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The Atlas Intervention

Raymond Gill in the Age (November 13, 2011) asked six curators who they considered to be the top 10 artists who “are continually pushing boundaries, investigating new methods, forging new forms of expression, influencing their peers and shaping the way artists, curators and audiences might look at art in the coming decades?”

CDH "Atlas" November 2011

Gill didn’t ask me who I would include in this list. I don’t mind; I’m one of the least influential people in Melbourne’s art world. But if I had been asked one artist that I certainly would have included is CDH, simply as a way to introduce my second blog post for the year about his art. Normally I don’t write more than one blog post about an artist as there are so many artists, galleries and other events to repeatedly write about one artists. So wanting to write a second blog post this year is an indication of CDH’s significance.

I meet up with CDH for lunch in the city at a burger bar – the day that the Age reported about his “Atlas” intervention.

CDH’s “Atlas” urban intervention with John Robinson’s ‘The Pathfinder’ is a significant work of unauthorized street art. The statue opposite the NGV in the Queen Victoria Gardens has been neglected for twenty years. The repetitive theft of the hammer that simply unscrewed made it impossible to maintain. CDH’s planning and the bravado of the daylight execution, disguised in a bright safety vest, was perfect and the result is an amazing transformation. CDH reverses the theft of the hammer with a replacement.

It was a big risk that might have gone wrong if the globe had been removed a day or so after the intervention. “Street art is generally cheap and is produced in multiples but I invested a lot into this.” CDH told me and then explained the time and money that he’d put into the project. Adding welding to his skill set and improving his angle grinding skills in the process. The globe had to be manufactured in China and imported to Australia. CDH said that he would have liked to have had the globe fabricated locally but could get Australian manufacturing.

How long will CDH’s intervention last? What will the official reaction will be? The tourists wandering around the Queen Victoria Garden today certainly appreciated the intervention. They also told me about the tagging of other sculptures in the garden. The intervention challenges the notion of vandalism because it is gift repair.

”Atlas” was “bestowed up the people of the City of Melbourne by courtesy of Rio Tinto and CDH” (according to the plaque that CDH added). The statue has been renamed “Atlas”, after the titan who carried the world on his shoulders. CDH’s post-modern Atlas swings the world around; the natural world has been unbalanced by the activities of man, including mining giants like Rio Tinto.

CDH, "Pacman: the street art guide game", 2011

CDH has experimented with water-activated paint, with the fire graffiti to paint a portrait of Mishima and next, oxidizing iron filling. He has made interactive street art maps of the city (Pac Man and Logic Deductive Test – my first blog post about CDH). The range of his activities is impressive – he is not from an art school background and does believe that artists should be creative, politically engaged and street.

In the emails before the meeting CDH asked me who my top 10 Melbourne street artists and the 10 international street artists that I would like to see paint in Melbourne. The list of Melbourne street artists was easy (CDH was on that list) but I’m not that interested in the international street art scene – street art is such a mass movement and often anonymous. I thought again about his question – street artists that I would like to see paint in Melbourne. The surviving high school students from Homs who started the current uprising in Syria by painting anti-regime slogans on their high school wall – I would like to see them painting in Melbourne.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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