Art by students of Camberwell South Primary School

The children from Camberwell South Primary School have been working very hard this year to produce some fantastic art work. The work will be on display at the Hawthorn Town Hall gallery space from August 1 to 27.

The work of Preps through to Grade 6 children is on display, providing a great example of the type of art that is happening in primary schools. The children visit the art room once a week for a 50 minute session. Sometimes an art task may take two or three weeks to complete. The children are always very proud of their work. Throughout the year we try to cover all areas of art – drawing, painting, textiles, construction, modelling, printing and appreciation. We often learn about the work of famous artists and use these discussions as a stimulus for our work. The elements of art (line, space, texture, form and shape) are also covered as the children complete their work.

Due to restrictions in the gallery space, only 2D work is on display in this current exhibition. Collages have been completed by the Grade 1 and 2 children. Some reflect holiday happenings and some are based on the work of popular artists, Ken Done and Michael Leunig. The Grade 6 children worked collaboratively interpreting a piece of work by David Hockney, whose recent exhibition at the NGV was studied by the children.

Prep children love to dress up and this was the basis for some lovely paintings showing their favourite costumes. We are sure you will find the Camberwell South Primary School exhibition enjoyable, so please make time to drop in during August.

The artists’ muse for 65 years

There’s a reason the Box Hill Art Group has been going strong for 65 years this year. Commencing in 1952, it has serviced its community well, nurturing the talents of thousands of budding artists, as well as stretching the skills of experienced and exhibiting artists along the way.

Its weekly classes cater for watercolour, oil, acrylic, pastel, drawing and mixed media. Then there’s the monthly life drawing sessions, all with tutorage from seasoned award-winning artists who are only too eager to pass on their practical secrets about how to make excellent works of art. But there’s more to it than just making art.

While we know that painting and drawing are enjoyable, satisfying, therapeutic and good for the soul, it also combats social isolation by extending one’s social life, and it helps in the fight against depression and dementia by stretching one’s brain in the art of learning.

Brushtail possum by Rosemary Morgan
Brushtail possum by Rosemary Morgan

Not only does the Box Hill Art Group provide for all styles and competence levels, it also provides opportunities for special workshops; regular painting expeditions to local destinations of note (followed up with social lunches); and the opportunity of exhibiting original art twice each year.

The Group also keeps interested parties abreast of what is going on in the wider art communities. For those who enjoy engaging online, there is a range of information available on the Box Hill Art Group website, as well as on its Facebook and meetup pages. As Helen Harris, Chair of the Whitehorse Council’s Visual  Arts Committee said:

“Whether you’ve just  retired, or simply have  time on your hands,  I cannot recommend  the Box Hill Art Group  highly enough. It’s made  up of really interesting  people from all walks of life who  simply love to paint fabulous pictures.  Some enter their creative art into  community art competitions where  many attract buyers, while others  simply have them framed for their  own walls at home.”

It’s the holistic art experience  which allows new people to try out  a class or two before committing  to a term of lessons by booking  online for only $10 per lesson.  For more information visit www. boxhillartgroup.com.au or call Eric on 0424 775 540.

The Highway Gallery for talent

THE City of Monash’s community gallery, The Highway Gallery, is going from strength to strength and, in 2015, celebrated its 25th anniversary with an exhibition of selected works by previous Exhibitors.

The gallery had its germination way back in 1965 when Waverley was something of a cultural desert as far as visual arts were concerned but the formation of the Waverley Arts Society in 1969 heralded the beginning of change. It took a while, but by the early 1980s Waverley Council had established two bodies relevant to the arts: the Art Acquisition Committee (which was allocated funds to acquire art for the City) and Arts Waverley (an advisory body to foster all of the Visual and Performing Arts).

Acting proactively, The Arts Acquisition Committee persuaded Council to assign to them a property acquired due to road widening. This they did, and 14 The Highway Mount Waverley eventually became known as The Highway Gallery. Its goal was to benefit the local arts and wider community. Its first exhibition was on 19 January 1990. Since then the gallery has been the venue for a wide range of exhibitions by artists and community groups. It is operated by the City of Monash and its use is open to groups and individual applicants.

