“Mildura?” is the most typical response I’ve heard when I tell people I recently drove from Sydney to this rural Victorian destination.  The next most common response was “isn’t that where a lot of oranges come from?”.  In other words, no one I spoke to associated Mildura with art.

When I think about where to find great art in Australia, I typically think of the capital cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne since I live closest to them.  Then again, I have to say that I’ve seen some of the most interesting and unexpected art in rural and regional Australia.

Even the drive there offers some hidden treasures like the brilliant yellow fields of rapeseed rolling over the horizon giving way to the vast expanse of the Hay plains.  Just outside of Mildura, the spectacular Mungo National Park is a sensational place to be at sunset.

The town itself sits on the Murray River, not far from the confluence of the Darling and the Murray.  Mildura has a deep connection to the land and, as it turns out, a deep connection to art.

For a town of only 50,000 or so, including the surrounding areas, it certainly swings above its weight, with an extraordinary community support network for the arts.

The Art Vault is a rather remarkable gallery including artist studios, etching and lithography workshop areas and two artist residencies, which attracts an impressive list of Australian artists.  Sophie Gralton, popular Sydney artist, is in residency at the moment with her exhibition due to open on 22 September.

The community with the support of organisations like Arts Mildura, The Art Vault, local council and LaTrobe University offers a wide variety of festivals throughout the year.

One of the arts festivals I’ve enjoyed in the past is the Mildura Palimpsest.  This year, the festival (17-19 Sept) is a collaboration with the Australian Experimental Art Foundation (AEAF) celebrating the experimental art history of Mildura including the Mildura Sculpture Triennials. Seven site- specific works exploring the symposium theme (to) give time to time will be on display in addition to other events.

So the next time you’re thinking about wandering out of one of the capital cities, maybe Mildura will pop up on your list too. I’d love to hear if you’ve been there or if you have any other road trippin art adventures you can share. Nothing like a good road trip to welcome in Spring!

I’ve found myself unconsciously looking for inspiration lately. I wake out of a dreamy state imagining myself making photographs of the Northern Lights half way around the world. Maybe it’s just that spring has sprung and we’re all emerging from our winter slumber. Or maybe “life is but a dream” as the song goes.

I’m feeling like my artistic dreambank is low on fuel. I’ve surveyed my dodgy lists located on my phone, small snippets of paper tucked into the odd recesses of my handbag and drawers in my lounge, and come back relatively empty. So I’ve decided to consolidate my lists here (bit of spring cleaning!) to re-ignite my artistic pipeline….possibly add something to your list – and invite you to add on. I’m curious to see see what our collective dreams look like……

Here’s my start in no particular order:

1. Aurora Borealis over the Yukon , Canada

For me, the night sky is an artistic display in and of itself and this has been on my list for a long time….but with a new twist now: Recently I came across Rolf Helter’s photographs from the Yukon, Canada and was he’s inspired me to try to see the Northern Lights “dancing in front of a full moon”…..and possibly give some night photography a go to see if I can capture a glimpse of the magic.

2. Road Trippin….

I’ve seen some of the most amazing art in the most unexpected places. Road trips are a great way to explore the art world that is a bit off the beaten path….the things in the “spaces in between”. Maybe you’ve heard about them from a friend or maybe you just stumbled upon them on the way to someplace else. So here’s what I’m dreaming about next: a road trip along the WA south coast. I’ve heard about a few things: this little artistic community called Denmark and that there is some great live music in the spaces in between Esperance and Denmark. I’m planning to do this in October, so any info you can pass my way, that would be great!

3. Penrith Regional Gallery: Disorder Disorder Exhibit

I heard about this contemporary art exhibit from my fellow blogger on this site. This exhibit sounds like an eclectic and innovative collection of the art of the “disengaged”. It’s on until mid-November….

Collective Dreaming Project…..

Here’s the scoop: today I was discussing this post with my two fellow bloggers for this site and we all agree that it would be interesting to see where the collective dreaming list takes us.  We’d love to capture a list of the cool artistic things you’re dreaming about (whether you are the artist or the audience), heard about or want to connect to somehow.  Once we’ve gotten all the comments together, we’ll create a collaborative post to share the list and all the inspiration.   So send us your dreams…big or small!


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In the previous posts I was mostly talking about the galleries, festivals and exhibitions. But what if you are just walking down the street and do not have time for going to the gallery? Where can you expereince art in this case?

