Lucky was the word that came to mind when Ruby Assembly’s Director Iolanthe Gabrie received an invitation to attend the Belle Magazine Reader’s dinner at the Olsen Hotel in South Yarra. Attending as a guest of Ruby Assembly’s wonderful clients Belle Property, it was an evening of amazing feasting and rare conversation. Here’s the lowdown on this special event from Iolanthe.

What to wear, what to wear? I expected an evening of high style with contemporary Melbourne sensibility, and so I opted for a silk Arabella Ramsay gown from The Alice collection, Seed Femme leather booties and a necklace by Gulu/DeBeers. And to quote Frankie Valley, oh what a night. The Belle Magazine reader’s dinners are a celebration of unique Australian hospitality, conflated with a brief artist’s talk and stimulating conversation with new friends. You’ll likely see a photospread of the Olsen dinner in an upcoming Belle Magazine, but until then you’ll need to enjoy my *very blurry,  but artistically so* photos of the night.

Blurry but fabulous, an intimate dinner for 40 art and food enthusiasts held in the Penthouse of The Olsen Hotel. Cool jazz in the background, tinkling champagne glasses (Henschke wines throughout the night) and exceptional entrees of lobster carpaccio and roast pork belly on chickpea shortbreads.

The theme of the night was wintery, with beautiful table settings of bare-rooted trees and bulbed tulips drawing the eye to the ceiling. Soft tree-trunk candles set the relaxed tone.

Incredibly floral arrangements on stilts with chefs hiding behind – I really like the bulbs still attached. Rustic.

Our *blurry* menu for the evening…. it was too relaxed to spoil the mood with flash!

The restaurant providing the evening’s catering was Steer Bar and Grill located in The Olsen Hotel, which has a focus on exceptional meat, boasting the widest selection of high quality Australian beef available. Our starter (inset) was gently cooked sweet salmon – but the main course was a stand-out, featuring a proper-size steak with a la carte sauces ( we chose grainy mustard and home made bbq sauce) plus brussels sprouts, creamy mashed potato and more. Satisfaction plus.

Art dealer Michael Reid was the MC for the evening, and he was a fine counterpoint to the two guest artists for the evening: Phillip Hunter and Vera Moller. Each artist had brought a small collection of their pieces with them (they’re also a husband and wife team) and had a little time to speak to the dinner attendees. First was Phillip  Hunter – enjoy a very bad picture of this charming bloke below.

Phillip is renowned for his landscape paintings, which are notional in nature (slightly surreal and inferring space, light and depth) – they take a departure point from the Nolan interpretations of landscape. Having been brought up in the Wimmera, a large body of Phillip’s work focuses on this area. Phillip says his work aims to converse with the Von Guerards, Streetons and Nolans of the Australian art fraternity. The image Phillip chose to discuss (he’s standing next to it in this photo) is called ‘The Plains’ and is named after Gerald Murnane’s book of the same title. This work was featured in the 2001 Ian Potter Exhibition, displayed beside a landscape by Nolan. Unlike Nolan, Hunter includes human intervention as part of his landscapes – they are not unblemished environments without a reference to industry. Michael made the point that Australia is by and large highly urbanised, and that the landscape is central to the modern art dialogue relevant to national (and notional) identity. Phillip Hunter uses a range of techniques to create the unusual textures in his work, including scrimshaw and engraving.

The Plains by Phillip Hunter

I must admit that my pictures of artist Vera Moller and her work were quite underexposed, so instead here’s a natty picture of the artist herself with one of her beautiful biological works. Vera’s background prior to endeavouring upon artistic practice was in the study  of freshwater biology. This knowledge informs her work, which is across a range of mediums including painting, sculpture and photography. Her pieces allude to futuristic genetic engineering, and draw attention to our social attitudes towards nature and ecology. In some ways, Vera’s work imagines a ‘notion’ of biology in the same way that Phillip’s work references a notional Wimmera landscape. It was really interesting to hear these potted histories of two important Australian artists, and I’d encourage you to attend  a Belle magazine reader dinner if you have the opportunity.

The evening was topped off with a luxurious goodie-bag, including a copy of the most recent Belle magazine, a Black Plum candle from Mor, plus a little kit of luxurious body butters. Thankyou Belle Property for inviting Ruby Assembly to take part in an informative and special night.