A VISUAL LIFE | Creative Direction + Design

Tag: photography

HOUSE CALL // harry seidler, vaucluse waters

Soaring above the rugged coastline on the Diamond Bay cliff walk and balancing on the edge, is the 1960’s apartment block Vaucluse Waters. True to the modernist era, it is constructed predominantly of concrete and glass. It stands out in the area due to its vast height compared to the surrounding buildings as well as the prime position on the coast. Designed by renowned architect Harry Seidler, it is possibly one of his less famous projects in comparison to many other landmarks around Sydney.

In typical Seidler fashion, the style is very linear and angular with windows taking advantage of the vista. In old photos it seems there may have been balconies when it was first built, which have been closed in at some stage. The sweeping ocean views are breathtaking but have also subjected the apartments to the harsh weather elements. Unfortunately it is damaged and in need of major repairs, but hopefully the upgrades will be undertaken with respect to the original design. Many of these gems are constantly at risk, either lost completely in demolition or being redeveloped so much that the true architectural character disappears.

DEAR DIARY // hello sunshine

Being on the cusp of a new season and well into the latter half of the year, it feels like a good time to recharge and set a new list of goals. A busy work schedule and organising a new home has slowed progress on a few projects that I had to put on hold. Warmer weather definitely gives me more energy and inspiration, which I’m hoping will help me to rediscover my artistic side. I am looking forward to getting creative again, just picturing myself making art in the afternoon sunshine after spending time lounging at the beach. In the words of Maya Angelou, “I have heard it said that winter, too, will pass, that spring is a sign that summer is due at last. See, all we have to do is hang on.”

DEAR DIARY // mid-year reset

Everyone is saying that 2019 has flown and how quickly we have hit the mid-year mark already, but I find it’s a great point to reset our lives. A new year feels like a fresh start but halfway in allows us to reflect on what we have done and where we would like to go. All those resolutions and vision boards can be updated with any new goals or dreams.

We are heading into July which has been called an eclipse season since there’s a total solar eclipse and new moon on the 2nd, as well as a partial lunar eclipse and full moon on the 16th. It seems the stars are also giving us signs that it’s time for new beginnings!

HOUSE CALL // the ideal home

Douglas Snelling chair and foot stool, 1957 (timber and synthetic webbing); Douglas Snelling cabinet, 1949 (timber); George Nelson ‘Bubble’ lamp, 1947-70s (plastic and metal)

Robin Boyd ‘House of Tomorrow’, designed 1949 (model made 1992)

Wolfgang Sievers ‘House of Tomorrow’ photographs, 1949 (printed 1990)

Grant and Mary Featherston ‘Numero IV’ lounge suite, 1973-74 (polyurethane foam, ABS plastic and wool); Grant and Mary Featherston dining setting, 1969 (stem, plastic, timber, metal, rubber and fabric); Korban/Flaubert ‘Swaylamp’ floor lamp, 2002 (background); Marc Newson ‘Helice’ floor lamp, 1993 (foreground)

Catherine O’Donnell ‘Sirius Topography (series)’, 2018 (3M vinyl tape 471)

Mid century modern style made a comeback years ago and it’s not going away any time soon and for good reason – great design. I recently saw The Ideal Home exhibition and although it’s very small, it’s worth it if you’re in the area (there’s a larger second site at MAAS Powerhouse in Ultimo). The exhibit shows a slice of history with examples of what a 20th century Australian home looked like with furnishings and household items from the MAAS Collection.

In this era Australia had one of the highest rates of home ownership in the world and suburbs grew quickly. Modern technology and mass manufacturing made goods readily available to consumers and time saving products allowed more leisure. While modernist designers created trends in architecture, interiors and design internationally, Australian pioneers made their own mark. Architect Robin Boyd’s creations are featured as well as iconic furniture designers Grant and Mary Featherston.

Another interesting and unexpected element was the installation of drawings of the Sirius brutalist apartment block. I’ve written before about the threat of redevelopment that the iconic building is facing in my Save Our Sirius post. Catherine O’Donnell has covered the walls with tape outlines of the Sirius footprint, floor plans and elevations to showcase this treasure in a fresh way.

Australians embraced mid century modern as it represented comfort, style and function. 100 years later it is a lifestyle that we still aspire to today.

STREETSCAPES // industrial pyrmont

Pyrmont was home to the Eora people but soon became an industrial hub as Sydney grew as a colony. Originally established as a sandstone quarry until more industries were introduced such as a sugar refinery. During this expansion many warehouses were built to house these businesses. In the 1800’s, the suburb was also densely populated due to the local workers living in the lovely terraces you can still see today.

Darling Island Bond & Free Store is a beautiful brick structure that has fallen into disrepair. This site began as the Australian Thermite Company Pty Ltd and was roughly built in the early 1900’s. Thermite was a metal oxide mix used for welding, commonly on trains and rail tracks in that period. It changed occupants a couple of decades later and you can still see the faded signage with the painted lettering for Bond & Free Store.

Arrow Marine building was designed by Sydney Harbour Trust’s Chief Engineer, H D Walsh, who changed the face of the harbour waterfront at the time. It was built in 1917, at the same time as the adjacent wharves and was used as a dockside garage and facility for the workmen. This significant building is important as it shows early 20th century design as well as being functional. It is also the only known surviving wharf structure of its type in Sydney with the original timber gable.

In the last decade this area has had major redevelopment with high rise apartment blocks changing the historic landscape. Luckily there are still some traces of this rich history and while some sites have heritage protection, my biggest fear is that more buildings like these will be lost in the future.

MASTERSTROKE // robert mapplethorpe

ANFM_art-robertmapplethorpe07

ABOVE: ‘Self-portrait’, 1980 (gelatin silver); ‘Self-portrait’, 1983 (gelatin silver); ‘Self-portrait’, 1980 (gelatin silver). BELOW: ‘Patti Smith’, 1979 (gelatin silver); ‘Marianne Faithfull’, 1974 (gelatin silver).

 

BELOW: ‘Deborah Harry’, 1978 (gelatin silver); ‘David Hockney’, 1976 (gelatin silver). BOTTOM: ‘Isabella Rossellini’, 1988 (gelatin silver); ‘Lucy Ferry’, 1986 (gelatin silver).

 

I wish I had a chance to post this before the exhibition closed but life just got in the way. Perfectly timed with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the renowned work of Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium was on show at the Art Gallery of NSW. He was a controversial figure who pushed boundaries and his art was ground breaking. His black and white photography is legendary but it was inspiring to see some of his work that I wasn’t familiar with. Being a designer, it was also nice to see some of the graphic examples from gay publications he collaborated with.

An enclosed room housed the more erotic images as well as his published books – X, Y and Z Portfolios. This three part book series details homosexual sadomasochistic imagery (X), floral still lifes (Y) and nude portraits of African-American men (Z). I loved the sculptural and evocative florals, shot in bold colour with a meticulous play of light and shadows. He was famous for celebrating the human form and his involvement in New York’s gay scene cultivated this, but his contemporary images also caused outrage.

His artistic methods and personal life are also detailed which is fascinating. Robert was friends with famous artists and musicians who he photographed regularly, including his muse Patti Smith. I idolised these icons so I couldn’t go past sharing them here and imagining the story behind each setting. Robert Mapplethorpe had an amazing but tragically short life, although he lives on in his pictures and as he would say ‘perfection in form’.

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