When Grungle met Larry – Inside legendary artist Pamela Irving’s studio

Last weekend, Pamela Irving invited our newest member of the team to her studio to have a sniff around. Grungle jumped at the chance to meet his hero, not Pamela, but her “other son” Larry. For those of you that aren’t aware of Larry La Trobe, he’s a Melbourne rockstar. So famous in fact that you can find Larry’s statue in City Square, but the original Larry lives with Pamela in her studio.

Pamela says Larry has a very special place in her heart. “I received the commission the day I found out I was pregnant with my son. When you make a public artwork there is always a contract. The contract stated that I had to be at the installation. The due date of the baby and the due date for installation were the same week. Fortunately my son was late so I was able to do both. I do remember being at the foundry close to the end of my pregnancy and having some Braxton Hicks contractions – false alarm! So once he was installed, I gave birth and I never forget how old Larry, my other son is!”

Currently on display in the main gallery space of Pamela’s studio is a print series created for The Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics at The Chicago Mosaic School in the U.S.A. Yolo Man and the Apocalyptic Alphabet is inspired by the mosaics at Torcello, Venice, The Baptistery Mosaics in Florence and the work of Milanese artist Enricho Baj. Speaking to Pamela you realise just how much she’s achieved. Recently back from a commission in Thailand, off to do another in Shanghai, in the permanent collection of the Museum of Art in Ravenna — considered the most prestigious mosaics collection in the world, not to mention the obvious public artworks like Luna Park, she really is an Aussie legend.

Specialising in mosaics, ceramics, bronzes, paintings and etchings, Pamela’s studio is a treasure trove of art in all shapes and sizes. Her humour, love of story telling and prolific output are on display in every available space. “I have always been a creative person, I can’t help myself. I have a compulsion to create. I love stories, my work is very narrative, so instead of writing stories I tell them through my artworks.”

One of Pamela’s favourite works is Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden, the monumental mosaic sculpture park in Tuscany. She has even created her own version on a smaller scale in her studio’s courtyard. “My courtyard is completely covered in mosaics. It’s called the Birds of a Feather Courtyard. The roof top ledges are covered in bird figurines and all the walls are covered with mosaic birds. It’s really joyous; it’s a celebration of kitsch.”

Grungle’s favourite room in the studio was through the courtyard out the back. The entrance room to the working part of her studio is filled with portraits of Grungle’s contemporaries. “Yes I often make dogs,” explains Pamela. “My first dog was the She Wolf from the Roman Myth of Romulus and Remus. I made that in 1984. It is in the Melbourne University Collection. Mythological stories have always influenced my work. In the early 1990’s I made a series of dogs and had a show at Holdsworth Gallery in Sydney called “Perfect Pets”. They were dogs that you didn’t have to walk, feed, bath, etc. The original Larry was part of that series. After the Holdsworth Gallery show, the unsold works came back to Melbourne and were shown in a Vacant Shop in Collins Street. I have always loved dogs. I have always had a dog.”

After getting cosy on the armchair, Grungle made himself a bit too at home on Jessie Jane’s bed. Luckily, Pamela’s dog wasn’t working that day so hopefully didn’t realise the surprise he left for her. Embarrassed and shamed, Grungle made a quick exit and headed down the street to Patterson station. Here he found another monumental work by Pamela that was much more suited to relieving himself on.

Note: This is an entirely fictional story. Pamela was the perfect host and didn’t care about Grungle marking his territory. She insisted he stayed for cake and tea.

Pamela is in her studio most days and welcomes visitors.

Pamela Irving Studio and Gallery

68 Patterson Rd
Bentleigh 3204
Melbourne, Victoria

Pamela’s art is available to buy online here.

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