Tempest at TMAG

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Tempest is probably the biggest single exhibition that TMAG (the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery) has ever staged. Far from being confined to the usual temporary exhibition galleries on the ground floor, the show has taken over almost every space within the institution and staff from pretty much every corner and discipline – from decorative arts to zoology – have made contributions to Guest Curator Juliana Engberg’s grand vision.

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One of the centrepieces of the show, Tacita Dean’s huge unfixed chalk work ‘When I first raised the tempest’ No 17599, 2016
Its themes are rich and dense. It is at once very Tasmanian, but also global, with references to both colonies and the colonised as well as the great maritime powers whose power and influence extended around the world, carried in the apparently fragile timber ships that are shown being dashed upon distant rocky shores in many of the more historic paintings on show.

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An entire gallery is given over to historic paintings of ships and shipwrecks as well as an impressive display of ships in bottles and other maritime models
Shakespeare and his final play are a constant presence, with the bard himself depicted in portraits and his work present in images from artists as diverse as nineteenth century engraver Edward William Stoddart and contemporary Tasmanian photographer Pat Brassington. In addition to the maritime tempests involving seas and shipwrecks, storms and Tasmania’s more extreme weather are present in colonial superstar William Charles Piguenet’s monochromatic depictions of the island’s mountaintops.

A contemporary tempest forms half of a fascinating new work commissioned for the show by Valerie Sparks, who spent several weeks travelling around Tasmania documenting coastlines and weather conditions as well as birds from TMAG’s zoological collections to create ‘Prospero’s Island’. Occupying two walls of an entire gallery, the work depicts a coastline that is at once familiar (especially to anyone who has been around the Tasman Peninsula in a boat) and also mysterious and other-worldly. While it might appear to be a mural, Sparks’ installation actually comprises eight rolls of bespoke wallpaper. Her work (I later found out, thanks to a fascinating Friends of TMAG talk by art curators Jane Stewart and Mary Knights) is inspired by eighteenth century French wallpapers that depicted tales drawn from the journals of explorers like Captain Cook.

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Valerie Sparks ‘Prospero’s Island’ (2016)
The ‘exotic’ is another theme, allied to those of colonies and exploration. Colourful parrots and other birds, both real and sculpted, are present in large numbers.

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Singapore birds, by J Garner, London (naturalist), presented 1880
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Detail of Paul Wood ‘Storm in a Teacup’ (2016)
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Taxidermied birds from the TMAG collections, above and below
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Men in tights: Frank William Bourdillon ‘On Bideford Sands’ (1889)
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TMAG’s much loved Colonial Gallery fits right in to the themes of Tempest, with the addition of a family telescope by Ricky Swallow (below)
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Victorian era museums and collections bring to mind the ‘cabinets of curiosities’ popular among the educated classes of the era, who stuffed their homes and country estates with artefacts collected on their Grand Tours of the Continent and beyond. The Central Gallery of the Museum has been turned into possibly the greatest of all such cabinets, Prospero’s Library. Piles of books teeter all around, while cabinets overflow with fossils, seashells, globes, maps and all sorts of other treasures.

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I’m not sure if it’s just me, but there seemed to be an air of the Harry Potters about Prospero’s Library in the Central Gallery
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My photographs of the exhibition are a modest testimony to the skill and effort of TMAG’s staff in presenting this massive show with such elegance. Particular mention should be made of Mark Colegrave’s exquisite lighting.

Tempest, which opened during Dark Mofo in June, continues at TMAG until 20 November, 2016.

TMAG is located between Macquarie and Davey Streets (entry off Dunn Place), on Hobart’s waterfront.

 

The ridiculously picturesque bridge and Coal River at Richmond

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I know, it’s hackneyed and over-photographed and that I haven’t captured it at midnight or under an aurora, but there’s no denying, even in winter on an ordinary day, the Richmond Bridge is irresistibly picturesque. Especially when the light is working. I guess that’s why the town has been a tourist hotspot since before there was tourism.

When it was new, around 1824, even that old rascal Reverend Robert Knopwood thought it was pretty damn fine, at least according to the interpretive panel erected next to it by the council.

I also noticed that it has a National Engineering Heritage marker, recognising the significance of this bit of convict bridge-building.

