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Review of Adelaide Art Gallery

April 30, 2011

This morning I was in the Adelaide CBD after an overnight stay at the RAH . Since my wife was working all day, I figured a day getting a ‘bit of culture into me‘ was time well-spent. Originally I had intended to visit both the Museum and Art Gallery of South Australia, but I was so fascinated by the multitude of artwork that I decided to forgo the Museum, leaving it for another day.

What you read below was typed into my Apple Touch throughout the day. I’ve decided to go with the unedited version, other than to remove a few ideas that were developed from artwork viewed. Aha, I got some amazing inspiration for both photography and graphics. (Look forward to my new tshirts over the next few days!)

Note #1: There were no photographs shot today. I’m not sorry about this; Even if photography were permitted, I would not. This exhibition needs be visited and viewed in the first person to be appreciated. Instead, I’ve included artwork of my own to help break up the article.
Note #2: End of article includes part of my walk into Rundle Mall. It helps to conclude the whole day.
Note #3: In post-edit, I discover the article (minus prelude and conclusion) is about 2,100 words. !


10:08 AM

After waiting outside in the damp air for about ten minutes, finally the glass doors slide open to enable the first arrivals to enter the Adelaide Art Gallery on North Terrace”.

Inside the Japanese art area. If ever there was a place for graphic grotesque artists to be inspired, this would be it. Inside an early glass cabinet is a step-shelf of small bone, ivory and wood figurines. Both the little figures and faces have so much character and detail.

The faces of the masks hold terror and macabre looks, obviously designed to scare their enemies.

Here is an era of art that would have been painstakingly been worked upon to ensure even the finest details were absolutely correct. From the eyes to the toenails, two 7foot figures tower over the viewers, hurling angy features around the room.

Any artist would be inspired by the myriad of styles on show.

From porcelain pottery through to brightly woven Komonos, this art is to be appreciated. There is a 6-panel screen painted with a brush ‘like a powerful horse’ that will impress both amateur and pro painters with its quick yet effective style.

From this exhibition alone, even the most jaded non-artist will soon discover that Art is an intrinsic component of life. When you see the workmanship that has gone into the different mediums to create just one piece , ‘Kannon (Avalokitesvarna)’, you realise that the artist is devoted not only to his religion and way of life, but that also his art is an extension of personality, love and state of mind.

City in a Glass Box

Take note, read all you find. You’ll be astonished to find what you think is stone when you thought was wood – and vice versa.

My favourite from this room are the ‘Pair of Shinto Deities’. The sculptor used just one knife to carve the two figures. Whilst initially they look like a marriage, they are Shinto Spirits.

The next room holds pottery from Iran.

To view this work, one needs to be of racism & religion. Much of this region of the world has Art created to honour their deity, to celebrate the ongoing life and spirituality. It would be crime to steal or block a persons right to express love, whatever for.

The Iran-room is an amazing collection of artwork. Take the time to view the ‘Ceremonial Tray‘ and the ‘Celestial Globe‘ with their amazing detailing.

Old Monarchy

Into the next room I find an astonishing display of exquisite detailing on porcelain throughout the room. Don’t swing your arms in here!

The centre pedestals depict elaborately engraved artwork that glean with polished metalwork and pottery. From the gilding through to the ornate detailing, this room will illuminate the dullest eyes.

The walls depict art in creation and destruction. Engravings on paper show sculptures at work. From the seven wonders of the world to the architecture of Britain.

Then I enter the ‘Morris & Co – Pre-Raphaelites – Art & Crafts‘. This room is a mix of styles. Amusingly I find a tyre on rim upon an ornate sideboard. To attract the younger generation? Maybe.

What i see are works that the world now reproduces at minimal costs – Yet when first designed and created would have cost the owners are small fortune. Now they are priceless artefacts. Irony.

Take the time to view the colourful glassware in the centre pedestals. As a lover of glass, these would lighten the darkest room with a trickle of light upon or within them.

There is a piano in this room, well hidden. Two pedals give away its presence. Nearby is a pedestal holding moulded and handmade metalwork most inspiring.

