First stop was Gallery Bodalla, where Linda Childs - van Wijk was exhibiting a lifetimes work in an show mysteriously called the naive eye. At first glance Linda's paintings are presented in a 'primitive' form, but closer inspection reveals an conceptual sophistication and technical rigour that belies the show's title. Fascinating pictures that invite you into the mind of their creator. The Gallery is also one of the most delightful 'spaces' I have been in, and matched by the charm of Director Valerie Faber, who has a social conscience and is not just interested in profit and power when it comes to art. Inspiring...
Linda Childs - van Wijk, Beyond midnight, acrylic on canvas
Next stop was ANCA Gallery in North Canberra, where the warm fuzzy glow dissipated seconds after entering. The show Material World - extraordinary environments made from ordinary things was a shocker and reflected everything that is wrong with contemporary art. The two bright young things that 'curated' this show say in their introduction, 'the artists have seized the opportunity to remind us of the responsible use of energy and technology, the need to recycle, reuse, reforest and, above all, to respect.' Well, how about respecting the intelligence of your audience? A twig sculpture? You must be kidding...Another work was so clever that it was hidden from view, another required the use of a smartphone (not supplied) in order for it to work. Art you can't see, music you can't hear. I must be getting old. Woeful...
Fortunately spirits were revived with a visit to the National Library of Australia to see the Treasures Gallery, where major pieces from the National collection are on display. Having recently read about Cook's voyages it was a treat to see his portable writing bureau, and to imagine him charting the oceans and writing his journals on such a small surface. Jan Utzon's model for the proportions of the Sydney Opera House was a beautiful object in itself, and intriguing in its concept. Photographs from immigrant detention centres lent a sobering note. I have always been fond of maps and the early charts of Dutch explorers are as graphically pleasing as they are historically interesting. Moving...
Attributed to Abraham Anias (1694–1750), Chart of the Indian Ocean 1730
Displayed in the foyer on the way out was a copy of Helmut Newton's SUMO, the largest and most expensive book produced in the 20th century (by favourite publisher Taschen of course). Newton is very high on my list of influences. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the book was open on a portrait he had taken of art critic Robert Hughes...I would have much preferred one of his more perverse images ;-)
Then off to the National Gallery of Australia to see Renaissance - 15th & 16th century Italian paintings from the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo. An outstanding exhibition in every way. Not only a rare opportunity to see the 'real deal' up very close, but a superb lesson in art history and techniques. From International Gothic through to late Renaissance one could trace the transition from tempera on panel to oil paint on canvas, and the development of human representation from idealised form to actual portraits of real people. Standouts for me were Mantegna's Saint Bernardino of Siena...
Andrea Mantegna, Saint Bernardino of Siena, c.1450
...absolutely dripping with piety...and the four works by Lorenzo Lotto:
Lorenzo Lotto, Portrait of a young man, c.1500
Lorenzo Lotto, Portrait of Lucina Brembati, c.1518-23
Lorenzo Lotto, Holy Family with Saint Catherine of Alexandria, c.1533
Lorenzo Lotto, The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, c.1523
Not only a profound lesson in technique, but a demonstration that you don't have to work on a large scale to convey beauty and complex ideas. Brilliant!