Tag Archives: Peter Corlett

Walk to Giant

Jamit was planning to buy some spray-paint at Giant in North Melbourne and I agreed to walk with him.

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Setting up for Tiana Sanjaya to paint with spice in front of State Library of Victoria

We started at the front of the State Library. When I got there I found that there was an Indonesian artist, Tiana Sanjaya was setting up to paint with spices. Tumeric, candlenut, horseradish, mustard seed, nutmeg and chilli; it smelt good. It was part of the AsiaTopa 2017, the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts.

On the way we had a look at Blender Lane. Now that Blender Studios has closed I was wonder if the quality of the work in the lane will continue without Doyle being present?

Further to that subject, we also looked at the graffiti and street art in Lovelands, a series of lanes near Victoria Market carpark, near the corner of Queen and Franklin Street. It also has the same questions of redevelopment hanging over it. It doesn’t look like much has changed since I saw Itch painting last year during the Meeting of Styles.

We passed another lane painted during the Meeting of Styles in April 2016 but there is more to see on the streets than just graffiti and street art.

I am not just looking at graffiti and street art; I have other interests, like public sculpture. Outside School No.307 on Queensberry Street I stop to look at a Peter Corlett sculpture of Henry Barstow. Henry Barstow was the architect who designed many state schools. I hadn’t seen the sculpture before but this is not surprising given Corlett’s prolific production creating several figures each year.

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Peter Corlett, Henry Barstow, 2011

Finally we reach Giant in North Melbourne. Maybe we should have taken the tram but the walk has been worthwhile. Nth Melbourne is a long thin suburb and its geography of Nth Melbourne is disorientating because the streets are not aligned to the same axis as the grid of Melbourne’s CBD.

You have to be buzzed into the shop. Then there is a room, covered in stickers and aerosol spray paint where we are to leave our backpacks. Then there the room full of spray cans of paint, maker pens, graffiti magazines and more cans of paint, the whole spectrum plus metallics, plus effects…

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“Hello Mark” is the first thing that I hear.

At first I can’t see who is speaking because there is a big dude between me and the voice. It is Toby who runs Just Another Agency. Everywhere I go I run into people that I know, a bonus for writing this blog.

Jamit buys about two dozen cans and even though the cans are cheaper by the half dozen he doesn’t walk away with much change from $150.

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Recent Public Sculptures in Melbourne

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Alex Goad, Tethya, 2015

Alex Goad’s biomorphic Tethya on the corner of Fitzroy and Jackson streets in St. Kilda is a recent public sculpture. Since my history of Melbourne’s public sculpture was published last year there are a few new public sculptures around the city. Not that Sculptures of Melbourne was intended as an index of all the sculptures in greater Melbourne, that would be insane as I included street art sculptures.

Two ballet dancers, Les Belle Hélène by David Maughan, were installed on the lawn at the Arts Centre. And John Olsen’s Frog was installed in a pond in Queen Victoria Gardens. As if either location needed any more sculptures.

Further out of town and in a better, some might even say “site specific” location, John Kelly’s Man Lifting Cow was installed in Sunshine marking a return to his home suburb for Kelly. Brimbank Council really milked the cow with associated events: the 1000 cow project, an art prize, a John Kelly exhibition and an education program at the Brimbank Civic Centre.

Most of the recent public sculpture has been temporary sculptures or pieces put up by street artists. Local street artist, Kranky and other were reviving Presgrave Place. Ironically there were several street sculpture homes this year including several by MOW from the USA. MOW was in Melbourne sticking up a few tiny doors and windows.

The campaign this year to save Chris Booth’s Strata had a happy ending with MONA agreeing to take the sculpture and pay for it to be reassembled. Melbourne’s loss will be Hobart’s gain.

There was no campaign to save Peter Corlett’s sculptures of John Farnham, Dame Nellie Melba, Dame Edna Everage and Graham Kennedy in the Docklands. There were many reasons for this chiefly because they had very little artistic quality, few people in Melbourne want to remember that these entertainers came from Melbourne and no-one ever saw them in the Docklands.


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.


Mr Poetry Breaks A Leg

Last month Mr Poetry, the sculpture of the fat man on the corner of Brunswick Street and Argle Street in Fitzroy, was hit by a truck. One leg and part of the plinth were broken in the accident. The outer bronze shell was cracked at the thigh and the steel armature exposed.

Damage to Mr Poetry

The sculpture is now at the Perrin Sculpture Foundry in Cheltenham and Bill Perrin, who originally cast it, is repairing it. Bronze sculptures are repairable, the sculpture was originally welded together from separate parts, the broken leg will be welded back into place and then application of the rust-red patination will conceal the weld.

