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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.


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.

Near Richmond Vic

Near Richmond Vic

Such a bizarre contrast of texture and form….. the tenacity of the weed plant to take a foothold and persistantly flourish in such a hostile environment – I could not resist recording its success!

surface_5Depending on the time of year, trees take on a whole new dimension…we can gauge the changing of the season by the colours of the leaves on the deciduous trees, the appearance of buds and blossom, the starkness of their empty limbs against the winter sky.


The Australian landscape is coloured by these imports yet retains its own set of distinctive signals of seasonal change.  This year, however, the trees are stressed from lack of water, seared by record high temperatures and confused by sudden burst of cold.


Their barks are shedding, their leaves falling and in some cases they are blooming at completely the wrong time of year! The more established trees in our formal parks and gardens are showing their ages more than ever and sadly, it is estimated we may well lose anything between 15 and 20% of our tree cover in this state to the effects of this drought.


My eye ( and therefore, my camera) has been drawn of late to textures in the environment;  to the everyday scenes in my inner city location.


I love the history of these lanes, wonder at the tales the stones could tell about those that have passed over them, fight for their preservation from the vanadalism of councils and utilities who scar them with their machinery.

They say a great deal about how communities formed and evolved, interacted and connected and they have a place in the future if only they are allowed to be part of the fabric of our cities and suburbs.


The lanes lead us to the modern gallery spaces – some would say that stencil art and graffiti have no place…but this is still the work of someone with something to say and this is a place for and a means of expression.

How revealing and inspiring the simplest things can be; and how accessible they are when you get out and WALK!

As mentioned in an earlier post, I have this “thing” about trees – more specifically, the wonderful surface textures of their trunks.  For some time now I have been collecting shots of various tree trunks.


I found this one in a car park in Adelaide… although the trunk itself had little variation in colour, the effect of the shadows cast made it all the more interesting.  From memory it was a stinker of a day and any bit of shade was a blessing!


There are some lovely old tree in Kings Park in Perth – this is the same tree I showed in an earlier post but this shot was taken in May – the other in September and the bark colouring is different.


Lovely knarly number – it reminded me of free form crochet at the time I saw it – I’m not sure how I would go about rendering this surface in thread… but I think it would need to be free machining overworked by hand stitching.


Another Kings Park specimen – just loved all the pleats and folds in this.  The length of the trunk was quite badly scarred horizontally; given the width of the band it would have appeared to have been inappropriately “tied” at some point in its life and the scar has remained as the tree aged.

I am still collecting…one day these pictures will form the basis of a series of exercises in thread play, that is, when I find a spare year or three to spend stitching!

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.


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.


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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