Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Heide High Point

Heide museum of modern art can be found in Bulleen, on the northeast reaches of Melbourne. Difficult to access via public transport it took 90 minutes and three attempts (thwarted by bad weather and poor planning) to complete the journey. So happy to finally arrive I take the wrong route and head up the roadside, the long way round, past ditches and speeding traffic.

Heide I, a majestic 1930s chocolate box house in pink and white, gazes out at the road, softened by trees. I imagine John and Sunday Reed’s plethora of cats (they had their own cattery) prancing around the garden and the Heide circle (Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester and Laurence Hope), painting in various spots. Inside are small-scale versions of the sculptures found in the garden with 1960s abstract works from the Heidelberg school, intact library and kitchen with built in iron stove.

Heide II is an impressive example 60s modernist design, it reminded me of the writers pad in Clockwork Orange. I sat in the conversation pit, flicking through the book on Heide II, transported to a world of decadent parties, glamour and hedonism. There were a few adjustments to interior, the floating stairs had a banister and glass guard fitted after Sunday's favorite felines had taken a nasty fall. The open banister on the viewing gallery was also contained within glass, parties must have had an air of danger to them, with the cold sandstone walls and tiled floors, save the creaky wooden floorboards in the conversation pit, covered in shag pile. An exhibition of the schools graphic artists was on display throughout the house.

Taken in 1968 of Sweeney and his girlfriend. Sweeney committed suicide in 1979.

The Heide circle was a relaxed commune with open affairs and parties, Sunday reportedly engaged with various artists including Sidney Nolan who was married to John Reeds sister Cynthia at the time. She assisted Nolan in the Ned Kelly series; painting sections of the works, he left under emotional circumstances leaving his entire collection of 200+ works behind. Sunday returned his art yet retained the Ned Kelly paintings; she eventually gifted the works to the National Gallery of Victoria. Joy Hester the only female painter within the Heide circle had a son with Albert Tucker. When her son Sweeney was 3, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and passed care of her child to the Reeds. Sunday became infertile after contracting gonorrhea from her first husband.

Heide III is a purpose built gallery space, exhibiting Albert Tuckers Modern Evil series, a fantastically engaging representation of the horrors of war displaced in Melbourne surrounds. Strong symbolism with angular depictions of devil pig women, clowns, prostitute and soldiers, the intensity of the pain sucks you in. Tucker was called up for duty in 1940; he worked as an army artist at the Heidelberg Military Hospital documenting its occupants who had endured disfigurement and mental illness as a result of service. After discharging in 1942 Tucker witnessed a shift in the attitudes and morals of Melbourne, wholesome family life had been replaced with teenagers and soldiers on the rampage. His paintings focused on the fall of women, in particular prostitutes, which he returns to during his years in Europe.

The gardens were beautifully landscaped and adorned with large and medium scale sculptures.

The site set on 16 acres over the Yarra river floodplain was a former dairy farm.

At first I thought it may be an installation, but on further discovery it was home to bees

I definitely got my monies worth the sun was dipping by the time I departed

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