Tag Archives: Brunswick

Psychogeographical Walk: shoes and artists

A small group of determined psychogeographers set off heading south from the corner of Illan Lane and Tinning Street. We were examining the transition zone between Sydney Road and the Upfield railway line, exploring some of the streets that running parallel to the railway, before doubling back along Sydney Road for a drink at Edinburgh Castle.

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We stopped at Tinning Street presents, the only art gallery that we actually visited on the walk. Michael Thomas’s photographs, Night Works looked as if they had come from Thomas’s nocturnal psychogeographical walks. The huge Duratran colour print photographs mounted in Tasmanian oak light boxes made the suburban look impressive.

Some of us were very familiar with the area but there are always something new to see when you feel like exploring. As well we had several fortuitous accidental encounters with local artists. The first was with Julian di Martino on his bicycle. I think Julian mentioned that he’d been to Soma Gallery, a shop front gallery on Sydney Road. Next we ran into Jon Beinart who was busy preparing to open a pop-surrealism gallery in Sparta Place, it is a great location for a gallery.

Brunswick Kind.. 8:13

Then, and we had just been looking at Brunswick Kind on the Victoria St carpark wall when Trevor ‘Turbo’ Brown came along carrying two paintings. Turbo is a Latje Latje man from Mildura and the winner of the 2012 Victorian Deadly Art Award. He was hoping to raise some money by selling paintings on the street, a tough gig with colourful bold paintings. We gave him some money to pose for a couple of photos.

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The larger painting is Turbo Brown Dingo Man, about his spirit animal. The smaller is about a story of hiding in the bush with his son to jump out and scare, “just to scare, not kill” Turbo explained, two white men who are running away.

The area that we were walking through is a place of shoe factories, new appartments, warehouses, art galleries and studios; this included the iconic Australian footwear of an Ugg Boot factory. The industrial machinery in the carport at the back was an interesting mystery until I noticed the shoe sizes and word “heel”.

Several shoe related warehouses and the Middle Eastern Bakery are still surviving. Other places aren’t doing so well.

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Maybe the shoe businesses are the last hold-outs of Brunswick’s industrial past. There are new empty blocks and new buildings. The entrance of The Wilkinson shows the poetic spirit of real estate developers is at its best when singing the praise of one of their own.

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We were an interesting mix of psychogeographers talking of such things as industrial graffiti, ghost-signs, graffiti, the surface archeology of architectural accretion in the urban environment. I am such a romantic that I have to take a photograph of love paste-ups.

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I wanted to do something to celebrate my 1000th blog post, something that wouldn’t matter if there was three or twenty people and that would require almost no preparation, so a walk fitted that description perfectly. I had requested gifts, drinks and I was rewarded with both including the latest issue of the Clan McGillicuddy magazine Th’Noo, from New Zealand.


1000th Blog Post

This is my 1000th Black Mark blog post. That means approximately 4,000,000 words and 1,400 photographs. There has had 495,000+ views from 155 countries around the world (still no views from Greenland, Cuba, Iran, South Sudan and various central African countries, you get the idea).

Mark @ Sweet Streets

I started this blog in on February 16 in 2008. My first Black Mark blog post was about the painting of the wall of Faster Pussycat and actually includes a video of several notable Melbourne street artists, including Phibs and Deb painting a wall in Fitzroy.

When I started writing this blog it gave me a new reasons and motivation to look at art and Melbourne. I started to look around in a new way. James Gleeson suggested that the role of the art critic is that of an explorer, leading others to new and interesting discoveries. Every week I try to see several exhibitions, walk the streets of Melbourne, as well as spending time reading and researching. I would like to see more art exhibitions but I can’t be everywhere; there is so much to see and Melbourne’s vast geographic sprawl does not make it easy for me.

Between the art galleries I am looking for graffiti, street art, ghost signs, urban design and public art. Other things that have caught my interest from the design of micro-parks to drinking fountains.

It was not just ‘paintspotting’, craning my neck to look down every lane that I passed in I case I spotted some graffiti or a ghost signs. Writing the blog gave me a reason to think more and follow up with further investigations into what I had seen. That research has lead me in many directions, a good hobby should do that, expand your interests rather than narrow them.

