Sam King has huge plans for 2XX’s LOCAL ‘N’ LIVE: “In its heyday, 2XX was the internet in Canberra!” If the nation’s capital wanted to know where to go, to do what and with whom to do it, radio was the place to find out.
With Fun Machine/Hashemoto powerhouse Bec Taylor on board – “because she’s a force to be reckoned with” – the local music show is getting ready to re-launch as a platform for people to hear and see the culture of Canberra. They’re going to be kicking it off with a huge gig at the Polish Club on Friday July 13, starting a five-week online Pozible campaign where interested persons donate money to the launch and choose from a menu of creative rewards. “The rewards are all donated by different Canberra bands,” says Taylor, “and they’re pitching in some pretty outrageous stuff!”
The list of donation-earned options makes for enticing reading: Local label Dream Damage are offering a Who’s Who of signed albums; Pocket Fox are offering knitted ‘Fox Pockets’ full of homemade art and baked goodies; Mr. Fibby will fly outrageous front-man Adam Hadley in from Brisbane to ‘ruin’ an event of your choice; and Matty Ellis of The Ellis Collective could treat you to a ‘Coat Of Arms Barbecue’. “He’ll be cooking emu and kangaroo on the barbecue, in the bush, with his shirt off,” says Taylor. If you’ve ever wanted to sit in on a recording session, or have international star Mikelangelo read you a personal message on YouTube, or just get a whole bunch of great music stuff in the mail, it’s time to get excited.
King and Taylor are clear about the purpose of Local ‘n’ Live: “We don’t want to do anything people are already doing, but we see a gap to fill: video.” It’s been decades since video killed the radio star, and now it’s come full circle. “The most engaging format on the internet is video,” says Taylor, “and Canberra bands don’t have videos.” King interjects, “Because editing video is a pain in the ass. Actually being able to pay people to do it means LnL won’t just be a bunch of volunteers that are really keen, and then we milk them dry.” Raising money through the campaign will take LnL above the level of the radio show – it’ll be a multimedia platform for Canberra’s music that will sustain itself and grow.
The plan has perfect timing. Canberra, as a scene, has started to make a national splash. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age just ran an article by triple j’s Assistant Director, Dave Ruby Howe, name-checking a handful of bands on the LnL roster, describing tinfoil-pop merchants Fun Machine as “big chamber-pop glory… that lives up to the band’s name” and singling out Canberra as a town full of great local talent. Not to mention campaign contributor Owen Campbell making it on Australia’s Got Talent – and being brought back by popular demand. “People are looking for culture in Canberra, people are complaining about [the perceived lack of] it,” opines Taylor, “Local ‘n’ Live can give people a place where they can go to find it.” Recent reports suggest that there are as many as 150 bands in Tuggeranong alone, the majority of which aren’t on the radar for most Canberrans. The LnL team think they can bring the unappreciated magic out into the light. Says King, “If word gets out that there’s a radio show that wants to play Canberra music, and it’s really easy to contact them, it’ll create opportunity.
“I canvassed a whole lot of people and said ‘What can I do with Local ‘n’ Live to make it awesome’? 90 per cent just said ‘Put on events’.” It looks like King’s not going to disappoint. LnL have teamed up with the Canberra Musicians Club to present shows at the Polish Club every Friday night for the rest of 2012. A BMA exclusive sneak-peek at the LnL blueprints revealed shows in the fantastic new ANU Food Co-op and Smith’s Bookshop, as well as new episodes of the sell-out Sad Sessions of yore. And for those who love the music but can’t make it to the shows, Taylor has the answer: “People in the community who don’t like to get to gigs, or don’t feel like they want to, should still be able access Canberra music, because Canberra music is great! We’ll have a place where they can find it online, on demand.” For a population that has turned its back on televised content in favour of the immediate smorgasbord of the internet, the plan sounds like a godsend. And of course, at the heart of it all is radio. The content produced by LnL will benefit the radio show, which has already seen a recent surge of listenership. King attributes this popularity to new blood behind the microphones. “The hosts who have come to the show recently have come in from all sorts of different backgrounds,” he says. He sounds extremely pleased with their performance, particularly their range: a bright group of young hosts who each bring their own specialties to 2XX every afternoon from 4-6pm. Enter Tom and Tom’s environmental talkback, Chris’ focus on the city’s heavy scene, and Adam Salter’s take on the strong local folk contingent.
