Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bluebirds Fly…

Australia Fair, performed on the 73-key Belgian built Verbeeck Concert Street Organ.

Australia Fair’ is the name of this beautiful street organ made by Johnny Verbeeck, built from the Verbeeck’s Organ Works (Est 1884), in the city of Antwerp, Belgium.

  • The ‘Australia Fair’ travelling concert organ entertains crowds throughout Australia, bringing happiness to thousands who listen to her music. This isn’t hard, because its mission is to entertain and delight generations of Australians in street organ concerts.
  • It is the only travelling Concert Organ in Australia. It has entertained extensively at all levels from local functions to “Yarralumla” – the residence of the Governor General of Australia.
  • All Australians are encouraged to support ‘Australia Fair’, as it is self-funded and reliant on personal donations to ensure her continued future.
Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh, why can’t I?

Further information for the Australia Fair Grand Concert Street Organ is available on this Facebook page.

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What Are We Hanging Around For?

[Sea Country Spirits (2015-2016) consists of 32 sculptures of spirits, of takorra (sky) beeyak (land) and warri (sea); from Wathaurong country, which Jenny presents as a rhythmical dance of animated spirit forms of different scales, made from copper wire, tree grass, driftwood, kangaroo bones, feathers, wood, synthetic polymer paint, seaweed, grass roots and resin].

  • Australian indigenous artist, Jenny Crompton (born in Warthraurong in 1968) lives on the Victorian Surf Coast, the land of her ancestors, the Wadawurrung.
  • Crompton is the creator of Sea Country Spirits which consists of the surreal shapes of birds and their nest crustaceans, shellfish, fish, shells and macropods, displayed together to create an ethereal sensation of different living creatures.
  • These are gathered to tell a story about the life cycles of Crompton’s Country and to express the continuous rhythms the land has been echoing for millennia.

Crompton’s focus on themes explore the environment and indigenous culture of her country. Part of her process is walking the land and respectfully gathering natural materials, which allows her to reconnect, listen and interpret an essence of her culture through the making of sculpture and paintings.

  • Crompton won the Deadly Art Award at the Victorian Indigenous Art Awards (VIAA) in 2014 and was a finalist in the 2015 VIAA awards.
  • She also won the 2016 Lorne Sculpture Biennale, Sculpture Trail Award.

You can follow Jenny Crompton via her website.

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Hey, Flick That Chip Off Your Shoulder

[“Flick That Chip off Your shoulder” street art mural by Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho in Hosier Lane and “Dilema Generasai #2″, oil & synthetic polymer paint on fiberglass steel, at National Gallery of Victoria].

Eko Nugroho (b. 1977 in Jogyakarta, Indonesia) is a contemporary Indonesian artist. Nugroho belonged to the generation of artists, who joined student and youth political activism movements called Reformasi, the ‘2000 Generation’;  which were active in the late 1990s. Their political messages were based on observations and daily impressions of socio-political issues which occurred at that time.

  • Nugroho’s works cross many art disciplines including public murals, paintings, drawings, embroidery, comics, video animation and contemporary wayang kulit (shadow puppets).
  • Like many of his peers, he has managed to merge ‘high art’ with popular and street art, to become a successful contemporary Indonesian artist.

In 2012, Nugroho’s contribution to the RALLY: Contemporary Indonesian Art exhibition saw time for him to paint a mural which he completed in one day on a wall in Melbourne’s famous Hosier Lane.

  • Entitled Flick That Chip Off Your Shoulder, it contained his signature creatures and playful elusive forms for which he has become known for.

Dilema Generasai #2 [translated: Generational Dilemma] (2012), features one of Nugroho’s helmeted figures, which reference his concerns for political and social issues affecting Indonesia’s younger generations.

  • Both of these examples showcase Nugroho’s questions about humanity’s existence and ironic nature; including frivolity and dysfunctions; and the absurdity of life; which are all addressed through his comic-inspired universe populated by hybrid-aliens and bizarre narratives.
  • The masks and headgear worn by his protagonists are symbols of protection and concealment, which act as metaphors for different psychological states such as detachment, isolation and indifference.

You can visit his website or contact him directly by email or via his studio.

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The Village Life of Hendra Gunawan

Hendra Gunawan was an Indonesian artist, poet, sculptor and guerilla fighter who was born in Bandung, the capital of West Java, (former Dutch East Indies), on June 11, 1918 and died in Bali on July 17, 1983.