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The Coal River at Richmond
The Coal River at Richmond
Sandstone house and fields at Richmond
Sandstone house and fields at Richmond
Weir over the Coal River at Richmond
Weir over the Coal River at Richmond

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Richmond is a short drive, around 20 minutes, from Hobart via the eastern shore. It boasts a large number of impressive sandstone and other fine colonial period buildings, many now given over to antique shops, art galleries and tea rooms. It also houses the oldest intact convict gaol in Australia, but probably the most popular activity is strolling along the river and feeding the ducks. I noticed one enterprising shop in the main street is selling duck food.

Resources

Visiting Richmond – notes from DiscoverTasmania.com.au

The Richmond Bridge – Wikipedia

Richmond Bridge – Entry on the National Heritage List

History of Richmond – from the local tourism association

 

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Spinning at the Springs

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Regular readers may know that I am still coming to grips with the possibilities of digital photography. I’ve had my Olympus DLSR for a little over a year, and am still working my way through its various menus, options and controls. Thus, despite various forms of ‘spinning’ night photography having been popular and many of my insta-mates being highly adept at it, I had not, until this evening, tried it myself.

For those who may be even newer to this than I am, ‘spinning’ refers to twirling, or spinning, a light source, such as led lights, laser pointers or, popularly, burning steel wool which give off sparks. When photographed using long exposures, this action produces patterns of light in the resulting images.

One of those insta-mates, the lovely Carmel from Hobart Snapshot Tours, extended a very kind invitation to me and a number of other local instagrammers to join her for dinner and a spinning session at The Springs, about two-thirds of the way up Mount Wellington / kunanyi, to celebrate the launch of her new evening dinner tour and photography masterclass.

Dinner was a delicious selection of curries, ideal for a cool winters evening at high altitude, served in the stone hut at The Springs, where she had lit a roaring fire to keep the chill away. After dinner we ventured outside where she helped us with settings and then opened her ‘box of tricks’ – various spinning gadgets, lights, lasers, steel wool and ropes. We spent the next couple of hours happily playing and capturing what ever we could. I offer a few modest examples below.

It’s great fun, and if you’d like to have a go, I can recommend Carmen’s services – she’s a knowledgeable and patient teacher, and a wonderful host.

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A lucky early capture of steel wool spinning
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Steel wool produces wonderful trails of sparks
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Spinning at the Springs
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Corkscrew
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Vortex
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Iris
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Laser spinning with trees
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More steel wool spinning
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Double spinning with trees
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Double Spin
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Carmen’s orb
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Orb in the landscape
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Wobbly orb

Hobart Snapshot Tours also offers personalised tour guiding and tours around Tasmania –hobartsnapshottours.com.au. You can also find Carmel on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Dark Mofo Part 3 – Burning the Ogoh Ogoh

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Fear eats the soul was the well-documented theme of this year’s Dark Mofo, and for the second year running, the festival culminated in a firey spectacle based on a traditional Indonesian ogoh ogoh ceremony designed to purge people’s fears by consigning them to the flames.

Throughout the duration of Dark Mofo, people visiting Dark Park were invited to write their most intimate worries and fears onto pieces of paper and deposit them in a collection that was incorporated into the body of the ogoh ogoh, which this year was a magnificent visualisation of a weedy sea dragon, a creature found in Tasmanian coastal waters.

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2016’s Ogoh ogoh was a weedy sea dragon, a species found in Tasmanian coastal waters

The ogoh ogoh and other more traditional deities were carried shoulder high in a procession from the Winter Feast at Salamanca around the Hobart waterfront to Dark Park.

Festival artists led the Ogoh ogoh procession
Festival artists led the Ogoh ogoh procession
The procession leaves the Winter Feast precinct
The procession leaves the Winter Feast precinct
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A more traditional Indonesian deity being carried shoulder-high through the streets of Hobart
The procession moves through Hobart's waterfront precinct
The procession moves through Hobart’s waterfront precinct
The procession passes the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery at sunset
The procession passes the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery at sunset
A cool, clear winter's evening at Dark Park
A cool, clear winter’s evening at Dark Park awaited the procession’s arrival
The sea dragon arrives at Dark Park
The sea dragon arrives at Dark Park

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Once at Dark Park, and joined by thousands of onlookers, the shaman who had ridden the ogoh ogoh all the way from Salamanca led a ‘fight to the death’ with a variety of demons while percussionists played a kecak, or monkey dance, familiar to anyone who has visited Ubud in Bali and seen the traditional performances there.

