The Abbotsford Convent is a rich artistic treasure nestled in suburbia. Spread over 16 acres, it was once identified as the biggest religious institution in the Southern Hemisphere. It now boasts a diverse artistic aura and is a breath of fresh air in the midst of a gentrified pocket of Melbourne.
The Abbotsford Convent is currently undergoing huge renovations to improve its image as a cultural hub. According to the Abbotsford Convent Foundation Business Plan, only 60 per cent of the Convent’s buildings, grounds and gardens are presently usable. In 2015, the Federal Government announced that the Abbotsford Convent Foundation (ACF) would receive a challenge grant of $2.68 million from the National Stronger Regions Fund (NSRF) to renovate the 3600 square metre building and surrounding land, according to the Abbotsford Convent website.
The photos that follow walk you through the Convent’s invaluable artistic community, home to artists, art galleries, educational workshops, markets and much much more.
Talented artist and father of four, Ralf Kempken, has used a grant awarded to him from the Yarra Council’s public art styles program to install historically inspired art work of children, with a major focus on their eyes, around the City of Yarra.
His latest concept “Past Futures” involves using stencils to create art installations depicting the idea of nature vs nurture in human development.
His four children aged 20, 21, 23 and 26 are the inspiration for this series of work.
“Having children makes you look at your own upbringing. I used to be a very strong believer that nurture played a bigger role than nature, but I noticed character traits in [my children] similar to mine and my wife’s that presented from day one.”
Ralf prefers using children’s eyes in public spaces because they represent our future, and adult eyes appear “too threatening.”
Ralf believes that nature and nurture both play an important role in the development of a child, and has combined this idea with the use of stencils to represent the “psychological filter” that each of us possess, which, he says, is often inherited at birth.
“Many people don’t realise that there is no actual image placed behind the cut out filter I create – they are just squiggly lines and paint. The human brain pieces together the entire image on its own, and this is the precise process that I wish to explore in my art work.”
This idea, combined with the inclusion of past images, work in unison to make a commentary on the connection between our past, present and future. A child’s curious and innocent state of mind is consistent throughout the ages, irrespective of the century.
The historical photographs, donated by Yarra Libraries and a primary school in Fitzroy, depict early 20th century children and concentrate on eyes from varied backgrounds such as Asian, Indigenous Australian, and European.
Ralf says the choice to include different cultures in his local art work is: “a comment on suburbs [like Fitzroy, Richmond and Collingwood] that have changed through immigration and multiculturalism.”
Ralf, who was born in Germany himself is living proof of how lucky we are to live in such a culturally diverse country.
The premise of classic Italian film “The Children are Watching Us”, released in 1944, helped to inspire “Past Futures”. The film follows the story of a very young boy left with his heartbroken father after being abandoned by his unfaithful mother. It explores how well children can absorb their surroundings and make their own moral judgements despite what their parents or carers may think.
“Watching”, part of the “Past Futures” installations, is located at the entrance gates of the Abbotsford Convent where Ralf’s studio is located and contains an old photograph of a child taken in the early 1900’s.
“This piece is rather momento mori- esque, or in other words: a reminder that everyone must die. It’s a reminder that everything is transient,” says Ralf.
You can find Ralf Kempken’s “Past Futures” installations in various parts of the Yarra.
Check out his stencil screen made of aluminium located in front of Dimmeys in Richmond. The piece contains an old photo of various children from Fitzroy during the migration period.
Kempken says that he has similar images displayed in his installations in West Footscray and Richmond.
As a part of the Light Box Program, an art initiative from Yarra City Art, Kempken’s stencil art is being displayed at Carlton North Library until September this year. You can find more information at Yarra City Arts or check out Ralf’s art portfolio on his website to learn more.
“The Liberal Party endorsing Court as their keynote speaker was worse than broadcasters airing her views. It was more endorsement for her,” he says.
Ali Hogg, convenor of the Equal Love campaign describes Mr Wallace’s involvement as “lifesaving.”
“He organises a lot of the sound and stage aspects of our rallies. His background in event management has helped us tremendously with our campaigns,” Ms Hogg says.
His expertise in sound and the stage was cultivated in his teenage years, where he chose to forgo admission to the prestigious Melbourne High School in favour of the performing arts focused Northcote Technical School.
“I did my orientation at Northcote Tech and fell in love,” he says.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Performing Arts from Ballarat University, he worked as an actor in stage shows and created a children’s touring theatre company, Jumpin’ Theatre.
A Fitzroy institution boasting more than 35 years of history, the Grub Street Bookshop is the perfect embodiment of a second-hand bookshop.
In the heart of Brunswick Street, the bookshop’s name has its origins in 19th century England where Grub St in London was home to aspiring writers and low-end publishers.
