In case you missed the show here are a bunch of shots from DEM 189’s amazing show Ricochet at Backwoods Gallery last week.
In case you missed the show here are a bunch of shots from DEM 189’s amazing show Ricochet at Backwoods Gallery last week.
A few weeks ago, a new volume depicting the history of Melbourne art was released into the publics eye – this was not the usual art tome, but one that covered a subject that had not been covered in print for almost thirty years – public sculpture in Melbourne.
Alongside the old weathered items from days gone by, the Melbourne public sculpture “collection” has grown over the years, as well as having modernised and followed the trends of other public art. Not only have newer sculptures in contemporary style emerged, this gallery of inanimate beauty has also spread out to encompass a variety of different “street art” forms of public sculpture.
The books author, Mark Holsworth, has been a good friend for many years. We first met way back when I was helping out with running the Sweet Streets street art festival, but I had been following his blog “Melbourne Art Critic” for a much longer time than that. In fact, it was his blog, and the way that he wrote it, that was one of the many reasons that spurred me on to create Invurt.
As one of Australias few (if, only), art critics who has also delved into the waters of street art and graffiti over the years, his journey as a writer has not always been smooth, with the misunderstanding amongst such a community as to the critics part in it all – and, immeasurably, the local Melbourne scene, (though not always evident to some to whom he turns his critical eye towards), is lucky to have him. We get the chance to hear the words of a man for whom art is a passion, but who also has a deeply critical and analytical mind that he is able to apply to such a many and varied artistic culture. Whether he is speaking of art or the varied cultural facets of the urban metropolis we live and create within, Marks often direct, flat and obtrusive words often cut right to the core of a matter. Personally, I have always found his opinions on point, even if I have not always entirely agreed them them, and I value his wisdom and input on all things artistic, so it was with a lot of joy late last year that I heard he had embarked on this endevour to write his first book on a subject that he held so dear.
I must admit, this interview is tardy on my behalf, it was conducted prior to the books release, but ensuring factors including my recent move to Singapore delayed it somewhat. It is an absolutely fascinating read, and a wonderful insight into our very own Melbourne Art Critic, as well as his remarkable book, Sculptures Of Melbourne.
Can you tell us a bit about your background, and how you yourself gained such a keen interest in art in the public space?
Starting a blog turned out to be one of my biggest positive life changing experiences, probably more life changing than writing my Master’s thesis on Duchamp’s readymades and less self indulgent than trying to be another artist. I’d been trying to be some kind of an artist all my life from playwright, to playing in bands, to painting.
When I started a blog I knew that I didn’t just want to write about art in galleries because not all art is in art galleries. Graffiti, street art and public sculpture were the most obvious examples. Writing the blog made me more interested in street art and public art because it gave me a reason to look and learn and the more I learnt, saw and thought the more interested I became. I walked around exploring the city. I became so interested in street art that I volunteered for the Stencil Festival and Sweet Streets for three years.
As a critic and a writer, what do you believe are the most difficult parts of what you do, and write about?
Getting my thoughts into words is hard. Deciding what to spend time going to see and researching, all the options, is sometimes harder. What if I miss out on something really good? Actually, the hardest is writing about the average and most art is average, the two and three star review (not that I give stars), to say both yes and no with the right balance between them.
What are some of the biggest misassumptions that people have about your writing, when you are writing critical articles. Do people often see them as just “taking the piss” or attacking, or do they generally understand the direction of what you’re doing – indeed, the whole critical evaluation of it all?
There are people who think that my writing is an attack on them, or an artist that they admire and I find that much stranger than an artist taking it personally.
The word ‘critic’ is often misunderstood but the biggest misassumption from everyone, artists to the public, is that I’m part of the publicity department. I know that in a way that I am, that for an artist or gallery any media mention is publicity, but that isn’t what I want my main purpose to be. Publicity doesn’t really embrace alternative views, they want you to be ‘on message’. I want to help people to think more about the art they are seeing by providing my thoughts, the details that I observe and what I’ve been able to find out.
This is your first book – how did it all come about and what spurred you on in undertaking such a project?
Mercenary reasons, I really wanted to write a book. There were too many books on street art on the market and there hadn’t been a book on Melbourne’s sculptures since the early 1980s. I could still combine my interest in street art because of street art sculptors. I had already done a lot of the research for my blog, so strategically it was a good idea. It then took two years to get a plan for the book and a first chapter together to show a publisher.
