Friday, December 19, 2014

Bye-bye Brisbane

Brisbane view

I've just returned from what will probably be my last visit to Brisbane for some time. My daughter and grand-daughter, who have been in Brisbane for nearly seven years, are returning to Sydney, so I'll have no reason for visiting as regularly as I have over those seven years. There are things I've grown to like about Brisbane. Particularly when I've visited in winter, the old tourism slogan of 'beautiful one day, perfect the next' has seemed to describe the bright blue skies, the pollution-free air, the meandering river and the almost tropical landscape with its profusion of flowering trees and bushes. Summer, of course, is a different matter with its heat and humidity. Urgh!

There are two things I'll particularly miss about Brisbane. One is the Tangled Yarns store with its interesting range of yarns, its bright, welcoming space, and its colourful displays. I wrote about my admiration for this store earlier this year. But even if I were continuing to visit Brisbane, this pleasure would no longer be available because the store is, sadly, closing. It will be greatly missed.

I'm also an avid fan of the gallery complex at Brisbane's South Bank so I took a break from helping with house packing up to visit the latest exhibition at the wonderful Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) - 'Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion'.

QAG entrance

Visitors are not permitted to photograph the items in this exhibition, but the advertisement on the Gallery site gives an impression of the more outrageous designs. What it doesn't really show, however, are the items I found most inspirational; the folded, sculptural, deceptively simple shapes that so revolutionised fashion in the 70s and 80s. There has been some rather critical discussion recently of the phenomenon of displaying 'fashion' in art galleries. But it's a move that has been undeniably popular and has opened galleries to a wider range of people. In the case of this particular exhibition I think it's also not just about what is 'fashionable' but about notions of the body and how it is presented and perceived. It explores how two-dimensional designs can be translated to the unpredictably three dimensional and mobile human form.

I found this special exhibition both thought-provoking and beautiful, but I was equally engaged by a number of the Gallery's own exhibits as I meandered through the lovely (cool) spaces of the Queensland Art Gallery on my way back to the bus stop. There is a shimmering colonnade that on closer inspection is composed of VHS tape.

QAG Kempinas columns

The information on the work noted that the Lithuanian artist, Zilvinas Kempinas 'is interested in the way that magnetic videotape holds images of the past, but these will soon no longer be viewable. Rather than its promise of progress, technology often reveals instead dead-ends and monumental failures'. As someone who constantly worries about what will happen in the future to the images and other documentation I now have stored on today's technology, this was a poignant reminder of the probably inevitable transience of the records of our lives.

The walls of the main entrance space of the Gallery are currently elegantly hung with dance masks and zugub (dance machines) from the Torres Strait Islands:

QAG George Nona
QAG Patrick Thaiday Zugub

One of the things I've admired across my many visits to the GOMA and QAG is their commitment to exhibiting art from the Torres Strait Islands, and the Pacific more generally. Sydney is a very multicultural city and when here I'm conscious, in many different ways, of our location in Asia. But Brisbane reminds me much more immediately of our Pacific connection. Maybe it's the climate, and the visibility of Pacific Islanders within the community, but for me these relationships have been reinforced by the galleries and their collections.

And finally, just before I exited the Gallery, I was distracted by the ceramic collection and its current display of works by Australian potter Gwyn Hanssen Pigott.

QAG pots
Gwyn Hanssen Pigott

I just stand in front of these works and sigh with pleasure. They are perfection. Each of the pots is perfect in itself, but placed together each of the shapes increases the perfection of the others. They remind me of Alberto Morandi's paintings, which also make me sigh with pleasure.

It's not often that you have the opportunity to get to know another city reasonably well through informal visits over some years, when there's no pressure to see as much as possible in limited time, but I've had this opportunity with Brisbane. But for now, bye-bye Brisbane.


Brendaknits said...

What a beautiful way to describe the weather. Do Australians discuss the weather All. The. Time? We Canadians certainly do.

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