I: Bodalla Gallery: lotuses and birds
One of the beauties of such a local gallery is being able to pop in a number of times to revisit and savour – and to re-evaluate. The first time I saw Stuart Whitelaw’s Lotus exhibition I wasn’t impressed. I looked cursorily, liked the idea of an exhibition devoted to one subject, but wasn’t riveted. On a second visit, the paintings leapt out at me: depth, colour, composition, geometry.
And then I gallery-sat for a whole day. In between visitors, I wheeled my chair in front of one painting, and paid it close attention, beginning with paintings that didn’t initially draw me. Like this one, with its odd diamond shapes and dispersed composition. I like my lotus stems curved rather than geometric, but geometric they are and Stuart Whitelaw recorded them thus.
This one too wasn’t an immediate winner, but repaid close attention. The composition was what won me.
Homage needed no other incentive to love beyond the depth of its reflections, clouds in water, and the green chalice of leaf holding a small pool of water.
After lunch I moved into the bird room and was completely charmed: by the humour, the detail, the collage effects – small squares, labels, denser circles – and the composition.
II: Literary salon – Basil Sellers exhibition centre, Moruya
Commonly known as the BAS this is new gallery space in one of my shopping towns. Since it opened in in February 2019, 98 artists (if I heard aright) have exhibited here.
Recently, a series of three salons were held to showcase local writers, artists and musicians. Writers submitted a piece which was passed on for visual or musical interpretation.
At the salon, writers read and artists spoke about their adventures in interpretation, usually beginning with a version of “When I read my script, I thought how on earth will I tackle this?”
I only went to one salon, and my visit to the exhibition mainly focused on the artworks created for that salon.
Top of my list of pleasures was a weaving of photos of faces, in response to an essay on identity, Rescinding my identity, written by Shanna Provost, and read superbly by the author.
Group memberships include grey nomads, hippies, bogans, nerds, hipsters, coders, ferals, corporates, conspiracy theorists, pro-lifers, pro-choices, vaccinators, anti-Vader’s, the left, the right, the far right, the extreme left and all the factions in between. We are lovers, haters, ribalists, separatists, flat-earth era, globalists, environmentalists, debunkers, militants, fundamentalists, peacemakers … and on it goes.
A formal poem The turn of night by Laura Tyler begins
In the gentle turn of our vast stretched night / deep in the dusted blackness blazes wonder
Aboriginal artist Bronwyn Smith keeps the title and with acrylic, pastel and pen transmutes the poem into this blaze of wonder.
Megan Dixon-Davies gives an account of her experiences buying a bush gully as a metaphor for inner struggles, An inner landscape reflected in the external landscape.
… tall trees, burrawangs and pale granite rocks that revealed a glow of their own under shards of sunlight from the dense overhead canopy of iron bark, blood wood, spotted gum and stringy bark. There were rare orchids poking up from thick leaf mulch displaying a tenacity and sprig of colour despite the odds. It reflected the inner me.
Her writing generates a folding book by Megan Dixon-Dawes who uses pigment pen and watercolour to document the treasures that the block held: duck orchids and greenhoods; lyre birds and galahs; granite boulders and trees.
Leaving by Vicki Mennie, is a moving story of a 16 year old girl being booted out of home by her drunken mother.
“Yep. Time to make a life fa yaself. Find a bloke that’ll have ya fa fuck sake. That’s what I did at sixteen. Can’t afford ya anymore. Never could. Time Amy ad the bedroom to erself. Yep – time ya left”
Derek Crannaford transmutes this into a six-minute video collage reflecting the shattering of a life.
I choose this salon because I love the prints of Julie Mia Holmes, usually delicate representations of small things collected on the beach. Her inspiration for this piece is a poem called Bees and walls by Jennifer Hawkins.
This bee doesn’t know there is a wall / to keep apart what’s mine and what is yours / to wonder when he hears a magpie call / if the sound before alighting has to pause // to think which side the wall it falls upon.
She produces something quite unlike her other work, at least what I’ve seen of it: monotype on intricately folded textured paper with paper clips, and inside lovely delicate flowerings.
III: Farewell Narek Gallery
This small gallery, first visited in an old church at Tanja, and more recently in elegant space in Bermagui, has given me huge pleasure over the years with its exhibitions of mainly ceramics and textiles. Now sadly it is closing down . The owner, Karen O’Cleary, hopes to find someone to take it over, but she will be a very hard act to follow.