What have been some of the most challenging aspect of putting it all together?
Getting the photographs for the book. I had no idea what I was doing there and no experience. Ugh, the horror, I don’t really want to think about it even now. It took another six months just to get the photographs together. Somehow it all worked out and there are some beautiful photographs in the book by a whole range of photographers.
Often, some of the older sculptures of Melbourne are often seen, but the awareness that they are “there” doesn’t always register, they are such a integrated part of the public landscape that many are just “there” – why should people pay more attention to the sculptures around the city?
I don’t know if they should but maybe it would be a good thing if people paid more attention to what is around them, rather than celebrities and other commercial fantasies.
I know its a hard question – but in your mind, what are some of the most important sculptures that we have in our public spaces? What are the most overlooked, and which ones really scream I *am* Melbourne? Can you give us a good run down on some of the cities most interesting pieces?
A very hard question, it ties into the big question of what sculpture to put on the front cover of the book. That was resolved when I saw Matto Lucas’s photo of one of the buttress groups on the Shrine of Remembrance with Melbourne skyline in the background. It is a difficult question because what is important and good in public art keeps on changing from the old fashioned idea of making a place ‘civilised’ by putting a statue on a plinth, to the modern idea of being first and now, when it might be what makes you want to take a photo. Also the idea of what is Melbourne keeps on changing, the city is growing and what ever Melbourne is, it is also an identity that many different groups of people want to make their own.
The most overlooked is a much easier question, they are mostly in Footscray. I’d never been to Footscray before I started this book. In the middle of the Footscray shopping centre there is Wominjeka Tarnuk Yooroom (also known as Welcome Bowl), a group of rocks misted with water vapour, a reference to Aboriginal smoking ceremonies. The mist is also a lot of fun for children and dogs. There is also a Bruce Armstrong sculpture in a quiet suburban street in Footscray and a sculpture by a sculpture by a notable, American minimalist.
I’ve been working on a blog post: “The ten best public sculptures in Melbourne that you have probably never seen.” So here are the top 3:
Springthorpe Memorial. If you have never been to the cemetery in Kew then you will not have seen this over the top, late-Victorian masterpiece of sentimentality created by an all star team for a woman who died in childbirth.
Will Coles, various objects around the city.
Reg Parker, Untitled, Preston Public Library. Forget all the hype around Ron Robertson-Swann’s Vault, this is actually the first abstract public sculpture still on public display and still in its original location.
What is the most interesting back story to a sculpture you came across in the course of writing your book? Every piece of art has a story, but what have been some of the stranger ones you’ve encountered?
The William Stanford fountain at the entrance to Parliament Station that was carved by William Stanford when he was a prisoner in Pentridge Prison. Stanford was in prison sentenced to 22 years for highway robbery and horse stealing. He was an apprentice stonemason who had come to the gold fields but had no luck. In prison he continued to be a serious problem until one day during a search of his cell, warders turned up a small knife and a beautifully carved bone figure of a woman. The prison governor then encouraged him to carve and Stanford was no longer a discipline problem.
The fountain is carved out of hard local granite as the prison wasn’t going to go to the expense of getting him stone to carve and it cost Stanford his life from inhaling the fine dust particles from the stone. He got an early release due to ill health, married twice and had a couple of children before dying ten years later.
Melbourne has over the past decade or so undergone a huge renaissance in public art, specifically street art, what do you think have been some of the biggest changes in public awareness towards the art, and what so you think Melbourne is doing right – and wrong, in terms of public art?
There are so many new sculptures in Melbourne and most of them are street art, but it has actually taken multiple generations to get to this point. It has taken generations to change people’s minds about what art can be, today’s diversity of types of sculpture. It is hard to imagine that Melbourne was obsessed with Vault (Yellow Peril) for over a year in 1980 when people are so accepting of the work of Will Coles, Nick Ilton and Mal Function now. However, most of the people who were objecting to Vault were 48+ years in 1980, so there can’t be many of them still alive now. It has also taken generations of city planning to understand how to commission and locate public art, I was amazed that such a long term plan could work but if it didn’t then post-industrial Melbourne might now be like Detroit.
I think that understanding that public art didn’t have to be permanent is the best thing that both artists, including street artists, and local councils have done. It has meant that there are more sculptures and more different types of sculpture partially because the cost of making a temporary sculpture is so much less than one of bronze and stone. At the extreme end Junky Projects only costs new nails and occasionally some spray paint.