The online campaign looks like it’s going to be huge fun, and the Polish Club has ordered extra crates of Zywiec for the kick-off gig in mid-July. Is it possible that someone’s found a way to stop the ridiculous complaints of a ‘soulless’ city? Local ‘n’ Livecould become one of the windows to our capital’s soul.
Tune into Local ‘n’ Live weekdays from 4-6pm on 2XX 98.3fm. For more info including playlists and gig guides check out their website at here . Their re-launch party will be a melting pot of talent and hilarity on Friday July 13 at the White Eagle Polish Club.
If you live in Canberra, you’ve seen the work of ubiquitous artist ABYSS .607. Noble and imposing figures, richly coloured and slightly arcane, scribed in impressive detail on walls and billboards across the city. These are ‘Seers’, Abyss’ signature creations. You might have noted the sudden street-side characters over the summer and been as intrigued as I was. Large and small, Abyss’ works are mysteriously compelling and beautifully eldritch. My own borderline obsession with the personality behind them reached fever pitch during this latest creative explosion. Imagine my childlike joy when I heard that a feature on the enigmatic Abyss was finally on the cards.
A Merimbula native, Abyss moved to Canberra half a decade ago and has been working hard ever since. He began in the style of the Adbusters movement, obscuring the faces of advertisements with demonic red eyes, and quickly progressed to stickers and paste-ups starring the immensely detailed Seers you can now spot all over the city. Prophets who can read the past and see into the future, the Seers are often depicted carrying light, a symbol of the energy of imagination. For a little while, the Gus’/Essen Café strip even boasted a Seer holding a glowing cup of coffee: inspiration in a mug.
That particular artwork lasted little more than a week. Abyss’ is an art-form defined by brevity, both in the lifetime of the works and in their execution. It takes a thick skin and an adventurous spirit, Abyss explained. “You’ve got to be aware… but sometimes I’ll just put my earphones on, play it loud, and if someone sees me they see me. It’s a release.” His works show up in some hair-raising places, like the third-storey shopfront of an abandoned building on Lonsdale Street. “Leaning out isn’t scary at all – it’s getting up there. We scaled a pole, crept across a rotting roof full of holes, and this time we didn’t have a rope, so we had to use an extension cord.” Abyss has a bagful of adventure stories, including a particularly entertaining yarn about dashing down a Woden stormwater drain ahead of a flash flood. “The water built up slowly, and then suddenly this wall rushed through. It was out of nowhere!”
As a lifelong skater, Abyss keeps an open eye as he traverses the city, recognising the hidden corners, unused walls and opportunities to work on something special, like the crimson dragon undulating along the Lonsdale Street Roasters laneway. There’s never a hint of grandstanding or fame. It’s who he is. “I’ve just always been drawing. I have to make something. It’s what I’ve got to do.” He described the evening streets as a playground. “It’s just good to be out there by yourself… No-one around, no cars. It’s one of the best feelings that I get out of it; the solitude. To be under the stars, just rolling.”
New works turn up every week around the city, revealing this artist’s exceptional work ethic. While smaller work like stickers and tags can be improvised and thrown up in a moment, Abyss still plans out his approach. “If I’m going to smash out a heap of stickers, I have a spot in mind and pre-prepare… then I go and do that whole location in one shot.” Larger art takes a great deal more planning. When a likely location turns up, Abyss will photograph the location and take a tape measure to it to make sure he’s got a good area with which to work. He can spend weeks working on a single piece, often to see them disappear before he gets a chance to record them with a photo. He’s grateful when he sees a high-quality photo turn up online, as that’s the ultimate resting place of art that can be scraped down or rained away without warning.
