Neerim East not using highways.   It obliged very nicely. The route between Morwell and Moe was through the Haunted Hills and over a highpoint with a fire tower and fantastic views back into the valley.

But the landscape is not what it seems at first glance. This is the LaTrobe Valley, the heart of brown coal fired power generation for the state. I was very fortunate to have clear views.


Aardman @ACMI

When the first Aardman films hit the screens I remember being amazed at both the intricacies of the animation and the absurd hilarity of the stories. My kids grew up with them and so it was lots of fun revisiting A Grand Day Out, Chicken Run and all the rest with my daughter and granddaughter at ACMI in Federation Square. The Magic of Aardman is on until 29 October.

The sketchbooks and storyboards were fascinating. My favourite scene is still the train chase from The Wrong Trousers, the storyboard was drawn by Nick Park in 1993. Keeping characters consistent is obviously very important. The note is Nick Park’s comments on fridge magnets produced to support the same film. It shows exactly what it is in each model that gives it personality.

As well as hundreds of drawn sketches, there are Sketch Sculpts.

The exhibition is a boon for doll house lovers. The sets are so detailed and contain lots of puns and surprises that I don’t remember seeing when viewing the film. Lady Tottington’s Mansion from the Curse of the Were-Rabbit took eight weeks to build after many months of design development. It was inspired by many stately homes and the final design is closest to the National Trust’s Montacute House in Somerset.

As well as movies and TV series the Aardman Studios have done a lot of promotional and advertising work. So there are lots of new things to see.

IMG_6567The stand out for me is Dot ‘The world’s smallest animation’ made in 2010 for Nokia to promote the announcement of a medical microscope attachment for one of the company’s phones.

The model is only 9mm tall and was created using 3D printing. Lots of Dots were made in different poses then attached at the head by a wire so she could be photographed in the set made of every day things such as pins, coins and pencil shavings.

The film tells the story of a girl who is dropped into a microscopic world which begins to unravel. Even more interesting is this short documentary on the making of the animation.

Visiting in the school holidays was not too bad, lots of children but so much to see there is plenty of room. At the end there is an opportunity to sculpt a character and film a short animation.


I borrowed a model and made an hilarious 25 frame animation. You will just have to believe me as unfortunately I cannot upload videos here.

13 views of Hokusai

There are so many great exhibitions on at the moment I need to visit one a week to keep up. Today’s trip was to NGV in St Kilda Road, a great place to spend a rainy day.

Hokusai is on until 15 October and like all popular showings there will probably be a mad rush at the end. There are a total of 176 works, quite overwhelming.

The exhibition is bookmarked by two charming prints, both thought to be self portraits.

They show his passion for humorously depicting ordinary people engaging in everyday activities. He was at the height of his fame in the 1830s when he was in his seventies.

The most well known of the many series on show is the Thirty Six Views of Mt Fuji, an amazing example of landscape composition, humour and affinity with nature.

Along side the wood block print The Great Wave acquired by the NGV in 1909 is an equally early print from Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, Matsumoto. It was fun to play “spot the difference”.

After seeing the Mt Fuji, Waterfalls, Poetry, Bridges and other series, there are some beautiful woodblocks known as Large Flowers and Small Flowers. His influence on Japanese art is obvious in these works.

Lots of different people are interested in this showing, there were many Japanese visitors, the usual gallery attendees and an audience mainly interested in Hokusai’s Manga. 


The first ten volumes were published between 1814 and 1819 and others came later. They are thought to have been painting manuals for artists interested in Hokusai’s spontaneity and originality, but proved very popular with the general public.

A selection images from Self-taught Dancing Apprenticeship 1814  have been animated by the NGV Multimedia team to demonstrate that he had an understanding of creating moving images well before any similar European animation device.

As usual there is a stunning selection of merchandise created especially for the NGV, all very beautiful and expensive.


I came home with a magnet and the book as it was very hard to choose which images I liked best.

Past Legacy : Present Tense

A restorative coffee was needed following my extended viewing of Brave New World, then on to a preview also on Level 3 of NGV Australia.

Past Legacy: Present Tense looks at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from city and bush studios who have made their mark by reinterpreting and transforming customary signs and objects into daringly different and modern works of art. contemporary Indigenous artists make innovative works in organic and new media that memorialise and interrogate history honour customary practices and forms of material culture and reference systems of shared signs and symbols.

