Trevor Liddell at Duchess of Spotswood

trevor liddell

Who is he?

A talented painter and drawer, about whom we have posted previously, Liddell has recently opened his first solo show at the Duchess of Spotswood. The show comprises a series of seven pencil sketches with a focus on Scandinavian landscapes and fragmented representations of the architecture of Richard Neutra.

The pieces explore the interpretive qualities of drawing, carrying built elements into abstract formations that extrapolate the geometries of Neutra’s architecture. Furthering his engagement with the traditions of architectural representation, all seven works float serenely in large expanses of white space, overcoming contrasting subjects to unify the series and highlight Liddell’s selective depictions of building and landscape.

What do we think?

Theory, technique and discussion aside, it is a pleasure to see such fine works of art crafted in pencil. In many ways, it is an under-appreciated medium that typically plays second fiddle to oil and acrylic. Unlike the layered construction of a painting, works in pencil are flat, demanding foresight and precision. This control combines with a charming fragility that in Liddell’s hands suggests both careful thought and freedom of expression.

Four of the pieces have already been sold, a triumph for a young artist exhibiting in an open space and, we hope, signs of significant future success.

Longlist exhibition

What was it?

An unsanctioned exhibition of non-shortlisted entries into Stage 1 of the Flinders Street Station Design Competition (FSSDC). Co-ordinated by Edwards Moore at Sibling in Fitzroy, it was part design display, part political protest and part social gathering.

27 of the 112 non-shortlisted entries were exhibited, including our own discussed in a previous post here. The tightness of the exhibition area and briefness of the evening, combined with the event’s enthusiastic attendance made it difficult to conduct an in-depth analysis of the submissions. However, we can say we liked a lot of what we saw and were able to glean a number of exciting ideas from the proposals.

Design display

Though each of the projects within the exhibition possessed its own unique architectural language, we were intrigued to discover many shared urban strategies. One of the most popular was to roof most or all of the station precinct and cover it with green landscape. BKK Architects‘ proposal was most convincing. It offered an ordered, multipurpose garden cascading purposefully down towards Flinders Street along the north edge and the Yarra River along the south. Towers dotting this civic space at regular frequencies provided programme activation as well as substantial pedestrian traffic. The garden was well resolved and genuinely enticing.

Other ideas consistently applied from project to project included the concentration of development density over the Banana Alley vaults; the provision of hit and miss building massing to minimise shadowing over Northbank; connections through the site east to west and north to south; void spaces above the platforms; light-filled canopies fronting onto Swanston Street; programme activation of the Yarra River frontage and conscientious preservation of the historic Administration Building along Flinders Street.

Inconsistent was the level of resolution among submissions. Many were very sketchy, with perhaps wasted effort dedicated to laboriously resolve programme that got lost in the fine print. In contrast, it was clear Elenberg Fraser had spent a lot of money on professional renderings, though their glitzy proposal did put us immediately in mind of Zaha Hadid‘s BMW Central Building in Leipzig, Germany, one of her least successful projects.

Adam Pustola and Feng Cheah’s gregarious proposal took the position championed in recent years by the likes of ARM and Lyons that large urban sites deserve to be populated by a plurality of colourful ideas. Pustola commented: “anything else would be spreading too little butter on too much bread”.

Political protest

There has been much discussion since the completion of Stage 1 over the unwillingness of the competition convener, Major Project Victoria, to publicise the competition entries. This discussion has ballooned into outright controversy in recent days with articles here, here, here and here questioning its position.

The opposing paradigms are simple enough to describe:

  • MPV is interested in protecting the probity of the competition, thus any publicity of proposals would unfairly affect the shortlisted architects still working on their Stage 2 submissions.
  • We, along with many other entrants, recognise that one of the greatest opportunities offered by the competition is to spark a meaningful discussion both within the profession and out amongst the general public. This can only happen if the submissions, shortlisted or not, are released for comment and debate.

Prior to and since the Longlist exhibition, this simple difference in opinion has caused a bemusing and complex behind-the-scenes series of correspondence from MPV, full of political intrigue and public relations mismanagement.

With exclusive insight, we reproduce this series here:

First, a letter from MPV warning shortlisted entrants against attending the Longlist exhibition. The highlighted sections, particularly the passage that reads, “participating in the [Longlist] event, including as an observer, would constitute a breach of the competition conditions,” impinge on the human right of free association, which, as a Victorian government body, MPV is in fact bound to uphold*:

Second, a series of tweets reversing this position by publicising an Alan Davies article for Crikey together with a number submissions referred to by Davies. This culminated in a tweet to our architecture studio’s account, Mihaly Slocombe, declaring that entrants are free to publicise their submissions as they wish:

Third and finally, the deletion of the abovementioned tweets and a retraction on MPV’s Facebook page stating that “all entries should remain confidential until the close of Stage 2” and in the comments trail below that “this is to protect entrants’ intellectual property”:

What do we think of all this?

