Mel­bourne: The place to be

Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS -

aris, Lon­don, New York. De­bat­ably the three big­gest art cap­i­tals in the world, they dom­i­nate from fine art to fash­ion week. Art lovers make their pil­grim­age in the mil­lions to wor­ship the in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned pieces, but as of now they will be mak­ing a slight de­tour (10,000 miles) past the Equa­tor to ‘The place to be’ Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia.

Whilst it is an ini­tial shock for art lovers when they hear the words ‘Mel­bourne Art Scene’, the coastal cap­i­tal is a dark horse when it comes to ground­break­ing art. Af­ter be­ing voted the best city to live in for six con­sec­u­tive years, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Mel­bourne is mak­ing its pres­ence known within the art com­mu­nity. The EIU’s Global Live­abil­ity Rank­ing has found Mel­bourne to be the ‘most live­able’ place in the world, so it’s no won­der the 100-year-old, con­tem­po­rary city is en­forc­ing its stake amongst the art greats.

Tak­ing a walk from Flin­ders Street sta­tion down be­side the Yarra river, you get the sense of the city’s di­vide. The city is dis­tinctly sep­a­rated from the ur­ban graf­fiti streets of Hosier Lane to the palm tree em­bel­lished walk­ways of St Kilda, by the river. The Yarra sep­a­rates th­ese two artis­tic di­vides ac­cen­tu­at­ing Mel­bourne’s love of con­trast. When it

comes to art, pho­tog­ra­phy, fash­ion or the dra­matic changes in weather, Mel­bourne does not hold back.

It is clear upon leav­ing Flin­ders Street sta­tion, that Mel­bourne’s art fu­els its iden­tity. Flin­ders will most likely be your first greet­ing from Mel­bourne and be­ing one of the old­est build­ings in the city, the Euro­pean-in­spired ar­chi­tec­ture re­ver­ber­ates through­out the heart of the city; the base­line of its rich char­ac­ter be­ing The Na­tional Gallery.

The Na­tional Gallery is a great place to get a well-rounded taste of what Aus­tralia has to of­fer the art world. NGV In­ter­na­tional as it’s known to lo­cals is based on St. Kilda road, over­look­ing the Yarra. The gallery proudly houses an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion from Europe, Asia, Amer­ica, and the Ocea­nia. Ex­hi­bi­tions are pop­u­lar with tourists and art en­thu­si­asts, hous­ing a va­ri­ety of me­dia from var­i­ous in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned artists, every­thing from Henry Tal­bot to De­gas. Be­ing a short tram ride from Flin­ders sta­tion you’ll be glad to hear the gallery is open all year round (ex­clud­ing Christ­mas Day) and is one of the few free at­trac­tions in the city, mak­ing it a must for any visi­tor.

Whilst the Na­tional Gallery is good at of­fer­ing a skimmed over vi­sion into the art world, the Ian Pot­ter Cen­tre of­fers tourists the op­por­tu­nity to delve deeper into Aus­tralian art. The cen­tre, although part of the Na­tional Gallery, stands in­de­pen­dently watch­ing over Fed­er­a­tion Square, a great tourist at­trac­tion. Deem­ing it­self ‘The home

The EIU’s Global Live­abil­ity Rank­ing has found Mel­bourne to be the ‘most live­able’ place in the world, so it’s no won­der the 100-year-old, con­tem­po­rary city is en­forc­ing its stake amongst the art greats

of Aus­tralian art’ the cen­tre ex­hibits Indige­nous and non-Indige­nous art from the colo­nial pe­riod to the present day. Its mo­saic ar­chi­tec­ture dom­i­nates Fed­er­a­tion Square mak­ing it the first thing you see upon ar­riv­ing into the city, whilst its rich his­tory will keep you there.

If you want to gain a mid­dle ground where the city meets the land­scape Mars Gallery is your peace­maker. The gallery which was es­tab­lished in 2004 by di­rec­tor Andy Di­nan spe­cialises in ex­hibit­ing, pro­mot­ing and build­ing the ca­reers of con­tem­po­rary Aus­tralian artists. Sit­u­ated on the out­skirts of the city, board­ing St. Kilda this high­end pris­tine white gallery houses some of the most up and com­ing artists Aus­tralia has de­vel­oped.

