Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's All in the Feet.

Excuse me for seeming a little preoccupied with feet. I don't have a foot fetish - nothing even slightly resembling one; but I do believe an artist's skill can be measured somewhat by their ability to execute human feet and hands, whether that be in painting or sculpture. Thus it was, that I found myself intrigued by the feet of the Ron Mueck sculptures at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. So lifelike as to be surreal. Ranging from the 'tiny' toes of a (giant) newborn baby to the hairy toes of 'Wild Man' and the mesmerising feet of "Dead Dad," each pair of feet seemed more expressive than the last. London-based, Melbourne-born Mueck is internationally known for the astonishing realism of his sculptures - all of which capture something of the timeless human condition. His show continues at NGV until April 18th and then moves to Queensland Art Gallery (may 8 - August 8), before crossing the Tasman to open at its only New Zealand venue, Christchurch Art Gallery (Sept 30 - January 23, 2011).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Head in the Clouds

From Thursday to Sunday last week, I was working down south - at both Lake Ohau, south-west of Twizel, and in South Canterbury. I had spectacular weather for the first two days and spectacular clouds patterns to go with it. The Mackenzie Country and Central Otago are all about big mountains, big landscapes and big skies. I love the area for that and no matter what time of year you visit, no matter what the weather conditions, you can be assured of some dramatic visual effects crafted by the atmospheric gods. These four images are but a tiny sample.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Beauty

Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne.
(And how fitting that 'her beauty' be 'altered' somewhat).
A statement of modern times in more ways than one.
February 2010, Ajr

Spaces Between - 21

It's been a while since I brought you one of my Spaces Between shots.
So here's the latest - taken in one of favourite small Victoria towns, Kyneton, which sits about 1 hr and 15 minutes north of Melbourne.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

One Girl, One Gallery

A timely shot that speaks for itself - outside the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne recently.

Billboard of the Week

I love the fact that just about everyone standing in front of this Australian cellphone/Telstra billboard, is actually on a cellphone, calling or texting. I got the shot through the train window at Melbourne's Footscray Station.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

When Coffee is Your Life

I enjoyed these coffee graphics at Twigs Cafe in Trentham, Victoria (Australia) recently. They come courtesy of Grinders Giancarlo Coffee - a company established in Lygon Street, Melbourne in 1962, by two Italian coffee roasters, Giancarlo Giusti and Rino Benassi. They now operate out of a modern factory in Fairfield, Melbourne. Their beans are served in top cafes throughout Australia and they also back up their bean business with the supply of coffee-making equipment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mueck on Show

How delighted was I, when I discovered on a recent visit to Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria, that London-based, Melbourne-born artist Ron Mueck is all for new media; and all for gallery visitors photographing his astonishing sculptures. He's happy for people to take snaps and send them out into the technosphere via facebook, blogs or Twitter - a refreshing stance given that most major galleries still prohibit photography (certainly flash photography), regardless of the fact that they must be losing the battle against tiny modern cameras and cellphones.
Ron Mueck's NGV show is currently breaking all projected visitor records. Viewers are enchanted and enthralled by his realist sculptures and the same thing is sure to happen in Brisbane, when the show moves there in a few weeks' time. And New Zealanders will also get the chance to stand and gaze in awe, when the show comes to Christchurch Art Gallery in October. In preparation for interviewing the gallery's Curator of Australian Art, I had read masses of publicity material on Ron Mueck, seen dozens of images of his works and felt I knew exactly what to expect when I stepped into the show. Suffice to say, I was wrong. No amount of pre-reading prepared me for the emotion impact of the works, their eerie realism, or the degree to which Mueck has captured the essence of humanity in each of them.
Nor was I prepared for the general audience reaction to the works - and being a consummate observer - that's one of the elements of the exhibition I enjoyed the most. While gallery visitors shuffled slowly through the show, I was taking photographs of them taking photographs of the sculptures. I did feel slightly voyueristic at one point and my actions seemed to amuse the security guards but I 'fought bravely on.' I think you could have a very successful second Mueck exhibition - the audience reactions captured in photographs. I wonder if that's ever been done before?
In the meantime, here are a few of my audience photographs for you to browse. And for any New Zealanders checking in, this is one show at Christchurch Art Gallery you won't want to miss - and don't forget to cast your eyes about at the other visitors trying to absorb the uncanny realism of Mueck's works.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dining on Duck

When I was in Melbourne recently, I wandered the city for hours on end. I find that the best way to come upon unexpected photographic opportunities. So it was that I found myself in Chinatown (Little Bourke Street), just before midday and just as the skies opened and rain pelted down. I sheltered across the road from this little Chinese restaurant - City BBQ Chinese Restaurant - photographing people darting about under the shelter of a rainbow of umbrellas, neon lights reflecting perfectly in the rapidly-forming puddles. But there comes a time when a girl has to eat, so, attracted by the ducks hanging in the window, I stepped into the City BBQ restaurant.
I was greeted by the sing-song babble of Mandarin, the rhythmic chopping of cleaver through duck meat and happy laughter. It reminded me instantly of being in the backstreet Beijing restraurants that I had frequented with my (compulsory) interpreter/minder in 2001 and 2003; and I settled in for a long, slow lunch that would see me through the wettest part of the day. They were selling Peking Duck for A$25.80 for a half bird and A$45.80 for a whole bird and, sitting close to the couter and the 'duck chef' in the window, I could see that sliced duck meat on a bed of steamed rice with Chinese greens was definitely the favourite meal of the day for most of the Chinese diners. Many were obviously regulars - they came in, said a word or two, sat down and a meal was presented to them within minutes. I find something intensely gratifying about sitting in a simple Chinese restaurant, surrounded by Chinese and immersed in the sound of Manadrin. It's the stuff of many happy travel memories for me - and I can never have enough of those.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Small Cafe Big on Style - Rural Victoria