After the doom predicted in the 1930s this was a most refreshing exhibition. It opens on 1 September and continues to January 2018.

Aboriginal dog by the Pitcha Makin Fellaz, of Ballarat was created as a positive response to an abusive sign ‘Black dog’ tagged near the home of one of the men. It celebrates the long standing connection between the people and dingoes. Suite of Ku (Camp Dogs) is a new gallery sculpture acquisition by a group of Wik men in Aurukun, Queensland. In the bottom left are Champ Ku and Baby blossom Ku by Garry Namponan, 2016, Aurukun, Queensland. Despite the ferocious teeth, these dogs, full of personality, made me smile.

Banumbirr (Moring Star poles) by Gali Yalkarriwuy, 2011 Ngaypinya, NT. The feathers at the top of the pole represent Venus, the morning star. The beautifully detailed feathered strings represent individual clans.

Twelve women artists who live in the Punmu community collaborated on Ngayarta Kujarra (Lake Dora) which is absolutely enormous, occupying almost the entire wall which has been covered in a bronze mirror. It represents the salt lake surrounded by many fresh water sources. The glittering vast white interior and shimmering edges make this a mesmerising work.

Lena Nyadbi Starry night in Jibirla country. Jackie Krulijunyintja Giles Tjamu Tjamu the path of a male kangaroo ancestor.

Several of the pieces transform earlier works by non-indigenous artists. In the background of the delightful Burkunda dresses can be seen Brook Andrew’s The Island IV from The Island series 2008. This piece uses a sketch by William Blandowski drawn on an 1856 expedition from Melbourne to the Murray River, in a screenprint on blue metallic foil and cotton. The large scale image is shocking in the way it magnifies the crudeness and racism of the early image. The NGV has published an interesting essay by Marcia Langton on the confronting body of work by the artist.

Little Johnny needs to be viewed from a distance. It is Richard Bell’s response to John Howard’s refusal to apologise to the Stolen Generations. It echoes the ishara tests for colour blindness and imagines a world without racism.


Brave New World

This exciting and thought provoking exhibition looks at Australia in the 1930s by exploring ten themes. It is on at NGV Australia until October 15. A wide variety of media are used illustrate key ideas and artistic responses to this decade of change. It makes for a very different style of exhibition for the gallery; putting film, painting, sculpture, graphic design, fashion, furniture and architecture, photography, ceramics, industrial design and textiles side by side in beautifully staged tableaux.

Visitors are directed to move through the exhibition in a specific order.

Beginning with Utopian Cities, the rise of the modern city is exemplified with the Manchester Unity building in Melbourne and the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Modern Woman is shown as independent and engaged. Many of the paintings are by women artists. Miss Moria Madden by Arthur Challen could easily be a model for a certain female detective. The theme Body Culture features many photos by Max Dupain including the 1975 reprint of his iconic Sunbaker and sculputres of an idealised body form – white Australian and athletic. This striving towards a strong and healthy nation of the correct body form is now quite disturbing knowing how these ideas of eugenics were subsequently used.

Further themes The Expressive Body and Pastoral Landscapes are a delight. A wall sized photo of the interpretative dancer Sonia Revid dancing on Brighton Beach is a celebration of free flowing movement. The Squatters Daughter screens above idealised paintings and posters of almost mythical rural landscapes. And yes, Jocelyn Howarth is carrying a pet koala.

While Aboriginal people were often regarded as a ‘dying race’ at this time, Indigenous art and culture was of interest to many artists and collectors. Margaret Preston was one artist who studied Aboriginal art and travelled into the outback to learn more about what she regarded as source of good design. She championed using these forms as basis of a distinctively Australian modern art but in doing so appropriated images and symbols with no regard to their sacred nature or right to use the work. Her painting of Shoalhaven Gorge, New South Wales uses strong lines and dots, the woodcut Aboriginal Design -The hunt utilises symbols and forms she saw during her studies.

The last part of the exhibition is in a dim narrow corridor. Dystopian Cities shows how artists and campaigners responded to the depression and rising unrest here and overseas. A rare film of the slum areas of inner Melbourne screens above the Wilmington wagga made in 1934 by Adolphina Noll as a wedding gift to her grand-daughter.  While viewing the confronting photos taken by F. Oswald Barnett to illustrate the report of the Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board,  you get a glimpse back into the world of optimism and independence of the Modern Woman.


