Sunfigo’s No Face is an unofficial guerrilla art exhibition. I think that this started when Melbourne based street artist Sunfigo did a portrait of Trump and then crossed it out; more crossed out faces followed, including those of Bill Gates and Betty Windsor. A mirror face, a face obscured by smilie face, along with some older images of heads by Sunfigo. Sunfigo has been doing street art for at least six years now and has established a line in geometric drawing that works for ribbon on chainlink fences, stencils and pieces made of tape.
This is Sunfigo’s second attempt to unofficially join in Melbourne’s White Night. In 2016 Sunfigo tried to put on a guerrilla exhibition as part of White Night but it didn’t last ten minutes. This time he has been more successful with an exhibition held in Platypus Alley off Lt. Bourke Street. Platypus Alley is a short, dead-end, unreformed and unused, even as a service lane. No-one currently uses the one door that exits onto the lane. The one door is blocked with a part of a granite arch that has been abandoned there.
The exhibition was already badly damaged (yes, No Face was defaced) by the time that my friend Vetti saw it on White Night. I’m not sure how much worse it was when I saw it but about half the art had been stolen. Almost every one of the works stuck up with liquid nails was stolen and only the paste-ups remained. According to the street artist Will Coles people don’t normally steal street art in Melbourne. Perhaps White Nights attracted different people to those who normally explore Melbourne’s laneways. I didn’t know that Sunfigo had so many fans but it is a shame that some of them are greedy selfish bastards.
I first saw a sculpture by Louise Paramor when her Noble ape was exhibited in Melbourne Now 2013; it is currently installed in the garden at the back of NGV International. Other people might know her from her Panorama Station sculpture beside the freeway in Carrum Downs. Then I saw Paramor’s sculpture, Ursa Major being installed in Federation Square for the Melbourne Prize 2014. I hadn’t seen any of her previous twenty or so years of exhibiting sculpture.
Louis Paramor, Noble ape, fiberglass, plastic and steel
Currently the NGV is exhibiting Paramor in two large spaces on the third floor of the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia with a specially commissioned installation of new paper sculptures and a survey of her recent colourful plastic assemblages.
Palace of the Republic is a series of massive paper sculptures. Honeycomb paper decorations on a scale that will leave you awestruck. It is a reference Paramor’s earlier artistic practice before she started to collage found plastic objects.
Louis Paramor, Palace of the Republic, paper, steel, aluminium and plywood
Unlike the personal art of Del Kathryn Barton, exhibited on the same floor to the Potter Centre, Paramor’s sculptures inspires no interest in the artist. There is nothing that I can tell you about her that will help you make any more sense of her art, so I will tell you nothing. Likewise you don’t need to know the history of art, anything of biochemistry or French to make sense of her art. Partially because her art makes little sense; her sculptures are cool and humorous and I know this by the smile that they grew on my face when I saw them.
A curator explains them noting that they “combine formal concerns with a pop-inspired sensibility.” That is arranging found plastic in an asymmetrical way makes them look silly and funky.
Studies for Boomtown is a series of maquettes for sculptures that demonstrate Paramor’s seemingly inexhaustible creativity. Perhaps it is inexhaustible due to the supply of plastic objects in the world.
Louis Paramor, Studies for Boomtown, 2016, plastic, steel, wood
Public sculptures of religious figures are becoming more common in Melbourne. A decade ago there were hardly any but recent commissions seem to have doubled their numbers. The cynical psychologist in me suggests that the erecting permanent statue is a compensation for the decline in religion’s status in Melbourne. I use the word statue, rather than sculpture, because all of them are life-sized realistic figures made of bronze.
Darien Pullen, Fr. Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan, 2017
Darien Pullen’s statue of Fr. Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan (1805-1864) the first Catholic priest in colonial Melbourne, stands with his hand outstretched in a blessing. Installed in 2017 in front of the oldest Catholic church in Melbourne, St Francis Church on Elizabeth Street. The sculptor, Pullen has worked at Meridian Sculpture Foundry since 1984 where he mostly assists in the modelling area. This is the second life size statue of a religious figure that Pullen has made; in 2015 he was commissioned to make a statue of St Patrick, for Australian Catholic University, Melbourne Campus.
