Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sisters and Art

My two sisters were in Melbourne over the long weekend, visiting from Launceston and Sydney. I spent Monday afternoon with them (G and I) and my mum, and V (I’s boyfriend). My mum loves a country drive so we all piled in her little green Citroen and drove out to Healesville to visit the TarraWarra Museum of Art. I always find it fascinating how three usually perfectly mature women in their twenties can revert to their childhood roles within seconds of being in each other’s company. I, being the eldest, am apparently bossy and decisive; G, the middle sister, is diplomatic and indecisive; while I, the youngest, is brazen and opinionated. I felt like I was 8 years old again, sitting in the back seat of a car with my two sisters, laughing at our parents and remembering the games we used to play together. (Just realised that reads slightly strangely – “I” referring both to me and my sister. I’m sure you’re smart enough to work it out.)

The art gallery at TarraWarra is really impressive. The building is made of sandstone-coloured concrete blocks and sits in the landscape like a castle – a monolith of simple lines and timeless proportions. There are no obvious entrances visible from the outside; the entrance is between two overlapping walls that create a corridor leading to the central courtyard between the café and the gallery. Walking through this corridor of concrete my footsteps were amplified by the hard surfaces so that my entrance seemed quite an occasion.

Greeted by three Brett Whiteley paintings inside the foyer of the gallery, I knew I was going to enjoy the experience. Since I first studied his work at high school I have loved Whiteley’s sinuous curves, simple lines and expressive compositions. The blue that he used in his Sydney harbour paintings has to be one of the most incredible colours in existence – standing in front of these paintings I want to dive into that blue.

In the main rooms of the gallery are paintings by Arthur Boyd, John Perceval (one of his Williamstown series), Rick Amor, Howard Arkley, Jeffrey Smart and others which I can’t remember just now.

The featured exhibition, an installation by Kate Rohde, was disappointing. Billed as “blending the lavishness of the Baroque and Rococo period with her interests in Natural History” with “curlicue designed hedges, elaborate dioramic vitrines and haunting paper mâché sculptures” to me it came across as kitsch, underdeveloped and not particularly engaging. I was expecting something more impressive, more finely crafted. The “curlicue designed hedges” were tall paper mache walls painted green, with flecks of white where the paint had come off, and the sculptures seemed unfinished. Maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.

I did really like John Neeson’s installation “Available Light”. He has set up mirrors which reflect the light and the views out the window, and then paints what he sees in the mirror – a kind of visual record of the changing light and sky over time. I like the idea of the process of making art being something that can be exhibited and enjoyed as art as much as the finished product.

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