The Country outing, the Art opening and the Governor’s speech
At the behest of a friend involved, I trekked through the rain to the country pavilion of the Tarrawarra Museum of Art, crowning the rolling expanses of Yarra Glen. This is an hour of solid driving from city surrounds in light-medium traffic so the 26,000ish visitors who came for the Archibald exhibition in July had made some sacrifice for the love of art. (The museum averages 30-40K visitors a year.)
The pcitures, in words
We came for the opening of Boundary Line, a show from the collection and loans which “explores the divergent ways in which artists have examined and represent the boundary line between the man-made and natural worlds.” In other words, it’s a peg for mainly landscape paintings and some photographs (and a handful of tapestries). Their website is very basic, so basic it does a disservice to the gallery — being as inaccessible as it is (well, unless you live in Healesville); frustratingly, I can’t link you to the pictures on the walls.
The show has some very good paintings indeed — like a couple of brilliant medium-sized Fred Williamses. “They’re really sparkling in the spotlight,” I said to the Widow Williams. “Yes,” she demurred, “perhaps too sparkling.” And a couple of fine, large Jan Senbergses. “I see you have an actual spigot sticking out of the bottom of your painting,” I said to Jan brightly. “Well, you know,” he explained kindly, “it’s a picture of the Thomson Dam.” There is an excellent Ken Whisson, a couple of zingy, funny Rosalie Gascoignes, a superb Peter Booth etc — in other words, a clutch of good works from the old school.
The speech, in pictures
But: but we had all — a big crowd — been circling the floor since 4ish and seen narry a finger of wine, nor fingers of food, nor any sign of our launcher, the Governor of Victoria. And of course we were marooned in the boat of the building, sheltering from the slow, long rain. Finally, near 5:30, as dusk was settling beyond the glass wall, in swept the procession of grandees before the several rows of seats already filled by the senior and tired.
The acting (and inaugural) director, Maudie Palmer introduced the Governor — she had a jaunty air, with jaunty feathers in her hair. The Governor whose name I could not recall, and whom I had not seen before, stood at the mike to give a rather bland windy speech strewn with attendance figures and incorporating the words “stimulating” and “challenging.” He looked like a pale relative of David Attenborough; I have been told His Excellency Alex Chernov has had a distinguished career, and is a very bright man. But the moral of the story is, if one is not a speech maker on the level of Peter Temple or Christopher Hitchens, it were best he started promptly, and ended quickly.
The governor’s wife, who looked a pleasant woman:
Aftert party, after thoughts
Eventually, finally, gratefully, we were sent into the rain across to the restaurant where the shoulder to shoulder crowd were rewarded with hot food and cold drink; I stayed briefly for a quick refreshment before heading homewards.
I had brought the Ancient Father-in-law — earlier on, after we had circled the exhibits quickly twice he said, Well, can we go now? But, I said, we’ve only been here 10 minutes, and it took an hour to drive here. Don’t you want to look at them closer? I’ve already seen them, you know, I have my first impressions and they’re not going to change…
Reader, we stayed — I had the car keys. But I did come out jaded — I felt tired of all that paint (and photos too), all that work. Perhaps it’s best just to have a picture on your wall at home, one to live with — exhibitions designed to impress tend to overload, and I always feel tired after an hour in a gallery. No wonder Robert Hughes, when he was still an art critic, chose to have white walls in his apartment, unfreighted with art.
(But haviung said that i’ll repeat that Boundary Line is a very good painting show.)
PS, The Great Tasmanian Wars
The Museum have brought out again on the side gallery James Morrison’s eye-blowing miniature epic, The Great Tasmanian Wars. This comprises 55 small panels of a phantasmagorical comic fantasy — the best viewing place is about a foot from the pictures, as you walk along the sequence. It’s worth the drive if you have not seen it, or need a reminder. It might even unjade one to looking at pictures.