Vale Gough Whitlam

Gough Whitlam, was a legendary figure of Australian History. The consummate politician, his legacy is great . As Australians we owe him much He ended conscription, established free health care via Medicare, provided free tertiary education, through the TEAS scheme, granted aboriginal land rights,  and gave huge funding to the arts. With his wife Margaret, and the Australian Labor Party, they initiated change in the Australian political landscape, and adopted a great social justice program, for all Australians. It was one of inclusion, and addressed many wrongs in our society, and sought equality of opportunity for all, across all walks of life.

Iron Will
Iron Will

 

 

As a young student I lay down on the tram tracks before the Victorian Parliament House, in Spring St, to protest conscription by ballot for young Australian men, to fight in the Vietnam War. My brother, who could have been conscripted, also protested. It was an old style protest, its type not seen on the streets of Melbourne before, or since, and was one of the last times my brother and I agreed politically, and fought our corner together.  Gough put an end to this barbaric conscription. Whilst too young to vote in the historic 1972 Election Campaign, Labor won, Gough became leader, and its catchy  “Its Time ” campaign song, and black and white TV ad, is one I remember well.

Land For all
Land for All

 

 

Ironically the day after Gough died, on 21 October 2014, his birthplace, a humble cottage in Kew, was demolished. When  I bemoaned that the great man had passed, a fellow Victoria University student asked, who was Gough Whitlam? I shuddered at the inadequacies of our Australian, education system.

Essay Writing

view
view

The final essay is to be prepared for Context and Culture . Much brainstorming to select a topic, followed by information gleaning, and finally, actual writing is engaged in. What to include, what to strip out, what is relevant, what is not ? All are valid questions, not easily answered. Now with most of the research done, I am awake at 5.00 am, to complete the final draft. Hopefully I can get it done today. I want to be able to get a good night’s uninterrupted sleep, and be able to move onto the next project, essay free. This also promises to be an engaging but exhaustive project, as I catalogue and chronicle my vast body of work, in an archival format. It will mean another new computer application to learn. The life of a visual artist is certainly more complicated than it was in Picasso’s day.

” DETROIT D “

The offer of $8,000 to travel anywhere overseas to paint, draw, and more, was an irresistible offer. As VU training artists we were all eligible to apply. Much decision making ensued. Where to go, what to do and what to see. Easy right ? That decision was easy, but the writing of the grant application proved more problematic. Initially it involved detailed research, followed by a complex series of emails, to establish connections with a city to which you had never been, relying on the goodwill of people you had never met. Many questions were asked, solutions sought, and networking via cyber space was attempted. Favourable responses, were elicited from most parties, and with a swathe of references, a detailed series of proposals, and several further training prospects, the dreaded application was now to be written. Much procrastination, on my part resulted. I thrashed around ideas in my head,ad nauseam, and I became more than a little obsessive about the whole process. I slept ,thought,ate and workshopped travel grant, before I actually sat down to commence the writing process. My long suffering friends and family adopted pained looks when I started to gabble those three taboo words, travel grant application. Their eyes glazed over at the mention of the “D” word, and I’m not talking Denise

packard plant
packard plant
detroit
detroit

here, but that other “D” word, Detroit the place of my obsession, the holy grail of discarded and found objects, city of abandonment, my nirvana, and where I so desperately want to go, with $8,000 in my purse.

 
Several false starts were attempted before I got the nuance of writing clearly and concisely.It was a lengthy and difficult process. A lot of help from Robert, our VU teacher was invaluable, as he made me think about the themes I would be exploring, and how to articulate my reasoning. The dedication to the cause just had to be applied. It was too valuable an opportunity to let slip through my fingers. A harried Robert was seen darting in and out of the photo copy room and classrooms of the 16th floor, 300 Flinders St, VU HQ, all that long week as the deadline for the application grew steadily nearer.

It was a great struggle but I managed to pull it all together, and the last day saw me typing up my final draft, after multiple scrapped attempts. My piece was finally ready for submission, and I gratefully emailed it off with several hours to spare. I learnt a lot from the whole process, specifically how to articulate, who I am, what I do, what are the principles of my artistic practice, and how much I really wanted to win the grant.

But don’t we all?

Budapest

Budapest is a city of contrast. Divided by the Danube River,Buda is the West Bank and Pest, the East. Originally begun as a Celtic Settlement, it has endured many historical, cultural,ethnic and religious upheavals to become one of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful and enduring cities,  and certainly one of its most interesting.

 

TOE
TOE

Where else can you buy $2.50 tickets to the Ballet Giselle at the Budapest Opera House?  of course the 22 year old daughter and I  had to enter via the back stairs, so the patrons in expensive seats could be seen making a grand entrance, via the front stairs! A night time ghost walk around the cobbled streets, revealed a bloody and gory past, buried beneath the grandeur and opulence, of old Budapest.

Taking a commuter ferry ride down the mighty Danube, revealed the olympic training school of the Hungarian rowing team, a mix of old and new high rise housing, and ended at a defunct shipbuilding yard, and abandoned, industrial estate.

A favourite memory was shopping at the local flea markets. Most had good quality goods, and were keenly priced. One, in a far flung suburb, revealed old folk art pattern rubber rollers, genuine nazi war badges,  vintage tin toys, and a jumble of retro clothing. It was cheap, musty, and housed some dilapidated merchandise, but was worth the complex trip out of town to get to it.

 

budpest
budapest

 

Other memories include, walking across the Liberty Bridge spanning the mighty Danube, using the funicular ( cliff railway) running up to Buda Castle, visiting the Budapest Art Museum, and feeling chagrin when the student daughter was invited to a private viewing of Warhol pieces. Watching the same daughter get her hair cut for her 22nd birthday. Me agreeing to a haircut by a non english speaking hairdresser, at the same salon. Drinking vast quantities of home made limonetta ( lemonade) for $3 a litre in local restaurants, and visiting Margaret island, to ride bikes, and eat ice cream and fairyfloss, as part of the birthday celebrations. Friday night saw us floating around the Rudas Baths, a thermal hot springs with magical restorative powers, needed for two world weary travellers, and trying to avoid gazing at the plump male, tattooed, ponytailed, patrons.

Studio Space

A studio space has been enjoyed for the second half of 2014, by grateful VU students. It on the 17 th Floor, 300 Flinders St, commanding great views over the city, and giving us a taste of what its like to work in a commercial studio space. Most days it has provided a refuge, an escape, a study retreat, a repository of our efforts, and an inspiring place to work. A unique view of the CBD, is afforded us on three sides of the building.

 

nicholas building 1
nicholas building 1

Looking east across Swanston st , to Russell st and beyond , offers the interesting sight of the back of the dilapidated, iconic, Nicholas Building, resplendent with graffiti, and damaged fittings, and fixtures .

cbd
cbd

A northern aspect reveals, modern apartments, complete with swimming pool, shadowed by 1970’s high rises of rounded concrete and many windows .

My view, which I consider to be the best, is West facing, and also offers a corner view of the South. The river, bay, and riverbank are revealed. It foreshortens the Casino, exposes parts of South and Port Melbourne, and extends to ” Jeff’s Shed ” and beyond on a ceaseless horizon .

I have relished this studio space, made it my own, and installed the essence of my work, the found object. Alas , it is now time to begin to pack it up, clean the area for the final presentation of folios ,and bid goodbye .

Whilst I am sad to leave, I know it is not the final adieu. Being a part time student in 2014, I will return to complete my diploma in 2015. As a painting student, I will be afforded the luxury of again using a studio space, at VU.

Cockatoo Island

It was the 19th Sydney Biennale, so I caught the commuter ferry to Cockatoo Island. The island boasted installations , art exhibitions, and urban camping sites as part of its participation in the event.

 

The island is a UNESCO world – heritage – listed site in the middle of Sydney Harbour. It is also home to an abandoned shipyard. A perfect example of post industrialism the island is dotted with cliff faces boasting old pipes, metal plinths, and general industrial detritus . Once a thriving shipyard it still houses the abandoned cranes, tumbling down, rusted wire, cyclone mesh fences, and deserted, obsolete machinery. Home now to urban, weekend thrill seekers, who camp in uniformly arranged campsites. It has two beautifully restored and productive turn of the century cottages, and a light-keepers station.

 

sea
sea

 

A hulking, rusted, corrugated iron, factory, dots one part of the island, providing a menacing sentinel to times past,  and reviving evocative memories for those who toiled there. The cavernous warehouse spaces are put to good use as offices for creative practice. During the Biennale, they served as gallery spaces. A winding harbour vista reveals the extent of the industrial presence, and blights the picturesque seascape with souvenirs  of  a voracious, non sustainable shipbuilding industry . Many rusted, distressed pieces of manufacturing industry, still dot the landscape.

old industry
old industry

Open House Melbourne

Open House is on the last weekend of July in Melbourne . A day for public and private buildings of significance and interest , to throw their doors open  to all .

A visit to the Mission to Seafarers , Australian Tapestry Workshop , and Malthouse theatre , whetted my appetite in 2012 .

Marvelling , I steeped into the portico of the squat , iconic Mission building in Flinders St . It was a building I had passed on a daily basis in transit to my city job . Its closeted chapel revealed  intricate stained glass windows depicting sea misadventures , and well polished wooden pews warmed by the bums of many seamen  .  In the silent sancturary of the Norla Dome , home to changing art exhibitions of marine themed works  ,  I felt the history of the building .

edgewater towers
edgewater towers

 

The bustling Australian Tapestry workshop  , housed in a unique 19th century white filigreed building , was a plethora of colour and action . Massive , striking , woven canvases were draped across enormous frames , as the weavers diligently performed their timeless craft . All manner of stories were being told in thread , from afl footy matches , to delicate indigenous themes .

Malthouse , the stark modern theatre buit on an industrial site of a working brewery , is home to Melbourne’s avant garde theatre . Rehearsal rooms , costumes , sets and theatre spaces were explored with some dexterity by the zealous guide . Forced to forgo a visit to the police horse stable as the queue  snaked around the corner and down the street , I remembered it had also been a daily backdrop to my working life .

In 2013 , I want to visit the grotesque edgewater towers in St Kilda , Melbourne’ s first high rise dwelling built in 1959 . The quirky , Cairo , art deco bachelor  apartments  in fitzroy, and the majestic , distressed ballroom , atop flinders st railway station . Conversely , I  have been fortunate enough to enter , via the stagedoor , the Palais de Danse theatre in St Kilda . I too have danced on the rollingstage , crept  up into the roof space and peered out from the juliet balconies.

Hi Rise StKilda 1959
Hi Rise StKilda 1959

How successful is Open House Melbourne ?  I regularly attend the gallery space at the Mission to Seafarers ,  have attended a woodcut printing workshop at the tapestry workshop , and enjoyed several performances at the Malthouse Theatre . Fingers crossed that I win the ballot , and get the chance to peek inside the compelling , ruined splendour of  the Railway Ballroom  , this year .