Posts Tagged ‘University of Melbourne


Day 299: and he taught you the wrestling which leads the way to love, by Sangeeta Sandrasegar.


Day 299: and he taught you the wrestling which leads the way to love, by Sangeeta Sandrasegar.

Apropos the previous post, the Basil Sellers Art Prize unites its generous benefactor’s twin passions of art and sport. To my mind, it is also an exhilarating biannual exercise in bridging the gap between the two.

It is truly fascinating to observe some of our top art practitioners tackling the theme of sport through the unique prism of their visual idiom, and as some of the artists in this exhibition point out, the sports and eroticism, the athletic body and the physical allure, often go hand in hand.

The subject is tackled most directly in Sangeeta Sandrasegar’s and he taught you the wrestling which leads the way to love (2012). The paper silhouettes take their inspiration from the Greek red and black antique vases, which often depict sport scenes of the ancient Olympiads. But look closer, and you will soon notice that the only physical exercise that writhing, contorting bodies are engaged in is that of love-making.

The Basil Sellers Art Prize 2012 on view at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne, until November 4.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]


Day 298: Incident at Twickenham and Twickenham Official, by Simon Perry.

Simon Perry 2012a


Simon Perry 2012b


Day 298: Incident at Twickenham and Twickenham Official, by Simon Perry.

Hitherto, we are used to painters employing photography as their reference tool. Simon Perry’s Incident at Twickenham and Twickenham Official (2012) are a rare example of a sculptor turning to photography as a reference source, re-instating the three-dimensionality of a photographic image in the process.

Simon Perry, who is perhaps best known to Melburnians through his Public Purse sculpture in the Bourke Street Mall, was inspired by a photograph of an Australian streaker disrupting a rugby match at Twickenham in 1974. The swirling and twirling group of the streaker surrounded by Bobbies recreate the hustle and bustle of the ensuing pandemonium. The pendant sculpture of an official rushing along with a coat to cover the nakedness of the streaker completes the composition. By mounting the sculpted group on a motorised revolving platform that moves back and forth along the wall, Perry is forever frustrating the efforts of the portly Twickenham official to restore decorum to the scene.

Simon Perry’s sculpture is among the finalist of the Basil Sellers Art Prize 2012, which also includes a diverse selection of works by such artists as Brook Andrew, Richard Bell, Eugenio Carchesio, Greg Creek, Louise Hearman, and numerous others, on view at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne, until November 4.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]


Bernard Hall’s “The Suicide”

Bernard Hall, The Suicide (or Despair), c. 1916-18Saturday, 5 March 2011

Bernard Hall’s “The Suicide”

Among the most remarkable pictures in the Ewing Collection is The Suicide, painted by Lindsay Bernard Hall (1859-1935), a British-born Australian painter, around c. 1916-18. The artist is well known for his depiction of female nudes, yet few other paintings can match the high degree of drama and human emotion as captured in this work.

The museum’s website does not provide us with clues as to what may have driven this woman to the greatest depths of anguish and despair. However, if we were to examine the painting through the eyes of a late nineteenth / early twentieth century viewer, we may uncover the sad narrative behind this work.

A well-cared-for body; fashionably coiffed hair; opulent fabrics; fur skin rug; elegant shoes; imposing architecture of the apartment; a bowl of fresh cut flowers: all of these details might be construed as a tale of a courtesan, a fallen woman, who is driven to suicide by the break-up of a latest love affair; perhaps the one with a rich lover who kept her in a lavish lifestyle; and where a drastic measure of taking one’s own life is the only escape from a life in penury. As such, the story takes on puritanical, moralising overtones of redemption, though certainly with further research other clues to the painting’s origins or semantics might be uncovered.

And as we stop in front of the painting to ponder about the woman’s sad tale, just like a hundred years ago we subconsciously come to absorb and admire the many wonderful technical and artistic details within this work – which perhaps may have been Hall’s intention in the first place! The boldest foreshortening of the woman’s body shows him as a skilful artist, knowledgeable about the drawing of the human figure. The limited colour palette of the interior’s background concentrates our attention on the bright yellow of the dressing gown, luscious green of the drapery, deep red of the cushion, and, of course, the warm fleshy pinks of the nude female form, richly bathed in sunlight that floods the picture from a window opening in the upper right of the painting.

In other words, the intriguing narrative of the picture draws our attention to the excellence of the artist’s workmanship, and vice versa – Hall combines his academic skills with drawing, colour, composition, and brushwork, and vivid imagination to draw the viewer’s attention to what must have been – and still is – a highly contentious, unsettling, and confronting subject matter; creating one of those iconic images that is bound to stay in the mind of the viewer.

