Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mona: Museum of Old and New Art

Ferry with sheep
The Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Hobart is a Museum you don't easily forget. I was there two weeks ago but it remains very fresh in my memory.  It is like no other museum you have ever visited. I usually last about an hour in a museum, but I was at Mona for five hours and there was not one bored moment of the many I spent there.

Ferries and buses take visitors from Hobart. I took the half hour ferry ride and was pleased I had. I was also pleased I had not read much about it as the many surprises, including the building itself, made my visit memorable. I will not spoil the surprise for those reading this who have not visited, but I can talk about some of the exhibits, not all of which are permanent. 

Mona thumbs its nose at everything: the art establishment especially, but everything else as well, including the creator of this gallery. I didn't notice on my way there, but as the ferry arrived for the return journey to Hobart I could see the group of sheep on the back deck. They looked at us as we looked at them. These quirky, amusing and sometimes in-your-face moments are what Mona is all about.
Golden vase ...
and reflection of me listening to
information via Mona device

Each visitor is given a phone-like device which 
automatically calls up prerecorded information about the art works near that visitor. You can have the information about the works that interest you emailed to you.  (The battery of my device died, so I lost my information - thus few of the images here are captioned.)

Henry Moore head
Woven carpet
The bottom level of the gallery had been divided into four spaces, each comprising several rooms. Four curators had been asked to exhibit art that answers the question 'What is art?"  I found the question captivating as I had written an essay in my second year at art school with the title 'What is art anyway?'

Interestingly two of the curators answered the same way, although with different exhibits. I didn't agree with their premise though, that art is all about survival of the species.

Fat red car

As I sat waiting for the ferry, I realised there was an art video playing right in front of me:

My Mona Video

Monday, November 21, 2016

Hobart city

Hobart seems to be full of small businesses run by very friendly people. I just had a beer at a nearby corner pub. It's called The Duke and it is the type of pub that would encourage me to be a drinker if it was located near where I live. It was early (6pm) and a couple of kids (12 year olds?) played pool in one room, two women with wines and some delicious fish 'bar food' were in the next door room and I took my beer and sat in an adjoining area where the sun was streaming in through the window.  After a while the owner came to check if I was happy with just a beer (I had prevaricated over food) and as I left his wife (I assume?) gave me such a friendly smile and wished me goodbye.

I had decided on dinner at 'home' so I went over the road to the Soup Stop to get a takeaway soup. The Indian family there were equally friendly and the pumpkin soup I took home was delicious.

Beautiful old buildings, ugly new ones
The built environment however is not so inspiring. There are many fine old stone buildings in Hobart but my overriding impression of the city is of traffic. Most roads through the city are one way so they are four lanes. Four lanes of ever churning traffic. It seems that those on the east of Hobart have to change places with those on the west very regularly. I have seen a few buses, but not many, and none on these main thoroughfares.
Picturesque waterfront

There are some very picturesque spots on the wharf with stone houses and moored yachts, but mostly it is large tin sheds and bitumen roads.

I brought my painting kit with me to Hobart but in vain. There are some pretty spots but they are outnumbered and overshadowed by the ugly developments around them.

My view from a coffee shop towards the wharf this morning was depressingly drab so I painted a child at the next door table. He was looking out at some bikers preparing to ride. They were no doubt happy because the roads appear to be in good repair. Pedestrians and painters though are less well catered for, which is a real shame as Hobart has so much potential.
Some of the tin sheds have a charm of their own.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hobart, the ocean and Tempest

Who's looking at me then?
Tempest, the show on at the Hobart Museum and Art Gallery seems to encapsulate Tasmania, sitting as it does with its face towards the squally antarctic.

Bass Strait to the north of Tasmania is equally as treacherous and always spoken of in tones of awe by race commentators during the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Some boats don't make it. Some crews don't make it.

Tempest includes seafaring and shipwreck paintings, video installations and museum pieces to do with storms, pirates and parrots.

Outside in the courtyard is a large 'mobile' made of plastic detritus from the ocean. It is an effective comment on our plastic society.
Plastic Rubbish Mobile

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Tristan und Isolde in Hobart.

