Open House Melbourne 2015

08/11/2015 at 2:50 AM (Architecture, Buildings, Events, Melbourne, Photography) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Well, it’s been a long time since my last post. I’ve been busy travelling on the weekends & reading less on my commute but this does mean I’ve built up an arsenal of photos.  Anyway on a cold blustery winter weekend, I had my boyfriend accompany me to the 2015 Open House Melbourne. I don’t repeat buildings I’ve previously visited so I managed to make it to 10 new venues this time.

Melbourne Cricket Ground 

© Sarasi Peiris

First on the agenda was the Melbourne Cricket Ground Tour at 10 AM. While it also included a walk to external spaces of the Tennis Centre precinct and AAMI park, the tour didn’t quite meet my expectations as it was meant to also include visits to the player change rooms, pitch and the long room. We did get to stand in the members reserve section to take photos though. Apart from that, the tour attendees were provided insight into the logistics of running events at the MCG and treated to some interesting trivia including the etymology of the phrase “hat trick”. After I returned home, there was an email apologising about the tour having changed from the one originally advertised but I guess we did attend for free.



© Sarasi Peiris

We only left the MCG at a quarter to eleven so I decided to fit in a couple of CBD buildings. The second building I visited was an open plan work space utilised by an architecture and design firm, DesignInc. It is located within the former GPO building but access was interesting as it required entry through a lane I previously didn’t even know about, Postal Lane. There is also an external courtyard and greenery through the use of plants was a defining feature. The studio explained how they had to work with H & M to preserve the heritage features of the old GPO while also allowing it the functionalities of a retail space.

Council House 2 (CH2) 

© Sarasi Peiris

After walking down one more block, we lined up in the queue for the 10-storey Council House 2 (CH2) as it only took 20 people every 20 minutes. A man walking past commented, “What are you lining up for? breakfast? “. He was a bit off the mark given it was almost 12.30 pm at that point. After viewing a presentation featuring how green technologies were incorporated into the office design which you can see more of here, we were able to make a trip to the rooftop garden using a combination of the lift and several flights of stairs.

Government House

© Sarasi Peiris

Next on my itinerary was Government House, the largest residential building in Australia, which served as the official residence of the Governor of Victoria after it was completed in 1876. The House which was designed by architect William Wardell now is also used as a venue for constitutional, ceremonial and community events. The 11 hectares of gardens which has survived its original design by Joseph Sayce in 1873 was later subject to several  improvements by William Guilfoyle through the use of exotic varieties of plants. Ceremonial trees planted by various members of the royal family line the main drive because foreign dignitaries can often be guests of Government House.  

Luna Park


© Sarasi Peiris

Lucky last was our 3.30 PM behind-the-scenes tour of Luna Park. I would have squeezed in another building but the boyfriend was really hungry so we stopped to refuel him. This tour led us to through a secret door which held the old Scenic Railway which is 102 years old, to the inside of the restored 100-year-old Carousel and through the tracks of the Ghost Train, which was previously called The Pretzel. We were also taken to a newly built open-floor function space which provided a good view of the park and even beyond to St Kilda beach. My highlight was learning that the taxidermy dog in the Ghost Train section was donated by an old lady who wanted her beloved pet immortalised as a ghost.


© Sarasi Peiris

Given this was the last year the horses were to be stationed at the operational headquarters of the Mounted Police in Victoria, this large stable building drew in a large crowd and hence created a long wait; I lined up at 10.05 AM and got in to the tour at 11.15 AM. The police in Victoria have used horses since the Military Mounted Police rode into the colony in 1836 and the establishment of Victoria Police in 1853 brought several mounted units together and created a cohesive whole. Horse and rider numbers increased until they reached a peak period in early 1900 with 211 stations but the introduction of the motorcar brought about their gradual decline and downfall. The best part of the tour was watching the horses demo playing soccer.

Argus Building


© Sarasi Peiris

This building was originally designed as a home for the Argus newspaper between 1924 and 1926.  During its burgeoning period, 700 staff members occupied this building. After the newspaper closed in 1957, the place was used for several purposes which unfortunately resulted in permanent changes to the original facade, interiors and central light well. It is now home to the CBD campus of the Melbourne Institute of Technology. The only original interior that survived is the restored former Advertising Hall.

Hotel Windsor


© Sarasi Peiris

This hotel designed by architect Charles Webb used to be called The Grand but was renamed The Windsor after His Royal Highness Edward, Prince of Wales visited in 1920. It is the only surviving example of an opulent 19th century luxury hotel in Melbourne. When first constructed and it opened its doors in 1883, it was one of Victoria’s largest hotels. It is also a precursor to all the following grand hotels: The Savoy, London; The Ritz, Paris; Plaza, New York. Unfortunately self-guided tours only granted access to the Grand Ballroom and the majority of the lobby.

Eildon Mansion


© Sarasi Peiris

Given most of the Route 3a and 16 trams weren’t operating or were subject to delays, the only way I was able to get to this Renaissance Revival style mansion which was built in the 19th century, was by taking the Route 96 tram. This mansion was owned by Mr Ferit Ymer from 1951 where he and his wife raised their six kids while also running a boarding house between the 1950s and 1980s. Accommodation was specifically created for singles, couples or new immigrants to Melbourne. However in later years this business declined and the clientage started to become backpackers after extensive restorations by two of the owners sons in 2004. Now it is home to the Alliance Francaise who had organised lots of fun activities for the day including a French breakfast, scavenger hunt for parents and kids and free 30-minute French lessons at set times throughout the day.

