Friday, August 20, 2010

Toxic Shite Should Always Be Properly Labelled.

Here's a little something just freshly delivered to the Arsegravy desk, most likely from the surgeon general or local equivalent. Just in time too! Boy, I nearly drank that.
And at the dawning of the last shopping day til a superkeen nation is led, doubtless dizzy with participatory electoral pride, up the garden path of their nearest state school to sample some sausage sizzle & make a carefully considered contribution to the delightful democratic confetti, it really is impossible for me not to cross my fingers & hope... August does not spawn a monster.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Fabulous Forum Theatre

I'm conscious of the danger of making every post into a crazy rant from the cranky old man. So for a change, here's something I love.
When I was a kid the family used to come down to Melbourne for holidays & catch up with rellies & friends. As a result I always had an affection for the place - the smell of the air (which I later realized was a combination of gas leaks & leaded-petrol fumes, but what can ya do?), the diffuse light that was so unlike the blazing nuclear-war intensity of north Queensland, the cool weather... and the amazing old buildings. Given the relatively recent arrival in Australia of europeans, I guess most places in the world wouldn't consider any construction here to be truly old. But having grown up in a state where heritage always came off second best to "development" and historically significant buildings could literally vanish under wrecking ball & dozer in the middle of the night (when the right mates slipped ministers the appropriately stuffed paper bag - or backed up the right size dump truck, if you count the more ambitious under-the-table investment relationship between notoriously corrupt then-Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen & industrialist Leslie Theiss, among many others), Melbourne looked positively like The Grand Tour.
And so, large chunks of Melbourne are close to my heart. Some of them I can't even be objective about. The Forum Theatre is a good example. We visited it when I was so young I still wasn't totally sure if it was open air - so convincing to a 6 year old was the carefully painted & lit high ceiling, made to look like the night sky twinkling with stars. It also has a weird Mysterious Orient flavour to the exterior, which I'm told is part of the Moorish Revival movement popular in the mid-nineteenth century. . It was designed by American architect John Eberson & opened in 1929, seating over 3000 people & accommoding a Wurlitzer organ with 21 rows of pipes. Sadly the organ is no more. But it still houses all kinds of oddities - little alcoves with fake Greek statues in the lobby, balcony areas either side of the stage populated with more statues & fake pine trees with a stuffed bird suspended above them (!), as well as a beautiful proscenium arch & lots of sculpted floral & seashell decoration. It might well tip over into kitsch. If it does I just don't care. Can't be objective. Love it.
It's possible we saw Back to the Future there. Memory's a little hazy, but that rings a bell. If we did, it must have been one of the last films they showed back then, because the same year that Doc Brown & Marty McFly dodged the Libyans & took a plutonium powered DeLorean plus a walkman full of Van Halen to the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance - 1985 -  Greater Union sold the Forum to an oddball evangelical group called Revival Centres International. In the next ten years, while they spoke in tongues to each other (not kidding), the place was allowed to run down. The worship stopped when the church was split over the vexed issue of there being nothing but eternal fiery damnation for those who chose to have sex before marriage. I'm not making this up. More than half of their flock left the herd because of objections over this one. Hopefully they found someplace new & sensible, where they could speak in tongues and get jiggy wit it.
Anyway, these days its a brilliant live music & events venue. Last week the Melbourne International Film Festival wound up, with the Forum once again making a terrific Festival Club. My friend & fellow illustrator Pam & I stopped in to hear American director Joe Dante talk movies with Paul Harris from RRR's Film Buffs Forecast. Good company, great coffee & free Brunetti's cake - all under the faux night sky of one of my favourite places in Melbourne. Sometimes life is sweet.

The Forum. A big fave.

The greatness of the decorative Griffin.

Wonder how the revivalists felt about this guy?

The deluxe, slightly bizarre antechamber to the toilets..

Forum as MIFF Club, Joe Dante on stage.

Archway lion, just off the foyer.

Gargoylish lobby observation.

The Romans and their stuffed bird, above stage left.

Decorative flourish on descent to the gents.

One of the many wall alcoves.

Proscenium & coffee. All good.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fresh Fish Really Hits The Spot!

Had to post this one. A beautiful production still from the sequel to Creature From The Black Lagoon, courtesy of Ain't It Cool via Gus H. Touching to know cross-species romance ain't dead.

Creature from the Black Lagoon. Catch of the day.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Heros & Villians.