Louis Laumen Mary MacKillop 2012
Louis Laumen’s Mary MacKillop 2012, Catholic university depicts a young female figure plain 19th Century dress. The figure is on a conversation bench; you can sit down next to Mary, if you can squeeze in between the her and dove, but it looks like she is just getting up. She is about to put her book down and stand up. She is looking towards her birth place across the road. It is also a reference to images of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, with the dove to symbolise the Holy Spirit. In the middle of Australian Catholic University’s new St Mary of the Cross Square on Brunswick Street that connects to the University. Laumen is best known for his statues of sporting heroes at the MCG, has done other sculptures for the Catholic church, including a previous Mary MacKillop for Penola College in Victoria and St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. Laumen finds the church’s commissions were less restrictive than those for the MCG.
Julie Squires, St Mary of the Cross McKillop, 2012
St Mary of the Cross McKillop, 2012 by Julie Squires is installed at the new St Mary of the Cross Mausoleum at Melbourne General Cemetery. A life-sized statue of a nun, an older Mary MacKillop, embracing a little girl. The plinth puts the two figures at eye level for the average viewer. The use of different patinas on the sculpture adds to both the realism and increases the sentimental nature of the sculpture. Its sculptor Squires has taken over from Laumen in sculpting the sporting heroes around the MCG; after all sport is the major religion of most Australians.
I had low expectations of the city’s first official street art precinct and they were met. The ‘official precinct’ was launched in December 2017. It is just a couple of murals by Adnate, Dvate, Fintan Magee, Rone and Sofles on walls in Lt. Bourke Street before it ends at Spencer Street. Several big heads and a big orange belly parrot.
Most murals in Melbourne serve the interests of property developers or local city councils; similar interests anyway. The realistic images are sentimental, superficial and a distraction from what is happening around the large wall. Murals are anti-graffiti, anti-street art management strategy… but enough about murals (or if you want to read more).
I am look for something else on the streets, something smaller. (The smallest piece perhaps…)
perhaps Sunfigo’s work
I find a stencil; perhaps, given the geometric lines in the body of scorpion, it is by Sunfigo. A cartoon face by Twobe and one by the internationally renown artist Lister, who blurs the rough line between contemporary art and street art.
An excellent piece and installation by Lov3 in Collingwood. Up-cycling three discarded mattress and using the quilting pattern as snake scales.
In Flinders Court I saw a recent piece by local Melbourne artist, Silk Roy. Silk Roy loves painting. Sure many artists love to paint, often painting the same thing over and over again, in that they enjoy that experience. However, Silk Roy’s art shows more than just enjoyment like the conservative mural painters but artistic risk taking, changing and developing. This is graffiti aware of contemporary painting. (Read an interview with Silk Roy on Invurt.) Silk Roy does paint big walls but I doubt that he will be painting a multi-story mural any time soon and that, for me, is a relief.
A few thoughts about the history and aesthetics of artists making model buildings, shops, art galleries and other architecture in response to Callum Preston’s Milk Bar 2017.
Callum Preston behind the counter of his Milk Bar (photo thanks to Callum Preston)
In tracing the art history genealogy of similar installations we could look back to the pop artist Claus Oldenburg’s 1961 Store. Store was a pop-up gallery in a lower east side Manhattan shop front where he sold roughly painted and moulded plaster versions of products from undergarments to cakes and pastries. Or more recently to Barry McGee (aka Twist), Todd James (aka REAS) and Stephen Powers (aka ESPO) bodega-inspired installation, Street Market 2000 that was exhibited at the 2001 Venice Biennale.
Looking at local examples a different aesthetic and intentions are apparent. In Ivan Durrant’s Butcher Shop (1977-1978) a butcher shop window display of dead animals that was on permanent exhibition next to the entrance to the NGV’s restaurant. Although the square, tiled front of the shop with a window and door wasn’t precisely detailed the window display was uncannily accurate and gross.
Callum Morton Reception 2016
Callum Morton’s work Reception 2016, is a one to one replica of the reception foyer of Anna Schwartz Gallery on Flinders Lane was complete with an animatronic model of gallery director, Anna Schwartz. Entering the gallery and moving through the real foyer to the replica in the gallery was uncanny. It is similar in aesthetic and subject to Dan Moynihan’s Lost in Space 2013. Moynihan’s two-third scale replica of the outside and interior of Neon Parc gallery on Bourke Street built in the front gallery space at Gertrude Contemporary created a similar mood. Two-third scale is uncanny because although you can fit inside you know that you are too large to be comfortable. Like Morton, Moynihan’s work is about architecture and the uncanny feeling. There was no art in either model of the art galleries.
What Preston’s Milk Bar offers is comfortable nostalgia. It is not uncanny, the wooden versions of the familiar products are hand-painted and flat. Perhaps I should be considering it in relation to David Wadelton’s series of black and white photographs, Milk Bars of Melbourne 2010-2013 that documents the terminal decline of these shops.
