By Geoff Harrison
Peta Tranquille had the right idea. She chose not to read the guff in the NGV Magazine prior to attending the member’s preview of Melbourne Now with me at Fed. Square. I did read some of it and was thus a little wary - but not for long. This enormous (and free) exhibition spreads across all three levels of NGV Australia and showcases the work of over 200 Victorian-based artists, designers, studios and firms.
It’s the first time since 2012 that such an exhibition had been held and it encompasses all the arts; painting, printmaking, sound, installation, video, fashion, photography, sculpture and design. Without wanting to denigrate the exhibition, we felt like two school kids roaming around a fairground with something new to discover around every corner.
The highlight is arguably “Temple”, an installation piece by Melbourne based artist Rel Pham. The NGV magazine describes this work as ‘an installation exploring, recontextualising, and evaluating the contemporary digital experience using Caodaist, Buddhist and Taoist concepts and structures’. Yes, well……all I suggest is that you wander around it and absorb the experience. But the magazine makes the good point that like much digital technology, “Temple” is difficult to synthesize in a handful of words. It’s an intersection of technology and ancient culture. To some degree, it is a reference to excessive consumption, social media and climate change.
Another installation piece called “DataBaes” by Georgia Banks is a blending of reality TV dating shows and AI. It’s disturbing in its content, but only because of the reality of ego in modern technology and our dependence on it.
“Vessels” is a collaboration between the NGV and Craft Victoria and presents the work of fifteen artists, craftspeople and designers. The exhibit ‘expands the parameters of that useful, enduring and familiar object’.
If, by contrast, you are looking for some nostalgia, I recommend the glazed earthenware work of Lisa Reid. Here, she presents a variety of objects from the 1950s in a form of gaudy realism.
“Fashion Now” presents the work of emerging as well as established practitioners in the realm of fashion, and it’s meant to reflect the way we feel about ourselves and the times we live in. Walking around this exhibit had me feeling uncomfortably under-dressed.
From Taree Mackenzie comes the work. According to the accompanying label, Mackenzie explores and expands on the ‘Peppers Ghost’ effect, a technique originating in 19th Century theatre which employs light and colour to create the illusion of a ghostly figure.
Hey look, a painting!! This large scale acrylic is titled “Massa Pecatti: The 7 Deadly Sins” by the enduring Vivienne Shark Lewitt.
This is “Sky Whispers” by Meagen Streader and consists of light tape, another work commissioned by the NGV. It’s interesting how reading the accompanying literature does nothing to enhance the appreciation of some of these works - for me anyhow.
During the pandemic, artist Martin Bell produced this enormous work “Worthless priceless, Priceless worthless, Everything nothing, Nothing everything, No thing a thing, A thing no thing, A”. It’s pencil and ink on 75 sheets of Arches paper and it’s worth studying this work closely to appreciate its humour and playfulness, even nostalgia.
For some reason, the NGV aims to acquire this work from Troy Emery called “Mountain Climber” and is seeking donations from the public to assist. Emery’s work references taxidermy animals in museums and their removal from the context of nature which often signals their demise. This may be the case, but I believe the gallery needs to be a little careful in its acquisition program, as work such as this is bordering on kitsch.
I have just scratched the surface of this exhibition with this blog, but I left it mightily impressed with the depth of talent we have in this state, and that can’t be a bad thing.
To join other members for a visit to the NGV on April 27, visit the Events page and RSVP now.