Date Published: Tuesday, 14 February 12
| Author: Sarah Mason
| 1 year, 3 months ago
Singer-songwriter/praying mantis expert. DREW WALKY is not the average guitar-wielding Canberra muso. I immediately forgave his lateness for our interview when he explained he’d been up late writing a paper on the religious spindly-legged creatures.
Drew’s music is original and lyrically rich, with a folk-psychedelic edge; a far cry from his early inspirations – Nirvana, Nick Cave, The Doors and Leonard Cohen. He plays mostly on his own, because, by his own admission, he is not organised enough to run a band. Instead he is joined on stage and in the studio by instrumentalists and collaborators including Cam Ewens, Joel Thorpe, Mel Twidale, Nick Combe, Sam King, Vorn Doolette and Rafe Morris, and also plays in a group called One Foot in the Gravy.
This month, Drew will release his first EP; a project that has been as much about creation as self-discovery. “During the recording, you learn a whole lot about your songs that you didn’t know – how they’re actually performed, what they’re about and whether you like them. You’re objective in a way you can’t be when you’re playing.” He describes Life Force as “that will to live that’s present in everything all around us”.
Drew’s evolution has included some trimming of old favourites and exploring new influences. “I even listened to the Top 40 and everything I could find on YouTube. I found out that I liked a lot of music from the ‘80s, which was a surprise. I can’t be ashamed of it. I was born in 1982.”
Three of Drew’s songs are featured on triple j’s Unearthed this year: Lullaby, Towards the Sun and Yellow Brick House, but he is not focused on bringing home any j trophies. “I just put songs on there ‘cause it’s free and a nice way of making tracks available. What’s important is connecting with people.”
Drew’s relationship with his guitar started in year ten when he attempted classical music, but he developed a far stronger connection in college when he met other similarly enamoured friends. “We spent a lot of time hanging around eating toast and drinking wine and inventing harmonies in living rooms,” he says.
Canberra is “a wonderful place to live and be a musician,” he says. “Although we only have a few venues which affects how many musicians stick around. They move to Melbourne to be commercially viable.” Conversely, he calls himself “an extremely unprofessional musician”. In spite of this self-assessment, when I ask his opinion on Katy Perry, he responds “who’s that?” Thank you.
Drew Walky’s EP Life Force will be launched at The Front Gallery and Café on Saturday February 25. People can expect “impossible happenings, loud music and soft music, CDs for really cheap, artwork for sale and some jam (for toast), maybe even some live animals”. Life Force is also available at Smiths Alternative Bookshop or through Drew’s MySpace page – www.myspace.com/drewwalky .
Date Published: Tuesday, 31 January 12
| Author: Sarah Mason
| 1 year, 3 months ago
Call me a gutter-mind, but I wanted to know. Do poetry groupies exist? The query incites laughter from Australian Poetry Slam Champion Luka Lesson, who is part of the Please Resist Me tour happening at New Acton later this month, but his response is affirmative. “One of my friends and I joke about being rock star poets. We get put up in hotels, flown places, and yes... there are fans. It’s a viable lifestyle.”
Luka is a self-confessed addict to poetry performance, or ‘slams’ – organised competitions where live poetry is rated by the crowd and a winner is named. “It’s exciting because it’s scary. Every single movement, every single whisper, every single blink of the eye is watched and heard and seen. It’s just so raw.”
Though his first experience of poetry reeked of archaic English scribes, “like Pride and Prejudice, but far worse”, once Luka discovered Tupac and delved into Greek classics, Homer and The Iliad, he was hooked. “In Australian schools they tell you that poetry has to be like Shakespeare. They don’t click that every culture has had a history of poetry, and hip-hop is poetry as well,” he says.
Being a good Greek boy, Luka grew up singing with his guitar-strumming brother at weddings, Easter and Christmas celebrations. “Now, listening to Greek music or reading poetry makes me feel at home, although I’ve never been there for more than a couple of months,” he says. “It’s my version of ‘the new country’, the place I want to go back and discover for myself.”