Last year my first book was published, Sculptures of Melbourne (Melbourne Books, 2015). My interest in public sculpture grew from writing blog posts about various sculptures. I couldn’t have imagined that I would write a book about public art before starting my blog. Looking at my top ten posts you can tell that the public is interested in the subject.

Top 10 popular Black Mark blog posts (aside from the Home and About pages):

  1. Banksy in Melbourne
  2. Types of Art Galleries
  3. Melbourne’s Public Sculpture
  4. Keith Haring in Melbourne
  5. Where is the political art?
  6. Leonidas @ Sparta Place
  7. Political graffiti
  8. More Street Art Sculpture
  9. More of Melbourne’s Public Sculpture
  10. Russell Street Sculptures

 

Slightly further down the list there is a cluster of three posts that I am particularly proud to have written. In Political Motivation Behind Police Raid I  discovered important background to a major story about attempts to censor art and end public funding for Linden Contemporary Arts. More Art Censorship is unfortunately about a similar story; my initial response to Kevin Rudd’s attempt to censor Bill Henson. I feel I got that exactly right. And my post about the relationship between Street Art, the Internet & Digital Cameras where I’m pleased to have used a chemical metaphor to explain their relationship.

I will be celebrating my 1000th blog post with a psychogeographical walk this Sunday. This is not a tour, but a classic psychogeographical walk, there is no plan and no destination. According to Facebook 20 people say that they will be joining me on this walk, I feel honoured, nervous, imposter syndrome, looking forward to seeing you and curious about what will happen.

Thanks everyone for reading, subscribing and commenting.


December 2015

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Exit 2015, Friday 11th December, Brunswick Arts

On Friday night across Melbourne many galleries and studios were holding their end of year celebrations. But it wasn’t just the end of another year at Brunswick Arts (aka Brunswick Art Space, Brunswick Art Gallery), it is closing permanently. Eleven years ago Joel Gailer established the gallery in a building that featured an old house at one end and a factory space that opened onto laneway at the other end. On Friday there was a final one night only exhibition using the whole now empty building.

I like the tradition of the end of the calendar year but every year I write these terrible end of year blog posts. Barely coherent rambling pieces of writing but what do I expect? As if I could sum up a year in a few hundred words.

Normally in these end of year posts I write that I won’t be posting anything for another month but the Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei has just opened at the NGV and Julian Rosefeldt’s brand-new thirteen-channel work Manifesto has just opened at ACMI. I anticipate that I will slow down my rate of writing but you never know what will happen. I hope I will take a break, part of being a self-employed professional means taking holidays, otherwise you will burn yourself out. (There is also professional development, or you will decay over time.)

Sculptures of Melbourne cover

Personally 2015 was a great year, a real point of self actualisation as my first book, Sculptures of Melbourne was published. I had two book launches, conducted several walking tours of Melbourne’s public sculptures (one of these was part of Melbourne’s Writers Festival) and a book talk at Brunswick Public Library. So support a local publisher, your local bookshop and buy my book.

Consequently I am being invited to visit a lot more sculptors at foundries or in their studio, however there has rarely been a story in it. In other public art new this year Mr Poetry on Fitzroy Street had his leg broken by a truck, nobody celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Burke and Wills Monument and Alex Goad’s Tethya was installed on the corner of Fitzroy and Jackson streets in St. Kilda.

This year I missed covering the story of Makatron’s Kama Sutra Burger at Land of Sunshine. Censorship, street art and Brunswick, it had all the elements of one of my blog posts, but I can’t write about everything. I also missed the story of the guerrilla exhibition about tagging in the Alexandra Avenue underpass under St. Kilda Road; I finally saw it this week and it had been systematically tagged.

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Grit, an exhibition of tagging, Melbourne

Next year I will be celebrating my 1000th blog post (this is number 992) with a psychogeographical walk in Brunswick on Sunday the 31st January. In March I will also be exhibiting a few of my paintings for the first time in many years. Doubtless I will also be doing a few tours of public sculpture too. (See my events page for more details).

Seasonal greetings and thanks for reading this terrible end of year post.