Well, it is clear that whoever is managing the social media accounts at MPV is not talking to the person writing letters. It is also clear that they should get some decent legal advice on the limitations of the competition conditions – as far as we’re aware, no contract can override governmental compliance with the charter of human rights, nor as Charbonneau notes in the Facebook comments above, is the function of the conditions to protect the entrants’ intellectual property*.

There is also certain truth in the saying that all publicity is good publicity. We saw a readership spike of 200% on our blog and 150% on our studio website following the Crikey article and subsequent social media hoohah. We suspect that other architects who have published their competition submissions online have received similar increases in traffic and can only hope that this means that more people are engaging with the content of the competition.

A social gathering

So, back to the Longlist exhibition and its attendees, who had mostly submitted proposals to the competition and were predominantly young architects, hailing from medium sized design practices or running their own small studios. This cross section of the profession made possible one of the most enjoyable aspects of the exhibition, namely taking the opportunity to talk to other architects about their entries. We noticed this happening frequently – impromptu design presentation sessions taking place in front of competition boards. In this way, we gained insight into the work of BKK Architects, Pustola & Cheng, Studio (R), Gresley Abas and Andrew Burns among others.

Good, bad and ugly, the greatest value of the non-shortlisted competition proposals has proven to be their ability to inspire conversation and debate. Despite reports that the State Government will not build the winning proposal, here we have already witnessed the competition’s true value: it can start a conversation about the future of Melbourne.

Clandestine as the Longlist exhibition was, and as limited as the opportunities it provided to examine the projects, we still managed to have this conversation. Imagine what could happen if the State Government and MPV make the bold decision to put all of the entrants out into the public eye right now, together with a detailed jury report explaining why the shortlisted entrants were chosen. The conversation could spread far beyond the borders of a hundred or so dedicated architects out into the public domain. The benefit to the competition, the architecture profession, the city and its inhabitants would be incalculable.

* Neither Warwick Mihaly nor Panfilocastaldi is legally qualified. No reliance is to be placed on any legal opinions made or alluded to in this article.

Dolphin slaughter in Taiji

Driving a pod to slaughter

What is it?

Taiji is a small town in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, inconsequential except for its notoriety as the site of the regular and highly controversial slaughter of large numbers of dolphins. Endorsed by the Japanese government, details of the slaughter are systematically concealed by local authorities, so much so that the producers of 2009 documentary, The Cove, were forced to use guerrilla techniques to get cameras close to the slaughter site. Taiji continues to be the focus of international activist groups, Save Japan Dolphins and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who hope to end the slaughter as well as the international trade in aquarium dolphins that fuels it.

Taiji first came to our attention when we saw The Cove in the 2010 Milano Film Festival, so it was with surprise that we immediately recognised the infamous site as the subject of a recent exhibition at Obscura Gallery by Melbourne photographer, Georgia Laughton. We attended the exhibition opening as guests of Samantha Cuffe, a talented glass artist we have discussed previously here.

We conducted the following interview with Georgia over recent weeks, gaining insight into her thoughts, experiences and ambitions for her work.

Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Georgia. Can you start by explaining what lead you to becoming involved with documenting the dolphin slaughter in Taiji?

Ever since I can remember I have been concerned about the state of the planet, and especially the state of the ocean. I became interested in animal rights when I was shown my first copy of a magazine by Animal Liberation at the age of 14, so the path that led me to be in Taiji is easy for me to track. I had been an on-shore volunteer with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society since 2008. At the time I went to Japan I was volunteering and working as the Melbourne volunteer coordinator, so was very aware of what was happening in Taiji (and many other parts of the world) every year.

The decision to actually go over to Taiji was made very quickly one day in November 2010. I was reading the daily update over what was happening there, and a pod of pilot whales had been slaughtered that day. About 4 of them had been killed. That slaughter just got to me, and I decided I wanted to go over to document and photograph it myself in order to help spread awareness over the issue.

Why did you select the photos included in the exhibition? What attracted you to document those in particular?

