Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
Roses at the Cottage

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Weaving our stories

Earlier this week I was priviledged to join a small group for the 'unveiling' of an extraordinary piece of art at one of Melbourne's 'Hidden Gems', the Victorian Tapestry Workshop (VTW) which is located at 262 Park Street, South Melbourne (link here). Now unless you are familiar with the work of this Hidden Gem the name conjures up an image of little old ladies sitting in a circle with needle and thread learning how to create a cushion! It is anything but.
Even the outside the building is magnificent
The old knitting factory - now home to the light and bright ATW
The VTW was established in 1976 and since that time it has created over 400 tapestries, from small to monumental. Each tapestry is woven using Australia's very finest wool which is dyed on site. It is the only workshop of its kind in Australia - and one of only a handful worldwide and it uses the same techniques employed since the 14th Century in Europe. 
Wool for sale in a rainbow of stunning colours
The weavers work in collaboration with the artists whose work is 'transferred' into a tapestry artwork. This collaboration has included renowned artists such as Arthur Boyd, Ginger Riley, John Olsen and now the Melbourne based indigenous artist Brook Andrew. All the works are remarkable and are housed around the world.
The Arthur Boyd Tapestry in the Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra. It measures 20 metres wide by 9 metres high!
The work Catching Breath was begun in April 2014 and has been created for the Australian High Commissioner's Residence in Singapore. It becomes the latest addition to the ATW Tapestry Collection. This particular piece of art was the first attempted by the ATW which included an additional layer - a tapestry veil - which covered most of the handsome and powerful head and torso of an historic photo of an indigenous male. To quote the artist:

"the veiled subject peers though the veil with eyes clearly focussed on the outside. 
This eye communication catches our attention, 
our breath as we decided whether or not to lift the subjects' veil,
to reveal the unknown.'

So let's go on a journey to reveal the artwork
The original artwork with 'samples' of the tapestry
The original artwork/sample board (L), finished work still on the loom (C) and head (R)
The original 'head' - the weavers work on the loom (removed) in front of the work
A small loom to 'work' on the samples
The finished work before the 'cutting down' of the tapestry - the veil looks - and is - folded
A remarkable collaboration - the artist (L) with the main weaver
The twice weekly tours are a wonderful way to visit the ATW so contact them via their website or telephone 9699 7885. You won't regret it. I find when I walk in the door that I feel I am on 'hallowed ground'. I hope you do too!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A South Wharf Installation

Melbourne's second Hilton Hotel (the other is in East Melbourne near the MCG) is at South Wharf in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre precinct. You will probably hear the locals calling it Jeff's Shed - after the former Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett. It should not be confused (but often is) with the beautiful World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building located next to the Melbourne Museum in Carlton.
World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building - often draped with hideous advertising signage (pink today!) - a scandal in my opinion (wikipedia)
Anyway back to the Hilton South Wharf! Behind the reception desk at the hotel is a clever instillation which I popped in to see again recently. I'm told by the staff that it receives a lot of comments - some guests love it and some hate it. I think it is terrific!
It looks like a 3 dimensional indigenous work of art but....
Let's get closer and .....
It's thousands of scourers!
The work is by Dani Marti and is titled Time is fire in which we burn (after John) - 2009. Personally I think it should be called Scour, Scour, Scour but ..... And if you installed it at home you could help yourself to the odd one and no-one would notice!

Incidentally the hotel is currently hosting the 2014 Hidden Faces of the Archibald Prize in the foyer (not competing with Scour, Scour, Scour!!) It is known in art circles as the Victorian Salon des Refus├ęs, and is open exclusively to Victorian artists. They were setting up the free exhibition which runs until 15 October. Here are a couple of well-known faces
Former Premier Ted Baillieu

The husband of Kathy Lette (!) - Mr Hypothetical Geoffrey Robertson QC!
And while you are in the area have a look at the lovely old National Trust tall ship the Polly Woodside moored right outside Jeff's Shed. It is open daily for on-board tours.
The Polly Woodside 'moored' in front of Jeff's Shed!
South Wharf is finally becoming an interesting precinct. It has taken a looonnnnng time. But is worth a visit - not just to see Scour, Scour, Scour but the area.Incidentally don't confuse South Wharf with Docklands - it's on the other side of the Yarra. From the cottage you can take the 75 tram right to the door!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The house around the corner