After first performing in 2009, Luka quit his day job teaching Indigenous Studies at Monash University and took to the stage. “On the face of it, it was a risk, I could have been getting paid regularly, but going against my soul and my heart was much more of a risk. I knew that none of the perks could have compared.”
Luka holds strong and innate beliefs about Australia’s history, and at the start of the interview, he wishes me a happy invasion day. “Australia was invaded and it wasn’t legal, it was done by force, it was violent and it was painful,” he says with conviction. Even in high-school his was the lone voice advocating an apology to the Stolen Generations in his legal studies class. Even his teacher vehemently disagreed with his stance.
He is astounded that there are still groups of people who don’t understand the importance of healing. “Possession is what’s given us everything that we enjoy, and what we call a great country. But some people don’t see how the loss of culture and language and the reliance on government handouts has affected Indigenous people. Even people who have not been born yet are going to be affected by a colonial imperial regime.”
Not long after starting his Indigenous Studies course at Monash University, Luka found himself in the Northern Territory unrolling a swag and camping down in a remote community called Boorroloola. Surrounded by a circle of Yanyuwa people who spoke not one word of English, he succumbed to a massive culture shock. “I was sitting there and really feeling everything sinking in about what exactly has been lost, and what’s not there when you walk around the city.”
Luka has since been visiting the community and running workshops and language preservation programs with the elders and young people. “They hold all this information about our world and our cosmos – the loss of Indigenous languages worldwide is such a huge tragedy for humanity,” he says. “But the kids in the community love learning poetry.”
Luka acknowledges that the ‘P’ word is not as acceptable to a lot of young people as hip-hop, which is how he introduces the concept and gets his workshoppers writing. Rather than bringing back the ye olde English forms of prose, he encourages each person to write about what’s important to them. “All I’m doing is letting a new way of expression come through so they feel that it’s comfortable. The poetry has already been there forever.
“They get confidence, they start to feel at home with a teacher. Best of all, we use local words which are in danger of dying out,” he says. After a workshop, the participants usually perform in front of the elders, giving them a voice in their own community and kudos with their peers.
Luka’s own performances are infused with his experiences working with remote Indigenous communities. “Making enjoyable poems is important, but performing is an opportunity to disseminate information that’s not available through usual modes of media. Being a poet is a great opportunity to delve deeper into issues, find the nuances and the subtle differences between arguments and discover a closer truth,” he says.
A poetry slam does not have a genre, nor a word limit or a designated style. A slam performer can say anything they want. While Luka leans toward rhyming and rhythm because of his hip-hop background, the style is fluid. Luka says, “while hip-hop has developed this hyper-sexualised and sexist vernacular that’s come through, women can get up at a poetry slam and be anybody. There’s no hierarchy and it’s respectful.
“If you go to a performance of poetry written by the performer, that brings a power and understanding and empathy that you can’t get just from reading words in a book.” The promise is so seductive I may be in danger of becoming a poetry groupie.
Australia’s young slam poetry performers Joel McKerrow, Alia Gabres and the Australian Poetry Slam Champion Luka Lesson will conduct a workshop at the Kendall Lane Theatre on Feb 21 and perform in the New Acton Courtyard in New Acton South on Feb 22. The poets are co-directors of The Centre for Poetics and Justice, facilitating writing and performance workshops and presenting quality acts around Australia. Visit www.cpj.org.au for more details.
Date Published: Tuesday, 23 November 10
| Author: Sarah Mason
| 2 years, 6 months ago
Hey camera-touting kiddies, even if you are one of those red-horned soulless “advertising types” there is still hope. The first major retrospective of Anton Bruehl, ex-adverstar photographer, is currently being presented by the National Gallery of Australia. In The Spotlight showcases an extensive collection of Australian-born Bruehl’s gorgeous colour and black and white photographic works from 1920-1960.
