Published on the Issimo Magazine website.

A young performer’s compelling, original songs are a far cry from the cheesy, boy-meets-girl stories that dominate indiepop, writes TONI BRIENT.


Charlie Lane. Photo: Melbourne Cabaret Festival.

Charlie Lane’s signature indie-pop sound is influenced by artists like Soko, Lily Allen, Cat Power and Kimya Dawson.

But for the recent JMC music and performance graduate, the upcoming Melbourne Cabaret Festival is an opportunity to branch out from her usual style.

“I love being able to create a story line and deliver it in such a theatrical way to the audience. I love that it is about the visual aspects as well as song,” Lane says.

“Costuming and makeup is just such a thrill.”

Her show offers an honest, insightful trip through the mind of an adolescent girl coming of age in a world that seems to crave everything she’s not.

The Girl Who Never Grew Up presents an enticingly unique exploration of the concept of adulthood.

“I really am a girl that doesn’t want to be pushed into growing up. I feel that just because people get older, you should not lose your sense of ‘kidishness’ or joy of simple things.”

In Mannequin, Lane, 22, she sings about living in a world full of people who seem to be nothing more than plastic.

Robot depicts an argument with her doctor about the need for medication.

Charlie’s lyrics are quirky and honest, yet strikingly eloquent.

Her songs are a far cry from the boy-meets-girl stories that dominate the indiepop genre, and are resonating with a growing fan-base across Melbourne.

She has played venues across Melbourne, including South Melbourne’s Bohemia Cabaret Club, St Kilda’s Veludo Restaurant and Bar, and Esplanade Hotel.

But the idea for the cabaret performance stems from a show at Chapel Street’s Red Bennies bar in her university days, where the audience responded strongly to songs about “mood swings and anti-depressants”.

“I thought ‘Lets not stem too far away from the tree and go with The Girl Who Never Grew Up.

“It tells a similar story from a bit of a different perspective.”

Accompanying Charlie at the Melbourne Cabaret Festival will be bass player Lewis Reidy-Crofts, pianist Kate Lewis, guitarist Tom McGlinn and drummer Michael Jules.

Charlie Lane will be at The Butterfly Club on June 30  and July 7 as part of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival. For tickets, see

For more information on Charlie Lane, including other upcoming performances, see

AuthorToni Brient
CategoriesIssimo, online

Published on the Issimo Magazine  website, ahead of the magazine's launch in August.


Melburnians now have the chance to view paintings from this year’s Archibalds,  writes TONI BRIENT.

It’s an exhibition that knows how to make an entrance. Literally. Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery is so dedicated to presenting the 2013 Archibald Prize collection that it built a separate entrance through the back of the gallery to coordinate the huge numbers expected to visit the exhibition.

In a huge feat for the small public gallery, this will be the only Victorian stop on a nationwide tour for the 2013 finalists in one of Australia’s most prestigious art awards.

The Archibald Prize begun in 1921, two years after the death of its founder, Australian journalist and art supporter J.F. Archibald. In his will, Archibald left money for an annual art prize for portraiture. The Art Gallery of NSW, the trustees of the award, asks entrants to submit a portrait of ‘some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics’.

Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery Director Jane Alexander. Photo: Celeste Astudillo.

Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery Director Jane Alexander. Photo: Celeste Astudillo.

Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery director Jane Alexander says that, after nine decades, the award has become part of Australian history and the genre of portraiture resonates with Australians from all walks of life.

“It’s accessible. You feel like you get to understand and know a celebrity or a well-known person better because you have this amazing full-on, front-on image of somebody. Often the scale of the works makes the viewing experience that much more intimate. So it takes on this sort of personal dimension as well.”

She says the judging process for the prize is quite broad, causing some controversy over the years with works that “stretch the parameters of what portraiture is”.

“There are no hard and fast rules about which work is selected as the winning works or which works are selected for the exhibition,” says Alexander.

“It really comes down to preferences and what (the judges) like.”

This year’s winning portrait, Del Kathryn Barton’s Hugo, depicts the actor Hugo Weaving. Alexander says it hasn’t attracted the same level of attention as past years. She says Weaving’s “low-profile” of late may have contributed.

“He was happy to be the sitter, but he hasn’t wanted to participate in any of the other activities around the Archibald.”

Weaving’s low profile is a sharp contrast to actress Asher Keddie’s. The Offspring and Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo star is the subject of Vincent Fantauzzo’s entry, which won the Art Gallery of NSW People’s Choice Award.

“(That) has certainly attracted a lot of attention this year, and partly because she won the Gold Logie, as well.”

It is predicted that Fantauzzo’s piece will also win the Mornington gallery’s People’s Choice Award.

But, the other pieces in the touring exhibition are not without notice. Many of this year’s finalists constructed self-portraits, moving away from the traditional concept of who is ‘distinguished’ enough to be a sitter, something Alexander says is largely open to interpretation.

“You define who’s of note. If you can put forward a persuasive argument, I might think I’m of note, you might think you’re of note. It’s quite general.”

She says Carlos Pagoda’s depiction of his father, Habit de jardinière, goes even further. “That’s his elderly 97-year-old father. He’s obviously not a person who’s known to everybody. But he’s probably of note in his own family.”

