Saturday, April 03, 2010

No waiting for French Impressionists in Canberra

This afternoon at about 5pm I noticed there were no queues for "Masterpieces from Paris: Van Gough, Gauguin, Cézanne & Beynond; Post-Impressionism from the Musée d'Orsay"exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. It is open tonight until 9pm and there is campaign in the sculpture garden. The exhibition finishes on 18 April.

I saw the works in Paris at the Musée d'Orsay so today instead I went to the Easter Steam Spectacular of the Australian Railway Historical Society (ACT Division). At Canberra Station there was Steam Locomotive 1210, Diesel-electric Locomotive 4807 , sleeping and dining cars.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

French Impressionists Exhibition in Canberra

Recently I have become very popular with friends and relatives. This is because the National Gallery of Australia is having a very popular exhibition "Masterpieces from Paris: Van Gough, Gauguin, Cézanne & Beynond; Post-Impressionism from the Musée d'Orsay". I saw the works in Paris at the Musée d'Orsay. (as I never get tired of saying, when asked if I have seen the Canberra exhibition). d'Orsay is in a wonderful building converted from a railway station (don't miss the restaurant inside the clock tower with views of Paris through the clock face).

The Canberra exhibition is drawing such a crowd it can be difficult to find accommodation on weekends, so my apartment is very popular. On weekends the queue has stretched from the front door of the gallery, past the High Court of Australia, to the National Portrait Gallery, past the front of that gallery and the half way back down to the national gallery again. This is the queue for people who already have tickets, there is another queue to get a ticket.

Visiting the gallery mid-week there was only a queue of a few dozen people (the gift shop at the end of the exhibition was still crowded). The queues are only for the French exhibition and the rest of the gallery is free. The portrait gallery with an excellent exhibition of portrait photography is also not crowded. It is possible to get a table at the outdoor deck of the portrait gallery and watch in comfort as the exhibition queue shuffles past (many wearing paper hats made from the exhibition poster).

The National Library of Australia is also not crowded, with its own exhibitions and excellent coffee cafes. If the bookplate cafe in the foyer is too busy, try the Paper plate cafe on the lower floor of the library.

After a hard day's culture, a pleasant way to relax is at the Pork barrel Cafe, a low cost annex to the upmarket Lobby Restaurant, set in the park in front of Old Parliament House and overlooking rose gardens. Beware of sitting outdoors this time of the year, as the parrots feed in the trees above and drop twigs on those below. With a table reserved indoors, looking out at the roses (and people being pelted with twigs), there can hardly be a happier place to be.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Contemporary Art Exhibitions in Canberra

Free exhibitions of Glass, Painting, Print media, Drawing, Ceramics, Textilesl, Gold, Silversmithing and Furniture are being held at the ANU Gallery in Canberra, from 3 February to 26 March 2010. "NEOLOGY" showcases the work of the ANU School of Art.
School of Art Gallery Program

NEOLOGY│GRADUATE SEASON 2010 │ 3 February - 26 March

A series of exhibitions showcasing works produced by candidates for the PhD, Master of Philosophy, Master of Arts (Visual Arts), and the Graduate Diploma of Art.


Glenn Carter (MVA, Glass)
Diana Johnstone (Grad Dip, Painting)
Jill Loupekine (MAVA, Printmedia and Drawing)

EXHIBITION ends Friday 12 February


Craig Edwards (Grad Dip, Ceramics)
Keven Francis (Grad Dip, Ceramics)
Nicole Muniz (MAVA, Glass)
Arion Siu Man Lam (MDA, Textiles)

RECEPTION Wednesday 17 February at 6.00pm

EXHIBITION ends Friday 26 February


Dean Allison (MAVA Glass)
Cinnamon Lee (MPhil, Gold and Silversmithing)
Kenichi Sato (MDA, Furniture)

RECEPTION Wednesday 3 March at 6.00pm

EXHIBITION ends Friday 12 March


Nicola Dickson (PhD, Painting)
Suzanne Moss (PhD, Painting)