Storybook Yarn Art
Storybook Yarn Art

Over the years, artists and groups exhibiting at the gallery have been provided with professional guidance in curatorial skills, presentation and how to seek sponsorship. The Committee of Management and Exhibitors are forever grateful to the many volunteers who have contributed years of valuable service on their behalf. If you are interested in volunteering with The Highway Gallery, phone 9807 7261 during opening hours (see page 30) or email timing_nza@yahoo.com.au

The gallery very proudly mentions some of Australia’s prominent citizens who have opened past exhibitions: Weary Dunlop, Cathy Freeman, Mirka Mora, Dacre Smyth, Tim Bowden and Lady Southey. Parents, mark your diaries – a must-see exhibition for 2017’s first term holidays is Storybook Yarn Art by school children. Open from 5 to 23 April (Wednesdays to Sundays 12 noon–4pm), it includes a program of workshops and demonstrations. Also, if you have some spare time, check out the Gallery’s very interesting website – there are lots of images for upcoming and past exhibitions. highwaygallery.wordpress.com 

Upcoming Exhibitions at The Highway Gallery
1–19 March Paintings of Australian Landscapes, by Greg Footit
22 Mar–2 April Living Colour, A Peg Widdows Retrospective
5–23 April Storybook Yarn Art, from Longbeach Place, Bayside
25 April–22 May Indonesian Art and Artefacts, Museum of Indonesian Arts
23 May–6 Jun Reconciliation and NAIDOC, a Monash Reconciliation Group presentation

The Highway Gallery Map
The Highway Gallery Map

 

You can find The Highway Gallery adjacent to Mount Waverley Shopping Centre, close to trains, buses and cafés. It is easily accessible and there is ample car parking and disability access. 14 The Highway, Mount Waverley.
Opening hours: Wed–Sun 12noon–4pm.

An extraordinary life

IT was an auspicious day on 6 August 1926 in Kent, England, when Edna Frances Clarke joined the fold. By age three, it was clear she had weak ankles so her aunt suggested enrolling her in dance classes. Edna’s life-long love of singing, dancing and acting resulted. Although dancing strengthened her legs, she was never able to play active sport. Keen to assist children, when schools closed during World War II, 14-year-old Edna, who had been dux of her school, started a school for neighbourhood children in her parents’ attic.

A year later, 17-year-old Bill Jones first saw her in the local park; he later wrote that he knew that this was the girl he would marry.

 

Daughter Vivien:

“Dad adored her from that moment until his untimely death at 56 years.”

Their first child, Martin, was born in a London Hospital in June 1944 when the first of thousands of doodlebugs (bombs with wings) landed on London. The new young mothers were handed their babies each evening and the nursing staff went home!

Edna Clarke
Edna Clarke

In 1958, Bill, Edna, Martin, Vivien and Trevor emigrated to Australia. Seeking immediate community involvement, they joined an entertainment group called the Modernaires and travelled around Victoria presenting musical shows at aged care facilities and hospitals.

I spoke with the effervescent Edna in February this year at a Peridot dress rehearsal where she was accompanied by enthusiastic residents of her senior citizens’ village. Meeting Edna was a true ‘experience’ – 90 years of age, slim and spry body, topped by bright red hair to match her bubbly personality.

In the 1960s, Edna enrolled at Swinburne Technical College – a lifetime of producing, directing, set design, stage management, adjudication, dramaturgy and a children’s theatre workshop were the result. Edna said that students were not only taught acting but about makeup, sound and lighting. “You’ve got to know how to put the lights in the right place to get the effect you want. We had to learn everything – not just being on stage.”

Around the same time, she studied at Ingmar Bergman’s Melbourne’s School of Film. Edna and Bill produced environmental documentaries and Vivien recalls:

“They also filmed a TV series – the video equipment was so heavy they were often up to their knees in mud and being chased by trains on bridges when they had been told trains didn’t run on Sundays!”

Although Edna trained at Kenwood Theatre where many actors went on to TV shows such as Cop Shop and Number 96, she wouldn’t give up full-time employment to pursue that possibility, instead continuing in community theatre in plays and musicals and she was involved in establishing and running of Melbourne’s first ‘accredited’ hospitality training programs and ran a licensed motel/restaurant in the ‘seventies.