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Eventually the poor sea dragon was set alight, taking all those fears with it.

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Here’s a short video of the burning of the Ogoh ogoh.

 

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Dark Mofo Part 2 – Painting the Town Red

Inside Dark Park

It’s not just large public buildings and infrastructure that are lit up to celebrate Dark Mofo in Hobart (see my pics of the Tasman Bridge from an earlier post). Hotels and homes are also glowing crimson through the long winter nights, showing the way as normally diurnal humans venture out into the darkness in search of adventure.

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which is hosting a major exhibition as part of Dark Mofo, mixed it up a bit, with a cool blue glow, and some technicolour treatments on its sixties-era stairwell on Argyle Street.

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Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery side entrance
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Argyle Street stairwell
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Here’s that stairwell from the inside
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Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery administration entrance

A group of young artists has taken over the pedestrian tunnels leading to Hobart’s Railway Roundabout for an art happening called ‘Neither Here nor There’.

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Art happening at the Railway Roundabout

The Marine Board tower has had a rocket put under it.

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Hobart Port Tower

Even the No Visbible Means humble abode has a warm interior glow.

The No Visible Means humble abode
The No Visible Means humble abode

In Hampden Road, the Narryna Museum was lit up, but not in red. It was showing off a display of bonnets representing female convicts transported to the colony in the first half of the nineteenth century, part of a long term project by artist Christina Henri.

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Bonnets outside Narryna 

The Hotel Grand Chancellor had a pulsing heart-beat lighting up the many floors of its atrium, visible from across the waterfront, while the white crystal glow of the Glasshouse at Brooke Street Pier contrasted the redness emanating from Salamanca and Princess Wharf 1, home of the Winter Feast.

Hotel Grand Chancellor from Elizabeth Pier
Hotel Grand Chancellor from Elizabeth Pier
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The Glasshouse
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A sailing vessel at Elizabeth Street Pier gets its Dark Mofo vibe on

All around town, bronze busts of the great and the good have been given a facelift by being shinkwrapped in bright pink plastic. Especially striking is the statue of colonial Governor of Van Diemen’s Land and Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin; the fountain on which he sits has just been refurbished and was lit up in rainbow colours in memory of the victims of the Orlando massacre.

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Rainbow fountain at Franklin Square, with plastic-wrapped statue of Sir John
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Enrance to the Winter Feast on Salamanca Place

The highlight of the second week of Dark Mofo is the Winter Feast, the cool season counterpart to Summer’s Taste of Tasmania. The island’s leading caterers descend on Princes Wharf No1 and the adjacent areas adjoining Salamanca Place attracting gourmands for five nights of feasting.

References

Dark Mofo Winter Feast

Tempest – Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Paint the Town RedPaint the Town Red

Roses from the Heart

Map

 

 

 

Dark Mofo 2016 – Dark Park

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It’s deepest darkest June in Hobart, Tasmania and that can mean only one thing….time for urban explorers to rug up and head out into the chilly night air to explore the longest, darkest night of the soul at Dark Mofo.

The Red and the Blue - Hobart lit up for Dark Mofo 2016
The Red and the Blue – Hobart lit up for Dark Mofo 2016

I started my exploration this year with the Tasman Bridge, which has joined the city-wide campaign to mark the Festival by ‘painting the town red’. Across the city, public and private buildings and major edifices are glowing crimson.

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My parents live on the eastern shore with a picture-perfect view of the bridge, and when I visited them on the Thursday afternoon before the Festival proper commenced, they commented that the lights had been off for the previous week. We speculated then that it was likely that it would be red before the week was out, and indeed, I returned home to a message from Dad saying that it had indeed now lit up in what he described as ‘whorehouse red’!

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Tasman Bridge glowing red for Dark Mofo, viewed from the Western Shore of Hobart’s Derwent River

The following night, the real festivities began, with openings at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery of their major exhibition for the year, ‘Tempest’ (which I shall cover in a separate post as it continues for some months), as well as the opening of Dark Park, Dark Mofo’s nocturnal outdoor amusement park tucked away down in a former industrial area of the waterfront.