The final image is a wall size print of Max Dupain’s 1938 Brave New World showing a woman trapped by technology.

This is an excellent exhibition that is very relevant as we continue to grapple with ideas of national identity.


Fabric, Fibre and Thread

This is a very successful exhibition by Annette Brauneis, Julie Hudson, Jan Lowe and Lee Robson currently at the Long Gallery, Montsalvat in Eltham. I nearly forgot to go but fortunately my friend Jenni posted about her visit last week. The exhibition continues until 20 August.

The description in the August issue of the Montsalvat Program says it all;

Four textile artists bring together a myriad of techniques and styles to explore contemporary multi layered fibre-based artworks. 
Drawing on nature and abstract images in various forms, the works stimulate curiosity in the use of ordinary materials to create extraordinary works in felting, stitching, dyeing, thread, rusting, printing and manipulating fabric. 

The Long Gallery is the perfect space for displaying these small pieces and three dimensional objects. The only drawback was when the sun came out, the light from the windows reflected in the glass of the framed works making them difficult to view.

Lee Robson’s If the Wind Changes You’ll Stay Like That and The Persistence of Memory are two ethereal pieces made from repurposed garments and silk organza with machine stitching.

Landscape works by Jan Lowe demonstrate her training as a watercolorist, now using fibre instead of paint. Memory on the Road to Yea ii is one of many familiar views of the Yarra Valley beautifully captured. It is crafted using hand-dyed tissue silk, hand dyed wool prefelts, overdyed sari silks, distressed and painted mulberry bark. Dry felted. Hand and machine stitched. I have shown only a detail of this exquisite 13 x 23 cm work because reflections made  photography difficult. The detail of View from Mt Arapiles is from the Montsalvat program.

It was lovely to come out into that pesky sunshine and see a clump of snowdrops. The real thing, not nasty onion weed often mistaken for these beautiful bulbs.

As I was in the area I finally got to visit The Quilt Shop, not so new anymore. A few fabrics from the bargain table found their way home with me.


The TarraWarra Museum of Art is just outside of Healesville. The setting on a rise in a valley studded with vineyards is stunning and there is always something of interest to see. The current exhibitions are Discovering Dobell and Dobell’s Circle, they run until August 13.


The sky was overcast and I had feared there may be thick fog at Yarra Glen as there often is in winter. As I drove through Yering and crested a hill, all was clear and a beautiful mist rose up against the distant ranges. The weather was mild with just a slight breeze sending the leaves fluttering down in the avenue that leads to the gallery entry.


I went with quilters from the Waverley Patchworkers Art Quilters group which added to the experience. It is always interesting to listen to other viewers reactions and put your own into words.

All I really knew about William Dobell was that he was a portraitist and there was a big controversy over his 1943 Archibald Prize win with his portrait of Joshua Smith. The image was said to be a caricature by two other entrants and therefore ineligible. The matter went to court and although Dobell’s painting remained the winner, the bitterness caused by the dispute remained. Dobell withdrew for a long time and turned then to landscapes.

The exhibition does include many of the well known portraits, but it was the and documents from his archive that revealed much more about his work. Dobell was a consummate draftsman, and each work developed through many drawings and painted sketches. His focus was not on the famous, but on the ordinary – this also set him apart from conventional views on portraiture. His early work in London during the 1930s depression focusses on the drabness and poverty he saw.

In 1949 and again in 1950 Dobell went to New Guinea as part of his recovery. There observed the human form in a new way. A group of young men thatching a roof reminded him of the figures on the Elgin Marbles from the top of the Parthenon.


The Thatchers early version


The Thatchers 1953

I thought this final version places the young men in a space between heaven and earth. With the roof poles appearing as rays of light beaming down from on high. It reminded me a little of William Blake’s work.


His album in 1960 contains many line drawings of the human form, by this time he was interested in Modern Art and the works of Henry Moore.

The second exhibition, Dobell’s Circle includes works by many of the Sydney artists of the 1940’s. It reminded me a little too much of the pictures in my High School art books. For some reason I find it hard to really like this period of Australian art, or maybe it is just my cultural prejudice against that city.

I have been to a number of exhibitions over the last few months, and really should do a couple of posts about them too.