11.34 AM

Up a dozen stairs I find the gallery seeming to never end! As one who takes the time to observe and appreciate all the fine details, I expect to be here till late afternoon. I’m contemplating finding ways to donate funds, because entrance is free!

Fountain in Rundle Mall

Up here I find outstanding and grandiose paintings. This will take some to appreciate.

The paintings of Rome are inspirational from a photographic perspective. The details from the foreground to the horizon are amazing and are a smart reminder that the picture is in the whole picture, not only that before our immediate vicinity.

What fascinates me most about these paintings is the way every corner holds details that encourages the viewer to look at every part of the painting. Each detail brings the viewer into another section, thus understanding what the artist was seeing. A single painting will take a few minutes to fully appreciate!

At the rear of Vestibule (the front of the gallery, currently in renovation) are paintings of Kings & Queens and other heads of monarchs. Large and domineering, these dark and static pieces display a time of grandiose and incredulous pomposity.

These framed images are often so realistic that it is difficult to remind oneself they are oil paintings and not photographs.

Adelaide Icons

Up more stairs finds another room of portraits. Herein stands a painting entitled ‘King George III in coronation robes‘. I consider this the finest piece I have ever seen. Can you see the tin horse hanging from his neck-chain? Such detail is formidable!

Two boat scenes before gallery 14 draw my eyes into the painting, seeking all the fine details. Clouds and sails and smoke are distinctly different shades, water rippling as oars rip through them. Take your time here, they are worth the depth of field.

A John Glover painting entitled ‘Kilgarren Castle‘ (though of none I see) reminds me of the Adelaide hills.

In gallery 14 are paintings displaying size and scale, depth and perspective. The pigeons being fed shows how a painter defines two depths of field whilst showing how 2 scenes combine. Our eye is drawn in from left to right, like reading a book – and the story ends with a centurion’s back inside the next room where more birds fly free.

Now into the William Bowmore gallery. (gallery 16)

These artworks open the mind. With a mix of both modern and old styles, we see how modern painters are heavily influenced by those of old, and then creating a style of their own. Revolutionary indeed.

Again I say that many artworks are representative of photography. In many I find ideas that I’d like to reproduce through my camera lens. For instance, here I see a painting of a family only lit by window light. Father with his back to the window puts him in both shadow and silhouette, as if he never wanted to be in the image. One child is subdued by tiring a wooden horse to his wrist. A little girl looks down at some paper. Father in suit and smoking. Mother in long dress and pearls, yet looks most tired. I imagine the artist quickly drew the scene and painted it later.
True art.

Bold as Brass

12.55 PM

Now into the James Fairfax gallery. Wow!

Just after 1pm and my ankles hurt. Yet for all the pain I am suffering, a day in Adelaide’s Art Gallery has Vern well worth the time. Interspersed within my original notes (typed into my Apple Touch throughout the day) are ideas for people-in-studio photographs, plus a handful of tee-shirts. When art evokes more art – written, physical or otherwise – it has succeeded. Time to move on ….

Margaret Preston has an interesting collection of water-colours. I’ve determined that I am more a traditionalist. Modern work speaks to me – though only if it is obscure and abstract. I also prefer art that has no physical function. If it can pour or hold liquid, its art is in the exterior and creation thereof.  [edit] As I re-read this last sentence, I realise that I may my personal thoughts a little twisted. Leaving as is.

Back to the Stair-case where I began this day-long journey.

Australian Aboriginal artwork adorn the walls bathed in light through ceiling glass upon reflective surfaces. Whilst the noise is ever present, the art stays silent to the ear yet awakening loud thoughts in my mind.

Across the stairwell is a dark and foreboding room entitled ‘The New Classical‘. Each piece in here is dark both in colour and suggestion. At one end is well lit painting of ‘Virgin and Child‘. It is hauntingly photogenic with the arms of the child reaching out.

Beware. ‘Buck with Cigar’ is NSFW. I’m not saying I disapprove, yet it is an affront to what you’d expect. We all make choices, some more interesting than others.

