COVID Madness in our neighbourhood

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Rhonda Dredge

There wasn’t much real action during the pandemic for people in lockdown and they had to find it wherever they could.

Two artists have used the local setting as prompts for their work for an exhibition at Australian Galleries.

Painter Terry Matassoni has a studio above a beer hall in Victoria St.

His window was the best vantage point for watching and his painting Neighbourhood shows how empty and strange the streets were.

All of the action during the pandemic was on TV and the other artist Glenn Morgan realised he was onto a gold mine when he tuned in for his daily fix.

The drama that unfolded as the virus breached the border alerted him to the way society became polarised into good and bad guys, mostly bad.

He was horrified to see the overkill by authorities at the public housing towers at Racecourse Rd and built a model out of painted plywood with residents complaining at their windows.

Terry bought the two-storey shop in Victoria St in 1993 when many shops were boarded up.

“When I came to live in North Melbourne it was very down,” he said. “It wasn’t fashionable. Because I’d been living in New York, people live close in a city situation, amongst it. I wanted to do the same.”

He began painting intimate views of people through windows living close to each other but still feeling alone, taking his inspiration from the great US chronicler of urban life, Edward Hopper.

During the lockdown he took a longer view. The abstract structure of the city began to dominate his imagination, not in a reductive way but as if the neighbourhood was rearranging, the church in Curzon St moving into the right corner of his canvas, his studio in the left.

Ironically, Glenn’s incisive reporting on painful incidents during the pandemic was also done from a distance, from his studio in Warrnambool.

His caricatures of anti-vaxxers and demonstrators are hilarious, and he hasn’t tried to censor out his condemnation of their stupid moves.

He was forced into watching Channel 7 to collect his information when the ABC stopped covering protests.

His exhibition raises important questions about the media and its moral stance.

Who could forget the way the delivery guys were hammered for crossing the border and bringing a new variant of the virus to an apartment block in Maribrynong?

Glen calls this work Selfish bastards. He demonstrates the way artists can lift up the curtain on the local psyche to discover the fear beneath.

Neighbourhood and beyond, Terry Matassoni and Covid Madness, Glenn Morgan, Australian Galleries, until June 25. •

 

Caption 1: Neighbourhood by Terry Matassoni.

Caption 2: Terry outside his Victoria Street studio.

Caption 3: Glenn Morgan with a model of High rise towers.

Caption 4: Selfish bastards by Glenn Morgan.

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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