A quartet of murals – by Lisa King, Minna Leunig, Prudence Caroline and Justine McAllister – add vibrancy to Pullman Melbourne on Swanston. To toast the occasion, the hotel’s Head Chef Ashlee Chapman has designed a one-time-only Gin High Tea menu inspired by the artworks. Each of the four courses have, in turn, inspired bespoke cocktails to be served at the tea. Chef Ashlee elaborates, “When creating this menu, I was inspired of course by the artwork itself from a visual perspective, but also from the feeling the artwork evoked.” 

Freshly blooming columns “were inspired by the blossoms depicted in the works of the Dutch and Flemish Masters and combine elements of traditional floral motifs found in paintings similar to Jan van Huysum and Jan Davidsz de Heem. Taking a moment to pay homage to the history of the greats and the path it gave me to start painting,” says artist Lisa King. “The rich colour, movement and romance of this work are a feast for the eyes and have been painted to inspire a sense of pleasure, exuberance and exploration of the frivolity of the night amongst the neon of the city”.

Prudence Caroline was tasked with enlivening an al fresco wall on the Pullmans’ rooftop. She has splashed a striking check pattern, a giant love heart and scrawled words across the canvas which the artist describes as “above all, love and sparkles”. The piece is represented at the high tea by an entree of rock oysters with a variety of vividly coloured gin foams. 

In keeping with Minna Leunig’s focus on the local landscape, she has splashed silhouettes of native flora and fauna – including red-tailed cockatoos and roos – at the hotel’s entrance laneway. Chef Ashlee notes that “Minna’s work had me draw from local Australian inspirations resulting in dishes that celebrate the freshest local ingredients such as bush tomato sausage rolls, lemon myrtle prawns and Tasmanian salmon.”

Justine McAllister put an Antipodean twist on a classic fox-hunting motif, painting galloping brumbies and Kelpies in a bushland setting. “Drawing inspiration from upholstery in [the hotel’s] club lounge, this is my Australian rendition of a vintage ‘Tally-ho design”. Chef Ashlee expands on the theme, “Justine’s equine-inspired mural made me think of American classics like Waldorf and smoked trout.”

The nearby Little Lon Distillery has crafted an exclusive cocktail to pair with each dish – many infused with tea. High tea guests will also gain rare access to the Pullman’s members-only Elevate Club lounge and its panoramic, 15th-floor, city views.

/ The Gin High Tea is on this Saturday 11th November at 12 noon. RSVP here.

Be more environmentally conscious.

It’s the leading 2023 resolution right behind “go on a holiday”. After the past three years it’s easy to imagine that a renewed focus on self-care, mindfulness and reclaiming our creative selves also feature prominently on the ‘must-do’ list. Now there’s a place in Melbourne where you can achieve all of the above.

The recently opened Voco hotel in Melbourne’s CBD isn’t making an impact on the city’s hospitality landscape. And that’s the point. Voco’s minimal footprint philosophy encourages guests to tread lightly wherever their travels lead them.

This is encapsulated in a statement piece created exclusively for the hotel lobby by environmental artist John Dahlson. The striking artwork applies foraged, duochromatic plastics – found washed up on Australia’s coastline – onto an upcycled canvas, created from Voco’s sustainable bedsheets, affixed with plant-based resin. The artist aimed to transform detritus and society’s discarded everyday objects, as returned to us by the ocean, into something of cultural worth.

In keeping with this eco-conscious approach, Voco Melbourne Central is also home to its very own beehive and spent coffee grounds are transformed into fertilizer for their terrace garden. By switching from miniature to bulk amenities, the hotel has reduced waste by 80%, and guests will have a hard time spotting any single-use plastics inside the space – it’s all glass water bottles and biodegradable straws. In the bathroom, aerated shower heads deliver that luxurious hotel bathing experience using far less water and, in the lobby, an ANZAC biscuit welcome upon arrival comes enrobed in an innovative compostable vegetable material that mimics the feel of plastic.

Among these many in-house initiatives to support the eco-system, Voco’s satiny bed linens are unexpectedly woven from recycled plastic and are approved by the Better Cotton Initiative. So you’re actually slumbering atop discarded plastic bottles; though the fussiest of princess-and-the-pea sleepers could never tell. For a limited time, when these “linens” become torn or are otherwise no longer able to be used, they are being stretched and framed into hand-crafted art canvases for guests choosing Voco’s ‘Sustainable Sip & Paint’ experience.

