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Tag Archives: Ponch Hawkes

Melbourne Now

Thirty-three years after that tumultuous turning point in Melbourne’s culture when Ron Robertson-Swann’s Vault (aka “The Yellow Peril”) was installed and then removed from the City Square. Melbourne Now is yellow; the exhibition’s logo is yellow, at the launch of the exhibition the Minister for the Arts, Heidi Victoria was dressed in yellow complete with yellow nail polish. Back in the 1980s Barry Humphries suggested that Melbourne should be called “the big Orange”, in reference to NYC moniker, “the big Apple”, but the orange trams are no longer on Melbourne’s streets. In Peter Tyndall blog post for 21/11/13 (reproduced in Melbourne Now) Tyndall suggests that Melbourne’s colour is black – that appeals to me (ha ha).

Thirty-three years ago it would have been impossible to have an exhibition of the quality and scale of Melbourne Now. There were not enough quality artists or gallery space in Melbourne then. Now Melbourne has become the city that Robertson-Swann’s sculpture anticipated, a city where the arts and design flourish.

Daniel Crooks, A garden of parallel paths, 2012 (still)

Daniel Crooks, A garden of parallel paths, 2012 (still)

Melbourne Now is huge exhibition covering 8000 square meters of gallery space in both of the NGV galleries, and extending out of the galleries into the sculpture garden at the back of the NGV International and onto Melbourne’s streets. It is all free and will occupy most of a day; it took me over three hours to just to get an impression of the exhibition. I’m sure that I must have missed something and I will happily to go back for another look.

The exhibition includes so much – painting, sculpture, drawing, art publications, design, architecture, fashion, music, and dance. I will try to focus on a just couple of aspects.

Parents take your children to this exhibition; later in life they might thank you for it when it is mentioned in Australian art history and there is plenty to keep kids engaged with this exhibition at the present. Children’s activities include making experimental music with The Donkey Tail Jr. on the mezzanine gallery of the NGV (St. Kilda Road) and adding silhouette bird stickers to the sky of Juan Ford’s huge work You, me and the flock. The Dewhurst Family supported both these features of the exhibition. Much of this exhibition is interactive; you can also make your own jewellery, design your own shoes out of cardboard or sketch in the beautiful room of taxidermy work by Julia DeVille (sketching materials: black paper, gold and silver pencils and boards provided).

Street art is a major part of Melbourne’s current art scene and the influence of street art, graffiti and tagging is clear in Melbourne Now. There is Ponch Hawkes photographs of tree tagging, Stieg Persson’s paintings, Reko Rennie’s paintings, Ash Keating’s video and Lush’s installation: Graffiti doesn’t belong in the gallery? It is typical of Lush to get his tag up everywhere. Daniel Crooks’ a great video installation A garden of parallel paths and a Rick Amor painting Mobile Call also present views of Melbourne’s graffiti covered laneways. The walls of Hosier Lane, with All Your Walls, are also part of Melbourne Now. (I will write about All Your Walls in a later blog post when the project is complete on Friday 29th of November.)

Some of the artists in Melbourne Now

Some of the artists in Melbourne Now

Finally with such a large collection of contemporary artists it is worth doing a bit of statistical examination: 56% of the artists are men, 44% are women and 11% identify as indigenous Australians. Indigenous Australians are well represented in the exhibition given that, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics “Victoria had the lowest proportion of people of indigenous origin at 0.6% of the total state population”. I only counted individually named artists and not groups. Compared to statistical break down of the artists to be included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial with only 32% women and 7.6% artists of African descent (see Hyperallergic “The Depressing Stats of the 2014 Whitney Biennial”) Melbourne Now is very balanced and representative.

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More winners

On Wednesday, the final night at the Basil Sellers Art Prize 2010 two associated awards were presented. Ponch Hawkes won the 2010 Basil Sellers National Sports Museum Creative Arts Fellowship. The fellowship is valued at $50,000 dollars. And Juan Ford for won the $5,000 Yarra Trams People’s Choice Award voted by the visitors to the exhibition.

Unlike The Gaurdian’s art critic, Adrian Searle, who recently wrote about this year’s Turner Prize, I do not prejudge the judges of art prizes. I do not think that it is the art critic’s role to do this (unless they are the appointed judge) any more than it is a crime reporter’s role to judge the case (if they did it would be contempt of court). It is the art critic’s role to explain, examine and comment on the art prizes and awards not to prejudge them.

The novelty of Juan Ford’s series of anamorphic images proved popular with the visitors to the exhibition. The visitors would have been familiar with the use of anamorphic images employed by advertisers in major sporting events – the logos that are designed to be viewed at particular angles. The visitors might have also been comforted by Ford’s familiar reference to sports art history with his anamorphic version of ancient Greek runners. Or, maybe they just enjoyed the theme of running.

The openings of Juan Ford’s exhibitions have always been packed with people – his art is popular. This is not just because of his fine figurative painting technique but because his engages the viewer with anamorphic images that emphasising the viewer’s relationship to the image.

Melbourne photographer Ponch Hawkes has worked with Circus Oz since its inception, the unresolved narratives in her photographs invite the viewer to speculate. So expect to see some of Hawkes dramatic photographs at the National Sports Museum at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It is good to know that art at the MCG extends beyond the dozen bronze statues of sporting heroes by Louis Laumen.

My congratulations to Juan Ford and Ponch Hawkes.


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