From a va­ri­ety of styles, in­flu­ences and back­grounds, Mars of­fers a more in­ti­mate look at Aus­tralian cul­ture, with the ex­hi­bi­tion nights giv­ing you the chance to hear from the artists it­self. When Aus­tralian artist, Damien Shen, ex­hib­ited his work, On the Fab­ric of the Ngar­rind­jeri Body – Vol­ume II, the re­cep­tion was elec­tric and I’m sure it is the first of many suc­cess­ful na­tional ex­hi­bi­tions of his ca­reer. The gallery prides it­self on not only its close re­la­tion­ship with tal­ented artists but also us­ing its rev­o­lu­tion­ary rep­u­ta­tion to launch some more con­tro­ver­sial art fundrais­ers, such as the le­gal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­juana whilst rais­ing money for the arts. Di­nan has cre­ated an LA at­mos­phere in the mid­dle of Mel­bourne, which is not only lib­er­at­ing but also en­light­en­ing. We can’t wait for more.

Whilst ‘Gotham city’, as it’s dubbed by the lo­cals, is great to ex­plore, who doesn’t love to es­cape to the coun­try once in a while. McClel­land Park is a breath­tak­ing sculp­ture park based in 16 hectares of the bush, fin­ished with land­scaped gar­dens in the Lang­war­rin re­gion on the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula. Ap­prox­i­mately 40 min­utes out­side of the city, you for­get the hus­tle of the city and be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate the nat­u­ral world in one of the most unique land­scapes this planet has to of­fer. Es­tab­lished in 1971 the Sculp­ture Park is the na­tional fo­cus as it is Aus­tralia’s lead­ing sculp­ture park, hous­ing a col­lec­tion of over 100 out­door pieces of both na­tional and in­ter­na­tional sig­nif­i­cance. With a

long tra­di­tion of in­no­va­tion and suc­cess, it is no won­der that in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned artist So­nia Payes was granted a 4-month solo ex­hi­bi­tion, con­sum­ing not one but two gal­leries McClel­land has to of­fer.

Af­ter be­ing com­pared to Bill Hen­son, So­nia Payes stormed to suc­cess af­ter pur­chas­ing a 3d printer and su­per­im­pos­ing her daugh­ter's head into a small hand-sized fig­ure. Her nat­u­ral tal­ent for art later led her to du­pli­cate and en­large the sculp­ture which now stands proudly at 24 feet. Re­cently, Payes’ pieces have ex­plored sur­re­al­ism, with haunt­ing por­traits and land­scapes that hide many lay­ers of mean­ing, with things in­verted, over­laid, ob­scured and left un­seen. Work­ing with mul­ti­me­dia an­i­ma­tions and 3D in­stal­la­tions is a new as­pect of her prac­tice that pro­vides the un­lim­ited po­ten­tial to ex­plore the largely en­vi­ron­men­tal themes of de­struc­tion, apoc­a­lypse and re­newal of our fu­ture. Whilst McClel­land as she con­firmed, is her favourite place to visit, her work has also been ex­hib­ited at many dif­fer­ent gal­leries through­out Aus­tralia as well as the Na­tional Aus­tralia Bank as well as pri­vate col­lec­tions.

De­scrib­ing her suc­cess as be­ing en­abled through ‘Tech­nol­ogy catch­ing up with her imag­i­na­tion’. Payes has truly de­fied ex­pec­ta­tions af­ter en­rolling at the uni­ver­sity in her 30’s and has now been named in the top 10 best Aus­tralian pho­tog­ra­phers by The Cul­ture Trip. How­ever, with such an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship be­tween Payes and Aus­tralia, she has con­firmed her in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure will not limit her ex­hi­bi­tions in and through­out Mel­bourne, so watch this space. McClel­land em­bod­ies the beauty of sculpt­ing and public art within a gallery for­mat, and with en­try by do­na­tions, this gallery is a must to visit whilst in Mel­bourne.

Like all coun­try get­aways, one is wel­comed back to the city with the warm vi­brancy that is Blender Stu­dios. Like com­ing home af­ter a long jour­ney of self-dis­cov­ery, Blender is the flame guid­ing you back. Their stu­dio houses 28 artists’ work­shops which artists ex­hibit from, and they re­cently dou­bled their avail­able space by mov­ing to a ware­house lo­cated at the Har­bour Town dock­lands. Here they also have the ‘Blender back­yard’, a large open court­yard which they use for work­shops and out­door paint­ing.

Founded by in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned artist Adrian Doyle the stu­dios house the city’s most in­fa­mous ur­ban artists. Doyle is the Pied Piper of the graf­fiti scene, lead­ing the way for in­no­va­tion

and con­tro­versy; over his no­to­ri­ous ‘blue nurs­ery’ ex­hi­bi­tion in Rut­ledge Lane that saw to the graf­fiti work there be­ing wiped clean, or rather in Doyle’s words ‘painted over in blue’.

