Wednesday, January 25, 2012

inspiration at the rex

Mel outside The Rex Hotel, standing next to Margo Lewers Mural
The Rex Hotel.
Mention this place and there will be many a knowing nod in your direction.
The Rex Hotel is an institution in Canberra, known for its Presidential stays in the 1960s, its mirrored ceilings in the hallways, and its hotel bar where many a tale has been created....

On this particular trip The Rex turned into a lifesaver. 
For some unknown reason Canberra was the hottest spot in Australia last week, and there were no rooms available... anywhere! So The Rex saved the day... and in fact, proved to be more than a place with a comfy bed. It became an art inspiration. 

Expansion, Mosaic Mural, 1960, The Rex Hotel

In 1960 an Australian artist named Margo Lewers was commissioned to complete a massive exterior mural for The Rex, at a time when Canberra was just starting to rebuild itself, and its image for the 20th century. Margo was a prominent abstract artist at the time and was asked to create a mosaic mural that was contemporary, strong and in keeping with the modernist 60s style aesthetic that The Rex was trying to establish in the sleepy Capital City of the time.

Detail of the mosaic mural 

When I saw the mural last week I was amazed at how it has stood the test of time. 
It still looks fresh and strong. 

And to see it now, when commissions for major mural pieces has halted, its great to see what amazing public art can do for a building. Ask any local and they can tell you about the beautiful mural that sits outside this iconic hotel.

Margo went on to have a long and prominent life in the arts, and her mural, named Expansion, still lives on so we can all admire and appreciate it some 50 years later.

Detail of mosaic mural

Actually as a funny co-incidence, Gemma Smith has an exhibition now showing at Penrith Regional Gallery that looks at the work of Margo Lewers and the influence it has had on her work. The show is called Case Study : Gemma Smith considers the work of Margo Lewers, and has been curated by Anne Loxley who sees many similarities between the two artists':

I was struck by compelling cross-overs in the two practices: in their painting, both artists explored lyrical and hard edge abstraction, and both practices are distinguished by ambitious sculptures in plexiglass/acrylic. I very much wanted to see the works of Margo Lewers in conversation with the works of Gemma Smith.  
Anne Loxley, curator

So great to see such a strong exhibition on two great Australian artists' now showing in January when most of the galleries are still on their summer break.
Worth a look if you're out and about in the West of Sydney and needing an art fix!

Case Study : Gemma Smith considers the work of Margo Lewers
Penrith Regional Gallery
86 River Road Emu Plains

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