Friday 2 December 2016

RMIT Swanston Academic Building - the camouflaged chameleon

A distressing eyesore or a symbol of innovative vibrancy? The RMIT Swanston Academic Building is bound to create topics of interest and invoke incessant discussions. True to its usual eccentricity, Lyons Architects played with the audacious concept of a camouflaged chameleon and shook up the central-north landscape of the CBD with something out of ordinary.

The geometrically tricky scales of the structure were arranged in bold colour scheme that roars and rumbles. Anodized aluminum panels dyed in bright yellow, sky blue and sharp orange folded and posited at different angles. Numerous triangular windows display subtle reflections on translucent surfaces, accentuating the kaleidoscopic choice of its wild designers.

The structure reminds us of a distorted Rubik’s Cube that went out of shape, or a Hensel and Gretel’s gingerbread house with a contemporary metallic twist. The building curves and bends mischievously, creating peculiar dimensional illusions with its odd arches and jagged corners. Protruded and concaved spaces stood in gravitational defiance, surrounded rebelliously by spiky and uneven edges. The design mocks boring symmetry with its irregular elements and lopsided features. It unleashes a wail of freedom and a desire to discard any boundary yet to be pushed or challenged.

The surprises stop not at its attention grasping façade. Its interior is equally exciting. Like a Picasso’s colour palette encountering its newfound liberty, the inner space is a shimmering modern venue divided into several independent or interconnected settings draped in thrilling cloaks. Think of flexible swivel chairs and cheeky green tables in funky shape, industrial style ceiling and Manhattan jazz club’s chesterfield lounges in golden brown, Height-adjustable bar stools and rustic wood wall, bright orange lecture theatre and full height glass window partially obscured by grey zigzag structure. The interior is a series of chemistry experiments involving numerous mismatched items; the outcomes of which, surprisingly, rhyme and chime quite harmoniously in their most unusual way.

The building wears the prestigious Five Star Green Rating badge, and proudly lives up to its reputation as a green campus on a daily basis. Numerous sustainable functions and environmental strategies, both visible and invisible, were employed vigorously to maintain its standard of resource-efficiency: natural light utilization, natural ventilation mode, rainwater retention system, energy saving lighting, and solar powered hot water. The building might be aesthetically controversial, but its intelligence and functionality are perhaps indisputably top-class and definitely deserve to take home the prize. 


445 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Trump in a nameless lane

Trump has won. Yes, that public bigot who prides himself of his obscure ability to build an impenetrable Southern wall at the expense of his hateful Mexicans; the delusionist who challenges President Obama’s citizenship status without a care of any tangible or intangible evidence; the narcissistic billionaire and misogynic playboy who has no qualms calling women “beautiful pieces of ass”; the disgusting demagogue that plays with the flame of racial tension; the xenophobic that openly insulted the Muslim brothers’ faith and mocked the Asian accent.

Trump is ridiculous, outrageous, and absolutely unbelievable. He is that white supremacist whose vulgarism and intolerant views instigated unprecedented hatred towards immigrants. He is that unashamed racist that hurled dangerous remarks and openly incited violence against minorities. His strategies and purported visions were contentious, if not insane: Muslims were to be banned from entering and touching the soil of America, 11 million undocumented immigrants were to be rounded up and deported. He bragged incessantly about his superb brainpower, made fun of the disabled, and boasted about his irresistible charm on The Apprentice women.

I can go on forever, but it will not alter the disgraceful voting outcome. The world watched with incredulity when Trump made his victory speech. It was difficult and painful to make sense of what has just happened. Shockwaves were felt at every corner of the globe, and some still tremble from its aftermath.  

Enough said. Please enjoy some lovely street arts in this nameless lane off Queen Street, where you can find a vandalistic Harry-Potter house elf, a colourful grinning duck, a rightfully yellow Bart Simpson, and a devilish-looking Trump.


