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St Kilda Identities Serge Thomann, Johnny Iodine & Henry Greener image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

Creativity, art, power & politics

by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

St Kilda Identities Serge Thomann, Johnny Iodine & Henry Greener image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

St Kilda Identities Serge Thomann, Johnny Iodine & Henry Greener at the Vineyard during the inaugural SKAC launch image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

Back in mid August 2017 I joined the ranks of the community minded, consisting mainly of a small group of residents.

Over a number of years these individuals had watched their beloved St Kilda in parts, become a barren wasteland. Business in pockets throughout St Kilda had taken a nose drive. Large numbers of the artistic community that had once elevated St Kilda as the artistic epicenter of Melbourne had fled to Brunswick.

Inspired by the strategies of local businesses in other withering cities around the world this group set about igniting creative spirit into the city they loved. The non-for-profit charity The St Kilda Art Crawl was born.

I came on board quite late in the piece, by invitation from one of the founders; it was about 4 weeks before the date of the September art crawl. My first impression was this creative movement has legs. I noted the commitment of the organizers and decided to jump on board boots and all as a volunteer.

My job was to assist with online publicity. The second thing I noted was that the galleries, local businesses and established artists although expressing interest in this event were dragging their heals to officially commit. The main difference between this St Kilda art event and other cities around the world were individuals who were not local property or business owners were organizing this. The pressure was on.

I was way out of touch with the St Kilda art scene and only knew of a couple of galleries that had decided not to participate at that time.

Local artist Marko Maglaic was among the first to commit his time, talents and name on the dotted line in curating a collective pop up exhibition in Christ Church in Acland Street.

A chance meeting with local artist Salvatori Lolicato at 95 Acland Street Café lead me to produce a filmed and written interview with another Shakespeare Grove Artists Studios artist Adrian Spurr and then I was in the business of publicizing local artists in reference to the September 2017 St Kilda Art Crawl.

Two weeks to the crawl date we met Freddie Warschauer owner of a big chunk of real estate on the sunset side of Fitzroy Street. We asked him about the potential of using his window spaces for art and straight up he was keen as punch to put his time, resources and properties to work for a successful Fitzroy Street art crawl contribution.

Property owners Jenny Li and Rob Semple also decided to contribute and gave us the keys to 33 Fitzroy Street and we proceeded to produce what eventually turned out to be two pop up gallery’s showcasing the works of 18 artists over two crawls.

The St Kilda Live Music and St Kilda Comedy Club became proactive and the Espy opened their doors for the first time in years to support them and the crawl with local council deciding to give some money to make this happen.

The seeds of enthusiasm and positive creativity took flight among the arts community.

May 2018 saw the second St Kilda Art Crawl come to life with over 32 galleries including five pop ups stretching from Fitzroy Street, Barkly Street, St Kilda Road and Carlisle Street. With a 60% increase in community participation the event is considered a success by the organizers.

I asked Serge Thomann Photographer and Deputy Mayor of the CoPP between 2012 – 2016 his perspective about art in St Kilda.

How do you feel power, politics and money can assist the St Kilda Arts Community?

It is not known by many that Local Government is the government body that spend the most money on culture and art, from running libraries (Port Phillip has got 5), providing spaces (Gasworks, Linden, Multicultural Arts Victoria, Save the ABC, Carlisle Streets The Gallery, Shakespeare Grove Artists Studios, etc) to supporting local organisations (Red Stitch, Theatreworks, Rawcus, Phillip Adams Ballet Lab, MAV, Brightspace, The Torch, just to name a few) and individuals through various grants. There are also staff members who help artists and companies and mentor them. Obviously, the funds provided by a Council can make a big difference in the cultural landscape of a city. St Kilda has been an art hub for decades and we need to keep some of the creative juices flowing through our village. I believe artists are much better in running art programs – but they need to be funded, e.g. the importance of a Council. After due diligence, of course.

 How do you feel the St Kilda Arts Community can further give voice and make room for artists, art and creative pursuits?

As St Kilda is getting more gentrified, it is always more difficult for artists to find a voice and a space in our village. Artists have always had to fight for survival. And some artists are good, and some not so good. Or should I say popular or not so popular. St Kilda still has got great artists living here – painters (Peter Booth, Andrew Taylor, Lewis Miller, Ann Middleton, Alan Mittleman, Chris Beaumont, just to name a few), film makers and actors, fashion designers, sculptors, photographers, writers, comedians, etc… but most are a bit older and have been in St Kilda for many years. I agree, probably most of the young and up and coming artists live on the other side of the Yarra. There are several artists studios and spaces, but at the end, people should buy more art so more artists can live from their work. The St Kilda Arts Community does provide exposure for artists, creates a buzz around them. Being an artist can be a lonely world but SKAC brings them together and creates a family. This can only be encouraged. I am right behind it. Money can help, but it is not the only valuable ingredient for growth and prosperity.                                            

 

 

Eco Centre’s Neil Blake OAM, Baykeeper of the Watch

In 1992 Robert Mate Mate, a dear friend and creative collaborator introduced me to Neil Blake as the Penguin Man. At that time Neil devoted a big chunk of energy studying and protecting the Port Phillip Penguins that come to roost every night at the end of St Kilda Pier.

As Robert Mate Mate was an Aboriginal from Woorrabinda I naturally believed that Neil was also Aboriginal because of his exceptionally long white beard.  I was later to learn from Robert, who was a tribal elder, storyteller, anthropologist, historian and all-round magic guy, that the ‘Old People’ believed all people born to this land are indigenous and part of the ‘Old People’s’ ancestry; and that when the first Aborigines saw white people they saw ancestors from another dimension. I still find that a head spinner.

Neil has proven to be one of the most dedicated, inspiring and resilient ecological freedom fighters I have had the privilege to meet.  To this day Neil has his long white beard and is hard at it working the Eco Centre in St Kilda, Werribee Riverkeeper, Melbourne’s Western Waterways and Yarra Riverkeeper to name a few of his many projects and involvements. I asked Neil a few questions.

Why have parts of St Kilda’s business community been withering on the vine?

It’s important to recognise that the withering vines are not just in St Kilda, as many property owners across Melbourne leave their premises empty rather than accepting low rents at the true market value. As this financial conundrum is difficult for everyday people to fathom, there is a tendency to lay blame on more visible factors…. a popular sport across the ages.

J.B  Cooper’s ‘History of St Kilda’ recalls (in the 1880’s) “newspapers urged the police to visit the bay line from the Esplanade to the Red Bluff, where several tents were occupied by an undesirable class. Sly grog selling, it was said, was going on in the tents.  The vicinity of the tents was strewn with broken bottles. These vagabonds along the seashore had changed what was once a beautiful walk into a scene of desolation.”

Tell that to the Yalukut Weelam clan of the Boon Wurrung who for tens of thousands of years respected and maintained that “beautiful walk”.  They harvested shellfish at Point Ormond, but not in the spawning season, so the next harvest would be a good one. The notion of restricting consumption was a foreign concept to the European colonists who, apart from the undesirable classes, were allowed to exploit the environment wherever and whenever they could.

Speaking of Fitzroy Street, Cooper tells us “….it has a dash of his (Sir Charles Fitzroy’s) pleasure-loving vice regal spirit. Sir Charles was… a gentleman whose hospitality extends over a wide circle of friends… as good a judge of Claret and Burgundy as you’ll find in the Colony.” His spirit seemed to have permeated through to the 1990’s when a St Kilda Mayor remarked at the funeral of a well-known street drunk: “He was noisy and looked scary, but those who got to know him found him quite intelligent but unhinged from his time in Vietnam. You know, if he was in Doncaster instead of St Kilda… he would have been locked up!”

In 1835, the Yalukit Weelam were caught between the reef and a hard place with the arrival of Europeans, their millions of sheep, and their guns. In 1985, the remnants of red sandstone they used to grind seed and stone gradually disappeared from St Kilda south beach by the mechanical beach rakes introduced to solve the daily tide of plastic trash.

Everything in nature must reinvent itself some time… we call it evolution.

How can the local community reinvigorate the rebirth cycle of street life?

In early St Kilda, the land south of Fitzroy Street was known as the ‘wattle paddock’, populated by an open bush of Banksia, Acacia, and Red Gum trees. The elevated land of St Kilda hill and adjacent low lying wetlands (Elwood swamp and Albert Park lagoon) offered a rich landscape to support the diversity of local fauna. They all had a role to play and were at home in that place and happy to stay. But their diversity diminished as swamp was reclaimed; and trees, grasses and wildflower habitats were lost to classy mansions and the stylish new seaside resort of St Kilda. The natural estate became the real estate, which became the unreal estate of today.

By the 1970s, the splendour was in decline with Victorian and Edwardian housing stock in serious need of repair. The upside was that the lower rents attracted a wide range of artists who, in the absence of regular income, managed to thrive on the bohemian atmosphere. The seaside and sunsets across the water grace each day…. and all roads (and public transport) from the northeast and south lead to St Kilda.

Since the industrial revolution, the pace of change continues to escalate due to global population growth, increased consumption and modification of natural resources. For at least the past 50 years climate change (in total contempt of the deniers) has been steadily disrupting and displacing third world populations while ‘first world’ peoples nervously tighten their grip on their comfort zone.

The small fish that come into the Cowderoy Street outfall on the high tide know, that’s when the water’s too deep for the Night Herons to prowl; and they stick together to celebrate another day.

Text & image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

PUFFS opening night at The Alex Theatre

images & text by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

Opening night of PUFFS at the Alex Theatre was a roaring success with a full house of Potter enthusiasts and a red carpet soiree that attracted Melbourne’s stalwart theatre buffs.

Among the many dignitaries to attend where Master printmaker and sculptor Adrian Spurr who currently has works in the piano room of The Alex Theatre for the duration of the PUFFS session, as well as artist Tommy Langra who has been exhibiting his works at Punchinello Pop-Up at 33 Fitzroy St, St Kilda.

Artist's Tommy Langra, Susan Popov & Adrian Spurr image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

Artist’s Tommy Langra, Susan Popov & Adrian Spurr 

Host Alex Vass with resident artist Adrian Spurr

Heidi Victoria, Alex Theatre Aleks Vass with resident artist Adrian Spurr

Artist Emily Jane Pappas with local identity Freddie Warschauer image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

Artist Emily Jane Pappas with local identity Freddie Warschauer

Shooters Jim Lee, Matt Doller & the man with the moves Sam Tabone

Shooters Jim Lee, Matt Doller & the man with the moves Sam Tabone

 

 

PUFFS at The Alex Theatre

Review by Tommy Langra , photos by Ben Fon

The magical world of laughter, this encapsulating play reiterates to us never to judge a book by its cover. A cover, a first appearance leads us to believe that PUFFS is a sole comedic look at the now notorious Hogwarts, less known boarding house Huffle Puff. Mark Cox’s ingenious play actually offers viewers a reflection of growing up in the 80s and 90s.

How magical is Hogwarts and the Gen Y obsession when those slightly older kids remember a time of X Men, Batman, and the late 90s existential Crisisio that affected anyone aged 14+.

Feel free to laugh along with jokes about now partly forgotten movies such as Free Willy and Rambo 2. For those who missed the scent of Teen Spirit from the likes of Butter Beer there are obviously plenty of references to the Potter books themselves, and even the ultimate cosmic evil, Daleks!

For theatre junkies the play was fast paced and tight knit and happily the cast took us back to our high school years. Adding to the sense of the plays timeline. With a brief quip about the age of the main character.

Make sure you don’t rush out of the Alex Theatre before admiring the prop lined walls with humorous spells gone wrong and hessian cobwebs. Sign of the kind of all encompassing event, a real magical romp.

Artist Tommy Langra exhibiting at Punchinello Pop-Up

33 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda 10am – 6pm

St Kilda Art Crawl May 25, 26 & 27

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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

Artist Dino Damiani exhibiting at HQ Gallery

St Kilda Art Crawl May  25, 26 & 27

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Marko Maglaic at Punchinello Pop-Up

St Kilda Art Crawl May 25, 26, 27

33 Fitzroy Street St Kilda

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Tommy Langra artist, poet and mystic…

image & test by Kerrie Pacholli

Artist Tommy Langra image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

Artist Tommy Langra 

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.

By Tommy Langra photo © pationpics.com

By Tommy Langra 

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…

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