All my examples are the work of male artists, this trend is even more obvious if you consider the male street artists, Goonhugs for example, making smaller models of shops and other buildings. I haven’t included the Hotham Street Ladies icing sugar models because their work was about interior decoration rather than architectural space or shops. At least the men are making models rather than groping models.
All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed is the summer show at the Ian Potter Museum of Art’s 2017. Curator Samantha Comte has filled all three floors with works by notable local and international contemporary artists on the subject of fairy tales in an exhibition suitable for adults and children.
Kara Walker Burning African Village Playset with Big House and Lynching (detail)
Kara Walker Burning African Village Playset with Big House and Lynching (detail)
We all know what fairy tales are but like so many things that we all know they are hard to define. How do fairy tales differ from folktales? Are they the last remnants of ancient cultures thousands of years old? Including Patricia Piccinini’s sci-fi inspired creatures is probably pushing the definition a bit far although Piccinini, like many of the other artists in this exhibition, does employ pathos in her art.
There is the pathos of the lost child in Polixeni Papapetrou photographs from her Fairy Tale and Haunted Country series. Diana Goldstein’s Fallen Princess series takes a different approach with iconoclastic photographs of Cinders drinking in a bar, Snow White with toddlers in suburbia and Princess Pea on her stack of old mattresses in a rubbish dump. Although there is work in a wide variety of media in this exhibition from painting and ceramics through to a computer game, The Path (2009) by Tale of Tales. It is the photographs, or work based on photographs like Tracey Moffat’s photo-silkscreen Invocation series, that gave this exhibition the bulk of its substance and depth.
The contemporary art work is given a context with a selection historical fairy tale books from the rare books collection of Baillieu Library including some with illustrations by Gustave Dore and Arthur Rakham. Along with five silhouette animation films of fairy tales by Lotte Reiniger from the 1950s.
Silhouettes are used by many artists starting with Rakham and Reiniger and on to the contemporary art of Kara Walker and Kylie Stillman. Fairy tales stand out in two dimensions, shadows of in our collective imagination from an ancient world of magic thinking.
Kylie Stillman Scape
Kylie Stillman Park Views
There is an over representation of work based on Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel is something that not even the books of Japanese Fairy Tales or the contemporary fairy tale by Tobsha Learner, and illustrated by Peter Ellis, can offset. The brothers Grimm’s tales still dominate our idea of fairy tales.
When the authenticity of two million dollars paintings sold comes into question the stage is set for a major legal battle. Were the two large paintings forgeries or were they innocent? Was it an elaborate art fraud? Or were they by the Australian superstar artist Brett Whiteley’s whose tragic death from a heroin overdose meant that he wasn’t around to dispute its authenticity.
In her book Gabriella Coslovich takes the reader step by step through this complex case of art forgery. From the first suspicions and the police investigation, through the committal hearing in the Magistrates Court to the trial in the Supreme Court and the subsequent appeal. She interviews, or attempted to interview, everyone involved in the story from the artist’s widow Wendy Whiteley through to witnesses, millionaire victims, police and defence lawyers. Not surprisingly not everyone want to talk but surprisingly one of the defendants, Peter Gant does. Not that she was the only journalist that he talked to; Gant seemed to bask in the media attention that his trial brought.
In the book Coslovich considers the difference between the art world and the laws assessment of the authenticity of the paintings. The issue of connoisseurship, of having “a good eye” is important to the art world but provenance is also important. People repeatedly say about Gant that he had a good eye for saleable art. Was this the same as selling a fake Rolex watch? As one of the lawyers in the case posited. Or is there a difference that the law should recognise? The damage to art history is rarely considered.
By the time it got the trial in the Supreme Court Coslovich had been investigating Peter Gant’s dodgy art deals for six years, both as the arts reporter for The Age newspaper and as an independent writer. So it was not surprising that she is passionately that she wants to see a conviction. It is her depth of knowledge of the case that made her bristled with anticipation every day of the four week trial. I know because I was sitting next to her. I am referred to once in her book as “one of my fellow scribes” (p.151) discussing with her how the dock influences juries.
I think that Coslovich may have solved one piece of the puzzle with her careful analysis of the various versions of the catalogue. The difference in gallery address and the missing printer corrections are crucial details. She doesn’t make a big thing about it in the book and unfortunately her discovery comes too late.
Gabriella Coslovich Whiteley On Trial (Melbourne University Press, 2017)