Every year when I return to Melbourne and the many rural Victorian towns and cities that surround it, I like to return to my favourite cafe haunts. I also love to discover something new. As I passed through the little historic town of Trentham on my way to Daylesford, I noticed a new fashion/design store/cafe combo - TWIGS - had opened its doors on the main street. I felt bound to investigate.
Inside, the little slither of a store bulges with goodies - homemade produce from the Hepburn Spa and the Macedon Ranges regions, beautiful woollen garments, accessories, superb food and cookbooks and much more.
Everything about the place - right down to its very attractive website - oozes terrific presentation, so they won me over instantly. I like a business that goes that extra mile to create something original, attractive, creative and different; and nowhere is that more important than in the highly competitive cafe/restaurant trade, where (for this reviewer) 'average' is often generous terminology. Too many businesses seem to equate creativity with expense but in this case, what could be simple and less costly than playing around with twigs? It's a winner in my view and I'm very pleased I stopped long enough to indulge in their superb lemon tart.

Barry's Provocative Unpublished Minutes - 87

"The Urban Authorities"
Leading New Zealand printmaker, Barry Cleavin strikes again.
Click Cleavin in the label line below to see others in this series. They now go back many months so remember to keep clicking Older Posts when you get to the bottom of each page.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Exploring St Paul's Cathedral - Melbourne

I've walked past St Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Central Melbourne on almost every visit to the city. This time I decided to go inside. I was well rewarded with a dizzying display of detail and architectural extravagance. I particularly loved the intricate floor tiles - like layers of Persian carpets overlaid on each other.
St Paul's is built on the site where the first public Christian services in Melbourne were led by Dr Alexander Thomson in 1836. It's a magnificent building - described as Gothic Transitional, being partly Early English and partly Decorated. It was designed by distinguished English architect, William Butterfield, who was well known for his ecclesiastical work.
The foundation stone was laid in 1880 and the cathedral was finally consecrated on January 22, 1891. The spires though, were not started until 1926 and they were designed by John Barr of Sydney. The Cathedral is known for its magnificent ring of 13 bells - one of the few peals of 13 bells outside the British Isles. They were cast in London and arrived in Melbourne in 1889. You can read more about the cathedral on their website -

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Downstairs to Design

In my opinion, a business can make or break itself with its entrance, with the way it launches itself on the public. And when it comes to just that, I'm a big fan of creativity, of businesses who think outside the conventional box and employ smart graphics, photography and whatever else it takes to gain attention in a way that supports their business philosophy and style.
I came upon this rather alluring entranceway in Melbourne - under Zambesi on the corner of Flinders Lane and Hosier Lane - leading to a new basement gallery and some rather gorgeous jewellery displays. You can see some of the fabulous works in their collection by checking their website -

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Australian Railway History

On my recent trip to Melbourne, Australia, I took great delight in spreading out into rural Victoria. It's something I do every year when I visit and this year, finally, I made it to the city of Ballarat. It did not come recommended but I fell in love with almost as soon as I arrived. If you enjoy architecture, photography or both (like I do), then it is a small historic paradise.
Located northwest of Melbourne, Ballarat is riddled with evidence of its spectacular rise from humble mining settlement to wealthy city. Statues and huge, elaborate buildings abound and this one - the Ballarat Railway Station - was one I particularly loved. American author Mark Twain stepped onto the platform here in 1891, later commenting at length on the city in his work "Following the Equator."
Today, thousands of commuters hurry through the station every week and it stands like a grand old madam, at one end of historic Lydiard Street. Constructed when the railway first began sewrvicing the area in 1862, it is one of the grandest buildings in Ballarat. The ornate tower section was built 26 years after the original block and the building in its entirety is a wonderful example of Ballarat's early architecture and a typical example of late 19th century railway systems built to the best of British standards and construction.
The station prompted much of the later building activity, especially the development of Lydiard Street north, throughout the 19th century. I spent a lot of time roaming up and down Lydiard Street photographing stately buildings (more another time) - I even managed to fall over in the process, giving my head a nasty whack on an historic stone wall. But I survived - just as so many of Ballarat's stunning buildings have survived. The Railway Station is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and now, as I sit here in my Christchurch office writing about it, I wonder why on earth I didn't even step inside it. I blame the fact that there was so much to see in so little time. In reality, it would have been nice to have stood where Mark Twain once stood - and certainly the cool interior would have been a blissful respite on what turned out to be a baking hot 36-degree day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


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