Friday, 11 January 2019

Vancouver by Neon

It’s no secret that I love a bit of neon. There’s something magical about this type of signage that’s mostly now vanished from the world’s streets, even though it was the epitome of post-WWII commercial razzmatazz.

I’ve written about a neon museum in Warsaw, Poland, and another in Las Vegas, USA. And in 2017 I visited an exhibition of neon at the Museum of Vancouver in Canada.

Vancouver is quite genteel nowadays, but back in the 1950s it had tens of thousands of neon signs clustered through the city centre, advertising every type of business.

Some people thought this was impressive, many thought it tawdry. By the 1970s the city council was severely limiting public neon signage and it started to go the way of the dodo.

In recent years nostalgia for neon has surged, which led to the Museum of Vancouver retrieving and restoring a number of signs, and showing them within a dedicated exhibition called Neon Vancouver.

It’s great, and I walked through it when I visited in 2017. Here are some of the highlights:





It’s a cool exhibition - when is neon ever not cool? - and I encourage you to see it next time you’re in Vancouver.

Neon Vancouver is an exhibition within the Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver, Canada. See its website for entry fee and opening hours.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Review: Escher X Nendo, Melbourne, Australia

I was hosted to this exhibition by the National Gallery of Victoria.

The perspective-bending artwork of MC Escher is so well known, that the NGV had to find a fresh way of presenting the first major exhibition of his work in Australia.

The solution was a brilliant one - invite acclaimed Japanese design company Nendo to create a physical framework for the art, itself informed by Escher's themes.

The result is a series of intriguing rooms, each different in its physical aspect as it showcases an aspect of Escher's developing art.

It's fairly tame to start with. A room displays his early work, something I wasn't at all familiar with, including an intriguingly angular self-portrait:

Past this point, an exploration of Escher's fascination with reflections leads to a room where one side reflects the other - even the text on the wall is reversed.

And on each wall, light creates Nendo's chosen house motif by shining through panels with precisely cut-out lines (see image top right) to form shapes. Here's Narrelle Harris modelling to show scale, and add some colour!

A set of stairs leads up to a mezzanine where we learn about Escher's increasing fascination with tessellations and their interlocking images. We're now striking some of his more well-known work:

The view from the mezzanine is brilliant. Suddenly the exhibition opens out into a large room with a series of black houses that progressively become white houses. Dotted nearby and within are more Escher pieces:

The next room features art held by metal struts. These form the house shape when seen at the right angle, and show off Escher's work featuring complex buildings:

One of the most striking spaces has a huge central piece composed of tiny suspended black and white houses; from the right angle one sees the image of an even larger house:

Near the end is a serpentine path which features Escher's last work, an intriguing print of intertwined snakes. It's fascinating to think how much effort went into a work like this, which nowadays could be created on a computer.

It seems a fitting tribute to a great artist that this piece is the culmination of an absorbing exhibition; ably heightened by Nendo's structures without being overwhelmed by them.

Escher X Nendo continues to 7 April 2019, at NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia. Tickets $28 for adults, $24.50 concession. Make bookings here.