Sunday, 20 November 2011

A few days in Sydney

Our first night in Sydney was at an hotel on the borders of Potts Point and Kings Cross.  Kings Cross, Sydney is similar to Kings Cross, London - not a particularly desirable area, particularly after dark.  There is obviously some event on in Sydney this weekend because there was very little hotel accommodation available.  We moved on the next day, Friday, to another hotel, slightly closer to the town centre, for 3 nights. 

I started my museum visiting with a trip to the Australian Museum, just at the top of the road where we are staying.  There was a wonderful exhibition of the Scott Sisters, who were Victorian botanical artists.  Their work was amazing - beautiful water colours of astonishing detail of plants and butterflies.  They were the first to marry a very pale image of the landscape with a bolder image of butterflies, caterpillars and eggs on the host plant.  In fact their work was amongst the first to show the scientific link between specific plants and animals. Their works were ground-breaking in their day, and retain their beauty and attractiveness today.  Their father was a entymological collector, and Harriet and Helena documented his collections.  Their father, AW Scott, gave independent latin names to the moths and butterflies he collected, although subsequently they were often reclassified or had already been named in another country.  However quite a lot of the butterflies he collected were the first collected, thus known as the "primary type".  On display were the primary type butterfly specimens he had collected in Victorian times, shown alongside the images the sisters had painted.  How good is that!

While I was in the Australian museum, Jim walked up to the Museum of Contemporary Art, but discovered it was closed for renovation.  So I had spent the time being educated, and he had spent it undertaking some light exercise.
Sydney opera house view on our morning walk
The following day, Saturday, we started by walking to friends Rob & Sal.  We spent a lovely morning sitting having a chat, while looking out from their balcony at the Sydney harbour bridge.  They have lived in Aus for about 6 years and have just participated in their Citizenship ceremony.  It sounds a bit like a marriage ceremony, where you promise to love, and honour the country, and obey her laws.  They had to sing the national anthem and were presented with a Citizenship Certificate and some goodies, such as a toy boxing kangeroo, Aussie shorts and and Aussie sports towel.  What I don't understand is why the Aussie flag is a union jack with one 5 pointed and five 6  pointed stars - in red, white and blue - and the Aussie competing colours are green and gold.  I don't know of any other country that has its sporting colours a different colour to their flag.  Maybe I should ask Rob and Sal.
The old juxtaposed with the new

Chinese fruit market

We then went on back to the Sydney Art Gallery, and I looked around their general collection.  I enjoyed the Cezanne and other impressionists in the european art collection, and then went downstairs to look at the art from other continents.  In the UK I had never understood why we called people from India, Asians, yet in other parts of the world, the Chinese were referred to as Asian.  Now I do.  East Asia is comprised of China, Korea, and Japan; South Asia is India and the Himalayas; South East Asia Asia is Indonesia and Vietnam.  There was a fantastic undergarment from China, that looked a bit like a jacket made from string vest material.  But it was actually made from tiny pieces of threaded, fine bamboo, joined in a detailed diamond grid pattern.  Fantastically detailed, and was used to insulate and ventilate clothing, and prevent staining.

From my History of Art lectures I knew that calligraphy was one of the favoured forms of islamic art.  In this gallery, it was the best explanation I have come across.  "The written word is God's word, therefore calligraphy is the highest art form.  It decorates and enhances an object's significance.  It also confers protection".  This was a statement describing a batik indonesian coffin cover which was beautifully woven and printed with calligraphy.

Today, Sunday, we went to the Powerhouse Museum, and I looked at the "We Love Lace" cometition exhibition.  There were about 120 finalists work displayed, all showing a contemporary application of lace, or lace like patterns applied to modern contexts.  These varied from carbon fibre rope symbolising a tsumani in an open air display in the city square, to work on acetate screens, to lace chain link fence, to lasercut rusted metal corsets, to porcelain jewellery.  It showed people's reaction to the message of lace in a variety of different communities.  It was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.

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