Some Words on Some Galleries

I caught the travel bug many years ago, and wherever I go I always make time for a gallery or two. It would be an unending job to write down thoughts on everything I’ve seen, but here’s a few recent and old, that have stuck with me. I’ll try to be quick.

MoMA – Museum of Modern Art, New York

I finally made it to New York recently. It’s been on my list to visit once I found out Starry Night by Van Gogh was at MoMA. This was one of my favourite pieces growing up – and I think I can blame it for my obsessions with swirls and the colour blue. I’ve been to a number of Van Gogh exhibitions, including the largest collection in Amsterdam – but I’ve never seen Starry Night. I was excited and a little apprehensive the day before, when we arrived at the gallery we went straight up to the top floor, wanting to see it before anything else. There it was, in front of me, and I felt a little, well, underwhelmed.


I contribute this to two factors. One, there was glass covering the canvas, no doubt protecting the work but it made it harder to see the brush strokes. It felt more like seeing a reproduction that you can find anywhere and everywhere. And, while I still like the work, my tastes have changed slightly. But no matter what, this piece will still hold a place in my heart, and I’m happy to have seen it.



Mona – Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania

It’s a theme park of art. Neverending levels of the unusual and the unexpected, leaving you exhausted at the end. I particularly remember Gregory Barsamian’s “Artifact”. A large bronze head lies on the floor, perhaps in sleep. You can look into one of the small windows and inside it’s a whirl of imagination. Using fast movement and strobe lights, it creates an animation effect (zoetrope). Suddenly you’re looking into a twisting dream. Check out this review.

Another worthy Zoetrope is at ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. 

Tate Modern, London

I went to Tate Modern years ago, and it was the first time I had seen a Wassily Kandinsky. The Cossacks 1910–1 quickly became one of my favourite paintings. The seemingly random lines and colours come to together to tell a story with deep meaning, all while remaining aesthetically pleasing – something I’ve realised is a lot harder than it looks.

Cossacks 1910-1 by Wassily Kandinsky 1866-1944
Wassily Kandinsky, Cossacks 1910–1. Image released under Creative Commons.

Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

Oh Paris, how I love you. So much art to see. But the one I have to mention here is the Musée de l’Orangerie, mainly because of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. Not just the paintings – but the room.

According to Claude Monet’s own suggestion, the eight compositions were set out in the two consecutive oval rooms. These rooms have the advantage of natural light from the roof, and are oriented from west to east, following the course of the sun and one of the main routes through Paris along the Seine. The two ovals evoke the symbol of infinity, whereas the paintings represent the cycle of light throughout the day.” 

There was something about being in the space Monet had created, surrounded by the Water Lilies that was extremely powerful. He truly achieved calming peace, bringing the healing aspect of nature indoors.

The painter wanted visitors to be able to immerse themselves completely in the painting and to forget about the outside world. The end of the First World War in 1918 reinforced his desire to offer beauty to wounded souls.

Galleria Borghese, Rome

Apollo and Daphne by Bernini( CC wiki)

Another space that added just as much to the art as the works themselves. Three of us entered, and all three of us paused, mouths opened, as we withheld the majesty of Galleria Borghese. The building itself is a work of art. We were lucky enough to be there at the same time as an exhibition of Caravaggio and Francis Bacon, their works standing side-by-side and at times fighting side-by-side.

I found myself drawn into Caravaggio’s work, more so than Bacon’s, perhaps because they worked more cohesively within the space. Then again I always find Caravaggio’s work entrapping.

Another work that makes the Borghese always a worthy visit is the Apollo and Daphne sculpture by Bernini – a master of composition and detail.

Museo Soumaya, Mexico City

Outside of Museo Soumaya

Although not the best Gallery I’ve been to, it was impressive for a private collection – made even more notable because it’s free to all. There was a level that I found impressive and tragic. Almost a whole floor is of ivory art. Whole tusks, carved with precision into detailed tableaus. Stunning work that’s using one of the most despicable materials.  

NGV – National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Since I lived in Melbourne I’ve seen a lot of great things here, but there was only one exhibition that brought tears to my eyes – Hokusai. You know I’ve got to love The Great Wave off Kanagawa – there are swirls and it’s blue. The surprise was the quantity and quality of his works. Another prolific artist that made no money during his life. The tears came when I saw two prints of  The Great Wave off Kanagawa side by side. Seeing the works together brought a sense of the past, of Hokusai working to create, and the journeys of the works – both surviving time to be together once more.


