I bring you my first and hopefully not last piece from far too hot Melbourne. This postcard is unfortunately delayed due to my sheer excitement at being away from the cold and grey London streets of Hackney to the Brightonesque beach front of St Kilda.
Melbourne has an array of galleries spotted about the city, especially independent ones in the Brunswick Street area. However, the ones that grabbed my attention were the large main ones. Unlike other big cities all the well known large galleries are within a fifteen minute walk. The highlights being The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), The Australian Centre for Contemporary Arts (ACCA), Victoria Arts Centre (VAC) and Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).
The NGV, like any other national gallery, has its classic permanent collection with a mix of genres and eras, but should be awarded special credit for the temporary exhibitions. Krishna: Love and Devotion in the Asian Art Temporary Exhibition Space combined a collection of iconography including jewellery, textiles and sculpture along with contemporary photography. Beautiful, bright and fascinating, this small exhibit admirably extends the museum's already extensive permanent collection of Asian art. Modern Britain 1900-1960 is the large temporary exhibition at the moment, it has over 250 masterworks that have been collected from the Australian and New Zealand art collections. Such an incredible array of paintings and sculpture unlikely to ever be combined again, and it was thrilling to see the progression from the beginning of the century through the war and into the modern period. The highlight for me was Alvaro Guevara's perculiarly bewitching portrait Mrs Fairbaim (1919).
The ACCA, while very impressive from the exterior with its steel and rust red structure styling, is distinctly not so large from the inside. The selection of artists is varied but very video heavy and at times badly installed. The highlight for me were two Tracy Moffat video pieces, Artist (2000) and Doomed (2007), however, these were slightly spoiled by the lack of seating forcing you to crowd around a small television on the floor, and by sounds from other pieces, not to mention the confiscation of my water even on a 30C+ degree day.
The ACMI surprised me, to be honest. It is a large building situated in the monumental Federation Square, moments away from the bustling city centre entrance to Flinders Street Station. The calm, quiet and sheer size seemed ideal for Replay Marclay, the first solo exhibition to be held in the new Screen Gallery. It was interesting to see a Marclay exhibition without his usual sculptural additions of record covers -don't get me wrong I really love them -but actually this exhibition worked on its own with just sound and vision. A heavenly air conditioned room welcomes you as you descend a staircase in darkness with a silent piece to watch Mixed Reviews (American Sign Language), 1999-2001. The massive dark room had numerous concealed spaces coming off it for pieces concentrating on sound. The best of this, Crossfire 2007, placed the viewer in the middle of the box-room and comprised four synchronised video projections each playing a different violent film. Gun fire from each movie, however as soon as you turn to see the image it has stopped and another screen is screaming gunfire. You become the victim being shot at; trapped amongst all the noise. Marclay is said to have tried to "turn the firearms into percussion instruments." Interview Magazine said of Christian Marclay "Music like you've never seen before ... art like you've never heard before", and they are exactly right.
The exhibition at the VAC was the one that probably surprised and impressed me the most. Nick Cave: The Exhibition is a personal insight into Australian writer, singer and musician. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the inspiration and imagination behind Cave's work. The exhibition includes many personal items including a mock up of his home library, his Kylie bag, some pieces of his art collection by Louis Wain (painter of comedy cats) and notebook upon notebook of pictures and hand written lyrics. The exhibition is also scattered about with small wall-mounted cupboards that, when opened, play Nick Cave talking about a variety of subjects, including his favourite art which includes the Rothko room at the Tate, The Beheading of John The Baptist at the National Gallery and late Simeon Solomon (one of which he owns). There is a deep religious influence in the exhibition and Cave's life from prayer cards in some notebooks, to religious idol statues and small art works. Even if you are not a fan or know anything about Nick Cave it doesn't matter because it is a fascinating look into someone's life and how they think, what has happened to them and how they have been inspired.
On a final word, art in Melbourne in not restricted to the galleries but it all over the city, from a decorative grate to incredible architecture and graffiti everywhere. However, the graffiti is unlike the usual classless 'tags' you see when coming in and out of Waterloo, it is made as art and treated as art being given special places in the city, especially the suburbs. Melbourne is certainly a city full of inspiration and is not short on art, so any of you who think it is too far, forget about it and come over because while you are in coats, gloves and scarves I am in as little as possible by the beach or in an air conditioned gallery while it is between 28 and 41 degrees.....keep it in mind!