Sharing bold ideas through art

La Trobe University and the National Gallery of Victoria's partnership allows our students, staff and community to explore and learn in a whole new way

La Trobe University and the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) have had a longstanding learning partnership since 2013, that has seen opportunities for our students, staff and community to explore and learn in a whole new way.

Now in its third iteration, the NGV Triennial is currently on until Sunday 7 April, featuring more than 100 global contemporary artists, designers and collectives from over 30 countries.

This year La Trobe has supported a work by artist Julian Charrière titled ‘And beneath it all flows liquid fire’. Displayed in the entrance of the NGV International building, the work is one of the first pieces seen by visitors and pedestrians. Positioned behind the NGV’s iconic waterwall, the work offers a striking juxtaposition of fire and water.

La Trobe academics Dr Liz Conor, Associate Professor in History and Professor Lawrie Zion, Associate Dean, Research and Industry Engagement of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences also took part and presented public talks as part of the Triennial EXTRA program.

Dr Conor presented on multidisciplinary artist Danie Mellor and how his art re-evaluates iconic landscape traditions, informed by his connection to place and cultural practices, and his Aboriginal and European heritage. Professor Zion joined art historian Dr Olivia Meehan in a conversation “Our Endless Fascination: Weather’s impact, unpredictability, and symbolic significance”, speaking to the weather being a fundamental aspect of human existence.

Each year, La Trobe students have the opportunity to take part in the NGV’s Summer School program. Now in its 10th year, this summer intensive unit is the only accredited course offered by the NGV, giving participating La Trobe students credits towards their respective courses across various disciplines including nursing, psychology and visual arts.

The 2024 NGV Summer School commenced on Wednesday 7 February, and ran for six days over the last fortnight, with 18 La Trobe students working directly with artists, the NGV curatorial team and both La Trobe and NGV learning teams (including La Trobe Professor in Visual Art, Jacqueline Milner) during the Triennial exhibition. Students also had the opportunity to connect with big themes that aren’t always accessible through other disciplines, including the thematic anchors of 2023 Triennial, ‘Magic, Matter and Memory’.

Part of the partnership will also see an upcoming activation that will allow current La Trobe students across multiple disciplines, along with prospective students from some of our top feeder schools, to participate in a guided tour of the NGV Triennial exhibition and 'Morning of impact' workshop.

About Julian Charrière and the artwork

Julian Charrière is a French-Swiss artist living and working in Berlin. Charrière explores ideas of nature and its transformation over deep geological, as well as human, historical time.

Addressing pressing matters of ecological concern, his work frequently stems from fieldwork in remote locations with acute geophysical identities, from volcanoes to nuclear test sites, ice fields and palm plantations. Ongoing reflection on the mythos and politics of exploration in a globalised age is central to his practice.

Working across media and conceptual paradigms, Charrière frequently collaborates with composers, scientists, engineers, art historians and philosophers.

‘And beneath it all flows liquid fire’ presents contrasting elements – a monumental fountain and fire – echo the coexistence of oppositional forces. Symbolically for the artist, water represents life, the fountain represents humanities striving, while fire signifies civilisation’s birth, but also potential destruction.

Beneath political debates and philosophical reflections of carbon, ecology and climate, there lies the original autonomous state of the planet, free from all human control. Primordial and timeless, beneath us a reservoir of 1.6 billion cubic kilometres of magma flows eternally. This enormity is veiled beneath layers of crust, far beyond our direct experience.

Seemingly in control, humanity’s achievements and concerns are inconsequential when measured in the vastness of earth time.

For more information

Learn more about La Trobe’s partnership with the NGV here.

To find out more about the Triennial exhibition, check out the NGV website.

Professor Lawrie Zion, image courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria. Photographer: Michael Pham.