fortyfive downstairs

Lisa Sewards: White Parachute

It’s been a little while since I last attended an art exhibition, and even longer since I’ve been to one of my favourite Melbourne venues, Fortyfive Downstairs. Last time I visited 45 Flinders Lane, it was to see one of my heros, Samual Johnson in a three-person play The Haunting of Daniel Gartell. It was a fantastic evening, and I’ve been looking forward to a chance to visit the venue again.


This week I had that chance, and this time it was to share in an experience; a raw, beautiful and moving experience. Tuesday night was the opening of Lisa Sewards’ first solo exhibition, White Parachute. This stunning show, featuring works on paper, paintings, objects and installations explores the memories of the artist’s mother who, after having spent five years of her young life in a displaced persons camp in northern Germany shares her experiences of uncertainty, loss and hope.

Despite the fearfulness the situation, central to Lisa’s mother’s memories is a WW2 parachute, of white silk, abandoned and subsequently found by the women and children of the camp. The women refashioned the parachute into much needed dresses, underwear and as a small luxury, fine silk ribbons.

20130703-220023.jpgThe ribbons, white and silky, stood out from the despair of the camp and in turn, stand out from the works on display in Lisa’s show.

Through Sewards’ reconstruction she creates a postmemory of the space of that parachute falling into the lives of those in the camp. Sewards, like most children of camp survivors, is engaged in a process that is not yet complete and may never find resolution. The silence of falling white parachutes is akin to the silence of her mother in relation to the events of those years – Essay by Dr Julie Cotter, exhibition catalogue.

Having read a number of war stories, of displacement and heroism, novels such as The Book Thief, In Falling Snow, and most recently, The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, this exhibition has provided a series of illustrations to accompany the  words that I’ve read over the past year. To have such haunting images available, to illustrate the equally haunting stories I’ve read, seems to have helped me to form a better understanding of what a terrifying period of time this must have been.

20130703-220031.jpgAlthough this show is reverent and clearly aims to raise an awareness of the circumstance of displacement, it is not somber. The hopeful image of the artist’s mother as a child, the repeated imagery of the billowing parachute and the silken ribbons themselves create a theme of hope, of finding comfort.

In addition to this beautiful treatment of a difficult theme, Lisa’s ability to master a wide range of mediums was on full display in this exhibition. Her works on paper are always stunning and her print collections are easily some of my favourite works. In saying that, her larger pieces in oils, collages and photography are impressive and add a real impact, a punch, to her shows.

The inclusion of Lisa’s installation piece, a parachute not unlike that which her family found all those years ago, helps to draw a very real connection between the audience and the art.

Lisa’s show, White Parachutes is showing at Fortyfive Downstairs until 13 July 2013 and will conclude with an artist talk and Russian high tea on Saturday, 13 July. For more information visit here…


Atop Mt. Ragged

I think I might make a habit out of this…

After work yesterday I wandered along to Fortyfive Downstairs, and proceeded down five (?) flights of stairs, a couple of floors underground to a most wonderful performance space. I was intent on discovering the answer to just what had happened atop Mt. Ragged, an answer sure to be buried within The Haunting of Daniel Gartell. Straightjacket Production, the play featured John Wood, Samuel Johnson and Marcella Russo. Reg Cribb’s play was skilfully directed by Lucy Freeman.

As usual, I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the place or the performance but I can honestly say I was delighted by both. Fortyfive Downstairs is a not-for-profit organisation and in keeping with this, there is an immediate for the love of it feeling when you enter the space. A sneaky glass of red, enjoyed whilst listening to the actors warm up behind black curtains, was a great way to get out of work-mode and into a performing-arts headspace.

From the outset the piece is poetic, and as the title suggests, haunting. The dialogue throughout is fast-paced and well-considered, and John and Sam play opposite each other with just the right amount of intensity. Despite obvious differences between these two actors, the intimate interplay between Daniel Gartrell and Craig Castevich involves an impressive mirroring of each others’ characters. This was done with subtlety, adding a real depth and intrigue to the progress of the story. I’ve not see Marcella Russo perform before, but I was really drawn to her performance. She built a character that was both awkward and confident, shut-in but nonetheless wily.

Despite the intensity of this play, it’s obvious sorrow and frightening end, it is also really funny. All three stars have a quick, dry wit and this shows through in the cleverly humorous elements of the play.

At the end of the day, this play delivers a bit of a laugh, a touch of romance, stormy bush poetry and a whole lot of heartbreak.

It’s running until 12 June 2011 and you can get tickets from Fortyfive Downstairs. If you get in quick, Rushcrowds have a discount offer for tonight’s show, here.

Finally, if you’re up for a little giggle, here’s Samuel Johnson hamming it up a little (courtesy of Straightjacket Productions.)

Finally, finally (I almost forgot) make sure you watch the blog tomorrow for details of our June giveaway!

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Did you hear that Rumble?

It’s that time of week again, where I drag my work-from-home butt into a real-life office and spend the day working alongside flesh and blood human beings.

One of the really good things about doing the trek into town (asides from seeing my work crew) is that it makes going out in the evening a much more realistic proposition.

This week I’ve got tickets to go and see the play The Haunting of Daniel Gartell, starring John Wood, Samuel Johnson and Marcella Russo, showing at Fortyfive Downstairs.

I’m as much looking forward to seeing the venue as I am the play itself, it sounds like quite an interesting space, often used for exhibitions and performances of different types. The play itself seems quite intriguing too, the write-up going a little like this:

Under an ochre sky something happened at Mt. Ragged. The incident inspired celebrated bush poet Daniel Gartrell’s (John Wood) most analysed piece of verse … a poem that’s final verse has never been published. Now an enigma, Gartrell lives as a recluse in the suburbs, his only contact is with his daughter, Sarah (Marcella Russo).

Gartrell is at home, thinking very oblique thoughts when an emerging actor from Bondi, Craig Catevich (Samuel Johnson), knocks on his door. The ambitious and optimistic Castervich has been cast to play Gartrell in a biographical movie, and in his research for the role, is ready for anything …or so he thinks
Words by: Fortyfive Downstairs

I’ll let you know my take on it in the coming days, but if you’d like to check it out for yourself it’s running until 12 June 2011. You can get tickets from Fortyfive Downstairs, and Rushcrowds have a discount offer for tomorrow night’s show, here.

If you’ve got a little listening time, can I suggest that you check out Rumble (Underground). Launched yesterday, Rumble (Underground) is essentially a place to go to find some really interesting stories. Over time, the site will house a collection of podcasts, documenting conversations with interesting people – characters living and creating wonderful things, be that music, stories, art or other.

They’ve launched with two podcasts, well worth a listen. I’ll have a bit more of a chat about these throughout the week, but you can check them out here and here.

Stay tuned, plenty more to come this week!