The stu­dio has a laid-back at­mos­phere and is the per­fect place for as­pir­ing artists and cu­ri­ous tourists as they hold weekly art classes where you can learn from the best. As well as art classes for the public the ware­house is home to the Graf­fiti walk­ing tours. Set up by Doyle in re­cent years, tourists can now book guided tours of the graf­fiti, learn­ing about ur­ban cul­ture in the most im­mer­sive way pos­si­ble.

“Don’t be scared” says Mar­cus En­cel one of the artists at Blender. “The art classes are great and peo­ple are friendly.” En­cel moved to Blender Stu­dios three years ago af­ter strug­gling to be­come es­tab­lished within the art com­mu­nity, some­thing that many non-gallery artists have ex­pe­ri­enced due to lack of fund­ing and gov­ern­ment back­ing. Start­ing out as a drawer in fine art, En­cel went on to own his own jew­ellery busi­ness be­fore de­vel­op­ing his unique line style with spray paint. The tours will take you deep down the cor­nu­copia of lanes that are Hosier and Rut­ledge Lane as well as Blender Lane where En­cel has rev­o­lu­tionised the area by paint­ing on the ground. As well as this he is sub­tly chang­ing Colling­wood through his own ur­ban beau­ti­fi­ca­tion meth­ods by draw­ing Ja­panese demons around the town specif­i­cally on run-down build­ings.

En­cel crit­i­cised Mel­bourne’s ‘art greats’ for not be­ing au­then­tic and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the art com­mu­nity “I’m al­ways about the idea and not the medium, that’s my trip, my the­ory is that a lot of artists got beaten up as kids and there­fore they don’t get it, I’m not about money, I don’t think a lot of ur­ban artists are.” This may have been the case for street artists in Mel­bourne, how­ever, when asked about where Mel­bourne’s artis­tic fu­ture lies, a more de­pres­sive side is un­veiled about ‘the place to be’.

En­forc­ing En­cel’s vi­sion of Mel­bourne’s flour­ish­ing art scene, En­cel ex­plained: “Even though the gov­ern­ment are raping the art scene, I think it might be good for it, I think the art scene at the minute is filled with th­ese artists who

aren’t real, they’re not orig­i­nal, I just think that is crap. To me art is about pas­sion­ate peo­ple with for­ward ideas, it’s not about writ­ing for a brief or gov­ern­ment fund­ing.”

En­cel, as many ur­ban artists did, de­scribed gov­ern­ment fund­ing as ‘cancer on the art scene’, as they per­ceive many up and com­ing artists to not be orig­i­nal. “I think what’s good about the art scene is that it’s very dark and in­su­lar, it’s hard to find se­cret word of mouth scenes but there are lots of un­der­ground art scenes pop­ping up at the mo­ment, so my hope is that the gov­ern­ment fund­ing will kill off the dead wood,” En­cel states.

Blender Stu­dios started off un­der­ground but is be­com­ing more main­stream through word of mouth. The very beauty of Mel­bourne is that there is so much in­no­va­tion go­ing on in the city, espe­cially in art and fash­ion; and if you’re in­ter­ested in both, En­cel as­sures us Pre­ston Ziel­ery, a unique fash­ion house in the heart of the city, is your utopia and one of his per­sonal rec­om­men­da­tions. Whilst most gal­leries that you dis­cover in Mel­bourne are suc­cess­ful, Blender has es­tab­lished it­self in its own right. Which is why they got it wrong. Vic­to­ria is not the place to be: Blender Stu­dio is.

It is the city’s ef­fort­lessly ur­ban streets, their in­fu­sion of cul­ture and the stunning scenery of St. Kilda that will in­grain its unique land­scape into your mem­ory: mak­ing it not the trip of a life­time, but the trip to start a life­time.

(Image: Emma Guy) (Image: Robert Black­burn, Visit Aus­tralia) (Image: Blender Stu­dios) (Image: Matto Lu­cas)

Above: Sculp­ture by Sonya Payes at McClel­land Park Right, top: Hosier Lane, Right, mid­dle: Mar­cus En­cel’s stu­dio Right, bot­tom: Blender Stu­dios

Above: Works by Damien Shen

Left, clockwise from top: A gallery at the Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria (NGV); A Blender Stu­dio tour (Image: Matto Lu­cas); En­trance foyer of the NGV with Ich­wan Noor’s Bee­tle sphere; Tat­ter­salls Lane; En­trance to The Ian Pot­ter Cen­tre, (Image: Peter...

(Image: Emma Guy)

Above: The Yarra River di­vides the city of Mel­bourne

Above: Aerial view of Mel­bourne with the Royal Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre in the fore­gound (Image: @ lensa­loft / Tourism Aus­tralia); Left: The Royal Ar­cade (Image: Robert Black­burn, Visit Vic­to­ria)

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