Category Archives: Gallery visits

Reflecting on Art Quilts

Australian Quilts in Public Places (AQIPP) is a juried and judged exhibition run every second year by the Australian Quilters Association.
IMG_7188The theme for 2017 is Reflection, further guidance on the topic was given to entrants . Whether contemplating reflection in still water or reflecting on life, change, environment or the world around us, reflection helps to instil in us a sense of time and place.

The qualifying quilts are currently on display at Artspace at the Box Hill Town Hall, from Tuesday to Friday 10 to 4 and Saturday 12 to 4, until December 21.


The gallery is in a series of rooms to the left of the main hall and display cases line the entry ramp and and foyer.

Only a few quilts used water reflection and most of these were photographic representations or used a photograph as source materials. Sue de Vanny’s was the best of these and was highly commended. It was very difficult to capture the fleeting qualities of reflected images, there were a number of moons and Jacie Malseed found reflections in city buildings.


The abstract work of Anna Brown used a minimal palette and disciplined technique to capture the flickering images, light and shadows that flash her the surface of the water as wind and currents move through the mangroves.

A number of entrants attempted reflections on indigenous culture and the first nations. Greek mythology was represented by Narcissis who loves his own reflection and Perseus using his polished shield to view the reflection of the Gorgon, Medusa. Those that chose to reflect on issues or concepts generally resorted to including text in the work.

Jill Miglietti used rope wrapped in cotton strips collaged onto a round form to represent the simple act of clasping hands. The resulting highly textural piece showed that a simple form can make a powerful statement.

Three layers of voile with raw edge appliqué was all Denise Sargo needed to show the beauty of nature and sky reflected in the lily pond. Her delicate embroidery and beading showed great restraint.

Travel postcards were a popular device. Judy Bell’s quilt reminded me of a school project using the stickers from the American Geographical Society’s Around the World Program booklets published in the late 1950s to early 60s. In case you are not familiar with these I have found a couple of images from auction listings. The ‘Australia’ issue from 1961 seems a little odd.

The Australian Quilters Association Award went to Sandra Champion’s …on Siren Song an interpretation of the audible and visual experience of music performed in Sullivans Cove, Hobart at sunrise and sunset during Dark Mofo in June 2017. I have seen other works by this artist and each one is visually strong from a distance yet invites close inspection.

I nearly missed seeing the winner of the Brother International Award. It was very poorly displayed in a glass case at the top of steep stairs in the foyer. Reflections #2 is by Dianne Firth. It is a long narrow work 42.5cm x 131cm but that is no excuse for hanging it in such an out of the way place. It could not be contemplated even from a short way back because of the danger of falling backwards down the stairs. I was very glad to have spotted it on my way out as it is a sophisticated interpretation of twinkling lights reflected across water at night. Two striped cottons and a solid yellow, machine pieced and quilted.



The Geelong Gallery is the Victorian host for the 2017 Archibald Portrait Prize travelling exhibition. It was very busy on the Sunday I visited, after attending the Geelong Quilt Exhibition.

Portraiture is a fairly boring art form as it is about making a recognisable image of someone. It is often a commissioned work, so I assume the subject has to be happy with the work. The challenge for the artist is to make an interesting painting as well, and photorealism misses the point I think. It should  tell the viewer a bit more about the subject than what they look like.

I was really drawn to this strong painting by Andrew Tonneau of the sculptor Ayako Saito. It was painted from life in ten four-hour sittings. The landscape background and pose show the influence of the Italian Renaissance.

Proving that age is no bar to entering the competition, the Boys of Sydney Grammar Edgecliff Preparatory School entered their second version of a farewell gift to their retiring head, Dr John Vallance. It consists of 11,000 little wood blocks, sanded and painted by 301 boys aged five to 12.

The winner is awarded a $100,000 making it a very popular competition. This year Mitch Cairns won with a portrait of his partner, multi-media artist Agatha Gothe-Snape. The influence of Matisse is very strong, I really liked the repeated shapes and dimension given to the flat shapes with careful shading. Her yoga like pose is both contemplative and full of potential energy at the same time.

My favourite work is of 102 year old Eileen Kramer. She is the world’s oldest working dancer/choreographer as well as a poet, artist and costume designer. The painter, Andrew Lloyd Greensmith is a plastic surgeon who has only recently pursued painting seriously. He says of his subject ‘Eileen embodies beauty as that intangible thing which cannot be fixed on the surface nor defeated by the wear and tear of age.’

A parallel exhibition is the Who’s who portrait prize, an annual exhibition of the work of local students that honours Jules Francois Archibald who was born in Geelong, and went on to found the Bulletin Magazine and become a trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW. He left money for the annual portrait prize which bears his name.

The student work lines the corridor and the walls of the pop-up cafe.

At Lara Lake primary they painted one of their classmates.

The exhibitions at the Geelong Gallery continue until 10 December.

The train to Ballarat

The Victorian Government generously gives two rail passes a year to Seniors Card holders. I have been very remiss in taking up this benefit until today when I journeyed to Ballarat to visit the Ballaarat Quilters Exhibition which I will cover in another post. Readers with a keen eye will have noticed the variation in spelling. It goes back to a change in local government structures in 1994 when the spelling was changed, dropping the double ‘a’ to signify a new council.

Enough of history. I arrived in Ballarat at mid-morning and headed off to Alfred Deakin Square behind the Ballarat Art Gallery where MexVic was holding a Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration.

