Mornington Peninsula’s Coastal Walk

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Christmas has come and gone and the New Year is upon us. It is the time when many Australians take a holiday to enjoy the warmth of Summer. We are drawn out of doors and away from our usual occupations to play in the sand, swim in the salty water and walk through the bushy foreshore areas of our vast coastline.

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The stretch of coast between Cape Shanck and Point Nepean on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is a particularly stunning and rugged area popular with holiday-makers and locals who come to traverse the ‘The Coastal Walk’ track. This holiday season, I have walked several sections of the 30km track with my loved-ones, and have been uplifted and amazed by the beauty of the views and beaches. There are many access points along the way with areas to park your car, which makes it easy to walk the parts of the track that suit you best. Cape Shanck to Bushranger Bay; Fingal Picnic Area to Fingal- and Gunnamatta Beaches; No. 16 Carpark to Bridgewater Bay and Koonya Beach were amongst my favourites.

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Imagine my delight in discovering that Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery are currently showing an exhibition called ‘Coast: the artist’s retreat’, featuring visual art documenting the area along The Coastal Walk. The exhibition is an inspiring mix of media ranging from painted landscapes to sculptural installations and digital video. Several landscape paintings on display are from the 1860s and -70s when the British colonies were yet to be federated and Australia was being overrun by bushrangers and those lured by the promise of finding gold. Stirring curiosity about Australia’s colonial beginnings, paintings such as Eugene von Guerard’s “Tea trees near Cape Shanck, Victoria” 1865, provide clues about the history of the area and perceptions of the landscape at the time. Guerard’s use of soft lighting, curvature of the vegetation, and the inclusion of a fox and a pigeon-shaped bird in the foreground indicates that the artist is trying to bridge the gulf between the familiar home landscapes in Europe with those of rugged Australia.

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Eugene von Guerard’s “Tea trees near Cape Shanck, Victoria” 1865

Guerard’s soft, rounded image of Cape Shanck is dramatically contrasted by Kerrie Poliness digital video artwork “Time to go, open air seascape painting exhibitions” 2017 and photographic still image of the same area, “Seascape painting exhibition: black, blue, orange, green, Cape Shanck”.

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Kerrie Poliness “Seascape painting exhibition: black, blue, orange, green, Cape Shanck” 2017

There is no hiding the hard, rocky edges of the landscape in Poliness’s works, and the way that the coloured diamonds interact with the natural environment seems to increase the impression of desolation in the landscape.

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Instead of adding shapes to the landscape as Poliness does, artist GW Bot looks into the forms of landscapes and sees abstract shapes that she uses to create ‘glyphs’. These lively shapes, reminiscent of human and animal forms, are part of the artist’s own visual language representing Sphinx Rock at Sorrento.

 

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GW Bot “Cliff Glyphs – south of Sphinx Rock, back beach, Sorrento” 2017

Sorrento’s popularity as a holiday location attracted artist John Perceval to stay at the beach house of his friends Anne and Tom Purves in 1957. Paintings from this visit, “Ocean beach Sorrento” and “Quarantine boundary, Portsea”, are striking in their vivacity. Thick application of paint in scratchy, circular motions convey turbulence of the water. Dabs of white, blues, reds and greens over earthy background colours give the paintings a unique sense of liveliness.

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John Perceval “Ocean beach Sorrento” 1957
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Image from Sorrento-Portsea Artists Trail with sign featuring John Perceval “Quarantine boundary, Portsea” 1957

An image of Perceval’s painting “Quarantine boundary, Portsea” is displayed near London Bridge as part of the Sorrento-Portsea Artists Trail. Fourteen images of works by a range of different artists, each inspired by the landscapes of this area, are displayed along this trail for the public to enjoy.

There are so many wonderful natural and artistic delights on the Mornington Peninsula that I have yet to explore them all. Sorrento-Portsea Artists Trail and the untrod parts of The Coastal Walk are definitely on my bucket list for the next holiday period. May you be inspired to seek out this breathtaking part of the Mornington Peninsula!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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