RECEPTION Wednesday 17 March at 6.00pm

EXHIBITION ends Friday 26 March

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Great Wave off Kanagawa in Melbourne

The hollow of the deep-sea wave off Kanagawa by Katushika HOKUSAIThe National Gallery of Victoria currently has on display "The hollow of the deep-sea wave off Kanagawa" (神奈川沖浪裏 also known as "The Great Wave off Kanagawa") and other works by Katushika HOKUSAI. These include some of his Manga books, which he is said to have invented. These are books of sketches from everyday life, rather than the current meaning of Japanese comic books for adults.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Newington Armory Arts Precinct

Newington Armory, formerly a RAN Armament Depot is now a riverside park and arts precinct near Olympic Park in Sydney. Unfortunately it is difficult to find details of what is on there. The Olympic Park web site mentions a "Heritage Railway Discovery Tour" and a "Sydney Olympic Park Lodge" (a YMCA) but the links for these do not work from the Armory page. It appears the site can only be visited on foot or bike between 10am and 4pm on Sundays. There is also the Armoury Warf Cafe, which is not mentioned on the Olympic Park web page, but appears to be open every day (and for dinner Friday and Saturday). Currently on display is "Art with Altitude".

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Living Tomorrow

Living Tomorrow"Living Tomorrow" by media artist Linda Wallace will be exhibited in the CSIT building N101 seminar room, 19th and Friday 20th November 2009, The Australian National University. In late 2004 she was awarded a doctorate from the Australian National University (completed on scholarship from the Advanced Computational Systems Co-operative Research Centre).
LivingTomorrow is a database-driven video archive installation work produced as artist-in-residence at Nederlands Instituut voor Mediakunst, Amsterdam. It was launched on March 11 2005.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Computer art at the Australian National University

Works on The Web and works on The Wall Diverse works by diverse studentsThe official opening of "Works on the Web and Works on the Wall: Diverse Works by Diverse Students" will be by Professor Elizabeth Deane, 6pm, 13 November 2009 in Room N101, CSIT Building, the Australian National University, Canberra. This computer art show is part of the activities of a second year course, Automating Tools for New Media, by Tim Brook, which received an ANU Teaching Enhancement Grant for 2009. Please feel welcome to roll up and enjoy some of the artistic creations of the students.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

2009 Wilkinson Lecture at University of Sydney

Greetings from Law Lecture Theatre 101 at The University of Sydney where Richard Francis-Jones, Design Director of Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt) is about to deliver the 2009 Wilkinson Lecture. The topic is "Identity Crisis: Dilution of public domain & the rise of the art museum as urban panacea of our time". This seems to be about museums becoming more commercial, but that should become clear as we go along. There will be a podcast available after the talk and I will provide a link to it.

The Wilkinson Lecture is named in honour of Professor Leslie Wilkinson the architect who was responsible for many of the early campus buildings. Richard Francis-Jones is architect of the new law building at University of Sydney, were the talk is being held.

Mr. Francis-Jones started with a grim monochrome view of the Sydney skyline. He argued that we should not see the commercialisation of the modern city as entirely negative. He then argued that virtual public spaces, such as Iranian Internet protests, were positive. He related this to the boulevards of Paris, which were part design to control protest.

Shopping centres and airports are, argues Mr. Francis-Jones, pseudo public spaces, having the appearance of public but being design for turbo-consumerism. He argues that architects have become enamoured of designing such spaces, which like Dubai, which has no social answer to spiritual needs and becomes a city of consumer junkies in a consumer monoculture.

Mr. Francis-Jones sees the public library and art museum as a bulwarks against the advance of the shopping centre. He used the example of the Blacktown Public Library. He argues that the art museum is the temple of the 21st century city, but while becoming a public brand for the city with a landmark building by a well known architect.

The example used was the "Bilbao Effect" named for the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by architect Frank Gehry. This one building is credited with boosting the economy of the city and region around it. The Sydney Opera House is a global brand now for Sydney.

