Monday, June 30, 2014

Me and Melbourne Art: A Love Affair. (Artists on the streets)

The more I discovered the city in its most natural form, the more I concluded:

Melbourne is an out and out art city.
Art is the life of the people here, infused in the city’s character and landscape.

Sometimes it was the evocative street walls, at other times it were the graphic trams and most often it was the canvas-like road promenades and park pavements. Together, these snowballed into something so wildly creative and powerfully original that it lent a renewed layer to my Melbourne expedition, something that I never planned for.

There was something so joyous, vulnerable and slapstick about Melbourne and it's arts that it made the city that much more likable. From abstract to concrete, from sublime to ethereal, Melbourne painted a beautiful world, a world where artists - known or unknown; people - locals or tourists, and art - titled or untitled; everyone was welcome, everything appreciated.

One look at the spattered flecks of color on the streets was enough to draw me in, lost in feelings of deep artistic beauty, never to be found again ...


An artist entertains on the streets of Melbourne
A musician hums a tune, on the streets of Melbourne
A band of musicians, on the streets of Melbourne
A stand up comedian on the streets of Melbourne
An artist sings on the streets of Melbourne
Magic tricks on the streets of Melbourne, Australia
Magic tricks on the streets of Melbourne
Incredible people, interesting sights while wandering on the streets of Melbourne

Sometimes one does not mean to fall in love,
Sometimes, it just happens. ~ Shannon Hale

Today... I sit miles away from Melbourne, but that's only speaking physically. Mentally, I am still there. Very much there. My heart continues to reside in its artful realms. I can still feel every inch of my heart pin for the beauty. They say, a true love story never ends. They say it best. We shall continue this someday.

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Melbourne Travel Blog Diaries:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Me And Melbourne Art: A Love Affair. (Street art, Art trams, Dockland Statues, etc.)

Art is one of those things we simply must do
so that our spirit may continue to grow ~ Unknown

There are few things in the world that steal my heart. Fewer those capture my soul. Art is one of them. I have a terrible weakness for all things artistic. I can’t help but fall in love with anyone and everyone who hold the talent to create something out of a blank dot.

That’s how Melbourne trapped my heart. And that's where Melbourne ceased to be a city, instead went on to becoming something more. Past magnificent architectural marvels and grand iconic structures, Melbourne delighted me with visuals which highlighted a different aspect of its own personality.

My love affair with the city was about to begin.

With the city map tightly held in my hand, I had ventured out of my hotel room on the first day itself, curious to discover the little streets and crisscrossing avenues lining the city, the city’s most lovable assets in its most natural form. The sounds I heard and the scenes I witnessed were captivating, almost magical.

Out there, away from the routine things to do and places to see, I heard this city hum a different tune. Music, painting, magic, puppetry – together, provided for a perfect melody. There were surprises waiting for me at many crosses and turns as the city morphed into a striking canvas dipped in a palette full of colorful art and symphonic creations, having enough enigma to gather my attention.

Come along ...

1. Art on the streets.

This was a sight I had never seen before: People, helpless and homeless, immersed in doing what they love in a bid to earn a life and living. It was heartwarming, so to say, and even more when I never witnessed anyone buy anything from them. This sight definitely made for one of my most prominent highlights of the entire Melbourne trip.

An artist at work on the streets, Melbourne
Art on the streets, Melbourne
Art on the streets of Melbourne
Painting for a living, on the streets of Melbourne.


2. Artistic masterpieces in motion: Art Trams of Melbourne.

As part of the Melbourne festival in October 2013, Melbourne had rolled out 8 Art trams to their world famous tram network. And, I was so glad to have seen many and captured at least 3 of them which I would like to share in this little diary of mine. Given below are the pictures accompanied with the words of the artist behind the creative imagination.

i) Tram 2002 by David Wadelton:

A colorful Melbourne Art trams, Melbourne Festival

"I have a great interest in the social history and the appearance of our suburbs. This has manifested itself in many ways, beginning in the 1970s, when I began prolifically photographing my local area of Northcote, as well as other inner suburbs.

I continue this practice to this day, and take special delight in the apparently mundane aspects of our everyday world. It's all interesting to me. One manifestation of this has been a commitment to photograph every house in Northcote, which has an eclectic mixture of houses, built on all budgets and in all era. I've used my photo archive of over 700 images to create wallpaper with which to wrap a tram. The tram will thus become a mechanical embodiment of suburban Melbourne!" - David Wadelton

Art tram launched: 5 October 2013

Routes: 86 and 112


ii) Tram 259 by Joining Forces:

Melbourne Art tram, Melbourne Festival

"You are now sitting inside a giant orange transportation device, covered in floating moon babies, space weasels and crusty old slug men. How did it come to this? Joining Forces is a collective of six Melbourne-based artists who combine wildly diverse styles to make imaginative art.

