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Sunday of Luxury: The ‘When I Should’ve Been Writing’ edition

Since the second week of January, I’ve been sequestered in the writing oubliette (aka my house) working on my new book, Lament for the Afterlife. So, I’ve pretty much been a hermit for two months — going out for groceries, occasional breaths of fresh air, and dear friends’ birthday gatherings, but saying no to most other Getting Dressed and Going Out in Public events — because I wanted to get as much of this book written before the insanity of Semester One kicks in (tomorrow!) And I had intended for today to be one last coffee-fueled writing frenzy before heading in to work tomorrow, but my lovely partner convinced me otherwise… by dangling THIS in front of me:

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Anyone who has read my website even a little bit will know that I’m a sucker for gorgeous art exhibitions — and TURNER FROM THE TATE: THE MAKING OF A MASTER completely fits the bill. This is the first major exhibit of J.M.W. Turner’s works in Australia for over 20 years, and includes over 100 pieces from the Turner Bequest (held at the Tate Britain) — works in all stages of completion, which give us such insight into this artist’s approach to painting. The painting above, Peace: Burial at Sea (1842) is just one of so many moody, evocative — dare I say sublime — pieces in the show. By the time you reach it (it is one of Turner’s later works) you just want to sit and stare at it for hours, especially since it is so striking paired with War: The Exile and the Rock Limpet (also 1842) — and I’m not just saying that because it depicts Napoleon in exile on the island of St. Helena (though of course I am fascinated by Napoleon…)

War. The Exile and the Rock Limpet exhibited 1842 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

So, while I should’ve been writing, I was swanning around the exhibit (which, by the way, runs from 8 February – 19 May 2013, so there’s plenty of time for you all to see it! Especially if you’ll be in town for Adelaide Writers Week, which begins March 2nd!) and then visiting the recently re-opened (and totally renovated) Melrose Wing of European Art. I must admit, I’m still getting used to the curation of the Melrose Wing — which claims to cross “time, geography, and medium to explore themes which inform the development of Western art since antiquity.” Pre-renovation, these works were displayed in chronological order, grouped together by region and period, which made for an aesthetically pleasing (and logical) display. Post-renovation, the works in this wing appear to be grouped thematically instead of by era — which is interesting in theory, but in practice… I’m not yet convinced. That’s not to say I won’t ever be convinced, but for the time being, the juxtaposition of gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite paintings (for instance) and large-scale photographs imitating the aesthetic of the Pre-Raphaelites (but doing a meh job of it) isn’t entirely satisfying.

Having said that, the contrast between Berlinde De Bruyckere’s controversial sculpture ‘We Are All Flesh’ (2011-2012) and the classical portraits on the far wall is actually something I find appealing… Here’s the set-up:

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So it’s only a matter of time, I suppose, until I’m sold on the non-linear curatorial approach (which has also been discussed here and here). I’ve snurched an insight about this work, in case you’re interested, from the art gallery’s website: “Through contorted and fragmented figurative sculptures — whether cast equine or human forms — Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere expresses themes of suffering, anxiety, death, loneliness, remembrance, alienation, love, loss and introspection… De Bruyckere uses the body to express and induce in her viewer the range of emotions that define our humanity. Anatomy is distorted and reconfigured in her deliberately headless sculptures to demonstrate how the body can define an emotional and mental state. In so doing, she continues the tradition of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), who manipulated human scale and movement in his sculptures to capture the essence of human emotions” — which, of course, makes Nick Mitzevich’s decision to put the horse sculpture beside two Rodins quite fitting.

Anyhow, after a day of luxury — which included a post-exhibition bowl of coffee and Haigh’s dark chocolate mousse (with salted caramel crumble on top — YUM!!!) — this evening has now developed into a frantic attempt to finish All the Interviews, All the Emails, and All the Everything Ever before tomorrow. Wish me luck!

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