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Authenticity

October 6, 2017

Authenticity Sept 2017

Ali Scan

Allan Mitelman Paintings MARS Gallery 23 September to 14 October 2017

The opening at MARS Gallery on Saturday 23 September epitomised the delight of a very familiar Melbourne art scene. With lots of old remembered faces going back through decades of artistic achievements.

The enigmatic Allan Mitelman has been a well loved and admired practitioner and nurturer of the arts. He never names any of his paintings – all of them are untitled.
I decided after viewing his latest exhibition of paintings that I would personally call his exhibition luminous solitude because that is the emotion they created in me.

I find his paintings sing, soar and descend. They glitter like coloured stones. They are like the contemplative silence after the feasting. 

The detail and nuance is somewhat lost when Allan’s work is photographed

 On Sunday 24 September we went to see I am not Your Negro a powerful disturbing and confronting movie that challenges your complacency, takes you out of your comfort zone and demonstrates how we are blind to things we do not wish to see.

This film is based on the notes and letters written by James Baldwin made for his book Remember this House. Baldwin is a compassionate, articulate, brilliant writer and essayist. He chose to be a witness to write the story of Black America – the message is universal.

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Selma, Montgomery 1965 – Martin Luther King in middle

Through out the movie Baldwin’s presence in his 60s suit, thin black tie, the ever present cigarette in his elegant fingers, talks with conviction and passion. By examining and showing us graphic images of the lives of Black Americans from lynching to police brutality the film maker, Raoul Peck, highlights what Baldwin describes as the “moral apathy” of most white Americans. He examines the concept that in the mindset of most white Americans the black man signifies terror” or “dread” yet he suggests there is nothing to support this notion – “but it seems its ever present in white America’s minds”. This is still true despite the 400 years of black oppression.

Cassius Marcellus Clay (Muhammad Ali) with Black Muslim lead

Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X

In an interview in the film Baldwin mentions, “I forgot who said human beings can’t take too much reality (in fact it’s a quote from TS Elliot’s Part 1 of Burnt Norton). In the same interview he articulates the psychology of the reality or fantasy of black/ white relations – it’s chilling.

 

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Hats Off to NGV Dior Exhibition

September 5, 2017

On Thursday the 25th of August, I attended the media launch of the NGV exhibition opening of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture.
It proved to be a stunning exhibition, wonderfully organised with a hundred and forty rapturous garments.

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AW modelling couture in 1973

AW in Couture wearing Christian Dior hat early 50s

AW in couture, wearing Christian Dior chapeaux, 1950’s

Being a hataholic I was certainly taken with the exhibition of Steven Jones’ wonderfully whimsical hats.
This exhibition also showcases designs by Dior’s successors, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri.
This is by far the best costume exhibition I have seen in the last thirty five years at NGV Victoria.

Certainly when Christian Dior debuted his ‘haute couture’ at his 30 Montaigne headquarters on February the 12th 1947 it provoked rapture, scandal and changed the way we see fashion forever.
Dior had an aesthete’s sensibility, he loved traditional and modern art, music, flowers and costumes – ideal qualifications for an outstanding couturier.

“Fashion tells us things about ourselves that codify or idealise our existence.”
Said Maria France Pochna, a significant author and researcher on Dior.

 

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Christian Dior hat, spring-summer 1956

Dior assembled around him, superb staff at Maison de Couture, but in my reading about Dior over the last thirty years I especially admired the creative imagination and bravado of Madam Mitzah Bricard, Christian Dior’s “empress muse.”
She was amazingly, spontaneously creative, conjuring a hat for one of the collections “Just get me a few straws” or “that dress needs a dog collar, or a bit of chiffon around the neck to soften it.”
Asked who her favourite florist was, she replied “Cartier.”
Dior could not do without her – she was his ideal of womanhood.

 

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The bejewelled and turbaned Mitzah Bricard, photographed by the legendary Cecil Beaton.