Recently Abyss has been making use of mixed media to add vivid colour and texture to his paste-ups. The increasing frequency and scale of the works allows him to exercise his turn towards abstraction. “I find I’m getting more abstract recently. More freeform,” he revealed. “I find it’s less containing. I’ve developed a lot as well and I can feel like I make good work, and what you can do with it is endless.” Tying the threads together is a belief in imagination and a holistic approach to form. “It’s all energy. That’s what life is, it’s what art is, it’s what music is.” This sense of freedom has allowed Abyss to ignore what might be seen by others as boundaries. His style is unmistakeable and revolves around a certain cast of distinctive characters, which could lead to repetition. Instead, Abyss has found opportunities at every turn. A work at the Ainslie shops, while a familiar character, is innovative in its detail – a shining, origami-paper style mixed-media cloak – and in its placement, where a shadowing effect makes the Seer seem to lean away from the wall.
Next month Abyss will be contributing to MAY’S: The May Lane Street Art Project, a roving exhibition exploring the history and evolution of the Australian street art movement. It will be well worth checking out; he’ll be the guy boasting a set of mysterious spectres sketched in bold lines that will occupy the room like unexpected guests. If you don’t make it out to Belconnen, don’t worry – you can probably see one from where you’re sitting.
Abyss .607 will be an artist-in-residence at ‘MAY’S: The May Lane Street Art Project’ running Friday July 6 – Saturday August 11 at Belconnen Arts Centre. The exhibition is open Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm and entry is free. In the meantime, enjoy Abyss’ artwork scattered throughout Canberra’s streets and city facades.
What you’re about to read seems only a microcosm of the ground-breaking exhibition of street art by leading Australian and international graffiti artists. Vibrant, dramatic and confronting, the May Lane work spans a range of street art styles, from New York style graffiti, spray paint and paste ups to stencils and sculpture. MAY'S: THE MAY LANE STREET ART PROJECT is a Bathurst Regional Art Gallery touring exhibition in partnership with May Lane Arts Association Inc. and is supported by Visions of Australia.
Tugi Balog, Director of the May Lane Arts Association Inc, has been documenting The May Lane Project since 2005 when he changed the face of street art history by turning the walls of his business in May Lane, St. Peter’s in Sydney, into an outdoor gallery space. “When I moved to this location – this factory – the lane was pretty trashed and wild and I found these guys who claimed the lane as their turf, painting everywhere. I knew they could probably come up with something more interesting or better. So I started to ask neighbours to give us the walls so people could paint freely.”
The exhibition is an exploration and an experience of the history and evolution of the Australian street art revolution. Held at the Belconnen Arts Centre, this exhibit pays particular homage to the May Lane Project itself. It forges a pathway between the movement and venues in order to create a dialogue surrounding street artists, street art and its position in contemporary culture. As well as the exhibition, we can all look forward to workshops and events held through a public program including an amazing Jam Session at Belconnen Skate Park on Saturday July 14.
For those of us not yet learned in the history of contemporary graffiti and street art, it dates back to the ‘60s, fashioned with the intention of depicting images of cultural importance to people of a particular region – the inner city – and their rituals and lifestyles. The works of famed street artists who left a legacy in this vain – Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, plus Keith Haring – are celebrated throughout the exhibition, ultimately exposing that the fathers and sons of street art are valued independently for their visions in the movement.
With influences varying from surrealism to pop art, photorealism to manga comics and cartoons, the street art faction, like most influential artistic movements, has consequently become a global phenomenon. If you’ve travelled, even to Newtown in Sydney, you’ll know that street art exists everywhere. It’s leaked from the subway on W 47th in New York to the tube in London and the Metro in Paris. Not to mention the liquored lanes of Tijuana and Sao Pãulo and then back onto one of Europe’s most prized facades, the Berlin Wall. Hence, the exhibition hosts works from Japan (Kenji Nakayama), Indonesia (Taring Padi Collective), USA (Chor Boogie) and Mexico (Peque). However, despite my transnational tangent, let’s not forget that an important element in this exhibition is its showcasing of works by Australian artists too.
But wait – there’s more! I was lucky enough to grab a chat with the lady behind the Belconnen Arts Centre since its inception in 2009: director Hannah Semler.
She mentioned that it is in fact the whole collection from the May Lane Project that’s making its way to Belconnen. “We’re going to try our best to showcase all of them. It’ll be a huge contrast to our current exhibition of Aboriginal artworks.”