Esplanade Vaults


© Sarasi Peiris

When the new cable tramway replaced the old horse-drawn omnibus on St Kilda’s Upper Esplanade, the roadway had to widened to allow for the tram tracks. This enabled 10 shops with arched ceilings and verandahs to face the Sea Baths on the Lower Esplanade. The shops sold merchandise suited to a seaside locale such as ice-cream, confectionery, fish & chips and swimwear and a projector displayed old photographs depicting such scenes inside the vaults. Tea rooms were also part of the shops. However while the tramway became a success, the shop verandahs were removed in the 1950s and the vaults bricked up when Jacka Boulevard needed widening in the 1970s.

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Sand Sculptures – Storyland

08/02/2014 at 4:58 PM (Art, Books, Photography) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I attended the annual sand sculpture exhibition in Frankston this year too which was themed after Penguin book titles for kids.

The sculpture below greeted me at the entrance letting me know I was entering Storyland.


As I walked around, I saw the sculpture below of Postman Pat and his van. Although Postman Pat started as a British animated television series for children, over 12 million books about him have been sold. Postman Pat is about the adventures of the postie as he goes about delivering mail.


Next there was a sculpture of Charlotte’s Web. It is a novel for children written by E.B. Williams and illustrated by Garth Williams. It is a story about a pig called Wilbur and his friendship with an intelligent spider called Charlotte.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The sculpture below was unfamiliar to me but I thought the design was spectacular. It depicts the Flower Fairies, based on the books and illustrations of Cicely Mary Barker. The children in her illustrations are modeled on students who attended her sister’s kindergarten.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

I was familiar with the below sculpture as I had previously owned a Little Miss Sunshine T-shirt. The sculpture is a tower of Mr. Men and Little Miss characters. All of them have self-descriptive personality traits.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Below is a sculpture of Where the Wild Things Are which was originally written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. If you’ve not yet read the book or seen the movie, it is about a boy called Max who retreats into a world of imagination after he creates havoc at home and is sent to bed.


The sculpture below is of Ferdinand, the bull. This bull prefers to smell flowers rather than fight. The children’s novel about him was written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The next sculpture made me feel sentimental because I used to watch Angelina Ballerina cartoons having once been a ballet kid. Angelina Ballerina was created by writer Katherine Holabird and is illustrated by Helen Craig. It is about the adventures of a mouse who dreams about becoming a prima ballerina.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The interesting sculpture below pays tribute to The Discovery of Dragons which is authored and illustrated by Graeme Base. It is written as a series of tongue-in-cheek letters from “discoverers” of dragon species in the world and features European, Asiatic and Tropical dragons.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The picture below features several characters you might recognise from the books of Beatrix Potter including Peter Rabbit. He was named after a pet she used to have called Peter Piper.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The quality of the picture below is not up to par so I apologise. It features the story written and illustrated by Eric Carle, about The Very Hungry Caterpillar who ate his way into becoming a beautiful butterfly.


Next we see homage has been paid to the tales of Pippi Longstocking, the children’s series by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Pippi is a feisty nine-year-old girl with unconventional ideas and superhuman strength who takes her neighbours on adventures.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The sculpture I came to next brought Narnia to life through the medium of sand.  Here we see a representation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the fantasy novel by C.S. Lewis.


The next exhibit had me puzzled until the display informed me this showed Hairy Maclary. So it turns out New Zealand author Dane Lynley Dodd writes a children’s series about a fictional dog and his exploits against an opponent cat.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The sculpture below portrays Jumanji. Before the movie, there was a book which was written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. For those not in the know, it is about a magical board game.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The sculpture below should be easily recognisable to anyone who watched the cartoons about him. It shows Spot the Dog and his friends. The books about Spot were written by Eric Hill.


I loved the next sculpture because it showed a book I loved and adored as a child, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was written by Roald Dahl. The story was inspired by the writer’s experience of chocolate companies during his schooldays.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The next sculpture was interesting as it was based on a video-game rather than a book. I guess Angry Birds represents the childhood of the present.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Fortunately the next sculpture was more in my element as it was based on a fantasy book loved by children and adults, the story of the bespectacled boy wizard, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. The level of detail in the caricature of the characters was amazing.


Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Harry Potter

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Harry Potter

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Having seen the exhibitions for Toytopia, Creepy Crawlies and now Storyland, I can’t wait for the upcoming theme for the sand sculptures next April: Friends, Foes and Superheroes.

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Open House Melbourne 2014

07/28/2014 at 12:56 PM (Architecture, Photography) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Last weekend was Open House Weekend 2014 which meant I was in for long trips and waiting in queues if I were to make my destinations. Armed with camera, water bottle, some fruit and a big book, I started my adventure of exploring the buildings in my city and their history. While I waited in line for an hour sometimes, I made great progress with my book while snacking on mandarins. On my third Open House journey I was prepared and succeeded in making it to 10 buildings so you can see the results of my efforts of traveling across Melbourne below.

Victoria Barracks

Victoria Barracks

© Sarasi Peiris

This year, I was lucky enough to win the ballot for Victoria Barracks. It was constructed in 1856 on land regarded as unusable swamp and has a long history of defence activity. The headquarters for the Imperial Army and Victorian Military Forces were located here in colonial times. After Federation, strategic decisions took place here, for the Boer War, World War I and II and the Korean War, in the War Cabinet Room which still looks as it used to be, with seats preserved from the time of Robert Menzies until the defence administration was moved to Canberra in the 1950s. Heritage buildings here include an original bluestone soldiers barracks, a former military hospital, The Barracks Heritage Centre which used to be a guardhouse, the Staff Sergeants Quarters built in 1858 which became the first RAAF headquarters in 1921, the armoury and ordnance buildings from 1860 and the basalt ‘Keep’ which became a wine cellar. There is even a chapel which gave accommodation to married couples in the military forces.

