Click here for the first stop of the NGV Artbus Tour of the Yarra Valley, Yering Station.
Our second stop was the winery TarraWarra Estate, with its famous TarraWarra Museum of Art – the first significant privately funded, public art gallery in Australia. We started off with more wine tasting on the lawn, looking out over the neat downhill rows of vines, before going inside the gallery for a guided tour for their current exhibition on George Baldessin.
The 30 minute tour was very informative and interesting, particularly as I confess I’d never heard of George Baldessin even though apparently his work is in most major private and public collections in Australia.
Printmaker and sculptor Baldessin emigrated from Italy when he was a young boy and settled in Melbourne with his family. He was young bright flame in the 70s but his life and career were cut short in a motorbike accident when he was 39. His etching studio is still open for creative use in St Andrews, on the outskirts of Melbourne.
The works on display at TarraWarra Museum of Art were quite comprehensive of his output in his short life. I particularly liked:
- The large silver prints he made for the Sao Paolo Bienal as Australia’s representative. Apparently silver etching is a particularly painstaking medium, as there is only a success rate of 1 in 5.
- A sculpture of a female nude with one arm, a bouquet of flowers in place of her face and a Baldessin recurring theme of circus stripes wrapping around her torso. The flowers have been interpreted in various ways, including a representation of the fading of female beauty with time or not providing a woman with a mouth to speak but giving her only decorative importance. There’s also a rather mundane explanation of why she only has one arm; apparently the model they used got too hot under the plaster cast and it needed to be removed quickly and in their haste they broke an arm.
- A reclining figure which looked heavy but in fact the exhibition’s most delicate work because it’s made of wire covered in plaster and bronze paint – such was the life of a poor artist struggling to find money for materials.
The Last Pear Version. The monumental bronze pears are famous because they rest at the entrance of the Australian National Gallery in Canberra. In the 60 and 70s serving pears at a dinner party was apparently the height of sophistication and of course pears reference a woman’s body. There are only eleven pears in reference to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus – a play on the last perversion.
Click here for the last stops of the NGV Artbus Tour of the Yarra Valley, lunch at the Healesville Hotel and the Heide Museum of Modern Art.