Whilst some pieces are pleasing to both the eye and mind, a few will blast your senses and sensibilities. With many children around me viewing these works, I notice the younger they are the less they realise. I imagine high-school art classes might avoid this room.

Finally I reach the Ben Quilty exhibit entitled ‘Inhabit’.

This series of artwork is a progression of images. Most need distance to appreciate the image, yet close inspection displays his brush style. His message is distinct, his impressionist style is demanding of all your senses. I watch viewers step on and out from the set realising what the artist has done.
~ The left wall shows 6 image that can easily be viewed both left to right and vice versa.
~ The rear wall has Captain Cook morphing from a face to abstraction to a morbid skull. (4 images)
~ The right wall holds 6 different yet evolutionary heads. Spotted one that reminds me of Picasso’s self portrait. Loving how this right wall goes from face-on-white through to white blank area surrounded by detailed room.

ride the wall

1:54 PM

Downstairs is the Patricia Piccinini exhibit. This has to be seen to be believed. Again, I am not taking photographs. Accept this written description as my only testimony to her work: You have to see it to believe it. Or not.

Against one wall I see two boys playing Nintendo. I sigh, annoyed. Suddenly I smirk as I realise they are mannequins!

I’ve wondered around for a while, amused by some that I see, repulsed by a few. Not exactly sure for what I paid $15. Maybe they don’t own this space. The rent must be high. Is this art to me? I’m not sure. Hmmm. Some pieces amuse me.

The fibreglass melting helmets are interesting. The alien life forms, ie ‘Bottom Feeder‘ are definitely not my cup of tee. Yet I like the obscurity of this style, the mix of typical human scenes with alien interaction. Enough. What a way to end my day. Just heard a child say … “It looks like a… Rat?“. Aha. We have NFI what the artist was or is thinking.

Before leaving I watch an under an underwater film sequence scene with no direction, reasoning or consequential end. But it conjures two main emotions: Fear, loneliness. In the last few moments we see something swim behind the girl as she sinks. Alien? Shark? I’m never swimming in the ocean again.

What did I like most downstairs? The Sandman photo series. Yeah, it is a couple of photographs.

Nearing the stairs to ascend from the depths of this artists mind, I catch a few words of a woman leading a group say. “Art is supposedly art the minute it is hung on a wall.”. Really? Do we all think this? I do not. Art is only art in the eyes of the beholder. This work is not all that interesting to me.

Postscript to whole day in Art Gallery: What I wish is that the signs explaining why little hands shouldn’t touch to be printed in much LARGER font.

Fountain in Victoria Square, Adelaide City

Day over at 2.22 PM

I walk down North Terrace, wondering where my day will take me next. My taxi will arrive at 5.00pm.

2:42 PM

Stepped into Crumpler store, asked about bags for iPad. Yes, they do have purpose-made bags! Talked for 10mins with young lady who is studying to be, coincidently, an Art-curator. Was good for me as I got to vent about Piccinini art. In the end gave her my card so she can read my review.

Walk up Rundle Mall to a food court I visit regularly during normal work days. Aussie-Spud and cola for late lunch. Twist my ankles manually, getting some blood back into the bruised muscles. I’ll live.

Walking and typing, I’m meandering through the menagerie of shoppers. Being able to see more than the brickwork directly in front of me, I spot a pair of silver-painted buskers. Or are they? Unsure, moving on.

3.30 PM

Elevator to the mezzanine in Myer Centre. Bored with window-shopping, going to be a voyeur for a while. Two ladies beneath me are getting make-overs. Amusing. Surely they are being charged for the pleasure. Make-up artists appear to treat the customers like mannequins, ignoring them to complete their painting. Can’t help thinking of some the Renaissance painting in the Art Gallery. Imagine what spectators would have thought of Picasso, Monet, etc as they painted models sitting before them.

4.25 PM

Completely bored with that, I wonder back to the location where I expect to meet my taxi-driver. The wife finally descends from her work-place and we walk back to the car.

What a long day!


I could have cut a few bits from this story yet I figured the humour of the voyeurism and taxi-driver completed the scene.

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