Saturday, March 24, 2012


One month ago today, I left on a five-day trip to Brisbane, Australia to see a Matisse exhibition. It already feels like ages ago.

This afternoon I was looking through photos I took while there, and discovered I didn't take many, and they are all of appalling qualities, partially due to the weather during my stay, which was either tropical torrential rain, (some places "near" Brisbane started flooding before I left,) or humid tropical blaze. It was, though, was an eye-opening trip for me, so I'll post a few photos. (All the galleries except Matisse allowed photography, but I didn't take a lot and the few I did came out, oh, so badly.)
This map is way out of proportion. The Queensland Performance Art Centre (far left) was like a small city on its own.
Inked and sun-burned. The day I went to see Matisse, I think I was inside GOMA between six and seven hours.
Just outside the Matisse exhibition was big area where visitors were encouraged to draw.
Cafe adjacent to the Matisse exhibition; I loved the bird cage lamps.
This is a function area of of the State Library of Queensland; it was a spacious indoor/outdoor area with kitchen facilities, but on both occasions I went there there was nobody around. In the panels on the sides was some of their teacup collections. I saw the teacups from far away and really wanted to get to this space, but once there most of the panels are so high up I couldn't see the cups very well.
Ground floor, Queensland Art Gallery. I sat on a bench for about an hour reflecting on all the art I saw in Queensland, and envied the largeness of scale of everything Australia. I tried to memorize this place so whenever I meditate, or feel in need of an escape, I can return in my head.
 Close-up of the picture frame of a Lautrec painting. 
Wheelchair ramp, Queensland Art Gallery. Even close up, it looked like a tapestry, but this was paint on board, from memory.
The Treasury Casino, formerly the state treasury building, and what a beautiful building it is. Across the street, on this side, was a "modern/public art" piece that looked like a giant kitchen utensil. There are so many public sculptures in central Brisbane.
Batman's HQ, I thought...
New part of Brisbane; thinking of Christchurch, I didn't want to be in this part of town very much.
During the guided tour of the Matisse exhibition, we spent quite a long time in front of the drawings for the Barnes Murals because there were few visitors who were particularly interested in the work. The following morning, I opened my balcony window, and, whoa, serendipity.
Brisbane was lovely. And fantastic. And mind-blowing. But I was glad I live in Nelson, because Brisbane offered too many distractions for me to concentrate on my making. This was shot from my balcony window before I left.

Brisbane was big, bright, but not as brash as I had expected. The scholarship behind not just the Matisse exhibition but many others at both GOMA and QAG were high; they installed/hung artworks beautifully; printed material, lectures, and films associated with the exhibitions, many free, were excellent, and the staff, paid and volunteers, were exceptionally well-informed.

The galleries were beautiful, with plenty of indoor and outdoor sitting areas to rest and reflect on the artworks; bookshops were well-stocked with interesting and/or rare books in addition to their own publications; even the cafe food was great. I was mesmerized by the combined largeness and excellence of the galleries and shows, and felt strong multiple jolts telling me Nelson is a small place and there is so much out there in the big wide world.

Australia, and particularly Queensland at the center of Australian mining industry, has not been touched by the recent recession. Everything was expensive, including the exhibition catalogue (A$50, and no, I didn't get it, because it was so heavy!), accommodation, and food. Because I stayed in an apartment, I cooked most of my meals, having only two lunches at the galleries, but still I ran out of cash I took with me quickly and the trip cost far more than I had estimated. Although entry to most galleries were free; I think I only paid for the Matisse exhibition, which was A$20.

On the other hand, having lived in financial dire straits, both personal and worldwide, for quite a few years, I had forgotten how people walked and talked when they are experiencing good times; forward-looking, uplifting, and thinking big. I needed to be reminded of that. 

Australia is really big. The central part of Brisbane has good public transport, not just on the ground by also on the river, but it's also easy to walk around. Something I can't experience in Nelson was taking 15 and 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other of one building, or to hop over to the next building. That in the torrential, tropical rain, or the humid tropical blaze.  

