The NGV is a museum for all of the community and the NGV Triennial, with more than 80 works from around the world, offers a diversity of viewpoints, stories, experiences and messages. Members of the NGV team share their personal reflections on the works that resonate most for them.
Louise Wilson, Conservator of Paper
I love these works because they nudged me well out of my comfort zone when I first saw them, challenging my conservation preconceptions. They remind me of an archaeological dig, with the oldest layer dating back centuries and proudly wearing the marks of its age while the uppermost layer was created in 2017. Each work comprises a delicate botanical engraving on a sheet of handmade paper. Sodi has used pigmented silicone to emphasise features of the plants; his thick, irregular lines a juxtaposition to the pernickety engraved lines underneath.
Prior to Sodi finding them in a warehouse, the engravings were exposed to moisture, which caused the paper to become distorted. If paper remains damp for a period, mould species on the surface can begin digesting different components in the paper, creating a kaleidoscope of colours in the process. The mould aspect of the works provoked me, awakening my conservation instinct to run to the rescue, but Sodi has intentionally used mould as a form of media, embracing the colours created by the enzymes secreted by mould. I now appreciate the serendipitous patterns made by mould and the opportunity to formulate ways of preserving, rather than removing it.
Marika Strohschnieder, Senior Conservator of Objects
What you see is what you get?
Don’t assume anything when it comes to David Bielander. If one thing is for sure, it is that Bielander’s creations speak of exceptional craftsmanship. They are a playful and unexpected fusion of innocence and sophistication and always executed to perfection. I am inspired by the incredible objects he has created. Being blessed with a creative mind, and an impressive repertoire of practical and technical skills, Bielander produces sculptural pieces that intersect between jewellery and art. Sometimes it takes years for him to develop, refine and realise an idea. Despite this, many of his works appear effortless, such as Pick your nose: Pinocchio’s reality. There is a humble beauty about this work.
Nita Jawary, NGV Guide
Every Tuesday for at least ten years I have alighted the No. 64 tram outside the NGV and crossed over the grassy median strip, without having noticed a single bird.
But now, twenty-nine birds! Heron, ibis, pigeon, duck and swamp hen, drawn in white outline with the simplicity of Egyptian hieroglyphs on double-sided black LED screens, some set high on poles, some close to the ground, dot the strip all the way to Southbank Boulevard.
These animated birds, each in its own rhythm of intermittent stillness and motion, peck, step, graze and gaze.
British artist Julian Opie filmed the birds in Melbourne, then sketched and animated them. He said we don’t notice animals, and he wanted to make us see. He certainly succeeded. Australian Birds is his largest installation to date, a bold affirmation of the value of wildlife in our cities.
And what surprised me most was seeing two real pigeons land beneath the fluorescent ibis who was digging its long, curved beak into the ground, fossicking for food. The pigeons followed the lead of the ibis, pecking and fossicking in the same grassy spot. What a joy!
Commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and the City of Melbourne. Collection of the City of Melbourne
Sarah Fang-Ning Lin, NGV Gallery Teacher
I was looking for a way to have my ID photo taken during the COVID-19 lockdown, and was surprised to find out the popularity of Korean style ID photoshoot, which promise ‘perfect ID photos’. Being curious, I followed some Korean-style photo-shooting tutorials on YouTube, but found the finished photos that I took myself nice yet lacking in any personalities.
This is why Kim Sihyan’s collection of ID photos caught my attention, with the vibrant colours of each photograph and the interesting fashion worn by each portrayed individual. My favourite aspect of Kim’s work is how she has successfully combined two opposite photographic genres: the generic ID photos with strict rules on styles and the promotional headshots of K-pop stars that are full of creativity and personality. I really enjoy gazing at each of the photographs and imagine the personality and life story of the individual.
The NGV warmly thanks Triennial Supporter Korea Foundation for their support.
