Guru Guides Reflect on the Corsini Collection

As A Window on Italy – The Corsini Collection exhibition comes to a close on the 18 June, we catch up with Voluntary Guru Guides Stephanie Watson and Louise Gillett to find out which work was their favourite and what they’ve enjoyed most about the exhibition.

Louise Gillett

Guiding the Corsini has been an exciting ride. To date, I have conducted 18 public tours with four more to go before the show finishes. Researching and preparing has been hugely interesting and I learn more with each tour as patrons ask questions and provide opinions.

Guru Guide Louise Gillett sharing her insights on Botticelli’s Madonna and Child

My favourite work?

The Botticelli, of course! To witness Botticelli’s poignant intention to suggest the Crucifixion in a work depicting Christ as an infant, is very moving. The rendering in tempera with all of the attendant precision and expertise seems to exemplify the artist’s deep Christian conviction, a desire to assert belief in the face of rampant humanism. The classical restraint, beauty and symmetry of those faces- breathtaking! It is always rewarding to guide this work; to provide the Christian explanation to patrons who are not aware of it and to witness the knowing nods of those who are familiar with the narrative and symbolism. This sharing of knowledge and experience in front of great art is what drives me as a Guide.

Stephanie Watson:

My favourite work:
While Botticelli’s touching painting “Madonna and Child with Six Angels” is undoubtedly the star of the show, I am also drawn to Giovanni Santi’s modest work. For me, its evocation of “Birth of Venus” relates to one of the world’s great artistic treasures.

Giovanni Santi’s painting of the Muse of History, Clio, shows her not with her traditional scroll, but enveloped in the gorgeous, swirling drapery of her beautiful blue gown. Fittingly, blue was the most expensive of paint pigments. Her hair floats behind her, echoing not only the movement of her dress but also the trees in the background.

Giovanni Santi (Colbordolo 1435-Urbino 1494) Clio from The Muses circa 1480-90. Tempera on board, 820 x 390mm. Florence, Galleria Corsini

A hallmark of the Renaissance is the device of framing; here rocks and vegetation surround the central image. Another was a renewed interest in the classical world, which interestingly, sat comfortably with the deeply religious mood of the time. Clio’s almost bare feet reflect the philosophy of humanism and naturalism which was replacing the waning Medieval ethos.

The ‘flatness’ of the figure and detachment of the Muse are also elements of that earlier style. The traditional medium of egg tempera on wood panel soon to be overtaken by the new material of oil on linen has also been used. Giovanni’s far more famous son Raphael began his education in the studio of his father at the Palazzo of the Duke of Urbino. While his soaring talent soon outstretched his father’s, this painting can still charm us with its beauty.

A special moment in one of my tours was the texting conversation between one of the visitors to the exhibition and her cousin who was at work in the Palazzo Corsini in Florence at that very moment, bringing extra life to this wonderful exhibition.

 

Corsini Opening Day - A Florentine Festival Day

With so many stories behind each work, our fantastic guides have captured the imagination of over 30,000 visitors since the opening of the exhibition. We thank them for their amazing work.

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First Nation artist Julie Dowling

First Nation artist Julie Dowling
First Nation artist Julie Dowling.

First Nation artist Julie Dowling is an activist, a visionary and an artist.  Earlier this week we spoke to Julie about her current exhibition Babanyu – Friends for life showing at the Gallery as part of WA Now and what influences her work.

From the paintings shown in the exhibition, is there one in particular that resonates most with you and if so why?

I think at the moment it’s the portrait of my mother Ronnie Dowling: The neurotic. I remember the many stories she told me as I was painting it.

My mother was an artist but was stopped from pursuing a life as one because her family relied on her for financial support. She became a domestic servant from the age of 11 and finished schooling at 14. When my twin sister and I were born, she began her art again but kept it hidden from the world.

My mother is my friend and teacher. She was and still is very influential in the discipline side of my art making. She taught me how to see art as an extension of my own freedom, of it being part of myself and to talk about everything that surrounds me to the world. My Mum taught me to have a social conscience and eye for justice in all things.

Tell us about the Badimaya culture and how this influences your work?

Badimaya culture was always expressed in clandestine ways before the mid-1980s however it was following this period that my family and I  began to openly express who we were and what we felt about our culture. The Badimaya culture was kept hidden however I was able to learn many things from my grandmother. I learned how to look after the land, its creatures and about how we are all connected to the land. I also learned a smattering of the Badimaya language from my Grandmother. She did not speak it often because she was taught that the language wasn’t legal to speak when she was growing up and feared we would be taken away if we spoke it in public also.

Since the 1980’s I’ve been involved with cultural renewal in my family and within many communities. Culture is an act of empowerment as much as it is a language of being.

Badimaya culture is also land specific as it relates to a place and an environment and without those two/three things acting in unison…language/place/cultural practice then it’s very difficult to see into the universe of knowledge & understanding that still exists here. Our country is north of Dalwalinu to the south, Mt. Gibson to the west, the eastern area of Lake Moore and the land north of Mt. Magnet

What do you hope people will take away from your exhibition and from the stories conveyed through your work?

