Art Gallery of New South Wales

10 Jul

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When I wandered into the stunningly beautiful Art Gallery of New South Wales, I had just arrived in Sydney, was feeling a bit woozy from the time change, and hadn’t yet wrapped my mind around being awake o100_2033n the other side of the world while my loved ones gently slumbered at home somewhere in a nighttime I could not see. That said, I was still really excited to be in Sydney and wanted to see what I could see while keeping myself awake long enough to attempt to get onto a schedule more copasetic with this time zone. An art gallery seemed like a low key place to see some sights and learn a little about Australian culture. My first realization upon entering the place was that I could not name a single Australian visual artist. Thankfully, I was alone and didn’t need to admit this to anyone and have since remedied that profound area of ignorance. I now can remember the name of painter Rupert Bunny–an early twentieth century Australian who did some rather large and charming portraits and scenes of women from his era.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is home to a diverse set of collections, which the gallery has been kind enough to photograph and make available on their website so that you, too, can see some of the extraordinary art that I encountered. I’ll also include photos here that I took of some pieces which stood out to me, but if you seek these works of art out on the gallery’s website, you’ll find much better images.

"An Athlete Wrestling with a Python" (1888-1891) by Lord Leighton Frederic

“An Athlete Wrestling with a Python” (1888-1891) by Lord Leighton Frederic

As a herpetologist’s daughter, I’ve seen a good number of pythons in my day, but this was the first representation I’d ever seen of someone wrestling one. Is than an Australian thing? I have no idea, but it made for a very striking and beautiful statue.

"The Coming Home" (1904), Hans Heysen

“The Coming Home” (1904), Hans Heysen

This piece, and many others by Australian painters in this collection,  reminded me very much of a lot of the Texas art that hangs in parents’ home. Imagery of cattle and farm life recurred frequently, as did ranching landscapes which easily could’ve been Texas were it not for the appearance of kinds of trees that we don’t have in my home state.

"Untitled (Tingari Story at Walungurru)" (1981), Ronnie Tjampitjinpa

“Untitled (Tingari Story at Walungurru)” (1981), Ronnie Tjampitjinpa

I’d never seen aboriginal art and was impressed with the way in which the graphic patterns in it made me as a viewer feel like I was falling into many of the paintings. This could be attributed to jet lag, I’m sure, but there’s a depth and texture to this style of work that’s ill captured in images of it. You really have to see it in person.

"Interior with Wardrobe Mirror" (1955), Grace Cossington Smith

“Interior with Wardrobe Mirror” (1955), Grace Cossington Smith

This piece of impressionistic Australian art by Grace Cossington Smith was really lovely to see. The colors are even more vibrant than they appear here.

"The Inmate" (1963), Charles Blackman

“The Inmate” (1963), Charles Blackman

This painting caught my eye both because it’s striking and because it’s titled “The Inmate.” I did a bit of digging around online to try to find out where the title of this piece comes from, and though I didn’t get an answer to that question, I did discover that Charles Blackman was a terribly interesting and influential painter–one of the Antipodeans who were a Melbourne group of painters who protested abstract art. This painting might have nothing whatsoever to do with prison, but to me it feels like an apt representation of incarceration. The sad or possibly determined disposition of the woman and the blurred space where her mouth ought to be gives a sense of strife but a will to survive in spite of it.

I saw far more in the gallery than I could share here with you now and loved every minute of my time there. I’m now very interested in reading up on Australian artists and their lives, so if anyone has any good books on that subject to recommend, please send me titles of things I should read!

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