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Tag Archives: Emily Floyd

Emily Floyd’s Signature Work

The big black bunny is clearly a toy; it’s blocky features and simplified form is a result of it being a toy and not modern art. I had only seen in Emily Floyd Signature Work (Rabbit) in a photograph that mislead me about its size. As always with these things I was expecting something larger but Melbourne’s Docklands with it’s multi-story buildings is so large that the rabbit would have to be huge to compete.

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Emily Floyd, Signature Work, 2004

When I first saw Floyd’s work years ago in Anna Schwartz Gallery I didn’t like it. I haven’t liked her subsequent exhibition either including; The Dawn, a solo survey exhibition at the NGV in 2014. All the bright colours and toy like forms seem prosaic when you realise the dull question that they are based on: if art is about communication can we learn from it?

Her public sculpture made me reconsider work. Her Public Art Project (Bird and Worm) on EastLink or her Signature Piece (Rabbit) in Docklands work appear to be fun contemporary public sculptures. They work in that they are effective at creating recognisable landmarks for the otherwise anonymous locations.

Her gallery work is different; you aren’t going past it in a car. It is somehow different even when she is using the same toy rabbit form. I keep hoping for fun, irony, or play in them but there is never enough to balance out the serious pedagogical inspiration of her work. The art-speak about her work reduces the fun even more. Phrases like: “text-based sculptures and pedagogically-inspired works which combine formal concerns with an interest in the legacies of modernism.” Is there that much depth to Floyd’s work? Possibly there is but it does suck all the fun out of it. The deeper that Floyd attempts to make her art, the shallower it seems to me.

In her 2015 exhibition Field Libraries, the pedagogical inspiration of her work is clear, as she turned her brightly coloured play blocks into book shelves. The painted aluminium shelves were stacked with booklets printed, “fair use” from the internet. A series of uniques state screen prints illustrating books, representing the idea of Floyd’s ongoing library. Subjects in the library include ‘Zombie Marxism’ and ‘Feminist Autonomism.’

Emily Floyd’s sculptures might look like toys but this is serious art. It is a bit too serious, too prosaic in its pedantic intent. Floyd is not playing with these big toys, she is using them to demonstrate ideas. The more you look at her art the less fun you have.

Does everything have to be an educational experience? What have you learnt from this?

Emily Floyd, Public Art Strategy, 2006 (19 EastLink)

Emily Floyd, Public Art Project (Bird and Worm) 2006, photograph courtesy of EastLink

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March Exhibitions Fitzroy

On Thursday I saw a few exhibition at galleries in Fitzroy.

Sutton Gallery has a post-humous exhibition of paintings by Gordon Bennett, part of his “Home Decor (After Margaret Preston)” 2014 series. The hanging of this exhibition has three pairs of paintings, which felt both tasteful and awkward. This feeling of tasteful but awkward is at the core of Bennett’s “Home Decor” series. Like Margaret Preston’s appropriated Aboriginal shield designs of the Central Australia and Northern Queensland Indigenous communities that Bennett has re-appropriated for this series. These are some of the most appropriate works of appropriation art.

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Gordon Bennett, Home Decor

Also on exhibition at Sutton was a single large painting by Vivienne Binns, “Minding Clouds”. A large blue painting was broken up with vignette scenes, that might represent dreams or memories, painted within clouds raised from the textured surface of the painting.

This Is No Fantasy + Dianne Tanzer is showing series of sexy drawings by Arlene Textaqueen. Textaqueen’s technique with coloured marker pens (fibre-tips and watercolour on cotton rag) just gets better, her compositions are more dynamic and her message about gender, race and Australia is clear.

The exhibitions at Seventh Gallery didn’t grab me. Sorry, Cameron Bishop and Simon Reis, “Leisureland”, and Jenna Pippett, “Grab a Partner”, but I have seen exercise equipment and artists doing exercises in art galleries too often in recent years.

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If People Powered Radio: 40 Years of 3CR at Gertrude Contemporary

If People Powered Radio: 40 Years of 3CR at Gertrude Contemporary is a large exhibition about the community radio station located just around the corner. Curators Spiros Panigirakis and Helen Hughes have created an impressive and interactive display, even building the frame of a house in the main room. The exhibition  not only tells the history of the station but is a contemporary art exhibition that includes works from several notable artists including Emily Flyod and Reko Rennie.


10 Melbourne Public Sculptures Intended for Children

These Melbourne public sculptures are all intended for children, due to their theme or because they can be played on. Although Inge King did not intend the black curves of Forward Surge at the Arts Centre for any particular audience, she does appreciate the enjoyment that children get trying to climb up the curves and sliding down. Definitely for any child with ambitions to climb sculptures. This is without looking at the sculptural value of play equipment like the dragon slide in Fitzroy Gardens or a carved logs in the playground of the Fitzroy housing commission flats.