Edna in directing mode
Edna in directing mode

Following the death of her beloved Bill in 1980, Edna worked in youth theatre and also coordinated an after-school program where she taught boys to knit and girls to be more assertive! Back to her thespian pursuits: at the 1983 Waverley Festival of Theatre, Edna won Best Production, Best Set Design and Best Actress award!

Although her ambition to enter the 1986 Moomba Festival was thwarted by local groups, at an after-show cast party the woman running the Moomba Festival, having just seen her work, suggested Edna join the festival! “You will only have to do two plays that we’ll come and see, and we’ll invite you into it.”

The outcome was that she and future husband Gordon Bartlett started their own theatre company – Peridot (named for her August birthstone). With no time for auditions, she asked friends to join the cast of Moving. They had no flats or props and thankfully the (now defunct) Box Hill City Theatre Company loaned them a set.

Edna’s Moomba entry, The Dresser (its first non-professional production) resulted in Best Production, Best Director and Best Set Design – bear in mind that Edna was now nearly 60.

Edna filming with Gordon in the 1980s
Edna filming with Gordon in the 1980s

Over the years Edna worked with schools, casting and directing school musicals at Primary and Secondary level and, having had no previous background in films or theatre, Gordon assisted Edna in producing educational videos for schools and the Victorian indigenous pre-school community.

Playwrights were still seeking Edna’s assistance earlier this year – until Vivien told her that she must tell people her age – no one could guess – because she thought she could still do anything.

“As kids we laughed because Mum couldn’t run”, recalls Vivien. “However, x-rays revealed, when she was in her 70s and had resorted to directing plays on her knees, that she had been born with deformed ankles. The specialist surgeons couldn’t believe that she had walked at all. Her ankle bones were fused to relieve some pain but she refused to use a stick!”

Vivien says that Edna was also a superb seamstress and made fine tapestries and cross-stitch work – her unfinished work will be completed by family members. Vivien: “Mum had a finger in every pie but everything she did she did extremely well. Right to the last Mum just wanted to help people and make them good at what they do.”

Edna was fortunate to have husbands very willing to, as Vivien put it, ‘follow her dream’. When she and Gordon moved to a retirement village in their eighties, they soon had other villagers embroiled in play readings – what every retirement village needs is an Edna!

Following a life of constant pain, Edna passed away from cancer on 15 September, shortly after celebrating her 90th birthday. She is survived by her husband, Gordon, aged 95; two of three children, five of seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Peridot’s next production, Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, is a fast-paced whodunit. Venue: Unicorn Theatre, Mt Waverley Secondary College, Lechte Road, Mt Waverley (2–18 February 2017).

Mad Cat – a joyous beginning

THEATRE is alive and well … which is attested to by the fact that, along with the established companies, new ones are still emerging. And one of these is Mad Cat Theatre Company. Mad Cat (Music and Dance, Comedy and Theatre) springs from the St Dunstan’s Rep Circle; under which umbrella Mad Cat’s first two productions, in 2014 and 2015, were staged.

The enthusiasm of Joanna Buddee and Marianne Duane for the company they’ve helped create is infectious as they tell of the plunge into the deep end they experienced as not only writers of the original music and lyrics for 2016’s show Baba Yaga, but also producing, directing, costumes and marketing. Why such a plunge?

“David and Jess (Hewitson-Kerr), who revived St Dunstan’s Rep Circle in 2014, are moving to South Australia,” says Joanna. “So this year Marianne and I took the helm. We co-directed Baba Yaga as well as starring in it – though we didn’t cast ourselves!

Vasilisa is captured by some evil sprites during Baba Yaga
Vasilisa in Baba Yaga

“With this production we decided to take it to the next level – to change the name and also the venue. The quality of our shows just keeps improving. The last three shows have all been original scripts. David was the playwright of those and then Marianne and I wrote the music to Baba Yaga. We had an extremely talented cast of 20 in Baba Yaga, the majority from the Boroondara area – especially Hartwell Primary School. We performed at Kew Renaissance Theatre, which is part of Kew High School. Four hundred and fifty people came to see Baba Yaga and they loved it! We feel exceptionally proud”.

