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Images of Modern Evil (and why I love social media)

by Sayraphim on March 26, 2011

I was on the Heide Museum‘s facebook page the other day and they had a competition running to coincide with their upcoming exhibition, Albert Tucker’s Images of Modern Evil. You simply had to name your favourite painting from the series and why and you’d go into the draw to win a double pass to a talk by one of the main scholars of Tucker’s work, Gavin Fry, in the exhibition and then brunch supplied by Cafe Vue.

Albert Tucker is one of my favourite artists and Heide and it’s circle of artists is one of my favourite things about Melbourne. It’s such an incredible story filled with creatives and it unfolds around and through the history of Australian art, and it blows my mind that it happened only a few suburbs from here rather than yet another art story from overseas. I love that I can go visit places from this fable of Australian art royality, walk down streets that are familier to both me and them, to visit galleries and shops they frequented, to know the places they lived and worked and to wander the gardens they planted and tended. It’s incredible that a history that I’m so drawn to is so tangible and real and solid and local.

So how could I not enter the comp?

I chose Memories of Leonski as my favourite Tucker work to nominate (image from Trouble’s website, found here)

Eddie Leonski was also known as The Brownout Strangler, an American GI stationed in Melbourne during the second world war. He murdered 3 women over a period of 2 weeks around inner Melbourne. When he was caught, the Americans wanted to extradite him but as the crimes were committed on Australian soil, the Australian government refused. This stand off threatened the negotiations over the ANZUS alliance. The trial was held in Melbourne by the Americans and Leonski was sentanced to death. He was hung at Pentridge Prision on the November 9, 1942 and his body was buried on an island off Hawaii in a military cemetery.

The story goes (but I can’t seem to confirm it either way via searches on the internet) that he said of his victims “I only wanted their voices”, hence the bird in the painting.

That’s all a little morbid, huh. All that knowledge is product of a mis-spent youth researching Melbourne history for various plays and artworks.

But so that’s my favourite of all the paintings, and I entered the comp with that.

And won!

Whoo!

So this morning we took ourselves off to Heide for the talk and the artwork and the food. A number of my favourite things, all in one place :)

Gavin Fry was great to listen too, not only does he know his subject back to front but he also personally knew Tucker, who died in 1999, and so could give a few antidotes of the artist himself. One of my favourites was that Fry has seen Tucker’s medical certificate from the examination he had before he entered the army. Down the side the Medical Officer had written “Prone to hypochondria”.

I love these little facts, the stuff that only people who knew their subject, or had researched them thoroughly, would know. Those tiny details that don’t make it into the official records. It’s that kind of detail that I love about good film sets too, those tiny touches that show the humanity behind the characters and the story.

After the talk, we had brunch, and can I just say, Cafe Vue does an AWESOME sandwich and excel in their pastries. Sitting in a comfy room with a glass wall, gazing over Heide’s grounds as we munched our bakery treats and drank our coffees, so tranquil and beautiful!

After brunch we went back to the exhibition to take in the art. SUCH incredible work. I’ve seen Tucker’s paintings only in books and on the net, and these things do in no way do justice to the man’s talent and ability. The oils are deep and complex and incredibly painted and the colours and textures just cannot be captured in photos. It was great to see the whole series side by side too. Some of the later works become increasingly abstract, which I wasn’t the biggest fan of, but putting them all in a chronological line on a wall means you can see the progression and follow the logic through the work which helps to give an understanding of the reoccurring symbolism and shapes.

I’m so glad I went along and so happy to have won the tickets!

Tucker’s work has also inspired me in a number of new ways, but they have to wait a little until I get a few more of these commissions finished and out on their way…

I love going to galleries, and I love seeing great work from other artists. It energises and furthers my own artistic practice. I think as artists, we all inspire each other, like a massive bunch of ping pong balls all madly bouncing around a small room.

Thank you Heide!

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