Today, the Grub Street Bookshop hopes to cultivate community engagement with aspiring writers by making it not only the home of a vast array of literature, but also a community hub for readers and writers alike.
Noir at the Bar is one initiative that co-owner Regan Brantley has brought to life as part of a recent revamp of the bookshop.
“Noir is a group of Melbourne’s best noir fiction stylists reading their works to an audience in an intimate setting,” Ms Brantley said.
“Nights like Noir at the Bar make our space multi-functional. We want to be more than just a bookshop,” Brantley said.
The collection at the Grub Street Bookshop is indeed more than a smorgasboard of recycled books.
“We don’t like to see books as old or used and we are selective about the titles we purchase,” Brantley said.
This selectivity is what makes the Grub Street Bookshop a refreshing change to the stereotypical second-hand bookshop.
The curation of titles and careful selection of works ensures that Ms Brantley and her co-conspirators have expert knowledge in particular genres. For Ms Brantley, one such specialty area is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersex (LGBTI) literature.
Ms Brantley is the brains behind a new idea that adds appeal to new readers and long-time literature lovers.
The ‘Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover’ concept involves Regan wrapping a selection of books in recycled paper.
A three-line synopsis of each title is given and for 10 dollars customers are able to purchase their mysterious novel in a lucky-dip style concept.
“The idea has been really popular. It’s like people are giving themselves a present. They get to unwrap it and get some enjoyment when they reveal what they’ve come home with,” Brantley said.
“I grew up in Tasmania and moved to Melbourne when I was in my early twenties. I came here never having had my hair cut in a shop, never having bought food at the supermarket; we cured our own meats… I came here to study fine arts and ended up getting into massage, which was a good field for me. I liked getting to work with my hands and having that opportunity to physically connect with people… A lot of people in this city put a wall up between themselves and other people, but that’s what happens in cities. I’ve seen a lot in my fifty years though, lived with a lot of people: the Bedouin in the Middle East, Native Americans in Canada and Central America, the Maoris in New Zealand. The values in tribal living, community living, are so much more inclusive than cities. Everywhere I went, I was accepted as one of their own. It was pure trust and openness, acceptance. You don’t see that here.”
This month a series of art murals are being installed around the City of Yarra in celebration of 100 years of Maternal and Child Health services.
Yarra City Arts and the Maternal and Child Health Service of the City of Yarra have partnered up to develop an Art Trail, featuring a series of pop-up artworks installed around the Yarra at different Maternal and Child Health (MCH) centres, from June 30.
Commissioned by the Yarra City Council, the purpose of the Art Trail is to acknowledge and celebrate the history of MCH services and the importance of the centres to local communities. The Art Trailisa part of the project #100MCH, which is currently being curated by experienced historian Cassie May.
The centenary is being celebrated through art because, “Art communicates to everyone, [and shows] how important the service is, and how it started 100 years ago [but] is still relevant today,” said curator, Cassie May.
Working alongside Cassie May, to create the Art Trail, are artists Kitty Owens and Lizzie Dennis.
Both Kitty Owens and Lizzie Dennis were brought onto the project because of their personal experience with the MCH services and their ability to empathise with families and new mothers using the MCH services.
“I knew that they could feel [and] express and funnel [their emotions and empathy] into a single piece of content, [and] it’s delightful to see that they enjoy their work,” said Cassie.
The Art Trail takes the public on a tour of the sites located in the Yarra where MCH services were initially set up and still exist today. Each site tells a different story through the painted or paste-up art pieces.
“We draw the public’s attention to those spaces in a new way. Not only is some of the history of the sites exposed, through Kitty Owen’s historical paste-ups (Love Them Back) for instance, but the sites are also reinvigorated,” said artist Lizzie Dennis.
“[The] contemporary painting of simple line work (located at the MCH centre, South Richmond) may not be seen at first glance, but hopefully the discovery of the imagery provides a happy moment of reflection and perhaps even memory back to those crawling, feeding, playing and reading moments, and in turn the appreciation for the amazing maternal and child health services we are lucky to have,” she said.
The Maternal and Child Health Service of today is an invaluable resource for families with children from birth to school age. It not only promotes healthy outcomes but provides free practical support and advice.
The purpose of the service is to reduce the high death rate of babies in the inner city suburbs of Melbourne, providing free practical advice to mothers and families regarding nutrition, breastfeeding, hygienic preparation of milk, and mothercraft, according to the Yarra City Art website.
“The value of the MCH service and the need to acknowledge those that established the service and continue to provide the service today [is important]. As a mother of one and [with] one on the way, I have directly experienced the help and assistance that the Maternal and Child Health Care services provide, and understand the necessity for such services,” said Lizzie Dennis.
The 10 buildings that will be included as part of the Art Trail are:
-Abbotsford/Collingwood Maternal and Child Health Centre