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Spent part of a very wintery afternoon yesterday in the NGV International taking in the last day of the Bugatti show and the early days of the exhibition of embroidered Chinese robes.

Firstly, Bugatti.  As an old car nut from way back, the chance to see a couple of examples of these amazing cars was too good to pass up.  Combined with the amazing bronzes of Rembrandt and the inspired furniture of Carlos, it made for interesting viewing.

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The experience was spoiled by the constant ‘requests’ by the gallery staff not to use flashes when taking photographs – signage at the door may well have alleviated this issue.

The viewing experience in “Dressed to Rule” was an entirely different kettle of fish – quiet and uncluttered; atmospherically lit to highlight the amazing embroidered silk robes from the Imperial Courts of Peking, it was a pleasure to view.

I had a minor disagreement with my camera – digitals can be great but when they have a mind of their own and won’t respond to you turning off the flash… gggrrrrr!!

Dragons featured on many courtly robes... usually nine at a time... there is one hidden on the inner lining of this garment.

Dragons featured on many courtly robes... usually nine at a time... there is one hidden on the inner lining of this garment.

Anyway –  I resorted to the trusty camera in the mobile phone and captured a couple of shots of the dragon robes…..there were several more robes in the collection featuring dragons but I thought these would suffice!

A less colourful design but the nine dragons are featured - including the one hidden!

A less colourful design but the nine dragons are featured - including the one hidden!

Two samples of uncut robes were amongst the collection – all the embroidery had been completed on the lengths of silk fabric however the garment had never been completed.  This enables us to see and appreciate the manner in which these garments were constructed and to admire the amount of hand work required for such delicate and complex embroidery.

There are floor talks, films and lectures associated with this exhibition – one of which is highly recommended to embroiderers.  This is to be held in June.

I have completed the first stage of my contribution to The Milkweed Project and managed to remember to record at least this part of the process for once!

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The piece is several feet long and required blocking – so it had to be done in stages throughout the afternoon with breaks while it dried and cooled completely before I moved and pinned a new section.

This part shows a mix of the linen yarn and the standard 8ply wool, knitted and interwoven.

couture_postcardThis fascinating exhibition has been running at the Bendigo Art Gallery since December and is a “must see” for the fashion aficionado or textile enthusiast.  Wonderfully displayed pieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London showcase the fashions of the decade post World War 2 giving the visitor an insight into the motivations of the designers as well as a chance to view garments that might well have only been worn once or twice by their owners.

Of particular interest to doll makers are the Theatre de la Mode pieces on display – dolls of about 24″ in height dressed in beautifully made couture outfits from each of the major French design houses.  These are stunning miniature Dior, Franke, Shiarapelli and other designer gowns rendered in precise detail and in exquisite fabrics, even down to the shoes and undergarments.

Photography is not permitted in the exhibition so the acquisition of the Exhibition Catalogue was the only way one could keep a visual record of the occasion.

Highly recommended = but be advised that the exhibition closes on March 22nd so mark off a time in your calendar and head up the highway! Introductory talks are held at 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays or groups can book a talk with the gallery staff.

Also highly recommended is the Devonshire Tea at the Gallery cafe – $6.50 for two enormous scones, a home made raspberry and blueberry jam and cream with your choice of tea or coffee – very good value!

A retrospective exhibition of Rosalie Gascoigne’s work is currently showing in NGV Federation Square. If you are planning to visit the Dickens Quilt in the near future, take the opportunity to walk up to the third level and take in this show.

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Rosalie’s work took many forms: from sculpture, to installation art,  to pieces that were painterly in presentation yet sculptural in construction. She was the ultimate in recycler, in that she scoured the countryside around her home town of Canberra for “waste” – found objects to some of us – and rendered them into superb pieces that vibrate with texture and form.

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Some pieces reminded me strongly of the Russian religious icons – this one a tribute to that iconic Australian institution of the Arnott’s Rosella.  This piece dates to before the subsequent loss of this brand to the multinationals.

This exhibition had me itching to come back to the studio, select appropriate fabrics and the start cutting and twisting and stitching back – and I have just the fabrics to do it with!

This is a “must see” for those of us who lament lack of formal art training – Rosalie was a self taught “artist” who found her feet in her chosen form in her 50’s and produced this remarkable volume of work over little more than 25 years.

There are some iconic Australian photographs which Aussies instantly recognise as “ours”.  There has long been a debate about whether photography can be considered art – such debate will go on in the future, no doubt. However, Max Dupain’s Sunbather for example is to many, more a work of art than just a snapshot.

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Rennie Ellis was the consummate “happy snapper”… his pictures captured moments in time without staging or artifice and they remain enduring images of the times.  Many shots, like the one above entitled “Sharpies”, were of ordinary people in ordinary places doing ordinary things.

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Others captured iconic personages – like the fabulous shot of Bon Scott snapped back stage in Chicago trying really hard to look taller than the girl he was face to face with (almost!).

Looking at some of his celebrity work, he could have been accused of the same type of photojournalism we see these days carried out by the papparazzi…however, Ellis was known, liked and a part of the celebrity crowd he captured on film.  There was no malice or ulterior motive in his recording of their lives or actions.

His was a complex and layered body of work that will reveal more as time passes and can be more critically assessed.  Rennie Ellis captured the spirit of a people, its time, its place.  His was Art.

This exhibiton is currently at the Ian Potter Gallery, NGV, Federation Square, Melbourne. It runs until February 22, 2009.

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