PS: The painting’s former owner, Dr Samuel Ewing, must have been so uncomfortable with the fact that this remarkable painting depicts suicide, that he changed its name to Despair, under which title this painting is still frequently exhibited.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]


The Ewing Collection

Rupert Bunny New Step 1908Friday, 4 March 2011

The Ewing Collection, University of Melbourne

One of the pleasures of visiting the University of Melbourne’s Ian Potter Museum of Art is the high likelihood of seeing highlights from their permanent collection, which includes works of Australian art from the late 18th Century to the present day (this, of course, not taking into account their International collection, that has artefacts dating back to the Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome). The Museum currently has on display works from the Collection of Dr Samuel Arthur Ewing, which includes paintings, watercolours and drawings by Australian artists from the 1860s to the 1940s.

E Philips Fox - Rocks and SeaThe first room focuses on paintings from the collection, and includes a romantic landscape of Mount Buffalo by Nicholas Chevalier (1862); an iridescent twilight scene by J.F. Paterson, Evening at Croydon (c.1890); clear and fresh Sir Hans Heysen of River Flats (1930); a panoramic Sir Arthur Streeton of Cremorne (1907) and the iconic St Mark’s of Venice (1908), remarkable for its dappled sunlight effects. There is a beautifully intimate Rupert Bunny, The New Step (1908), of two ladies in diaphanous white dressing gowns within a pinkish interior; most “impressionistic” E. Phillips Fox of Rocks and Sea (1911), almost Monet-like in its appearance; and a shimmering Fred McCubbin’s Frosty Morning of the Como House environs (1910), which I am certain was exhibited in the artist’s recent retrospective at the Bendigo Fine Art Gallery.

Norman Lindsay Dr DeathThe second room features an abundance of drawings and watercolours, including most unique fan designs by Sir Arthur Streeton, very much in the Art Nouveau taste; numerous classic red and brown gum tree landscapes by Sir Hans Heysen; a beautiful selection of predominantly nocturnal works by Blamire Young; a selection of works by the talented J.J. Hilder, who died at the age of 35, with so much regrettably unfulfilled promise; a few excellent sketches by Charles Conder; a delicate landscape by Penleigh Boyd; and a number of watercolours by Norman Lindsay, including a most unusual black and white illustration, Dr. Death, refreshingly devoid of his signature voluptuous ladies.

John Longstaff Dr Samuel EwingA portrait of Dr Ewing by John Longstaff greets the visitor to this exhibition, a sober composition in a sparse and sombre colour palette, enlivened only by the gleaming white scarf of the sitter. The wall text explains that Dr Ewing was a University of Melbourne graduate, who donated his collection to the University in 1938, with a touching sentiment that ‘our youth may be inspired with the beauty as well as a deeper love of their country by the works of our artists’. One may only wonder what the future generations would make of Australia based on the museum’s contemporary art collections in a fifty or a hundred years’ time…

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]


Lynch, Marburg, McHaffie and McKenna: “Model Pictures”

James Lynch Disaster of the Month 2007Thursday, 3 March 2011

James Lynch, Amanda Marburg, Rob McHaffie and Moya McKenna:

“Model Pictures”, Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne

The recently opened Model Pictures at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, gathers together works by four contemporary Melbourne-based figurative painters, James Lynch, Amanda Marburg, Rob McHaffie, and Moya McKenna. The title of the exhibition and the curatorial premise that unites the works on display refer to the current artistic trend of increasingly turning inward and creating (or re-creating) imagined environments. The intelligently written wall text anchors this development in the writings of Nicolas Bourriaud, but also references Juliana Engberg’s one and only Melbourne Biennale as a seminal event, which premiered sculptures, installation works, and paintings reflective of this artistic movement.

Ron McHaffie You Can Have the Power I'm Going to Bed 2007There is a noticeable commonality between the works of Rob McHaffie and James Lynch, inasmuch as they both draw inspiration from objects in the artists’ and / or their friends’ possession. As such, their paintings represent a snap shot of contemporary pop-culture, with fragmented pictures of celebrities, nudes, pets, and oblique references to current affairs. Though these paintings are essentially still-lives in a wider sense of the genre’s application, they can also be interpreted as composite portraits of the artists’ friends – or even self-portraits of the artists themselves – expressed through objects and images that are descriptive or representative of various individuals. Lynch’s works are perhaps more politically aware of the group, as his paintings feature images of rioters and street protesters. However, the artist acts as an impartial observer rather than an active participant of the scenes. While McHaffie and Lynch’s works are beautifully and even delicately executed (especially given the modest size of their works), it seems that both artists are fully reliant on painting from photographs rather than from life.

