Category Archives: art

Would London by any other name be as … Londonish?

The London corner of the UK was dead set against Brexit. Grayson Perry’s Red Carpet kind of shows why – a corner of privilege set against the rest of the country. We saw his  exhibition The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! at the Serpentine Gallery – his work is provoking, smart and highlighting the irony of white privilege championing art for human rights.

When I started learning English at school, one of the early texts we studied was Ralph McTell’s Streets of London. The story of inequlity in a wealthy country lit a fire that still burns bright. Why are some people so unbelievably wealthy, living in gilded  flats in Kensington, with a country estate for hunting and pleasure, expensive cars, and children bording at the most exclusive ‘public’ schools, when others cannot scrape together enough for a meal? Compared with the 1960s, London is possibly less occupied today, with lots of housing owned by foreigners who visit occassionally, while others cannot afford to live here and those who do live in more affordable social housing risk their lives.

Yet, for the visitor, London is just fabulous, With its glamour, culture, diversity, history, and dirt. I have loved London since the first time I came with my parents and my older brother for one hot summer in 1974. It was great cultural experience and my young imagination was captured by the history of the place: the castles, the stories of royal conquest and deceit, the megalomanic empire building. However, the holiday could also have been a premature end of this lifelong fascination: it was sheer luck that we went to see the Crown Jewells in the triple armoured basement of The Tower of London, rather than the weapons in the rather vulnerable White Tower, that day when the IRA popped a bomb into a cannon. When we came out into the sunshine police were everywhere, Bobbies with batons, guiding us to the exit. Damn, said my brother, he really wanted to see those weapons. We read all about it in the Extra, Extra newspaper that our uncle-second-removed, Brian, bought on the way back to Hammersmith.

This time we also caught a heatwave, 31 degrees and the English were nearly melting. Even as a Queenslander I have to admit it was hot, with the asphalt steaming, the bridges creaking and the hot air pushed in front of the trains in the tube only marginally hotter than the ambient temperature on the underground platform.  Our need for a cold drink was rewarded by a hand-pulled luke warm draft beer at The Dove. The pint was of course Fullers Pride of London, and we sat in the breeze on the back deck overlooking the Thames, watching the rowers launch their boats into its murky waters opposite. We reminded ourselves that the words to Rule Britannia were penned in this very pub, wondering how the Brits imagine their glorious future divorced from the Continent, and what this future will hold for London.

Enjoy this impression of London:

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Art, bog people and sunburn

Silkeborg is a small town halfway between Aarhus and the town I grew up in, Herning. With the motorway now complete between Herning and Aarhus, it is no longer necessary to drive through the town – though the motorway is not without controversy. It was clever politicking by local government politicians that saw significant investment in road infrastructure to Herning, the Capital of the Heath. And though Silkeborg residents probably benefit from the connectivity created by Herning Motorvejen, I heard a fair amount of resentment for the rival town.

What Silkeborg has over Herning is natural beauty. When the ice receded during the last ice age, it created a flat corner, right down the middle of Jutland, from Viborg in the north to the German border in the south. While the heath landscape of this area was largely reclaimed and drained in the 19th century, it is still completely flat and windswept, and not particularly fertile.

The other side of this midline is a different story. The ice created hills (including the infamous Himmelbjerget ‘sky mountain’, all of 147m above sea level and the third highest point in Denmark), lakes and vallies with fertile soil, ripe for human habitation. The countryside around Silkeborg is particularly beautiful with lakes and dense forrest. It is no wonder that 10,000 years ago when the first human immigrants followed the deer north through Europe and into the Scandinavian peninsula they settled in the area we know as the ‘seahighland’. Archeological diggings at Bølling, near Silkeborg, has revealed a very old settlement from 9,600 b.c. Over the years, the Silkeborg area has been subject to many archeological digs, and treasures continue to emerge whenever a developer digs down into the rich soil.

The most famous inhabitant of Silkeborg is Tollundmanden, an extremely well-preserved corpse from the iron age around 200-300 b.c. He was discovered in 1950 and is thought to have been sacrificed at the bog. He can be seen at Silkeborg Museum.


Another famous guy, Grauballemanden, was also found near Silkeborg a couple of years later. His body can now be found in a fantastic shrine at Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus.