In my opinion, musicians on the Sydney’s streets: in the parks, in the central squares, on the alleys, almost everywhere, make Sydney even more dynamic from a cultural and artistic perspective. Walking down Market Street or Pitt Street Mall, I can nearly smell music and feel it in every cell of my body. I can stand for quite a time and listen to their music, some of them are really great musicians the others are amateurs. But, honestly, sometimes you come across people which have no sence of music and having graduated from a music school I really want to give them a strong advice that it is a good idea to train before the actual perfomance.

Usually passersby do not pay much attention to the musicians or just cast a glance at them. So I think, the only people who stop on the streets are people who really want to listen.

Musician on the street

Tom Ward

Recently, I saw a crowd gathering around a really outstanding musician within just 3 minutes. All these individuals became an instant community, connected by the love of music. Imperceptibly, music appeals to every gender, every age group and every culture – there is hardly an exception. Music, played on the streets of Sydney, is tremendously diverse. It suits every single taste, the same song touches different feelings and provokes various associations: laugh, smile, tears or melancholy. As a consequence, musicians get different responses from people. I have witnessed a case when one man decided to drop his pants and dance around in the middle of everyone for a while (he had underpants though).

I have never thought that people respond to music so differently until I asked musicians about their own experience. “It depends what time is it. If it is late at night on a Saturday night they usually dance. But I have been given Mexican hats, have been kissed a few times, I have even got some phone numbers.” says Tom Ward.

It does not really matter for someone who loves music where to play, unless it does not rain. “The location is not important for me what I take serious is my music” Sereo Leblanc, a guitarist who has played on the streets for 7 years. However, some people think that street musicians just distract and that it is not a real music. Once, someone walked pass Leblanc and said “Get a real job”. Music can even enhance a special moment. For example, once when Ward was playing at Circular Quay, a man came and requested something romantic. He wanted to propose to his girlfriend. When the music started to play, the man asked his future wife to marry him, and five people started crying. The music drew strangers into a very touching moment and connected them to the couple and to each other. Everyone was moved.

I wondered why these talented musicians play on the streets, when most have a musical education, a job and perform and record their own music. Asking musicians, I had various answers and reasons. “Playing on the streets gives me an opportunity to play to people who never go to a concert like homeless people or people who really love it” says Ward. This people cannot afford to go to the Opera House and spent one hundred dollars on a ticket, not even 20 dollars on a ticket. But they love live music and they want to enjoy it with all their hearts”. What is more, “Between the concerts I need to practice and it gives me an opportunity to improvise and get some repertoire” adds talented guitarist. Of course it also is about money and selling disks, promoting your music. Most of the street musicians don’t earn their living from playing on the streets but they can practice and understand that their creative work can be rewarded.

What musicians play directly affects their income. People prefer well-known songs, dance songs or the one they can sing along with. There is hardly someone who enjoys Chopin, Bach or Tchaikovsky for more than thirty minutes. “Playing repertoire for a competition, I make a quarter of the money I would made playing show pieces” exclaims Ward. “But it’s ok as long as people enjoy and listen”.

I can’t imagine Sydney without its magnificent atmosphere made by musicians from all over the world playing different instruments. It is so exciting to listen to music which seems to be wild in some way and appealing in the other. So music and art follow you everywhere in Sydney and you can experience them even on the streets.

Go out and start experiencing right now!

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My Australian friend once told me “You know, I have watched few Russian movies and they are so different… like if you breathe a fresh frosty air in the middle of the desert called mainstream movies”. This emotional response of my friend confused me and I asked if she could describe Russian movies in one word. My friends answer was:

They are cordial.

Is not it extraordinary that someone who lives in the other part of the world and has no Russian background feels such a close connection to Russian cinema?

Have YOU ever seen Russian movies? Probably not…But it is never too late to catch up and the Russian film festival is offering you this opportunity.

The Russian film festival “Russian Resurrection 2010” is taking place in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney. The program of the festival features 17 contemporary films as well as retrospective on the World War II.  This year is the seventh instalment of Russian Resurrection.

The festival will be held till the 5th September in Melbourne, till the 8th September in Brisbane, till the 15th September in Perth and Adelaide and till the 19th September in Canberra. Unfortunately, it has already finished in Sydney on the 1st September.

All movies shown at the film festival can award you with a fascinating experience, what you want to undergo depends just on your choice of a movie. But I would recommend that  you first of all see particular movies. Let me be your guide into Russian movies, since I have Russian background and I wil do my best to suggest the best once for your viewing.