Parliament House

Parliament House

© Sarasi Peiris

My next port of call was Parliament House for which there was a 1 hour wait and an evacuation to the rear entrance due to a protest rally. Plans for Parliament House were drawn in November 1855. In 1856, construction first commenced for the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council Chambers. In 1861, the Parliamentary library came into existence. The Vestibule and Queen’s Hall were built later in 1879. Designed by architect Peter Kerr, the original plans have yet to come to fruition because a dome should be sitting on top of the Vestibule.

German Lutheran Trinity Church

Stained Glass Window in german Lutheran Trinity Church

© Sarasi Peiris

This church pays homage to the Gothic Revival movement and designed by architect Charles Blachmann. The church is built of bluestone and was constructed by Heinrich Goedecke, a gold rush era migrant from Germany. The magnificent stained glass windows are striking and depicts biblical stories. Surprisingly, the ceiling of the Lutheran church resembles the inverted hull of a ship which is not a typical feature of German churches. The altar is  in the middle of the sanctuary and forms half of a decagon.

No 1 Spring Street

Shell Mace sculpture

© Sarasi Peiris

In the exterior plaza, I am greeted by the sculpture Shell Mace designed by Charles O. Perry who has designed other objects of art such as a collection of jewelry and silver for Tiffany, chess sets, and puzzles. The floor plates in the shape of a shell, acknowledge the original tenants, the Australian head office of Royal Dutch Shell. The building was designed by Harry Seidler, an ambassador of European Modernist architecture in Australia. In the foyer, an enamel mural by Arthur Boyd based on the painting Bathers and Pulpit Rock occupies an awkward space close to the ceiling. Meanwhile in the office on level 15 which houses the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, the windows overlook a magnificent panorama of the city gardens, MCG and the Yarra.

St Patrick’s Cathedral

St Patrick's Cathedral

© Sarasi Peiris

This church is considered one of the largest Gothic Revival churches and is the largest building of its style in Victoria. It looks like the ancient, medieval cathedrals in England and is perhaps due to the influence of the architect William Wardell. In the church, the altar mosaics and the eagle lectern made of brass were built in Venice. The cross on the main spire was a gift  from the Irish government.

Limelight Studios and Salvation Army Heritage Centre

Limelight Studios and Salvation Army Heritage Centre

© Sarasi Peiris

The Salvation Army purchased Attic Limelight Studio when the YMCA became unable to maintain the premises due to foreclosure. Afterwards Captain Joseph Perry used it for a while as a photographic studio. Under the encouragement of Herbert Booth, Perry started to produce motion picture films and gave birth to the Limelight Department. About 400 films were made here until 1909. The most well-known production made here was ‘Soldiers of the Cross’. The studio still remains preserved and now houses the Salvation Army Heritage Centre.

Melbourne Synagogue

Melbourne Synagogue

© Sarasi Peiris

Built between 1928-1930 influenced by Nahum Barnet, it has a beautiful interior design with leadlight windows dating back to the 70s. The twentieth century Baroque classicism shows in the ornate exterior with its Corinthian columns in the entryway. It often is referred to as the Cathedral Synagogue. The congregation reached full membership in 1946 after some 15,000 European Jewish migrants came to Australia.

Australian Tapestry Workshop

Australian Tapestry Workshop

© Sarasi Peiris

The Australian Tapestry Workshop was established in 1976 and uses the same techniques employed in Europe since the 14th century in the creation of contemporary, hand-woven tapestries. It employs weavers who are trained artists so works of art that are unique can be created instead of a reproduced design which is weaved. More than 400 tapestries have created here including in collaboration with international artists. Tapestries are woven using fine Australian wool which is dyed onsite to a palette of 366 colours.

Portable Iron Houses

Portable Iron Houses

© Sarasi Peiris

These portable iron houses are pre-fabricated homes migrants brought with them when gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851. There are three preserved houses: Patterson, Bellhouse and Abercrombie. Patterson is still located on its original site, Bellhouse was saved from demolition in Fitzroy and Abercrombie was rescued from North Melbourne. These houses were a common sight during the 19th century but now are quite rare.

South Melbourne Town Hall

South Melbourne Town Hall

© Sarasi Peiris

When it opened in 1880, this splendid building, designed by Charles Webb, housed a courthouse, a firehouse, a post office, a library and a council office. It is located in Emerald Hill which was a site of significance for indigenous communities ahead of European settlement. Currently the Town Hall facilities are mainly used by the Australian National Academy of Music but the rooms I got to view included the Council Chambers, the Mayor’s room, the auditorium and the Ballantyne Room which was gifted a beautiful chandelier.

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Homage to World Photography Day through Open House Weekend

08/19/2011 at 9:38 AM (Architecture, Art, Design, Photography) (, , , , , , , , , )

On the 30th and 31st of July in Melbourne, we had a special event called Open House Weekend. It unlocks buildings of our city so you can access them on those days only. We are allowed into these spaces with guides providing insights into the importance of these buildings whether it’s significance is being of historical importance, engineering based feat or architectural design. For myself, I only had the Saturday free to  explore so I made it to the six buildings featured below.  As today is August 19th here, World Photography Day, I thought I’ll share some special photos of Melbourne, as it’s my part of the world.