The images were selected to form a collection which tells the story of both events which happen to the dolphins in Taiji – and which I saw – dolphins being captured for a life in captivity and dolphins being driven into the cove to be slaughtered. I wanted to document both captivity and slaughter, rather than just focus on one or the other, as both industries are linked.

What about access? Some of the photos appear to have been shot under the cover of foliage. Were you able to take all the photos you wanted?

Access was difficult – obviously the fishermen wish to keep their actions hidden as much as possible, so they try to cover up all they can with tarps. This did make obtaining some of the images difficult – it was possible to shoot down into the Cove for some, however it was difficult to get past the foliage and to pass barriers. Areas are blocked off with Do Not Tresspass signs on the barriers (written in both English and Japanese).

Dragging a dolphin

The one image of the dolphin being dragged in alive by its rostuem was taken when I was hiding on top of the cliff top – hiding from the fishermen who comb through the area to try and make sure clear images of their actions cannot be taken. A few minutes after that image was taken the police did come along and asked me to move – a request I happily obeyed.

Were there others you wished you could have captured but couldn’t?

There were images which I wanted to take which just weren’t possible. It was not possible to photograph the Fishery Union Building where they process the dolphin meat and where, each morning, the fishermen huddle around a fire and cook and eat dolphin. Due to the tarps, it was not possible to photograph the slaughter either. I could hear it happening, I could see the blood coming out in the water, however I could not see the actions.

Do the gruesome images of the method of slaughter need to be photographed? Would it add to the series of the images? I don’t know. Part of me likes the fact I do not have the horrific images of extreme cruelty.

I also had the conflict of photographing the Whale Museum, where many dolphins are kept in captivity. I did not wish for any of my money to go and support this business nor did I wish to add to their attendence numbers. This did mean I do not have any photographs of how the dolphins live their life in captivity, apart from when they are in their sea pens being trained.

Dolphin base

One particular image I do wish I had captured was the day prior to my departure from Taiji. It was the end of the slaughter season and the fishermen had been busy cleaning down the slaughterhouse and taking down all the tarps and nets. As the final boat of fishermen sailed past, they bowed to us – an image I will always kick myself for not having my camera out!

We felt upon viewing the exhibition that it would have benefited from insight into the slaughter’s broader political / economic context. Have you considered juxtaposing your photos of Taiji against others of dolphin aquariums around the world, or even Japanese supermarkets that sell dolphin meat?

Yes, I did think about showing images of the meat, and whilst I would love to have photographed the fishermen’s fire barrel over which they cook dolphin in the mornings, I made the decision not to include the images I had of the dolphin meat all packaged up into little bags for sale in the nearby towns. I wanted to focus on the events of the capture, the slaughter and how they actually happen. I wanted the viewer to be taken through the slaughter only up to the point the bodies are taken out of the Cove and covered up by tarps, with fishermen sitting upon them.

The only image I wanted after this is the final one, at night, where a light is kept on to illuminate the killing Cove while the rest of the area sits in darkness.

Killing Cove at Night

What do you hope your exhibition will achieve?

I am mainly hoping to raise awareness of the issue and hopefully spark some new thinking. There are so many issues of animal cruelty and others facing our oceans. It would be wonderful if a small seed has been planted into peoples’ minds which might make them look further into some of these issues and hopefully change their actions (a small change for the better is better than no change at all) and help support some of the many organisations which are working to fix some of these problems. I hope that if faced with the choice between going to a dolphinarium or not, that people who have seen the exhibition and remember the images will choose not to contribute any money towards maintaining the captivity industry.

And what do you think it will take for Japan to cease harvesting dolphins?

Sadly, in my opinion I think it will take a lot for Japan to stop harvesting dolphins. It has been proven that dolphin meat is highly toxic – to me the most basic of facts which should shut down the slaughter – yet the Japanese public is largely ignorant of the relevant health issues. The dolphin slaughter is hidden from them, yet in order for it to stop they need to get behind the urge for change. I think there also needs to be a world-wide ban on dolphins living in captivity. If no dolphins are being sold for captivity, where the bulk of income comes from, then the slaughter will also cease.

Many organisations are working in various ways towards ending the slaughter and I would like to believe it will come to an end. The excuse of tradition is often used as a reason for it to continue, but if we look back in history, we see the end of many cruel traditions. It is simply not a tradition that makes sense in modern times.

After the slaughter

So what next? Do you have further plans to visit Taiji or other sites of animal cruelty around the world?

I would like to venture back to Japan at some time in the future, however for now I wish to focus on animal cruelty which is happening here in Australia. Unfortunately there are many different areas of abuse of animals and the oceans happening here, from the unregulated kangaroo meat industry to the gas hub in the Kimberley.