Hard Labor Vacation

Hard Labor Vacation is a comedy filmed in 2009. It features some famous and popular Russian actors and tells about two prisoners who after escaping a jail accidently get into a children summer camp. In the camp they are mistaken for a new-come Pioneer Leaders. And they have to undertake this role in order to not be caught by a police but as they find out later serving time in prison can be safer and less challenging then in the summer camp among energetic and rebellious teenagers.

From my own experience, I can say that the movie is hilarious, however, the humor in the film is quite sophisticated. Hard Labor Vacation is truthful and different to any “glamour” style movie. It  shows ordinary people in a bit unordinary situation, real friendship and relationships between parents and children as well as ability of even an inveterate law-breaker to be off the beam.

Peter on his way to heaven

Made in 2009, Peter on his way to heaven movie totally justifies its genre (drama/comedy) by making the viewer burst out laughing or burst into tears. The movie has won several awards and was celebrated by critics. Peter on his way to heaven is about a young mentally retarded man called Peter. The whole Soviet village participates in trying to make Peter feel important by letting him play into a policeman. The climax starts when Peter tries to catch a fugitive criminal.

I have experienced this movie during Russian Resurrection festival in Sydney. The movie is engaging and challenging, it gives you food for reflection on the theme of a man and a law, how all the people want to be in charge and feel important. What surprises me most is that as a viewer you do not feel sorry for a retarded man, you don’t feel laughing at him as well. The director makes the viewer respect Peter for his kindness, honesty and desire to help everyone.

Ivan’s Childhood

Ivan’s childhood is filmed by a world-known Russian director, Andrei Tarkovsky, in 1962.

During the war everyone faces loss, and twelve year-old Ivan is not an exception. His mother and sister were executed by shooting by Nazis, his father died on a battlefield.   A little boy is desperate to take revenge and his dreams are the only bridge which connects him with lost and so desirable “normal childhood”.

Everybody dies but me

Filmed in 2008 and screened in 2010, Everybody dies but me is directed by a contemporary and controversial Russian female director, Valeriya Gai Germanika. The whole process of filming was controvercial as well. Actors are really fighting and drinking real alcohol. Mostly the filming is hand-held and contains abusive language.

The storyline itself provokes ferocious comments from may viewers. It tells about tree girls who are preparing for a school disco and at the same time do their routine. They want to grow up as soon as possible, however, their parents and teachers obviously do not understand rebellious desire of girls to be counted as  grown-ups. The disco itself is preparing many “surprises” and unexpected situations for girls.

So what can I add now but enjoy!

P.S.I can also mention that the 3D cartoon Belka & Strelka is the first 3D animated film ever made in Russia, so it can be counted as a considerable progress in the Russian film technology.

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Photograph made by Bruno Benini

Photograph made by Bruno Benini

Do you need to be special to understand Art?

Do you need to have sophisticated knowledge in this area?

My answer is NO.

You can appreciate art if it evokes emotions in you, if you feel communication between you and the art. And I do strongly believe that this emotional approach of understanding is one hundred times better than any academic approach where you consider the technique, components, etc. Because personal experience worth as much as an academic degree.

People tend to censor their thoughts and ideas about art. They feel not educated enough to be able to actually talk about it.

This process takes its origins from the art being originally an “upper class activity”, currently, it still has this notion of elitism. Moreover, the art circle is so tight that even for those who have an art degree or experience it is inconceivably difficult to cut their way into this elite community.

Art tends to be for a specific group of people.

Some people create, selected critique.

Critique usually comes in a form which from a very beginning underlines that the author had a proper art education, since the critique is heavy on terminology and “high” concepts. It does not allow general audience, who might be scared away by this sophisticated writing, to engage with the art and to understand that art is for everybody.

Would you mind if I make a parallel between art and religion?

The art is like a God. And an art critic is like a priest. Not necessary do people need to go to the priest to talk to the God, so why do we need to go the art critic to talk to the art? Critics interpret art to the audience. But why don’t we interpret it by ourselves?

Actually, in the process of creating the critique, critics dismantle the art and it becomes unrecognizable. Let’s draw an analogy with a puzzle. By analyzing, critics are pulling the pieces of the puzzle apart, and then the whole picture does not make sense. But when everything is together, you are able to appreciate and to respond.

To be clear, I am not against critics, I just think that critique should be some kind of an additional literature, not the main source of knowledge. People should not be afraid to go to the art exhibition, at the same time, they should not hesitate to express their opinions. Who cares if a critic said this painting is a disaster, if another person looking at it started crying, emotionally responding. In my opinion, first of all, art should seek response, it should resonate.

This is why, being not a photographer, I went to the photography exhibition. And now I am going to talk about it.

