Wide Brown Land sculpture by Marcus Tatton, Chris Viney and Futago

Wide Brown Land

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

– Dorothea Mackellar

Here are some photographs I took today of the sculpture “Wide Brown Land” by Marcus Tatton, Chris Viney and Futago at the National Arboretum in Canberra.

What a wonderful piece of public art.

Maudeville at Lismore Regional Art Gallery

Maudeville at Lismore Regional Art Gallery

Not long after arriving in Sydney in the mid 1990s, I remember being blown away by the elaborate wigs of drag queen, Maude Boate. In contrast to the permed and blow dried wigs of so many drag queens, Maude had cartoon-like headgear made of plastic.

Maude was a regular performer at the legendary, sadly missed Albury Hotel. Working alongside Maude at The Albury, was barman, Tim Chappell, one of the Academy Award winning costume designers for “Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert”. Apparently that’s how some of the Maude Boate designed headgear and dresses ended up in the movie. The other connection between Maude and Tim was that both came from my hometown, Lismore. I remember discovering that about Tim about the time he won the Academy Award. But it wasn’t until a few years later I discovered Maude Boate was in fact, Michael Gates, also from my hometown.

“When I was growing up in Lismore, drag was completely unacceptable”, Michael says on a short video that’s playing as part of “Maudeville” an exhibition currently at the Lismore Regional Art Gallery. Being of a similar age, I knew exactly what he meant. And yet, at the same time as Jim Brigginshaw, the editor of the local newspaper, The Northern Star was writing inflammatory anti-gay editorials, people like Mike Bray and Vera Bourne (the mother of a schoolmate) were hosting Gaywaves on the local community radio station, 2NCR-FM, Mike ran a gay restaurant called “Double Dutch” and the local social group, Tropical Fruits was just starting out.

Thirty five years later, Tropical Fruits is now a multi-day festival (with a pool party and street parade) that attracts a lot of visitors from elsewhere (the actor Alan Cumming was the star celebrity guest this year), and there’s an exhibition at the local art gallery paying tribute to the work of a man who achieved a great deal through his drag persona. Design-wise, Maude Boate continues to influence how many of Sydney’s drag queens dress. In the short video, Michael also describes how he makes wigs for the stage production of “Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert”.

It’s a lovely exhibition. Well worth a look. But be quick, noting it closes January 30, 2016.

Jumaadi 2016 Confessions at Watters Gallery

Jumaadi at Watters Gallery

Kate, a friend of hers and I went to the opening of the Jumaadi exhibition at Sydney’s Watters Gallery. I first met Jumaadi a couple of years ago, as he was part of the exhibition, Crossing Boundaries curated by Kate, as part of Lunar New Year celebrations in Sydney. Jumaadi is from Indonesia, but has lived in Australia for a number of years.

Though I wasn’t a fan of the paintings in this exhibition, I REALLY loved the papercuts, and I REALLY loved the installation work. The papercuts were beautiful. As they were hanged throughout the exhibition space, there were lots of opportunities to “engage” with them.

And the installation? There was so much to see. A wonderfully engaging work of faces, limbs and even shoes! As there were lots of people taking photographs of the installation work, I really hope the exhibition is successful and he makes lots of sales.

Jackson Pollock's Paints at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

One of my absolute favourite things from my overseas trip last year was my visit to the Peggy Guggenhem Museum in Venice.

As I wrote at the time

According to the audio tour, Peggy was an American heiress who came to live in Venice in her early twenties. With gazillions of dollars behind her, the audio tour explains, she needed to find a purpose in life. Aside from being married, and apparently shagging lots of other blokes which I’m sure could be a “purpose in life”. And so she began collecting contemporary artists: artists like Pollock and Kandinsky. She lived in the house where the museum now exists for over thirty years. And what a house! Located right on the waterfront, it was both spacious and had spectacular views. But aside from the views, the museum contains some of the most spectacular contemporary art of the twentieth century. I loved it.

And so when I saw a review in The Australian the other week of a new documentary film about her life story, I was very excited. A friend and I, who had also been to the museum, hit the Chauvel Cinema last night to see the film.

