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Weekend Notes: Murders and Echoes Exhibition

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Clare McFarlane

See article in its original context here by Tintin Rahman.

Squawk It’s a murder of crows and parrots

Is that a parrot?” I ask, gesturing to the painting of a blue and green bird.
“Yes. It’s a Twenty-eight.”
“It’s a what?”
The redhead with ringlets in a blue and white spotted dress and black tights, the daughter of a bird-watcher, then explains that Twenty-eight parrots (also known as Port Lincoln parrots on the west coast) were named so because the sound they made was like the word twenty-eight.

Twenty-eight!” she squawks, as an example. There’s the irreverent Australian humour. She then tells me the story of that particular painting, Shuddering Echoes I.

A friend of a friend shot a twenty-eight. My friend then gave it to me. Dead birds are easier to paint,” she says smilingly.

By ‘she’, I mean 38 year-old Clare McFarlane, whose bird-centric exhibition, Murders and Echoes, is showing atfortyfivedownstairs in Melbourne CBD until April 20. Yes, while we are moving from summer to autumn, it’s best to think of pleasant indoor activities and events. Why not go on a ‘gallery crawl’ along Flinders Lane? While you’re doing that, check out fortyfivedownstairs, which is in full swing.

Besides Clare’s collection, Michael Pearce’s Unwrapped Hong Kong, a silent commentary about Hong Kong architecture, is on in the larger room at fortyfivedownstairs. Step onto the dark wooden floorboards spattered with white dots of paint and stare at some birds and buildings while listening to poignant instrumental and classical music. The plain scrolls of grey and blue skyscrapers made me think of how going overseas (the artist lived in Hong Kong for two years) has a profound effect on one’s life, how it broadens your perspective. Some Australians go to Japan and bring home a wife. Others go to Hong Kong and can’t forget the architecture. They can’t bring it back so they replicate it in their art.

While I was not inspired by Unwrapped Hong Kong (being from Kuala Lumpur, a city of skyscrapers itself), it complemented Murders and Echoes. It made Clare’s star shine brighter. I went back a second time to look at Clare’s stuff. In particular, the golden-yellow sheen of the background in the paintings above cheered me up. It turns out that Clare, like me, adores bright colours. Overall, the Murders and Echoes collection is a celebration of birds that captures the freedom that birds symbolize but hints of something darker. Go and see it. While you won’t be able to glimpse Clare herself, her cheerful disposition and spirit is embodied in her paintings.

PS: If staring at art is not your thing, if you prefer a bit of noise, costumes and a story, fortyfivedownstairs has plenty of plays for your palate. Cruising Paradise – Tales by Sam Shepard (the Academy Award-nominated actor, no less) is showing for three weeks, beginning April 25. The plot? A man travelling down Highway 90 gets trapped alone overnight inside a Cracker Barrel restaurant where he is tormented by an endless loop of Shania Twain songs. A boy travels to a roadside inn to retrieve the mattress on which his drunken father burned to death. Tales of solitude and loss, tied to the open spaces of the American plains.

For more information, call Jade Stroud-Watts at 03 9662 9966 or check out what’s on here.

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