The exhibition called Creating the look: Benini and fashion photography is held at Powerhouse museum until 18 April 2011.

I have found out for myself that Powerhouse museum is a real treasure chest when it comes to any sort of art. It has such a big variety of works that a week might not be enough to have a really close look at everything that is on at the moment.

Creating the look: Benini and fashion photography presents photographs from a different period of Benin’s life alongside with some works of contemporary photographers, influenced by his talent and style.

Success of Bruno Benini proves that behind every talented man there is a talented woman. In Benini’s case this was his wife stylist Hazel Benini. Together they have produced some of the most remarkable fashion images in the history of Australia.

So being not a professional photographer, hardly can I assess this exhibition form a deep perspective, however, I can say that I did enjoy it. I would describe photos I saw there as glossy, glamorous, stylish and extremely elegant. They were different to any fashion photography you see today.

Photograph made by Bruno Benini

Photograph made by Bruno Benini

The photos were sophisticated.

Full stop, I said my opinion on the art form about which I know nothing. Now it is your turn to experience the exhibition and to make a comment on this post.

Or are you afraid to make a comment…

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Being an Australian on a rainy day sucks. Having electric-blue skies and a spectacularly radiant sun almost all year round, you most certainly don’t expect a rainy day nor are you really ever ready for it. It ruins plans, moods and newly straightened hair.

My rosy trip to the indoor exhibitions at the Australian Centre for Photography was the perfect pick-me-up for such a wet and dreary day!

With everyone owning an SLR and an opportunity to get photos ‘out there’ on platforms like Flickr seeing Australian-born Robyn Beeche’s exhibition London Calling introduced a new style of photography to me which was a breathe of fresh air!

With a unique fusion of unorthodox uses of makeup as art and ordinary human faces as canvases, Beeche has captured the 70’s/80’s era with élan.

This collection of photographs truly showed the breadth of Beeche’s talent. I couldn’t help noticing a David Bowie vein in the makeup. The most mesmerising aspect of it all was the artistry in the makeup, which, veered on optical illusions!

Scarlett 3 Faces by Robyn Beeche

Along with the two-dozen photographs there was an über-quirky video of Beeche talking about her art. Something that stuck with me was one’s sartorial choice was once a form of expression, a way of rejecting the orthodox, the social norms of the day by creating your own identity in dressing up but nowadays, that has eroded with everyone replicating the norms and easily yielding to conformity. That made me really think more about how I visually and sartorially represent myself…

dressing up was a way of transgressing boundaries and declaring an individual identity. Beeche’s documentation of this period was as political as it was personal. Her images celebrated difference and diversity long before issues of gender, sexuality and identity gained mainstream acceptance

Have you ever thought of makeup and fashion as strong way of expressing yourself and creating a particular identity?

Do you conform to mainstream fashion or do you flout it and dress differently?

The exhibition will be running until the 28 August. Everyone must go see it!

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I ran across this question recently and when I couldn’t come up with an immediate response, I jumped onto the internet to explore it.  There is much written about the definition of art and what art means from the point of view of art historians, art educators and established artists and indeed I found a whole lot of interesting commentary from this perspective.

But I persevered, hoping to find a broader collection of ideas from the sort of “un-establishment”. I wanted to hear what everyday peopIe had to say because I’ve heard some of the most profound observations from the most unexpected sources…..like my 5 year old neighbor who reminded me that “Art is heart. Get it?”.  Out of the mouths of babes……

And then I ran across a project sponsored by the Australia Council for the Arts called “What Makes Me”.  Via their website, they are inviting everyone to create a cube of images, audio or video to express what art means to them. You’re in for a real treat….get to know some great Australians and get a glimpse into how they see art in their lives.

What Makes Me Website

Here are some of the beautiful people I met there:

Gillian who reminded me that art is magical and introduced me to a whole different concept of pole dancing (and its not what you’re thinking)!

Jenny who showed me the playful side of art and how its part of her everyday life…as it would be if you lived just over the road from a circus performer!

Snowy, a music lover (with a great nickname) who talks about the the lyrics of The Doors. Some nostalgia and good memories there!

And finally Kylie, as in Kylie Kwong, who mesmerised me with the way she drew parallels between her love of food and her love of modern dance through the lens of Zen masters. Food for the soul…..

“What Makes Me” just confirms for me that art really is for everyone and there are places where artists and non-artists can come together to talk about their experiences with it. I loved being in that space today. For me, art is like love: multidimensional, provocative, heartbreaking, electrifying, inspiring….but most importantly, something we all share.

So…..what does art mean to you?

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