Off Queen Street, parallel to Franklin Street, near Queen Victoria Market.

Thursday 13 October 2016

Chiharu Shiota - and her entangled webs

Audaciously massive and intriguingly mysterious, Japanese-born Chiharu Shiota’s art installations are scenes of entangled webs comprising sophisticated knots, loops and loose ends. Imagine walking down a labyrinthine of memory lanes dangling with colourful correspondence trapped within confusing black threads, or navigating the enveloping darkness in a maze of tunnels surrounded by rusted or paint-peeled doors wrapped with suffocating twine. Chiharu’s art pieces are atmospheric, perplexing and open to each spectator’s liberal interpretation.

The Berlin-based artist leaves her signature around the world by entrapping nostalgically inspiring objects with colossal web of strings. Innumerable keys in gold and bronze were held captive by a vast red tangled net, swayed ominously above a discarded old boat. Pile of vintage suitcases cascaded down from a ceiling of meshed red cords; white classic dresses from the Elizabethan era hid obscurely behind a gigantic web of complex intricacy. Ancient piano, footwear of varied sizes and styles, white hospital beds, wooden furniture and other tangible items revolve around the constant theme of black or red yarn.

Chiharu’s “The Home Within” is a large-scale architectural structure of complicated lines woven and interlaced into a fiery house in red. The dimensionally challenging work will tour around the Meat Market and Melbourne Town Hall in the coming weeks. A separate solo exhibition of Chiharu Shiota is now showcased at the Melbourne Anna Schwartz Gallery. 

“The Home Within” Exhibition: -
Meat Market                          10 - 20 Oct 2016      10 am- 6pm
Melbourne Town Hall           23 Oct 2016              10 am – 6pm

Solo Exhibition: -
Anna Schwartz Gallery, 185 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
6 Oct – 5 Nov 2016

Chiharu Shiota’s Webite:

Thursday 29 September 2016

The Jesus Trolley

Street preaching, an unenviable vocation amidst the secular urban space, bearing both glad tidings to the willing souls and noisome message to the stonehearted. The unordained and unaffiliated status of the preachers is often frowned upon by the denominations and orthodox. Their (sometimes) rowdy voices irritate both common atheists and street traders alike. Their uncompromising call for repentance is often ill received, and their gloomy prediction of death and hell attracts insults and abuses.

Yet some chose to tread along the undesirable path. One of whom is Desmond Hynes, the faithful yet somewhat eccentric man who spent three decades proselytizing at the thoroughfares of Melbourne city. He was a familiar fixture frequently seen in the immediate vicinity of Bourke Street Mall, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and the Flemington Racecourse. Like a modern day Jeremiah, he sang praises to God and condemned sins at market places and vibrant street walks.

It was difficult not to notice Desmond Hynes and his evangelizing activities. His hand painted placards and signature Jesus trolleys joyously screamed for attention wherever they arrived with an occasional playful “Oh Yeah” inserted alongside the heartwarming and solemn slogans. Utilizing materials gathered from op shops and unwanted objects, the freelance street preacher prolifically created numerous visually stimulating, albeit unrefined, typographic artworks.

Bold, rudimentary uppercase letterings in huge-sized san-serif font were drawn unrestrictedly with enamel and acrylic paint on cardboard, fabric, plastic, canvas and T-shirts. The words conveyed were urgent and imperative. Exclamation mark and single underline were liberally used throughout the brightly coloured final products for emphasis purposes. Desmond Hynes travelled around with his famous shopping trolleys and visibly signs, giving out both impromptu and planned sermons for passersby within earshot.

Describing himself as a former gambler and fornicator, Desmond Hynes is eager to publicly testify to his life changing experience and fulfill a vow well kept since the episode of bowel cancer scare in year 1986. It was a wonderful sight of a passionate sinner turned believer insanely yet zealously professing his love for the Saviour openly with no fear of ridicule. The acts were amateurish and slightly rough-edged, but sincere and utterly moving.