Mr. Francis-Jones then attempted to draw a distinction between the artistic integrity of the Sydney Opera House and Bilbao as architecture as sculpture. Is the art building just a "decorated shed"? I think he is on very shaky ground here: the Sydney opera house is not a very functional building and far from just a shed to put art in. Also he seems to forget that a museum building is not a museum, it is a building for some of the artefact's and functions.

The discussion became even more shaky by comparison of buildings with Uluru (Ayers Rock). Uluru is a sacred and supernaturally constructed object to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people. To compare this with architecture might be too much like seeing architects as gods.

Mr. Francis-Jones then got onto firmer ground by showing his designs for the extensions to the Auckland Art Gallery (Toi o Tamaki). This will have a floating canopy of kauri. The design has received positive, if sometimes grudging, comments.

One questioner asked if the law library in this new building should be so noisy. The architect argued the library should have different spaces with different acoustic qualities. There are "live " spaces designed for silence and other softer spaces for conversation.

I asked if the western idea of an art museum was too pure. In 2005 I spent a week in Samoa teaching web design to museum staff from across the pacific for a UNESCO project. One aspect of this was that many of the museums represented were commercial and craft workshops. They did not just display old objects and high art, there were contemporary items on display. These museums also held cultural events, with dance and music as well as provided facilities for works to be produced and sold. Mr. Francis-Jones pointed out this was a complex issue and that he illustrated his talks with many art works which were in public spaces, not isolated in galleries.

The host ended the evening by pointing out it was brave for an architect to give a talk in his own building. This was a useful reminder that whatever architects might say, it is by the buildings they build they must be judged. The extensions to the Auckland Art Gallery look interesting, but I am not so sure about the new University of Sydney Law building. Perhaps this is what the client wanted, but it is a huge imposing structure, not on a human scale. From the outside it is not clear how to get into the building, or if there are actually any people in there. Inside the corridors outside the lecture theatres reminded me of a modern railway station, with vast expanses of very wide corridors. I feel very small and isolated, wandering along looking for a toilet.

Lecture theatre 101 was well designed and equipped. I found the pull out table on each seat was just the right size for my netbook, but there were no power points (I had to plug my 3G wireless station into the podium at the front of the room, which the average student could not do). However, it is not clear to me what exactly is supposed to happen in these big rooms: surely the University is not expecting to provide education here?

The University of Sydney Law building reminds me of a 19th century factory building where rows of workers used to labour. New methods of production have been developed which have rendered these buildings obsolete. In the same way new methods of university education have arrived which have rendered large lecture theatres full of rows of students obsolete. It is handy to have a large room for the occasional public oration, but in educational terms this is an obsolete facility.

The university would have been better off with a more human scale (and cheaper) multi purpose building with a flexible learning centre. Rooms with flat floors are adaptable to multiple uses and refurbishment. It is going to be very difficult and expensive to refit the University of Sydney Law building to be used for modern education. It would be a shame to have to demolish a new building, but that might be the most economic option.

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Art museum as urban panacea

Richard Francis-Jones, Design Director of Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt) will speak on "Identity Crisis: Dilution of public domain & the rise of the art museum as urban panacea of our time", 1 October 2009, University of Sydney. It is a little had to work out exactly what he will be talked about from the description give, but it seems to be about museums being more commercial.

In 2005 I spent a week in Samoa teaching web design to museum staff from across the pacific for a UNESCO project. One aspect of this was that many of the museums represented were commercial and craft workshops. They did not just display old objects and high art, there were contemporary items on display. These museums also held cultural events, with dance and music as well as provided facilities for works to be produced and sold. In this way they were far in advance of museums and art galleries in Australia, as well as being much more interesting. I ended up learning as much from my students, than they learnt from me.

ps: Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt) appear to be having an identity crisis of their own, with a poorly designed web site. This home page depends on the use of Flash, making it of limited value. The web site doesn't appear to have provision for those with Flash to use the web site, nor for those with disabilities. The home page scored only 62/100 on the W3C mobileOK Checker. However, the page appears to consist mostly of a link to Flash content and would be difficult, if not impossible to use without it.