The members of the collective are Zahra Zainal, Jeffrey Phillips, Gemma Flack, Rhiannon Thomas, Brendan Ninness and Sebastian Berto. The tram artwork is based on a 5 metre long hand-painted canvas, which was created through a process of drawing over and around each other's work. The collective's work focuses on collaboration, experimentation and community" - Joining Forces

Art tram launched: 1 October 2013

Routes: 70 and 75


iii) Tram 925 - 'Backyard' by Jon Campbell:

Melbourne Art trams, Melbourne Festival

"The backyard design for my tram is based on the backyard that I grew up in, in Altona. It's a stylised pop version of that backyard. The backyard was a site of influential activity in my upbringing, cricket matches with my brothers and our mates and neighbours, family BBQs and 18th and 21st birthdays to name a few.

The backyard seems to have an important place in our psyche but hasn't beeen articulated much in art. I've always liked the social aspect backyards bring to our lives" - Jon Campbell

3. Sculptures in bronze at Waterfront City, Docklands and other star murals.

While striding along the Docklands bay area, by the Yarra River, near Harbour Town, and feeling the soft breeze play with my hair, I came across interesting performers and stars cast in life size statues of bronze. Docklands exhibits the very best of Melbourne, including over 40 artworks contributing to the strong identity of the locale. Inspired by a myriad of themes, walking past some of them felt like turning a few pages of a storybook...


... A storybook which was filled with characters ...

Adventurous.

Public works of art in Melbourne
Peter Pan in Melbourne Zoo,  enjoying the attention of children and adults alike.

Talkative.

Docklands area public art, Melbourne
Graham Kennedy,  was the main host and star attraction
of a highly popular nightly variety television show titled - In Melbourne Tonight, also known as "IMT".

Passionate.

Docklands creative public art, Melbourne
An English-born Australian pop singer, John Farnham is one of Australia's leading performers with a career spanning over 45 years, also the only Australian Artist to top the charts in five consecutive years.


Interesting.

Docklands public art in Melbourne
Dame Edna Everage, housewife and megastar,
a famous character created and performed by Australian performer and comedian Barry Humphries.

Elegant.

Docklands public art, Melbourne
Dame Melba: An Australian operatic soprano, the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician.

Curious.

Public works of art, overlooking a tram, on the streets of Melbourne
Met these gentlemen, not in Docklands, but somewhere on the streets, roaming, perhaps lost.

And ... Mischievous.

Docklands public art, monkeys, Melbourne

All of these and many more,
and, ready to speak up any moment ...
these were the stars,
chiseled in bronzebreathing life ...
drawing us closer,
Me and Melbourne Art,
igniting the spirits,
A Love Affair.
                           
                                     ... to be contd.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Discovering Federation Square of Melbourne on a Rainy Day


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As city districts go, Federation Square or Fed Square is an iconic legend, and rightfully so: stretching for an entire city block and standing right in the heart of the city flanked by noted landmarks all around and embracing the Yarra River, Federation Square has got what it takes to be one of the most beloved attractions of Melbourne.

Melbourne’s favorite meeting spot and the city’s most happening outdoors, Federation Square apparently entertains a whopping number of 10 million visitors annually cutting across a hub of cultural activities like arts, music, concerts and world class events that are a regular occurrence all through the year.

So as someone visiting Melbourne for the first time, what would I have expected when I put Federation Square in my memory list of Melbourne?

People. Yes, I expected people. Lots of them. Since that is what the precinct is primarily known for. But, to my surprise, I saw none!

An eerily empty Fed Square on a rainy day, Melbourne Victoria

Well, a trickle maybe but no where even close to what the Square prides itself on.

It was not the fault of the Square actually. The weather was the chief culprit. The rather ruthless rainy conditions hitting the city ensured most of the people remained indoors since all major events of the Melbourne festival which were supposed to be in full swing at the time, either stood cancelled or shifted to the atriums inside. Thus, all I got was a blank space, filled only with almost vacant grounds and empty steps even on days when the weather was relatively clear which was a rarity.

The otherwise buzzing Fed Square remained quiet in the rains.
But the best thing about this otherwise buzzing place is that, even if you happen to be there on such a quiet rainy day, you can still find plenty of spectacles to appreciate. And you can still take delight while savoring all the charm. Let’s see what all I did, let’s take a photo tour.

1. Catching movies on the big screen:


Screening of Hindi Movie Taare Zameen Par at Fed Square, Melbourne Victoria

Federation Square has an open air theater complete with a large screen set up against a backdrop of Eureka sky deck  in the open grounds with a capacity of more than 15,000 people. As part of the Melbourne Festival, some of these open theater shows were cancelled and some were shifted indoors but I managed to catch up on a few that carried on, like Taare Zameen Par and Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Hindi movies which formed a part of special Diwali Festival Evening Films from India.

