• Outside Flinders Street Station

    Outside Flinders Street Station (c. 1960)

    Mark STRIZIC

    Full details
    Notes
    In the first years of his career as a photographer, European émigré artist Mark Strizic was actively engaged in photographing his new home: the city of Melbourne. In his photographs from the early 1950s the city is shown as a benign entity, a cosmopolitan centre bustling with sophisticated and urbane people. Over the course of that decade, however, Strizic’s view of the city was to alter. The city centre is shown in this photograph as a place of business and commerce, with individuals negotiating the city streets with an air of isolation and loneliness.
  • Gas and Fuel

    Gas and Fuel (2002)

    Callum MORTON

    Full details
    Notes

    Callum Morton's works or installations sit somewhere between architecture and sculpture. They explore our interaction and relationship with the built environment, and how we encounter, perceive or experience personal and communal space.

    The Gas and Fuel buildings were a pair of utilitarian high-rises that were much maligned by the public and demolished in 1996–1997 to make way for Federation Square in Melbourne’s city centre. In Gas and Fuel, Morton revisits these buildings with a sense of irony and pathos in his 1:34 scale model.

    The model includes a barely audible voice, activated from within one of the towers. The words ‘Help me. Please help me!’ were taken from the soundtrack from the final scene of the 1958 movie The Fly, where the insect-sized man-fly, trapped in a spiders web, pleads for a rescue that won’t ever come.

  • St. Kilda Road

    St. Kilda Road 1988

    Louise FORTHUN

    Full details
    Notes

    This large-scale abstract painting is based on a night view of St Kilda Road, Melbourne. The Arts Centre and the surrounding buildings, which line the main artery to Melbourne's central business district, are seen from an aerial perspective with Albert Park in the distance.

    Forthun uses stencils to create the image in black and red, with white to emphasise the lights in windows and streets. The use of plasterers' cornice adhesive on plywood creates surface texture. This shows the artist's willingness to experiment with a wide range of materials and invent new techniques, moving away from traditional oil on canvas.

    Forthun is interested in familiar things, in particular city structures as a major source of inspiration. She shows the city as an exciting structure full of life rather than as an alienating place.

  • The Melbourne panels

    The Melbourne panels 2003

    Jon CATTAPAN

    Full details
    Notes

    The contemporary city has been a central theme in Jon Cattapan’s painting in recent decades.The Melbourne panels demonstrate the artist’s continuing interest in panoptic views and the psycological mapping of urban space.

    Each panel in this triptych reveals an iconic fragment of Melbourne city, a glittering metropolis suspended above layered fields of colour. Shimmering networks of light outline the various forms of the nocturnal city, and give the effect of sparkling constellations in the night sky. The recognisable forms of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Federation Square and city grid skyscrapers flicker against the colour-saturated ground.

  • Melbourne capriccio 3

    Melbourne capriccio 3 2009

    Jan SENBERGS

    Full details
    Notes

    Melbourne capriccio 3 is a part of a series of urban map paintings that trace the distinctive contours of well-known cities and locations, such as the cityscape and surrounding suburbs of Melbourne. Drawing on memory and recognition, the maps present a nostalgic sense of place and familiarity while also confounding our understanding of traditional mapmaking practices. While it is possible to distinguish well-known landmarks such as the Arts Centre, the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Albert Park Lake in this painting, the topography is sufficiently abstracted and imaginary to defy the accuracy required of a cartographic map.

    Distortions of scale, and the chaotic tangle of streets and buildings within an urban setting, are typical of Senbergs’s artistic practice. While presenting an intriguing view of the cityscape, his paintings often ominously allude to a sense of dystopia and encroaching urbanism on the landscape.


Melbourne

Seeing modern and contemporary Melbourne

Melbourne has changed dramatically over the past century. New roads have been built, suburbs have sprawled and skyscrapers have climbed ever higher. Artists have diligently recorded the maturing city, documenting its transition through modernity to the present day.

  • Melbourne and modernity

    Mark Strizic’s photographs of Melbourne in the 1950s show the city as a cosmopolitan centre bustling with sophisticated and urbane people, but his view altered over the course of that decade. The city centre is shown in this photograph as a place of business and commerce, with individuals negotiating the city streets with an air of isolation and loneliness.

    The alienation of the city and of Melbourne’s growing suburbs became a dominant theme for Melbourne’s artists, including John Brack who echoes Strizic’s sentiment in his iconic work Collins Street, 5p.m. The limited palette of brown and ochre colours and the formal structure of the composition, including the repetition of lines and simplified shapes, convey the ritualistic routine of nine-to-five office work and seem to reflect a pessimistic view of modern city life.

    Michael Shannon picks up on this theme in his empty urban scenes such as Early morning, Melbourne 1968, which offers a panorama of the urban developments of St Kilda and Port Melbourne.

  • Beyond modernity

    Melbourne’s built environment has transformed dramatically since the 1950s and 1960s. Buildings once celebrated for their modernity have come crashing down to make way for contemporary creations.

    Many Melburnians will remember the Gas and Fuel buildings, a pair of utilitarian high-rise buildings built in 1967 and demolished in 1996–1997 to make way for Federation Square. In Gas and Fuel 2002, Callum Morton revisits these buildings with a sense of irony and pathos in his 1:34 scale model.

  • Seeing contemporary Melbourne

    Panoramic and panoptic views of the city were popular in the nineteenth century as a way of representing the expanding city. Contemporary artists are also using these perspectives in their work as Melbourne sprawls ever further from its centre.

    Louise Forthun’s abstract painting St. Kilda Road 1988 is based on a night view of St Kilda Road. The Arts Centre and the surrounding buildings are seen from an aerial perspective with Albert Park in the distance. Forthun’s use of stencils and restricted colour fragment the cityscape and push her subject to the verge of abstraction.

    The contemporary city has been a central theme in Jon Cattapan’s painting in recent decades. The Melbourne panels 2003 is constructed as a tryptich with each panel revealing iconic fragments of the city, a glittering metropolis suspended above layered fields of colour.

    In Jan Senbergs’s Melbourne capriccio 3 2009 we see Melbourne, this time in daylight, as a muddle of sinuous roads binding city and suburbs together. While we can distinguish well-known landmarks such as the Arts Centre and the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the topography is sufficiently abstracted to defy the accuracy of a cartographic map.

Endnotes