I spoke to Peter Corlett about the accident. He is philosophical about the damage and told me that this is the second time that the sculpture has been hit by a truck. “These things happen in a vibrant city.” Corlett thinks that the truck was probably doing a three point turn and that the driver was probably watching the plinth in his review mirror but didn’t see the leg sticking out.

Although the figure will be repaired and reinstalled the minor damage to the side of Mr Poetry’s plinth will not be repaired. As the plinth is concrete there would be difficulty in getting the repair to match and Corlett thinks that the slight damage will fit in with the atmosphere of Brunswick Street.

The Yarra City Council has plans to install a bollard on the corner to provide protection for the sculpture in future.

Mr Poetry damaged

Read my earlier post for more on Mr Poetry.

Mr Poetry plinth

Peter Corlett, Mr Poetry


Flexible sculptures @ Sutton and Seventh

On my way to Sutton Gallery on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, one of the problems of rigid sculptures was made brutally obvious to me. One of the legs on Peter Corlett’s Mr Poetry was broken, the rigid bronze shell was fractured and the leg was only attached by the greater strength and flexibility of steel armature. The plinth had also been damaged where it was hit by the leg. Serious damage, but probably not irreparable.

Damage to Mr Poetry

An alternative to the standard rigidity of sculptures in both materials and concept is demonstrated in two current post-minimalist exhibitions: established international artist, Peter Robinson’s Neologisms at Sutton Gallery and emerging artist, James Parkinson’s exhibition Free Time at Seventh Gallery.

New Zealand artist, Peter Robinson has cut pieces of black and yellow felt sculptures that are pinned to the wall, stacked in piles, place against the wall and laid out on the floor. Some parts suggested letterforms, the new words of the title like the embossed text of a plaque. Robinson uses both the positive and negative forms and there doesn’t appear to be any waste material – it is all present.

Peter Robinson’s Neologisms at Sutton Gallery

Neologisms appeared to be commenting on the history of modern sculpture. From Marcel Duchamp’s 1918 Sculpture for Traveling made of rubber and string with ad lib dimensions. The grid of modernism hangs on the wall distorting its rigid geometry, the cube of the minimalists is made of felt sheets stacked in a corner. There is even a playful piece of figuration while other forms looked like early Geoffrey Bartlett sculptures.

Peter Robinson’s Neologisms detail

Although flexible sculptures do not so much define a space, as they are defined by the space and the pull of gravity, Robinson’s Neologisms determined the viewer’s movement around the gallery. Clear paths are laid out between the blocks of forms, there are linked chains across part of the gallery blocking movement and a reference to Robinson’s earlier sculptures involving styrofoam chains.

Peter Robinson’s Neologisms at Sutton Gallery

A few blocks away from Sutton Gallery at the shopfront artist-run-space of Seventh Gallery was another post-minimalist exhibition by an RMIT fine arts student, James Parkinson, Free Time. People kept on coming in from the street and asking: “What is this place?” Only to be told by the attendant that it was an art gallery and yes, you could play in the ball pit.

The main gallery at Seventh is filled with plastic balls of different colours, you have to wade through the balls to see the other rooms at Seventh. Parkinson calls his ball pit, ‘Prison’; the balls are in a prison, contained within the low walls at the front and back of the space. This prison gives freedom to enjoy the ball pit and playing in the ball pit is fun.

James Parkinson Prison Seventh Gallery

Free Time consists of a ball pit, a post-minimalist sculptures made of many plastic balls and four walls pieces, walls of plastic Lego blocks in uniform colours: grey, sky blue, orange and pink. (Where do you get Lego in those colours?) There is a fun contrast between lack of play in the rigid walls of Lego blocks and play of the ball pit contained with its rigid walls.

Post-minimalist adds a degree of play, levity and oxymorons to the serious formal rigidity of minimalism. This flexibility gives the sculptures freedom,  their flexible form has play in it, in that the materials have give and there is some slack.


Working on Melbourne’s Sculpture

I’m currently polishing the manuscript for my book Melbourne’s Sculpture – from the colonial to the ephemeral. It is due to be published by Melbourne Books later this year. Making sure that all my photos are labelled correctly, organising the bibliography and list of index terms is dull work. There has been some dull reading too; just be glad that I read some of those dull books so that you don’t have to.

Malfunction, Leopards, 2011, Fitzroy

Malfunction, Leopards, 2011, Fitzroy

It has not all been dull; I have been enjoying meeting sculptors and exploring the city to see new sculptures. Just working at my computer when I received a phone call from Bruce Armstrong in reply to an email that I’d sent about a month before through John Buckley Gallery who repents him. The email from Maurie Hughes came at just the right time as I was struggling to make sense of sculpture in the 1990s.