At the heart of the documentary was the discovery of some previously hidden recordings she had made, as part of a biography project. Over the top of these recordings was some wonderful archival footage.

“Having seen the documentary, I don’t think I really know her any better than when I visited the museum”, I told my friend as we left the cinema. “It’s like they couldn’t decide if the film was about her personal life or her art gallery”, my friend said, saying it failed to satisfy on either level. I agreed, it was interesting, though not stunningly amazing. There were no real “insights” for me which I hadn’t considered previously.

All of that said, the small cinema was close to full, and so there’s obviously a market for learning more about the life of a pretty amazing person.

I’m sure, one day, it will end up late at night on either SBS or ABC.

Jackson Pollock's Paints at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Jackson Pollock’s Paints at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Marino Marini’s The Angel of the City at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Marino Marini’s The Angel of the City at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Gallery Crawl - Vermilion Opening

Gallery Crawl

Our mission was simple: three galleries in three hours.

Kate, a friend of hers, and I met at 4A Gallery just after six. Though I really love 4A, have bought works from there, and have blogged about their exhibitions on many occasions, I was a little disappointed with their current exhibition, “Future Archaeology”. I can’t put my finger on it, but there was just nothing which appealed to me this time.

After about thirty minutes we left, and grabbed a taxi to S.H. Ervin for their current exhibition, “Country & Western: landscape re-imagined”. Though much more traditional than 4A, I really liked this exhibition, with its variety of styles and forms. Highlights for me were the four panels from Utopia (1996) by Emily Kame Kngwarreye, the wonderful aerial photograph by John Gollings of the Mount Newman mine, and a stunning work by Ronnie Tjampitjinpa called Bushfire.

And from there, we headed down the hill to the opening of a new gallery specialising in Chinese art called “Vermillion“. The space is small, and there was a large crowd, so I didn’t really have much of an opportunity to take a close look at the art. What I saw, though, looked interesting. And they had some very yummy wine and food for the opening.

It was now well before nine o’clock, and our mission was accomplished. Kate was able to catch the train back to Newcastle, and be home in bed by midnight.

Australian Life - my favourite, a photograph from Wilcannia

Long Weekend

There’s an app on my phone which tells me how many steps I walk each day. Sure, there’s a margin of error, as it relies on me actually having my phone on me every day. But the margin of error is low, as I actually do have my phone with me most days.

The app tells me that I generally walk about the “required” 10,000 steps most days, but that it sometimes falls below that, and often increases well above that. During my travels in July and August, the number of daily steps has increased dramatically. But since arriving back, I’ve turned into a bit of a lard arse.

That’s been particularly the case this weekend. I’ve been a sloth. The combination of post-holiday blues, daylight saving, and a long weekend, has meant I’ve spent large parts of the weekend doing nothing much at all. I’ve slept, I’ve watched TV, I’ve rested, and I’ve gone out for lunch/dinner.

And today I’ve gone walking with my friend Sue. We visited Art & About’s Australian Life, we walked through the Botanic Gardens, and around Barangaroo. I felt awfully proud that I’d made about 13,000 steps throughout the day. And then of course I ruined it all by having a beer on the way home. Nonetheless, I’m feeling virtuous that I didn’t spend the entire long weekend as a sloth.

Liam Benson at Sydney Contemporary

Liam Benson at Sydney Contemporary

I first discovered Liam Benson‘s performance, photographic and video work when the art collecting group I was part of Hawkesbury One bought some of his early work. He had just recorded a couple of performance pieces, Ophelia and I Believe In You. I really loved both works because of both their playfulness and their conviction. Though in some ways fanciful, Liam WAS the portrayed character.

He’s back at Sydney Contemporary this year with another wonderfully playful performance. He’s dressed as a woman in a gorgeous white dress, and as he walks around, people are encouraged to draw on the dress with coloured pens. People were really getting into it, as Kate and I stopped to observe. He says he’ll embroider the images, and this in turn, creates a permanent record of the performance. Wonderful stuff.