Once again I find myself visiting and writing about exhibitions just as they’re metaphorically turning the lights off and getting ready to shut the door. Well, perhaps not quite, because both these exhibitions close on 23 October, but that certainly doesn’t leave long to catch them.
Pholiota Unlocked 7-23 October 2016, 9am-5pm. Dulux Gallery, ground floor, Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne. Entry is free.
I knew that there must be something up with Pholiota because I’d noticed so many hits on a posting I wrote back in 2013 about Walter and Marion Griffin which included photographs of the interior of Pholiota, which I was fortunate enough to view on an open day.
Pholiota – you can just see the Knitlock brickwork
Pholiota (meaning ‘mushroom’) was constructed by Walter and Marion Griffin in Eaglemont, beside the Lippincott House which Griffin also designed for his brother-in-law. Knowing that its miniscule size (6.4 metres by 6.4 metres) would preclude it receiving building approval, they claimed that it was only a doll’s house for the Lippincott House next door. They lived there between 1920 and 1925 very happily: so happily in fact that Marion claimed that they sometimes walked backwards on the way to Eaglemont station so that they could admire it from afar.
The original house is, in effect, a single room with sleeping alcoves, a too-small kitchen and a largish dressing room surrounding the dining room with its open fireplace.
The large table in the centre of the room; very small kitchen in the middle rear
Students from the Melbourne University School of Design have built a life-sized model of Pholiota from plaster blocks fabricated using modern materials manufactured using the Knitlock system invented by Griffin as an inexpensive, do-it-yourself form of building.
The walls only reach about eight feet high and there is no roof, so you feel as if you are looking down on the model. Even though it was empty and completely white, it seemed smaller than I remembered the real Pholiota to be. You can don virtual-reality glasses to look at a student’s design for updating Pholiota to current taste.
In an adjacent gallery students have reimagined the Glenard Estate which was laid out by Griffin in 1916. Charged with making it a medium-density suburb while maintaining Griffin’s vision of shared green space, the students have designed streetscapes with multiple dwellings, the same size as Pholiota and each with 2 bedroom spaces, more than doubling the density of the suburb. I’m sure that the good people of Glenard Estate are horrified.
There’s a good article about Pholiota here
Heroes and villains: Strutt’s Australia State Library of Victoria 14 July-23 Oct 2016, entry free.
Despite the rain, we caught a tram down Swanston Street to the State Library of Victoria to catch the last days of ‘Strutt’s Australia’, an exhibition previously on show at the National Library featuring works by the painter William Strutt.
Have a look here and you’ll see that you probably recognize many of his paintings without necessarily realizing that he had painted them. Burke and Wills; bushrangers; the Black Thursday bushfires: he’s a veritable one-man-band of Australian imagery- or perhaps rather, he helped create it.
Born in England, he began drawing at the Paris atelier of Michel-Martin Drolling in 1838 (just 13!) where he was trained in figure drawing leading to the painting of large history paintings. He lived in Australia between 1850 where he painted portraits of John Fawkner (Judge Willis’ most vocal supporter), members of the Native Police Force and Robert O’Hara Burke (of Burke and Wills fame) He travelled to the goldfields where he made sketches of the diggers at work and made sketches in preparation for making big-history paintings of the opening of the Victorian Legislative Council in 1851 and Parliament House in 1856. Many of his scrap books furnished small sketches which he later incorporated into his pictures. He returned to England in 1862 where he painted ‘popular’ pictures to keep body and soul together, as well as the big historical paintings of Australian events that we know so well e.g. Black Thursday and the burial of Burke (which of course he never witnessed).
There’s an interesting interactive display where you can click on the figures in his Bushrangers picture and see the original sketches that he had done in preparation for this larger picture. I was surprised by the variation in quality of the works on display: his nude figures as a 13 year old are very good and the details in his big history paintings are vivid and well-realized but to be honest, some of his portraits are pretty ordinary.