Bruce Armstrong, Two Persons Hugging, Footscray

Bruce Armstrong, Two Persons Hugging, Footscray

Some of the highlights have been enjoying great steaks and wine over a lunch with Lou Laumen at the Station Hotel in Footscray. Visiting Peter Corlett in his studio at the back of his beautiful garden and visiting Meridian Foundries with him. He gave me a little tour of the foundry and introducing me to Peter Morley and the workers.

I have not been stuck in front of the computer the whole time. I have been visiting new parts of the city in my search for significant public sculptures to photograph. I hadn’t been out to Footscray or Preston in years. I had never been out to see EastLink offices in Ringwood; the offices are a beautifully designed. EastLink was very helpful, allowing me to use their photographs of the sculptures for free and providing me with a folder of articles on them including one by Ken Scarlett that I was looking for.

Sometimes I have felt like a detective tracking down information from a scattering of clues. I had to make contact with some artists for copyright permission, sometimes anonymous street artists based on little more than a photograph or the initials GT. (I am still trying to get in touch with Mal Function.) Trying to locate George Allen’s Untitled, 1957 a couple of tons of rock that just disappeared. Discovering the lies that Charles Summers told to Governor Darling about the casting of the Burke and Wills Monument.

It has been fun having my ideas challenged and changed. Sculptors who are conservative artistically but a progressive politically. Large corporations are more progressive artistically than local governments. City governments are capable of planning and enacting long term. Enough to make my mind spin a couple of times.

I’ve had a lot of help from artists, academics and various test readers who volunteered to read my manuscript. I still have to polish the manuscript some more and check the acknowledgements section to make sure that I’ve got all the names right. I will be glad when I can hand the manuscript and photographs over to the publisher next Monday. Not that I will be finished with the book but it will mark another point in the process. (See my December post: Book Deal.) I still have to find an image for the front cover.

Culture Rubble, 1993 by Christine O’Loughlin

Culture Rubble, 1993 by Christine O’Loughlin


Mr Poetry

Peter Corlett’s sculpture Mr. Poetry (1994) on Brunswick Street Fitzroy is based on poet and performer Adrian Rawlins. Peter Corlett is Australia’s leading figurative sculptor but at the time his career was just taking off.

Peter Corlett, Mr Poetry,  1994

Peter Corlett, Mr Poetry, 1994

The Fitzroy City Council advertised three times in the newspaper for applications for commissions and each time the money offered went up. The final price was enough to cover the foundry costs and Peter Corlett made an application as he always wanted to have a sculpture on his “local high street”, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

In the early 1990s Fitzroy City Council commissioned various sculptures to revitalise Brunswick Street and firmly place it as Melbourne’s boho hipster location. Brunswick St. Fitzroy had became established as an alternate cultural centre in the mid-1980s with galleries, pubs with bands, bookshops and moderately priced restaurants. Recognising Brunswick St. Fitzroy as a cultural centre and using Federal Government money in 1992 a number works of public art were added along the street. There are a number of sidewalk mosaics, mosaic covered chairs, decorative eccentric sculptural shop signs and the odd statue.

The life-sized laughing fat man sits precariously balanced on the edge of one of the tallest plinths that Corelett ever has used. The tall deliberately misaligned plinth is intended to be plastered with band posters.

Corlett relates that shortly after receiving the commission he was in Mario’s Cafe on Brunswick Street. In the cafe at the time were some local rock musicians and one of them remarked that they would blow it up. Corlett wasn’t sure if they were serious or joking; Adrian Rawlins was not that popular.

The sculpture was not blown up but it became a Saturday night ritual to set fire to the layers of posters and watch the flames surround the statue. I haven’t seen this happen myself but I have seen the scorched evidence around the plinth.

Adrian Rawlins had made his reputation by being around Melbourne’s small art scene of the 50s and 60s as an actor. He briefly ran a jazz club in the 1960s and in 1970 he was the MC at Australia’s first rock festival. He then co-compared the 1972 Sunbury Rock Festival. According to some sources, Rawlins really made his reputation by selling marijuana to Bob Dylan on his Australian tour. I briefly shared a house with Adrian and found that he was both lazy and  greedy (and he never provided me with any ganja). Corlett tells that Adrian wanted to charge double the usual modelling fee so Corlett agreed and halved the time.

When Corlett made the statue it was not memorial, it has now become one. With the addition of another larger bronze plaque dedicated to the model Adrian Rawlins (1939-2001) the sculpture is transform into a memorial.


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