I've always admired an 1886 Victorian timber two-storey house at nearby 18 Berry Street which runs between Church and Waltham Streets just one street back from Bridge Road! Apart from the fact that when I open my shutters each morning I see the rear of the property I like it's position facing directly down the rather charmingly named Eucalyptus Street (not a eucalyptus in sight!). 
The tree-less Eucalyptus Street looking towards Bridge Road - ugly ... on the right
Berry Street almost entirely comprises an eclectic mix of tiny Victorian timber cottages except for the usual modern new-build which ruins what could have been a significant heritage street. Richmond excells in ignoring its potential!  But even so I consider it a good example of a step-back-in-time-street.
Cheek by jowl tiny terraces
But it's not the main reason that 18 Berry Street is so famous. It was the setting for the 1986 Melbourne cult film Dogs in Space which starred the late Michael Hutchence, Saskia Post and Chris Haywood. Hutchence played Sam, the drug-addled frontman of the fictitious band - Dogs in Space. Interestingly the writer-director Chris Lowenstein once lived in the house with band member of The Ears, Sam Sejavka and the semi-biographical film is based on an account of hard-partying punks of 1978! I'm glad that things have changed a little as Richmond has 'gentrified'. The 4 bedroom property last sold at auction in 2012 for over $1.1 million. Not bad for a house with no carparking - even in the narrow street!
Heritage Registered 18 Berry Street house sitting proudly looking down Eucalyptus Street
The cult fame of Dogs in Space has ensured 18 Berry Street is a noted entry in the Victorian Heritage Register for its 'social significance' and also as one of very few surviving metropolitan two-storey timber terrace houses. It's considered an unusual example of a timber building when boom time terraces were mostly brick constructions. It was originally built for the former railway carriage engineer and subsequent goldfields pioneer Henry Frencham (1816-1897; he died the house) He claimed to have been the discoverer of the Bendigo gold field. 

Boomtime brick magnificence in Waltham Street looking down to narrow Berry Street
Interestingly the well-known Australian actor Noah Taylor spoke his first screen words in the film - his only line - "David Bowie". It must have been delivered with much panache as he has gone from strength to strength in the acting world. 

If you're a Dogs in Space fan or even recall just seeing the movie then you'll find the house is still readily recognised.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Security gone mad

I popped into my 'friendly' ANZ bank headquarters the other day to take another look and take some photos of the wonderful Gothic Bank which is considered the finest secular Gothic Revival building in Australia. You'll find it on the corner of Collins and Queen Streets in the city. 
The Gothic Bank with the new ANZ banking tower behind (they are still doing well!)
Stepping into the old banking chamber one almost feels that it requires you to creep in hallowed silence to the teller! The chamber is wonderful. And so well preserved. I can just imagine it in its boomtime heyday - in the speculative days of Melbourne's land boom of the 1880's. When I visited it was a hive of non-activity - with just a couple of the teller windows operating (having said that I experienced the same hive of non-activity at my local ANZ bank this morning!!)
Frantically busy in the stunning banking chamber (we all do our transactions on line now!)
The bank has provided a brochure outlining the history of the Gothic Bank, the Cathedral Room and the old Banking Museum for all to peruse. But take a photo - now that is breaching security. Having said that I happily clicked throughout the Gothic Chamber and the Cathedral Room before being persued by an overzealous security guard. It was interesting to hear the comments from others also viewing the bank "You'd think we were terrorists - and this is OUR bank - how ridiculous". I couldn't agree with them more!
The detail on the teller 'window' - closed for business!!
The Cathedral Room which is adjacent to the banking chamber was the original Stock Exchange which opened in 1891. The space is rather wonderful. Sadly it doesn't seem to be in use except by the odd visitor checking their mobile and putting their feet up (not on the seats please!!)
The entrance from the Banking Chamber to the old Stock Exchange
The Cathedral Room - hush - just look at that ceiling
Now I do understand that security these days is an issue but if they are going to provide a brochure including the layout of the banking chamber and various other rooms then I feel if I was going to plan the great bank robbery that my photos wouldn't be needed!
Here's is the map and information on the Gothic Bank, The Cathedral Room and more - so helpful!
The old Banking Museum located just off the main banking chamber at 380 Collins Street is worth a visit. It won't be long before they display cheque books - like so much they are on their way out!

So if you are in the city do pop in and have a look. Pick up a brochure and go for a self-guided tour. And you don't even have to be an ANZ customer!