Late Victorian and Edwardian marble and bronze sculptures, statues and busts are quaint relics of the central Victoria gold rush in the centre of City of Greater Bendigo. The highlights of this collection are works by some of the leading sculptors in Australia: James White and Charles Douglas Richardson. There are also works by some less well known sculptors, R.G. Summers and John Walker that tell us as much about the history of that time as the works of more famous sculptors.
Charles Douglas Richardson, The Discovery of Gold, 1901-06
On the Corner of Bridge St and Pall Mall is Charles Douglas Richardson’s The Discovery of Gold, 1901-06, with three bronze base relief panels around the base showing the history of mining in Bendigo.
James White, George Lansell Memorial, 1908
The twice life sized marble memorial to Queen Victoria, a bronze memorial to George Lansell, The Quartz King and…
There is much imagery on the market that masquerades as Art while it is little more than wall-paper described as Abstract Art, or Abstract Expressionism, in a bid to attach the work to a genre in order to legitimize it as Art. Of course, one can argue that any painting, or object, can be described as Art if the artist says it is and rightly so, but that does not mean that the rest of us have to accept the work as having real artistic legitimacy. Nevertheless, all works presented as Art, be it wall-paper, or masterworks, and everything in between regardless of subject matter, or no subject matter in terms of `wall-paper`, is political.
The above image is part of a painting created by Frank Mosmeri, who disposed of this work by painting over it, because he felt embarrassed by the fact that it had nothing to say. I thought it beautiful visually and the artist could have `sold` it by referring to it as an expression of beauty. But for the artist it was simply `wall-paper` and, in that, it was still political in saying nothing. That is, it was a `safe` image, as is the Minimalist genre that found its way to the National Gallery of Victoria in the form of a `block-buster` exhibition of Contemporary work, while the Vietnam War was raging.
`Safe Art` makes no waves in lending little to nothing to the issues of the day; nor does it awaken the mind to the Self. Mindless in content `safe art` is political, in that it keeps the Public unaware, so any Government involved in an unjustifiable War, or is engaging in propaganda to implement policies that negate the `common good` would welcome `Safe Art` into society and into the halls of power. When one looks at Public Sculpture funded by Government, -local or federal- what we see is not imagery that reflects the horrors of war, or poverty and the like, but rather the opposite to inject a feel-good in society and a reinforcement of the power-structure of a Nation and its Culture.
The notion of Empire is particularly visible in much Architecture that is designed to house government. Take the Victorian Parliament, as an example, with its Greek-Romanesque pillars symbolic of the Roman Empire erected in front of this government building leaves little room to doubt that it was designed to remind the population where power rests. Just like Visual Art, Architecture too is political and this extends to home dwellings, which suggest that the occupants are either wealthy or poor. All our possessions do likewise and so too our clothes and choice of style. `You are what you wear` might be a cliche, but this is rooted in fact like most cliches.
The above painting is also by the artist Frank Mosmeri, but unlike his `safe` piece, this work in the genre of Expressionism offers an emotionally charged image concerned with the treatment of live-stock for human consumption. Mosmeri is not a vegan, but eats little meat, as he has been growing more aware of what live animals go through to fulfill Human want. The artist is not alone in his thinking on this subject, nor is this work finger-wagging judgmental, but with its very creative delivery it makes contact with our emotions to lend to a greater sense of compassion for cattle and perhaps a touch of guilt and, in that, reminds us to be more vigilant towards their treatment, as cruelty towards animals is inhumane.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that this work does not serve the interest of the Cattle Industry; nor a Government receiving Tax revenue from it. It might also not sit well with meat eaters, while in contrast attracting admirers made up of Vegans and animal lovers, or protectors, who act as protagonist against the export of live-stock here in Australia and elsewhere. Unlike `safe art` that acts political in saying nothing, this work, in contrast, is political in what it does say and is a noteworthy work of Art, rather than wall-paper masquerading as such.
Similarly is Mosmeri`s painting titled `Beluga Whales`, which at first glance appears as an image of two very cute and happy Marine mammals, but after a closer look and the image of the spear in this work comes into focus, our first impression gives way to a foreboding view telling that these unsuspecting innocent Whales are in danger and so they definitely are in the `real` world. Works such as this and `Dinner` are obviously political, but `safe art` that is essentially decorative is equally political and particularly so for those in control, who are more apt to embrace it, as they can do what they will with their power in Societies where ignorance among the masses flourishes.