Last weekend I visited Tarra Warra Museum in the Yarra Valley to attend an artists talk on the current exhibition Vibrant Matter.
After the earlier artist talk by Heather Ellyard at Fehily Gallery, I thought it would be good to branch out and exercise my artistic vocabulary and listen to some intellectualising about art.
The program promised 3 artists John Cattapan, Robert Owen and Yvonne Audette in a discussion about their abstract pieces which have been acquired by Tarra Warra over the years. Unfortunately Yvonne Audette was too unwell to speak although was present as an audience member and instead the curator of the exhibition spoke on her behalf.
The talk was on at 4pm and the slowly dying light on the hills could be viewed through the beautiful window beckoning at the end of the gallery. It was a church like atmosphere and reminded me of childhood late evening masses at the end of a busy or unmotivated weekend when we felt we really must fulfil our religious obligation. There was a similarity in the low murmuring voices of males, dim lighting and nervous energy expended in trying to attend to the words against a backdrop of nodding heads and constantly shifting bodies obscuring the faces of the speakers. All the while my eyes were flitting between the works of Emily Kame Kngwarrey and the Aida Tomescu yellow field painting that seem to respond to the dying light and then as if lit from within by another energy, re emerged to hold my gaze. Kngwarrey's work it was pointed out(like many aboriginal paintings) starts with a black background and slowly the light emerges form the background. It was more captivating when I had this pointed out.
And just like my experiences of church as a child I cannot tell you the details of the lesson!
I am extremely grateful to have had the experience of sitting for one hour in front of Tomescu's work because no other gallery experience really offers one such an opportunity, and I am never likely to own that piece, although it is a piece that I could wake up to opposite my bed every day and happily die to. And that is the nature of abstract art.
John Cattapan (his painting is in the above invitation)spoke of intuition in dealing with colour, and while having lectured for many years in colour theory and understanding the rules behind colour theory, and not necessarily being a synaesthete did think in colour with regards to emotions or states of being. I get that.
It is also interesting to see the rise in thinking circles around the world at the moment about trusting intuition in a world full of information and disinformation.
Robert Owen's sculpture in ultramarine was magical because of its strange matt surface which took on an ethereal glow.
He said that the vibration of ultramarine is halfway between black and white and so it has an important role to play in making the visible become invisible or invisible to become visible, both spiritual concepts. Unfortunately I didn't have time to sit and absorb this piece as it was in the adjoining room and the hundred or so audience were being funnelled through the show to snatch a glimpse of everything in the context of what we had just heard before grabbing a glass of wine and being deftly manoeuvred off the property after a polite interval.
I am not critical of Tarra Warra for its presentation method. It was a lecture style presentation which is one way of addressing a large group of people and I went along not knowing what to expect. I felt distant from the presentation, which seemed to be attended by many older more knowledgeable individuals and there were signs of a membership and camaraderie to which I did not belong, so I was disappointed at question time when there were no engaging questions to throw any more light on the subject. From that point of view I was disappointed that the talk left me feeling less invigorated and excited than the art did.
And on a completely different note, on Thursday night I attended a tutor's exhibition at Wyreena gallery in Croydon, where my friend Marlize Myburgh is a tutor. It was a warm and cheerful gathering in a tiny gallery chock full of goodies made by many talented local artists and crafters and Marlize's plates were selling like hotcakes. I bought one too!
You can see more of Marlize's work here