Birds take flight at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery

‘Birds: Flight paths in Australian art’ – Visual art exhibition at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery

Sponsors: Mornington Peninsula Shire; Creative Victoria; Beleura House and Garden; Friends of MPRG; Mornington Peninsula Vignerons

mprg-feb-2017d_0002

If you have never been to Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery before, here is a gem of info: It is a cultural treasure run by some of the most highly-skilled gallery specialists and curators in Australia. In addition to volunteers, the team consists of eight core staff members: Danny Lacy, Narelle Russo, Ainsley Gowing, Elizabeth Jones, Rowena Wiseman, Jane German, Jill Anderson and director, Jane Alexander.

MPRG always packs a punch for the size of the gallery, consistently providing sumptuous exhibitions with a variety of artworks to induce wonder, excitement and delight. The team at MPRG cleverly designs exhibitions to appeal not only appeal to young people, but to inspire people of all ages. Interwoven with every exhibition, is a wealth of events, public outreach programs, artist talks, tours and interactive artworks to delight and engage all members of the community. The cost is minimal so that everyone can access MPRG: entry fee is $4 for adults and $2 concession (cost varies for other activities). These attributes make the gallery a hub of activity and enjoyment. The current exhibition, ‘Birds: Flight paths in Australian art’, greets visitors with a large flock of brightly coloured bird sculptures created by local school children, and encourages visitors to place black bird stickers on the walls to create a spectacular interactive artwork in the foyer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The current exhibition is based on four bird themes: collecting, identity, symbolism and the environment. The artwork, ‘Prattle, scoop and trembling: a flutter of Australian birds’ 2016 by Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, puts a delightful spin on a naturalist journal that might have been created by a 19th Century colonial bird collector. Each of the 15 sections contains a text page describing the qualities of birds depicted in the adjacent black and white graphite images, as well as providing a collage of the birds over an original black and white portrait. Not without a touch of tongue-in-cheek humour, the birds appear to be interacting with the person in the portrait and demonstrating their own importance in spite of European colonial attitudes of the time.

mprg-feb-2017b
Collage images from ‘Prattle, scoop and trembling’ by Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison

Unlike the sense of foreignness that 19th Century Europeans may have felt towards birds on the ‘new’ Australian continent, birds such as the ngak ngak (white-breasted sea eagle) were an intrinsic part of the stories and rich culture that formed the identity and lives of the Indigenous Australian people. Ginger Riley Munduwalawala’s painting ‘Limmen Bight River Country’ 1992 depicts the ngak ngak as a guardian who looks over Riley’s mother country around Limmen Bight River in South East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. A large painting approx. 2.5m by 2.5m, Riley uses vivid, unmixed colours to divide the canvas into three horizontal sections. The top section shows two large birds facing each other, high atop mountains. The middle section depicts small black images of humans hunting kangaroos, and the lowest section, a peaceful campsite and undisturbed wildlife.

2017-02-05-14-46-23

For Arthur Boyd, however, birds do not necessarily represent peace and security. In his oil on Perspex painting, ‘Lovers in a boat at Hastings’ c. 1955, the black swan hovering above the lovers symbolises the lovers as victims. Dark greens, browns and blues, mixed and smeared on the Perspex in flowing strokes gives the image a heavy, foreboding mood. This heaviness surrounds the boat, which is the central feature, glowing red and white with only a few strokes to delineate the tangle of lover’s legs, hair and arms. The swan flying large and flat over the lovers, completes the fluid, passionate image.

Boyd is not the only artist in the exhibition to depict images from the Mornington Peninsula. James Smeaton’s four photographic portraits of birds are taken from the Devil Bend Natural Features Reserve, a 1000 hectare environmental reserve that supports a spectacular array of shorebirds and waterbirds, including threatened species. The four images are part of a larger series of 133 bird portraits created in 2007 called ‘The birds of Devilbend’.

mprg-feb-2017c

With artists Arthur Boyd and James Smeaton deriving their inspiration from the beautiful Mornington Peninsula, it is enough to fill anyone with gratitude at the natural and artistic treasures of the area, whether they be the parks, sea and wildlife or the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. If you have not yet seen ‘Birds: Flight paths in Australian art’, it is open until Sunday 12th February. Inspire yourself and your friends with a trip to Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.

Click here for more information about this exhibition and future exhibitions at MPRG

 

White mural delights Hastings residents

2017-01-09-14-29-02

In the Mornington Peninsula seaside town of Hastings, artist Simon White has charmed community residents with his beautiful new mural depicting scenes from the town’s history. The mural is the latest in a series of public art pieces created in this location since April 2014 as part of the ‘Adopt-A-Hotspot’ project, aiming to “prevent and reduce the incidents of graffiti and property damage in the Hastings community”.

This ‘Hotspot’, turned public art space, is a walkway between the Woolworths carpark and Main Street, beautifying the external wall of Terry White Chemist.

2017-01-09-14-34-03

The mural is made up of seven maritime scenes, separated by angular lines. Each one focuses on people, places, animals and boats that are key icons of Hastings’ heritage.

2017-01-09-14-31-44

These include the Mirabella family who arrived in Hastings in 1880; the Lothian family from c. 1890; Hastings Fish Shed built in 1866 and restored by John Wooley in 1988, accompanied by resident pelicans; a family in a fishing boat with dolphins swimming beneath the water; Jack Sheehan and his fishing boats; young people in swimming attire at Hastings foreshore c. 1907; and a scene of a fishing family building a wooden boat with one man proudly holding up the catch of the day.

This wonderful project was initiated by Councillor David Garnock in 2014 and continues to be supported by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council (MPSC), Westernport Chamber of Commerce, Sheldon Headspeath, Brett Cardwell and Hastings Police.

2017-01-09-14-30-08

This project not only prevents property damage but enriches the cultural landscape of the area, contributes to wellbeing and gives all members of the community free access to the joy of art. As I was taking photos of the mural, several residents stopped to tell me how much pleasure the mural gives them as they walk through their town. Supporting the ‘Hotspot’ project indefinitely, as part of the Shire’s Cultural Strategy, will not only delight the community, but build a legacy of public art and historical acknowledgement in Hastings both present and future.

Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker