Queensland Cutural Centre – Art and Science of Queensland

The thing that I thought was really handy in Brisbane is that they have the Museum, Art Gallery, and the major theatre all clustered together at the northern end of Southbank, which means that you can go and visit all of them in one day without having to wander all over the city, as is the case in Melbourne and Sydney. In fact in Melbourne the museum and the art gallery are located at the opposite ends of the city. So, when we came down here on a Saturday afternoon we (that is my brother and I) were able to visit all three places in the same day (though we were pushing for time when we got to the gallery of Modern Art).

The Cultural Centre consists of the Queensland Museum (though they do have other museums, such as the Workshops Rail Museum, located in other parts of the state), the Queensland Art Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art (otherwise known as QAGOMA – a title that seems to emphasis it as being a centre of modern art), the State Library of Queensland, as well as the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and the Queensland Theatre Company (though I have noticed that they seem to have a lot of ballet in Queensland, something that has never really appealed to me – unless it is Black Swan). Anyway, what was really cool was that when we came up here there were two exhibitions on that were of a particular interest to us – the Dinosaur Discovery for my brother (he loves dinosaurs), and an exhibition of art by David Lynch called Between Two Worlds).
Dinosaur DiscoveryDavid Lynch

 

Having just written a blog post on the Workshops Railway Museum, and now writing one on the cultural centre as a whole, I must say that I am pretty impressed to have discovered that the Queensland Government uses the Creative Commons license, which basically means that you can use their images on your website or blog freely, as long as you give the appropriate attribution. You have probably noticed that I also use the license on my blogs, but I just wanted to mention this because I think that it is quite generous of the government to allow us to use their stuff as such. Anyway, enough of that copyright talk because you are probably more interested in hearing about my trip to the cultural centre.
Queensland Museum

Like all Museums, well okay, not all museums, but at least museums that I have visited in Australia, this place focuses mainly on science. I guess the proper name should be the Queensland Museum of Natural History. I have noticed that that museums tend to be more scientifically and technologically focused, while galleries tend to focus more on the arts. You do get a cross over at times since some museums have had displays that are more historical in focus, though I can’t say if I have ever seen any technological or scientific displays in any galleries (and when I say galleries I generally think of art galleries). However, as I think about it more (I know, I probably shouldn’t think, but then again by thinking I do go against the grain) you do tend to find historical and archeological exhibits in some museums so I guess galleries tend to be focused much more on the visual arts.

Museum Plane
I really don’t know what is so important about this plane

As I mentioned, one of the reasons that my brother was so keen on going to the museum was because there was a dinosaur exhibition, so when we went to buy our tickets we also learnt that on the lower level there was an interactive science centre. While I have an appreciation for science (especially since my dad is a scientist) I have never really been all that impressed with those science centres. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it makes me feel like an idiot. Sure, the fact that I have an arts/law degree may suggest that I know nothing about science, but not only did I love year 12 physics, I also pretty much blitzed it when it came to my marks (and my chemistry teacher was baffled when I dropped the subject after gaining a high distinction in the first test – maybe I just wanted to be challenged).

So, we bought our tickets for the dinosaur exhibition, pretty much skipped the interactive science display, and went upstairs to have a look around. Mind you, I didn’t go straight into the dinosaur exhibitio, but decided to have a look around some of their other displays. In one of the rooms there were an awful lot of cabinets holding what could be considered a miscellaneous collection. In a way it didn’t seem to have any real order since some of the displays contained items from yesteryear, while other displays held preserved carcasses of animals. I guess it would be best to show you what I saw:

Queensland RelicsQueensland Toys
Some of the relics, if that is what you call them, that were on display
Insect CabinetInsect Cabinet

These are a couple of drawers in a cabinet that was full of insect specimens

FishLizards

Apparently my friend caught a few of these fish

 

PossumsRodents

Right, I really wanted to see a collection of rodents

We could have spent ages in this one room looking at all of the specimens, but my brother was itching to see the dinosaurs, so we made use of our tickets and went into the dinosaur room. This is what we saw:

 

One video is probably not enough, and even though I have shown this on another post, I think I will show it again.

So yeah, it was basically your typical dinosaur display but this time they had robotic dinosaurs. Who knows, maybe in the future they may have real dinosaurs, but then again we all know what happened in Jurassic Park.So, after gawking at all of these robotic dinosaurs (which could only move certain parts of their bodies meaning that you weren’t going to have some Westworld scenario) we decided to go and check out some of the other exhibits in the museum (other than the Science Centre), and I must say that there were a few interesting ones. Mind you, the exhibition on the history of cycling in Queensland certainly wasn’t one of them (unless you are one of those people who really love cycling). However I did find the aboriginal exhibition quite enlightening. Of particular interest was the Aboriginal Protection Act, which basically gave the state ultimate control over the lives of the Aboriginals. It was as if the state viewed the Aboriginal population as little more than children (though some have even considered them not to be human, particularly the statement of one individual who claimed that before the arrival of European colonists Australia was ‘nothing but bush’). In a way they were trying to turn the original inhabitants into Europeans and attempting to destroy their traditional way of life.

Squid
Pretty garnly monster

The other exhibitions that we saw included one about three soldiers during World War I as told through their letters home, one which was basically Queensland then and now, and oceanographic exhibit (which included the preserved carcus of a squid), and a collection of fossils. Even though they had a dinosaur exhibition upstairs I must admit that the fossil display was quite comprehensive. While I have been to other museums that also have a decent fossil display, I really did think the Brisbane Muesum was pretty cool, and the display quite comprehensive. Anyway, it is probably better if I show them to you than simply talk about them:

Dinosaur FossilMammal Fossil

 

Fossil in stoneRodent fossil

Mind you, while I’m not a fundamentalist creationist I do sometimes wonder how the scientists actually work out these things. I guess it has to do with a lot of educated guessing. Mind you, I am surprised that there are some groups actually believe that all of these fossils are fake, which I think is rather silly. Okay, we didn’t start digging them up until the mid-nineteenth century, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t exist before them. In fact, paleontology didn’t exist as a science until the mid-nineteenth century, and I suspect that many of the ancients probably thought that these were simply the remains of mythological creatures, or even just bones that were of no interest. In a world that is not particularly interested in scientific exploration there probably wouldn’t be any concern about these bones.

However, even as an adult, I am still fascinated by the huge skeletons of dinosaurs, and to me there is something rather cool about the fundamentalist belief that dinosaurs and humans happened to dwell on the Earth at the same time. Anyway, where else would have the legend of the dragon have come from?


Queensland Art Gallery

Well, I had already discovered that there was a gallery of Modern Art in the precinct so when I came to the art gallery I was half expecting it to be a collection of traditional artwork such as sculptures and paintings. You could imagine my surprise when I walked into one of the rooms to discover this:

Modern Art Room
These modern art rooms aren’t the easiest to photograph

In fact, with all of the moving pieces that modern art seems to comprise of these days, a simple photograph simply won’t suffice (even if you manage to do a panoramic view, which once again doesn’t do the artwork justice). As in this case I actually had to take a video of it so you could watch the piece of art in action:

Sort of reminds me of a car wash

Maybe the reason that they make modern art so complicated these days has something to be with forcing us to come out of the house and experience it rather than simply sitting on our computer, typing ‘Renoir’ into Google, and then looking at the collection of pictures that suddenly appear.

Renoir Painting
Such as this one

Anyway, after wandering around the modern art room attempting to try and capture the essence of the place to put it up on my blog (and failing miserably) I decided to go and check out some of the other rooms.

Fortunately the gallery did contain quite a bit of traditional art, though much of that art was specifically related to Queensland. I probably shouldn’t be all that surprised considering that this is the Queensland Art Gallery which means that the bulk of its exhibitions are going to be Queensland based art. Maybe I have become too used to Melbourne with the NGV International which basically exhibits only international art, and has a really impressive collection at that. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the art produced in Queensland is any less impressive, but it could have more to do with me preferring the European Masters than I do with the colonials that are attempting to make a name for themselves.

Madonna & ChildHowever, imagine my surprise when I entered in first gallery to discover a Madonna and Child. Sure enough this was painted by a Queensland artist right there in Queensland. I probably shouldn’t be all that surprised considering that the Madonna and Child is one of the most popular paintings out there. In fact it is hard to visit an art gallery and not see a Madonna and Child placed prominently on the wall. Actually, the Queensland Art Gallery happened to have two of them (I think, but then again whenever I see a painting of what looks like a medieval maiden holding onto a baby I am automatically going to think that it is a Madonna and Child). Hey, I even remember seeing one in the South Australian Art Gallery, obviously painted by an artist in South Australia. In a way it seems, at least back in the colonial times, there were two types of painting that you could do to prove your worth – a nude and a Madonna and Child, even better if you could do both (and you do see them around the place – though don’t expect to see one on my blog, I don’t post nudes, even if they happen to be a work of art).

Jacaranda TreeAnother painting that I noticed in here was that of the Jacaranda tree. That particular tree always captures my attention because of something that one of my pastors once said in a sermon. He said that the jacaranda tree was a sign to him – whenever they bloomed it meant that it was exam time. As such every time I see a jacaranda tree with is purple blossoms the first thought that comes into my head is exams. Mind you, to me that isn’t a bad thing because I actually didn’t mind exams. The reason being is that you could (or at least I could) get better marks in an exam than I could in an essay. The way I figured it out was that the markers tended to me more lenient on you when marking your exams because you were working from memory and also under a lot of time pressure. With essays they expected an awful lot more work from you, which meant that they would mark you a lot harder. Exams also meant that I could look forward to quite a lot of holidays, so I was able to put up with the cramming (which I didn’t need to do as much of because I would study throughout the term anyway) and look forward to three months of doing what I wanted to do (which generally involved playing computer games).

Anyway, enough of exams because the art gallery has a number of rooms that chronicles the history of art in Queensland, and as you wander through them you can see how the art has developed from the European style of the colonial era to the rather ‘interpretive’ art of the modern era (such as a sheet of canvas that appears to have been painted red, but when you look closer you discover that it actually consists of many different, and very subtle, shades of red – not that that particular painting was in the gallery, it is just an example). Along with the paintings, as seems to be the case with many art galleries these days, their collection also includes furniture from the era, though when you get into the modern rooms furniture is no longer on display (quite possibly because in the Ikea generation people no longer put much effort into such an art).

Furniture and PaintingsMore furniture and paintings

As you move into the contemporary rooms you can see how the paintings take on a more modern tone, particularly where the painters begin to paint what some call the ordinary and what others call the boring.

I would hesitate calling them still lifes
While some of the paintings seems to be reminiscent of the style that was popular in the sixties, the even more modern pieces seem to take a much different direction in that painting real scenes and people is replaced with patterns and ideas (as well as some strange concepts, such as a canvas hanging in the wall that seems as if nothing has been painted on it, yet it is still considered art – or it could be seen as being the death of art where it is not that a work has been created, but rather that an artist has attached their name to it.

In another way the artwork ceases to portray the intention of the artist and instead takes its definition from the person looking at it.

What I was really interested in finding was the international collection, but as it turns out there isn’t really much of one, which was a little disappointing. I guess I am a little too used to being in Melbourne where the NGV has an entire building devoted to the international collection, while there is a much smaller campus on Federation Square where the local artworks are on display (not that I have been there yet, it’s just that I know what is inside – I tend to prefer the international collection, even if every second painting happens to be another Madonna & Child).

I’m not necessarily going to say that it was bad simply because there was a European collection. However the collection was quite small. At least it had some impressionist works.

European Impressionist CoastlineEuropean Impressionist

A small collection of still lifes:

Still-life FamilyStill life bathing

The obligatory portraits of people who may have been famous at the time, but nobody actually remembers them these days.

Portrait of an unknown ladyPortrait of an unknown man

Of course, a collection of European collection would not be complete without some of the religious art that seems to dominate the galleries.

 

Religious Altar Piece

So, after spending some time wandering around the European section (not that it was all that large, but at least I got a bit of enjoyment from it), we then discovered a couple of rooms portraying Asian art, including art from Communist China. Mind you, I didn’t spend all that much time in this section, really only glancing at some of the paintings, but then again since time was fairly short I wasn’t able to fully digest everything in the art gallery. However, along with the Asian art, they also had some aboriginal cultural displays, including some protest at their continual treatment.

Communist Art
This is an example of the art of Communist China

Before I leave the art gallery, I must make a brief mention of the gardens. As I have suggested elsewhere, gardens can be a form of art in an of themselves, though due to the lack of space, you aren’t going to see anything hugely fancy. Mind you, there are plenty of parks and gardens around the place where you can see the result of the skill of the gardener. However, there is a little courtyard where a garden has been transformed into a work of art.

Art Gallery Garden

State Library of Queensland

Well, it is not surprising that the library is also a part of the cultural centre, however its tend to be a place more for study and solitude than looking at displays. The main part of the library is upstairs where all of the books are kept, though they are not books that you can borrow (since they are generally for reference, and also form the collection of all of the books published in Queensland). However, on the ground floor you do have the multi-media centre where you can use the computers, or bring your own and take advantage of the free wi-fi.

However, what is worth mentioning is that there was a display of posters from the conscription referendum back in 1915. While I won’t go into details on the debate, and what the legislation meant, it was interesting seeing what the two sides were fighting about. The posters seemed to play to the idea that if conscription were passed then the husband and father could be drafted to fight:

Anti-Conscription Poster
Labor says No

but the other side of politics was arguing that if the vote was defeated then the laws wouldn’t change, suggesting that conscription was already in force and that what the proposals meant was that husbands and fathers wouldn’t be exempt.

Pro-Conscription Poster
And the Liberals use exactly the same picture

Of course, the yes party once again would play up to the idea that to vote no for conscription was a yes vote for the enemy, which is a tactic that the hawks use time and time again.

The Voice of the Tempter
Yep, the Kaiser wants Australia to vote no

Anyway, my position on any of these wars is that it is just that certain people simply can’t get along, so they end up using the masses to fight for them. Unfortunately, with democracies, the powers that be need to convince the population that the war is just and necessary, whereas dictatorships simply rely on the fact that they don’t need the approval of the people to do what they want.

 

Queensland Gallery of Modern Art

There were a couple of exhibitions here when we passed through, one of them called The Promised Land by Michael Parekowhai, the other being an exhibition of the art of David Lynch. There were also some other displays on the upper floor, and while we did look at a couple of the galleries, unfortunately due to the time, we weren’t able to visit all of them. However, one of the upper galleries included some post-modern art from Japan, which included some references to the destruction wrought by World War Two. While I simply breezed through here due to the time, there were a couple of things that did catch my eye:

The Combi-StoreFloating Temple
Two pieces, one I call the Combi-Store, the other the floating temple

The Promised Land
The Michael Parekowhai display was interesting, though I was trying to work out whether the exhibit was one entire work of art, or whether it was a collection of pieces. One thing I noted was that music would waft through the exhibit as one aspect was the pianist in the final gallery. However I have since discovered that the gallery has a teacher and student guide to the exhibit, and suggests that each of the rooms were a different work of art.

One thing about this display was that there was a guide to each of the works. Unfortunately I didn’t grab one but rather I ended up wandering through the areas taking photos as best as I could. However, as is the nature with post-modern art, the definition and meaning of the work is perceived and interpreted by each individual, meaning that there is no one true interpretation of that particular piece. What I will do is post some pictures of some of the pieces that I saw and make a few comments on them:

The English Channel

As it turns out, this is supposed to be Captain Cook. However notice that he has no colour, and that he is surrounded by small figures inside a house. To me this is a reflection of Captain Cook the legend as opposed to Captain Cook the man. To those of us in Australia and New Zealand (Parekowhai is a Kiwi) he is the person who discovered our lands, however this is all that we know about him. The colourless statue represents our understanding of him as a legend, yet we no nothing about him as a man – we have no idea as to what his personality was like beyond the fact that he captained a ship. The figures represent us – the descendants of his discovery, and we all look upon him as being the founding father of our respective nations. However being located in a house this man has been domesticated. The Captain Cook of legend is a colourless figure without any personality.

Pick Up Sticks

I’m not sure of the actual name of this piece,  but I call it ‘Pick-Up Sticks’ from a game that I used to play as a kid. Basically you dumped a heap of sticks on a table and then had to remove them, one by one, without disturbing the others. I note that there is a cluster of sticks on the floor, yet there are still some leaning against the wall. However of interest in the dancer who is also lying on the ground, as if she also fell down when the sticks collapsed. It seems as if it is a reflection of our society in that we try to live individual lives without disturbing the lives of others, yet our actions inevitably impact upon those around us. We try to live as if life was a game of pick up sticks – making decisions that affect as few people as possible, yet having unintended consequences.

Acts III

This rather random assortment of wooden tools goes by the name Acts III (as in the third chapter of the book of Acts). Originally they were simply placed in a random pattern, however when the piece was moved Parekowhai had a specific order in which they were placed. At first I also thought that this may have been a game of pick-up sticks, however the author has indicated that these tools all relate in that they are used to build things, though I also suspect that they are used for gardening as well. In a way these tools are all used to build and to conquer, though I have noted that there is also a reference to the game of Jack Straws (otherwise known as pick-up sticks).

 

Between Two Worlds
The other exhibition that I saw was a collection of artwork by the film maker David Lynch (who is best known for his adaptation of the novel Dune and the television series Twin Peaks). While I haven’t seen much of his works, I have to say that I am a huge fan of his version of Dune (and in fact it is still considered to be the best adaptation of the novel). However I was somewhat surprised to discover that his artistic talents actually extended beyond filmmaking (though I probably shouldn’t be, since he does use film as one artistic medium).

The first exhibit was this model lounge room which happens to be another artist’s reproduction of a drawing that he did. I took a couple of photos of the lounge room and it is weird looking at the photo because it actually looks like the original work of art, despite the fact that it exists in three dimensions. You could even walk through the lounge and out the otherside (though we were told that we couldn’t sit on the couches).

David Lynch Lounge

While that lounge room was originally sketched on the back of a matchbox, that isn’t the only matchbox drawing that he did, there were quite a few others on display. Here are a couple that I managed to take photos of:

David Lynch Matchbook 01David Lynch Matchbook 02David Lynch Matchbook 03

Lynch used lots of different medium in constructing his art, not just film (as is the case above) or even paintings. He drew, painted, filmed, and photographed. However, despite the variety of medium all of his art portrays a very dark and violent existence, and if you have seen his films you will get that impression. In fact I remember a time when I loved Lynch’s work (at least his film) because he was simply so strange and bizarre. Anyway, here is a video that he posted on Youtube called Rabbits (I haven’t watched it yet, but I intend to):

He also wrote a comic strip called ‘The Angriest Dog in the World’ which is basically the same four pictures repeated for each comic, the only difference being the dialogue that appears in some of the panels. To show you what I mean, here are three of these cartoons:

 

I must admit that I think these comic strips are just really cool, especially since it uses the same picture over and over again. In fact, looking at them again, three of the four pictures are identical, it is just the forth one differs as it is at night. In a way it is just another absurd look at reality and that this one particular dog is forever pulling at its leash in an attempt to escape, but never realising that it can never escape. It just goes on, and on, and on, while the world continues behind it, out of sight. What is it angry about – we don’t know. Does the conversations going on inside the house even acknowledge the existence of this dog? No, not really.

Anyway, as I mentioned, much of his artwork is quite dark and bleak, so here are a some examples.

 

Since it is getting late, and this blog post is long enough as it is, I guess I will now finish it off, however before I do so it might be best to end with a quote from the master himself:

Creative Commons License
Queensland Cutural Centre – Art and Science of Queensland by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.This license only applies to the text and
any image that
is within the public domain. Any images that are the subject of
copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for
illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If
use wish to use the creative commons part for commercial purposes,
please contact me directly.

David Lynch: Used with permission by QAGOMA

Dinosaur Discovery: source Queensland Museum used with permission under creative commons attribution non-commerical non-derive 3.0 Australia License

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