Recommended: where to find Melbourne's best street art.
Some exhibitions bring you joy. They lift your spirits by capturing the sublime beauty of the world, the whimsy of nature and the base altruism of humanity. This is not one of those exhibitions. Hope Dies Last self-identifies as “one of the most depressing events of the year,” promising to leave audiences emotionally crippled and wracked with negativity. It puts the dead in deadpan, examining our own mortality, suffering and failure through the lens of gallows humour. The exhibition (which is coming to Gertrude Contemporary and Margaret Lawrence Gallery as part of Melbourne Festival) picks away the final threads of hope that stop you from spiralling into the void. Hope Dies Last features works like Tony Garifalakis’s ‘Fucking Optimism’; a large black and red felt banner overlaid with ‘so much for my Fucking Optimism’ in a gothic typeface that serves as a fairly unsubtle metaphor for the entire exhibition. Unsurprisingly Hope Dies Last contains adult themes so be mindful it may be unsettling. Bring a pal along for emotional support if you must but as Hope Dies Last ominously states, “we all arrive at the final exit alone.” Hope Dies Last is on at Gertrude Contemporary from Oct 5-Nov 9, and at Margaret Lawrence Gallery from Oct 18-Nov 14. Discover more, less disheartening events to check out at this year’s Melbourne Festival.
Batik – an Indonesian technique of dyeing fabric – was introduced to Indigenous women in 1971, and went on to play a pivotal role in the development of contemporary central desert art, placing women at the forefront of the burgeoning market and paving the way for working on canvas. Many of the women who began working in batik went on to become renowned painters, including Emily Kam Kngwarray, Peggy Napurrula Poulson, Tjunkaya Tapaya, Unurupa Kulyuru and Tjunkiya Napaltjarri. This exhibition brings more than 60 batik works from the National Gallery of Victoria’s collection to illustrate the unique and distinct batik styles of Pitjantjatjara, Anmatyerr, Alyawarr, Walpiri and Pintupi artists, and to examine the legacy of the technique on future generations of Indigenous desert artists.
There's a good chance you don't know Haroon Mirza's name just yet, but the London-based artist is making a huge impression overseas with his artworks, which combine installation, electricity and a frequently startling use of sound. This exhibition is Mirza's first solo show in Australia, and will utilise all of ACCA's gallery spaces as one giant musical instrument. From there, other artists will be invited into the space to collaborate. Read our interview with Mirza about all you'll experience in the exhibition.
You know the saying, but have you ever actually done it? Walked a mile in somebody else's shoes, that is. That's the concept behind A Mile in My Shoes, a storytelling experience that's travelled all around the world and is making its local debut on the forecourt of Arts Centre Melbourne. It's a simple enough idea – every person who visits the giant pop-up shoebox is given a stranger's shoes and an mp3 player. As you set off on a stroll in their shoes (don't worry, they clean them), you'll hear the story of the original owner of those shoes and take a moment to connect. A Mile in My Shoes is by the Empathy Museum, an organisation that creates unique experiences to help audiences see the world through someone else's eyes. When we saw the work in Perth in 2016, we were surprised at how moving and intimate it was to give yourself over to the stranger's stories. All together, there'll be 35 pairs of shoes in the Melbourne season, and they're all new stories collected specifically for Melbourne. So we'd recommend paying a repeat visit and seeing what you'll score in this lottery of footwear.
Visiting South Australia’s Flinders Ranges last year, Mexico-born, Berlin-based artist Mariana Castillo Deball was fascinated by what she saw. Known as the Ediacara Hills, the area is famous for a group of fossils so significant that they spawned their own geological age, the Ediacaran Period, some 635 to 542 million years ago. Drawing on her knowledge of anthropology, archeology and paleontology, Castillo Deball used ink rubbings to capture impressions of the fossils she found there, which in turn became the foundation for her new exhibition, Replaying Life’s Tape. Incorporating immersive textile dioramas, linocut-silicone prints, drawings, photographs and fossil casts, the exhibition casts a light on a part of history so distant it is impossible to imagine. It’s the first time the artist has exhibited in Australia.
Anna Schwartz Gallery celebrates its 35th anniversary this year with a landmark exhibition that brings together work from more than 50 Australian and international artists. Ranging from the late '80s to today. Never the Same River draws on the history of four Australian galleries past and present – the now defunct United Artists and City Galleries in Melbourne, and Anna Schwartz Galleries in Sydney (now closed) and Melbourne – to trace the ways in which artists engage with or against the social and political contexts of the time. Among the 59 artists featured are plenty of big names, including Joel Elenberg, Janet Laurence, Mike Parr, Anne Zahalka, Clement Meadmore, Antony Gormley, Shaun Gladwell and Yinka Shonibare. There will also be a public program of events running alongside the exhibition.
You might remember Meagan Streader as the artist behind the intriguing light installation 'Slow Rinse' at Dark Mofo this year, or from her solo exhibitions Fold in Time (2018) or U-Bend Pillar (2017). As one of Australia’s brightest (sorry) young artists, her site specific installations have also been seen as far away as Kerala, Amsterdam and New York City. Now, for the first time, MARS Gallery presents Streader’s new solo exhibition, Silent Structures. Streader will be taking a step away from her installations created from electroluminescent wires at MARS Gallery, encouraging viewers to reconsider their perception and relationship to the existing space, and how light determines the way in which we navigate the world, both physically and socially.
Venetian glass is known across the world for its vibrant colour, elaborate designs and exquisite craftsmanship, honed over centuries by traditional glassblowers on the Venetian island of Murano. In Liquid Light, the National Gallery of Victoria brings together their extensive collection of glass pieces to explore the development of the Venetian glass tradition, from the Golden Age of the 16th century to the postmodern creations of the Memphis Group. Highlights include a Games of Thrones-worthy 17th century goblet, complete with intertwining dragons coiling around the stem, and a contemporary patchwork vase by renowned Murano glass artist Fulvio Bianconi.
His name might not be as well known as some of his contemporaries, but Roger Kemp was one of Australia’s greatest abstractionists. Best known for his large-scale tapestries that hang in the great hall of the National Gallery of Victoria, during his lifetime Kemp eschewed figurative and landscape art in favour of a more metaphysical approach that sought to “make visible the invisible”. Now the National Gallery of Victoria will host the first major retrospective exhibition of Kemp’s work since his death in 1987. Developed in conjunction with the artist’s estate, the exhibition includes several works that have never been shown publicly before, and traces Kemp’s evolution as an artist, from his early Cezanne-inspired sketches to the geometric, stained glass-like paintings by which he made his name.
Petrina Hicks is one of the most instantly recognisable photographers working in Australia today, known for her large-scale, hyperreal works that co-opt the visual language of advertising and traditional portraiture to explore ideas around consumerism and the female experience. Yet, until now there has never been a major survey exhibition of her work. Bleached Gothic brings together more than 40 works from Hicks’s 15-year career, tracing her evolution from commercial photographer to awarded artist. Included in the exhibition are several works featuring albino artist and performer Lauren, whose ethereal appearance is one of the most recognisable features of Hicks’s work, alongside five video works that play with the concept of slow time to create a sense of menace and unease in the viewer.
Prefer your art outdoors?
Sure, street art covers almost every nook and cranny of our creative, colourful city, but there are more highly concentrated clusters than others. These are the street art hotspots that any self-respecting 'grammer should be snapping: the city's ten best street mural hotspots, in all their spray-painted laneway glory.