Surrealism and DaDa at NGV Federation Square

Joined together shoes, one long fingered glove, and a hat with a zip, all are absurdly silly pieces made by Barry Humphries, in the fifties whilst a dadaist studying at Melbourne University.

 

Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries, Dada pieces 1950’s

These and other pieces by working Australian artists are featured in the “Lurid Beauty Exhibition” currently showing at the NGV’s Ian Potter Centre, Federation Square. Many of my favourite Australian artists are showing including Pat Brassington, a Tasmanian photographer and printmaker whose work features disembodied parts of the female body.

Starlight 2001 colour digital print
Pat Brassington,Starlight 2001
colour digital print

Exhibitors include Rosslynd Piggot, whose massive white bed imposes an improbable and powerful presence above the space inviting all to dream.

High Bed, 1998 construction of painted wood, metal, cotton etc
High Bed, 1998
construction of painted wood, metal, cotton etc

The gorgeous black and white photography of Max Dupain of the 1950’s models portrays images of a graceful and bygone era.

 

Shadow of Ballet Dancer 1938 silver gelatin photograph
Shadow of Ballet Dancer
1938 silver gelatin photograph

Early collage work by Sidney Nolan and David Noonan are featured. A taxidermied black cat waves goodbye to us at the end of the show. It looks like a stage prop or TV show persona and not a gallery piece. Such is the depth and wonder of this show my eyes were opened to works by artists I knew but didn’t know were part of the Dada and Surrealism movements. Being removed from Europe and the USA these artists created their own version of the movement. It is a brilliant show and many of these influential artists are currently teaching and working in Australia.

Judith Wright 2011 Mixed Media A journey
Judith Wright, A journey (detail) 2011–12 mixed media – See more at: http://artguide.com.au/articles-page/show/judith-wright-

I found particularly poignant and whimsical the installations by Judith Wright in the foyer. They are assemblages of found objects of childhood relics eg horses heads, child’s toys and a rowboat. These works depict the loss of her child, and are the artists imaginings of how her child’s life would be if she had lived and grown through childhood.

This exhibition educated and exposed me to a vast area of work by Australian artists working in a wildly inventive field of exploration.

Spring

Spring’s gentle caress touches my face,

its time to put winter in its place,

rain is gone , squall and sleet,

now I want sun and blossom at my feet.

 

botanica
botanica

The grey, unforgiving, bleak streets, will be replaced by sun dappled, sweet smelling, welcoming greets.

I want spring and all its warmth, no more reference to winter henceforth.

Horse-racing, Cracker-Night, hedonistic joy,

A giddy round of comforts and delights,

Entice me from winters long toil.

 

Istanbul Vintage

Selale Gultekin owns a Pied de poule ( vintage shop )in Istanbul .

Her beautiful turkish name means waterfall .

Appropriate , as she is quite literally surrounded under a waterfall of clothes.

Meandering around the cobbled lanes of inner city istanbul we chanced on her cache of nostalgia .image

The tell tale sign was a 50 ,s lace wedding dress stuck to the door , nestled beside it a pleated chiffon party dress in neon lemon shade .

Two stone steps led to narrow glass doors , and a sign imperiously instructing the bell to be rung to gain entry.

I pressed a clammy finger to it as instructed .
The doors were flung wide , the heady smell of plastic and mothballs escaped , as did two startled blonde , 20 plus Nordic types , looking like startled deer.

A dimunitive , brown skinned lady with wild , frizzy , dyed red hair , and heavily kohled eyes , greeted us .
She was dressed in top to toe modern clothing from her american apparel cotton chinos , double layer topshop singlets , leather esprit loafers , and Blue leopard print gstring clearly visible , above her rounded brown hips .
I am Selale she announced and had clearly scented fresh prey as she beckoned us in gleefully to her cornucopia of earthly delights .
What enfolded was a display by a woman in love with her esoteric collection of finery .
It was also a history lesson of her life , as she recounted events by what each piece was worn to and by whom .

Selale,s shop
Selale,s shop

” Oh this is the dress I wore to the ballet ” , holding aloft a magnificent , hand tailored evening gown , with a brown silk top , and green cotton hand worked , lace skirt .
This was my grandmothers, Selale shrieked , as a plastic cover was wrenched asunder to reveal a 30’s flapper dress , the top velvet encrusted eau de nil flowers on sheer bodice , the full skirt a symphony of swirling sheer green silk .
The sweet carnaby st swinging 60’s short green cotton jacket , embellished with large round hot pink buttons , and sweet Peter Pan collar revived fond memories.
Copies of the 50″s two piece suits of fitted jacket & skirts , were used in mad men.

Each garment was lovingly produced and its story told .
This was my mothers , as she proffered a demure , white and brown polka dotted voile , full skirted , sun frock.
She proudly and haltingly shared her history with us in broken English .
My grandmother was the first teacher in Turkey.
My mother was the first nurse in Turkey.
Clearly a milestone in male dominated Muslim turkey ‘s society.
Black and white photos of two impossibly beautiful sultry dark haired beauties were proudly proferred.

Her treasure trove consisted off a tiny room , hall and entry all stuffed with clothing , most encased in plastic & suspended from ceiling hooks . The full length viewing mirror , was through a truculent door , concealed in a dusty lane way.

Every surface was covered in hats , bags , shoes , gloves & jewellery dating from the 30″s to the 70’S .

Selale lovingly chronicled each garment whilst imploring us to try each .
Alas many were too tiny , not belonging to the classical tiny fifty,s era body shape. Unfortunately, our large head and feet , denied us the many dainty offerings on offer.
Eventually a 50’s sculpted jacket , and marching silk shirt plus a sheer nylon 60’s blouse were entrusted into our care . A fair price was reached without much haggling . Selale was happy to release them to a good home .
Sadly she turned her tragic dark eyes skyward and said so many pieces , already I am 60 and still taking more .
Doubtless her only child , a son , shares no interest in her collection and she can only fervently hope for a daughter in law , or granddaughter to take up the reins .
image
A photo taken , us both emitting the catch cry of 50 plus women everywhere ” let us take our glasses off first ” and we were emitted out into the street , our finery incongruously packed into a cardboard Tommy Hilfiger carry bag .
We had chanced on something special in a back street of Istanbul .
Thank you Selale , we,ll be back for that special occasion dress .