The Origin Roof Garden

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

This was my first port of call. After wandering like a lost tourist up and down the road several times, I found the queue for this in Flinders Lane. This was designed by Jamie Durie (who’s of Sri Lankan descent like me) after his team were inspired by the trend which included forming of green spaces within urban centres. The lucky employees at Origin use this private garden in the sky to enjoy yoga, tai chi and other activities.

Myer Mural Hall

The Mural Hall inside Myer Department Store

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

This was my fourth stop all the way in Bourke St. It is located on the 6th floor of the retail giant Myer. It is a huge hall designed to hold 550 people with walls decorated with large murals, depicting women through the ages, painted by artist Napier Waller. The murals which were painted at Waller’s studio at Fairy Hills in Ivanhoe and then brought to Melbourne took one whole year to complete. The dining room is significant because this is a rare and intact example of Streamline Moderne style department store dining room in Australia.

RMIT Storey Hall

The Storey Hall RMIT Exterior

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

This is a very striking example of Melbourne architecture because of how dominant the colour green is here. It is because it used to be called the Hiberian Hall. Irish Catholics felt ignored by the Protestant population in Melbourne because they were  denied access to the largest public halls for meetings. So they built this hall in 1887 . It was used for pacificist and anti-conscription rallies during WWI and used as a commune during the General Strike of 1917.


The Pixel Office Building

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The Pixel Building, which is named after its attention-grabbing pixellated exterior facade, is now where the former Carlton United Brewery used to be. This building of four storeys which was designed by Studio 505 cost a cool 6 million dollars. It uses wind turbines on the roof and employs a grey water recycling system with reed beds on each level.  It aims to become Australia’s first carbon neutral office building.

Melbourne City Baths

The Melbourne City Baths Exterior

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

In early Melbourne, municipal baths were necessary as private houses had little in the way of private bathing facilities. Built in the early part of the 20th century, this is a distinctive Edwardian Baroque building which was designed by architect JJ Clark. If you look at the signage at the City Baths, you will see on the exterior of the building that there were separate entrances for men and women. On the second floor, there’s a balcony which features historical photographs of times past and you can see the men’s pool from the balcony.

National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria Water Fountain

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The NGV was designed by Roy Grounds, an Australian architect. It was the first major public building to be constructed in Victoria in the fifty years following WWI and the first new art gallery to be constructed in Australia after WWII. It features an abstract ceiling of multicoloured glass by artist Leonard French, which really took a beating during the hailstorms. The entire building is surrounded by a moat. The water feature at the entry, where water flows down a glass screen, called the Water Wall is your first glimpse of interior art.

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Marvellous Miyazaki : Part I

08/03/2011 at 3:37 PM (Art, Fairy Tales, Inspired, Movies) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve been meaning to this for a while now but it was delayed because I was working on the Burwood Bulletin since it’s due to be published in September with three of my six writers off duty. In addition, I got some extra work shifts from my second job. So I actually had to undertake the job duties of a journalist in addition to editing. When I return home, nothing seems better than a good sleep.

It was tough to hit the ground running with this one but I really wanted to share so I’ve got my butt into gear. These films meant so much to me even if they were animated and either dubbed in English or subtitled. What I am talking about are cinematic creations by Hayao Miyazaki.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle Movie Image

The first Miyazaki film I watched was Howl’s Moving Castle. Based very loosely on a book by Dianna Wynne Jones, the story is about the adventure of a young girl, Sophie Hatter, who is cursed with an old woman’s body. To break the spell cast on her by the nasty Witch of Waste, she seeks the help of a handsome but terrifying wizard by the name of Howl. His residence is a home that moves. A fire demon in the home, Calcifer, makes a deal with her that he will release her from the spell if Sophie releases him from the contract he has with Howl. The catch is he is not allowed to tell her how she can bring this about. When the disreputable wizard starts to fall for Sophie’s genuine charms, the fun begins. The characters and creatures are crafted excellently although Miyazaki has shown more strength in his character development in other productions. The animation is stunning and we are treated to a moral tale by changes of physical appearance and of character, reducing its preachiness while managing to work well as a lesson. It’s not as bad as Roger Ebert imagines.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away Movie Image

The Oscar-winning Spirited Away is another mind-blowing movie by the “Japanese Disney”. Ten-year-old Chihiro, who is moving away with her parents to a new neighborhood, is upset about leaving her old friends and school behind. Her father’s attempt to take a shortcut to their new town leads the family to an abandoned theme park where they find an unattended food stall fully laid out. Her parents dig in but Chihiro is uneasy and frightened. She encounters a spirit called Haku who warns her that she and her family have to leave before nightfall. But when she runs back to alert her parents, they’ve turned into pigs. It turns out she is stuck in a spirit world. So with the assistance of Haku, she gains a job at the bathhouse run by the witch Yubaba. She’s renamed by the witch as Sen and learns if she does not hide her true identity, she’ll lose her sense of self forever.  While she is whiny at the start of the movie, the responsibility she is saddled with develops her as a character. She begins learning how to deal with difficulties and becomes a stronger person because of her trials. After her parents turn into pigs, she’s scared and lost, but by the end of her journey in this fantasy spirit world, she is confident and strong. The film is rich in cultural symbolism and was vastly popular with the Japanese audience. It didn’t do too badly in the western world either as Disney took it on board but it did lose some significance in the transition…unfortunately.

Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke poster

I’ve also watched Princess Mononoke, which could be considered an animated fantasy Japanese period drama. A young warrior by the name of Ashitaka is stricken by a deadly curse when he’s protecting his village from a rampaging boar-demon. To seek a cure, he goes to the forests in the west where he finds himself mixed up in a war humans are waging against the forest. The Lady Eboshi and her clan who live in a sacred area use their guns against the forests gods and a young woman, Princess Mononoke, who was raised by a wolf-god.  The young warrior sees both sides are good people and the war is unnecessary and does his best to intervene. The groups each begin to think he is working for the enemy while he tries to convince them there are no sides. While this maybe an animated film, it is the adults who will gain more to learn from it. Besides the fact this is mostly hand-drawn makes it a major achievement.

The Cat Returns

The Cat Returns

A young girl called Haru saves a cat from traffic. She starts receiving gifts and favours from the King of Cats that she does not want for saving him. He wants her to marry his son, the Cat Prince Lune. Her rescue of the cat forces her to involuntarily become engaged to the cat prince in a magical kingdom.  She finds the assistance of a real but grouchy cat and an elegant cat statuette that has come to life. These two cats also made a cameo in Studio Ghibli film Whisper of the Heart. They help her to find the way to escape from the cat kingdom. This is a more relaxing and fantasy oriented film with that can be enjoyed in its own right as a splendid example of animation.

Whisper of the Heart

Whisper of the Heart Image

Whisper of the Heart is an animation so sweet that it tugs at the heartstrings. The plot is about a budding teenage romance but this constantly explored theme is given a new veneer as it avoids typical stereotyping. This screenplay was written by Miyazaki but it’s direction was undertaken by another talented man, Yoshifumi Kondo, who died of an aneurysm in the following year. We meet the girl, Shizuku, who regularly checks out books from the library. To her annoyance, someone else is checking out the same books. Later she coincidentally meets the culprit to blame, a boy. He finds a song she’s writing for graduation and tell her the lyrics are corny. Pissed off, she leaves to bump into him again after following a curious cat. Seiji turns out to be the grandson of a violin maker and he himself wants to develop his skill in that art in Italy. When she hears him play, she is entranced and inspired to pursue big dreams of her own by writing a book in the midst of their budding affection for each other. She feels as she is uncertain of the future she wants and he has big plans, they might not suit each other. You’ll see a different ending if you watch the American version but I watched a fan dub and was not displeased with the future marriage possibility discussion by the two adolescents. There is a manga that uses this title but it is not possible to say the print and film versions are the same story.

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Love Never Dies (Play)

07/04/2011 at 2:20 AM (Art, Performing Arts, Theatre) (, , , , , , , )

Love Never Dies, the sequel to the Phantom of the Opera, was a spectacular theatre performance in almost every aspect. Only being staged in a few select locations in the world, I was thrilled to be watching it at the Regent last night. The premiere performance of the show was attended by Andrew Lloyd Webber himself. Soon as I saw the magnificent and elaborate set which was complemented by skilful lighting and the Edwardian elegance of the setting, it took my breath away. Luckily my friend had secured some mid row seats which meant we had a fairly good view of the proceedings onstage.

This performance had a darker atmosphere as it was set in a circus in Coney Island, New York – home to freaks, the grotesque, the sinister and the weird. Naturally, such a place being the abode of the disfigured phantom (played by Ben Lewis) made sense. His opening number, the emotion stirring ‘Till I Hear You Sing comes at the very beginning and its haunting melody lingers with you until the very end. We are first introduced to the circus called Mr. Phantasma by three narrators: a dwarf, a strong man and a tall man. They were framed by a large white phantom mask that encompassed the stage and glowed with a red eye. According to the storyline, Christine Daae (played by Anna O’Byrne) is apparently coming to America to conduct a performance for Mr. Hammerstein in order to pay off gambling debts incurred by her husband, Raoul (played by Simon Gleeson). But the mother of the star singer of the circus, Madam Giry (played by Maria Mercedes), who had smuggled the phantom of the opera to Coney Island from Paris knows the impending visit will only threaten the future of her daughter, Meg (played by Sharon Millerchip), the current star of the show who wants the attention of the phantom, the owner of the circus.

When Christine and Raoul visit New York, they are accompanied by her ten-year-old son called Gustave (played by Kurtis Papadinis). He displays an astonishing talent with the composition of music and while he tries to get his father interested in his playing, Raoul shows no inclination or interest in his ability with the piano. He asks his mother if his father does not love him and she responds with a song asking him to see the love with his heart. Then after Raoul is summoned to conduct a business transaction with Mr. Hammerstein, the phantom visits Christine and then asks her to sing a song composed by him instead. This is when the phantom meets Gustave and is introduced by his mother as an old friend. It is only when the phantom hears the boy play the piano, he realises the boy has talents with striking resemblance to his own. Then he takes the boy to a place like another world where the song changes pace as it becomes a rock song called The Beauty Underneath which was a highlight, glass pyramid like rotating structures carrying mythic creatures inside spun on stage and the lights pulse in a bright orange glow.

Love Never Dies

But it was too early to reveal the truth about his face to young Gustave, who recoils in horror. Meanwhile feeling ignored and unwanted, Raoul spends time getting drunk at the bar. In his drunken stupor, he takes on a challenge proposed by the phantom. If Christine does not sing, Raoul will be free to leave with her and all his debts repaid but if she chose to sing, it would mean Christine had selected the phantom instead. This disappointed me because it made the phantom into a villain, Christine into a deceptive wife and Raoul into an ill-used man who had been burdened with bringing up the son of another man. This interpretation is not perhaps the expected one.