A third famous person to come from Silkeborg is the artist Asgar Jorn (1914-1973), one of the founding COBRA artists. It is fair to say that Jorn left his mark, not just in his hometown but on the art world, and still inspires budding artists today. He has his own museum in Silkeborg, which is well worth a visit if you are at all interested in art.

When we came to Silkeborg this time, we visited very live people, thankfully. We had new potatoes and barbequed meats, and walked around Almindsø. We also attended the opening of the newly surfaced town square, inspired by one of Jorn’s automation drawings. It was a sunny day and we enjoyed the jazz music and a couple of cold beers. Unfortunately, some of the people we shared it with ended up with quite a sunburn!

 

ARoS Triennial: The Garden – End of Times, Beginning of Times

A couple of years ago, we visited the very popular Sculpture by the Sea at Aarhus. Between 2009 and 2015, Aarhus was the only location outside Australia to stage Sculpture by the Sea, a concept by David Handley. In 2017, ARoS took over activation of Aarhus  Bay with art as part of the ARoS Triennial, The Garden. One morning we walked out to Tangkrogen to have a look at The Future displayed on the three kilometer stretch to Ballehagen. I love the way Bjarke Ingells Group’s Skum turned sculpture into cafe and place to sit at the beginning of the walk.

It is over a week we left Aarhus. The aim was to get to know this ancient town better, and to do that we walked. Not only to see the public art, but also to get a feel for the place, its people, its colours and its culture. It has been hailed as the new must do of Denmark, and it is easy to see why. A small concentrated centre with nature experiences so close by. I put together this little film about walking in Aarhus.

 

ARoS: Your Rainbow Panorama

Our best impression from Aarhus is that it is a fantastic town with a great cultural offer. But the very best experience is to walk Your Rainbow Panorama on the top of the art museum ARoS. It is a work conceived by the Danish-Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliasson, whom Brisbanites will know for The cubic structural evolution project shown at GOMA several times. Danes will know his Circle Bridge in Copenhagen.

If you cannot make it to ARoS, here is the second best thing:

Infinite obliteration

Yayoi Kusama: Dots Obsession (2009), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Lone. 2015.

Yayoi Kusama: Dots Obsession (2009), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Lone. 2015.

I first met Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929, Japan) in the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art 2011 exhibition Look Now, See Forever. I don’t mean met her in person, but I met her art. I recall best the dots. She must be the best dotter I have ever come across. I recall standing in the red dots obsession room feeling overjoyed at the audacity that this could be art. Kusama’s work provided an aesthetic affective experience and was surprising and delightful. Could art really be this much fun? At the time I admit I did not immerse myself in the Kusama’s story and her amazing feats as a female Japanese artist in a white men’s art world. I simply took in the colour and brightness as I lost myself in the immersive works, watched the video installations with amusement and was delighted by the enormous flowers that bloom at midnight.

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Going on a holiday

Surf Lifesavers were not too busy - the rain and temperatures below 20 degrees celsius kept swimmers away. Photo: Mick. 2015.

Surf Life Savers were not too busy – the rain and temperatures below 20 degrees celsius kept swimmers away. Photo: Mick. 2015.

I have been on holidays. Even people on sabbatical need a holiday. With my siblings and their families, we went to The Skaw – Skagen – the tip of the Jutland peninsula and home to Denmark’s most northerly point.

Some swimmers braved the cold! Photo: Lone. 2015.

Some swimmers braved the cold! Photo: Lone. 2015.

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Heart of pinkness

The river runs through a pink landscape - Richard Mosse: Platon (2012). Photo: Mick 2015.

The river runs through a pink landscape – Richard Mosse: Platon (2012). Photo: Mick 2015.

Colour blindness comes in a version where green and red are indistinguishable. I cannot imagine not being able to see the many greens that colour spring and summer or the reds of tulips and cherry blossoms that are starting to show.

Richard Mosse (1980) is an Irish artist whose work The Enclave (2013) is exhibiting at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art presently. This work explores the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, changing hues of green to hues of red and pink. Mosse used the now discontinued Kodak Aerochrome to film events in DRC – the US Army used this surveillance film to show invisible infrared light, turning green into red and pink to detect camouflage. This war is largely ignored by Western media and therefore largely unknown outside Congo and Rwanda, even though more than 5.4 million people have died in this war since 1998. Continue reading