Live Christmas Decoration 2


Science Friction @ Counihan Gallery

The Moreland Summer Show at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick has the work by fifty-two artist who live, work or are otherwise connected to the area. The theme of the exhibition is “Science Friction” and that meant several flying saucers: Daniel Armstrong and Melinda Capp’s made of various found materials and Nadia Mercuri’s classic saucer in cast green lead crystal and blown glass.

UFOs are a barometer for the ignorant paranoid thinking about the idea of science and many of the artists in the exhibition were conflating the idea of science with industry and commerce. Moans and complaints about science do not generally make for good art or an engaging discourse. In his opening speech at the exhibition, senior curator of contemporary art at the NGV, Max Delany was kinder referring to the portrayal of the unthinkable and unsayable.

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Frances Tapueluelu, Technological Colonisation

Maybe if the word “technology” was used instead of “science” then the artist would have been less confused. Artists are familiar with technology, old technology, new technology, pushing technologies and exploring technologies. Frances Tapueluelu provided more balance and beauty in looking at the impact of communications technology on Tonga culture. Technological Colonisation is a magnificent headdress made of old mobile phones, keyboard keys, wires and plugs.

Many of the artists in the exhibition use technologies, from ancient to new. There are several video works. Ben Taranto’s beautiful one minute video loop, Blue Space, that turns the floor into a small pond with fish. Jenny Loft combines both old and new technology in When Mary met Ada, with a glass sculpture, cast using the ancient lost wax technique, mounted on a digital print of a computer chip.

Alister Karl keeps on pushing drawing in surprising directions and graphite can conduct electricity. So Karl has hooked up two batteries to a mix media drawing of a rocket adding a circuit board element, two LED lights and a small speaker.

For me the work that best captured the theme of the exhibition was a small oil painting by Saffron Newey. Mashed Romantic is a beautiful but unreal landscape mixing images from the visionary American painter, Thomas Cole and other painters. This mashed image reminds the viewer that the artist’s, or other observer’s image of nature are always artificial constructs, mashes of ideas and impressions.


Openings and Closings: Brunswick Arts and Neon Parc

One gallery closes and another one opens: Brunswick Arts is closing and Neon Parc has opened a new second space.

Brunswick Arts is an artist run gallery that opened eleven years ago in a converted factory space built out the back of a suburban house. The factory space opened onto Little Breeze Street and served as an art gallery while various artists lived in the house, a key part of the gallery’s business model. However, recently building inspectors ruled it out the combination of a residence and gallery.

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An opening at Brunswick Arts

“Burnt out” were two of the words used by Alister Karl, who has been on the committee running Brunswick Arts for at least a decade. To keep doing the same thing and hoping for different results is a sign of madness. You don’t have to keep on going, you can change.

The new Neon Parc second space on Tinning Street in Brunswick does not look like much from the outside, just another warehouse, but the detail of the name embossed door handle indicates of what is coming. Inside is an elegant white walled space for exhibiting contemporary art without compromise.

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Dale Frank exhibition at Neon Parc

The current exhibition of sweet and shiny works by Dale Frank would have been impossible in Neon Parc’s small city space. Big and shiny, sweet and sticky are the aesthetics that Frank is playing with, or rigorously pursuing through variations. Basically what you can put, pour, smears, sticks and hangs in a camp parody of modernism on a shiny sheet of perspex. Complete with neo-baroque theatrical flourishes of the black frames and the white chocolate fountain.

Geoff Newton, the director of Neon Parc has lived in Brunswick for decades. Newton said that he was a bit worried about getting collectors in Melbourne’s south to cross the Yarra to see a gallery in Brunswick, instead he has collectors from Essendon visiting the gallery.

Neon Parc joins Tinning Street Presents… the first art gallery on the street along with artists studios and other creative endeavours. Tinning Street in Brunswick is becoming an artistic centre in Brunswick. Turning Tinning Street into a cul-de-sac by blocked off rail-crossing to cars has given some kind of character to the former industrial area dominated by two grain silos. The silos and Ilham Lane off Tinning Street are good street art and graffiti areas.

Galleries have opened and closed in Brunswick before; read my post A Hipster Conversion.


Guerrilla Geography

“Where the streets have no name.” U2

Zombie Dance Lane sign

You won’t fine Blender Lane, Chook Alley or Zombie Dance Lane on any official map of Melbourne but all these locations do have handmade street signs attached to a neighbouring wall.