2. Gazing at iconic buildings all around:

No matter which way you turn and which direction your eyes point to, when in Federation Square, you will find an architectural marvel waiting for you. From the precincts, you can see --


Australian Centre for the Moving Image - ACMI -
Celebrates and displays the innovative advancement of the moving image in all forms – film, television and digital culture.
The Flinders Street Station of Melbourne located just opposite.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, a place of prayer and peace.

In addition to all the above, one can also find the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia (home to the world's largest collection of Australian art from the Colonial period right through to contemporary artworks), Eureka Sky Deck, etc. in the Square. It does make for a wonderful vantage point for all the iconic landmarks of the city.

3. Visiting the Melbourne Visitor Centre:


Melbourne Visitor Center  inside the Federation Square, Victoria

The green colored glass cubicle with a yellow i  is the 'Melbourne Visitor Center' situated in the Square. If you are new to the city and find yourself lost, this is the place to go. I went there once and the information and maps I gathered did help me make my mind and put my plans in perspective. With helpful members, guides, timetables and maps, it provides all answers and insights to all our confusions regarding the where’s, how’s and what’s of Melbourne – for free!

4. Getting enchanted by a live event:

An artist entertains at the Fed Square in Melbourne Victoria

This sight is from one of my luckier days when I had reached the Square at just the right time. The weather was cloudy but the rains would start only 10 minutes later when all the assembled people would be walking away for cover. Which simply meant that till then, I along with a few locals enjoyed the play by the artist and his tricks with the magic ball.

Now, cracking a joke, at the grounds of Federation Square.

On regular days, many more colorful and fun events like these are a given.

5. Watching a sunset:

And this was my favorite of the lot. To sit on the steps and witness the city adrift against a backdrop of the fading pale orange yellow skies... a moment magical and divine…

.. of sparkling lights descending from the heavens,

Bidding goodbye to a beautiful day at Federation Square in Melbourne Victoria

... and making their way into my little heart ...

Do catch this sight if you can.

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Other Information and tips for travellers:

- In addition to the outdoor spaces, Fed Square is brilliant with its indoor areas as well. It is home to many cafes and restaurants where people can meet and enjoy a snack, or sip on the city's famed coffee.

- You can rent a bicycle, book tour buses or boat cruises, hire a bike, shop for cool souvenirs or even take part in one of the many activities, all while enjoying multiple events at the place.

- Fed Square has free WiFi and the space is open 24 hrs every day of the year. Note that the galleries, shops and restaurants all have their own opening hours.

Fast Trivia

The buildings and open spaces at Federation Square rests on a huge concrete deck built over the railway yard.  In spite of that, the design of the deck means no noise or vibration from the railway disturbs the space or the buildings in Federation Square.

For more information, please visit www.fedsquare.com.

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Previous stories from Melbourne:


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Things to do in Melbourne: See the MCG!


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I had to check this place. Coming from a cricket mad nation like India, where people literally sleep, breathe and live the sport, you can very well imagine why. Cricket is not just a game here but a passion, an obsession dominating the nation's sports scene since centuries. On the same lines, Melbourne draws similarities in that way. Melburnians or Aussie's in general are cricket mad too! Which is why, there was no way I was leaving this place out. And now, that am back, I tell you – If you go to Melbourne tomorrow, you should definitely check it out as one of your things to do in Melbourne as well.

This place’ that I am talking about is 'The G', also known as the 'The MCG' or the Melbourne Cricket ground, an illustrious sporting venue and the first ever to host a Test Cricket match way back in the year 1877. Since then the ground has played a long engrossing innings - be it covering the 700th test wicket of Shane Warne or hosting the fiery battle Ashes - giving all its fans all around the world ample of memorable moments to enjoy.

I think I was one of them, a fan of the MCG… right since the times I have been interested in the game. Just like Lords cricket ground of England or even Wankhede stadium of Mumbai. Some places have a timeless aura around them, like reflecting a priceless legacy. A legacy that is passed down through generations and that carry the credence of pride and passion. MCG certainly is one such treasure - Australia’s true coliseum of sport.

And, I was here. Embraced in its shade, right beneath the headlights in a thunder stormy weather, rain drenched to the core. MCG took no time to bowl me over. Mighty huge, and magnificent, the ground exuded an air of royalty and pride from the first sight itself. No wonder, it had earned Melbourne the badge of ‘the sporting capital of the world’.


Melbourne Cricket Ground, The G or the MCG, Melbourne Victoria
Melbourne Cricket Ground, The G or the MCG from a distance, Melbourne Victoria.

The premises houses great sporting legends to the likes of Shane Warne and Betty Cubhert so that visitors like me who visit MCG and National sports museum from all over the world can celebrate their rich talent and remember the immense contribution they have made to the sporting history of not only their country but the entire world.


