William Street, Sydney about 1968. Photo by David Mist, Powerhouse Museum collection. Gift of David Mist.
A few years back I was interviewed about the fate of Sydney’s neon advertising signs:
‘The great age of neon has passed,’ laments Charles Pickett, a curator of design and society at the Powerhouse Museum, an institution that houses the AWA sign that once sat atop the eponymous1930s skyscraper, and a red neon greyhound removed recently from Wentworth Park Raceway. ‘The days of William Street being a gallery for neon are long gone. The Coca-Cola sign is all that’s left.’
Since then we’ve added the Sharpies Golf House sign to the Powerhouse collection, another of many well-known neons to disappear from Sydney nights (there’ll be an article about the Sharpies sign in the next issue of Powerline). The decline of neon as a marketing and visual medium is partly one of advertising fashion and technological change – LED signs are cheaper, less fragile and use much less electricity than neons.
Heliostat, Tornaghi, Sydney, Australia, c. 1887 H8086 Collection: Powerhouse Museum .
Do you know what a heliostat is? As with most scientific instruments, I had my educated guesses but didn’t know for sure. Luckily my colleagues are Matthew Connell and Nick Lomb and they can assist me in understanding my curiosities.
Skateboard , with prototype graphic, “skateboarding saved my life”, mixed materials, artwork by David Griggs / skateboard by Riot Skateboards, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2003. Collection: Powerhouse Museum
Artist David Griggs reaches into the elements of popular and street culture, horror movies and the street sport of skate boarding. His art sources its inspiration from contemporary images and materials. David Griggs’art has had growing recognition since 1994 and he won the Archibald prize in 2013 for his portrait of TV Moore.
Norman Hetherington and Mr Squiggle
Norman Hetherington was a creator of wonder, but also, what may not be as well known, he was a creator of edifying realism. Having served in the Second World War, Hetherington got a taste of and developed a talent for performance art, being part of an entertainment unit. After the war he began making marionettes and puppets, and joined the Clovelly Puppet Theatre. He attended the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s television training school just prior to the introduction of television to Australia, so Hetherington had the opportunity to create a children’s puppet show which aired in 1956. Two years later he developed another show, Mr Squiggle, which ran for four decades.
2012/69/1 Mixed media assemblage ‘Deja Vu, Review’, mixed material, Kendal Murray, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2011. Collection: Powerhouse Museum
Museums have used toys, models and dioramas to explain and comment on the workings of a larger world. Here, artist Kendal Murray has created a miniature surreal world atop an antique purse though her work Déjà vu, Review’. This sculptural mixed media offers a playful look at the domestic world and holiday culture. The miniature world draws us closer, and invites us to investigate.
Ceramic form, `Delos: Paros’, stoneware, Marea Gazzard, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1972.Exhibited in Clay +Fibre exhibition, 1973, Collection: Powerhouse Museum.
The Powerhouse Museum, along with many others in the fields of visual arts and crafts, was sad to hear of the death of Marea Gazzard, on 28th October, 2013. Marea Gazzard was an important figure in the chronology of Australian postwar ceramics, both as a significant and influential innovator in her own work and also in her support of the Australian crafts movement.
Powerhouse Museum Collection object H10497.
The excellent ‘Playing with Light’ exhibition opens at the Powerhouse Museum on 14 September to coincide with Ultimo Science Festival. Developed by Scitech in Perth, the exhibition invites curious visitors of all ages to interact with prisms, lenses, mirrors and colour. To herald its arrival, I’m featuring this playful anamorphic mirror and weird drawing, which live in the Museum’s basement along with two other distorted drawings that reveal their truth when viewed in the mirror.
2002/79/1 Ceramic group, ‘Still life with yellow bowls’, teapots (2), bottles (4), beakers (3), bowls (2), wheelthrown and slipcast in Limoges porcelain and Southern Ice porcelain, made by Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, Ipswich, Queensland, Australia, 2002. Collection: Powerhouse Museum
Gwyn Hanssen Pigott was one of Australia’s most illustrious studio ceramicists whose fine skill and cerebral approach to her art will be greatly missed. After a 1960s to 70s repertoire of stone ware, from the 1980s Gwyn became famous for her fine and translucent porcelain forms – bottles, bowls and teapots – deceptively simple but actually requiring great technical skill and firing control. Continue reading
Microscope and Camera Lucida Image Powerhouse Museum
This Thursday, 4 July from 6-9pm, the Museum will host ’Electric Dreams’, a late night event dedicated to electronic art, one of the public programs for the 19th International Symposium of Electronic Art, ISEA 2013. Along with talks from the artists, there will be make tables, video games, raspberry pi karaoke, wearable interactive art on parade. One of the key features of the evening will be the use of microscopes, which can be fitted with Camera Lucida.
Pub painting, photo by Jim Brown 1968-1972.
Jim Brown was a former US serviceman who lived in Sydney from 1968 to 1972. Like a lot of people back then he was struck by the oil-on-glass pub advertising paintings which adorned most of Sydney’s pubs. During the first half of the twentieth century a lot of advertising graphics and signs were the work of artists like those at the Rousel Studio. A painterly touch was common.