The local paper on Friday
It is not so often that an audience rises as one to cheer and applaud at the end of a concert, but in Hobart this evening it was as if the crowd was a single organism. We had just heard a once-in-a-lifetime concert performance of Tristan und Isolde with the remarkable TSO under the baton of Maestro Marko Letonja. Nina Stemme and Stuart Skelton came to Tasmania from New York where they have been singing Tristan and Isolde at the Met and were joined by Slovenian Monika Bohinec who is currently with the Vienna State Opera. I don't know the name of the horn player who played the extraordinary part for English horn but she was as remarkable as the singers. Letonja slipped into the back of the orchestra to give her the bottle of wine he had been presented with, by way of thanks.

Wagner fans knew this would be no ordinary concert and members of various Wagner societies flew in to Tasmania from all over the country to hear it. It was definitely worth their while.

Audience stands as one ...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Do I see the ring of steel?

Sunrise 3

Once the sun is up, if I look north over the ocean I might just see the Ring of Steel that our Government is promoting to stop those dastardly refugees..

Now that they are releasing the long suffering detainees from Manus and Nauru they are worried about their tough guy image and have begun beating their chests and chanting, deploying the navy to stop any boats who dare to come near.

Notable Australians have gone on record to say they would not be alive had they not been helped by 'people smugglers', but the government has its fingers in its ears.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Mr Trump and a warming world

Sunrise in a warming world
We are going to have to get clever and coordinated to save our world, working together as never before to support initiatives that mitigate warming.

We have a formidable enemy, large and powerful and willing to sacrifice the world to make a profit for themselves.

But we are many and we too can be formidable, now we know their methods (thank you Naomi Klein) and realise they just don't care. We must do whatever it takes.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Sunrise over the beach

What do you do when the world goes crazy? My twitter feed is full of reports of nasty racst incidents in the USA and of articles saying Liberal Party MPs want to repeal the Australian laws that protect people here from racial vilification.  I despair at the human race.

Nature continues to put on her best clothes and, as therapy, I have decided to take out my paintbrush and paint my beautiful area. This is the first, Sunrise over the beach. A metaphor for new beginnings.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hillary won the popular vote

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote! Al Gore won the popular vote but not the Presidency. Just think for a minute how different our world might be if Americans elected their President according to popular vote. (Southern Florida might have even avoided being lost beneath rising seas.)

I believe that those who voted for Clinton voted for decency and the rights of all Americans to proper representation, rather than voting for the establishment. My hope is that they will now join forces and hold their elected representatives accountable.  Trump has attracted people to his team who have past records of caring only for themselves and they now control the Senate and the House of Representatives as well as the Presidency, so America needs a focused and active opposition like never before. Good luck Americans! There are a lot of anxious people watching you.

[Liberal America has been steamrolled by Trump]

Monday, November 07, 2016

Ayse Goknur Shanal and Evgeny Ukhanov: a most moving performance

"Artists are there when the world forgets what is important!"

These were the words of soprano Soprano Ayse Goknur Shanal following a most moving performance with pianist Evgeny Ukhanov at the Utzon room of the Sydney Opera House on Sunday.
Ayse sings

She had sung works in French, Spanish, Turkish, German and English, often love songs but also Stauss' Four Last Songs, songs which were his final compositions and sung at his funeral.
('But they are not sad songs,' insisted Shanal, 'he had lead a long, fruitful and happy life.' )

Despite the joy of the presentation and the mostly happy songs, I saw more tears shed at this concert than at any other I have attended. Was it the sublime voice that moved us so, or the sympathetic playing? Or was it the state of the world and the wish that Canberra's politicians could hear and be moved by these works? Probably all three. 

This concert by Australians of Turkish and Ukrainian heritage was a testament to Australia's successful multicultural experiment and I think the tears carried the fervent hope that this wonderful multicultural experiment not be sacrificed for short term political goals.

Bravo Ayse and Evgeny, and thank you, thank you!

Part of the program
(with my sketch of the view from the Utzon room)
Hear Ayse on soudcloud