Postcard from Melbourne

Melbourne’s weather is notoriously changeable so we were hoping for some respite from the heat and humidity we’ve been experiencing here … not to be, as it was hot, hot, hot in Melbourne too.

Too hot to wander the Royal Botanic Gardens so the best thing to do, we thought, was spend time in air-conditioned shops and buildings. Hurrah then for the National Gallery of Victoria, which has a branch on Federation Square (the Ian Potter Centre). We’ve seen the indigenous art before but it’s so interesting that we happily visited again.

What does this have to do with gardening? The photos I’ve chosen all incorporate plant life in them somehow. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Stringybark gum (Eucalyptus tetrodonta) trunks, painted. The gum’s bark is also used as a canvas (see below). Photo: Sandra Simpson

‘Para’ by Kunmanara Pompey (also known as Tali Tali, Pompey c1947-2011) shows the trunks of ghost gums and desert gums. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Read a short biography of the artist (a woman).

The name “ghost gum” can be applied to several trees but the tag with the painting identified these as Corymbia papuana (Eucalyptus papuana). Ghost gums shed their bark to show the white trunk underneath, hence the common name.

Desert gums (called Para by the local tribes) are also known as Marble gums. In this image you can see some of the mottling the artist has depicted.

In the 1970s Nyapanyapa Yunupingu was attacked by a buffalo in a wild apple orchard. Here is a painting of the orchard done on the bark of a stringybark gum. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Read more about Nyapanyapa Yunupingu here. And here is a description of how the bark is taken from the tree (Eucalyptus tetrodonta) and turned into a surface for painting. E. tetrodonta and E. miniata are also the most commonly used woods to make didgeridoo.

Also in the gallery is a collection of 19th and 20th century Australian art. On show are paintings, furniture, silverware … and this gorgeous thing:

An Olga Munro ‘lounging robe’ with hand-embroidered wisteria. The donor’s great-aunt travelled to Sydney for the opening of the Harbour Bridge in 1932 and it’s thought this was bought then. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Olga Munro was an active fashion designer in Sydney from 1926-42. Go here to see a similar kimono-style robe and some embroidery detail. (The blog was started by Munro’s great-granddaughters but hasn’t been updated since 2013.)