Listed chronologically.

Photograph courtesy of State Library of Victoria

Photograph courtesy of State Library of Victoria

Paul Montford, Peter Pan, 1925 Melbourne Zoo The figure of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is modelled on Montford’s son and the flora and fauna on the base are all Australian.

Fairy Tree detail

Ola Cohn, Fairy Tree, 1934, Fitzroy Gardens, Like Montford’s Peter Pan, the fauna on Cohn’s Fairy Tree are Australian. Cohn also wrote a Fairy story to go along with her carving.

Tom Bass Children's Tree 2

Tom Bass, Children’s Tree, 1963, Elizabeth Street, Bass intended for children to climb on this sculpture.

Photograph by Dan Magree

Photograph by Dan Magree

Peter Corlett, Tarax Bubble Sculpture, 1966-68 Originally at the National Gallery of Victoria it is now at the McClelland Sculpture Park. The sculpture was intended to be climbed in and on.

Tom Bass, The Genie, 1973 (1)

Tom Bass, Genie, 1973 Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne, Bass intended to be climbed on by children.

The Bunyip, 1994, Ron Brooks

There are two sculptures based on children’s book illustrations State Library forecourt. Ron Brooks, The Bunyip, 1994, from Jenny Wagner The Bunyip of Berekeley’s Creek.

Mr Lizard & Gumnut Baby, 1998, Smiley Williams

Smiley Williams, Mr Lizard and Gumnut Baby, 1998, from May Gibbs, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

Bruce Armstrong, Untitled Installation 1999, at Flemington Children’s Centre, Flemington. (no photo available unfortunately)

Bronwen Gray, Matryoshka Dolls, 2001-2

Browen Grey, Matryoshka Dolls, 2002, on the corner of Brunswick and Gertrude Streets.

photograph courtesy of EastLink

photograph courtesy of EastLink

Emily Floyd, Public Art Piece, 2006 EastlLink. Even though children can’t climb on it or even touch it Floyd did make it with the children in the back seat of the car in mind.

Emily Floyd, An Unfolding Space, 2010, Phoenix Park, Malvern East, sculpture at children’s centre. (I couldn’t get a photograph for this one.)

I will end this with a plug for my book Sculptures of Melbourne, a history of Melbourne’s public sculptures.


Drive Time Sculpture & Architecture

The international style of freeway design makes all the roads in the world look the same but Melbourne’s freeways no longer look like Jeffrey Smart’s modern and utilitarian Cahill Expressway. There are sculptures that can really only be seen from a car in Melbourne – EastLink Freeway has a $5.5 million public art collection.

Driving through Melbourne there is DCM’s City Gateway in Flemington with its a reference to the Vault. The big yellow beam at the start of the freeway is better known by other nicknames – “the cheese stick”. DCM is a Melbourne firm specializing in architecture and urban design and their work can be seen all over Melbourne from the new visitors centre at the Shrine of Remembrance to the Web Bridge in Docklands.

Noise reduction walls along the freeways have become works of architectural design. Wood Marsh, with Pels Innes and Nielson Kosloff, designed the noise reduction walls along the Eastern Freeway Extension in 1997. Other noise reduction walls designed by architects are the Geelong Road Noise Walls and the Bypass Soundwalls.

There is also the Craigieburn Bypass a giant rust-red corten steel arc sweeps across the freeway to create a grand visual gateway into northern Melbourne. This freeway sculpture consists of three long sculptural sound walls punctuated by a pedestrian bridge. Architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer in collaboration with landscape architecture firm Taylor Cullity Lethlean and artist Robert Owen designed the Craigieburn Bypass.

The speed at which the view passes the sculpture was assumed to be walking pace but the modern viewer in a car travels much faster, so the sculptures have to be huge, engaging but not too distracting. I don’t drive a car, I ride a bicycle and the only sculpture that I see from that is Simon Perry’s Rolled Path or the MoreArts exhibition and generally I stop my bike, so I see sculptures at walking pace. Consequently I haven’t actually seen the sculpture along EastLink (can I do it with Google Maps?).

Lisa Young, Island Wave, 2003, Melbourne

Lisa Young, Island Wave, 2003, Melbourne

A traffic sculpture that I have seen is in the round about at the corner of Franklin and Queen streets – Island Wave (2003) by Lisa Young. It is a repeating series of white painted steel shapes following the perimeter of the round about. Each of the steel shapes repeats the form of a stylised cross section of a wave about to break. The steel sculpture on concrete footing was fabricated by Gilbro Engineering and installed by Famous Constructions.