The iconic images produced by the not-so-soulless wonder are not always immediately attributable to Bruehl, even though millions have enjoyed his sumptuous advertising imagery. He is credited as having transformed commercial photography into an art form, as one of the most successful celebrity portraiture, advertising and fashion photographers to come out of New York during the commercial boom of the 1950s.
Bruehl’s well-known portraits of a flame-haired Marlene Dietrich, scowling Katharine Hepburn or trumpet-wielding Louis Armstrong hang in the NGA alongside advertisements from Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and House and Garden. Far from selling-out, the exhibition marks the establishment of artistic lighting and styling, which has inspired contemporary Australian photographers such as Max Dupain and Athol Smith.
The NGA chose to display a representative collection of Bruehl’s works for this show, rather than his more popularly exhibited 1920s-30s modernist still-life studies and advertisements. This presented a challenge, particularly in the display of the 100 black and white photographs donated by Bruehl’s son, Anton Bruehl Junior.
“Exhibitions of similar sized photographs can look like washing on a line, so we went for a theatrical look,” said the NGA’s Senior Curator of Photography, Gael Newton. “We understood the quality integrity but also the imagination and sense of play he brought to his works. We used black painted frames and white reversed-out text on black labels”, she said.
In addition to creating an extensive collection of black and white images, Bruehl was a pioneer of colour production techniques, working with photo technician Fernand Bourges to master high-colour photography three years before Kodak released Kodachrome colour film in 1935.
“We wanted to create the sense of that hot palate, said Newton. The colour scheme in that part of the exhibition is blue and orange and we also used quotes associated with his career, like ‘colour is like dynamite, dangerous if you don’t know how to use it.’”
Dynamite Canberra photographers-in-training can take heart from the unglamorous beginnings of Anton Bruehl. Born in Naracoorte, SA and raised in Melbourne, he studied electrical engineering, only moving to New York when his German-born father was refused naturalisation during World War 1.
The injustice could not have been more fruitful for Bruehl, who never returned to Australia, but forged his skills at art school, making his mark on the big apple and on Australian photographic history.
In The Spotlight – Anton Bruehl Photographs 1920s – 1950s is on show at the National Gallery of Australia until February 6 and entry is free.
Date Published: Tuesday, 26 October 10
| Author: Sarah Mason
| 2 years, 6 months ago
The Canberra International Film Festival (CIFF), from October 27 to November 7, has a little more bite than your usual orange-cheese-in-a-can cinema offerings. I spoke with Festival Director, Simon Weaving.
What's the process for choosing films for CIFF? Are there peculiarities about a Canberra audience that influence your selection?
I hunt for great stories told in a cinematic way and look for the best independent cinema from around the world - beautiful and provocative films that have won awards at other festivals. I then finish the line-up with a few commercially orientated films to add some pizzazz. Last year Canberrans couldn't get enough of the horror film DEAD SNOW - so this year we've created a brand new “House of Horror” Strand - seven fabulous horror films, old and new, at the Arc Cinema in Acton. Don't miss RUBBER - about a tyre that blows people's heads off!
Will the other films get jealous if you nominate a favourite from this year's selection?
Yes, but hey, where would the world be without a bit of competitive jealousy? My favourites are HONEY (moving and beautiful), ENTER THE VOID (OMG what an amazing experience!!) NORTH (a road movie on skis with one of the funniest scenes I've seen on the big screen for years) and A SCREAMING MAN (an amazing film from Chad - we don’t get too many of those!)
Are there any CIFF films that I shouldn't take Grandma along to?
You have to absolutely not take your Grandma to ENTER THE VOID. It's a truly amazing cinematic experience: drugs, sex and the journey of the soul (and it's a trippy journey I can tell you). One reviewer called it "a hallucinatory mindfuck for adults". But then again, if Grandma lived through the 1960's she might dig this. Two of my other favourites for contemporary style are I KILLED MY MOTHER and HEARTBEATS - both made by the same 20-year-old director. Very funny and oh sooooo cool.
Finish this sentence: “the Canberra International Film Festival is a perfect excuse to...”