Alien Perspective

Do you believe in aliens? I found it more frightening to consider a universe that has no other life in all it’s expanse than one that does, somewhere out there. In the same breath, I found it difficult to believe we have encountered aliens on earth. The question Physicist Enrico Fermi asked comes to mind, “Where are they?”. In the past, I’ve never really given this much thought. That changed when I went to ACCA, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.
There had been other talks, and more was to come, but today happened to be about Alien Invasions. Something I didn’t particularly seek out but since I happened to be free that afternoon I went along. It was a subject I didn’t know a lot about. One that comes with much criticism and scepticism. Especially with the media representations of UFO followers out there. But very quickly, I was engaged in the subject. The local Melbourne sightings I had never heard of, like the Westall UFO sighting in 1966, where 200 school students witnessed an unidentified flying object. The speakers from the Victorian UFO Action Group, the sensibility so conflicting with stereotypical representations, the belief that has changed their lives and the strength it takes to follow it. Thoughts like “Trying to think of an alien species is like trying to think of a new colour” stayed with me. Something so different it cannot be comprehended. Would we even recognise it?
And in the end, I was overwhelmed by how hearing new voices in natural spaces had succeeded in engaging the audience in a different perspective. And that’s exactly what Field Theory, the creators of this exhibition, ‘Bunker’, aims to do. Field Theory is about immersion into a place and community, in mixing interesting subgroups, breaking barriers, engaging in different perspectives.

I’ve been studying regional arts and getting more and more intrigued by how arts in a community can foster new ideas. What’s the best way to achieve this is an unending question, but I’m glad to feel some of its effects at ACCA.

The other artist within this exhibition ‘Greater together’ all deserve consideration, but here I will just quickly go into a couple others.
There was a tree inside, it’s branches reached up and seemed to disappear into the ceiling. A closer look and I can see the places where it was cut, where it was bolted back together. A Frankenstein tree. Killed and then resurrected into this space. It feels the room with life, even after death.
Another room, and it’s filled with red dirt. A red dirt that reminds me of Australian country towns, but seems brighter, cleaner. Voices rising from under white plights that cut over the dirt. The stories being told seem to emulate from under the dirt, I couldn’t help think they were graves – memories of the dead rising. Or as the artist duo, Bik Van Der Pol say of their exhibition “seeing the land as memory”.
The whole exhibition was amazingly curated by Annika Kristensen.

Society’s Cycles

Alternating Current ArtSpace
Alchemy – Janice GOBEY
‘Vicious Cycle’

Janice Gobey’s long obsession with fur continues in her latest exhibition Alchemy at the Alternating Current ArtSpace. Her art doesn’t need words. She works on connecting to people on a non-verbal level. She’d like people to feel the work more than view it in a logical, rational way. So pause for a moment, and take a look at the piece Vicious Cycle. Feel it.

Janice GOBEY
‘Vicious Cycle’

Art is powerful in its non-verbal communication, allowing the viewer to think and bring their own discourse. But in sharing our views we may be able to clarify our thoughts, looking further, thinking deeper and seeing more. An attempt to breach the obscurity of a single image.

I see hands reaching, stretching out to touch pieces of animal skin and fur. It’s no longer recognisable what animal these were, nor what piece of body they once covered. They’ve been manipulated by man into nothing more than shapes and textures. This bit, soft and white. Another pink, the skin on the inside showing – more obviously something that was once living. They’ve been twisted, pulled and trapped into a circle. Those hands reaching, coming from off the canvas, were perhaps the makers – twisting that long strip of cured skin. Not any one person but the symbol of humankind twisting nature to their will. No longer do we fit into the circle of life, but rather we have created a cycle of death. As the title suggests it’s a ‘Vicious Cycle’.

The pastel palette softens the potentially gruesome subject, giving it a feminine beauty. An image comes to mind, from Charlotte Wood’s book ‘The Natural Way of Things’:

9781760111236“By the end she wore a ragged skirt of rabbit bodies and clinking steel traps. Fur, steel, fur, steel. The flesh soon glued to the belt with blood, the heads and ears swung like heavy feathers as she moved.” In this book, the character Yolanda hunts for survival – a fight for life, a fight against mistreatment at the hands of men and the society that created it. Another vicious cycle.

With undergraduate studies in Psychology and Society, Gobey brings this understanding of people and, the world we live in, to her practice. She has explored women’s issues, particularly violence against women, as well as trauma and healing, and now her concern for global politics is explored in Alchemy. She grew up in Apartheid South Africa and is concerned with the resurgence of nationalism. Wishing for an alternative dialogue of peace, healing and tolerance. It seems there are a lot of vicious cycles where humans are concerned.

Perhaps by titling her exhibition Alchemy, she is sharing the desire for the ‘base material’ of human nature to be transformed into something more ‘noble’ – like lead turning into gold. It’s an impossible goal, but the study of Alchemy has led to discoveries in science. Perhaps in the study of the human condition there can be discoveries in peace and tolerance. A more hopeful thought, that doesn’t quite chase away the darker feelings I’m left with after viewing Vicious Cycle.

Walking in Both Directions

I had seen Emily Ferretti’s work at the Sophie Gannon Gallery, so when I heard she was launching an art book, ‘Walking in Both Direction‘ I had to go along.

The sun was blasting down on my walk to the Gertrude Glasshouse, and I was red faced and sweaty when I arrived, but inside was cool and fresh.  Slightly nervous, and probably even redder than before, I brought a book and asked for a signature, silently appreciating our taste in hats. 

Ahh the smell of a new book. It’s beautifully produced. A lovely way to enjoy work such as these.