I am in Melbourne for a short break to spend time with my 91 year old mother now struggling to stay alive as her body begins to tell her it is nearly time to move to the next dimension. She is full of energy and passion in her inimitable story telling but she fades quickly. As I have considered her death I have begun contemplating how I might talk about her at her funeral, how a son represents his mother to those who come to listen and celebrate her life. And how do I remember her? I am sure all of us – there are five siblings – would like to say something but having the strength to speak in the moment is the thing. Someone has said that making sense of life can be accessed through story, metaphor and embodiment. Making sense of my life under the shadow of my mother will reference each one of these.
At this time of the year in Melbourne the streets are full of the autumn colours – brown, red, golden orange and the sound of rustling. It reminds me that my mother is so sense aware and always has been. Wheeling her around the hospital gardens evoked a celebration of the warmth and beauty of the day.
I have inherited this immediacy in the presence of sensory stimulus and in Melbourne in any season there is enough art to intoxicate me. My eulogy is leaning towards a kind of metaphorical colour chart around mum’s emotions in attempting to make sense of her experiences across the range of dark crushed autumn leaves to brilliant red and pink roses.
For me, Melbourne’s art DNA is a subtle mystery full of invitation and joyful sense overload. Here’s the touring list from this week.
- The Golden Age of China – [NGV St Kilda Road]
- The Ian Potter Centre [NGV – Fed Square]
- Hosier Lane
- The Melbourne Art Book Fair opening night[NGV – St Kilda Road]
- “The Salt of The Earth” Film at Nova [Carlton]
- Heidi Museum of Modern Art [Heidelberg]
And hidden in unexpected places or out in the open as no secret at all are the wonders of vast experiments and genius in architecture and design around the magical Melbourne grid and the “ding” of trams.
The highlights on this visit though are “The Salt of The Earth” [Film] and John Wolseley’s “Heartlands and Headwaters” exhibition at the NGV [Fed Square].
“The Salt of the Earth” is an Oscar nominated documentary by Director Wim Wenders about the 40 year career of Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado and written by Salgado’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. You would think that a movie with sub-titles and a vast line up of black and white still photography would be anything but memorable. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Salgado’s story, passion, artistic skill and endless inquiry are inspirational and the end story of he and his wife’s regeneration of the family 600 acre farm in Brazil from desert to rain forest is, if nothing else, poetic.
It was an absolute delight to find John Wolseley’s exhibition at the NGV. His very present engagement with the location of his work, from burying his paper for up to 12 months and using dead birds as printing presses onto paper on the clay banks of dams led to a sense of immersion into his exquisite predominately water colour works. The video story of the preparation of this work in the gallery with John’s engaging and somewhat eccentric practice gave me a context for the works.
My mother’s lifetime response to the sensory world as she experienced it set a framework for my own enjoyment and further exploration. Melbourne is a never ending wonder and celebration of the senses and its artists and from around the world are constantly pushing boundaries and making the senses drunk with new joy.