The Liberal Party, now out & proud as Conservatives (in all but party name of course) had its big campaign launch today. You might wonder why this would happen a fortnight after the announcement of the election. Building the breathless anticipation of an excited nation? Nah. Apparently the reason both the major parties leave it late as possible is because it's only when the launch occurs that the parties are obliged to start paying their own way. Up to that point it's all paid for by the public purse. So you go as late as you can, naturally. The Labor Party, still in the closet about its own conservatism (in all but deed of course), launches next week.
Shortly after being welcomed by a 90 second ovation current Lib leader Tony Abbott described an elderly gent down the front as "A HERO!" Perhaps it was an attempt stir memories of George W's "Man of Steel" sentiment, because yes, the ol' hero was of course the Deputy Sherriff and philosophical wind beneath Tony's wings, John Winston Howard. Having brushed off his recent rejection by the International Cricket Council & the accompanying reruns of film of him repeatedly & unsuccessfully attempting to bowl a cricket ball, the former PM entered the campaign with obvious relish. And why wouldn't he? Abbott's vision is simple -  the Howard Years rerun in lycra instead of tracksuit. Man of Steel, father of Iron Man. 3 years go by & the electorate are now bathed in nostalgia for the time of a leader whose slippery deceits were so notorious that his own cabinet & colleagues nicknamed him "The Lying Rodent." Good to have the bar set so heroically high.
Given all that, I figured I should join in the commemoration by dusting off a couple of my pics. The first is called "Catch His Fire (Fahrenheit 457)" & dates from the thrilling time when the Howard team were both courting the Catch The Fire ministries evangelical vote and overseeing the rorted 457 working visa, which charged foreign workers large sums to come to Australia & get screwed over on wages or do work they hadn't agreed to (abattoir work, for example). Any complaints would see them sent home. Around the same time the PM was also attacking schoolteachers & various academics for being "idealogical". All that ironfisted far-rightness with its eyes on shutting down debate reminded me of Beatty the Firechief in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 - a cunning, well-informed zealot, burning up books & people "for the good of humanity". At one point he says, "fire's real beauty is that it destroys responsibility & consequences. A problem gets too burdensome, then into the furnace with it." Perfect for the era of the Hot Button Issue, with all of its deliberate stoking of angry heat & none of the light of informed debate.
The second image was made after the 07 election, when boredom rather than any ethical considerations saw JH finally ejected from office. A scene from the end of the old Flash Gordon movie came to mind. The one where the apparently unkillable & dastardly emperor Ming the Merciless is at last despatched by impalement. Howard's own political hero, Robert Menzies, was nicknamed "Ming".  It seemed like a fitting tribute.

Catch His Fire
Hail Ming!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

These Rocks Don't Lose Their Shape. Unfortunately.

For those who came in late, the high-voltage excitation of a federal election is currently coursing through the lumpen mass of the country's body politic. Prognosis is of course poor, two heads one brain, a deformed basket case version of any genuine ideals, I can't go on I'll go on, etc..  To celebrate this fabulous event I thought I should post two little gems from a couple of those cartoonists I was getting all worshipful of. The Leunig is only from a few years back, but the Pryor piece, which feels like it's straight outta last week - is from 1977. How sad is that? Oh, and apologies if the picture quality isn't great - they were photographed straight off our fridge. Yep, it's that kind of fridge.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A bunch of recent works.. and some explaining.

Thought I should put up clearer pics of some of the pieces from the exhibition - and probably explain some stuff. It didn't occur to me when I booked it, but the exhibition I had in May was actually my first ever show. Over the years I'd done commercial work & included art in group projects, but never put up a collection all my own. Maybe that comes from the Illustrator background - usually you produce work specifically to serve a narrative, often provided by someone else, and normally that's the person who pays you. The work is seen by others when it gets used for the author or publishers purpose & you move on. From an Illustrators point of view exhibitions can seem like the preserve of the Fine Artist. Or maybe that was just from THIS Illustrators pov & I just never compared notes enough to notice it was bollocks. And then in the last ten years I slowed the making-pics right down & didn't think about it much.. Given all that, I'm really happy it didn't crash n burn horribly.

The work in the show came partly from years of enjoying political cartoons - from Larry Pickering's endless knob gags of the 70's & 80's (although probably not his bonkers right-wing misogyny) through Geoff Pryor's beautiful draughtsmanship & general smarts in the Canberra Times, I've always admired these guys. Ron Tandberg, Bill Leak, Peter Nicholson (the brilliant Rubbery Figures man, for us fossils who remember it..), Michael Leunig, Cathy Wilcox, Mark Knight.. what a spectacular bunch. And that's just in this country. Anybody who's missed out on em should really go & have a look - they're worth it. And at a time of exclusive concentration by the media/public feedback loop on the sizzle rather than the steak, there don't seem to be many others apart from this lot quite as genuine or dogged in attempting to nail the PR stooges & wind-up toys that run everything now. Love em.

Another thing that had been on my mind for a while was stenciling - my favourites were always the ones that served the same purpose as political cartoons. I could go into detail, but you know how slow I write. Its late. Gotta keep it short! Oh, by the way, hope it doesn't sound like I'm saying my stuff is just like the guys above. I only mentioned all of that in an attempt to explain that their work inspires me - & that I really enjoy art with some reasonably well-formed idea behind it. Having said that, you can now scoff openly at how poorly my own pictures line up with that concept.

The Easter Tradition

Known Unknowns

Massive Cock



The 8 Arms of Highly Effective Cthulhu

Avoidance Behaviour