Saturday, December 3, 2011

Melbourne Series - Sculpting City Life With Art

 Now the trip was actually a work trip, so that meant that I didn't have much time to do my own thing. My evenings however were mostly my own. Mostly. So I'd walk around the city to check things out. And there's a lot to check out indeed. These fellows are famous in Melbourne (on the corner of Swantson and Bourke Street Mall)... what are they doing? I don't know. But they're truly captivating little fellas.The sculpture is called "Three Businessmen Who Brought Their Own Lunch", by Alison Weaver.

Street sculpture adds so much texture to a city - even if I'm sure they start to become invisible if you live there.  But even then I suspect it adds a lot at the subliminal level. And not that far - the other end of the Bourke Street Mall... a little bit of commercial street sculpture - though some might have thought this bad luck for the local traders. The purse being well and truly shut that is. Behind the Post Office... yet another grand old building from Melbourne's past. This sculpture is from Simon Perry and dates from 1994.

And it's not just sculpture - the city has had a wonderful development since it's founding in 1835 - yes, that's only one year before Adelaide was founded - but there's a huge difference in characters. The architecture has a good mix of European stylings, and the city has gone to lengths to make sure that the heritage is maintained, even as it has become a vibrant modern international city.

And here's yet another bit of Melbourne culture... Good ol Larry La Trobe... a wonderful bronze sculpture created by Pamela Irving in 1992.  A little known fact is that in 1995, the poor little fella went missing (thanks to some very enthusiastic supporters, with some major hardware). Actually - now keep this just between the two of us - the original statue was never found. And could indeed be sidling up to a lamp-post or hub cap near you. Larry's replacement is now a little more securely fastened.

Just down from Larry you'll find that rather grandly titled, Beyond the Ocean of Existence, by Loretta Quinn, sitting along side St Paul's Cathedral. The sculpture that has a fairy atop a rather dramatic bronze plinth is meant to be an all-things-to-all-peoples sculpture. Of course - if you're all things includes fairies. Which mine does (and no, not those sorts of fairies). It goes to show just how integrated Art is into the Melbourne landscape.

And this of course isn't a new thing - but back in the olden days (he says dropping his false teeth into a glass of water), statues were there to remind us of our glorious past, to inspire us to future greatness... or just to show that some of our most important founding fathers (to borrow an Americanism) were complete jerks. Take for example our viewpoint of Matthew Flinders - he nobly stood at the bow of his launch, whilst the poor schmucks had to to the hard work below. That was the times I suppose. We do however owe our modern coastline to Flinders - and if it wasn't for him, who knows what Australia would have looked like.

St Paul's Cathedral - by night and by day. This church was consecrated in 1891 - and sits on the site of the first Christian services in Melbourne. The gothic transitional style certainly makes for an impressive (though still subdued) feature on the famous Federation Square front, right next to Flinders Street Station. These old buildings cannot perhaps be described as 'public art' but they approach very close to it.

Flinders Street Station - it's one of the iconic locations around Melbourne's CBD. Both as an historic location, and also as the main commuter hub into the city. It's perfectly located on the edge of the city, alongside the Yarra River for an evening stroll. I understand that there's some future development due to take place here... fingers crossed they don't mess with it too much.

The one slightly disappointing thing was this evening was also the night of the Rugby World Cup - which New Zealand won on their home territory against the French (Australia came third). Even though the event was being held in New Zealand, there was a lot of interest here in Australia (of course). Following the match, there were large crowds of intoxicated youths walking the streets - and to be honest, it was a throwback to some of the less than civilised parts of Australia's drinking culture that was on display... That and it reminded me that the not-so-latent gang culture still very much exists here in Australia. As a result - Melbourne's over-worked Police force was very much on duty.

And from across the road, we see St Paul's with a new (construction) light... from Federation Square. One time site for the Occupy Melbourne movement (I suspect the world is taking a break from the whole occupy thing... and I wonder how we will view it in another 1-5 years... not that you will be reading this then).

Federation Square is very much a life-centre for Melbourne, and is the focus of many outdoor public activities. Not only do they have a lot of events here, you can also find the SBS studios (Australia's best multicultural tv station), and the National Gallery of Victoria to name a couple of things. It's also a really good place to just hang out - unless of course, you're looking for somewhere to occupy...

Interestingly, the Federation Square buildings themselves were given a rough time - being labelled as some of the ugliest buildings of all time. I for one, don't mind it's post-modernist cubist-come-camouflage look. It adds to the sense of energy to the city, and sets itself apart. 

Not far away is the Melbourne Arts Centre, with it's stylistic tower, adorned in night-sculptural lights...

It's a combination of rock and metal - lit up with light. Beautiful.

If you go for a walk off the road you'll find this wonderful sculpture - artist unknown, sorry - of a post modern tribe. Aboriginal or artistic? Still, it was nice to see the night-scape populated with art. I would very much like to know what this sculpture was for/about/crafted by.

Right next to the Art Centre is the National Gallery of Victoria... Not sure about the whole see-through shirt thing, but that was a crazy German art exhibit. I think that says it all.

However the gallery also has a wonderful water wall sculpture - and it's totally entrancing (and on all the time). It just beckons to run your fingers through the water.

Water + Light = Magic.

And when you slow it down - it just looks plain funky. Outside the gallery there's a number of fountains that just call out - fast shutter speed, fast shutter speed... but alas my hand-held technique could only go so far with the light I had.

The last sculpture I'll throw into the post is actually on the Sandridge Bridge over the Yarra river... and is called the Travellers (I've only shown a little bit here). It's an amazing steel sculpture. Part celebration of indigenous art, part celebration of migration, it's a stark but impressive sculpture by Nadim Karam.

I have to admit that I had a great pleasure in walking through the streets of Melbourne in the evenings... the weather, as is typical of Melbourne of old, was a little variable. Still, it was a fun time - and whilst I don't often get the chance to take out my camera on work trips, this was an opportunity I couldn't waste. By the way - if you're looking find what sort of public art there is in Melbourne, check out here. I wish I had something like this before. The streets of Melbourne are alive - and they also capture that life through it's sculpture. Hats off Melbourne. You are the cultural centre of Australia.


  1. Some great pictures! I guess living in Melbourne we don't appreciate how beautiful and amazing the place is as much as we should!!

    Japan Australia

  2. Thanks for the comments... like most places, we take those things closest to us for granted. It's a great city - and even though Sydney's pretty cool, I much prefer Melbourne. Adelaide's on a different scale... it's home, and always has a special place in my heart.