Unfortunately, Christine chose to sing, Raoul left her and she was reunited with phantom briefly until Meg’s jealous rage stepped in and she ran off with Gustave. When Meg finally had the attention of the phantom as she was on the brink of suicide, she tried to perform Bathing Beauty – which was a cheeky but cute number prior to the song by Christine. But the phantom as he tried to stop her made the mistake of telling her that not everyone was like Christine. Meg sets off the gun and the consequences ensure there would be no possibility of a sequel unless it was to be about Gustave. As she lies dying, his mother tells him the truth about his real father but he is at first hesitant to accept the fact. After he runs off to bring back Raoul, the phantom steps away to the side but the finale of the show is when Gustave gets brave enough to see the phantom without the mask.

Since this story is different in its characterisation to the original by French author Gaston Leroux, while I was definitely surprised at the tragic ending, it pleased me the scheming machinations of the phantom ultimately got rid of the trouble-causing woman. Despite the storyline not living up to that of its predecessor, it is worthy of Broadway just for the visual design of the set and the theatricality of the deeply hued costumes.

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Creepy Crawlies – Sand Sculpting Australia : Part 2

02/28/2011 at 5:28 AM (Art, Sculpture) (, , , , , , )

13. Little Miss Muffet was cool on top of a spider:


Little Miss Muffet exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The sculpture is based on the nursery rhyme of the same name. It was first printed in 1805 in a book called ‘Songs for the Nursery.’ The sculpted Miss Muffet however is sitting on a Jumping Spider and not on a tuffet. Did you know it can jump up to 40 times its own body length? To identify them, pay attention to the eye pattern. They have four pairs of eyes with large pair of eyes in the middle.

14. Alice and the Caterpillar were chilling with the Cheshire Cat:

Alice and the Caterpillar at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Well, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland won an Academy Award in art direction during its 83rd Anniversary – just saw it on TV about two hours ago. There is a hookah smoking caterpillar here with Alice and the Cheshire Cat nearby.

Caterpillars are the larvae of the Lepidoptera family of insects such as butterflies and moths. Because caterpillars are soft-bodied, slow movers, predators find them to be an easy target. To protect themselves, caterpillars use several methods like eyespots, poison, foul odours and camouflage. Despite being puny creatures, these guys have 4000 muscles while we humans only have 629.

15. Roach Motel was a literal translation – just made from sand:

Roach Motel exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Cockroaches usually are disliked by most people because of their preference for scurrying around in and consuming rotten food and other garbage. But these fellows can actually go without food for a month and hold their breath for up to 40 minutes. Kind of impressive. Because its brain is scattered throughout its body rather than being in the head is why cockroaches can run around for a week before thirstiness kills them.

16. Ant Farm based on a recreation of the Farmville game from Facebook:

Ant Farm exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Have you watched Antz or A Bug’s Life? Those are some cute movies featuring ant colonies. Large colonies mostly consist of  sterile, female ‘workers’ and ‘soldiers’, fertile male ‘drones’ and fertile female ‘queens’. They have great organisation skills and are social creatures. The only landmass that has no ants is Antarctica and some remote islands.

17. Frogs Galore was a surprising choice:

Frogs Galore exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

They made it into the display of creepy crawlies because their quick movement, the way they can camouflage and the feel of their skin. Besides their diet is on insects such as bugs and flies and sometimes worms. Most frogs evolve after hatching from eggs as tadpoles. When the tadpoles grow, they lose their tails and grow the legs that allow them to perform jumping feats. Find more information on frogs here.

If you are in Melbourne and are interested in going, you are in luck. It’s open until April 2011 near Frankston pier.

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Creepy Crawlies – Sand Sculpting Australia : Part 1

02/27/2011 at 7:31 AM (Art) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Frankston sand sculpture exhibition, made up of a heavy sand known as ‘brickies’ sand brought in from Graham Quarries in Langwarrin,  pays homage to Tim Burton with its depiction of insects and gastropods in their 2011 exhibit titled Creepy Crawlies. It makes sense to use the insect theme since apparently there are 220,000 insect species in Australia. But apart from the insect based constructions, there are displays of other creatures such as Annelids and Amphibians too.

1. The entrance display Creepy Crawlies greets us:

The entrance vignette at Creepy Crawlies sand sculpture exhibition

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

It provides an overview of the creepy crawlies that you are to encounter within the exhibit. This mostly shows insects under the arthropod classification and a group within the mollusc family called gastropods. The sand sculpture is completely solid and there is no foam or open space beneath them. To build it, the sand is compacted into wooden forms to create shapes and sizes of the structures in a form resembling a giant wedding cake with many layers. These layers help the sculptors to climb to the top, remove the wooden formwork from the uppermost layer and begin carving. They climb down the different layers to carve instead of using scaffolding or ladders. Once complete, a biodegradable sealant is used to repel moisture and preserve structures.

2. The second was an exhibit of a flea circus:

Flea Circus exhibit at Creepy Crawlies exhibition

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts like mosquitoes. But fleas prefer four-legged hosts because fur is much more hospitable to them than human skin. Because they don’t have wings, fleas have adapted to jumping long distances instead. Flea circuses originally were sideshow attractions at travelling carnivals where spectators could watch them through special lenses but nowadays magicians and clowns are the only people who might use it as a sideline act. Even then, these days they are more likely to use mechanical devices rather than fleas. You shouldn’t blame them because in the 14th century, fleas caused the death of over 200 million people by spreading the Bubonic Plague from rats to humans.

3. Sewer Connection was the depiction of an underground sewerage system:

Sewer Connection exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

There have been many stories of animal sightings in sewers that range from the credible to the absurd. Despite these stories, no evidence confirming these reports have been found making it far more likely to be an urban legend. The only animals found in sewers usually have been washed in during storms and conditions in the sewer make it hard for them to survive. The only exceptions might be rats, spiders and cockroaches.