  • Gunawan was best known for his combining of Western painting techniques and traditional Indonesian aesthetics.
  • His oeuvre spans a vast array of subjects including (but not limited to): fishermen, fish, water buffaloes, nude women, masked men, guerrilla fighters and abstract forms.
  • Gunawan fought against the Dutch colonial rule as a guerilla fighter; and later as an activist against the ruling government; for which he was incarcerated from 1965–1978.
  • It was during this period that he continued to paint, creating works on small scraps of rough canvas made available to him.

Today, his work can be found in the Neka Art Museum in Bali, the Singapore Art Museum; and the Ciputra Sundagese Heritage Museum in Jakarta name but a few.

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These Tins Really Take the Biscuit!

Biscuit Tin CollectionFrom Melbourne Open House -“Cabinets of Wonder” ephemera collection at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. entitled – ”The Welcome Guest”.

These biscuit tins belong to the personal collection of “TG” [Occupation: Driver]. In reference to his collection, TG says: “I got interested in collecting biscuit tins, packaging and signs for a few reasons. My mum, my girlfriend (1970-1973), her mum and two of her aunties worked at Guests [biscuit factory] in West Melbourne. My uncle worked at Brockhoff’s in West Melbourne. My interest also came from the 1960s when I noticed a ‘stars ‘n stripes’ wrapper on Guest’s USA cream biscuits. It also featured the Guest Bell Boy, known as The Welcome Guest. Guests are a favourite collecting area but I have also expanded my interest on biscuits to confectionery”.

  • He may be crackers – but his collection isn’t crumby – in fact I think it’s very Nice

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Chrissy Amphlett | You’re Not Like the Rest

The late Divinyl’s singer Chrissy Amphlett helped put Australian rock music on the international map and is recognised with a permanent accolade to her in the form of a renamed lane off Little Bourke Street between Spring and Exhibition Streets, in Melbourne, Australia.

  • Amphlett Lane, was renamed from its former name Corporation Lane due to ‘Team Chrissy’, a well run campaign by Amphlett fans and 7000 lobbyists.
  • The laneway is nestled behind Melbourne’s Princess Theatre and the rear of the Palace Theatre on Bourke Street, two of the Divinyl’s concert venues.
  • As well as a commemorative plaque, the laneway is adorned with two artworks by Tasmanian artist Peter Gouldthorpe and a stencil work by Melbourne artist Damien Arena; one featuring the singer’s iconic schoolgirl uniform and her beloved dogs.

Amphlett was only 53 when she died from breast cancer in 2013; and had worldwide hits with the Divinyl’s such as: Science Fiction, The Boys in Town and I Touch Myself (which has been latterly used in breast cancer awareness campaigns).

Too much too young – Get Me Out of Here!

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These Conor’s Are Probably a Gonner

Street artist Conor Harrington was born in Cork, Ireland in 1980.  These days he is living and working in London, where he considers himself as a ‘painter’ rather than street artist or gallery artist, to which he is both.

Harringon’s career began as a teenager tagging and graffiti painting in the streets of Ireland. Most of these nights were called hip-hop nights, where he would hang out with the DJs and MCs from around the Irish countryside at clubs in the 1990s. During the day he studied at the Limerick School of Art and Design, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2002.

These days Harrington’s outdoor street murals are often on a large scale. His work is a mixture of classical and contemporary art, blending the two together into a new and inventive way of art.

  • In 2013, Harrington participated in the Dulwich Outdoor Gallery project, initiated by the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Discover further information on Conor Harrington’s website.

These Conor’s are probably a gonner, but look out for further Harrington street art murals on a wall near you!

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Successfully Sensitive | Emotionally Unstable

Brit D’Argaville’s  ‘Political Problem’ [Neon transparent synthetic polymer resin, 39.8 x 122.6 x 6.4 cm. Exhibited at Start Up – Top Arts 2015 National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)]

Using specific colour and font, Brit D’Argaville’s ‘Political Problem‘ draws on gender stereotyping and double-standards exposed between male and female representation in both politics and the media.

  • For example, ‘SUCESSFULLY SENSITIVE’  is represented in blue capital letters, which depicts how male politicians are perceived when they cry in the public domain.
  • In contrast, the pink and feminine representation reads ‘emotionally unstable‘ in flowing collapsed letters; representing stereotype bias when a female politician cries in public and according to the artist; conveys a sense of hopelessness.

