American Street @ National Gallery of Australia

A delightful new exhibition is on in the Photography Gallery at the NGA. I love this space and the fact.that it has a fairly quick turnover of exhibitions. Right now the space is devoted  to a thing called American Street: seventy years of a photographic tradition
On the walls are a delightful mix of black and white and colour prints from about 20 well regarded photographers chronicling cities in the USA over the last 70 years.
The photos are well labelled and.have some brief notes but the delightful range of styles and approaches to taking cityscape pictures was great. Below is a list of many of the photographers on the wall.

Stephen Shore, Elias Haas, Larry Clark, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus, Helen Levity Leon Levinstein, Robert Frank, Harry Callahan
Berenice Abbott, Eugene Atget.

The NGA page for this with info is:

Toulous Lautrec @ NGA


I finally got to the  Henry Toulouse Lautrec (HTL) exhibition at the NGA before it closed. It was wonderful. The curators  put together materiial from more than 20 galleries on most continents. They have spanned the times, styles and enthusiasms of the man up till his untimely death before he turned 40.
My first exposure to HTL was in the early 70s when driving through Albi. A friend took me into a great gallery. He told me about HTL and explained that the town was his birth place.
I was  struck by the remarkable work on the walls. That gallery has lent just three works to this exhibition. Each work has a paragraph explaining their generosity next to each picture. It seemed stingy that when such an awesomely generous bequest that led to that gallery’s strength now led to only three paintings at this showing.
Back to the NGA show – one surprise for me was that a big part of the material on the walls was owned by the Australian gallery. The range of the art on the walls was great – portraits posters, sketches, landscapes.. They tracked the development of his art and did a great job of covering his enthusiasm for the seamier side of Parisian life at the end of the 19th century. Many of his works shine a light on the party side of life and the embrace by a social set of the brothels and their prostitutes.

The gallery was decorated as usual in great swathes of flat painted surfaces in rich reds greys greens that evoked the richness of his work and the colourfullness of the era. I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and was thankful for the brief free explanatory pamphlet that was available at the door.

The Albi museum site is below




Gallipoli lecture @ ANU

Ships submarines and aircraft – Naval and aerial aspects of the Gallipoli wars

A recent lecture at the ANU contained along detailed account of the Turkish Gallipoli naval and aerial experience their victory. Delivered by a respected academic Serhat Guvenc from a Turkish University, it was a revelation to me as a High School teacher who has taught our involvement in Gallipoli.for several years.
It included a great explanation of Ottoman planning and purchasing of naval supplies. England refused to fulfill orders and Churchill was convinced that the Ottomans were determined to side with Germany. It was fascinating to have a description of the war from another point of view..

Further information on the lecturer

Clive Hamilton on Geoengineering @ ANU Finkel

Geoengineering is the new issue taken on by an Australian public academic Clive Hamilton. Last month he addressed the issue at the Finkel Theatre at the ANU. He talked through the issues of climate change and the political issues of recent years connected with it. Having acknowledged that the political response had been lost he then turned to his topic at hand.

Geoengineering is the term applied to big system techno fixes to be used when the impacts of climate change become too clear to deny and too late to turn back with economic changes. They include ocean and atmospheric options and are being seriously researched by oil companies and the Gates Foundation.

Hamilton is always entertaining as a speaker and is not afraid to address unpopular causes. It is nice to have someone in the public sphere who is still trying to get the society to address this issue.

The lecture was part of his book tour for his latest book Earth Masters


Glorious Days @ National Museum of Australia

An exhibition opened recently at the National Museum of Australia titled Glorious Days. It brings together a marvelous collection of artifacts and information about a large range of facets of Australian society in and around 1913.
In sport Fanny Durak went to the 1912 Olympics and Victor Trumper played in the Paterson.Shield. Professionalism in sport was becoming an issue were popular collectables. A boxer named Baker won a silver medal in the Olympics at 1908 and with backers parlayed it into a business success.

In nation building Australian currency and.postage developed. Our first banknote and.two stamps were made. A debate about appropriate images of the king verses a kangaroo ensued. May Gibbs registered copyright and the foundations for Australia House in London were laid.

The exhibition takes you through art, education, indigenous life, photography, transport, exploration and relations with places like Papua. My only disappointment was that having listened to a few of the hits of the year playable on a touch screen I could not buy them at the merchandising shop on the way out.  I would have thought that the copyright holders would leap at a re-release in conjunction with the show.