I hope they see the paintings in terms of documenting a journey or me tracking through everything as a woman, a Badimaya cultural being, someone who is interested in cultural history, decolonisation, First Nation empowerment, ending racism, ending sexism, living my life as a twin and also as a fair-skinned First Nation person. There are many multi-layered contextual meanings in the work and each plays out more in some than in others.

The main objective at present is to end racism. Everything from the cognitive dissonance and white fragility that many white people feel about First Nation people to those that don’t know about how systemic racism can rob First Nation people of many things from land, language to identity. Racism impacts every human being in some way.

What are you working on these days and can you tell us a little bit about it?

I’m working on a great number of miniatures for an exhibition at Midland Junction that is about language and the land. I’ve been contributing to a science called ethnobotany which looks into (with First Nation scientists) how language and the understanding of plants/landscape/environment are all linked. Without an intrinsic interaction with the environment, ethnobotanists have found that humans get depression and a great number of mental disorders over generations.

These miniatures will be mapping the process of moving away from language and land and also the returning to it in the form of de-colonisation and using cultural renewal of my own Badimaya language. I hope it helps people to heal.

Julie Dowling’s free exhibition is showing at the Art Gallery of Western Australia until the 13 August 2018.

Visit Julie Dowling’s official webpage.

Curator Insights with Allison Holland

Heath Ledger Exhibition Program_260917_V1.indd

Written by Mikaela Hewett, Communications Intern

 

Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures is a compelling new exhibition presented by AGWA and the Western Australian Museum. Celebrating a life spent both in front of the camera and behind it, this display features photographs and personal belongings of the late Heath Ledger. I met up with curator Allison Holland to discuss what we should expect from the exhibition, currently showing at AGWA.

Hi Allison, thanks for meeting with me today. Could you tell us what we should know about Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures?

The project started in 2011 with the WA Museum. The core of this exhibition comes from Heath Ledger’s Archive. These include costumes from his films, journals Heath created as he developed several of his characters, as well as an extraordinary number of photographs and film footage taken on and off the set.  There are scripts, storyboards, and production stills all documenting the process of filmmaking.

I have also included portraits by artists who photographed Heath at various times throughout his career. These photographs were published in Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, and other celebrity magazines.

On the 22 January 2018, it will be the 10th anniversary of Heath’s passing, so this exhibition is a timely celebration of his life and creativity. Heath was a local boy and started his career here, so the early section of the exhibition focusses on Perth.

How did you approach the curation of this exhibition?

When I started to work with this material and conceive of the exhibition, I considered displaying the process of filmmaking through Heath’s career to communicate to the audience the complexity of production and how it is a collaborative process. From a very young age, Heath wanted to be a director, so I also wanted to convey his enthusiasm about all aspects of filmmaking – not just being an actor.

I never knew that. Could you tell us more about Heath’s desire to be a director?

The exhibition also recreates Heath’s creative studio, based in Los Angeles, called The Masses. He and a group of friends – musicians, artists, and filmmakers – got together to collaborate on a diverse set of projects. Heath made a number of music videos, which are being screened, as well as the storyboards and treatments he created as part of the process of directing them.

There were also two films he intended to direct. One of them was The Queens Gambit, based on a novel about a young female chess master. The pre-production stage was scheduled to commence at the end of 2008, but unfortunately, he passed away. The other one, still in script development, was about the 1970s musician Nick Drake.

Heath was very passionate about Nick Drake and while completing Todd Haynes’s biopic on Bob Dylan – I’m Not There – he decided to completely change his approach from depicting the musician’s life to using Nick’s music to lead an unrelated narrative.

That’s interesting to hear. What can you tell us about Heath’s interest in photography?

There are several photographic albums on display in this exhibition, which Heath meticulously compiled by placing photographs in very considered juxtapositions. There are also thirty-two photographs from the Archive hung in a mass display. Many Heath had enlarged, or framed and displayed in his homes.

So when did Heath begin to show an interest in photography?

He’d been taking photographs since he was a teenager, but around 1998 he started to focus on how things looked through the frame, or the lens, of the camera. While on set he would take an opportunity to learn from the directors and the directors of photography. He would look at the rushes or dailies to see how things appeared through the lens, and ask questions about apertures and lighting effects. He was just fascinated by the whole image making process.

Heath sounds like he had many different talents and passions. Are there any we haven’t mentioned yet?

Heath had a passion for chess and played, on an average, ten games a day – he just adored the game.

That’s a lot of chess games! Before we wrap up, can you share what excites you about the exhibition?

I’m excited for people to see his photography and music video. I also want to convey his collaborative nature and how he nurtured younger actors and filmmakers through The Masses and on set. I hope people who visit the exhibition will appreciate the complexity of the film industry and how many people contribute to realising a director’s vision.

Our next Pursuing Your Passions guest is Managing Director of Rusty, Geoff Backshall.  Join Geoff on Friday 3 November from 5:30pm in the exhibition space at AGWA.

 

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