 

Mitzah, as well as being his muse, edited Dior’s collections. She was never seen at Avenue Montaigne before midday wearing an elegant turban, her pearls, and stiletto heels – the personification of elegance, glamour, and hauteur. Mitzah made men tremble – Alexander Liberman, Editorial Director of Conde Nast described her as “feminine seduction incarnate.”

 

 

 

 

Tacit Art Galleries Triumphs

July 9, 2017

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Tim Bateson 20 year Retrospective

Tacit Art Galleries
123 Gipps Street,
Collingwood

 

Tim Bateson, curator of Tacit Contemporary Art in Abbotsford with his partner, director Keith Lawrence launched their new Tacit Galleries on Wednesday July 5, at 123 Gipps Street, Collingwood with a retrospective exhibition of Tim’s work spanning a 20 year period.

It was a terrific opening, with fine speeches from Tim Bateson and the mayor of Collingwood, Sandra Cooper. The exhibition was officially opened by Euan Heng who began with “I have been working on getting rid of this Scottish accent since I arrived in Australia 40 years ago”. Heng congratulated Tim on a fine exhibition and noted that when Tim and Keith started Tacit Galleries he asked Tim, why they had chosen the word Tacit. Tim replied that Tacit meant, “understood or implied without being stated a fitting description of Tacit Galleries.

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John Hoerner and Alison Waters, The Waters Group.

It was wonderful to see that some aspects of contemporary gallery life simply don’t need changing, with the traditional element of speeches, fine wine and good cheese and crackers present during the evening. Who said physical galleries were dead! This was certainly not the case at the official opening of Tacit in Collingwood, which is going from strength to strength.

The exhibition includes Tim’s paintings, drawings, printmaking and digital imagery. Tim will now be the director of the new gallery in Collingwood while Keith will retain the well-respected Tacit Contemporary Art in Abbotsford.

At a time when many art galleries are struggling, this new venture sees Tacit Galleries expand it’s already very successful eight gallery spaces in Abbotsford, providing yet more opportunity for artists with the launch of Tacit in Collingwood where there are now 11 elegant gallery spaces covering 520 square metres.

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Centre Tim Bateson (Director and Artist) with well known artist and official guest speaker Euen Heng.

Fictitious Realities

July 9, 2017

The Gallery at Bayside Arts and Cultural Centre,Exif_JPEG_PICTURE
Corner Wilson and Carpenter Streets,
Brighton

July 1 to September 3 2017

Fictitious-Realities-DL-flyer_web-1The gallery was packed in spite of the freezing Melbourne winters day but thoroughly warmed by the words of guest curator, Robert Lindsay, former director of McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery who gave a wonderful oration profiling the nine artists exhibiting in the Fictitious Realities exhibition. “The intention underlying the exhibition can be encapsulated by the words of Pablo Picasso, ‘We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realise the truth” (1923). The narratives in this exhibition are presented as imaginative scenarios with a definite quality of believability, but their significance rests above all else on their capacity to engender heightened perception along with a deeper appreciation of reality and our humanity”.

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Guest curator Robert Lindsay.

Cr Alex Del Porto, Mayor, Bayside City Council said Fictitious Realities exhibition was the sixth exhibition in the gallery’s Midwinter Master series and ‘this exhibition promises to be a highlight on the cultural calendar in Bayside’- a mental and visual challenge to examine the notion that what you see is not really reality but imaginary.

The guests were refreshed with fine food and wine and intrigued by the visual conundrums presented by the exhibition- a stand out being the depiction of a hermit crab seeking a new shell to make home – a metaphor for disruption and relocation in our challenged global community.

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Guest curator Robert Lindsay, Mayor of Bayside Cr Alex del Porto and Chair of the Board Angelina Beninati

Victorian Artists’ Society Opens Heritage Renovation

April 2, 2017

What Lies Underneath the Arches?