The website for the exhibition

Design 29 Exhibition @ National Archives of Australia

Design 29 website banner image

I love the city I have lived in for 56 of the last 61 years. I have a private awe for Walt and Marion Griffin. This week an exhibition.opened at the National Archives they focuses on the primary documents of four of the sets of plans that were entered in the competition to design Canberra.
The Walter Burley Griffin plans and Marion Mahoney Griffin’s paintings have been on.display before but the beauty of their scale and the gentle rendering of the Griffin’s extra ordinary vision is something I never tire of looking at.
This exhibition includes the visions of four of the contestants in the competition to design Canberra. Each of the visions is striking. None of the visions are more than partially reflected in the city in 2013 we know as Canberra.The exhibition opens the viewer to a deeper understanding if the processes that led to modern Canberra.

I will go back to see it again and explore it with the wonderful technological overlay supplied through Ipads loaded with lots of supplementary material.

The website is



The children of the occupation

What a delightful piece of research Walter Hamilton has produced on mixed race children in post war Japan. The book is called The children of the occupation. I heard the lecture Hamilton presented via Big Ideas on Radio National.
Sensitive to the morality of the time, recognising the sensitivities of victor vanquished, and the racial issues of each country’s history, he weaves an emotionally satisfying account. Hamilton in his speech included some wonderful stories about successes and some tragic victim accounts. As a high school teacher of the Second World War and its aftermath this material  was wonderful to challenge and expand my understanding.

The link to the speech is

A review of the book is

Click to access Children-of-the-Occupation.pdf

Django Unchained slapstick and brutality

I have just watched my first Tarantino film – Django Unchained. What an extraordinary thing. A combination of funny slapstick, massive product placement for the NRA and friends and an unrelenting display of room repainting using the blood spray from human bodies being shot at by rifles and other guns.

This is an American film. Brutality business, guns, racism and heroes. When I originally wrote this I wrote much more but on reflection all I want to write is that I have now seen a Tarantino film, I get it and will assiduously avoid seeing another. .

Walter Burley Griffin’s approach to furniture.

The latest exhibition at the National Library of Australia celebrates the work of Walter Burley and Marion Mahoney Griffin.On the Saturday night of the Enlighten Festival there was a curatorial walk through of the exhibition focusing on the work they did on furniture.

In the exhibition there are two displays of furniture. One is of the only surviving table and chair from the Melbourne Cafe Australia of the 20s and the other is some office furniture from their work life. The lecture wove the trends of the eras and the design ethic of the Griffins to explain the contribution they made to the decorating of interior spaces

Christopher Vernon @ NLA

By accident while at the Enlighten festival in Canberra I happened on the first few minutes of a curatorial talk at the newly opened (now closed) exhibition on the Griffins at the late night opening of the National Library.

Christopher Vernon is the curator and he walked us through the exhibition with a charming and insightful background to the Griffins and the exhibition.

Room one covered their practice pre Canberra in Chicago.  In 1865 the great fire in Chicago led to a boom in building which led to a period of creativity in design and construction. In 1893 the Columbian exhibition celebrating the 400 anniversary of Columbus exposed the 17 year old Walter Burley Griffin to buildings and landscape that was fully planned. At that time it was all looking back to a classical era. The heady inspiration of the era led Frank Lloyd Wright to go strongly modern.
There was always a big competition between Chicago and New York City so Chicago wanted to lead the US in design. Burnham, Sullivan and others went for natural themes. Walter and Marion were keen on harmony in the landscape. They were in the circle of Frank Lloyd Wright and were impacted by Wright’s personal life which was like a soapie.
Marion Mahoney Griffin got the second architecture degree ever awarded to a woman and ended up working with Wright.
Frank Lloyd Wright got on with Walter Burley Griffin but Wright failed in his commitments in money to Walter.
1909 alienated by his affairs Wright moved to Europe
Room 2
The Cyclograph paintings of what they were given
Walter talented rush suission
137 entries judged in Melb
Theirs fit the site like a glove
There is some debt to DC
Landform was important to eng
Philippines Burnham called to redesign manilla and.does Bagio
Kim then picks bits and.pieces of lots of plans
Decade, upset writes protest
Local protest not 4 eng but against the kom plan.
Wbg comes to canb

Room 3
DH Lawrence kangaroo
They fall for the bush with native plants this was new
She cooled catelogues of native plants all sorts of bush wals to catelogue the nosh plants.
Lots of red over for Aust
They never lived here,
She DoD.renderings that were prep
Walter.had an.arboretum
Eng did the plantings.first cheap in a war.
Document it was part time jobs
Lots of.details of.their work.

Room 4
Their projects beyond Canberra were to earn money and to fulfill their artistic aims. They were involved in the Cafe Australia which was a stunningly beautiful interior space. It was destroyed but is preserved through photo and a could of bits of furniture.
Griffin also designed a mallet for the opening of parliament in 1927.
They stayed in Australia and emersed themselves in the commune type suburb called Castle Crag. It was a socially engineered settlement north of Sydney.