For further information on this artwork, see D’Argaville’s page on Top Arts 2015 at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Melbourne website.

The NGV is celebrating its 25th year of the Start Up Top Arts exhibition, presenting outstanding work by students who have completed Art or Studio Arts studies in the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) each year.

The current Top Arts exhibition for 2019 can be viewed at the NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne, Ground Level, NGV Design Studio. (Duration: 22 March, 2019 – 14 July, 2019, Open 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. daily – Free entrance).

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Tea for Two and Two for Tea

Peter Philippi was born in 1866 in Trier. He studied between 1885-1902 at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Art.

  • Between 1895 – 1902 Philippi was taught at the Academy by Professor Eduard von Gebhardt.
  • Upon completion of his studies, Philippi settled in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
  • From there he regularly sent his paintings to various art exhibitions.
  • His works are on display at the Berlin National Gallery and the Neue Pinakothek in Munich.

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Compare the Pair #20 | Every Picture Tells A Story

Original Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-August Renoir. Other, modern day representation and replication of the event by unknown photographer recreating image for The Age Good Weekend prize.

Pierre-August Renoir’s (1841-1919) Luncheon of the Boating Party stands as a famous joy-filled artwork which depicts a large party of friends enjoying a luncheon and afternoon dining spread on a balcony overlooking the River Seine.

  • In this painting, Renoir captured the effect of sunlight beaming through the striped awning. This diffused light is reflected upon the wine bottles, glasses and the bare arms of the men and women.
  • Renoir once said. “For me a picture should be a pleasant thing, joyful and pretty – yes, pretty!”.

In Luncheon of the Boating Party Renoir raised “pretty” to the level of masterpiece; and as a consequence; it must be said that, in this case, “every picture tells a story.”

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Heads Will Roll…

Here is a “Heads Up” on three different artists who have headed-up in the name of art.

Sarah McConnellDropped Heads‘ (2008) [Ceramic 140 x 80 x 18 cm overall] from Access Gallery exhibition, Bayside Arts & Cultural Centre in 2017 – ‘Clay at Firbank‘ which was a survey exhibition of high quality ceramic work produced by Firbank Grammar students. The exhibition celebrated learning and craftsmanship within the medium of clay, showcasing works at various stages of learning, including the use of clay to create conceptual works for the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) level.

Rosemary LaingRemembering Babylon #7′ (A collection with Stephen Birch 2003) [Type C photograph 55 x 84 cm] from ‘One Dozen Unnatural Disasters in the Australian Landscape’ at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, 2005. Laing (Born 1959, Brisbane Queensland) now lives and works in Sydney. She originally trained as a painter in the late 1970s and began incorporating photography in the late 1980s. Since then, Laing has produced project-based photographic work, often cinematic in vision and real-time performance and physical installation rather than digital manipulation.

Ron MueckMass’ (2016-2017) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Comprises 100 synthetic polymer paint on fibreglass [550 x 1480 x 5010 cm]. Mueck (born 1958, Melbourne) is an Australian-born hyper-realist sculptor. Inspired by the human skull ‘Mass‘ has reminiscences with Dutch still-life and the vanitas painting genre of 16th-17th centuries. See further information about Ron Mueck in my earlier post.

So it would seem, (based on the above), that if not placed correctly – heads will roll!

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In the Room and Around the ‘Bend

[Above left: Fisherman’s Bend (1963) and above right: The Room]

Australian artist Victor George O’Connor was born in Preston, Melbourne on 21 December, 1918. He studied at the prestigious Melbourne High School and studied law at Melbourne University where in late 1941, at the age of 23, he completed his law degree and went into the army. With an interest in both art and politics, he became active in the Australian Realist movement. His work is represented in the Australian National Gallery as well as in various state and regional galleries.

  • In the 1960s, O’Connor moved to Sydney where he became a full-time artist with frequent exhibitions at the Australian Galleries and the Victorian Artists Society.
  • In 1983, he bought ”Woodside” in Dromana; which would become his home for the next 27 years, where he continued his art.
  • In the late 1980s O’Connor rented a studio in Fitzroy, and painted scenes around Melbourne’s inner suburbs.

After the death of his second wife, in 2004 he had  aspirations about painting again, but due to arthritis in his hands and poor eyesight he moved into an aged-care home in Fitzroy,  where he died on 8 September, 2010, at the age of 91.

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Looks Like the Death of the Library

[Above: Architectural Fragment by Petrus Spronk].