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Victorian Artists’ Society

Tuesday 28th March 2017 saw the opening of the recent heritage restoration of the historic galleries inside the Victorian Artists’ Society in Albert Street in East Melbourne. The society was foundered in 1888 and in 1892 the Victorian Artists’ Society’s elegant building appeared on the landscape of East Melbourne, a place for artists to gather, to share their ideas and exhibit their works.

 

 

This was a reflection of the enthusiasm and pride that pervaded the formative period of Marvelous Melbourne. The arts society provided studio space for many of Melbourne’s early impressionist artists the likes of which included Streeton, Roberts, and McCubbin.

Over a century later this collection of splendidly restored galleries were officially opened the 28th March at a sparkling evening event. This bustling occasion was not simply well attended but importantly provided a platform for the announcement of the winner of the society’s contemporary art competition

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Audience at the Victorian Artists’ Society event 2017

The exceedingly affable MC, Ron Smith, gave us a brief overview of the many luminaries that have exhibited and performed at the society, including Melbourne’s famous opera diva Dame Nellie Melba who taught at the music conservatorium from 1915- 1931 when it was incorporated into the Artists Society premises.

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Rebecca Bode

To honour that occasion we were treated to soprano Rebecca Bode singing three opera arias including my favourite, One Fine Day from Madame Butterfly by Puccini. Rebecca’s stunningly powerful rendering of these opera highlights left the audience quite spellbound.

Victorian Artists’ Societies much loved President Eileen Mackley spoke passionately about restoring the original building to its original state and an important aspect of which was the restoration of the iconic arched façade. The recent work has repaired longstanding water damage, heating, and plumbing and added a new purpose designed sophisticated German lighting system to add luminescence to the artwork.

The Victorian Artists’ Society prize for Contemporary Art was judged by Godwin Bradbeer, a Melbourne based figurative artist, Head of Drawing in the School of Art at RMIT University in Melbourne from 2005 until 2010. In his eloquent opening speech Godwin chose to reference 20th century cultural icons that the audience could relate to instantly.

 

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Godwin Bradbeer courtesy of The Art Room

“In a field of paintings, varied in manner and accomplished in execution I am ultimately drawn to those works wherein the residue of struggle remains evident and visceral. Where risk and courage are present in the mix. I am reminded of the statement – perhaps apocryphal of Pablo Picasso’s –that;

“the work of art is a battle between the painter and the painting and if the painter is lucky, it is the painting that will win”

“So on this occasion, rather than presenting awards for fine art or for excellence in contemporary painting practice I have chosen to make these awards for valour, for stepping into the breech, for courage in the face of the blank canvas and for confronting the visual culture of the twenty first century”.

Erica Wagner and artist Godwin Bradbeer

Erica Wagner & Godwin Bradbeer

With this criteria in mind I acknowledge the high achievement of the Jo Reitze, Paul Laspagis, Margaret Gurney, Clive Sinclair, Raelene Sharp and Ian Wilson.

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Alison Waters (me) & Erica Wagner

I deem artist Erica Wagner the prizewinner on this occasion. Her painting Watching the Water has a beguiling visuality and Erica’s work has an energy all of its own.”

I caught up with Erica Wagner briefly after her win and asked her what inspires her to paint. She gave me a quote from the German writer and statesman Goethe.

‘Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.’

“His words kept me going during the many years of squeezing my art into tiny spaces while juggling work and family. For the last 7 years, working part-time in publishing, I’ve had the luxury of more time, but when the juggling gets out of control, that quote still fires me up”.

 

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Winning painting Watching the Water by Erica Wagner

Celeste –Memoirs and Memories of Celeste de Chabrillan La Mogador.

September 19, 2016
Photo by Jacqueline Mitelman

Photo of AW by Jacqueline Mitelman

What a delight it is to see the heroine of my 1983 film and TV treatment back on the radar of the French presence in Melbourne. At the time I had spent over a year (1982- 83) researching the life of Celeste de Chabrillan the First French Consuls wife from 1852- 58 and saw the story as a potential film/ TV project.

