33 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda 10am – 6pm
St Kilda Art Crawl May 25, 26 & 27
Tommy Langra will be working and exhibiting at Punchinello Pop-Up everyday during the St Kilda Crawl from 10 – 6pm at 33 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
33 Fitzroy Street St Kilda
image & test by Kerrie Pacholli
St Kilda Artist Thomas J. Barker-Webb, also professionally known as Tommy Langra and Tomb was born into a loving home where formal education mattered.
At the age of 4, upon reading a library book introduced to him by his mother referencing the mystical powers of Buddhist meditation Tom became hooked on the world of the unseen. From that point he continues to be a voracious reader and his quest for knowledge and inspiration remain paramount.
By the age of 8 he is reading books assigned to 20 year olds. Needless to say the authorities determined that Tomb, as he would sign his Art from an early age, was deemed an above average intelligence.
With the support of his loving family, his diet of books, his formal education at Scotch College, Geelong Grammar and Deakin University where Tom completed a Masters Degree in Architecture, he was earmarked for ‘old school’ success. After working as a draftsman in tandem with his studies and then professionally for 4 years after graduation a total of 10 years, Tom was advancing in his professional popularity and his 6 figure career.
Some would call it self-sabotage, others would call it artistic liberation that a number of years ago Thomas decided to live the road less travelled and leave his Architectural career to be the quintessential grass roots, street artist / vendor. A lifestyle, from my view, that is not for the faint hearted.
After such an investment in your Architectual career why did you put it on the back burner?
I simply didn’t have the energy to work on all the creative agenda that I had set myself. The more I was surrounded by regular office culture, I invested less in my productive self, and the more I behaved like a regular 9-5er.
I simply couldn’t face being in front of a computer day in day out. I had become an architect in order to draw – with a set of manual tools, the industry doesn’t support that as much as it used to.
Tell us what you love about your current lifestyle and artistic expression?
Whenever I think ‘oh maybe I should get a desk job and earn some money’ I look at what I’m doing and I can’t help myself but pick up my drawing utensil and keep going.
It’s extreme; it’s exhausting, mentally and physically and I love that, it tests my capacity as an individual to the limits. I draw non-stop all day in all weather conditions from gale force winds to 45+ degree days. What I work on is as important if not more than how I would work in professional practice. It requires all the same problem solving skills – and more because of the conditions!
How does your robust formal education assist you on your current journey?
Good question. I apply all my studies to the task: from research and essay writing, to woodwork, to physics, to architectural contracts.
At the end of the day, what we produce is only a display of our own conceptual understanding. Our desires and our distastes: the effort and patience, the diligence that we apply ourselves to them. The more that we nourish them and test them, the wealthier, richer and more resilient the outcome, both to our own selves yet also to the questioning minds of others.
The better the sources that we rely on, the less arguable is the notion, as the soil that nourished; has stood firm through human history.
“An educated person’s ideas of Art are drawn naturally from what Art has been, whereas the new work of art is beautiful by being what Art has never been… A temperament capable of receiving, through an imaginative medium, and under imaginative conditions, new and beautiful impressions, is the only temperament that can appreciate a work of art.” Oscar Wilde
Every day except Sunday Tommy Langra of ArchAngle Studios rides his self modified bike and homemade draftsman cart from St Kilda to his current post at the front of Hamer Hall at the Art Centre.
You will also have the opportunity to meet this extraordinary artist at Punchinello Pop Up 33 Fitzroy Street during this forthcoming St Kilda Art Crawl on the 25, 26, 27 May 2018. Stay tuned…
By Kerrie Pacholli @ pationpics.com
Alex’s story, the connection to St Kilda.
In the early sixties Aleksandar Vass lived in St Kilda on Robe Street near the corner of Grey Street in the terrace houses on the left. It was 1966 and Australia had just adopted the decimal system, he recalls that his dad and mum gave me a couple of pennies to change into cents at the Milk Bar across the road and amazingly that Milk Bar is still there today. Not long after, the family moved to the Esplanade where he has distinct memories of the pony rides across the road in Catani Gardens. After 50 years they are still there too. That’s St Kilda for you.
In years to come he was fortunate enough to study at the National Theatre Drama School, perform on its stage and produce shows there.
In the early eighties he opened his first acting agency in Fitzroy Street before moving to Acland Street. The agency stretched from Sydney to Perth with over 400 actors on the books. He was invited to join the Agents Association and was soon to be made Vice President then President. He sold his agency in 1986.
It’s only years later in 2014 that Aleks, Susan, his wife of 16 years and their two daughters Madeline 7 and Georgia 6, made their way back to St Kilda. He purchased the old George Cinemas in Fitzroy Street and transformed them into the Alex Theatres.