A statue of shane warne at the MCG cricket grounds, Melbourne Victoria
Shane Warne in his spinning stride against a dark cloudy backdrop, at the MCG premises.

Dennis Lillee at the MCG cricket grounds, Melbourne Victoria
Dennis Lillee at the MCG cricket grounds, Melbourne Victoria

Betty Cuthbert known as the Golden girl at the MCG cricket grounds, Melbourne Victoria
Betty Cuthbert known as the Golden girl at the MCG cricket grounds

Fully wet and partly exhausted, I walked in through the Hugh Trumble café, located at Gate 2 of the ground, and met a very cheerful staffer Kinjal there. A native of Ahmedabad but living in Melbourne, her hospitality was as warm as the hot cup of chai which she treated me with, free of cost! I asked her what I should see in the MCG and she suggested taking the tour would be a good idea. 'You will get to see the dressing room, the media box, get to go onto the field and see the player’s memorabilia. You should do it, and this coming from a non cricket fan, it’s worth it.'


My cup of Melbourne Chai at the Hugh Trumble cafe, MCG, Melbourne Victoria
My cup of chai at Hugh Trumble cafe, Melbourne Cricket Ground.

I learnt that the entire tour takes around 1 hour and tours commence every 45 minutes. I looked at my watch, I was already well into the day and had to cover a lot of other things as well, the tour dint seem like a feasible option for me. 'Else, if you are running short on time, you can go out from that door and peep into the grounds of the MCG. But, you wouldn't be able to go onto the field; that is possible only if you take the tour.'


The glass doors, at the far opposite end of the café, sliced apart, opening into a verandah. A few people lazed around oblivious to my presence and my heart’s flutter of excitement. A black iron gate indicated restriction of any movement further but I gathered strength to gatecrash it. After all, this was like my once in a lifetime opportunity and I wanted to see the ground as closely as possible.


A gate restrists my  entry at the MCG cricket grounds, Melbourne Victoria
Gatecrashed to go beyond!

Flanked by a row of white colored seats slithering into the distance on both sides, I took a deep breath  in. A large circular carpet of green grass stretched endlessly before me. In the center of the green grassy carpet was the brown pitch on which was stationed a water mopping car - the super sopper.

My view of the MCG cricket grounds, Melbourne Victoria
My view from the stands of the super famous Melbourne Cricket Ground or the MCG of Australia.
Super sopper at work at the MCG cricket ground in Melbourne Victoria
Super Sopper at work at the MCG in Melbourne

The stadium, the pitch, the stands, the fence, everything was LIVE here. The sight was right out of my TV screen box; the place felt familiar.

What was missing however, were the fans, those people who wear their passion on more than just sleeves of their golden colored T shirts or baggie green caps. Fans for whom cricket is not a mere form of recreational entertainment but a way of life.


A Portrait of fans at the Hugh Trumble cafe, MCG, Melbourne Victoria
A portrait frame of fans from the Hugh Trumble cafe, MCG
Perhaps, the breeze heard my feelings, for I felt a sudden gust of wind play with my hair. The breeze carried with them a bagful of stories. Stories of ferocious battles being fought, of fraught emotions running loose, of tears and laughter, of celebrations and disappointments, of victories and losses. For a moment, I felt the whole stadium come alive, throbbing with the anxiety of a million fans; their hearts beating hard, pumping loud.

Was it a case of simple hallucination or was it the remnants from a power reserve left behind by a mighty maniac battalion that eats, breathes and sleeps cricket
viz. the exceptionally loyal Aussie fans or the Barmy army?

Considering that I too was now a minuscule speck of the infamous history of the MCG, I prepared to leave but not before leaving a silent wish behind ...

Side view of the MCG cricket grounds, Melbourne Victoria

... A wish for the breeze to remember my tale ...
and, carry it along, when this stadium will be jam packed with people again.

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Other Information and Timings of the MCG:

For a quick bite (and a lucky sighting of famous cricketers!) Hugh Trumble Café and Courtyard is the place to head to. It's located at Gate 2, Ponsford Stand in the MCC Members wing of the MCG. Open from 12.00pm-2.00pm, the cafe offers plated hot meals, sandwiches, rolls, wraps and cold drinks.

National sports Museum or the NSM opens from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm (last admissions 4.00 pm)

MCG Tours 10.00am – 3.00pm

MCG tours operate regularly approximately every 45 minutes from Gate 3 between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm everyday (except Christmas Day, Good Friday and major MCG event days). It takes about an hour for the entire tour which includes the main ground along with a briefing of the history, change rooms and media facilities (might be unavailable on match days.)

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Previous stories from Melbourne:

Melbourne things to do #8: Walking the Yarra River Trail.


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