Identity Crisis: Dilution of public domain & the rise of the art museum as urban panacea of our time

1 October 2009

2009 Wilkinson Lectre
Identity Crisis: Dilution of the public domain and the rise of the art museum as urban panacea of our time
RICHARD FRANCIS-JONES, Design Director of francis-jones morehen thorp
Introduced by Professor Alan Peters, Chair of Urban & Regional Planning

Richard Francis-Jones will discuss the nature of the public building as a social representation and fundamental transformations of the public realm within a contemporary condition where identity is blurred with consumption. Within this blurred context he will present recent Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp investigations into the nature of the art museum and public building.

Brief Bio
Richard is the Design Director of francis-jones morehen thorp (fjmt), a practice noted for its commitment to the enhancement of the public domain. He has led the design of many international competition and award-winning projects. Commissions have won the highest Australian Institute of Architects awards: the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Buildings; the Sir John Sulman Medallion; the Lloyd Rees Award for Excellence in Civic Design; the Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage; and the Greenway Award for Conservation.

Recent completed projects led by Richard include the University of Sydney Law School, the Surry Hills Library and Community Centre, and the Mint. Projects currently in construction include the Auckland Art Gallery, Chatswood Civic Place and the six GreenStar Darling Walk commercial campus.

Richard is a Visiting Professor at UNSW and has taught architecture at many universities in Australia and abroad. He is an editor of Content, a critical journal of architecture, has written theoretical papers for several journals, was President of the AIA (NSW Chapter) from 2001-2002, and was Creative Director of the 2008 AIA National Architecture Conference: Critical Visions.

He studied architecture at the University of Sydney, receiving the University Medal for Architecture upon graduation. He subsequently completed a masters degree in architectural design and theory at Columbia University in New York. He is a registered architect in all Australian states and New Zealand.

Time: 5.30pm drinks, 6.30-7.30pm lecture

Location: Faculty of Law Lecture Theatre 101, The University of Sydney

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Biennale of Sydney in a Shipping Container

The best visual arts at the Biennale of Sydney 2008 I have seen is the Biennale Hub in Customs House Square at Circular Quay. This consists of four shipping containers which are used as an information kiosk, cafe and site for the DJs for Harbour parties. The containers have been painted safety yellow, with black graphics. Two smaller ten foot containers are used for storage, while all sides have been cut out of a twenty foot unit to form a marque. It is not clear if the installation was intended to be art, or was intended to be purely functional, but it has turned out to be far superior to any of the other art I saw at the Biennale.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ceramics by Distance Education

Chiko Jones Colour Green, neriage technique Ceramic, 2004The ANU offers a Diploma in Ceramics (Distance Mode). That is you study about pottery, including how to make it, over the Internet. To do this the student is sent DVDs, reads online notes and takes part in online discussion, does work in their own studio, sending in photos for comment and attends two On-Campus Schools. WebCT is used to manage the online content and for the student to submit reports and images of the progress of their work.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Architectural preoccupations with site

Wandering around Launceston before giving my broadband talk I came across the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery built on an old railway workshops. The art in the gallery was not very interesting, but the railway museum and adjacent UTas Academy of The Arts
had a lecture by architect Helen Norrie on what to do with public outdoor art entitled "Architectural preoccupations with site".

Helen talked about the Hobart Rivulet and its effect on the design of Hobart (there was a recent competition for the waterfront design). She pointed out that while most of the ruvilet is now covered over, it is still reflected in the location of arcades such as the Cat & Fiddle Arcade and some remaining open space.

Helen then moved on to the silhouettes of Edinburgh, the Maya Ying Lin designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, the Jewish Museum Berlin by Daniel Libeskind and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, by Peter Eisenman. In retrospect this was not a cheery collection of art works for a talk, especially two days after the 911 anniversary.

The Jewish Museum is in the shape of an abstraction of the Star of David, whereas the Holocaust Memorial by Eisenman is thousands of rectangular concrete blocks near Tiergarten in Berlin. These are part architecture and part sculpture. Helen was not impressed with the Potsdamer Platz, which seems to be a monument to corporate egos, rather than anything human. The subway entrance is five times larger than it needs to be.

