18 February 2014

Exhibition tracks the impact of modernism on Australian gardens

Cultivating Modernism artwork When in 1934 poet Ezra Pound exhorted the world to “make it new” the sentiment spread worldwide.

With the horrors of WWI still fresh, the international movement to shake off the art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy and social organisation of the past was as urgent in Australia as anywhere else.

The modernist movement influenced our furniture, our fashion, our houses and public buildings and also our gardens.

Celebrating Australian modernism the University of South Australia’s Hawke Centre and its Architecture Museum have joined with the University of Melbourne Library and National Trust of Australia (Victoria) to present an exhibition and accompanying forum to explore the impact of Modernism on Australian gardens from 1917 right through to the rise of the environmental movement in the 1970s.

The exhibition Cultivating Modernism: reading the modern garden 1917–71 running from February 17 to March 31 is spread across two venues at UniSA’s City West campus - the Kerry Packer Civic Gallery and the Architecture Museum.

In the Kerry Packer Civic Galley (Hawke Building level three) Australian modernism is traced through rarely seen books, prints and ephemera charting garden making from WWI until the dawn of environmentalism in the 1960s and 1970s.

It showcases garden designs during a turbulent period from pre-war European functionalism to a more relaxed post-war Californian modernism and is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

UniSA’s Architecture Museum (Kaurna building ground floor) will host a complementary exhibition drawing on rare art deco prints and publication of French exhibitions.

Cultivating modernism: French garden style of the 1920s and 1930s provides a rich coverage of Cubist and other decorative approaches to garden design and is open Monday to Wednesday 10am to 4pm.

To launch the exhibition, curator Richard Aitken and author of an accompanying book, Cultivating Modernism, will introduce aspects of the exhibition and book on Tuesday 18 February at 6.00pm in UniSA’s Bradley Forum, City West campus, Hawke Building level five. This event is now fully booked.

The exhibition is an Adelaide Fringe Festival Event and has been staged with support from Melbourne University Publishing, the University of South Australia Library, Heritage Council Victoria, and the Art Deco and Modernism Society.

About the author and curator

Richard Aitken is a Melbourne-based architect, historian, and curator.

He has been in private practice since 1978 and has prepared conservation plans for many of Australia’s most significant historic gardens, including the botanic gardens of Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne, and government houses in Sydney, Melbourne, and Hobart.

Richard’s books include The Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens (2002), Gardenesque (2004), Botanical Riches (2006), Seeds of Change (2006), and The Garden of Ideas (2010), and Cultivating Modernism (2013). He has also contributed chapters to The Art of the Collection (2007), Reframing Darwin: evolution and art in Australia (2009), and Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art (2012).

In 2006 Richard was awarded honorary membership of the National Trust of Australia for his advocacy role in the identification and conservation of significant gardens and designed landscapes.

He is currently co-editor of Australian Garden History, the quarterly journal of the Australian Garden History Society.  

About the book

With 330 images in full color Cultivating Modernism is an armchair tour through our modern landscape—international in scope, Australian in focus. Cultivating Modernism is published by The Miegunyah Press (an imprint of Melbourne University Publishing) in association with The University of Melbourne Library

See more at http://cultmod.org/book.asp

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli office: 08 8302 0966 mobile: 0418 823 673 email: Michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au

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