4. The Boogie Man was the subject of the fourth sculpture:

Boogie Man exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Remember The Nightmare before Christmas by Tim Burton? This is based on the character of Mr Oogie Boogie, the Boogie Man. Famous for scaring children into compliance in many cultures all over the world, this particular version resembles a hessian sack. In the film where he is the main villain, it turns out bugs have a lot to do with him. The word ‘bogey’ or ‘boogie’ originates from the Middle English word ‘bogge’ or ‘bugge’ which is also from where the word ‘bug’ derives its name.

5. Bed Bugs had pride of place in sand next:

Bed Bugs exhibit for Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” Have you heard this refrain? Bed bugs are wingless insects that shelter in dark places close to where people sleep. So I would check mattresses, floorboards, carpets and behind loose wallpaper since these bugs like to feed on human blood. Their saliva, injected when feeding, can make our skin react badly. During the mid 20th century, the incidence of bed bugs became low but now thanks to international travel, resistance to insecticides and the prevalence of central heating, the numbers are multiplying.

6. The Exterminator was next in line:

Exterminator exhibit from Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Technology has developed its electronics to become smaller with progress. Robots based on insects have become popular and there are many ‘robo bugs‘ in the toy market. Using the same principles, miniature robots have been created for rescue operations such as building collapses. With the use of an artificial antenna, these bugs can navigate in the dark through small crevices. Perhaps this pest control guy has the wrong address! Once the technology has been perfected, these robots can be used in emergency situations. You might have heard that cockroaches (plus other insects) could survive a nuclear blast but after a month or two, the effects of radiation will finish them off.

7. Beatlemania was a rather quirky one:

Beatlemania exhibit from Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The Beetles was the name The Beatles originally had as a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets when they decided to change from being The Quarreymen. Beetles make up 40% of the insect population and the 400,000 species of beetles classified depicts their ability to live in nearly any habitat. Beetles eat anything from hardwood to ooze from rotting fungi making them an invaluable asset to any ecosystem.

8. Lair of the Spider Queen was this one’s title:

Lair of Spider Queen exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

In 1941, there was a Golden Age comic book character called Spider Queen. She was the secret identity of Sharon Kane, sworn nemesis of all evildoers. This modern take of her is surrounded with more spiders. An ancient source of fear and fascination, they range from the Armoured spider that has a body the size of a pinhead to the South American Goliath Tarantula – so big that its legs span a dinner plate!

9. The Hive was displayed next in its glory:

The Hive exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Did you know it is estimated that one third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination? Bees have a big role to play because they are important in the pollination of plants. Beehives are constructed in that hexagonal honeycomb shape because it allows each cell to contain the maximum amount of honey for minimum wall space. These nests only have a single entrance.

10. Giant Scorpion was smaller than some other creations:

Giant Scorpion exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Scorpions belong to the Arachnid family. Although mostly nocturnal creatures, they can be active in daytime during enduring wet weather. The ones in Northern parts of Australia are more venomous. Most live for 2-10 years but some have lived to the ripe old age of 25! Also scorpions glow in the dark under ultraviolet light.

11. A Closer Look was an interesting sight:

A Closer Look exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

This is a sculpture suggesting we unwittingly eat a lot of bugs in our food. This includes tiny caterpillars in the salad lettuce and weevils in flour baked into cakes. But throughout the world, there are some cultures which consider them a delicacy. Well, why shouldn’t they? Insects are a rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals.

12. Enchanted Garden was an illustration of the less creepy insects:

The Enchanted Garden exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Do you find every insect revolting? Butterflies, dragonflies and ladybirds can perhaps even be considered ‘cute’. This garden sand sculpture is home to creepy crawlies of the delightful variety. It also includes snails, crickets and grasshoppers but they are ‘good’ insects because they make gardens thrive.

To be Continued….

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Dreams Come True: The Art of Disney’s Classic Fairy Tales – Part II

12/08/2010 at 10:34 AM (Art, Fairy Tales, Movies) (, , , , , , , )

So as I was saying ….

4. Beauty and the Beast.

In this tale of Beauty and the Beast , the narrative deviates from the usual damsel in distress stereotype since Beauty in effect tames the Beast and that distances her from the women who need rescuing from heroes. Belle is actually one of the foremost independent, wilful and resourceful Disney characters. Notice that she is not a princess – she comes from a working class background.  Sometimes I feel this is one reason for the universal appeal of this story and as it is so adaptable to numerous situations , it has spawned into other manisfestations in several guises.

Within the exhibition, it was interesting to note the designs the artists originally created to portray the Beast. The first resembled a wildebeest/warthog/swine-like combination or a bigger, nastier looking version of Pumbaa from The Lion King. It had protrudring tusks and long teeth with furrowed bases. Even I felt inclined to agree when my friend commented, “Kids wouldn’t have liked that one. He’s too ugly looking. ”

The second illustration was based on an orangutan and possessed distinctive simian features. But the monkey like appearance made it difficult to conceive the creature in a non-humorous, brooding aspect. It just felt too much like he should have belonged in the accumulations of Dr. Doolittle.

The third beast was the one they went with. He was actually an assortment of animals but the big mane of hair, in my view, gives him a lion-like aspect. All the designs however had stuck to the ponytail with the bow. The fact he looks like a big cat  with soft, haunting eyes I feel contributes to make him an appealing beast.

