Journey to the Art Gallery with Clemente Mission Australia Students

Hi all- don’t miss out on this amazing artistic feast that is sitting temporarily right next to the doors of the NSW Art Gallery. Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi has converted the two statues that sit boringly and unrecognizably next to the doors of the gallery into something that reflects astonishingly on the place of War and Peace in the contemporary world. Don’t miss it. Here is a quick shot… which shows nothing of the impact you will receive when you actually go there. And if you are doing your essay on David Malouf’s Ransom then this “event” will deepen your understanding of what Malouf is saying about War and Peace in this novel… indeed it was he who recommended strongly that I go and see this “event”…. it is free, and on for a little while longer… but you will need to go during Art Gallery Hours (10-5)….. see you there!

I am not going to show you any images of “War”… I don’t want to spoil the experience for you….
Check out Art Gallery details at

As part of our induction into the Art of Sacred Australia, this installation focussing on War and Peace could not have been more relevant or more profound for our purposes. War and Peace are the twin poles of human experience on this planet, but they are also – inevitably- the twin poles of our experience in Australia- positive and negative. As David Malouf expresses it through his quote from William Blake at the start of his “sacred” novel Remembering Babylon: “Whether this is Jerusalem or Babylon we know not”. Indeed we don’t know whether Australia is to be the place in the world where a new Jerusalem will appear (a place where the nations will live in harmony with the indigenous inhabitants) our whether it will be a place of continuing and worsening Babylon…. materialism, and the Babel of the clash of millions of dissonant voices: babel

After this awesome introduction to the gallery we went on a wander round many of the “Sacred Sites” of Australia art. Here are a few of the highlights:

John Glover’s “Back Yard”… actually the landscape near where he settled in Tasmania in the early decades of the 19th Century… here he captures the indigenous inhabitants… not very respectfully… but he has a sense of the awesome, amazing newness of this continent. But it took Swiss-born Eugene Von Guerard to blow us away completely with his very “Romantic” view of the Australasian landscape perceived as something overpoweringly grand… here is is his Milford Sound…. which Frederick told us, was unchanged even today!… Notice the tiny human images on the foreshore… and the post-Darwinian attention to scientific detail in the flora and rock structures.

Next we meandered into the late 19th Century hall- filled with sunlight of out-of -doors painting… here was sacramental sunlight pouring onto the canvasses. First there was Streeton’s “Fire’s On- Lapstone Tunnel”… many of you picked out so well how Streeton (who must have painted this out of doors- despite his lack of aerogard!) captures the destructive human impulse that claws at the rocks and denudes the mountain of its meaning (a la Judith Wright!) and the creative side of nature filled with waratahs, gymea lilys and other beauties of nature… take a close look:

From here we wandered into the 20th Century, travelling in our air-fuelled time cart and ended up firstly here:

You guessed it- Russell Drysdale’s “Walls of China”… sanddunes “back-o-Burke” that look like some antedeluvian Walls of China…. compare A.D.Hope’s poem “Australia” with this painting… both poem and painting seem to be reflecting on the ancient ancient ancientness of Australancientia… And then there is Drysdale’s willingness to somehow link “white-man’s” art with the colours and textures of the Aboriginal world. Drysdale was of course one of the first Australian “white” artists to really honour the aboriginal inhabitants of this country- as we have seen in previous lectures…
Towards the end of our “Sacred” tour we stood in front of Fred William’s “My Garden” which captures his stark amazement at the rich texture and uniqueness of the garden that is the Australian landscape. It picks up very much what David Malouf was saying- through his character Ashley Crowther (in his novel Fly Away Peter)- that he preferred what was “unmade” out here- unlike his grandparents who always had to reshape the landscape according to pictures they had in their heads “from home”… back in the UK:


Of course our artistic journey could not come to an end without some local talent. Here is John presenting his wonderful dramatic vignette about Alehhandro (will that spelling suffice John?)
And here is Jack with some of the extraordinary art works that have been tumbling forth through his creative imagination in these last weeks while he has been studying Sacred Australia:

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