On Jan 2nd, I travelled to Australia to stay for two weeks with my son who lives in Melbourne – two weeks in which I saw all kinds of art; from traditional (representational) colonial landscape paintings and Aboriginal dots, to graffiti and beautiful street art with everything in between. In Tasmania for a weekend, we visited the completely wacky and bonkers collection in MONA, (Museum of Old and New Art) which can only be described an assault on all the senses. The experience was almost overwhelming.
Now home and recovered from jet-lag (horrible!) and a cold, I am ready to be creative again…
At the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) I was lucky to catch an joint exhibition of the work of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiet, both pioneer street artists in New York in the ’80s, I took a guided tour and discovered unknown territory of tagging, graffiti, street art and the social circle of Warhol and early Madonna.
Melbourne is actually well-known for its graffiti, some scruffy and some beautiful. (above and right) Melbourne graffiti is constantly changing as new paintings are applied over old ones.
I loved the vibrant work by Aboriginal artists in the NGV. Previously I’d thought that the vibrant dotty Aboriginal paintings went back centuries. Not so.
The dots and animal symbols began as body paint for traditional dancing using soil pigments and small white Emu feathers. Colours were natural and muted. The brightly coloured pictures only began in the ’50s when body paint designs were transferred onto canvas. Now, since the ’80s there’s a thriving movement of Aboriginal women artists using vibrant colour in abstract and dotty designs to depict the land and their traditions.
Other rooms at NGV exhibited a retrospective exhibition of Roger Kemp, Australian Abstract Expressionist. His early figurative work was rather like Cezanne but his work became more and more abstract as he grew older, until he was producing huge canvases of luminous patterns resembling stained glass windows. I found it so interesting to see the progression of his ideas over time.