Thursday, 16 June 2011

A trip to the British Museum

Yesterday, my friend Lisa and I went on a day trip to London.  The original plan was to go to the Edmund de Waal talk about his book The Hare with the Amber Eyes at the Jewish Museum in Camden.  Because of my naff organising skills, I did not realise that it was restricted to Friends of the Museum - unsurprising because I'm sure it would have been an immediate sell-out.  So we wondered about going to the theatre ticket booth in Leicester Square to get some discounted matinee seats for a musical.  But on our tube journey, we saw adverts for "Australian season" at the British Museum.

This decided us.  As I am off to Aus in 10 days time, it seemed propitious for us to go to this "walkabout" exhibition at the British Museum.  We started looking at the Australia landscape outside in the forecourt area.  Lisa was taken with the Balga tree - looks like a dense clump of grass, but the stems form a dense, fire-resistent trunk with a long flower stalk coming out of the top.  On close inspection, it has lots of repeating forms, particularly apparent when it has been burned and the ends of the stems are visible.  At this stage, Lisa decided to give me my student exchange present - she is obviously keen that I am going to be a good student and draw and take notes every time I go to a museum, because she gave me an A5 Moleskine notebook.  I am very familiar with these - Jim uses them when he goes travelling, and the pocket in the back prevents tickets and oddments being lost, and the elastic band stops it getting dogeared.  So Lisa and I happily sketched, noted and drew our way round the Walkabout exhibition. 

We looked at a shield obtained by Captain Cook, when he scared the natives so much they dropped their weapons and ran off.  We looked at artefacts from the landscape - water carriers made from kelp seaweed and twine, coffins made from logs, and a wonderful variety of woven and twined baskets made from cane and grass. 

Australia Moleskine and museum guide

Then we looked at wonderful prints from Australia.  Some were lithographs, of traditional aboriginal designs, some were more modern.  There were quite a few by Sidney Nolan, depicting the harsh reality of the arid environment.  Lofty Nadjamerrek portrayed the grasshopper lightening ancester; Judy Watson was working with a salkwater landscape depitcted by by whorls and dots; Rover Thomas had done a wonderful spot design that depicted the intersection of a traditional aboriginal route, crossed by a tarmac road.  Very simple, very brilliant.  The artworks were accompanied by a few biographical details of the artist, but the aboriginal work usually had an approximate date of birth - showing how different cultures indicate what is important.  Also some of the aboriginal works did not display a signature, but a fingerprint to authenticate their work.  Once again, a difference in culture.  A very interesting and eye opening exhibition.

We had a wonderful day out.  We talked constantly - neither of us suffer with rigor mortis of the tongue!  We looked, we sketched, we made notes.  A lovely day at the British Museum.

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