The linear sculpture parks along  EastLink in Melbourne’s outer Eastern suburbs. It features four major works by notable Australian artists. In addition to these major artworks, ConnectEast also funded a collection of smaller scale pieces located along the EastLink Trail for the enjoyment of cyclists and walkers, like me.

Elipsoidal Freeway Sculpture by James Angus is between Wellington Rd and Corhanwarrabul Creek. 24 green, blue and white coloured modular ellipsoids of varying sizes cover a distance of 36 metres.

Public Art Strategy by Emily Floyd is a giant painted steel blackbird overlooking a yellow worm. It is located between Cheltenham Road and the Dandenong Bypass. The giant children’s toy image is typical of Floyd’s work as an artist, Emily Floyd Signature Work (Rabbit), 2004 a large black painted aluminium toy rabbit on Waterview Walk in the Docklands. At 13 metres high, 19 metres long hers is the smallest of sculptures along the EastLink Trail.

Hotel by Callum Morton is between Greens Road and Bangholme road. Callum Morton, an RMIT alumnus, represented Australia at the 2007 Venice Biennale and his art is about architecture (“how space is experienced in built environments”). Hotel is a large-scale model of a bland high-rise modern hotel and some of its windows are lit at night with solar power.

Resembling a fallen tree or tower of galvanized steel plate along the side of the motorway. Desiring Machine by Simeon Nelson is next to EastLink south of Thompson Road, near Boundary-Colman’s Road. This is not Nelson’s only sculpture designed for a roadside there is his The M4 Freeway Commission, Sydney 2000.

(See The Age from 2007 on the Eastlink sculptures.)


Docklands 1% Sculpture

There is an abundance of public sculpture in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct because the Melbourne City Council required the developers to commit 1% of its capital works program to art. The sculptures in the Docklands include some work by notable Australian sculptors but this post is not about all the sculpture, although I will mention some of them. This is about the commissioning process for these sculptures.

There are endless complaints about the Docklands, from almost everyone who speaks or writes about it. Except in Waterfront Spectacular – creating Melbourne Docklands – the people’s waterfront ed. John Keeney (Design Masters Press, 2005). This huge coffee table book is a puff piece of colour photography, hopelessly compromised with an editorial board that includes representatives from VicUrban and various state government departments. It has very little about the sculpture but lots of photographs of them. However, in one chapter, “State of the art”, Sue Neales gives details about the commissions and funding for the sculptures at Docklands.

There was a 1% contribution to public art from all construction. Of that 1% half would be spent within the public space of the developer’s building, 30% for artwork located outside of developers building and the remaining 20% went to fund commissions of large-scale sculptures and artwork for public spaces across the whole of Docklands. The art spend by the developers had to “involve the direct commissioning of an artist to design and construct a specific artwork”. A variety of commissioning processes were used in the Docklands from direct to open competitions.

Virginia King’s “Reed Vessel” 2004 is a stainless steel and aluminium sculpture above reflective pool with a path through the middle of the A frame support for the boat structure. Virginia King’s “Reed Vessel” on Navigation Drive was a result of a limited competition. Six selected artists were invited to submit designs and maquettes (models of the proposed sculpture) for a competition with three winners selected to create artworks along Harbour Esplanade. New Zealand artist, Virginia King’s proposal was chosen. This work clearly fits with the Dockland’s themes.

The selection criteria for the sculpture included meeting Dockland themes of indigenous history, maritime, water, industrial history and urban interface. The themes are a way of the city council manipulating the memory of the area exploiting a desire for the authentic amid the completely constructed landscape.

Obviously not all of the sculptures do meet these themes. Emily Floyd “Signature Work (Rabbit)”, 2004 a large black painted aluminium toy rabbit on Waterview Walk and John Kelly’s “Cow Up a Tree” 1999 on Grand Plaza have little do with any of the themes in the selection criteria (except for, maybe “urban interface” what ever that means). Kelly’s “Cow Up a Tree” sculpture toured the France, Ireland and the Netherlands, making it completely non-site specific.

The art needed to be made for durable materials not prone to corrosion, able to withstand vandalism, with no small parts that could be stolen, “and be safe for people to touch and move around without any public liability issues” (p.118) For years temporary fencing has surrounded “Shoal Fly By” by Melbourne-based architect/artist partnership, Cat Macleod and Michael Bellemo on the
Harbour Esplanade. And now the sculpture has gone. Maybe there is a health and safety issue with the sculpture?

There are lots of new public sculptures in the Docklands development but I’ve been finding it hard to get around all of the industrial scale development. I ended up looking at Virginia King’s “Reed Vessel” on Google maps.

Has the 1% for the arts improved Docklands?


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