Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Art Trails

Lately it feels like there has been so little time to write. It's moments like that when I long for technology to steam ahead and invent the chip that can be inserted into our brains and can download the story, article or thoughts ready for publication. But being a relatively lazy Sunday morning and seeing Zeus, the beautiful cat, is happy to stay in bed, I am finally in a space to put pen to paper (so to speak).

I've just returned from a few days in Melbourne, a city that gives me an enormous amount of visual and aural stimulation. There seems to be art everywhere; in the landscapes, the architecture, the food and the people. I trod the pavements; shopping in those high end places I had never dared to enter and having new experiences. One of which was the obligatory Peking duck experience. A little restaurant in Brunswick where duck was their speciality. Like many such restaurants the d├ęcor was pretty bland, but the skill of the waiter was astounding. He sliced off crispy delicious pieces of succulent duck for us to wrap in our almost transparent pancakes, The taste was sensational.
Some of the Melbourne CBD art

It wasn't difficult to find interesting artists. I happened upon many arts experiences; an exhibition of fashion at Federation Square, a groovy Jazz club decked out as an opium den and a cooperative of artisans inhabiting one of the many laneways.

Only days before heading to Melbourne I spent 4 days on the West Coast of Tasmania. I was meeting with the Councillors to discuss the benefits of a local council having an arts strategy. Just a week before at a local government managers and mayors meeting in Launceston there had been a unanimous agreement to establish an MOU between Tas Regional Arts and the Local Government Association of Tasmania. The demand for our work in local government had increased and it was a natural and welcome progression.

So I was on my way in the little Getz. That 4 hour drive from Hobart to Queenstown always surprises me and the amazing scenery astounds. There were several times I pulled the car over to get out to really experience the view; Button grass, mountains, Lake Burbury – bloody awesome, breathtaking views.
Lake Burbury on the drive to the
West Coast
Good coffee and a cornish pasty from Derwent Bridge roadhouse helps and I arrive in sunny Queenstown feeling quite overwhelmed by the dwarfing landscape. Councillor Phil Evans took me on the first of 2 tours of the town and I readied myself for the meeting. This was a robust discussion about the role the arts can play in strengthening the economic, social and cultural life of remote and small communities. There are already some unique things happening on the West Coast so it will be interesting to see if the council takes the next step to develop a strategy and find more ways to support, promote and nurture the arts.

I dropped into the Larq Gallery to meet the infamous Raymond Arnold and his partner Helena Demczuk. I had heard so much about Raymond. We were even Facebook friends, but had never met. So it was great to finally meet him and I was invited to lunch. The two galleries they have established are great. The smaller one, which is part of the Arnold and Demczuk residence, perfectly accommodates the latest exhibition by Strahan photographer, Carol Maney. The Larq Bank gallery is one big room that opens up onto one of the main streets of Queenstown. Lisa Garland's large photographs fill the space beautifully. This newest addition to Larq also provides a room for visiting artists undertaking a residency. After 8 years Raymond and Helena seem to have been not just accepted but embraced by the locals. They have created a home for themselves and for the many visiting artists who come from within and outside Australia. This, linked with their obvious love for the region, seems to provide a wonderful lifestyle to these two artists who have chosen to live in a remote community. They are of course continuing to produce their own work. While there, Helena showed me a number of paintings about women in the region that will be part of a future exhibition.

After meeting the 4 dogs (3 whippets and 1 german shepherd) I sat down to a delicious spread and we talked of art, artists, the West Coast and big ideas. It was a nice afternoon and I am extremely thankful to have finally met Raymond and Helena and to have had such an experience.
The illusive photographer,
Carol Maney. Caught in her natural

I continued to explore the streets of Queenstown; chatting to the locals, photographing the many old buildings and then finally retreating to my comfortable hotel room to ponder on what was quite a surreal experience. The next day I was off to Strahan to stay with Carol Maney and her partner Trevor. A beautiful spot by the water and another perspective of the West Coast; beautiful, harsh and fascinating.

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