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Ten New Melbourne Art Exhibitions to Brighten Up Your April

Experience dark and lurid dreamlike paintings, the neon lights of Beijing and an immersive maze of mirrors.
By Hudson Brown
April 04, 2017
By Hudson Brown
April 04, 2017


Experience dark and lurid dreamlike paintings, the neon lights of Beijing and an immersive maze of mirrors.

While Melbourne's weather will undoubtedly be heading into cooler territories in no time, moving indoors for April might not be the Worst Thing Ever, as the list of must-sees on the arts calendar is only getting longer. This month presents a host of new and exciting exhibitions across painting, installation, photography, sculpture and features works from local, international, celebrated and fresh-faced artists alike. Here, we've picked out ten of the best exhibitions taking place across Melbourne and surrounds throughout April.

  • 10
    Chen Wei: The Club

    With a distinctly Chinese club culture only emerging in relatively recent times, acclaimed Chinese photographer Chen Wei’s first Australian solo exhibition captures the enigmatic scene. The end of the country’s Cultural Revolution saw many western influences and pastimes begin to flow into China, with the 1980s and ’90s seeing the rise of nightclubs and electronic music. This brought young artists and intellectuals together in a previously unknown expressive environment — one that, at the time, was considered to be rebellious and progressive.

    While nightclubs are commonplace in China nowadays, Chen Wei set out to document the unique subculture and comment on societal changes that are taking place across the country. As nightclubs have become widespread, through his photo series, Wei argues that nightclubs reflect a culture that has accepted western influence and is now unsure of what the future holds. Running until May 7, The Club is presented at Fitzroy’s Centre for Contemporary Photography.

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  • 9
    Van Gogh and the Seasons

    You could trawl every art gallery and every private collection on the planet and you’d only find 800 paintings signed by Vincent Van Gogh. That’s the sum total of what remains of the Dutch genius’s output.

    So it’s insanely, insanely exciting that 60 of his masterpieces will be travelling to the National Gallery of Victoria in 2017. Set to open on April 28, the blockbuster exhibition will be titled Van Gogh and the Seasons and is expected by NGV to draw one of the gallery’s biggest audiences yet.

    You can expect around 40 painting and 25 drawings, collected from some of the world’s top-shelf galleries, including Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum and Otterlo’s Kröller-Müller Museum. The curating is being taken care of by Sjraar Van Heugten, author of a genuine bucketload of books about Van Gogh and ex-head of the Van Gogh Museum’s collections section.

    What’s more, you’ll also get to see a bunch of Van Gogh’s letters, as well as some of the artworks he collected during his 37 years on Earth. These will be arranged to give some insight into how various artists have responded to the seasons.

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  • 8

    Rising sea levels, floods, fires, droughts, deforestation, wars, persecution — there are many, many reasons why hundreds of millions of people around the world have been forced to flee their homes during the past 15 years.

    And EXIT, a digital installation commissioned by the Foundation Cartier in Paris and set to show as part of the ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE festival, makes sure you can’t ignore them. For 45 minutes, this immersive work surrounds you with 360 degrees of frankly terrifying statistics, presented as mesmerising images, text and sound. Prepare to leave wondering how on earth the Earth will possibly cope, yet compelled to do something — anything — about it.

    That said, the work is in no way didactic. Rather than telling what to think or laying any blame, it simply provides hard, cold facts. Since 2008, natural disasters have displaced one person every second — an average of 26 million per year. Of the 6700 languages spoken today, 50 percent are in danger of extinction by 2100 — one of EXIT‘s most moving moments is the playing of recordings of 16 endangered languages. For the first time in history, there are as many people living in cities as there are in rural areas, and cities create about 70 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gasses.

    EXIT was a group effort. Based on an idea of French philosopher Paul Virilio, the work was created by NYC-based designers Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Laura Kurgan, Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, in collaboration with Robert Gerard Pietrusko and Stewart Smith.

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  • 7

    When last year’s Dark MOFO program dropped, House of Mirrors immediately rocketed to the top of everyone’s must-do list. Created by Australian installation artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a walkthrough space filled with reflective surfaces that will not only strands you in a maze of your own image, but turns your likeness into a kaleidoscope.

    Since then, the installation has made its way to Brisbane and Sydney for a stint at January’s Sydney Festival. And now, eager Melburnians will soon get the chance to wander through the disorienting, perception-altering, panic-inducing, optical illusion-based labyrinth for themselves.

    From April 7–30, the mirror maze will take over Rosalind Park adjacent to Bendigo Art Gallery for three weeks of reflective roaming, with the modern, minimalist twist on the fairground classic featuring 40 tonnes of steel and 15 tonnes of mirrors — and no added gimmicks, no special effects, no special lighting, no soundtrack or soundscape.

    It’ll be the first time House of Mirrors has come to Victoria — and with Bendigo less than a two-hour drive (or train ride) away, it’s an easy one to do on a day trip. The installation will be open each day from 2–9pm and tickets are $10 on the door.