,,,’Our vision is to create an off Broadway Theatre Complex where producers, performers, actors and creatives can work in theatre and film; and to create innovative, inspirational and affordable theatre. To teach young producers, creatives and performers the art and more importantly the business of show business, when you understand this, you have a chance to survive’…
As a performer, he was fortunate enough to work extensively as an actor in every major television series including Cop Shop, Division 4, Sullivan’s, Prisoner, Neighbours, Holliday Island, Skyways to name a few, but his passion was for the theatre. Performingboth non-professionally and professionally in over 60 shows.
In time he became a producer with a number of credits including Fiddler on the Roof with Topol, It’s a Dad Thing, Amadeus, Hair, The Last of the Red Hot Lovers to name a few and more recently, Bad Jews, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown , Around the World in Eighty Days, Sexercise the Musical and currently in production we have Hand to God, Bent, Agnes of God, A Bronx Tale Starring Chaz Palminteri, Significant Other, Shirley Valentine, plus in theatre and film, the feature The Wolf Of Roztov.
The Vass Theatre group was formed to produce affordable theatre with high production values in boutique venues. It was originally formed in the early 2000’s in London and on returning to Australia head office was moved to Melbourne. On this journey, in looking for venues to stage shows, he found he couldn’t find a venue that was economical with all the facilities. Hence the Alex Theatre was born.
….’Our goal was to produce our own shows and create an Off Broadway Arts Hub in St Kilda. Susan and I had also decided to support talent in the arts on all levels hence we give grants away and over 30% of our theatre time away to up and coming producers, actors, and creatives. We hope the Alex operates like Off Broadway theatres where shows are born then moved on to the bigger theatres’…
The Vass Theatre Group incorporates a number of divisions, including the Alex Theatres, the Alex Speigel Zelt (The oldest Spiegel tent in the world) and the Alex Food Emporiums.
The Food Emporiums are a new division, which include the recently purchased Phamish and Tree House restaurants in St Kilda and Balaclava. Both restaurants are currently in operation but will be refurbished over the next three months. Their next new foray into food is the Alex Food Emporium Organic and Health Food Supermarkets. They have recently purchased one of the stores below the Alex Complex and in mid April the first organic health food store will open.,,, ‘We will be franchising these supermarkets with a twist’,,,
…”As for the Alex Theatre and its impact on Fitzroy Street, I can honestly say we have gentrified what we call the Paris end of Fitzroy Street. We thought we would be lucky to have around 10,000 patrons in the first year we hit just over 30,000. Last year we had over 50,000 patrons at the Alex. This year already looks like it will blitz the previous year.
…As for our aspirations, my partner Susan and I love St Kilda. We feel it will again be the place where people flock, be they tourists or locals. We have made a long-term financial and heartfelt commitment to St Kilda and will continue to invest and grow in the area. We envisage a boutique hotel on the horizon.
…And as for our other business interests, they encompass one of the largest independent glass manufacturing companies in Australia and a new Waste To Energy plant business.
…Our brand Glasskote is represented in over 60 countries and until 2011, I was the CEO of operations based in London’…
St Kilda seems to have it all, spectacular sunsets and beach side boardwalks. A rich history of vice and crime, art and culture. Trams that connect to the four corners of Melbourne and beyond. Palm trees, parks, lots of heritage buildings, three outstanding theatres as well as eateries, pubs and bars that play live music to a reasonable hour.
Why has the centre of Fitzroy Street turned into a tumbleweed zone? No one seems to be able to pinpoint the answer to that.
Legend has it that when the artists colony that was Chronicles Bookshop was unceremoniously closed down due to relentless external pressure for dubious and nebulous reasons Fitzroy’s street’s soul had been ripped out.
Or when the toilet block was demolished in what was nationally known by the indigenous community as Koori Park a spookily vacuous and resonating effect was left on the street. Who knows for sure?
What we do know is that the culmination of many quickly imposed plans devised to reinvigorate Fitzroy St. have predominantly failed.
Sadly, despite heavy investiture the area still has issues. Many people including local and state governments are looking to local Arts & Culture as a potential remedy..
I asked local St Kilda resident, mentor, writer and visual artist, Emily Humphries to comment on how the area and local Art and Artists might be able to lend a hand, and if she has any insight into a problem that many wealthy residents and investors have failed to solve. This is what she said.
…“ When Dolores San Miguel opened the doors of the Crystal Ballroom in 1978 it dragged St Kilda groaning and kicking from its post war malaise as Melbourne youth awoke with a yelp. What had once been the terrain of wealthy seaside residents, the area that spans from the juncture of Barkley St and Alma Rd. was held high with grand mansions, which scattered like in any European seaside town, over the hill and down to the sea.