In collaboration with Pinot & Picasso studios, this Sustainable Sip & Paint package involves accommodation for two guests in an upgraded premium room, passes to a Pinot & Picasso session (where you’ll be guided to paint a unique artwork with drink-in-hand), two of Voco’s upcycled linen canvases to take to the art session or use at home, a coffee or spritz cocktail garnished thanks to the hotel’s herb garden on arrival, plus inspiration via QR code from John Dahlsen about creating upcycled art for your life.

For those not yet in the know, “augmented reality” is the space where virtual reality and the real world intersect; think of it as a kind of enhanced reality. As a nifty consolation, while The Metro Tunnel Project is underway, the Flinders Quarter Augmented Art Walk uses technology to breathe extra life into new and existing works of art through sound, visuals and interactivity. A dozen pieces of art can now be uncovered in the arcades, underpasses, lobbies and laneways of the city blocks bounded by Flinders, Elizabeth, Collins and Swanston Streets.

To find them, you need to download the free EyeJack app and pick up a map (from businesses around the precinct or from Metro Tunnel HQ at 125 Swanston St). Even the map becomes animated! This self-guided tour is designed so that you can shop, grab coffee or explore a gallery en route. And most of the artworks are accessible 24-7.

Will Huxley of The Huxleys on their work ‘Pink Fit’ in Scott Alley…

We were inspired by the Bauhaus. Some people say [our piece] reminds them of dildos or soft serve. We wanted to create a queer, colourful, exuberance for the laneway; especially in winter with all the construction. We’re like, “this is the most glamorous, ridiculous thing possible”. Flinders Quarter is important to us because in this area there are a lot of artists and designers and [the other half of The Huxleys] Garrett used to have a studio in the Nicholas Building. We both love Vali Myers who was a Melbourne artist who had a stuido in there. Also Lee Bowery is a big influence on us; he was an amazing Australian costume designer. Lee used to catch the train from Flinders Street back to Sunshine, back when he was studying at RMIT. We love his work and that’s often an influence in what we do. We just wanted to make a party at the end of the laneway. Yesterday, I was saying, “it can be like Saturday night fever on a Tuesday morning”. It’s like a disco and the most stupid, funny, ridiculous, colourful thing we could think of. Bringing it to life and seeing the disco animation happen was really fun. It’s been great to bring what we do and force everyone in Melbourne to have to walk past it!

Adele Varcoe on her work ‘Growing Garments’ on the corner of Flinders and Degraves Streets…

Last year I created a work as part of Melbourne Metro Tunnel [Project for Melbourne Fashion Week]. There were 12 figures in this work – it was called ‘Me in Couture’ – it invited the audience to see themselves in a mirror in these pretty out-there garments made from plasticine. So we selected one of these garments and reimagined it with the EyeJack crew. I was doing a whole lot of research into the ragtrade from the 1880s to the 1960s and looking at the growth and decline of that space. The flowers in this piece they grow and decline, but also suggest that the lane may flower again.

Vexta on her piece ‘The Rising Orb: Hope’ on the corner of Degraves Place…

My mural has been in the area for three years maybe, in three different iterations. Which has been really nice with a lot of support from the City of Melbourne for me to continue to keep that mural there. It really has become very much a part of the fabric of the laneway. People love it. Last time I was there repainting it people were telling me, “stop, don’t touch the rainbow!” I was like, “no, no, I’m the artist. It’s fine. It’s gonna be better!” So I love that work. When I painted it originally that area was really dark. It’s called ‘The Orb’ because it’s part of my Orb Series which reflects the sun and the moon above us. The shapes are representative of the particles that make up all matter. So it’s about how we’re all connected to natural wealth and to each other and about bringing colour to that area. It’s been there for a while and when I was approached to have it augmented it was exciting for me because that’s a direction I see my work going in; bringing art and technology together. Even just coming here I was watching so many people on their phones – it’s a big part of everybody’s daily experience. It’s exciting for me as an artist to subvert that use of technology to make somebody experience something that is actually in the real world in a different way.

/ The Flinders Quarter Augmented Art Walk is now live until September 14, 2019