Sunday, 6 November 2011


“Sculpture is the best comment that a painter can make on painting.” - Pablo Picasso

We have an interstate guest visiting so we decided to go to the Yarra Valley to have a look around some of the wineries, have lunch there and look at some of the art on exhibition as part of the Yarra Valley Arts initiative. The Yarra Valley is less than hour’s driving to the northeast of the Melbourne CBD and is the place where Victorian winegrowing started in the mid-19th century. As one drives through the outer suburbs of Melbourne, one encounters rolling hills densely planted with vines, beautiful verdant valleys and distant blue mountain range backdrops. There are lush pastures, beautiful forests and rivers with villages surrounded by bushland like Marysville, Healesville, Yarra Glen and Warburton.

There is a wealth of vineyards to visit, ranging from the small family concerns that produce boutique wine ranges in small quantities, to the larger concerns that have many hectares of vines and produce wine by the megalitre each season. There are hundred-year-old vineyards and wineries as well as the new arrivals that have just planted out their vines. One may sample the wines, tour some of the winemaking facilities, and there is no dearth of places to linger over a meal as one discovers the regional fresh produce, well-prepared food that is matched to the local wines in the vineyard restaurants. One may also choose to stay a night or two in a chic boutique B&B, a self-contained cottage, a winery retreat or even a five-star luxury hotel/resort.

Many local and international artists have chosen the Yarra Valley to live in and work in. There are many galleries in which they exhibit their work and one may visit many small artist studios dotted around the region and see where the art is created and talk to the artists themselves, and hopefully buy one of their art works.

We visited three wineries: St Huberts founded 1862, Domaine Chandon founded in 1986, and the oldest of the three wineries, Yering Station, which was established in 1838. We tasted the wines, had a lovely lunch at Domaine Chandon and wandered through the sculpture exhibition at Yering Station. Much of the sculpture on exhibition is quite challenging and radical and new, with some it begging the question “yes, but is it art?”. However, we saw some pieces that were interesting and thought-provoking, while others left us completely cold.

There were some “installation” pieces also, dotted around the extensive parkland and gardens of the Yering Station. It was quite amusing to see some of the prices. An installation of magnolia twigs by Wona Bae that looked like some sort of animal burrow had a price tag of $14,500! I doubt that there would be a queue of people lining up to buy that one! There were a few other audacious pieces that challenged the credibility of the creators as artists, but there were also some thoughtful, well-crafted pieces that were interesting as well as more appealing on an intellectual level.

The Yarra Valley Arts and Yering Station Sculpture Exhibition and Awards is a collaborative event between Yarra Valley Arts and Yering Station, which a premier winery in the Yarra Valley. The exhibition was started in October 2001, has grown incrementally since then and is now an iconic event on the Victorian Arts calendar attracting strong interest. Yarra Valley Arts is a not for profit organisation dedicated to enhancing the cultural lives of those who live, work and visit in the Yarra Valley.

The sculpture exhibition showcases a cross-section of contemporary Australian sculptural practice from established and emerging artists. The sculpture exhibition is staged in the beautiful landscaped gardens designed by Michael McCoy and offers ample opportunities for placement of outdoor sculpture, while the long indoor corridors and breezeway of the winery’s function centre and restaurant offers indoor and sheltered space in which more delicate art work can be displayed.

Definitely worth visiting, even if modern sculpture is not your cup of tea, you can still enjoy the gardens, the wine, the good food and the sweeping vistas of the breath-taking landscape. Here are some of my photos from Domaine Chandon.

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