6.  The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid, another perennial favourite of many, was in the adjacent exhibit. A video installation consisting of the scene where Ursula forces to Ariel to sign a contract which states she will exchange her melodious voice for the ability to be human played interchanging with the tunnel scene where human Ariel and Prince Eric enjoyed their boat ride to the accompaniment of Kiss the Girl by Peter Andre.

The artist who designed Ariel’s hair which moved and flowed along with her in the water modeled it on the view of a female astronaut’s hair in space.

7. The Princess and The Frog

This was a fim that was mired in controversy as soon as Disney thought it would be nice to have an African-American princess. Even though it bears little relation to the princess who lost her golden ball in the original story, it is an interesting take on an old classic. Then there’s the issue of Tiana tying the knot with Latin American prince Naveen and the outcry about her not doing so with someone of the same race.

But then if you consider the union in the Little Mermaid , Prince Eric was a far cry away from Ariel’s species! So I  fail to understand what this hullaballoo regarding interracial marriage is about …

The artwork of New Orleans and Louisiana bayou is beautifully done and the vibrant colours have a decidedly different aesthetic from other Disney films. Perhaps it is a result of the new territory they explore with this feature.

8. Tangled

I cannot pass any judgement on the film’s merit as it is not yet released but I have heard awestruck exclamations about the painstaking artwork required Rapunzel’s 3D hair for which they assigned an artist singularly responsible for that particular part of her anatomy. Her  hair  movement was based on the gliding mechanism of a slithering snake which seems to have made it easier for looping, coiling and tying actions.

Rapunzel and Flynn in Tangled

It was with delight I noted her rescue in Tangled would steer away from the tried and tested forms by Disney. The hero Flynn seems to possess a lot of the features of John Smith from Pocohontas although he’s a brunette rather than a blonde. It is probably for the best since who would want to compete with Rapunzel’s locks?

By its conclusion, I realised strangely a lot of my favourite members of the Disney canon were missing. Esmeralda, Mulan, Pocohontas – these ladies did not make an appearance which was disappointing. Is it something to do with race? One is most likely Eastern European since she is a Gypsy, the next is from the Far East and  from an oriental background while the last is a Native American.

Nevertheless for an exhibition titled Dreams Come True, it  did a unique job of transporting me into Disney’s classic art.

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Dreams Come True : The Art of Disney’s Classic Fairy Tales – Part 1

12/07/2010 at 11:57 AM (Art, Books, Fable, Family, Movies, Romance) (, , , , , )

Everybody seems to know Disney as the maker of animated films which end in happily ever after. The exhibition at ACMI that I attended on the weekend offered fascinating insight into the concept artwork , creative process and the final creation of well-known and much loved Disney animated characters that was categorised into eight separate areas.  It is apparent even the animation industry is going through a significant shift from 2D to 3D as the digital world becomes all pervasive as it ranged from Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme based animation to the new Tangled movie that is loosely based on the tale of Rapunzel.

1. The Introduction












This area was devoted to explaining who Walt Disney was and illuminating us as to what his vision was when he decided to use old folk tales, legends, mythology and European fairy tales as inspiration for his animated artwork. Even though he lacked any formal education , visits to the public library  where he read books on animation turned out to be immensely useful as they imparted the knowledge he desired. As he expressed, ” all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

This is where the audience is introduced to Mickey Mouse who happens to be an original character created by Disney to rival Felix the Cat , created by Pat Sullivan, and who arrived ahead of  the full length fairy tale features. Within the exhibition area, we are treated to a film clip about Mickey that uses the concept of Jack and the Beanstalk. This was during the time he created features like The Three Little Pigs, The Ugly Duckling and The Country Cousin.

2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White, the original tale which derives from the Brother Grimm version from Germany, has a special place in motion picture history.

  • It was the first full length cel animated feature in the world of movies.
  • It was the first animated feature film produced in America.
  • It was the first animated feature that was produced in full colour.
  • It was the first animated full length feature produced by Walt Disney.

The transformation of the Wicked Queen from her usual appearance to ugly hag in her underground laboratory was the most complex level of animation undertaken at that stage. To achieve the voice changes, the actress Lucille La Verne who voiced the Queen removed her false teeth was an interesting tidbit I picked up.

3. Cinderella

Cinderella was in the next section of the exhibit and as inspiration was taken from the narrative popularised by French writer Charles Perrault, the story is very similar. Interestingly, live action models were used for this film and they were responsible for heavily influencing many of Cinderella’s mannerisms, especially Helene Stanley.

She had an even larger influence on Aurora (Briar Rose), who is otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty. The earliest Cinderella story however comes from China and actually originated during the  Tang dynasty.

4. Sleeping Beauty

This is a favourite Disney film of mine as it has a magnificent villain in the form of Maleficent (which aptly means evil-doer). So perhaps those who believe these classic animations are simply  kiddie films and lack symbolism are in the wrong. Much of the Disney canon utilises myth and metaphor to a deeper extent if you look beyond the surface.

Aurora also happens to be my favourite princess although not my best loved Disney character . That title goes to the lovely Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame based on the novel of Victor Hugo, also the author of Les Miserables. The artwork in Sleeping Beauty happens to be amazing which comes as no surprise as it was influenced by medieval European history  especially in dress design with a touch of 1950s glamour (think Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday) and then topped off with a dash of Persian design in background illustration.

What I noticed from most of these were that the villains were mostly older women who had issues with other women being younger or prettier or more resourceful. If symbolism is present, what does that mean?

But then we come to the story of Beauty and the Beast which is a different affair completely.

To be Continued…

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