Melissa Ray, Senior Campaign Manager, Marketing
2020 allowed me to sink into the quiet only allowed when life veers off course and you have time to appreciate how things really are once the world seems as distant as the stars. Though Turner prize–winning artist Susan Philipsz made A single voice before the COVID-19 pandemic, its story of a spaceship escaping earth only to be knocked off course indefinitely resonated with moments from my life this past year. When you enter the room where the work is presented, you’re immersed in a black space void of anything but a single screen where violinist Leila Akmetova plays an eerie, beautiful score in a darkened studio. The space between the notes, the emptiness of the room and the distance between the twelve speakers reminded me of the past year’s stillness; instances when the whirl of jet engines above disappeared and the idea of being anywhere but where I was seemed unthinkable. It was only then that I noticed the symphonies of birdsong reclaiming the neighbourhood soundscape, the blurring of cloud formations above and the come and go of backyard blooms. I thought of Melburnians together in that deep quiet, drifting endlessly like the passengers on the spaceship, perhaps also finding some unexpected peace in the solitude and the unknown.
The NGV warmly thanks Triennial Champions Barry Janes & Paul Cross for their support.
Susan Lowe, NGV Guide
Recent neuroscience research1https://www.lookup.org.au/ encourages us to ‘look up’ to discover and explore new possibilities and perform actions that may impact the way we think and interact with the world around us. It is no surprise that while in the Great Hall this is what you do – look up and feel instantly mesmerised by Leonard French’s stunning stained-glass ceiling. However, for NGV Triennial another surprise is in store, as within your peripheral vision a work by Spanish designer, Patricia Urquiola, Recycled PET manifesto (tapestry), 2020, gains focus. Her tapestry hangs somewhat defiantly on the austere bluestone walls. It cannot compete with the dynamism and colour of Roger Kemp’s tapestries,1984, but it generates its own presence, heralded by black texts written horizontally across a white background of upcycled PET textile.
It is Urquiola’s manifesto for the future, a metamorphic world where she extolls that waste is part of my beauty and that regeneration is my nature. She believes that we are all connected and interdependent and we must now live in a world where reinvention is progress.
The Great Hall presents a mesmerising view, and one wonders if by the command to look up we will reconsider our actions and contribute positively to a sustainable future.
The NGV warmly thanks Triennial Lead Supporter Joe White Bequest for their support.
Annabelle Ahearn, NGV Guide
I smiled when I first encountered Scotty So’s work China Masks, but it also resonated with my experience of Covid 19 in Melbourne where mask making became compulsory following the second wave of the pandemic. Mask wearing can be political, medical, racial and fashionable but it can also be seen as a symbol of fear.
Hong Kong born, now Melbourne based and a recent graduate of the VCA, Scotty So, taught himself ceramics by watching YouTube during lock down in Melbourne. He created a series of eight porcelain facemasks that mimic medical PPE in design and colour, some have delicate traditional floral patterns while others have beautiful glazes with applied gold leaf decoration that appears like glue holding the pieces together. These masks clearly serve no practical purpose as PPE and their fragility illustrates the thin veil of protection that masks provide against the virus.
Scotty also presents a series of 6 historic looking photographic prints depicting himself dressed as “Scarlett” his ultra ego in a cheongsam, (a form fitting gown of Manchurian origin) wearing a mask, and gloves. These photos were uploaded to Wikipedia on pages relating to PPE and plagues as part of an ongoing series with fake titles such as “Cantonese woman wearing silk cloth mask during the bubonic plague.” They demonstrate that pandemics and mask wearing are not a new phenomenon.
The title China Masks is a pun that literally describes the installation – Masks made from porcelain, a fine white ceramic first produced in China, possibly referencing the fact that the Covid 19 pandemic originated in Wuhan China. I think this is a humorous and poignant interpretation of the global pandemic of 2020.
Stephanie Pohlman, NGV Youth and Families Coordinator
Solaris, 2020, is a kaleidoscopic representation of a unique marine ecosystem on the Indonesian island of Kakaban. In an environment free of predators and human interference, species of jellyfish have evolved and thrived, reminding me of the majestic power of nature when left alone. Standing in front of Solaris, I feel like I’m not in the Gallery at all, but submerged underwater with gentle waves of colour washing over me. A classical Greek sculpture shares the space and transports me to a 2021 version of the fabled city of Atlantis. I wonder, if we continue to approach our environment the way we are, will the natural world as we see it now, become the new Atlantis – lost, fabled, forgotten?
The NGV warmly thanks Triennial Supporters David Parncutt and Robin Campbell Family Foundation for their support.