Think of any excuse to take 12 days off! Last year two people saw 35 films. C'mon - it's a record waiting to be broken. You can do it. You know you can. Tell your boss you have CIFF-itis. Or maybe not.
The fourteenth year of the CIFF includes 53 screenings at Dendy and Arc cinemas (National Film and Sound Archive), across seven themes: Far Corners, Personal Journeys, Thicker than Water, Conflict Zones, Wildly Wicked, The House of Horror, Stranger than Fiction and Extreme Close-up. There are also masterclasses with industry professionals and special Q&A screenings with Directors and field experts.
For info about the program and to make bookings head along to www.canberrafilmfestival.com.au or look for the CIFF on Twitter or Facebook.
Date Published: Tuesday, 12 October 10
| Author: Sarah Mason
| 2 years, 7 months ago
This Way Up begins with a colourful “Fuck!”
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” We all know the feeling. Geoff Newton’s painting, which screams the words from a dynamic and colour-saturated canvas, makes an arresting centrepiece for the new exhibition This Way Up, a celebration of abstraction organised by the ANU School of Art. The F-word has never looked so lovely.
Water lilies it ‘aint, but the exhibition, which spans the School of Art Gallery, ANCA and M16 Artspace, is an engaging exploration of 37 very different artists - current and former students, teachers and academics - who are all committed to expressing the intangible.
Far from the fruit bowl reproductions and landscapes that many of us suffered as an introduction to the subject at high school, abstract art is a genre that often defies explanation. The viewing experience can be at once exciting and disconcerting as we rely on personal criteria rather than universal criteria to establish meaning.
Ruth Waller, head of the School of Art’s Painting department, agrees. “The paintings represent sensations or experiences that we can’t readily name, but they can catch someone’s imagination, hold their eye, or engage their brain in more interesting ways.”
“These paintings can open up a space of contemplation or thought. That space asserts itself from the world, which is full of distraction, incident and activity.”
Ruth is optimistic about the continuing popularity of painting and a resurgence of abstract forms in particular. She suggests that artists who are overwhelmed by the impersonal “imagery deluge” of the digital age are moving intuitively toward the physical practice.
“In recent decades, there has been talk of the ‘death of painting’ as new technologies are introduced, but there’s an attraction to the process, particularly the sensuality of engaging with materials: the visual, tactile and bodily tension created by the painting process.”
“Students find a deep enthusiasm in themselves as they explore an ongoing relationship with painting and the rich history of the art form.”
This Way Up explores the individual painting process through a myriad of forms: in the ANU exhibition the focus is on bold colour, while M16 shows a more lyrical collection and ANCA presents works on paper.
The intricate web of gold acrylic paint woven by 2005 ANU Honours graduate Karena Keys towers toward the ceiling in two pointed tee-pees in the School of Art gallery. Working with dried acrylic paint like fabric or thread, she transcends the regular painting process to create three-dimensional objects – a painting the audience could almost enter and inhabit.
Peter Adsett built his work by embracing the environmental afflictions to his canvas over time. Starting with a series of 6 black discs, the ANU PhD candidate painted thin white acrylic paint in layers, each attracting hairs, dust and other particles as it dried. What is usually the bane of a painter’s process has become the focus of this series, which is sanded back to reveal the impressions left by accidental phenomenon.
Many of the works do not deal with the third dimension but with texture and colour, involving viewers in spectacle, scale and mood. The intricate webs in Elefteria Vlavianos’ canvases are unable to be untangled but contain, according to the artist, “historical sites and names of towns from the Ottoman empire”. The illegible forms are evocative and involving because of their scale and complexity, and while I can’t read the script, I want to run my fingers through the painted streams of colour.
The space inhabited by Noel Skryzypcazak’s melting masterpiece, Where did I come from? Where am I going? feels claustrophobic. The poured masses are poised to flow off the canvas and into the room. An ANU Honours graduate, Skryzypcazak is more accustomed to inhabiting vast architectural spaces and has been commissioned for several commercial premises. Her painting process, which is as top-secret as KFC’s chicken, creates the impression that paint is flowing from space like anarchist lava.
Geoff Newton, meanwhile, isn’t known only for proliferating the f-word. Since graduating from ANU in 2000, he has gained a reputation for his energetic and witty practice, producing colourful canvasses that challenge convention. Exhibiting nationally and internationally, and holding 14 solo exhibitions since graduating, he also directs Dudespace and co-directs the influential Melbourne gallery Neon Parc.
Far from the necessary isolation of the painting process, exhibiting in a gallery allows artists to communicate directly with their audience. While there is a lot of excitement and satisfaction to be gained from working in private and taking creative and explorative risks, a public showing is the true test of how meaningful that process is.
Waller explains “by putting their paintings into the world and seeing how people respond, artists can gain insight into whether the meaning they imagine is actually being communicated to an audience.”
“Once you leave university, it can be really isolating and hard to know if your work is meaningful. Exhibitions like this connect artists with a community who shares their interests. Practically, it’s difficult to make a living as an artist, so it’s important for artists to find an audience to connect with. It’s their bread and butter so they need people to see their work and want to acquire it.”
Whether you scratch your head and ponder that age-old question “what is art?”, or find validation of that occasional “Fuck!” feeling, This Way Up makes for an involving exhibition that’s well worth a visit.
From October 13-24 at the ANU School of Art Gallery, Acton, ANCA, Dickson, and M16 Artspace, Griffith.
Date Published: Tuesday, 12 October 10
| Author: Sarah Mason
| 2 years, 7 months ago
Maria, the irresistible metal-clad woman from Fritz Lang’s future city Metropolis, is equal parts golden bitch, barely dressed dancing queen and humanitarian goddess. The cult 1927 film, starring the original fembot, is being released in a newly restored edition at Arc this October with twenty-five minutes of newly found footage. It is the first Australian screening of the new edition, discovered in Argentina in 2008.
First screened in Berlin on January 10, 1927, Metropolis earned notoriety as much for its grand scale and quality visual effects as for its plot. The film explores a dystopian future; the relationship between the main characters illustrating an intense struggle between upper and working classes.
Metropolis takes place in layers of an organised regimen. The workers inhabit an industrial underworld steaming with sweat and machinery while the managers luxuriate in spacious skyscrapers. Below the worker city lies a subterranean mass of catacombs within which the final scenes are dramatically played out.
Brigette Helm’s iconic Maria is the centre of a dramatic interplay of goodies and baddies set against futuristic art deco sets reminiscent of modern New York architecture. As the most expensive film ever made in Europe, Metropolis was subject to intense political scrutiny for its ostentatious sets but applauded for its ascription to German expressionism.
The original version of the film, at 153 minutes, was cut substantially for commercial viability, so by its first American screening it was 90 minutes long. Lang fiercely criticised the cut version of Metropolis, which in his opinion had been mutilated beyond recognition. At its release, he famously commented to a British journalist, "I shall never go to America. Their experts have slashed my best film so cruelly that I dare not see it."
Since the 1960s, a few attempts at restoration have been made. This includes a pop version released in 1984, accompanied by a modern score composed by Giorgio Moroder and featuring performances by Queen and Bonnie Tyler. In 2001, the most ambitious restoration was released, combining footage from four archives, including an original print from the National and Film and Sound Archive.
This 124 minute version was thought to be definitive. But in 2008 the curator of the Buenos Aires Museo del Cine discovered a negative that was considerably longer than any existing print. Its restoration took a year to complete, at a cost of approximately $900,000.
Despite the benefits of new digital restoration techniques, damage to the newly discovered film is obvious, allowing audiences to see exactly where the original film was cut. The new edition includes entire additional subplots and re-orders some incorrectly assembled scenes.
This month Metropolis will screen at Arc cinema at the National Film and Sound Archive, one of only a few cinemas worldwide with silent film projection facilities. Phone 6248 2000 to book tickets or visit www.nfsa.gov.au for the full program of upcoming Arc films.
Pick yer poison.