When I think of visiting Australia to see art, I automatically think of Melbourne and the state of Victoria, but again, there is a big world out there, even within Australia, and it was good to be reminded of it. I'd like to keep an eye on what exhibitions GOMA hosts, and if possible, go back to Brisbane with Ben so he can experience that city. Though expensive, it's so near and we don't need to be away for weeks and months for a new experience.

You do realize, though, I'll be weaving and posting a lot about "merchandises" because, did I mention, Australia was expensive?

Some facts:

Nelson to Wellington is a 25-minute flight; Wellington to Brisbane was around 4 hours; Brisbane Airport to the center of Brisbane by train was about half an hour. The longest wait was A) having bags checked and getting out of Brisbane Airport, (somewhere between 60-90 minutes,) and waiting for the train at Brisbane Airport, (the train ran either every 30 minutes, or I think every hour when I arrived.)  Wellington Airport charges NZ$25 to exit, but Brisbane Departure Tax is included in your flight, and people working in the travel industry don't seem to know what Departure Tax is; at least not the ones I asked.

You can use NZ credit cards on EFTPOS machines in any old shop in Brisbane, with your regular pin number; in fact if you have the new chip style credit card, transactions were much faster on the Australian system.

I expected to see many of the same brands on Australian supermarket shelves, because we import so much of their stuff, but that wasn't the case. I also had a hard time finding the variety of yogurt we have in New Zealand.

Julia and Kev did all that just to entertain me on that Monday, I know. 

In 1988 when I first visited Australia, I was amazed how tall everyone was, even compared to Minnesota, especially the women. I wasn't mistaken; I saw so many extremely tall Aussies, well over 6 feet. There was one surreal moment in one of the smaller rooms exhibiting Matisse's earlier drawings: it was around 4.30, golden time, only people who haven't got the heart to leave hang around, taking longer in front of each drawing. There were three of us in the room, me and two tall men. One was tall, probably around 6"4', and I had this familiar sensation of belt buckle walking past me face. But I kid you not, a few moments later, a pair (??) of buttocks walked past my face; this man was older but with good posture, and he wasn't all out of proportion like some tall folks are, but he was... tall, and even the other tall man stared at him.


  1. A couple of things I omitted from this overlong post. The first is, because of money worries, I don't often consider going to exhibitions outside Nelson serious; not even Wellington or Auckland. Instead, I spend hours looking up exhibitions on the Internet on my tiny laptop screen. Even though I knew in my head there's no substitution for actually going to see art, I thought I was being sensible. Wrong! It's not just the three-dimensions of drawing I don't see in the case of this exhibition, but you need to stand and walk and sign and watch and listen to others looking at the same piece of work. You need to live it and experience it. At least I do. So, I'm thinking, sometimes, switching my thing might not be a bad thing - fewer books and exhibition catalogues in exchange of one or two more trip to Welly?

    The other was one the drawing space adjacent to the exhibition. GOMA provided good quality paper and ordinary pencils, but also one of those computer pads to borrow, and not just kids but even oldies were willing to be shown how to work those gadgets to make pictures; the advantage of this was you could enter into a draw for a trip to Paris, or have your work shown on a screen in this same space. I went for the old-fashioned method, but watching young and old take to the gadget, I contemplated how gadgets and the Internet is going to change art in the long run. Or in the VERY long run, people will forget that once there were no gadgets, like we don't often think of the era before printing press?

  2. This is a luscious post.... I love Matisse and I tell a wonderful story about a young woman's journey back from post-natal depression after a Matisse exhibition in America.
    Matisse is such an inspiration isn't he? Of persisting in the face of a disabling condition. How terrible it must have been for him to be unable to paint and what a wonderful thing he made of that disability.
    Thank you so much for sharing this experience, Meg.

  3. Matisse, Beethoven, a lot of determined people out there. I do think the singularity of mind is a good thing in their cases.


I love comments. Thank you for taking the time! But do please leave your real or blog name.