The Ballroom was a cultural incarnation of what had been a once vibrant area, yet with quite another face and sadly Melbourne failed to truly celebrate the relevance or recognize quite the qualities of the
power house of talent destined to largely desert not just St Kilda, but our shores. Thus there is no real mystery to its decline.
A failure to support or invest in the arts and artists is deadly. There is the organic folding process of any place or thing as it reshapes into another, as a fairly natural phenomenon. St Kilda has never really reformed since the late 80’s and since the large flight of junkies and drug culture to the North of the river there has been a slow process to rocked St Kilda’s heart.
St Kilda is loaded with potential however sometimes the grander enterprises spit people back onto the street with their exclusivity and frosted windows. The general public walk by with nothing much to grasp onto. Where is the soul in this?
The recent rise of the St Kilda Art Crawl in the city of Port Phillip was a really exciting thing. Despite our craft run along the Esplanade there is a chance here to bring back some of the vitality St Kilda now lacks. Why, because it brings a focus back to the expressive, the ‘street tongue’. If you want the street to resound you need to give it a voice and how better to do it than to support and invest in those who make the area their dialogue not just their economy. I really believe it is in the interest of the local businesses to invest in those who make a kind of “noise” about and around them.
There is a reflective quality to the neglect we have given our artists being played out in our deadly streetscape. We have Rowland Howard Lane but where is Rowland Howard? Despite being one of our precious jewels of cultural input Rowland died way too young and although some point the finger at a kind of lifestyle, artists very often have little choice in how they live as they medicate to navigate a culture which undervalues and fails to support them financially or even expressively.
Often our greatest talents end up in housing commissions on disability pensions or are forced to be educators. Without the support or security to simply weave their magic alight and contribute en force, artists in this country are robbed of their esteem by a culture which puts too much emphasis on convention and economic prowess.
I believe, with all my heart, that local business would benefit by investing in local Art & Culture artists that live in every St Kilda block, our heritage alive yet buried,
If we bring in some respect, some heart back into the heart beat of our culture of our area the vigor will return and our street and geography will not be left desolate and reflecting a kind of grief that no end of designer shops or fancy restaurants can stuff”…
Presented by GAS (Grid Art Space) courtesy of Vass Productions & Alex Theatre:
24 February – 18 March 2018
To coincide with the Australian premier of the Robert Askins stage production of Hand to God by Vass Productions, sculptor / master printmaker Adrian Spurr is exhibiting his extraordinary sculptures currently on display in the piano lounge / art space of the Alex Theatre in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda.
Originally from the UK Adrian has lived in Australia for over 20 years and is a local artist in residence at Shakespeare Grove Artists Studios which is part of Veg Out in St Kilda.
During the September 2017 St Kilda Art Crawl Adrian was invited to curate and exhibit his work along with 10 other artists at 33 Fitzroy Street St Kilda known as Punchinello Pop Up. The exhibition was so well received by locals and visitors, it remain open for a further two weeks on invitation by shop owner Jenni Li.
Adrian is committed to exhibiting his work and the work of other local artists to continue to enrich the St Kilda spirit and in turn landscape.
‘Art and its glorious influence is not fully realised until it is taken out of the studio and displayed for public viewing’. Adrian Spurr
By Adrian Spurr
Sculptor / Master Printmaker
Carved red flowering eucalypt with pyro graph markings.
80 X 45 cms 2018
The title of this artwork is taken from Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.
The third prediction Macbeth is given by the witches is that he should not fear until Great Birnam Wood should move to high Dunsinane.
Of course, Macbeth cannot imagine that a wood might advance upon his fortress, but it does when Malcolm, the rightful heir to the throne, orders his soldiers to cut down the trees of Birnam Wood and move them as camouflage toward Dunsinane Hill.
Macbeth rightly starts to fear for his life…
The sculpture is of a man in Malcolm’s force, standing amidst the trees on a bright morning with the shadows of branches and leaves upon his face. The man is contemplating the endeavor he is about to undertake, the defeat of a tyrant.
Ecce homo! Behold the man!
By Adrian Spurr
Sculptor / Master Printmaker Rosewood & anatomical foot 50 x 35 x 35 cms
A found life sized anatomical model skeleton of the human foot.
Daniel Defoe’s fictional protagonist Robinsen Crusoe (1719) comes across a footprint in the sand and knows he is not longer alone.
The most memborable photographs of the first Moon landing are of the astronauts footprint, Mary Leakey’s discovery of the 3.7 million year old Laetoli footprints in Tanzania or our contemporary concern regarding our ecological footprint. The references are multitudinous.