As an ex-Sydney girl, Hannah is familiar with the inner west and the demographics that make their way onto the walls like Mr Balog’s. “It gives us an opportunity to get in contact with the young and the old to inspire them to realise, and take seriously, work that is good work and give them the opportunity to discern it. The exhibition in its own right is this primary objective. As it runs for five-and-a-half weeks, we are also giving the opportunity for local street artists to have a go and showcase their own things.”
The word graffiti comes from the Italian, ‘to inscribe’. I can’t help but notice that this sentiment is all too profound when reflecting on the nature of street artists’ intentions. Of course that’s what this is: an inscription – a dedication, an impression, a message. Like a sign that points you in a certain direction, in many ways that’s what street art is really about; pointing out a particular culture’s perfections and imperfections. Unfortunately, in contemporary society the word graffiti is often negatively stigmatised, to say the least. However as we actively build on the history of graffiti, the practice itself becomes so much more than what we know it as. It’s clearly an art. Art that can take years for one to be versed in. It also reflects multitudes of attitudes that pass us by in our everyday disciplines; greed, ambition, politics, power and love. And, of course, the odd cartoon that makes us laugh. There are many reasons I know I feel privileged to live in the nation’s capital, especially due to its “constantly astounding, incredibly prolific arts community” as former BMA editor Julia Winterflood put it. This exhibition is yet another opportunity to learn more, understand more and see more in Canberra.
MAY’S: The May Lane Street Art Project runs Friday July 6 – Saturday August 11 at Belconnen Arts Centre. The exhibition is open Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm and entry is free. Talented local artists will be artists-in-residence alongside a survey of the artworks created at May Lane in St Peters, Sydney.
I was rewarded with a singular feeling at a recent art opening, the AGDA POSTER ANNUAL: INSPIRED BY MUSIC. It was the feeling of my expectations swerving to avoid a collision, and I was subjected to this internal realignment more than once. That is itself a comment on the unexpected size of the Gallery of Australian Design (GAD). The depth of the gallery was the first surprise, and the regularly spaced posters added dimension to the scene. Despite the clinical whiteness of the space, it felt like being beckoned into a Bedouin tent and realising that there were rooms and rooms to explore.
The next surprise was the lack of grime. My internal picture of an exhibition of music posters ran thus: Jethro Tull et al. inscribed in wobbling ‘60s detail and fastidiously preserved by a music obsessive; archivists arguing over original dates; far too much long hair, far too unwashed; torn jeans and an asphyxiating nostalgia. At first I commented to my partner in tones of affront that bubbled up from some vestigial, tragic, pop-culture lobe of my brain, “None of these are for actual gigs! What kind of trick are they pulling here?” Then the piece right in front of me, a modern thing that was all geometry and muted colours, resolved itself into a poster for an Eastern European festival of classical music. I finally opened my eyes and realised where I was – a gallery of design. Of course it was unlike any music-inspired exhibition I’d ever seen. The artists were of a specialised field, and it showed.
Once I had come to realise what I was looking at, I quickly recognised the opportunities presented by the exhibition. The sense of creativity intersected with what I had expected but at an odd angle. The love of music was obvious in every work. Some of the works were blatant reference, particularly a pair of spectacles labelled Imagine and a sheet that just contained the God Save The Queen album artwork minus the text. The posters that made the exhibition were those that used a modern visual vernacular more recognisable from the infographics of The Guardian and data obsessed life-trackers. Some highlights: brightly-coloured representations of musical vectors, lyrics parsed down into their emotional content and played off against one another, and a slab of monologue from rapper MF Doom’s seminal The Mouse and the Mask printed with the careful kerning that screams ‘design fanatic’.
Visitors to GAD’s area-under-a-curve will find some of the magic that drew the original poster-masters like Mucha and Lautrec; somewhere between the message of the artist, and the message inherent in this medium, is a whole so much greater than the sum of its parts.
The GAD Poster Annual: Inspired By Music is showing at the Gallery of Australian Design until Saturday July 28. Visit www.gad.org.au for details.
WORD OF MOUTH: ENCOUNTERS WITH ABSTRACT ART is an exhibition of nineteen emerging and established artists, working in glass, painting, sculpture and paper, with ties to Canberra through the Australian National University’s School of Art. As abstract art has always been fundamentally about reality, it makes perfect sense that as our reality changes so does the art form itself.