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I can give you directions: Chook Alley is off Ilham Lane in Brunswick. Ilham Lane was only named in the last decade by the Moreland City Council, after John Ilham, the founder of Crazy John’s, the mobile phone dealers.

There are practical reasons for  naming every little alleyway in the city, especially in providing accurate directions in emergencies, so I hope that someday these pieces of guerrilla geography will become official.

These acts of guerrilla geography (a term to go with ‘guerrilla gardening’) are all associated with Melbourne’s street art (‘guerrilla public art’). Blender Lane is named after the next door Blender Studios that also runs street art tours and workshops. Both Blender Lane and Zombie Dance Lane have a large amount of street art and graffiti and Chook Alley comes off Ilham Lane which has some street art, along with an art gallery and  studios.

In the 1950s the Situationalists advocated the renaming and reimagining of buildings. Can you imagine the front of the NGV as the entrance to a train station? If you can’t see the B-grade movie I, Frankenstein. Location scouts for movies are a crypto-Situationalists but other people really do reinventing buildings, turning a factory gatehouse into a coffeeshop, warehouses into apartments.

In 1955 in his “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography” Guy Ernest Debord wrote: “The production of psychogeographic maps, or even the introduction of alterations such as more or less arbitrarily transposing maps of two different regions, can contribute to clarifying certain wanderings that express not subordination to randomness but complete insubordination to habitual influences (influences generally categorised as tourism that popular drug as repugnant as sports or buying on credit). A friend recently told me that he had just wandered through the Harz region of Germany while blindly following the directions of a map of London This sort of game is obviously only a mediocre beginning in comparison to the complete construction of architecture and urbanism that will someday be within the power of everyone.”

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Comparing Modern Art Oxford

On a recent visit to Oxford I went to the city’s contemporary art gallery Modern Art Oxford (MAO). MAO and my local gallery, the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick are similar kinds of art galleries and yet very different and differences shows the impact of both local and national arts funding priorities on a small contemporary art gallery. Prior to my visit to Oxford I had seen a DVD from my local library about MAO.

Both of galleries are on property owned by the local city councils and city councils have roughly the same population; the population of the city and non-metropolitan district of Oxford is 157,997 (2014) and the City of Moreland has a population of 147,241 (2011). MAO was established decades earlier in 1966, has a larger staff and is much better funded Arts Council England. It does not benefit from the international tourism in Oxford; the tourists are there to see old Oxford and not contemporary art.

Josh Kline, detail of Freedom exhibition

Josh Kline, detail of Freedom exhibition

A major difference why MAO is far better gallery is that it is bigger. It has almost twice the size of galleries as the Counihan, plus other spaces over three floors. There is a bookshop, a basement performance space, a cafe (with kitchen) and a community access space for other exhibitions and events. It is in an old repurposed building that has been refitted for purpose.

The new entrance way to MAO makes a clear statement about its existence and purpose, unlike the entrance to the Counihan which is inside the foyer of the Brunswick Town Hall, past the stairs and beside the window where you pay licenses and fines. This is typical of Moreland City Council and following long established practice of using some other building (‘temporarily’ for decades) as a gallery or a library.

Both MAO and the Counihan show a program of free exhibitions. Due to its larger space Modern Art Oxford presents unique exhibitions from international contemporary artists, whereas the Counihan is more limited in its choice of artists. When I visited MAO there were two exhibitions on: Josh Kline Freedom and Kiki Kogelnik Fly Me To the Moon.

Josh Kline, Police States, 2015

Josh Kline, Police States, 2015

Josh Kline’s Freedom was enjoyable on many levels. Healing post-9/11 America will require the fantastic vision of telly tubbies in full riot gear. It will require cops to unhand-cuff  themselves from their obscene donuts of stereotypes. I really felt deeply satisfied at seeing digitally altered George Bush and his co-conspirators saying sorry for all that they had done. (If John Howard had been amongst the digitally altered figures it would have been very difficult to believe him saying sorry for anything).

Kiki Kogelnik’s art felt very dated especially in comparison to Kline’s exhibition. Kogelnik’s bright vinyl human figures  hang limply on clothes racks. Kogelnik who was part of an early and desperate revival of figuration died in 1997; we no longer go to the moon.


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