 

Anyone who has been in a play knows that, even in the best-run productions, things go wrong. Joanna has an example to share:

“The worst mistake was something I did. I had my song – and it was opening night – and it was so well received I was just in shock at the applause. I got off stage in a bit of a daze and then went to the dressing room and I’m like ‘Oh my gosh! That was amazing!’ Then I stopped for a minute because I knew I had a quick change as I was going from my main character, Dunyasha, to become a sprite. ‘Quick,’ I said to myself. ‘Pull it together. You’ve got a quick change’. “So I got dressed as a sprite; then one of the other actors came in and she went ‘aren’t you meant to be on stage now as Dunyasha?’ I (swore!) and flung the Dunyasha cloak over the sprite costume. I had no shoes on, but my skirt was really long. Then I went on like that! It wasn’t my full flamboyant character because I was trying not to show that I didn’t have the right outfit on, but actually no one noticed!”

Marianne remembers another story:

“We also had a major change the night before the opening. We didn’t realise that a costume change was actually too difficult. The witch, Baba Yaga, had a scene where there is a great big fight, with smoke and special effects and then she disappears, presumably dead, but then shortly afterwards has a big confrontational scene in which she is revealed as (spoiler alert) the herione’s mother. But there was simply not enough time in between the big stand-off and the reveal, so we had to re-write stuff just before Opening Night … in the end we pre-recorded a whole speech and had it coming over the speakers – and it worked better than the original idea!”

Twenty-sixteen was the year of Baba Yaga (though it hasn’t necessarily breathed its last), but already next year is under consideration, with one major production planned, as well as a children’s workshop in the summer holidays under the Mad Cat name. Mad Cat Theatre pride themselves on being inclusive, so anyone interested in being involved either on-stage or off, or in the workshops, are invited to like their facebook page or email them: madcattheatre1@gmail.com

50 Times a Winner- Box Hill Rotary Art Show

The Rotary Club of Box Hill celebrated the Golden Jubilee presentation of their Annual Art Show in the Box Hill Town Hall over the period November 13 to 16.

Many readers may remember that the original Box Hill Art Show was held on the plantation in the centre of Box Hill – about where the tram terminus is today. From humble beginnings with a handful of local artists and their paintings, today’s art show proudly exhibits some 800 paintings, drawing artists from the eastern seaboard of Australia.

The prestigious award at the Rotary Club’s Art Show is the Frederick McCubbin Medal Award – named for the early Australian Impressionist painter. Historians in the area will tell you that the early Australian masters (circa 1880) painted many of their works at the Box Hill Artists’ Camp, situated near the site of the Box Hill Golf Club. Other members of this famous art troupe were (Sir) Arthur Streeton, Charles Condor, Tom Roberts and, of course, Frederick McCubbin. The award for Best in Show was negotiated by the Rotary Club with the daughter of Frederick McCubbin, Kathleen Mangan.

Coincident with the staging of the 50th Annual Art Show was the 21st presentation of the McCubbin Medal Award. The first medal awarded was won by Chris White in 1994, and this year’s winner is Doug Sealy with his “Sidewalk Takeaway – Cusco, Peru”.

Two of the highlights of this year’s show saw a special display of paintings from past McCubbin Medal winners. Colloquially referred to as the Cavalcade of McCubbin, the presentation of these fine works added a quantum to the enjoyment of being at the art show. The second highlight (for me) was the return to the show of an exhibition of student art from seven of the local High Schools and Colleges. This had not been a feature of the Box Hill Rotary Art Show for many years, but the Club believed it a fitting tribute to young artists within the municipality to again have a section for schools to display works of their students. The Stoll Trust Award for High School Student Art was this year won by Ashley Morse of Our Lady of Sion College for her pen-and-ink “The Power of the People”.

The art show had on display paintings to suit the majority of those who attended this gala event, from the traditional Australian Impressionist paintings to more modern, trendy pieces that had great appeal for those building a new home and seeking the more “modern” look for their wall furnishings.

The art show was a major success, no matter which way one measures this attribute. Proceeds from the sale of artwork at the show are being donated to Alkira – a local organisation assisting people with intellectual disabilities. The Rotary Club has entered into an agreement with Alkira to financially support its building program, which when finished will see the establishment of a commercial kitchen that will be used to train clients at Alkira, enabling them to find meaningful employment in their future years.

