Saturday, February 05, 2011

Australia, Aussies, Art and Aboriginal

Sydney is a darling of a city. 

Aussies are an enthusiastic mix of energy, humor, earnestness, appreciation and fun – at least the crowd I have been spending time with, and for those specifically, let’s also add intelligent, kind and generous. It’s the kind of folk one would want to live amongst, and I have been lucky enough to have a 7-week stint at doing just that.

Thanks to our hosts, the Golsby-Smiths, for making available to us a lovely small cottage in Lindfield, one of the nicer suburbs of Sydney and right on the train line, I haven’t had to spend too much time with dealing with the hassles of everyday living logistics. (In fact right now I am waiting for Annie G-S to make me a morning cappuccino on her shiny giant espresso, she even brought it to me. No wonder I adore Sydneyites.) For that, I am especially lucky: rent and just finding a decent place to live here is exceptionally tough and the topic of many a local news article.

My focus here has been, of course, learning about art here. While there is a vibrant community of contemporary artists, the genre I have been interested in for many years is Aboriginal Art. There is a lot to learn about it, and many sources in print, museums, galleries and people to illuminate any avid student. I started even before leaving Stateside by reading Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, a book well known here but I found poorly written and only for beginners (such as I have been).

An even better print resource has been McCullouch’s Contemporary Aboriginal Art by Susan McCulloch and Emily McCulloch Childs. This is a good summary tracing Aboriginal painting and sculpture from its beginnings to the “world class movement” it has become, and how. As I also learned from the excellent display of Aboriginal paintings at the Seattle Art Museum, Aboriginals first learned to paint in the 1950s, thanks to encouragement from white folks who also supplied them with acrylics and canvas. A bit of a surprise, eh?

Of course, their expressions were painted for centuries on rock, bark, skin and various objects such as grave markers. Many good examples of earlier work of this type is on exhibit at the Art Gallery of NSW located in Sydney (NSW = New South Wales, the state we are in). The exhibits here also extend in time to contemporary Aboriginal art much of which starts to appear more typical of art as we know it, even appearing like the graphics in manga.

What I find interesting about my reaction to Aboriginal art is that, as much as I have wanted to learn about it for so long, I like it best when I know less. Aboriginal art is very complicated, deeply full of meaning about the creation of the earth and all animal-kind, as well as reality of now, geography, family ties, mythology and more. A simplified term for the concept is "Dreaming," but it is way more dimensional than that. So, what surprises me is that what I like about it is just the visual aspect, and the more abstract and pattern-like the better.

I’ll write more about it soon. For now, though, I'll add to this post a panorama shot of Byron Bay. Not exactly Sydney, but it was the start of our experiencing numerous beaches in this gorgeous continent. The ones around Sydney are awesome too-- Curl Curl, Dee Why, Manley...Well worth traveling around the world for, if not the art.

Speaking of my own work, the Los Gatos law firm of Carnay, Sugai & Sudweeks LLP has generously provided its office for me to do a solo show and are hosting a reception for me on February 25, 4-7 pm. Please come!  750 University Ave., Suite 140, Los Gatos CA.  To RSVP:

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