Architectural Fragment (1992) is a Pythagorean triangle which expresses a strong association with the geometry of ancient Greece. The sculpture is made from Port Fairy blue stone and is situated outside the State Library of Victoria, on the corner of Swanston & LaTrobe Streets, Melbourne. It was created by Dutch-born, Australian sculptor Petrus Spronk. He was commissioned to undertake this as part of Swanston Street Walk Public Art Project in 1992.

  • Petrus Spronk immigrated to Australia in 1957 and trained as a ceramicist and sculptor in South Australia. These days the artist lives in a clearing in the forest, near Daylesford in Victoria, working in his studio and tending to his vegetable garden.

In ‘Architectural Fragment‘ the sculpture represents a fragment of the library emerging from the pavement as an archaeological artifact might.  Spronks’ intention was to create a dialogue between art, history and place. His inspiration was Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias which speaks of the fragile and transient nature of all that is human. Quoting from the poem the pedestal reads:

‘My name is Ozymandias,
King of Kings.
Look on my work you mighty,
and despair’.

Like a fallen classical monument ‘Architectural Fragment‘ reflects the past and alludes other transience of the present. However, it still looks like it is slipping away, representing the death of the library.

It is also a great skate board mount!

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Jack Dracula | The Marked Man

Photo: Jack Dracula by Diane Arbus.

Jack Dracula: “The Marked Man” had over 1000 tattoos which in his day were valued at US$6000. Some notables include: a pair of trompe-Poeil goggles, the winged cap of Mercury with a rose cluster across his crown; a two-foot wide eagle across his chest, a tiger and snake wrestling, a werewolf stares from his kneecap and on the inside of his under lip is inscribed the name DRACULA. He is also adorned with winged dragons, a peacock, geisha girl, a cigar-smoking skull, a hypodermic entitled Death Needle, the names of his three heroes: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney and on his fingers the initials of some obscenity which his girl friends were so good at deciphering that he finally converted the ones on his left hand into flowers.

Jack Dracula was was the stage name for Martin Semnack who was born on Christmas Day, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York. After a stretch in the US Navy he returned to Brooklyn but was unable to find permanent work and started hanging out in Coney Island. In 1954 he got his first tattoo. This was just the start of a fifty-year career as a tattooed man. In the 1950s-1960s Dracula worked with many tattooists including Eddie Funk, Tom Yeomans and operated shops in Camden and Philadelphia. He also worked in the 1960s as a sideshow attraction for Ringling Brothers Barnum Bailey Circus, Amusements American Carnival, Dave Rosen’s Wonderland Sideshow in 1957, Riverview Park in 1962, Jerry Lipko’s Shows in 1963, Palisades Park in 1964 and the Huber Museum in New York City.

  • A 1970s news article about Dracula stated that he was a gourmet cook, a certified wine connoisseur and an amateur archaeologist.
  • He was a well-versed opera fan and member of the Mario Lanza Institute.
  • Dracula also had a large collection of antique jade.
  • Diabetes and lung problems forced Dracula to retire in the 2000s and on January 18th, 2011 he died at the Park Pleasant Nursing Home in Philadelphia.

Dracula was an authority on necromancy and a writer and devotee of horror stories and introduced Diane Arbus to the literary netherworld.  The following is a fragment from his writings entitled “A visit From Count Dracula“.

‘Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Except a dead mouse.

Much of the information mentioned above was originally published by the Tattoo Archive © 1997 (Updated 2016).

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Ex Libris: To Library of Congress Subject Headings

Gil McKenzie – Ex Libris.  McKenzie describes this artwork: “Essentially my aim was to bring new life to old objects. In my sculpture, Ex libris, I used old books which I sourced from op shops, my own home, and those that were given to me by friends and family. Throughout my design process I worked with a huge range of pre-used objects, but I settled on books as I was drawn to the colours and textures of their covers and the aged brown colour of the pages.”

  • McKenzie became interested in the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which is the celebration of beauty in imperfection, and felt that books epitomised this concept.
  • Wanting to make her art pieces unique and personal she began incorporating maps, such as topographical maps of local areas. She transferred the maps onto the books and carved contours into the covers and pages.

This work was displayed at the 2015 StArt Up: Top Arts. This annual exhibition presents the work of Victoria’s freshest and most inspiring young artists and builds on a well-earned reputation for being one of the liveliest and most visited exhibitions at the Ian Potter Centre: National Gallery of Victoria, at Federation Square.

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