Moya McKenna Ancient Path 2008-9I must confess that I am not the biggest fan of works by Moya McKenna. I am aware that she had quite a bit of publicity recently; sold a number of works from her exhibitions at the Neon Parc and Melbourne Art Fair; had a feature article published in the Australian Art Collector; and had her works acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria. The inclusion of her works in this exhibition is therefore hardly surprising. However, I find her paintings muddy and unresolved; too heavily reliant on Expressionism; and filled with blatant and repeated borrowings from the Old and Modern Masters. I do not subscribe to the popular idea that McKenna’s ability to finish a painting within a day is a sign of artistic genius. Perhaps if the artist had a longer period to execute her works, they might result in a better resolution of the colour schemes, compositional construction, psychological depth, and original iconography.

Paintings by Amanda Marburg look infinitely more magnificent by comparison. She also seems to be making most effort (in a purely physical sense) to create her “model pictures”. She begins by making plasticine models; placing them within plasticine interiors; photographing them; and then painting from these photographs in a loose, painterly technique, producing ethereal, dreamlike compositions.  As such, her paintings are technically situated between the crisp reality of Lynch and McHaffie and muddied expressionism of McKenna. Her fluid execution and pared-down colour palette adds a sense of suspense and mystery to her film-noir-esque mise-en-scènes.

Amanda MARBURG The cold was dry 2007I have observed over the last few years an increasing trend among younger artists of turning inward, disengaging from social and political issues, and participating in a collective exercise of navel gazing. I ascribed it to the peaceful environment of Australia, the lucky country, untouched by major conflicts or social upheavals, where artists have little (if anything) to react against, and thus are free to escape into the world of their imagination. International artists display by far more awareness of the current issues affecting the world and the global community than their Australian “brothers (and sisters) of the brush”, where the only politically-charged canvasses are produced by urban Indigenous artists. For better or worse, Model Pictures confirms and “institutionalises” this trend of disengagement and disinterestedness in contemporary Australian art.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]


A Winterhalter Thesis

Melbourne University LogoTuesday, 1 March 2011

A Winterhalter Thesis

Dear Friends,

In case some of you have been wondering about my recent silence, I do owe a small explanation…

Some weeks ago, an email arrived in my Inbox from the University of Melbourne:

“Dear Eugene,

Congratulations, your application for a place in the Ph.D.- Arts at the University of Melbourne has been successful.  You have been made an unconditional offer.  A signed letter of offer has been sent to the mailing address on your application.”

I stared at the email in disbelief and re-read it several times over for the news to sink in. I wanted to ensure that I understood every word, every sentence; and that there was no mistaking that, indeed, my PhD application to the University of Melbourne to work on a new thesis on Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873), a nineteenth-century, German-born, internationally renowned portrait specialist, has been accepted.

This not only meant that I will be able to dedicate the next three years (if not more) of my life to studying professionally one of my favourite subjects, portraiture, and the life and art of one of my favourite practitioners of the genre, Winterhalter, I will also have an opportunity of doing so at one of the most renowned Australian universities under the care and guidance of two most respected academicians, Associate Professor Alison Inglis, and Herald Chair of Fine Arts Professor Jaynie Anderson.

However, this was not the end of it…

Roughly within a few hours another email arrived, also from the University of Melbourne:

“Dear Eugene,

Congratulations! On behalf of the University of Melbourne, I write to advise that you have been offered the following scholarship: Australian Postgraduate Award (APA)… Your scholarship offer letter is attached to this email as a PDF.”

This email stunned me completely.

If the previous email was re-read by me at least 6 times, this one was re-read at least a dozen times.

I felt justifiably and reasonably certain (as did a number of my close friends and colleagues) that, based on my excellent results for the Masters Thesis, I had a good shot at a place in the PhD program at the University of Melbourne.

I cannot possibly express the surprise and the elation that I was also granted a three year scholarship to pursue my studies.

I paced up and down my lounge room and made several circles around my dining table for the news to sink in. I was afraid to go back to my computer lest I misread the news. But, no, there was no mistaking it. The scholarship was on offer. I think I evinced the loudest yelp of joy; took a deep breath; poured myself a big glass of wine; and sunk deep into the couch to continue processing and digesting the news.

One of my most cherished wishes has been granted. Many, many years of hard work and study have been rewarded, and I will be able to pursue my Winterhalter studies at the University of Melbourne, with the University’s support to do so!

PS: I have to admit to a certain streak of superstition within me, so I kept the whole affair under wraps until such time that all paperwork was completed; until I had my initial meetings with Alison Inglis and Jaynie Anderson; and until the first scholarship payment landed in my account. It is only after that, that I felt “safe” sharing this wonderful news with the world…

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]

Paintings by Winterhalter @ Chateau de Compiegne, FrancePaintings by Winterhalter @ Chateau de Versailles, France

Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

August 2020


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