Dark Park
Dark Park

First of the entertainments was an extraordinary choral work composed by Amanda Cole called A Galaxy of Suns. It was performed by members of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and curously the main credit in the program went not to the composer but to ‘leading artist’ Michaela Gleave. Whatever the niceties, it was a pretty spectacular event. The singers were dressed in silver cowels and capes, which would have protected them well in the event of inclement weather.

A Galaxy of Suns
A Galaxy of Suns

The work itself was described in the program as “Microtonal sonic cues are delivered to members of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus, allowing each to sing the stars live, in real-time for the location”. I’m told by a friend who is a member of the Chorus this did not mean the piece was improvised; he says it was “precisely and carefully composed”, with each of the 36 choristers receiving their cues via individual mobile phone apps.

A Galaxy of Suns at Dark Park
A Galaxy of Suns at Dark Park

With the combination of occasion, location, a still, clear sky, costumes, lighting and captivating performance, it made for a spectacular opening to Dark Mofo.

Various huge warehouses in the precinct have been transformed (naturally) into a gallery in which a number of large-scale installation artworks have been installed. My particular favourite of these was The Cloud by the incredibly talented Tasmanian artist Patrick Hall, who hung hundreds of bottles containing faces lit from within over a pool of water, or ‘tears’, according to the program.

The Cloud by Patrick Hall
The Cloud by Patrick Hall

The faces on these bottles brought the face plates by Piero Fornasetti to my mind. But of course they were a complete new work all of their own, and presented as part of the whole Dark Park experience, hung overhead and reflected in the pool of water below.

The Cloud by Patrick Hall
The Cloud by Patrick Hall

A favourite of may was the hypnotic Our Time by United Visual Artists. Another huge darkened warehouse was hung with lighted pendulums which were set into synchronous motion controlled by a whole bank of computers. Observers were left to explore the space with its changing light patterns and consider their own responses  and emotions, as with so much of the very experiential art showcased in this festival.

Our Time by United Visual Artists
Our Time by United Visual Artists

I only had time for a fleeting glimpse at the total range of experiences on offer and will probably post a further piece with more detail on those.

The Tasmanian School of Art, whose Hunter Street campus is just across the road, was open and displaying a range of works, although I have not been able to find out much about them (or more likely missed them in the program), but it was good to see that insitution welcoming the general public to experience art within its walls.

I was particularly taken by an exhibit in their little street-front gallery space, where visitors put on virtual reality headsets and became an artwork in their own right (I didn’t join the queue to find out what was on the VR, but it was clearly having an impact).

Virtual Art at the Art School
Virtual Art at the Art School

Dark Park is on tonight (Sunday 13 June) and continues next week from Wednesday 16 to Sunday 19 June, 5-10pm. There is plenty of food and refreshment available, so my advice would be to rug up and get amongst it.

REFERENCES

Dark Mofo website

MAP

Winter is coming…so it must be festival time in Tasmania

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In years gone by, Tasmanians with the means to do so would escape winter by heading to warmer climes – Bali, Europe or the Pacific islands for those with the means, the Gold Coast or other parts of Queensland for those with more limited funds. Those of us without the wherewithall simply stayed home and shivered through winter in poorly insulated homes that were inadquately heated by open fires or (in the case of my childhood) smelly kerosene heaters which required regular cleaning and trips to the local garage for refills.

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Snow to sea level in Hobart is a rare – but not entirely unknown – phenomenon

Thank goodness for insulation the and reverse-cycle airconditioner (known in Tasmania as the heat pump), which in the past couple of decades have made staying at home for winter less of an ordeal.

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Winter days in Tasmania can be cool,  but are also often sunny and clear

More recently, the tides have turned and interstate folks who previously believed that winter on the island was akin to February inside the Arctic Circle* are drawn to Tasmania in increasing numbers by a range of festivals that help light up the darkness and celebrate the chilly months with art events, bonfires, music and good food and drink.

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Tasmanians may appear blase about the cold, but they know how to make the most of winter
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It is often said that there is no such thing as cold weather, just inadequate clothing
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Ryoji Ikeda – Spectra viewed from Mount Nelson, Dark MoFo 2013

Dark MoFo, the cool and dark cousin of January’s MoFo, burst onto the scene a few years back, literally lighting up Hobart’s winter skyline with massive installations involving searchlight beams reaching into the stratosphere.

