With the fall of the USSR, thousands of Soviet statues were destroyed or dispersed. Some ended up in Moscow’s Fallen Heroes Park. It displays more than 700 sculptures saved and preserved from the Soviet era. Walking through the park is like visiting a cemetery, bronze and stone sculptures loom from every corner. The park has mutilated busts of Stalin, as well as those of Lenin and a statue of Dzerzhinsky, the founder of what became the KGB. There’s a massive Soviet emblem, and clusters of modern art contrasting with the very non-conceptual Communist monuments.
Further to my blog of 09.09.2017 – Centenary of a Revolution, my son Trevor informs me that Melbourne’s Heidelberg Gallery (The Heidi) has a Constructivist Display of artworks mainly from the Russian Revolution. No doubt many of the items on display would have come from Moscow’s Fallen Heroes Park.
I have never felt a great emotional attachment to statues. My first was probably the dog sitting on the tucker box five miles from Gundagai.
For me, it always the highlight of our road trips to Melbourne.
The other statue that has triggered my emotion was seeing Winston Churchill’s statue on a Paris footpath as our tour bus flashed past. It was so unexpected, considering the historic rivalry between the English and the French, but a touching acknowledgement of France’s gratitude for Churchill’s help during WWII.
Last weekend we visited the Heide Museum of Modern Art on the outskirts of Melbourne. As always our family starts such cultural excursions on a full stomach, so our first stop was to its excellent Café Vue, where we breakfasted among a mainly younger and artier clientele.
When Sunday and John Reed purchased Heide in 1934 it was a neglected former dairy farm. After fifty years of vision, dedication and sheer hard work, the Reeds moulded Heide into a personal Eden, connecting art with nature and creating a nourishing environment for the artists they championed – Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, Charles Blackman and Mirka Mora among them.
I like to visualise Sidney Nolan painting his Ned Kelly series in the dining room of the original house (now called Heide I) just off the main road – then storing them in the dilapidated former cow shed next door!
Because of its proximity to the increasingly busy main road, and the opening of a fish and chips shop across the road from them, the Reeds decided to build a new residence further down the hill of their property. This has now become Heide II. But it was Heide III that most excited me, for it contained a new exhibition ‘Sitelines’ by Melbourne artist Natasha Johns-Messenger in which, as her notes describe, she attempts to explore knowledge and perception.
The surprise of seeing myself framed by a view of the gardens at the end of the hall will remain with me for a long time. By her skilful placement of mirrors the artist really manages to confuse and confound our senses. But it’s much more that a hall of mirrors at a sideshow. But is it art? If one of the aims of art is to change our perceptions of our surroundings, then Natalie’s exhibition certainly does that – to everyone who enters her exhibition’s amazement and delight.
I left the exhibition wondering just what art, and in particular modern art, is. Perhaps grand daughter Clementine could be holding it in her hand outside, when her paintings of ‘Pokemon Go’ are discovered in years to come?