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Sneak preview: Studio pictures of Bjorn Godwin’s work for Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, opening October 28

Here’s a sneak preview of Bjorn Godwin’s sculpture to be exhibited in Sculpture by the Sea from October 28, in Sydney. I photographed it last week when I interviewed Godwin for my story in today’s Daily Telegraph.

Yep, it’s an adaptation of Chesty Bond, the logo that Bonds used for many years to advertise its singlets. The model for Chesty was Max Whitehead, who died in March this year. Max had been a wrestling champ and surf lifesaver, not to mention the first caption of the Manly Sea Eagles rugby league team. Believe it or not, Max was also a chicken-sexer in the sporting off-seasons.

Godwin’s sculpture is titled Golden Boy (for the convenience of passers-by). The title makes reference to the undergraduate antics of the editorial team of Oz magazine back in the 1960s when they posed for a famous photograph which appeared in Oz and landed them in court on obscenity charges. In the picture, the boys appeared to be relieving their bladders into the Tom Bass P&O Wall Fountain. The fountain is let into the side of an office block in Sydney’s CBD.

Golden Boy, according to Godwin, is also commenting on the Australian predilection for nationalistic monuments. Like many of these monuments, Golden Boy will be surrounded by a white-painted chain fence.

There is a clear art-historical reference in Golden Boy, where Chesty Bond emerges from his oyster shell in the manner of Venus emerging from her shell in Botticelli’s famous work.

I was taken with Godwin’s studio on the rooftop of a tiny building in Chippendale, near Broadway. It was reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut, which I have only ever seen in my old school art book. There was the same curved roofline and tiny square windows. You can see them in my pictures. Elizabeth Fortescue, October 18, 2010

Opening of the new Indigenous Galleries, National Gallery of Australia

On Thursday I attended the press preview of Stage One of the redevelopment of the National Gallery of Australia, in Canberra. These are the photographs I took on the day.

The first picture (left) depicts the new front entrance to the gallery. You pass through two sets of sliding glass doors and immediately find yourself inside a vast foyer, filled with light (below).

The gallery’s famous Aboriginal Memorial is immediately to your left in a kind of circular well in which it receives abundant natural light and is shown to great advantage. Margaret Olley told me on the day that she had never seen the memorial (below left) “look so spiritual”. The new shop (below right) and cloak room are also in the foyer.

When you are standing in the new foyer, you will see a set of escalators right in front of you. Take the escalator up, and you are in the new indigenous galleries.

I think you will be able to see from the following photographs that the new galleries are a wonderful achievement. Most of them are lit with natural light, while those which contain drawings and other fragile materials have a special feature – they are lit artificially, but the lights are triggered only when someone enters the room. From a conservation and preservation point of view, this is an innovative and impressive idea.

National Gallery director Ron Radford gave a short speech in the foyer, welcoming particularly the 40 indigenous artists who had travelled from all over the country to be at the ceremony.

We went up to the new galleries, where artist Gali Yalkayirriwuy Gurruwirri performed a ceremonial dance (below left and right).

Among those watching the performance was the Maningrida bark master, John Mawurndjul (below).

Mawurndjul and fellow Maningrida artist Owen Yalandja (below, with one of his works) were to return to their home the day after the opening, to attend an important men’s ceremony.

Here are some more pictures, showing the inside of the new indigenous galleries.

Francesca Cubillo (left), senior curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the National Gallery, warmly thanked the artists for attending.

And finally, on the way out of the building, I met Thanakupi, the artist from Weipa, and spoke to her about her sculpture which was commissioned for the extensions to the building. Titled Eran, meaning “river”, the work depicts animals in the creation stories of the tribes along Weipa’s two rivers – the Evath eran and N’Gath eran. In English, these are the Mission River and the Hay River.

This is Thanakupi’s statement: “The sphere is circle. It is what I centred on in making pots. When looking at the world, it’s unity and the world. Taking that sphere and the designs, that is my art. Fire, earth, mother, unity. Designs on the ground, now on the bauxite, from clay to aluminium.

Here is a photograph of Thanakupi’s work, Eran.

Elizabeth Fortescue, October 2, 2010


Blake Prize people’s choice; exhibition closes Saturday

Above and Beyond, by Janine Mackintosh; eucalyptus cyanophylla leaves, linen thread and book binders' gum on canvas. Courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Stephen Cavanagh

Artist Janine Mackintosh has won the People’s Choice award in this year’s Blake Prize for the religious and spiritual in art.

The work is titled Above and Beyond, and is made of gum leaves.

There’s not much time left to see the Blake, which closes on Saturday (October 2) at the National Art School Gallery in Darlinghurst. It then goes on tour.

Elizabeth Fortescue, September 29, 2010

Just in: Pictures of Peter Kingston’s Toast-rack tram

Peter Kingston has just sent me these images of one of his artworks. The piece is a quaint and nostalgic toast-rack tram, heading for Bondi with a smattering of cartoon and real-life characters on board.

Peter has long been a champion for the retention of Sydney’s architectural and maritime history. As such, he is a lover of the trams which once rumbled up and down the city’s main streets and took thousands of commuters in and out of the suburbs.

Here, he has recreated one of the trams in all its glory.

“It lights up and contains Sydney eccentrics – Bea Miles, Mr Eternity, Ginger Meggs and his monkey, the White Man, the Trolley Man, Boofhead and the little Fan Man,” Peter said.

Please enjoy these pictures.

Elizabeth Fortescue, September 17, 2010

New Charles Blackman Photographs, exclusive to Artwriter

These rare photographs of Charles Blackman and his first wife, Barbara Blackman, were sent to me this week by their son Auguste Blackman, who gave me permission to publish them on my website.

The photographs were taken by Auguste at the Blackman Hotel in Melbourne this month, the day after the hotel’s official opening at which Charles, 82, had been the star attraction.

The photographs show Charles and Barbara sharing breakfast in the hotel.

One of the pictures shows Charles Blackman with his daughter Bertie Blackman.

My thanks to Auguste for permission to use these delightful and intimate family snapshots.

Elizabeth Fortescue, September 15, 2010