Mark Bayly, curator, highlights the artists’ appreciation of our ever-evolving understanding of science, technology and emerging complexities in communication. “I've been struck by the fact that so many artists continue to work with abstraction as a visual 'language' across a range of media. This isn't a local phenomenon. There is a considerable amount of work being produced internationally that continues to engage with abstraction and this continues to stimulate and provoke audiences. Some of the work is quiet and possesses a sober elegance, while there is also work that is exuberant and lively in appearance. There is a diversity of artistic voices engaged in the dialogue that is Word Of Mouth.”
Abstraction is and was a movement in art that has been fraught with debate on how to distil the style to a unique voice. In contemporary culture we might continue this discussion by word of mouth, in the classrooms, cafés, literature or through social media. The exhibition proposes that abstraction’s nuances are a consequence of this accrued knowledge and engagement about how to define it, but also encourages us to see that the ways we communicate embed new colour, materials and concepts into the next wave of abstract art.
Vibrancy and gestural marks belie the thought and considered approach to the composition and shape of a number of works. Gregory Hodge’s Magazine Mystics is made up of sixty sheets criss-crossed with blasts of excited colour. There is no direct representation in these works; instead the actors are the shapes and the contrasting cool and hot pigments which together create a rhythm across the large installation. It is like looking up into a kinetic sculpture, humming and reverberating against a wall.
Emma Beer’s I Ain’t Gonna Lose My Skin has a similar energy and draws strength from an unusual use of line and inverted colour; these visual cues hint at an urban landscape rather than depict it directly.
Despite working with different mediums – wood and glass – Richard Blackwell and Mel Douglas are united by their appreciation of the natural world through geometry. Like others, however, they could also be seen to communicate the ‘physics of the ineffable’. This idea also applies to Nadège Desgenétez’s petal-shaped balloons of glass fixed as though floating across the gallery wall. The pastel coloured pieces have a metallic finish, which might prompt us to see them as a product of a simultaneously friendly yet fiercely efficient world – and gives us pause for thought when you learn that the works, titled Here and Now, are inspired by the Canberra landscape.
Liz Coats’ Organica paintings are impressive: each work measures about one metre in diameter and look like a cross between a brilliant crystal and a giant petri dish. Liz has created an unusual effect with acrylic paint. The undulating surface of these works was achieved by allowing small daubs of wet pigment to dry, building up a surface of hundreds of specks of unexpected colour, from lavenders to electric dashes of lime. The collection of small lines and markings could be seen as symbolic of the gestation of ideas; tidbits of information that eventually come together to give weight to a way of thinking or personal ethos.
Julie Brooke creates fragmented images informed by her biochemistry background that could be seen as molecular structures or even grand plans for an architectural feat. Liz and Julie are not alone in this vision of the world. Mark explains, “When I saw artists' work exhibited elsewhere or in their studios over the last couple of years, the common application of these types of forms really struck me as a pattern. Occasionally, these have the appearance of cellular structure or crystalline formations. The closer I examined the various artists' practices, these ideas became more apparent. The overlapping of these visual influences resulted in the crystallisation of the key theme underpinning the exhibition.”
There is a wealth of ingenuity in this show and many of the artists take to bold experimentation with their medium. Other works, with a more pared back approach are also standouts. For example Jonathan Webster’s sequence of drawings of concentric but imperfect circles that bleed over the boundaries of the paper show a considered restraint. A meditation on mortality and the subtext of abstraction is explored in the sweeping monochromatic surface of Peter Maloney’s work The Tuesday Years. These works are a well of introspection for the artist and, importantly, the audience.
This is an extraordinary show that proves – if ever in question – that there are some great talents nurtured by the Canberra art scene. Mark says, “From a personal perspective, I've really enjoyed the privilege of speaking closely with the artists about the ideas underpinning the exhibition and it's been inspiring to find how many times we were ‘speaking the same language’.”
Word Of Mouth: Encounters With Abstract Art is currently showing at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery, Civic Square. The exhibition runs until Sunday August 19 and is open weekdays 10am-5pm & weekends 10am-4pm. Entry is free.