Ah, my last full weekend in Sydney, ending with the Australia day celebration. Australia day observes the arrival of white people to the Australian continent. I was at The New Windsor yesterday when I asked what independence AD celebrated and the barfly to my right replied “Nothing, we’re still prisoners of the old bag [the Queen of England].” I had to chuckle at that one.
Speaking of yesterday, I spent the early part of the morning at the Art Gallery of New south wales checking out their Caravaggio Exhibit. I’ve always been a fan of Caravaggio because he was one of the first artists to really explore the seedier sides of life. I suppose this may be an effect of my like for that which is seedy, dark, and generally exploitative of the demons of humankind’s lesser nature.
I hope that doesn’t make me a misanthrope.
His works that show people working in concert to rob the proud buffoons of the upper class are comical. He also was not afraid to paint horribly ugly people: broken noses, crooked teeth, crooked souls.
It is worth noting that Caravaggio knew a bit about the demons of lesser nature as he was exiled for having stabbed an opponent after an argument over a game of tennis (no such fireworks from the Australian open this year).
The trouble was that the exhibit was called “Caravaggio and his World” - I noticed a lot more “and his world” versus “Caravaggio.” I didn’t mind the context - a great many of the paintings were thematically the same and the difference was Caravaggio’s execution - nonetheless I couldn’t help feeling that I had been slightly misled.
In the main galleries they had a few good paintings (given Australia’s youth it’s not surprising that it doesn’t have much to my taste) such as the portrait of Cosimo deMedici, but past that, not much else. As I was saying parenthetically above, since Australia came of age in the age of Hanoverian era we are treated to heaps of Bosworth or Samuel Johnson petit rois du maison with their graying wigs, double chins, and stern expressions. If ever you can’t visualize some bureaucrat in a Dickens novel just take a look around that gallery.
Similarly the landscapes of the era were equally uninspired. It was painful. Fortunately I found the hidden cache of Flemish fijnschilderij.
There was some quite interesting modern art.
The real highlight was the Asian gallery that had a full suit of Samurai armor and several swords. There were many other textile crafts that were absolutely stunning. They had a gallery on Asian religious items (Buddhas, Hindu Pantheon) which were very beautiful and very primitive at the same time.
My favorite exhibit was a miniature Japanese Tea room in Zen style. That was absolutely stunning. Design-wise I’ve always been a bit of a minimalist and these black edged tatami mats with ikebana works on small shelves vase very beautiful. It looks so peaceful I just wanted to throw a mattress in there and take a nap….it’d be a great motif for a bedroom. I’ve noticed the Calvin Klein ads seem to be dialed into that motif.
Saturday I spent the day at the beach but the waves were totally non-existent. It was like a great big swimming pool out there. I got a bit of a sunburn so that made sure I didn’t go back during the long weekend - all the better.
I’m dreading packing up to leave. I suppose though, I am ready to leave here because I’m starting to feel the same frustration I had been feeling in San Francisco - you start living life on the delay timer and your situation becomes all the more difficult to tolerate.
Besides, I need to tear up some snow. :)