I put my research in front of our friend Tim Burstall the film Director and he was immediately taken with the possibilities. We went on to write a film and a TV scenario together. We submitted the film scenario to the Australian Film Commission but Australia at the time had no co production agreement with France and I had facilitated a French company to be involved as half the film was to be shot in France.

After months of meetings and negotiations with the Australian Film Commission I then arranged for Bernard Ledun French Consul General in Melbourne to take our scenario to one of my favourite French writers Marguerite Duras in France

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Collage from diary, October 1983

It seemed we were at an impasse with the Film Commission because of the lack of a co production agreement between France and Australia in 1983 and the fact that we would have to use some French actors. Tim and I then turned the material into a TV series and submitted the project to Film Victoria with my name, and Tim using the non de plume Digby de Maistre.

In 1984 I submitted my research on Comte Lionel and Celeste de Chabrillan andphotographs for display in the exhibition The French Presence in Victoria 1800- 1901 that was shown at the Victorian Artists Society.

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I subsequently took up the position as cultural attaché at the French consulate responsible for publicity and promotion of $25 million cultural program that France gave to Australia for the Australian Bicentennial.

The French played an important role in the history of Australia and certainly the Comte and Celeste de Chabrillan provided some very colourful moments in that rich cultural past. Melbourne University Academic and award winning translator Patricia Clancy and Jeanne Allen translated Celeste’s second memoir Un Deuil au Bout du Monde in 1998 with a fascinating introduction. The bereavement to which the French title refers is that of the Comte’s death in 1858.

Last week at the Alliance Française in St Kilda a new book on Celeste’s final memoirs was screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-2-22-33-pmlaunchedCourtesan and Countess translated by three Melbourne University French Academics Jana Verhoeven, Alan Willey, and Jeanne Allen.. These memoirs hidden for 80 years were found by Jana in a Chateau in France once owned by Celeste.
“Courtesan and Countess tells the story not only of her struggle as a creative artist to survive and earn a living, but also of her fascinating life at the centre of the bohemian circles of Paris, surrounded by friends such as Alexandre Dumas père, Georges Bizet and Prince Napoléon. Courtesan and Countess paints a portrait of a remarkable woman and of the turbulent world of Paris during the Belle Epoque.”

The following are pages from my personal diaries that I have mentioned in my blog:

Jours Pour Se Souvenir – Days to Remember

JULY 16, 2012

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screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-1-02-30-pmAs a committed Francophile with a passion for fashion and French Culture Bastille Day evokes memories of early travels in France, and in the late 1980’s spent as cultural attaché at the French Consulate in Melbourne. As part of my research when developing my film The French Consuls Wife in 1983 I discovered that Dianne Reilly La Trobe Librarian had located the grave of my principal character Melbourne’s first French Consul, Comte Lionel de Chabrillan, a member of one of the oldest aristocratic families in France. This unruly and neglected grave was located at the Melbourne General Cemetery

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In 1984 frantically trying to write my film script The French Consuls Wife it seemed to be a perfect opportunity to throw a cemetery party with Melbourne’s Alliance Francaise and celebrate the hero of my film Comte Lionel de Chabrillan. Throwing a party is probably not the first thing people think of in connection to a cemetery. The French flag draped the austere grave. There was fine French champagne, strawberry pastries, a string quartet and readings from the French poet Baudelaire – all of this among the headstones.

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In 1986 we celebrated the graves restoration with a much grander party. I organised a splendid French lunch at the leading French hotel Le Meridian for 35 people. I recreated with the assistance of the chef the menu of the 1848 Café Anglais, gathering place for the Paris dandies, where the Comte first met his future wie. We then all went on to the Melbourne General Cemetry. It was a bleak gray winters day, the French Consul General the elegant Isabelle Costa de Beauregard Robertson gave an eloquent speech. As I spoke about Lionel and the love story with his wife Celeste, the famous dancer La Mogador, a clap of thunder echoed around the tombstones as a huge black crow let out a raucous craw swooping low over the restored grave, as if it had been scripted from a scene out of a Ingmar Bergman film. To this day whenever we see a big black crow we think of Comte Lionel de Chabrillan.