If you missed the 50th Annual Art Show conducted by the Rotary Club of Box Hill, you missed a great spectacle, and also missed attending a milestone event. Next year’s event is again booked for Box Hill Town Hall and will be conducted from Thursday, 3 December through to Sunday, 6 December. Art lovers unite – this is a show you shouldn’t miss.

Following the feeling

It’s a cold, wintry, wet Melbourne day, but luckily I’m rendezvousing at warm, cosy Café Ab’stract in George Street, Hartwell. My coffee companion today is Eva Yap, freelance graphic designer, whose drawings have recently being showcased at the café under the title “little girl, big world”. Eva has just completed her Bachelor of Design at Swinburne, where she majored in communication design and minored in illustration. She is currently looking for work in a design studio or for individual projects, and has a strong interest in illustrating children’s books. Her drawings – in ink, watercolour and mixed media – display a verve for colour, a touch of humour, and a naivety that is enthusiastically embraced in the vision of the artist literally looking in. Eva has been in Australia for only a year. The series of drawings on display is imbued with a fascination for the Australian landscape. “What the artist sees” in Australia, she says, is unique, diverse, refreshing and inspirational. She has tried to capture not just the scenery, but also her delight and wonder, “how she feels”, when she contemplates the scenery. There’s “personality everywhere” in Australia, she says, and her artwork genuinely captures that view and also her own bubbly, enthusiastic outlook.Sorrento Beach was born of her experience as a participant in a beach program arranged by Swinburne for international students.

Sorrento Beach, painting by Eva Yap
Sorrento Beach

The artist here is seen as the line-drawn surfer looking into the artwork at a swirling, tumultuous, aquamarine-coloured sea, with little boats being tossed about. The image juxtaposes the power of the sea with the cartoon-like surfer and reminds us, even in its naivety, of the dangers of that powerful surf.

Little River, painting by Eva Yap
Little River

Similarly, Little River captures the wonder of a starlit night in the country. The line-drawn artist is seen lying down with a happy smile, gazing up into the colour and sparkle of the vast night sky depicted in the painting. Eva again capturing “how she feels” as, for the first time, she views the starry sky in Australia’s countryside and contemplates how small she is relative to the vastness of the universe.

Another artwork, Going up (top of article), was a project Eva completed when she was asked to design a vinyl album cover. The resultant cover “translated” the theme of elevator music to that of the visual staircase of different worlds. A different elevator level, a different department store floor, a different outlook on life. Eva’s artwork was on show at Ab’stract on George until mid-August. In September another artist will be featured. If you’re after a good coffee, a cosy place to hunker down from Melbourne’s cold winter, and a touch of art, make sure you check out Ab’stract on George. Eva can be contacted via email: hope.love.faith.production@gmail.com ; her other works can be viewed at evaproduction and behance.com/evaproduction.