Thanks for the insight, Georgia, and all the best with future projects.


Both the documentary, The Cove, and Laughton’s exhibition have left an impression on us. Understanding the context of the dolphin industry, and what happens in the hidden shadows to introduce dolphins into captivity, have forever poisoned dolphinariums for us. In captivity, dolphins are often kept in small, barren tanks. In the wild, dolphins will swim up to 100km in a day, the only place our children will ever see them.

A new architecture building

Northwest view towards entry and Bank of New South Wales facade

What is it?

John Wardle Architects (JWA), in collaboration with NADAAA, have designed a new and much needed building for the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning (ABP) at the University of Melbourne. Their detailed design follows their winning entry into an international ideas competition run by the faculty in 2009, for which short-listed finalists included high calibre practices Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Denton Corker Marshall and Sauerbruch Hutton.

Full design documents, including plans, models, lusciously rendered images and in-depth discussion of the principles embodied in the design are currently on exhibition at the Wunderlich Gallery, on the ground floor of the existing Architecture Building. The exhibition runs until this coming Saturday, the 17th of March.

What do we think?

Due for completion in 2015, JWA and NADAAA’s design will replace the existing ABP building designed in the 1960s by then Professor of Architecture Brian Lewis, whose demolition at the end of this academic year will get the ball rolling on construction. The new building will be three stories shorter than its predecessor, but will have a bigger footprint, stretching out to the west to envelope the 1856 Bank of New South Wales facade.

This expansion will give the building a more dignified presence, connecting into the urban rhythm of what is surely Victoria’s most beautiful university campus. The ABP building will now face onto the Concrete Lawn, rather than hiding behind the Bank facade. It will also gather the momentum of the east-west axis connecting the Swanston Street tram depot through to Union House, with a ground floor plan structured around an internal street. The street feeds off the Concrete Lawn and is flanked by public-access exhibition spaces and a library, a smart recognition of the campus’ street-based organisation, one that is missing from either the original building or its iteration renovated in the 1990s by Daryl Jackson.

The design delves deeply into what JWA describes as built pedagogy. The ambition for the new building is for it to “have the ability – through its composition, material make-up, geometry, systems, and a range of other attributes, to teach, to tell a story, and to produce knowledge“. In other words, the design is no monument to a static institution, rather it is a living system that will reveal the myriad possibilities of good architecture not just through words and slides, but through its very fabric. Much like JWA’s earlier Hawke Building for the University of South Australia, some areas of the ABP building will have their structure and services exposed and accessible to students, while others will be more refined, with nuanced detail telling a different story of process and layered construction. There are examples within the building of heritage restoration and modern intervention, intuitive design and parametric design. It will teach even when its students think they aren’t paying attention.

View of Studio Hall from level two

Central to the idea of a built pedagogy is the provision of flexibility in the teaching spaces available. “Each studio is designed as an environment capable of supporting a range of learning activities from a traditional teacher-led seminar or tutorial to more dispersed group work, even extending into adjacent circulation spaces”. The Studio Hall is a significant resolution of this aim, doubling as a light well and atrium, it will be a natural social gatherer for both scheduled and informal learning. Its semi-enclosed teaching pod and hanging, multi-level studio, are not only engaging formal exercises, they also connect the upper four levels of the building to one another and offer fascinating proposals for modern modes of teaching.

Unsurprisingly, missing from the design proposal are dedicated studio spaces for students. Most likely, this is a briefing requirement from the faculty that recognises the impracticality of accommodating what must by now be more than 1,000 students across the various disciplines and year levels. Instead, students will be encouraged to appropriate the nooks and crannies of the building as they see fit. Much like contemporary workplace design, the fixed desk is now understood to be a hindrance to creative thinking and rich social interaction. Indeed, armed with a laptop and wireless internet connection, we see no reason why students won’t take to this approach also.

Typical studio room

What have we learnt?

As alumni of the ABP faculty at the University of Melbourne ourselves, we can attest personally to the need for a new building. The existing one may have been an interesting project achieved with great ambition and little means, however it has aged and, with one notable exception, no amount of renovations can change the fact that vast amounts of its rooms are uninspiring and under-utilised. The exception is the fifth floor and the final year studios contained within. With vast ceilings and majestic south-facing views over the city, we spent a happy year there working until the small hours, drinking copious amounts of tea and dreaming of the future. That year resulted in lasting lessons and indelible friendships. We will be sad to see those rooms go, and are sad that their spirit won’t be replaced.