It was crazily delightful and a wonderful way to remember the dead. Fortunately there were enough informative signs to explain the event. Mexican people believe that a person is only truly dead once he or she is forgotten by their loved ones and Dia de Muertos celebrations are a way of keeping the memory and therefore the spirit of the person alive.

Ofrendas are set up in houses and public spaces dedicated to deceased loved ones, and objects are placed on them which were associated with the dead person. The scent of the flowers and incense is intended to guide the spirit of the dead person back to visit their loved ones. This beautiful ofreada was built by Ballarat’s Hispanic community and is dedicated tot he victims of the recent earthquakes in Mexico.

The Alfrombrista tapestry was made by Mexican artist Alejandro with a lot of help from celebration participants. It took a long time to fill in with coloured mulch and sands so I had to come back later in the day to see how it had progressed.

The Pan de Puerto is delicious, it is flavoured with orange to give it a strong aroma and bring the dead to the altar.

The day was very much for children, with special dances, crafting activities and of course piñata, which had them diving for sweets when it finally broke.

I discovered a tiny project/gallery space off the square, the current exhibition is Skipticism.

Beautiful Machines were some of the 322 photographs of sewing machines found at landfill sights and outside Skip in Cast was a skip bin cast embedded with found objects.

Before heading up the hill to the quilts I saw a bit of central Ballarat, with the Eureka flag flying of course. And visited the farmers market in Bridge Mall where there were some tempting plants, but not for a train traveller.

I also saw some beautifully bound journals which I thought would interest my friend Jenni.

I have to say the VLine train trip was most pleasant, and I will be sure to use my remaining voucher this year. When I finally got back to Southern Cross Station in the early evening it was full of interesting characters. The slightly tipsy ones dressed in black and white, many sans shoes, were on their way home from the races. I assume those dressed as fantasy characters had been to the Anime Festival at Jeff’s Shed. There was a most charming Kiki complete with a broomstick and cat Jiji peeping out of her bag on my platform as I waited for my Metro train.




Quilting lines

When I arrived at the NGV on Thursday it was overcast and a bit drizzly. For a short amount of time, just as I was leaving the Dior exhibition, the sun came out…


making a grid of quilting lines on Federation the floor painting by Taiwanese artist Michael Lin. The painting incorporates designs from an 1800s coverlet recently on display as part of the Making of the Australian Quilt exhibition.


I wonder if gallery visitors were aware they were walking over a giant patchwork.

Haute Couture

I think I first became aware that there was an extreme style of garment making when I read Paul Gallico’s Flowers for Mrs Harris as a young teenager. I knew rich people had very fancy clothes but had no idea of the artistry and technical skill behind these custom made garments made by hand from start to finish.

The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture at NGV International gives a fantastic overview of the designs from this notable house. Unfortunately only one small area is given over to the atelier which I think is the most interesting aspect. I have seen quite a few documentaries and these will have to be enough to satisfy my curiosity.

The exhibition is huge, and very popular. Some visitors even dress up for the occasion. As expected it is wonderfully staged, with salons and catwalks with video backdrops. I was most interested in the designs of Dior himself and the embroidery and other embellishments. Garments are organised by design themes rather than chronologically but of course it begins with the ‘New Look’. The Bar Suit was the most discussed and photographed work from Dior’s debut collection in 1947.

This amazing dress was almost impossible to photograph being in a dark area and behind glass. It is described as layers of plush black velvet with a bodice of heavy wool lozenges and dozens of handmade tassels. Those lozenges look like EPP with a textual stripe in the fabric going in all directions on the bodice and then making a net  hanging over the skirt. I can imagine it having quite a sway when moving down the catwalk.

The toile is a Raf Simons design obviously paying homage to early Dior work. The toile, a prototype of the finished garment in unbleached cotton, is an essential part of the couture process. It left the atelier as the very essence of a design, showing only line, fabric bias, principal seams, balance and volume, and returned cross-examined and corrected, marked up by the designer for further adjustments.

Two silk organza dresses to satisfy any little girl’s dreams of a party frock in the 1950s.

Dior hit Paris in 1947 with an extravagant use of fabric. The skirt alone of this stunning deep blue taffeta dress uses 23 metres of silk. Displayed behind this is the pleated look reimagined by Raf Simons in 2015 in silk organza and tulle and colour.

The celestial blue ball gown of 1953 has swathes of taffeta draped in cloud like puffs. John Galliano took the idea of volume to new extremes in 2003 in this coat inspired by the kimono.

Recently designers have embraced the art of embroidery and embellishment again, but using non traditional materials. This beautiful dress is covered in split raffia stitching and has trails of branches with silk cherry blossom.

Another design by Maria Grazia Chiuri the current designer for The House of Dior. The dress features three-dimensional raffia and skill thread embroidery.

Her evening coat from the same collection has densely embroidered panels of flowers and branches.

Two Raf Simons designs appear at first to be quite simple. The sheath dress however is covered in tassels made from pressed droplets of paint and attached in strands to the surface of the fabric. The second dress required really close inspection to understand how the graduated colour was achieved. Hundreds of chiffon petals have been attached to the surface, looking much like a pointillist painting.

Sometimes just a gorgeous fabric is needed such as this one successfully evoking the deep sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

The epitome of Dior design, highlighting the skills of the atelier with the layers of tulle and the graduated embroidered crescent moons. This is haute couture.


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.