Babirra – a brief history

ON 24 April 1956, an enthusiastic group of people associated with Jordanville Methodist Church staged a variety concert at the church’s Electra Avenue location. The first half included vocal solos and duets and piano items, while the second half was a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury. Ticket prices were 5/- for adults and 2/6 for children. Little did they know where their efforts would lead.
The enterprising people behind this concert – Deaconess Ruth McGregor and Les Malseed – had planned to use it as a springboard to form a church choir, but the concert proved to be so popular that it was repeated three months later, and those involved enjoyed it so much that they formed a society to continue their enjoyment. The name “Babirra” – an Aboriginal word meaning “singing” – was adopted, and the Babirra Players was born as “a group with common musical and church interests formed for mutual enjoyment and to aid worthy causes”. The church choir never eventuated.
Each year from 1957 to 1972, the Babirra Players performed a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. They would spend the first half of the year rehearsing and the second half performing at a different venue each weekend. The season was usually 20–24 performances, mostly in church halls in the eastern suburbs, but also in country towns such as Lake Bolac, Bendigo and Wangaratta. Musical accompaniment was a piano, and the sets and lighting were transported to the venues, which provided suppers, often lavish, for the audience and the cast – the Babirra Players developed quite a reputation for their hearty appetites. Whenever possible, surplus funds were donated to charitable causes – by 1966 Babirra had raised more than $25 000 for charity and drawn audiences of more than 50 000.
This activity required an extraordinary commitment from those involved and by the early 1970s was becoming unsustainable, so a decision was made to perform two shows a year at a fixed venue. The initial venue was the Chadstone Shopping Centre auditorium; in 1973 The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance were performed there.
In 1975 the company moved to Monash University’s Alexander Theatre and were able to introduce an orchestra and much more advanced sets and lighting. The first production at “the Alex” was Lehar’s The Merry Widow, the company’s first non-G & S repertoire. After 12 years (and 24 productions), the company relocated to the new Whitehorse Centre (known then as the Nunawading Arts Centre), where it has performed ever since.
Over time, the market for the works of Gilbert and Sullivan diminished and the Babirra Players started alternating G & S shows with other operettas, such as The Gypsy Baron, Orpheus in the Underworld, The Desert Song and Whitehorse Inn. In 1992 the company’s name was changed to Babirra Music Theatre.
By the turn of the century it was clear that the market was changing again, and musicals became an integral part of the Babirra repertoire. In 2003 a full-scale production of Les Miserables was staged to great acclaim.
More recently, the focus has been almost exclusively on musicals as the company has risen to become one of Melbourne’s leading exponents of musical theatre. Many theatregoers have compared Babirra’s shows most favourably to similar professional productions, while appreciating the vastly cheaper prices and the free parking. Last year’s production of The Phantom of the Opera received universal acclaim and gained the prestigious Best Production award at the Lyrebird Awards.
Babirra Music Theatre’s next production, at the Whitehorse Centre from 9 to 17 October, will be The Boy From Oz. The story of the legendary Peter Allen is one that resonates strongly with Australian audiences, and the show presents all of his most famous and beloved songs. Tickets are on sale now, priced from $32 to $40 (bookings: 9262 6555 or www.babirra.org.au).
Next year, Babirra will bring everyone’s favourite nanny, Mary Poppins, to the Whitehorse Centre stage. This wonderful entertainment for the whole family will run from 28 May to 12 June.
Les Malseed, Babirra’s first president and the producer of many of the early shows, is a Life Member and a member of the audience at all shows. His initial idea to form a church choir must seem like a dim and distant memory, and he must surely be reminded of the song, “From Little Things Big Things Grow”.

From Zimbabwe to Australia: Farai Larry Makombe

Farai Larry Makombe, otherwise known as ‘Slicker’, is an emerging music artist in Melbourne. He resides in Burwood, and is originally from Zimbabwe. Farai moved from Zimbabwe to Australia in January 2007.

Farai’s music genre is Zim-Dancehall. Dancehall music is closely related to Reggae; however, it is much more fast-paced and, as Farai would say, “it is modern, and now”. Zim-Dancehall is Dancehall music from Zimbabwe. It arose and was inspired in many ways after Bob Marley’s appearance in the 1980’s Zimbabwe Independence celebrations.

Farai describes his music as a form of storytelling. It is heavily influenced by his own life experiences both here in Australia and in Zimbabwe. He would tell you himself that his motto is “Have fun, don’t shoot guns”. Farai, having seen both sides of life, believes strongly in not forgetting where he comes from and treating each day as a blessing.

Sitting in his studio, Farai opens up and tells me that he has always enjoyed music. As a child he sang in the church choir; when he was a teenager he was a part of the school entertainment committee. Not long after leaving school he moved to Australia, where in his first years he enjoyed free-styling, which led to a friendship with another musician named ‘Sly’ and Sly’s crew, ‘Hard Hustler’. Sadly, in 2010 Sly was hit by a car and killed. Farai tells me, “This was a changing point for me. I woke up and asked myself, ‘What am I really doing with my life?’ ” He turned a tragedy in his life into a passion for creating Zim-Dancehall music.

In late 2014 Farai was signed to a music label in Zimbabwe, and has since been creating and collaborating with other artists, such as ‘Di Apprentice’, to create a mix tape. To check out some of Farai’s music, go to www.toramaribois.com or find Farai on Facebook under Larry Slicker.