Tag Archives: Art

The Art & Soul of it

Painting by Richard Morrison

Painting by Richard Morrison with Jim Lee

Text & images by Kerrie Pacholli

St Kilda, considered the jewel of Port Phillip, has always been synonymous with multi-layered cultures, music, theatre, art and artists.

However, along the way St Kilda lost its ability to attract and nurture its rising creatives.

St Kilda was cleaned up. Became gentrified.  The toilet block at the well known indigenous meeting place ‘Koori Park’ was torn down and the the tribe was forced to scatter. Property prices skyrocketed and financial and property investors reigned supreme.  The local council became one of the richest in Melbourne and the well-to-do believed they held the key to St Kilda’s rising prosperity and glory.

Today when one takes a stroll down the sunset side of Fitzroy Street you got to wonder WTF happened?  Bucket loads of taxpayer’s money has been spent on road infrastructure to accommodate the projected masses flooding into St Kilda as a result of the clean up and  gentrification and yes parking, car manoeuvrability  and business has been severely impeded.

Regardless of its unique and beautiful seascape, St Kilda has became known as a bi-law trap, whether on the roads or in the venues where noise is policed to what many consider unreasonable and unrealistic proportions.  Without doubt many performing artists and the businesses that accommodated them have little reason to feel confident in being facilitated to reach full potential.

Singer / songwriter Lisa Wood

Singer / songwriter Lisa Wood part of “Tribute to Women” at St Luja 

A number of years ago local creatives with countercultural persuasions, living and working in St Kilda, started to look at ways to do their bit to save St Kilda’s diverse cultural expression and keep the streets alive and pumping. These guys were not property owners, nor did they have ties to local council or government. They battled along with their personal desires, inspirations and imaginations.  Eventually a move was made to activate their collective visions and The St Kilda Arts Community was formed.

Espy 2017 St Kilda Comedy Club was reborn

Espy and the St Kilda Comedy Club was reborn. Cj Fortuna, Andrew Goodone, Brad Oakes & Dave O’Neil.

Its founding members were remaining creatives working in isolated pockets throughout St Kilda who came together for the greater good. A new collective movement was ignited and the first St Kilda Art Crawl  happened, followed by two more.

The Victorian Minister for the Arts was approached by representatives of this newly formed Arts Community and unquestioningly acknowledged the need and potential on offer and gave his official thumbs up. Local council also followed suit with some practical and moral support.  The Alex Theatre and the not yet refurbished Espy opened its doors and rallied with moral and practical support, Slowly the local business owners, who were somewhat fiscally strained, started to take note although at first non-committal and wary. Many local artists and galleries on the other hand were given renewed enthusiasm, sensing the energy shift and the potential that comes with it.

Simon Barnett, Martin Foley & Mick Pacholli

Simon Barnett, Martin Foley & Mick Pacholli 

A collective vibe throughout the arts community started to rise and ‘art happenings’ in the lesser known art hubs in St Kilda started to be acknowledged and illuminated by the Arts Community for their efforts.

The thing is, artists are workers who deserve a decent income. Their creative and artistic enterprises deserve to be held in high esteem and celebrated.  History shows this is what nourishes community.

Robert Mate Mate performing Theatreworks 1992

Robert Mate Mate performing at Theatreworks 1992 image by Russell Cooper.

To quote Robert Mate Mate, a much loved friend who passed on many years ago…

“Politics breeds combat ability whereas art and culture breeds compatibility.”

The choice is ours.

ROBOBOP: ROBERT SCHOLTEN

By ROBERTO CHUTER

“Love is a many splendored thing, until it’s not… in which case it just plain sucks. Whether we fall out of love, experience unrequited love, or lose the love of our life, heartbreak is a pretty universal feeling for most people. I personally love a little heartache, but I do believe that there’s something to be said for what a little heart-wrenching despair can do for the creative mind. I’m not alone in this sentiment. Whether reeling from the discovery of an unfaithful husband, like Frida Kahlo, or capturing the death of a beloved wife on canvas, like Claude Monet, many artists have experienced their greatest artworks after love has been lost.”

This quote made me reflect on an interview I did with artist Robert Scholten (aka Robobop) in front of a live audience at Chapel Off Chapel back in 2014. Scholten had his artwork projected on a large screen and spoke eloquently about his relationship between his art and his marriage breakdown. It was certainly a memorable interview. The packed audience were entranced, moved by Scholten’s tender and creative voice. Audiences talked about the interview for weeks later.

I first met Scholten fleetingly at “Collective Momentum” exhibition at the Carlisle Street ArtSpace in St. Kilda. The first thing that I noticed was this huge smile, white teeth like something out of a toothpaste ad and this shock of black spiky hair. He was surrounded by a crowd of women all vying for his attention, which I am sure thrilled him. Some where along the way we became good friends working on a few projects together – some successful and some not successful.

I was most curious about this prolific artist’s life and career, so I asked:

What did you do before you became an artist?