Now that the book is done, what do you have planned next? what other things do you wish to write about, and what more can we expect from you in the future?
I’ve got a lot of work to do next promoting, as well as, continuing writing my blog. Asking what I’m going to write next, is one of the hardest questions.
I’d like to write about art collections of the wealthy and indulgent. Cheers.
You can head over and read Marks blog at Melbourne Art critic, as well as pick up his book, Sculptures Of Melbourne at Booktopia, or at Readings, NGV or one of the other various retail outlets across Melbourne
Super excited about this!! My good buddy Mark Holsworth has been working on this labour of love for some time now, and its finally getting to see the light of day! Encompassing Melbournes public sculpture in all its forms since way back at the beginning, til now – and all that street art stuff, this is a book to grab hold of, and a launch to get your ass to!
“Melbourne Books to launch one of the city’s most awaited art books.
Melbourne has an impressive number of sculptures on public display throughout the city. Just wander Melbourne’s city streets, gardens and laneways and you will undoubtedly find some magnificent public sculptures – from historical and religious icons to playful literary and social figures – all with rich historical weight. The book Sculptures of Melbourne explores major changes in the nature of public sculpture.
When Melbourne was established, sculpture was heavily influenced by the colonial legacy of neo-classical bronze and marble statues. From 1980 onwards, public sculpture changed dramatically, not only in style but in materials, location and sheer numbers.
This book, which includes controversial modernist sculptures such as ‘The Yellow Peril’ as well as unofficial laneway installations, tells the story of how the shifting trends in public sculpture moved from a classical style, to commemorative, to a corporate modernist style, to being integrated into urban design, and finally evolving into a contemporary style, which is non-traditional and temporary. Critics have unanimously hailed Melbourne’s collection of sculptures as notable narratives of place and time, which whilst stylistically different, have also established specific reference points and provided a rich reflection of the history of the city. These sculptures have come a long way from serving their decorative and utilitarian functions in the 1800s, to now embedding a strong historical beauty that is both permanent and ephemeral.
This is set to be one of year’s most memorable book milaunches! Don’t miss the sculptures, the installation works and the music.”
… and you know whats awesome? There is not one, but two book launches happening!
“Melbourne Books is pleased to announce two upcoming book launches of Sculptures of Melbourne by Mark S. Holsworth.
Come to Gallery One Three on Friday May 1 from 6pm for the launch party! The evening will include jazz (including The Smoking Owl – a fusion of live electronica, jazz, installation and new aesthetics) cocktails and artists at work! Mark Holsworth will be there to chat and sign books…
Then come to the Melbourne Art Book Fair at NGV International, where Sculptures of Melbourne will be launched on Sunday May 3 at 12noon in the Great Hall during the Fair!”
The inaugural Melbourne Art Book Fair at NGV International gathers together some of the most creative Australian and international book designers and publishers in an architecturally designed experience in NGV’s Great Hall.
So come along, entry is free and you can also take a look at the wares of some of the country’s leading publishers.”
We’ve got a lot more on this whole thing coming up, but for now – book in Friday and Sunday, and go get yourself a copy this weekend – and Friday sounds like a grand exhibition as well!!
Who: Mark Holsworth
What: Sculptures Of Melbourne book launch
Where & When:
Gallery One Three on Friday May 1 from 6pm
Melbourne Art Book Fair at NGV International, where Sculptures of Melbourne will be launched on Sunday May 3 from 12noon in the Great Hall
We dont usually post up may photography exhibitions, but when we do its for a good reason – like this show coming up from Sam (KidKong) Wong and Jack Shelton, two of Melbournes rising street photography stars.
“LA- NY is a joint exhibition between Sam Wong and Jack Shelton. Taking a look at a colourful California set against a stark black and white New York. The project will take the form of a book Launch and exhibition as part of The Photo-book Melbourne 2015 festival, Melbourne’s very first international photo book festival.”
Head down to No Vacancy at QV in Melbourne this Friday night to see the show, and the mad ass photos that will be on display.
Who: Sam Wong (KidKong) and Jack Shelton
What: LA – NY photography exhibition
Where: No Vacancy gallery, Jane Bell Lane, QV, Melbourne
When: Show opens Friday 17th February from 6pm til 9pm and runs til 24th February.