Iannis Xenakis designed the Phillips Pavilion for the 1958 expo (sometimes attributed to le Corbsier). The building is conceived to be walked through with a specially composed piece of music "

Helen provided a tour of the adjacent architecture school and I suggested they could design high technology broadband equipped modular classrooms, as mentioned at the end of my talk in Hobart.

ps: I don't seem to be able to go anywhere without coming across a railway workshop converted into an art center. The last one was the Carriage works Sydney ;-)

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Printing 3D Art

Herbert Schulze is visiting the ANU in Canberra and talked about using 3D printing machines for making art. He is a lecturer in the Design Department of the University of Applied Science in Dusseldorf. The art students work with "rapid prototype development" techniques, which can turn a computer model into an object:
Three-dimensional printing is a method of converting a virtual 3D model into a physical object. 3D printing is a category of rapid prototyping technology. 3D printers typically work by 'printing' successive layers on top of the previous to build up a three dimensional object. 3D printers are generally faster, more affordable and easier to use than other additive fabrication technologies. ...

From: Three-dimensional printing, Wikipedia, 2007
Unlike the usual engineering talk, this was about the artistic use of the technology.
It is possible to produce objects with thee-d printing which would be very difficult to create by hand or other machines. As well as direct design of objects using CAD tools, there was also use of digital phototgraphs. The plastic part produced by the 3d printer can be used directly or used as a mold for casting in metal. Examples of jewlllery and scultpture and door handles were shown. The ANU also has a 3D machine for use by the artists.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Canberra Glassworks Opened

Old Canberra Power StationThe Canberra Glassworks opened 26 May 2007 in the old Canberra Power Station at Kingston, next to the Bus Depot Markets. I had a quick visit 2 June. The facility is very new and is yet to be fully occupied by artisans, but already is worth a visit.

Glass Blowing Demonstration

Highlight of a visit to the Glassworks are demonstrations of glassblowing in the "Hotshop". Visitors sit above, looking down on the workshop floor. Glass workers extract molten glass from the furnace and shape it while giving a running commentary. While I was there an audience member asked how a particular effect they saw in the gift shop was done. So the artist got out another glob of glass and shaped it, as we watched.

There is a gallery of glass works, as well as a gift shop and cafe. The glassworks has a brochure for a self-guided tour, as well as a guided tour. There are courses starting with an "off the street" one for $25 where you make a glass object to take home.

See also books about: Australian Glassworking, Canberra.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Flaming Cows and Australian Cheese

Flaming Cows by Lawrence FinnOn Saturday I visited the studio of artist printer Lawrence Finn:
"... primarily concerned with the psyche, politics and angst. My personal belief is that artists are somewhat the conscience of the geography, and as such we exist between the church and the prison. As a class Artists have no place in this "New World Order" but the human psyche has a terrible need to express itself. In spite of globalisation and economic rationalisation, artists will I suspect be here for a little longer."
His latest series of Linocuts "Shadows under the Blood Red Rock" is a dark and irreverent look at Australian history. One which caught my eye was "Flaming Cows"; this is a visualization of the common Australian expression of expression of frustration with the problems of rural life. It is a also a reference to the 1962 trading card series by Topps , which formed the basis for the 1996 Tim Burton movie "Mars Attacks!".

Lawrence uses traditional printing methods, similar to those I saw in Hanuman Kambli's workshop at the School of Art in Panjim, India. I forgot to ask Lawrence what printmakers thought of Giclee prints (an arty term for high quality ink jet prints). While not as traditional, these allow artists to sell their work on-line much more easily. Amazon has about 130,000 Giclee prints for sale.

At the gallery Regional Australian Produce laid on some of their Tasmanian shortbread, Western Australia cheese and Queensland biscuits. It is interesting how small Australian companies can use the the web to sell produce and how I thought Australian cheddar tastes better than the original from the English village of Cheddar in Somerset.

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