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Collage from my diary

Feminism – A Bra Burning Issue – A myth since the 70s

May 23, 2016

Gloria Steinem in conversation with Virginia Trioli.

A chilly night at Melbourne Town Hall with a hot topic

At the Gloria Steinem meet and greet I had an Alice in Wonderland moment and dropped down the

Gloria

rabbit hole into the midst of an assembled group of vibrant women’s right advocates, women who have long held Gloria Steinem’s work over the decades as an inspiration.

This iconic American feminist has lost none of her power and passion about women’s issues and in her long campaign to expose the inequality in the areas of race, class, age and ethnicity. Nor has she neglected her sense of elegance and style. Tall and slim she wore simple black trousers, a long black-sleeved t-shirt topped by a scarlet silk scarf. Her youthful looks belie her age. Her natural grace alludes to her passion for dancing. Her delivery and gesture reinforcing every word. Her wisdom has been honed over decades of listening intently to the lives and limitations that have confronted women strongly reinforced by her detailed studies of matrilineal societies particularly those found in India and North America. She is a combination of charisma and gravitas.

I met the inimitable ABC presenter Virginia Trioli, a normally fearless woman who said “I am as nervous as a kitten.” Christine from Readings, was a remarkable host of this meet-and-greet. I was reintroduced to the amazing Mary Crooks of the Victorian Women’s Trust by Dur-e Dara convenor of the Victoria Women’s Trust, a passionate woman and civil rights activist and icon in Melbourne’s food culture. I also met up with the man behind Gloria Steinem’s visit to Australia Morry Schwartz the head of Schwartz Media, and the influential publishing house Black Ink.

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Gloria was extremely generous to everyone, especially to the Fitzroy High School Girls who aim to put a feminist collective in every high school in Australia.

The town hall was a buzz with about 2,000 women and only a sprinkling of men. Before the lecture began, we all held up our signed copies of Gloria’s book as a sign of solidarity. As the dynamic Christine from Readings, in an introduction to the lecture told us Gloria signed literally a tonne of books that very afternoon.

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Christine went on to say that Gloria was ‘a trailblazer in the second wave of feminism who came to prominence working undercover as a Playboy Bunny’.

In fact Gloria burrowed beneath the glamour and glitz of the Playboy culture and exposed the horrendous working conditions and appalling wages. Her article was called ‘A Bunny’s Tail’ (1963). Unbeknown to the Playboy Club Gloria was not just beautiful but all things bright and beautiful -she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, mane cum lauda from the prestigious liberal arts institution Smith College.

Untitled 2On stage Gloria in conversation with Virginia Trioli about her book and her life responded to Virginias question about Gloria’s own mother “I suspect that like many women here I am living out the unlived life of my mother. And this is a huge step forward. We should be proud of this, but it’s also true that we need to move forward.”

In reply to Virginias question about ageing and female invisibility: “I feel very, very alive and very, very happy but not sexual, thankfully,” “The brain cells dedicated to sex are now free for other things.” As for the bra burning issue in the 70s she said it was a total myth – “it never happened”.

Gloria said her big realisation early on in the Feminist movement was “that telling of the inner-equality of women’s rights as well as the civil rights movement, didn’t do a damn thing. The power hierarchies weren’t interested in the injustice. They were part of the exploiters for moneymaking and gender control. We were just too damn nice.”

The last time I encountered such wonderful solidarity with women was at one of Maria Prendergast’s fabled, Fabulous Female Friends Party. I introduced myself to the woman to my right. Her name was Marieke Brugman, her advice to young women is, “Believe in yourself and the roots of your own authenticity. Prepare to stand out from the group. Don’t be afraid to be passionate about what you do, and excel at it”.

“If you are not doing what you are doing now, who would you be”?