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  • 6
    Claire Lambe: Mother Holding Something Horrific

    For the past two decades, Claire Lambe has been exploring notions of gender, sexuality, identity and class through abstract and theatrical works. In this major exhibition of Lambe’s work, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art hosts Mother Holding Something Horrific, which sees the English-born, Melbourne-based artist present several new works of sculpture, photography and experimental theatrical presentations. Lambe works intricately with the human form, finding ways to reconsider the human condition, demonstrate realities and give the audience a revelatory experience.

    Through a series of confronting sculptures and installations, the interior ACCA galleries are transformed through intimate and venereal works. Australian dancer and choreographer Atlanta Eke will further invigorate the space with a series of contemporary performances that occur throughout the exhibition’s duration. A deeply psychological and profound exhibition, Claire Lambe’s Mother Holding Something Horrific will show until June 25 in ACCA’s main exhibition space.

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  • 5
    Top Arts 2017

    For over 20 years now, the annual Top Arts exhibition has brought together the stunning works of Victoria’s emerging student artists in a showcase of the next generation of talent. Top Arts 2017 features the works of Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) students who studied Arts or Studio Arts with the exhibition highlighting the diverse skills of students through painting, drawing, sculpture, multimedia and installation works.

    Held at the NGV’s Ian Potter Centre, the exhibition will run until July 16, and displays the art of 47 students to an estimated 200,000 visitors with Top Arts proving to be one of the NGV’s most popular annual exhibitions. Each year approximately 2000 hopeful student artists from all across Victoria apply for the opportunity to exhibit at Top Arts, with a shortlist of the leading 150 reached before the final exhibiting selection is made.

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  • 4
    Charles Blackman: Schoolgirls

    The Heide Museum of Modern Art will pay tribute to the acclaimed work of one of Australia’s most important living artists in a new exhibition on display at the gallery from March 4. Charles Blackman: Schoolgirls will feature more than 40 of the eponymous artist’s iconic paintings of uniformed schoolgirls in solitary urban settings, brought together from private and public collections from all around the country and the world.

    Open to the general public until June 18, the tempera, enamel and oil works in the exhibition showcase Blackman’s unsettling style as well as his ongoing fascination with the themes of loneliness and isolation. Entry into Charles Blackman: Schoolgirls is free to Heide members; alternatively, you can buy a museum pass for $18 that will gain you access to all of the museum’s current exhibitions.

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  • 3
    Emily Floyd: Icelandic Puffins

    Known for her large-scale outdoor installations and public commissions, Emily Floyd’s unique style blends colourful and playful toy-like designs with challenging social, cultural and political issues facing contemporary society today. Born into a family of toymakers, the Melbourne-based artist harnesses this influence as her bright Icelandic puffins take over the Anna Schwartz Gallery. For the exhibition, Floyd has taken the innocuous puffin as a motif to explore the global financial crisis and the Icelandic government’s prosecution of individuals and the collapse of three major financial institutions.

    Adopting what has become recognised as typically Scandinavian design aesthetics, Floyd’s handmade birds see their cheerful designs juxtaposed with confrontational text, which explores the political crisis that impacted much of the world. As a MADA senior lecturer, this will be Emily Floyd’s tenth solo show at the CBD gallery and is on display April 8–29.

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  • 2
    People I Have Met: Portraits by Francis Reiss

    Throughout a fruitful international career, German-born photographer Francis Reiss produced many iconic photographs of both landscapes and people. Working extensively around the world for numerous acclaimed publications — in particular LIFE and Time Magazine — Reiss became enamoured by Australia, eventually becoming a citizen in 1989. In was then that he set about capturing the many eccentricities of Australian culture and lifestyle, which have since become important collections for institutions such as the State Library of Victoria and the National Library.

    People I Have Met: Portraits by Francis Reiss presents many of Reiss’ most famous images, many of which feature leading Australian artists and personalities such as John Perceval, Inge King, Chris Wallace-Crabbe and many others. This free exhibition runs until April 29 and is presented at the Whitehorse Art Space in Box Hill.

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  • 1
    Louise Hearman

    Louise Hearman’s distinctly cinematic paintings and drawings take on a dreamlike quality as they combine everyday imagery with dark and surrealistic impressions, creating an otherworldly atmosphere. Throughout her 25-year career, Hearman’s works have remained nameless, choosing to let her audience attempt to decipher or give their own meanings to the scenes she puts forth. They’ve repeatedly returned to familiar settings such as the suburbs of Melbourne and the regional countryside, alongside more hallucinatory images of isolated stretches of road, the back of an anonymous heads and the illuminated face of a child floating in the sea.

    Mostly creating her works with oils on Masonite, Hearman produces her supernatural images on a relatively small-scale. Shown at the stunning TarraWarra Museum of Art in the picturesque surrounds of Healesville and the Yarra Valley, this is the first major review of Hearman’s vast collection of works and runs until May 14.

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