Between Old and New: Reflections of a Gallery Attendant at Old Quad

Guest post by Gallery Attendant, Ada Coxall, reflecting on her work at Old Quad where she bridges the gap between art and audiences.

There always seems to be something quite poetic about being alone in Old Quad at the beginning and close of the day, before the doors open and visitors filter in. Standing in the stillness of the early morning or late afternoon never ceases to strike a chord with me, as I reflect on the building’s past guises and the many who have walked its halls.

Taking in these moments before I begin my duties as Gallery Attendant helps to centre me, helps me to engage with this ‘new-old’ space – and the objects it holds. I have the history and the story of the place in my mind as I go through the motions, checking the lights are all on and everything is in order. One of my opening duties is to examine the works on display, looking for any damages or issues. Moving into the North Annex of Old Quad, I find that a brief once-over never applies to Tom Nicholson’s work, Towards a Glass Monument, as my attention is naturally grabbed by the beauty of the piece. I find that the artwork changes day by day, and it is hard to not stand and admire the many ways it reacts to the light. Nicholson brings my early morning thoughts on the history of the building alive in this piece, offering multiple angles through which to view its significance. The arched neo-gothic lancets, which frame the stained glass, hark back to the original Old Quad windows, thereby using the structure of the old to hold something new. My interactions with visitors as they come across this piece is always a highlight, as we share our thoughts and feelings about the work.

Tom Nicholson, Towards a glass monument 2017-19 (installation photograph).
Tom Nicholson, Towards a glass monument 2017-19 (installation photograph).  Stained glass lead and steel frame in 2 screens, each containing 20 lancets. Realised through Monash Art Projects, Melbourne; Geoffrey Wallace Stained Glass, Melbourne; and courtesy of Milani Gallery, Brisbane. Photograph: Christian Capurro. © Tom Nicholson

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The fashionable office

As more people work from home due to the current unsettling circumstances, our dress sense has also adjusted and the office mode for shirts and skirts has altered to more comfortable wear such as track pants and slippers. As we grapple with major changes to work and lifestyle, let us look back on some fashions from past centuries to reignite a bit of style and sparkle for the home office.

Published by G. Robinson, Two ladies in the newest dresses, engraving, 1775
Published by G. Robinson, Two ladies in the newest dresses, engraving, 1775

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Four activities with the Print Collection to keep you entertained during times of isolation

Are you isolated because of COVID-19? The Baillieu Library Print Collection is available online, and images that are out of copyright are freely available for you to study and enjoy. There are over 9,000 individual items to search in the database which date from the 15th century onwards. Here are four ideas to keep you creative during this time of quarantine:

Activity one: curate a print album or scrapbook

Before Instagram, creatives and collectors housed their images in albums. This practice allowed individuals to select and arrange works of art to their own personal desires and tastes. Some prints were inlaid into the album in window mounts and carefully drawn borders, while others were simply pasted down. Collectors sometimes wrote comments under the prints or left other mementos. The nine Sadeler albums comprising 1200 prints by a dynasty of Flemish printmakers and arranged in the 18th century, are the most expansive examples in the collection.

Norblin album: etchings by Jean Pierre Norblin (1774-89)
Norblin album: etchings by Jean Pierre Norblin (1774-89)

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Taking a breath with Special Collections: An interview with Lauren Ellis

Special Collections Blogger, Ana Jacobsen, recently interviewed Lauren Ellis to find out about the role of Program Manager, Curation and Innovation and the latest exhibition in the Noel Shaw Gallery.

Lauren Ellis in the Noel Shaw Gallery
Lauren Ellis in the Noel Shaw Gallery

Q1. Can you describe what your role as Program Manager, Curation and Innovation entails and what the Take a Breath exhibition that you’re currently working on for the Noel Shaw Gallery is about?

My role is to support and lead a team of subject expert curators across the areas of Rare Books, Rare Music, Prints, Maps and the East Asian Collection. As curators, it’s part of our practice to consider how the collections are being utilised, what is their value to the university community. We look at ways to promote their existence and raise their profile, to provide access to them for students and researchers, and we ensure that they are well looked after and well organised.

In terms of Take a Breath, the approach has not been driven by subject matter or telling a story in a top-down, didactic way. Our starting point was an investigation into what it is that we can offer the people in our community and environment.

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Insights on the pirouette with Mademoiselle Parisot

Attributed to Arthur William Devis, Mademoiselle Parisot, c. 1797, pencil, watercolour.
Attributed to Arthur William Devis, Mademoiselle Parisot, c. 1797, pencil, watercolour.

Mademoiselle Parisot, the French-born dancer and singer, enthralled conservative English audiences when she debuted on the London stage in 1796 aged about 18 years. She captivated audiences with an almost magical power to balance herself horizontally while pivoting on one toe. Her bold grace also caught the attention of the press and caricaturists. The Monthly Mirror reported that she created ‘a stir by raising her legs far higher than was customary for dancers’ while artists such as Cruikshank lampooned her audience, rapt from gazing beneath her skirts.

The delicate drawing of Parisot in the Baillieu Library is a far less risqué portrait of the dancer renowned for her scandalous, gauzy costumes. The image is not signed, but a 1797 mezzotint after Arthur William Devis suggests that this is the original work of art reproduced. The artist has shied away from capturing the famous height of her leg in the pirouette and instead it trails awkwardly behind her (Devis’ career as an artist struggled in the 1790s). Dancers had just dispensed with heeled shoes and Parisot is depicted with the new flat shoes which were secured with ribbons and allowed the performer to leap, turn and fully extend their feet.


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