219 Cotham Rd, Kew
18 October 2011
We arrived early and waited with anticipation and excitement outside Lyon Housemuseum, with its tall fence hiding the wonders within. Once inside, we were treated to a fascinating collection of contemporary artworks, including paintings, sculpture, video art and large scale installations by leading Australian contemporary artists, all housed in an equally fascinating building.
Our hostess was Yueji Lyon, who welcomed us to share the home of their family: she, husband Corbett and their two daughters. It was hard to imaging this building as an occupied family home. Each immaculate room, corridor and walkthrough holds numerous art forms. Designed by architect Corbett Lyon, the Housemuseum is also very contemporary. It is designed around a two storey “white cube” at the front of the building and a two storey “black box” at the rear – the “White Fugue” and the “Black Fugue”. Family living spaces flow around the Fugues, and all the spaces contain artworks and artefacts, all beautifully presented.
On the outside, the building has a dark grey zinc cladding. Around it are landscaped courtyards and sculpture gardens. The family room looks onto one of these gardens and an impressive, brightly coloured inflatable sculpture titled Swell, by Christopher Langton. Inside the building, the floors and staircases are in Victorian ash. Some of the timber panels on walls and ceilings are laser etched with strings of words and text.
Yueji led us through each room and corridor, talking about the artworks and design of the home. The paintings, sculptures and ceramics in the family room included Damien's Diamante Doggie in Swarovski crystals and epoxy resin, by Penny Byrne, and Caroline Rothwell's Island I and Island II, small black sculptures in hydrostone and lacquer. After talking about one of the larger paintings in the room, Yueji opened the panel that it was hung on, revealing another large work, The Hume Highway Project, recreations of road signs by Peter Atkins.
The large works in the “White Fugue” included Untitled 99,an exquisite floral work by Tim McGuire. The room outside it, with Howard Arkley's 10 panel work, Outside-Inside-Out, and his 3D Swatch Trestle, led through a corridor that held Callum Morton's sculpture, Habitat, in wood, acrylic, paint, aluminium, sheet magnets, lights and sound, a utopian vision of tiny housing apartments, with the sounds of human habitation over 24 hours (compressed to 24 minutes), from waking to sleeping. A very engaging work. The corridor led into a hall with sculptures, rows of seats, and a magnificent wall mounted organ. We were given a taste of its musical power. Beautiful!
In the Dark Room were sculptural and video installations by Patricia Piccinini. The installation of three glossy red sculptures, in high density polystyrene and automotive paint, was titled Car Nuggets, They're good for you. Based on a play on words, 'car' and 'chicken nugget', these were like hybrid lifeforms. On three walls, huge light and sound projections portrayed underwater movement with forms (digital versions of the Car Nuggets) drifting through the swirling waters. I found it fascinating and hauntingly beautiful.
We went up the Victorian ash staircase to the dining hall, where we could overlook the artworks in the “White Fugue”. On the dining room walls we saw Howard Arkley's 17 panel work, titled Fabricated Rooms.
We descended another staircase and entered a larger family area, opposite the huge and lovely kitchen. Parked to one side of the art video installation, as if watching it, were Patricia Piccinini's Truck Babies, one blue (boy) and one pink (girl). They were sweet, they really did look like baby trucks, with their fat round forms and big bottoms. Yueji revealed yet another panel – two big shadow boxes filled with ornaments and mementos of the children's travels over the years. Yueji and Corvett encouraged their two daughters to have their own curatorial museum space. This is a work in progress!
I watched in eager anticipation as Yueji opened yet another panel, but it was just the elaborate closet where visitors could store their belongings during the tour, and it was time to go. We wrote in the visitors' book, and thanked our hostess for inviting us into their home, and for sharing their truly wonderful home-gallery-museum.
We finished off with delicious lunches at Tassal's Salmon Shop in High St, Kew, and talked about all the marvellous things we had seen.