This particular skeleton of a foot is encased in a sealed nugget, a pod or a capsule with a glass front that emphasizes the act of observing, of visually recognising, perhaps even assessing. The beautiful colour and grain of the reclaimed Rosewood (which itself comes from ever increasingly endangered rainforest) felled in 1994, softens the hard edged geometry of their machined wooden shapes.
Head of a (Blind) Prophet’
By Adrian Spurr
Sculptor / Master Printmaker Adrian Spurr
Carved limestone and stucco 60 x 30 x 30 cms
The work itself pays tribute to the face in Medieval sculpture of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, work made by sculptors for the great Gothic cathedrals of France and Germany.
Many of the sculptures were smashed during bouts of iconoclasm and their heads now reside in museums across the world having been disinterred by archaeologists in latter years.
This work, Head of a (Blind) Prophet is set in an old wooden draw that I found in a dilapidated chicken shed in the Wimmera. The draw was a nesting box but formerly came from a Spice cabinet. The intention of the drawer is to reference the museum exhibit / item status of so many of these heads.
This head of a prophet though, also wears ear protectors, a necessary item of safety equipment for sculptors but metaphorically for this prophet, a defense against all the noise that litters our modern world.
By Adrian Spurr Sculptor / Master Printmaker
Found antique chair and macracarpa wood. 2017
This sculpture is a portrait of an elderly lady, a mother or grandmother.
The chair is representative of the woman and sitting in her lap is the sum total of a life’s experience.
Memories, sensations, echoes, reminiscences; the souvenirs of a long life that by necessity are ordered, collated and fixed.
But when the time eventually comes all this body of experience will separate and disperse back into the universe from where it was derived.
For expressions of interest: Kerrie Pacholli 0423 308 005 or firstname.lastname@example.org
text & images © pationpics.com
review by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com
VASS Productions presents
Hand to God
by Robert Askins
Director Gary Abrahams
Venue: Alex Theatre | 1/135 Fitzroy St, St Kilda VIC 3182
Dates: 25 Feb – 18 March 2018
Robert Askins’ 2015 off Broadway hit comedy Hand to God premiered at the Alex Theatre in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda on the 24 Feb.
Produced by Vass Productions and directed by Gary Abrahams, this often hard hitting dark comedy provides a very entertaining window into the deep complexities of disturbed and desperation human psyches.
Set within the seemingly safe parameters of a humble puppet workshop in the basement of a Christian Ministry in Cypress Texas, Askins lays bare menacing undercurrents of mental and emotional turmoil that arise from within this religious overlay; and when unleashed reveal resonating effects of horror, ecstacy and compassion.
Gyton Grantely plays Jason, teenage son of Magery Alison Whyte, as well as his alter ego, the diabolical and revenge driven Tyrone, the sock puppet, who appears to self mend and grow teeth throughout the show…
Gyton’s performance as the repressed Jason also giving voice to Tyrone, is powerfully bought to life and reminiscent of Robert De Niro as Max Cady in Cape Fear, except with a hand puppet…go figure?
Just to give you a small insight into this play … In a fit of rage and jealousy Tyrone forces Jason to bite the ear lobe off Timothy (Jake Spears) lover of Magery. Jason is then locked in the cellar until the others can work out the best strategy moving forward.
Although I found all performances compelling, one of the stand out scenes was when Tyrone has lusty, opportunistic, hilarious yet strangely healing sex with hand puppet of Jessica, Jason’s crush played by Morgana O’Reilly. The synergy between the actors’ hand puppets was very intense!
Scene design by Jacob Billista, lighting by Amelia Lever-Davidson, costumes by Cloe Greaves and sound design by Ian Moorhead synchronised so well with the performances that we the audience were able to be totally absorbed by the story.
Big congratulations to director Gary Abrahams, Vass Productions and the entire cast and crew. Ending with a standing ovation Hand to God is a great night of entertainment. Don’t bring the kids…
Part of The George Hotel building, The Alex Theatre is a dynamic complex hosting three spacious theatres, a bar, a large piano lounge and an impressive art space. As the result of recent renovations The Alex Theatre fast becoming known as a St Kilda art hub, now has it’s own entrance on Fitzroy Street soon to be open to the general public.
The opening night boasted a full house of Melbourne’s theatre and art enthusiasts and it is believed that the season of Hand to God coupled with its recent renovations will put the Alex Theatre in Fitzroy Street St Kilda ‘on the map’ according to long time Food & Beverage Manager of Vass Productions, Philip Claassen.
Not to be missed by art lovers over this season of Hand to God is the extraordinary sculpture exhibition on show around the theatre’s plush piano lounge by local St Kilda sculptor / master printmaker Adrian Spurr, installed by GAS (Grid Art Space) on invitation by Vass Productions.