I’m not sure there was ever a “before,” but here goes. Growing up, I was always known as the shy kid in the corner who’s good at drawing. My job was to fill the other boys school organisers with drawings of sexy women to get them through maths class. After high school, I did a year of biotechnology but was deeply unhappy – and totally obsessed with making art and devouring every art book in the library! With the encouragement of my worldly interior design student and girlfriend at the time, I left to study art and become a real artist. After declaring my ambition to the world, arguing with my family and friends, I was rejected from every art school. It really sucked. So I found myself studying Information Systems instead, which led to technology being a big part of my practice. After that, I decided to go and live in Japan. I was lucky enough to paint theatre backdrops and murals there. Japan really opened my eyes to art, in the sense that I felt art can be everywhere, not just in galleries. I returned to Melbourne, studied graphic design and worked in that field for a while. After a tough period where my marriage broke up and I lost my job, I found myself doing art full time ever since. However, I always felt I was an artist, it’s more like, so it’s hard to say “before”, as I always created art, rented studios.

How did you become an artist?

I like to joke that I’ve tried everything I could to not be an artist. In the end, I just gave up and accepted my fate. There’s an element of truth there. One of the earliest times where I really felt connection as an artist, it was on Hirado, a small Japanese island near Nagasaki. All I had was a sketchbook, markers, ink and cheap book of Van Gogh drawings. For weeks I wandered around the island drawing.

Why do you do the work that you do?

I don’t know how to answer this question. There is no real why, just do. It feels right and it feels good so I do it. I suspect if you’d ask a child the same question, they’d have the same answer. Maybe I remained a child in that sense. If anything, my goal is to be as authentic as possible – this also means knowing and accepting yourself, which is a lifelong journey.

Which people or what inspires you to work in the arts? Your work seems to span all kinds of mediums – film, painting, installation, can you tell us about these different mediums and why you chose to do this?

Art is something I just really love doing. Even the boring parts. From this passion comes a desire to create, improve and learn. So I look a lot. Inspiration is hard to pinpoint as it comes from so many different sources, changing on a regular basis. I love art history, from all across the world and across time. I like organic surfaces with a feeling of time ravaging it. I like nature. I guess the short answer is anything could be inspiring at any given time. Growing up, I didn’t come from an artistic family so a lot of my art exposure came from pop culture and self study in libraries. I met some artists growing up, which provided inspiration and guidance. My friend asked me the other day why I do many different mediums and I joked that I’m a hustler! In the sense that to make money and survive as an artist, I do many different types of jobs. But the flip side of that is that I enjoy the challenge of working in different media. It’s just fun. It keeps you fresh, as I think it’s dangerous to be too comfortable – you risk repetition. Also, today’s world makes it easier for artists to cross between different mediums as there are less barriers – better tech, cheaper equipment and accessible knowledge.

You have suffered a number of personal setbacks. Do you think these are explored subconsciously in your work?

I feel like all our experiences shape us, and as an artist these will definitely come through. Uninvited or not and especially subconsciously. Our individuality will always come through including sadness and despair. But overall I’ve been quite lucky. My setbacks are relatively minor to other people I know and I’ve been able to turn them around into positives. If anything, they’ve made me stronger and gave me greater persistence!

What do you think have been some of the negatives and positives in your work do you think?

My philosophy has always been to keep working. I can look back and connect the dots later. The best thing I can do in my work is to be as honest as possible, which is quite hard to do! Positives and negatives are momentary perceptions, subject to change. Especially from my brain. Some of the things in my work that I hated before, I love now for the reason that I hated them!

What’s been your favourite achievements up to this point?

I don’t really have massive achievements but I’ve been fortunate to work with different communities of people and have a positive impact on them. I’m grateful to do art everyday and I always try to improve. I just take it day by day, though it’s nice to look back at various projects.

What are you currently working on?

I have a few different projects on at the moment – Murals (one involves a peacock, one involved Poseidon, and another involves a girl drinking coffee, Spice Girls magazine illustration, Children’s book illustration, painting and decorating a Dr Seuss city with a primary school, paintings for an upcoming exhibition, corporate art workshop, Illustrations for a printer company, planning some etching prints for an upcoming residency in Chiang Mai and short animation and some short film docos.

If you couldn’t do this anymore, what career path do you think you would have followed Robert?

I don’t know the exact career but I feel like I would like to do something that has a positive effect with people and culture, like helping with poorer communities for needs like education. Or in a completely different direction, maybe a detective, because I like solving puzzles and thinking about peoples’ personal stories and motivations. I would also rather work for myself.

Tell us a funny story or joke that involves your work or life.

One time I had a coffee meeting with a guy I once did a job for. He wanted to discuss a new project. I went to the cafe and sat down with him. He seemed a bit grumpy that day, so I tried to make small talk. He didn’t talk much, so I ordered a coffee and played a bit with his dog and waited for him to finish his breakfast. After 40, 45 minutes, it got awkward – it was supposed to be a work meeting, after all. So I decided to push the subject of the work, and he gave me a blank look. Didn’t know what I was talking about. That’s when I realised. I was supposed to be in the cafe two doors down! I quickly apologised, paid for my coffee and exited with a red face.

Check out Scholten (Robobop)’s amazingly diverse work at: www.robertscholtenartist.com

Soul of St Kilda

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.

Emily-Humphries-St-Kilda-based-artist-image-by-Kerrie-Pacholli-©-pationpics.com-copy-1.jpg

Emily Humphries St Kilda based artist image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

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”…

Emily Humphries