The Jesus Trolley: 30 years of Desmond Hynes pushing art and Jesus on the streets of Melbourne


8 September to 24 December 2016


City Galley, Melbourne Town Hall

Sunday 18 September 2016

Outre Gallery - home for the underground art

Elizabeth Street is a noisy trading hub for the avid motorcyclists, a gadget Mecca for the photography aficionados, and a concentrated venue of robust Asian eateries. Yet amidst the blaring retail stereo and ostentatious electronic devices, sits an oasis of non-conventional arts and an exhibition platform for all things lowbrow and underground. Outre Gallery is the custodian of the eccentric and iconic. It is a podium for the alternative movement and a rigorous advocate of pop surrealism.

Outre Gallery houses a collection of smashing artworks embedded with hidden codes and messages. Some audaciously poke fun at the mainstream cultures and social conventions; some gleefully display their dark humour and sarcasm camouflaged beneath the gorgeous and innocent façade.

The discerning eyes will immediately recognize the inimitable mid-century art style of the prolific Shag. Utilizing highly intensified saturated colours, Shag’s artworks are a manifestation of swankiness belonging to the high-end society: distortedly skinny men in their tight-fitting tuxedo dinner suits, women of curvy shape draped in leopard spot dresses, stylish bouffant hairstyles, sleuth-looking black kittens, sexy stiletto heels and classy martini glasses. The paintings are a series of unashamed and unapologetic scenes of bitchiness, jealousies and scandals.

Next in the unmissable list is Mark Ryden’s twisted fantasy involving incredibly romantic wide-eyed girls, fairytale-like creatures, elaborate Elizabethan era costumes, nostalgic old toys, skeletons, and eerie-looking monsters. The paintings flirt with one’s innocence, spiritual beliefs and inner dark thoughts. Think stunning young girl with ash blond hair wearing outrageous outfit made of bloody red meats, strolling gracefully in surrealistically beautiful garden. Each composition is stunningly pretty and outright ridiculous, quietly yet sinisterly sneers at our assumed simplicity.

Other noteworthy artworks include the dreamlike Utopian community of miniature beings by the husband and wife duo APAK, Horitomo’s tattooed cats, Matte Stephens’s modern cities in flat perspective, playful retro illustrations by Derek Yaniger, and the deafening mysterious worlds created by Andy Kehoe.


249 Elizabeth St, Melbourne


Friday 2 September 2016

ACDC Lane - in a sea of regal purple

Year 2016 is a curious and downhearted year to the universe of Rock and Roll. In April, the world grieved the departure of its music legend Prince while trying to grapple the reshuffling shock of Axl Rose becoming the lead vocalist of AC/DC. Three months later, 66-year-old bass guitarist Cliff Williams announced his intention of leaving AC/DC, a gesture carrying with it the possible ramification of terminating the lifespan of Australia’s favourite and oldest rock band.

ACDC Lane silently mourns the royal loss of Prince and reflects upon the uncertainties surrounding AC/DC by draping its wall in shades of regal purple. The previous kaleidoscopic hue of colours was replaced by street arts of a constant colour theme, transforming a highly neglected alleyway into the most harmoniously soothing gallery in Melbourne.

The lane pays homage to Prince with an enormous mural tribute of lilac backdrop, alongside Augus Young and his white-magenta devil horns. A fearsome gorilla with a massive mulberry nose gazed intently ahead, while a predator-disguised flower in bright violet gluttonously swallows a pink-eyed beetle. Music instruments of distorted shapes, washed over by a sea of lavender, congregated at the entry point of the lane. A grotesque-looking foetus and a mother cow in human form sent a sweep of silent eeriness across the place, adding a touch of mysteriousness to the enigmatic wall of ACDC Lane.

(Photos taken in August 2016) 


Off Flinders Lane, between Exhibition and Russell Street 

See also my previous post on ACDC Lane: