Escher x Nendo: Between Two Worlds
In MC Escher’s lithograph print Reptiles (1943), a handful of lizards crawl off a page, scamper across a pile of books, then circle back and comfortably sink back into two dimensions. It’s a deft bit of line work, an exercise in trickery of the eye and a post-2D gag. It’s also indicative of the NGV’s new, fresh take on the Dutch master Escher, curated by Japanese design studio Nendo. The big Escher pieces are all here – the impossible buildings, the geometry-defying staircases and waterfalls – but the earlier works, including sharp, angular woodcuts; modernist nudes; and studies of architectural marvels, walled cities and natural landscapes are just as engaging.
Nendo has done far more than just curate the exhibition – it’s effectively redrawn the spaces and volumes of the NGV, and engaged in a posthumous collaboration with Escher using multimedia and sculptural forms. Tiny rooms and narrow corridors go against the usual NGV instinct of expansive spaces, while mirrors and lighting tricks and sound complement Escher’s works without drowning them out. The two meet in the middle, sharing a love of space-bending visual tricks and precise draughtsmanship.
And while you’re at the NGV, head upstairs and see William Wegman’s Being Human, a moving show in which a man takes his love of Weimaraners to extravagant and beautiful extremes.
Peter Willie: Out Driving
Peter Willie was an architectural draughtsman and enthusiastic fan of contemporary buildings, and for nearly two decades he spent his weekends driving around Melbourne taking pictures of some of the city’s finest. This exhibition, drawn from the State Library’s collection of more than 6000 of Willie’s colour slides, is a time capsule of ’50s and ’60s architecture. The photos aren’t artfully composed, but they’re about the subject, not the medium. They’re raw, direct and vivid. Willie captured a record of architecture – new shapes, layouts and styles – but also ways of living. It’s a record of beautiful interiors styled with mid-century furniture and mid-century people.
The Immigration Museum is hosting its very own summer of love. This exhibition looks at art, artefacts and personal effects related to all different kinds of true Melbourne love stories, across continents and generations. It was developed in collaboration with Heide Museum of Modern Art, and key Heide names, such as John and Sunday Reed and Joy Hester, recur throughout, from the story of Hester believing she was dying and giving her child up to the care of the Reeds, to a love poem that child, Sweeney Reed, later wrote. But there’s also more contemporary stories, such as the love between musician Cash Savage and her wife Amy Middleton (included are artefacts from their wedding and pub footy team, the Old Bar Unicorns), or the story of Nickel Mundabi Ngadwa, a refugee from the Congo, who it took more than a decade to bring his whole family back together and get everyone to Australia.
There’s plenty of space for visitors to leave their own reflections on love, offering glimpses of other stories in the making. “I miss Annalisaaaaa :)”, says one. “I still have your hoodie”, says another. Some might see the neon signs saying things like “Let’s Walk a Sky Together” and “Darling You Have Made My Life” and want to make a break for it, but the real-life examples of the power of love have made quite an impact on visitors in the exhibition’s opening weeks. “We’ve had to leave tissues at the door,” a staff member told me while I got my ticket. “People keep bursting into tears.”
Analogue Art in a Digital World
Despite the defiance in the title, this show isn’t a Luddite anti-digital statement: much of the work responds to digital media or even incorporates it; it tries to put the human hand back into the digital-soaked visual landscape of daily life.
Sam Leach and Darren Wardle depict smooth, shiny worlds bereft of humans, but do so with human hand and a brush. There are portraits of young revolutionaries and the waste of disposable culture rendered with hyper-real precision. And Kate Just returns to a series of famous photos, hand-knitting images by Yoko Ono, Cindy Sherman and Robert Mapplethorpe. The hyper-real work really benefits from being seen in the flesh, up close; what seems digital-smooth changes completely when you can see brushstrokes.
The Theatre is Lying
Time your visit to ACCA right and you’ll be welcomed by a goth saxophonist playing the original Nokia ringtone on the roof of the building. Indoors, the space is used just as interestingly. Featuring newly commissioned work from six artists, including five from Australia and one from Venezuela via Berlin, the captivatingly titled The Theatre Is Lying plays with the shifting landscape of truth. Consuelo Cavaniglia welcomes you in with a vast installation of moving perspex windows, throwing your perception of the space into disarray.
The goth with the sax is part of Matthew Griffin’s video and installation piece about fake news, body modification and the post-truth world. Next door, Sol Calero’s colourful archway plays with colonialist imagery from her native Venezuela, and how the local population mimicked and adapted it.
Two film works play with fictions imported from Hollywood: Anna Breckon and Nat Randall, also behind performance piece The Second Woman, have made a 90-minute tribute to road movies, constructed from appropriated dialogue and rear-projected footage of the New South Wales drive from Wilcannia to Broken Hill. Meanwhile, Daniel Jenatsch’s James Bond-tinged video work tells the story of a botched spy training operation in a Melbourne hotel in 1983.