This weekend is a bank holiday weekend. And I’ve been sleepy so I haven’t written much- sorry! It is properly autmnal/wintery here this weekend. The sun has hidden behind a blanket of grey cloud. It is as if someone has put a lid on Canberra, and I’ve lost some of that sense of space that I usually get from the vast skies and views of the mountains in the background. The light is that flat light you get in winter where it feels like the day can only just be bothered to get going for a couple of hours before falling asleep into the evening, early. I am missing the long, long British summer evenings at the moment!
Because it was a bit rubbish weather, and because most people seem to be out of town for the long weekend, I took the opportunity to go back to the National Gallery of Australia. There were a couple of exhibitions I wanted to check out, and given the naff weather it seemed like a good day to be inside. This time I didn’t get lost getting there #win, and I spent a long time going through the section of Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander’s art. I know little to nothing about the ‘dreamtime’ that informs a lot of Aboriginal art and, I have to confess am not a huge fan, aesthetically, of the browns, ochres, and natural tones that I had seen on various prints. However, I was delighted to discover, of course, that there is so much more to it. The dot work which makes up the vast majority of the paintings in the gallery is set on top of other colours, giving depth as a slightly ‘trippy’ feel from some of the colour combinations. From a distance you just seen the colour of the dots because they are close together (a bit like the work of European pointillists like Seurat), but as you get nearer a ‘sense’ of the background colour begins to emerge. It is mesmerising. As someone who is occasionally obsessed by nature, the landscape, and weather (you may have noticed!) it was really interesting to see the different way the landscape was described, how the Aboriginal relationship with the land was explored, and how important points were represented. My favourite paintings were a series of large scale and brightly coloured pieces:
From this section I visited the 3rd Indigenous Triennial Art Collection: Defying Empire. This consisted of contemporary pieces of Indigenous art. And it was beautiful and deeply moving. There was (understandably) a LOT of politics involved. And some of the pieces moved me almost to tears. Right at the start there was a series which I found particularly painful to reflect upon- the artist, Blak Douglas, had created a series of well used words and phrases (LOL, No Worries) but the letters were made from old photos of enslaved/brutalised/starving black and brown people. The juxtaposition, for me, took my breath away and reminded me of the continuing power and legacy of white brutality both in Australia and across the world. There were plenty of other pieces which also served to send this message home and I came out of the exhibition in a contemplative and concerned frame of mind.