That said, we are excited by JWA and NADAAA’s vision for the ABP faculty. Their design offers a smart urban engagement, rich programmatic flexibility, beautiful formal resolution and thoughtful detailing. We are certain it will be a successful institutional building, will establish a modern and flexible learning environment, and remain an inspiring example of good architecture to generations of architecture students.

We may no longer be students, but we do teach, and we can’t wait to be doing so in this long-awaited new building.

Northeast view from Spencer Road

VCA art workshops exhibition

What is it?

A recent exhibition of graduates’ work from three casual workshops held by the Victorian College of the Arts. The three workshops run across a full year, covering drawing, painting and sculpture disciplines.

The casual workshops have no entry prerequisites, trying to appeal to the widest possible audience. This is a commendable philosophy that establishes a great diversity in students, though it also has the inevitable result of a wide range in quality. Most of the works, we have to say, were not memorable. Trevor Liddell’s drawings and Angela Pye’s sculptural installation were exceptions – both real gems in the rough.

What did we think?

Liddell’s drawings, Neutra Series (above), are re-workings of photos of Richard Neutra’s modernist architecture. He successfully combines both cerebral and craft-driven techniques into vivid renderings of the great architect’s famous imagery. Through mirroring, selective deletion and exaggerated perspective, Liddell filters the original photos through a lens that exposes the core geometries  of modernist form-making. The fine line-work and warm tones of the drawings reveal a meditative process of making that further sharpen the works’ inherent beauty. The resultant, semi-abstract images are architectural, graphical and iconic.

Angela Pye’s sculpture, In Between, is a field of 200 slip-cast porcelain noses. Taken from the noses of 30 friends and family (including Pye’s own), both the finished work and the process of making them are experiments in proximity. Pye states that she is “intrigued by the distance between noses… as one of the protruding parts of the body and a defining feature as one gets closer to another.” Viewing the work, the first thought that comes to mind is how awkward and intimate its production must have been, a sentiment echoed by Pye: “It was fascinating to feel the initial awkwardness of being so close to someone and see this slowly dissolve.” In Between is a compelling work in equal parts empathetic and humorous.

Both Liddell and Pye demonstrate the consideration, technical skill and immaculate attention to detail typically found amongst experienced artists. That both have other “day” jobs and neither work full time as artists makes these attributes even more remarkable. We congratulate them both on their engaging works, thank the VCA for providing them the opportunity to practice and exhibit, and eagerly anticipate future contributions to the wider artistic discourse.

Remaking the Australia Pavilion

What is it?

Along with 30 other national pavilions, the Australia Pavilion is located in Venice’s Giardini, the site each year of the extraordinary Biennale di Venezia. In the late 1980s, Australia was given the opportunity to take one of the last plots within the Giardini, however it was necessary that we occupy the plot immediately lest we forfeit it to another country. Philip Cox donated his time to design a temporary pavilion that could secure the plot until a more permanent solution was found. The pavilion opened in 1988 and, as no-one ever got around to finding the permanent solution, still stands today.

The Australia Council for the Arts, owner of the pavilion and co-ordinator every second year of the Arts Biennale, has recently announced plans to finally rebuild the pavilion. They have set a nominal budget of between AU$4 and $6 million and declared they will hold an invitation-only ideas competition to establish a successful design.

What do we think?

We understand that the voice the pavilion gives to Australian design within the international framework of the Giardini is tired and outdated. It is true it has some historic value, its cement sheet cladding, expressed steel framing and curved tin roof being prevalent in Sydney bush architecture during the 1980s. However, this is not a widely shared part of our architectural heritage, nor can it be said to represent the modern Australia, a country with a diverse culture and mature artistic identity.

Even more damning is repeated claims that the pavilion does not work particularly well as an exhibition space. Having volunteered last year during the Architecture Biennale at Australia’s Now and When exhibition (discussed in a previous post, here), we found it to be adequate but not terribly inspired – perhaps the pavilion’s best quality is its chameleon-like ability to be transformed each year according to the current exhibition director’s vision.

Cox’s Australia Pavilion is a simple building that has done well to last as long as it has and should feel no shame in gracefully making way for a fully-considered building designed and built to persist. This is an opportunity to create a new design for the world stage that truly reflects Australia’s unique artistic and architectural identity. Thus it is in equal parts exciting that such a design is being considered, and disappointing that the Australia Council is pursuing a closed, invitation-only competition.

What should we learn?

