Saturday, 23 April 2016

NGA gets it together!

It has been sometime since we have visited the National Gallery of Australia (mainly because the place has been totally rearranged so that for a fair time there was little, other than the Indigenous collection to see).  As a new exhibition showcasing the Australian Pavillion at the Venice Biennale had just opened it seemed that now was a good time to go.

The good news started before we entered the Gallery.  The ban on photography had been lifted for personal-use photographs.  So my phone got a fair workout.  One security guard chatted me about using a flash - quite reasonably as that would be a pain for other punters as well being ungood for the art - but they all seem to have got the message.

This is the entrance to the work by Fiona Hall and colleagues from Venice  ...
... and this explains what it is all about.
Various dictionaries offer "Cabinet of curiosities" as a translation of 'wunderkammer'.  However I had literally translated it as "room of wonders" and I think that is a far better description of this installation.  Just about every item - and there are '00s - makes one wonder.
  • What does it mean?
  • Why is this here?
  • How on earth did she/they make that?
You may gather I was pretty impressed with this exhibition.

This collection of woven animals, positioned on piles of books, was created with a group of indigenous ladies from the Central and Western Deserts
The public face of the show - or at least what has been chosen as the atavar by the media - is one of these heads.  I think they are basically woven.

This collection of driftwood comes from the North Island of New Zealand.  One of the few wall cards in the show explained how the stuff gets washed down a river and then drifts on to the shore.  The random action of weathering has created these shapes which look a bit like animals.
In keeping with the name of the exhibition there were a lot of clocks in part of it.  I liked this pair of bonies.  One of the clocks kept cuckooing, but I could never work out which.  I suspect that it was the the left hand one of this pair.
The next room had a general exhibition of Fiona Hall's work, mainly from the stuff held by the NGA, but also quite a few on loan from the artist and her Sydney Gallery.  This group were called 'Leaf litter" and the artist started her comments with "Money doesn't grow on trees ...." but went on to comment on the importance of trees as crops.
Here is one of her detailed drawings of a leaf on a substrate of some currency.
Even looking at the full size image I can't work out the ethnicity of the script or the people depicted on the notes.  My guess at the script is Burmese, but welcome suggestions.
A good sized bug!
Another exhibition was of the prints from the workshop of Kenneth Tyler.  Again fascinating but I couldn't work out how to really photograph them, so you'll just have to make do with this long view.
For those familiar with the former layout of NGA this area was a series of small cubbies full of Colonial art .  This show is Far Better!

There was also an exhibition of photographs held by NGA which was pleasant but we were starting to reach our use-by time by that point.

From upstairs, to which the foreign stuff has been banished, one could look down into the Australian collection.  I liked this contrast between a woven cop and a live security guard.
A look down from another spot.
Entering from the direction of the High Court (ie the old front door) takes you into this room: far more exciting than a couple of Impressionist haystacks.  The 'LOVE' item is by Kate Just, who despite being born in the US has worked in Melbourne since 1996 so gets a ticket for the Australian rooms.
Those with long memories - OK only about 3 years - will remember Skywhale.  This work is by the same sculptor, Patricia Piccinini, and depicts a guy holding a fish found off NZ called a blobfish.
Apparently it is getting close to extinction and has no commercial value (the latter because it is ugly).
I reckon it looks like the lovechild of Skywhale and a coelocanth.  (Hmmm: Tony Abbott described himself as the lovechild of Howard and Bronnie.  Perhaps this needs a pair of Speedos to bring out the resemblance?)

The sculpture garden is still excellent ...
... especially when the fog is happening.

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