A book I have been hearing about for some time now; so I’m excited to announce the launch of Alison Youngs labour of love Street Art, Public City.
Alison Young is a professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. She has been studying street art for a number of years, and acted as a policy consultant for Melbourne City Council.
Friday night I got down to Backwoods gallery to check out Shida’s new show “Inner Myths” her are some pics from his show.
Be sure to check out his show, on till the 13th of July.
What can we say about Adnates show at Metro Gallery thats on right now? Beautiful. One of the best shows from a Melbourne street artist we’ve seen. Respectful. All the things that others have said many times over the past two weeks … but, really, what we feel about this show is that we’re pretty proud, not only of Adnate himself and the gorgeous work he did for it, but proud that Melbournes general public has seen fit to fall in love with his work, and truly validate all the countless hours that he has spent striving over the years to make his way as an artist. If a sold show at Metro Gallery doesn’t show that a graff artist, with enough hard work and unfaltering determination, can really live the dream and do what he loves doing, then we don’t know what does.
The opening for Beyond The Lands was amazing – from the speeches, to the traditional dancers, to the sheer amount of people attending, to the massive, but humble, smile we saw on Adnates face. It’s still on, and you should go see it.
The following are a bunch of shots that Dave Russell got of the works himself, as well as the awesome video that Michael Danischewski did for the whole thing.We loved it, and can’t wait to see what Adnate does next.
"Shane Andrews" face is known to pretty much anyone who paints or puts on shows here in Melbourne. One of our cities many diligent paintspotters, he has been roaming the city, taking snaps of everything he sees, for several years now – and his website, allThoseShapes, is a veritable treasure trove of cool art from around the city.
Now, he’s put it all together into a nice, lush tome for all to put on their coffee tables and share it around with their mates – and the launch party, complete with tunes and live art, is on this week.
"Figment’ is the first book from Toby Fairbank (sometimes known as Shane Andrews) who runs the Melbourne street art and graffiti website allThoseShapes, which now has over 300 artist pages and 8000 photos from around Melbourne.
Figment’s 200 pages contain over 320 photos most in landscape A4 placed together somewhat randomly as you would find them in the streets. The adventures are shown visually with all artist information and text left till the end of the book to let the art speak for itself.
Some of the art comes from the more obvious places such as the infamous Hosier Lane; some from regularly pasted places like Fitzroy, Northcote and Brunswick, some from the railways and some from abandos like the now departed Collingwood silos.
The artists in the book come from Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, New Zealand, Iran, UK, Italy, Belgium, Japan, Brazil, France, ++ though all the art was created in Melbourne.
For most of the art in this book, Figment is now all that remains. If you would like to have a copy of this sweet reminder, Figment is being launched on Thursday 16 January @ Trunk bar 275 Exhibition St, Melbourne.
There will be live art by RusKidd & Loadz (and possibly one other…!) which can be purchased at the end of the night (if you are lucky enough to be first!) music by euonim and copies of Figment to be bought and signed."
Head down this Thursday night, its a hot one this week, and the beer will be flowing, so head down there to check it all out!!
If you can’t by chance make it down this Thursday, or you’re out of town, you can grab yourself a copy of the book here!
Who: A whole bunch of artists in the book, and Ruskidd and Loadz doing live art
What: Figments book launch
Where: Trunk bar 275 Exhibition St, Melbourne
When: Launch is on Thursday evening 16th January 2013, from 4pm to 8pm – one night only!!
Check out the facebook event page here.
The book itself is fantastic, I picked up a copy, sat down hung over on a Sunday and read through its pages – and thoroughly enjoyed both the artwork and the story itself.
Check out all the artwork from the show below (thanks to David Russell), and a glimpse of what you can find in the pages of the book – which you can buy for yourself right here.
It looks intriguing, weird and most definitely cool – this is the book launch from Shida – "A Call To Spirits" and from the single page preview I’ve seen of it, below, it looks to be all that and more.
Launching this Friday night at the Silent Army Storeroom, tucked down in the back of Blender Studios, its great to see any kind of show from Shida – but even better to see a book from the man with words alongside his awesome art.
Limited to only 300 copies, its sure to be a nice piece for those who collect words and work, so head down there this Friday night and check it out and get yourself a copy!!
What: A Call To Spirits
Where: The Silent Army Storeroom, Blender Studios, 110 franklin st, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
When: 6pm til late, Friday January 10th, 2014 – one night only.