Australia is a complex place. As the inestimable architectural historian, Philip Goad, has said, it is an archipelago of identities that resists easy characterisation. Finding a design for the new pavilion will be no mean feat – how to create one building that represents a nation with multiple peoples, geographies, histories and climates? To find evidence of this heterogeneity, we need look no further than Australia’s current artistic output – nowhere are so many disparate artistic directions being simultaneously pursued with such energy and verve.

As such an important supporter of the arts, the Australia Council should know this better than anyone. It is inexplicable that they wish to undertake a closed competition for the design of the Australia Pavilion, when they have an entire country of fresh ideas at their disposal. An open competition would do many things, all of them good: it would invoke a powerful burst of creativity from the architectural profession (which architect wouldn’t enter?); it would thrust the representational role of architecture into the wider public eye; and, ultimately, it would generate a new pavilion both of and for Australia.

(Christine Phillips and Tania Davidge have created this online petition calling for an open competition for the new Australia Pavilion. Sign it, we have)

Art Melbourne – Melbourne’s affordable art fair

(Natural Order by Janine Mackintosh)

What is it?

An annual fair held at the Royal Exhibition Buildings populated mostly by small art galleries and self-represented artists, both armed with affordable art pieces for sale (from our informal survey, prices generally range from AU$500 up to AU$7500, though a few small-scale pieces and prints go for less). The fair runs each year for one weekend only, this past Sunday its last day for 2011.

What did we think?

Lying somewhere between an art exhibition and a craft fair, the Affordable Art Fair is a lesson in wandering through a lot of unremarkable, instantly forgettable works to discover the few extraordinary gems lying in the rough. Lethbridge Gallery of Paddington, Brisbane, had one such gem in the warm and luxurious charcoal drawings of Yanni Floros. Unfinished Business is one of his best, the subject’s long, twisting ponytail has visible weight, its glossy surface textured and sexy.

(Unfinished Business and Hear No Evil by Yanni Floros)

Two other self-represented artists had a collection of particularly engaging works on show:

Janine Mackintosh‘s works in naturally sourced mixed media were stunning on first glance and got better and better the more we learned of her story. Living on Kangaroo Island, Mackintosh spends a lot of time trekking her bush property and the surrounding beaches collecting leaves, shells and pebbles. Departing from the techniques used by her husband in preserving his extensive insect collection, Mackintosh has evolved a patient and careful art of assembly.

The fastidious arrangement of Eucalyptus cneorifolia leaves and gumnuts in the aptly titled Natural Order (pictured at top) celebrates the inherent geometries of each, the curled and serrated edges of the leaves aligned with precision. Each leaf is tied to the backing canvas with neatly looped linen thread, a further mark of the skilled preservationist. Mackintosh’s compositions display a clear dedication to the natural world, their calm and unifying circular forms emphasising the uniqueness of each individual piece of her medium.

Will & Caro possess a similar interest in craft, though instead of the Australian bush, their butterfly assemblages explore the cultural traditions in origami-making. The immaculately folded butterflies are a repeated motif across their work, appearing in varied sizes, arrangements and colours. Our favourite is a sublime series of butterfly matrices that have been burnt in an oven for different periods, arranged in progressively burnt hues, from white through dusty golds to crisp chocolates. The irregularities produced by the burning process (through which, William Du notes, 20 – 30% of their already-folded butterflies are lost) contrasts against the severe order of the matrix.

The works of both Mackintosh and Will & Caro stood out and up within the exhibition. They are clearly artists dedicated to developing not only the ideas within their works but also the processes of their technique – considerate and thoughtful, their refreshingly hand-crafted approaches are a rarity in today’s digital age. They have fascinating stories to tell that transfer powerfully onto canvas, or in their particular cases, preservation board and Japanese paper.

What did we learn?

The Affordable Art Fair is an exhibition fine for a wander, however it can be too hit and miss to be considered a good general barometer of the most cutting edge art being produced in Melbourne and around Australia. We will wait for the Melbourne Art Fair (next taking place in August of next year), which has historically better fulfilled this role, to get a more comprehensive picture.

That said, we nevertheless walked away from our visit on Sunday with an important lesson learnt: the art that appeals to us most is multi-layered, with interwoven nuances creating a work of complexity that engages at first sight, but then continues to reward with subsequent viewings. We think there are plenty of artists and artworks possessing interesting ideas, plenty that reveal a creative eye and plenty that exhibit great technical skill. However, it is a rare thing indeed, and we think a fundamental necessity of good art, for the artist and the artwork to boast all three.

(Purity by Will & Caro)