Thursday, May 21, 2015

Urban Sketchers - Cubed in Melbourne Central

Last Saturday the Melbourne Urban Sketchers were invited by Melbourne Central to take an 'Unlocked' tour by local historian and author Dale Campisi and then draw the centre.

During the tour we were taken onto the roof to see the glass cone up close and an amazing view of the surrounding buildings. We also got to stand inside the cone, behind a railing which circles it and view the shopping centre below from a bird's eye view. Talk about vertigo. You have no idea how excited I was.

Unfortunately we weren't allowed to stay and draw from these behind-the-scenes places, which is just as well, because I might never have left!

Looking up at the old shot tower (built in 1888), set against the ultra-modern glass cone is both a dizzying and awe-inspiring experience. I remember the first time I saw it when the centre opened in the early nineties and it's still just as impressive.

The centre itself has changed over time - undergone refurbishments, different retailers have come and gone  - but Coop's Shot Tower and Kisho Kurokawa's Glass Cone have become Melbourne icons.

After our tour, around 70 keen sketchers scattered throughout the centre to find vantage points from which to draw.

The distinctive features of the centre present lots of challenges for the urban sketcher: perspective, scale, decisions about detail and expression.

I had a hard time myself deciding what to draw. I avoided fully tackling the glass cone, knowing others would do it better justice than me. I tried to capture different aspects of the location: the shot tower against its modern retail environment, the abstract nature of the cone, the fact that it's autumn and city trees put on a lovely show in front of the centre, and I also drew in one of the laneways, which the centre consumed but also preserved when it was built.

Looking at what everyone came up with at the end was a lot of fun. It's so interesting to see a range of interpretations of the same location. People are drawn to different things, but when they sketch the same scene, their perception of it is completely different.

All of this sketching has culminated in an exhibition currently on show at Melbourne Central. If you're in Melbourne you can find the diverse work of the Melbourne Urban Sketchers displayed in the Glass Cube on Level 2.

It can be viewed whenever the centre is open and will be there for another week (Tuesday 26 May will be the last full day of display). It's well worth a visit.