While she has an innate connection with them, Alexander is unable to pick a favourite work from the collection.

“I think it’s impossible for me to have a favourite because I see the exhibition every day, and every day I see something quite astounding in different works.”

While she lists Abdul Abdullah’s depiction of boxer Tony Mundine and Julia Ciccarone’s portrait of sculptor Nicholas Jones among those she was particularly drawn to, it is evident that Alexander has spent a while analysing Peter Daverington’s The Patriot: self-portrait with an albino joey  (pictured at top of story – image courtesy of Art Gallery of NSW).

“You could probably write a thesis on this piece,” she laughs. “It’s very hard to tell the story of this work, because the more you look at it the more you see into it.”

The Archibald Prize exhibition will be at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery until July 7, along with public discussions with Archibald artists. See

AuthorToni Brient
CategoriesIssimo, online

Published on the Issimo Magazine website, ahead of the launch of Issue 1 in August.



A young Melbourne designer with a unique style is turning heads here and overseas, writes Toni Brient. 



Kate Stokes. Photo: Jackson Eaton.

Kate Stokes. Photo: Jackson Eaton.

Unlike many artists, Kate Stokes doesn’t rely on elaborate features to make her work shine.

Instead, she lets the materials she uses speak for themselves by accentuating their form, shape and texture.

“My design philosophy is to have as simple a product as possible, with a small amount of embellishment to make something unique,” Stokes says.

 “If they’re going to last a long time, I think they have to fit into an environment and not demand too much attention.”

The ease, longevity and signature style of her pieces – that can take a designer years to uncover – is precisely what has caught the attention of international design aficionados and has the industry talking.

Stokes’ creations are now on display in showrooms as far-flung as New York, Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Auckland.

Closer to home, Neal Harvey, creative producer of Melbourne Fringe, says Stokes’ success lies in the versatility of her work.

“It has a human and organic element to it that makes us gravitate towards it. She has a warmth for design that makes it instantly recognisable.”

Harvey says that her ability to adapt products to suit different lifestyles has created a niche following.

An example of the humble yet elegant nature of her pieces is the Coco Pendant, an ash timber and spun aluminium hanging light, that was the debut piece of her Coco Flip series launched in July 2010.  It won Stokes three awards at Fringe Furniture in 2010 and the lighting category of the Home Beautiful product awards the same year.


Another showpiece light, the Mr. Cooper Pendant  - this time fashioned in copper – was developed in October 2011. It was re-released in brass a year later.

Stokes’  career began in various creative development departments across the country after graduating from Perth’s Curtin University of Technology in 2006. An ArtStart Grant from the Australian Council for the Arts in 2009 gave her the confidence and financial support to open her own studio in 2010.

Coco Flip, which Kate runs from a studio at Collingwood’s creative hub The Compound Interest, is still in its infancy – which means lots of hands-on work.  “I’m essentially the designer, manufacturer and wholesaler,” she laughs. “It’s a really good lesson in learning what it takes to produce a product.”

These ventures taught her not only the production process, but enabled her to develop her own distinctive design process. It begins with the selection of materials, respecting the individual abilities of each one.

“There’s more to it than just drawing a picture and taking it to someone and saying, ‘Make this for me’. It’s about understanding processes and materials, and what they can and can’t do, and how far you can push them.

“The smart way to design is to understand the limitations quite early on and make them work for you, rather than designing completely out of your head and realising that’s not possible.”

In designing the Coco Pendant, Kate’s main challenges were finding a suspension system to support the weight of the aluminium, and preparing the timber to deal with the heat of the light globe. She experienced similar trial and error processes with the Mr. Cooper Pendant.

“At the time I was interested in the way products speak to each other. I was just sketching a cluster of lights hanging together. That’s where the form came from.”

The Mr. Cooper is influenced by technological nostalgia – the tin can ‘telephones’ she made growing up. The wire that suspends the light is a salute to the technology and inventions of times gone by.

But, while she acknowledges the past on an artistic level, Stokes looks only to the future on a professional level. She hopes to one day collaborate with those she looks up to within the industry.

“It’d be amazing to work for a company like Hay, for example, which is a Danish furniture company. To design for them would be the ultimate (dream)”.

In the short-term, Stokes aims to expand her international distribution through the London Design Festival in September. She also has plans to move into furniture production by year’s end.

Although she won’t disclose the specifics, it is evident that she will continue to experiment with materials.

“It’s all new. I won’t say what I’m going to use, but it’s different, completely. I’m learning a lot, and there’s a lot of challenges.”

She does hint, however, of artistically challenging herself as a designer, rather than appealing to the demands of the market.

“I’m more interested in exploring my ideas and producing something that’s interesting and that means something to me. And if that sells, that’s just a bonus.”

Harvey seems confident that Stokes’ audience will continue to support her. In fact, he predicts that her “unique aesthetic” will set a standard for the industry over the next decade.

“I think she will continue to lead the way,” he says, expecting she will gather “a range of followers and disciples who imitate her style.”



Issimo Magazine is launching Issue 1 in tablet form this August. Visit ourcrowd sourcing page for a taste of what’s to come.




AuthorToni Brient
Categoriesonline, Issimo