Galleries, Canberra

We had one day left to race around and see the Galleries. First on the list was the National Portrait Gallery.

We were greeted with Australian portraits first. I was pleased to find out that I knew most of them. Beside each one was an information sheet that gave a brief history of the person, making the portraits a little more personal. I normally don’t really read the sheet as they generally just tell you about what type of painting it is so it was nice to know a little bit more about the face that is the painting.

One painting I found very interesting was the one of Cathy Freeman. With the changing of a colour the artist has hand stitched the work with black thread. “very interesting way of painting”.

Along with some more traditional portraits of noteworthy people, there was a Death mask of Ned Kelly. We would be heading into to Kelly territory soon so I found this noteworthy.

The portrait Gallery isn’t overly large so it didn’t take us long to see everything and be on our way. Our next stop was the National Gallery of Australia.

The first item we ran our eyes over was the Skyspace.   The sign said “Within Without, lighting installation, concrete and basalt stupa, water, earth and landscaping.” Mmmm but is it art? Oh who cares? It was fascinating to walk into it and just look around.

You could walk into the dome, which is in the centre of the mound, and take a seat to contemplate your world. Or roll around on the floor laughing. The choice was your to make.

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Being a National Gallery there were items from all over the world including works from famous artists.

It was good time to visit, as there was a collection of Sidney Nolan, Ned Kelly works on display. It took Sidney a year to complete the 27 painting in the series, which he started in 1946.

It is said that the paintings offer a unique look at the Australian landscape and touches on the Australian way of life for the time. However they are best known for telling the story of Ned Kelly and the events that led up to him being hanged in 1880.

When the judge handed down the death sentence to Ned he said “May the Lord have mercy on you soul”, which Ned gave the reply of “Yes, and I will meet you there!” It may have seemed like it was a strange thing to say but even stranger is that the Judge, Mr Justice Barry died a fortnight later. Spooky!!

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Now the main reason for going to the National Gallery of Australia was to see one painting. “Blue Poles.” Australia purchased the painting in 1974 for $1.3 million (In today’s money it would be about $11.5m.) At the time, the Gallery’s Director was not authorised to purchase anything over $1 million so he needed to ask the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam for approval. The purchase of the painting provoked a great debate with the general public. The main part of that debate was about what seemed like an extremely high purchased price and at the time it was a world record for the contemporary American painter Jackson Pollock. I can remember my parents discussing the painting and neither of them were happy about the government spending the money on one signal painting, and a painting that looked like a child could have done it. Over time the painting has become one of the most popular exhibits in the gallery especially for people my age. I guess we have to know what all that fuss was for.

While we were viewing the famous art piece, a group of people came to do the same. Their conversation rolled around why the painting was known as Blue Poles. Pollock didn’t like to name his works so originally the painting he painted in 1952 was simply call Number 11. Two years latter it was given the new title of Blue Poles. An art critic said, giving the piece a name “limits our field of comprehension and does the painting a singular disservice, because we look for the poles and miss much of the rest, the name is simply too distracting.” They may have something in that as the topic around us went from why it was named Blue Poles to how the dominating stripes of colour looked black not blue so surely it should have been name Black Poles instead. Without thinking I said, “It is a winter navy blue instead of a summer navy blue. A winter navy is a lot darker than a summer navy.” The man looked at me “You are joking. Right!” I just looked at him and shook my head.

Now it may seem a silly thing, surely navy blue is navy blue, right. Well I would have thought so as well but let me tell you a little story. Many years ago I had to purchase navy blue pants for work. I couldn’t find any so asked for help. The woman showed me what I had already looked at and dismissed as I had thought they were almost black pants and too dark but she told me they were navy. When I explained how dark they were I received the same explanation of blue I gave the young man. I did buy the pants and they were darker than anyone else but no one told me they were black. Maybe there is something in the explanation I gave. I will leave it up to you to make up your own mind. I am sure the young man had misgivings about my revelation on navy blue. At the end of the day I guess Pollock knew what colours he used to paint with so Blue Polls it is.

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What is the painting worth today? That opens up another debate. The painting has been estimated to be valued anywhere between $100 million up to $350 million. It is an interesting painting but is it worth the valuation. This is another thing I will leave up to you to make up your mind. While I like the artwork, for me the answer is no, but then I guess the valuation is not only for the piece of art but the history behind the art as well. I do think it is a must see if you are in the area.

The day before we were due to leave Canberra, I almost had a heart attack!!! Why? We had gone along to the war memorial and then to the Telstra tower and to Parliament house and old parliament house finishing up with the Galleries, then I decided to download my photos. There wasn’t that many there, only about 1,500. Well my poor computer couldn’t cope with that many all at once. It’s memory isn’t that big so it decided to stop working! I did the usual thing of shutting down the computer then re booting it but when I did that all I got was a white screen. Of course I panicked, screamed and started to curse all those who conspired against me. Adrian calmly told me we could fix the problem. It was all right for him as it wasn’t his computer that had just crashed. After I had taken a deep breath and calmed down I knew he was right and yes I will agree with you, there are more important things to get upset about than a computer crashing, and yes Adrian did fix it. Now everything was right in my own little world.

 

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