What We Remember at National Gallery of Victoria

Thetraveljunkie.org – Today is the perfect day to publish these photos from NY where we visited our favourite gallery in Melbourne, National Gallery Victoria to see the NGV Triennial. Featuring the work of over 100 artists and designers from 32 countries, the NGV Triennial surveys the world of art and design, across cultures, scales, geographies and perspectives.

The NGV Triennial is a celebration of contemporary art and design practice that traverses all four levels of NGV International, as well as offering a rich array of programs.

The NGV Triennial explores cutting edge technologies, architecture, animation, performance, film, painting, drawing, fashion design, tapestry and sculpture.

Combining replicas of a famous Buddhist statue and Greco-Roman, Renaissance and Neoclassical sculptures, Xu Zhen’s monumental installation brings together Eastern and Western cultural heritages to create, in the artists own words, ‘a new form of creative culture’ that he hopes will help bring about understanding and appreciation across cultures. As the basis of his work Eternity-Buddha in Nirvana, the Dying Gaul, Farnese Hercules, Night, Day, Sartyr and Bacchante, Funerary Genius, Achilles, Persian Soldier Fighting, Dancing Faun, Crouching Aphrodite, Narcissus Lying, Othryades the Spartan Dying, the Fall of Icarus, A River, Milo of Croton, 2016–17, Xu uses the colossal form of a reclining Buddha dating from the High Tang Dynasty (705– 781 CE). More than 14 metres long, the original was built into a man-made grotto, the Nirvana Cave, near the wealthy and cosmopolitan Chinese city of Dunhuang, situated at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road.

At the western end of the famed trade route, artists created sculptures devoted to the gods and heroes of Greek and Roman mythology. Each of the figures Xu cast to pose or lean on and around the great Buddha has its own colourful history, such as the famous Dying Gaul, an ancient Roman marble, itself a copy of a lost Greek bronze original.

Bringing cultural traditions together is Xu’s way of breaking down barriers. As he writes of his remarkable work, ‘I have always been curious about the differences between cultures and the alienation between them. And yet, misconceptions can be the beginning of awareness and understanding’.

Uji Hahan Handoko Eko Saputro combines the aesthetics of traditional Javanese mythology with popular youth culture and underground comics. His works illustrate a point of tension between the local and the global and, while acknowledging its allure, critiques the mechanisms of an expanding global art market. The paintings that form part of his installation Young speculative wanderers, 2014–15, include references to artists and the sale of their work, with one depicting the facade of NGV International, with steps leading up to the Waterwall. The installation also incorporates hand-made Azulejo tiles which employ a traditional Spanish and Portuguese technique that is a legacy of European exploration, trade and colonisation in South-East Asia.

The works from Ephrem Solomon’s Signature, 2016, series show the artist’s bold graphic style and unusual medium, which combines hand-carved wood panels, collaged printed text and hand-colouring. Solomon’s images are inspired by the residents of his hometown Addis Ababa, where a large part of the population lives in difficult circumstances, with very few social, political or economic opportunities. As Solomon states, ‘My works portrays the distance between what the governed people need and want, and what the response is from the governors. I have tried to picture, as precisely as possible, the actual and innocent feeling of the governed’.

Flower obsession by Yayoi Kusama, 2017, recreates a furnished domestic space. Visitors are invited to apply red flower motifs to the walls, furniture and objects. Over the duration of the exhibition, the proliferation of flowers will gradually cover all surfaces, ‘obliterating’ and transforming the space into a spectacular environment.

Inspired by the complex biological structure of the human skull – which the artist considers beautiful and extraordinary – Ron Mueck’s new work Mass, 2016–17, celebrates a form that links us as a species. Mass is also a sombre study of mortality, and comprising 100 individual human skulls it calls to mind iconic images of massed remains in the Paris catacombs as well as the documentation of contemporary human atrocities in Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica and Iraq. The skull has been a potent symbol within the art of virtually all cultures and religions, not least the Western history of art, including in Dutch still-life painting and the vanitas painting genre of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which served as a reminder of the transience of life. To draw out and contextualise these resonances, this monumental work has been placed within the historical collection galleries of NGV International.

Santa Cruz River by Alexandra Kehayoglou, 2016–17, documents the proposed site of two major hydroelectricity dams on the Santa Cruz River in Argentina – the last free-flowing wild river in the country. These dams, part of an international finance and infrastructure negotiation between the Argentine and Chinese governments, draw into focus the tensions within globalisation; Argentina’s accelerating demand for international investment and infrastructure is pitted against politically controversial and potentially irrevocable consequences for the natural ecosystem.

The development of the carpet has been conducted in parallel with close monitoring of the planning of the dams: although the construction was suspended by Argentina’s Supreme Court in January 2017, a government-sponsored environmental impact study released in July defended the sustainability of the infrastructural works, making official approval more likely.

In 2016 Alvaro Catalán de Ocón and members of his studio travelled to Ramingining in Arnhem Land to work with a group of Yolngu artists. The collaborative design process, led by Catalán de Ocón, devised a way to join weavings, repurposing traditional Yolngu mats as PET Lamp chandeliers.

The Yolngu practice of weaving is intrinsically linked to the experience of being a woman, since the knowledge associated with collecting, processing and dyeing the pandanus plant is transmitted from mother to daughter. The combination of many artists’ hands instils in each mat the identity and place specific to each artist, as well as a connection with Country from which the materials have been gathered.

Hassan Hajjaj invited us to lounge in his installation while visiting the gallery, view his works while taking tea and have your photograph taken in his interactive Noss Noss Studio.

Stay tuned for more our adventure in Victoria, Australia.


Happy Sustainable Travels!

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