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Patricia Piccanini – Sky Whale

Flames greeted guests to the Salamanca waterfront precinct for the Mindwinter Feast and locals and visitors alike encountered each other as never before, exploring the city under unaccustomed circumstances. The Festival builds up to the Winter Solstice, which is marked with a mass skinny-dip at daybreak following the longest night of the year.

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The Bonfire and Big Sing in Salamanca Place is the centrepiece of the Festival of Voices

It is followed in early July by the Festival of Voices, which describes itself as Australia’s premier celebration of the voice. Indeed, the extensive program offers something for everyone, from pop and rock to mass choirs performing with orchestras. Hobart’s dowdy but charming 1920s City Hall is transformed into Voicebox, an ideal venue for intimate cabaret performances in a range of styles, and the program increasingly spreads around the state. Masterclasses with Australian and international vocal coaches and choral conductors attract entire choirs to the Festival, filling beds and pubs at an otherwise quiet time of year.

1-P7100293.ORFThe hero event of the Festival of Voices is the Big Sing and Bonfire, which sees Salamanca Place closed to traffic on a Friday evening and occupied by thousands of people who gather around a huge bonfire out in front of the market street’s sandstone warehouses who paricipate in a mass singalong.

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The Bay of Fires at the northern end of Tasmania’s East Coast

The Bay of Fires Winter Arts Festival is a regional event that is beginning to develop a profile and reportedly increasing the population of the St Helens area in the state’s north east by thousands over the June long weekend. It incorporates an art prize, workshops, films, open studios and gardens with an art market and live music.

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The Huon Valley Midwinter Fest takes the bonfire to heroic proportions

Founded by the lads from Willie Smith’s Cider and happening in and around their Apple Shed, a half-hour drive south of Hobart, the Huon Valley Midwinter Fest takes pagan winter celebrations as its inspiration.

Patrons are encouraged to dress up in pagan style, Morris Dancers lead celebrations and the whole bacchanalia culiminates in  bonfire of heroic proportions, all accompanied by plenty of local produce whipped up into tasty offerings by the area’s leading caterers.

In Latrobe, near Devonport, the ‘food of the gods’ is celebrated in August’s Chocolate Winterfest. Naturally, it celebrates chocolate as a food, offering demonstrations by local choclolatiers, with plenty of opportunity to taste their wares, but the event doesn’t limit itself, adding chocolate as wearable art to the program. The one-day festival culminates in a lantern parade through the streets of the town.

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Not exactly astrophotography, but a striking sunset nonetheless

Keen photographers rug up and head out into the night as Tasmania’s often crystal clear winter skies result in perfect viewing conditions for the Aurora Australis and for photographing the billions of stars visible when the moon and clouds are absent. This season is celebrated in Tastro Fest, in a program of lectures and demonstrations around astronomy and astrophotography, held in the north west coastal town of Ulverstone.

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The Huskies Picnic at the Botanical Gardens was a highlight of earlier Antarctic Festivals

Well before any of these festivals hove into view, the good people of Hobart celebrated the city’s and the state’s cultural, historical, scientific and institutional links to the continent of Antarctica during July. After an absence of some years, this celebration has been resurrected in the form of September’s Australian Antarctic Festival. It offers a program of talks, walks and open days as well as art exhibitions and concerts. It even resurrects one of the perennial favourites of the earlier festivals, the huskies, although they no longer charge through the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens hauling their sled behind them, having been relocated to the Hobart Waterfront.

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By the time all these festivities are over, it will be well and truly spring, which offers plenty of reasons for a whole new slew of festivals, events and celebrations as the sun returns to Tasmanian skies.

*Tasmanian winters are relatively mild; it shares a relative latitude similar to parts of Italy and Spain.

REFERENCES

Dark MoFo Hobart, 10-21 June, 2016

Festival of Voices Hobart and around Tasmania, 30 June – 17 July, 2016

Bay of Fires Winter Arts Festival St Helens, 10-13 June, 2016

Huon Valley Midwinter Fest Grove, 15-17 July, 2016

Chocolate Winterfest Latrobe, 14 August, 2016

Tastro Fest Ulverstone, 12-14 August, 2016

Australian Antarctic Festival Hobart, 8-11 September, 2016

 

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