Photography, beauty and more great films

Waking in a quiet dark hotel room is a strange sensation, a little dizzying. Predator 2 is on television, cheesy 1990 film with a ridiculous premise but I’m compelled to watch. Breakfast at the bakery on the road out of Burnie, a couple of mammoth trucks with what looks like ginormous generators on the back cruise slowly past flanked by transport police cars with flashing lights, drama on an otherwise quiet Sunday road. It’s a calm day, not much rain, and mostly clear skies. Driving into Launceston is easy, its quality thinking time, including where the sketches have been going over the last few days and what I need to do to stay loose and also which sorts of elements of the geo do I want to hone into in the coming week. I think more about yesterday’s refreshing drawing workshop and how I should be using elements of this looseness in my sketching. I also start to plan what I might say in my artist talk this coming Saturday. Excellent quality thinking time.

First stop in Launceston is the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery city site to take a look at an exhibition recommended to me by Raymond Arnold titled, ‘Into the Wild: Wilderness photography in Tasmania’, an overview of the history of some incredible geo and wild landscapes of Tasmania in chronological order. I am most taken by the old black and white photographs of mountains and rock formations, many of which I have never seen before, of places that I have never heard of. Contrasts of tone, soft greys receding, graininess. What a great exhibition this was, showing off the wildness and ruggedness of Tasmania.

The large room proceeding ‘Into the Wild’ has a selection of landscape images, mostly paintings, from Tasmanian artists held in the collection of QVMAG. I am mostly taken by a David Keeling painting of trees, its not one of his soft light images of trees but rather stark with striking contrast of tone. There are large areas of dark against white, flattening the subject matter, tonal contrast in the extreme. There are also large works by Philip Wolfhagen, Patrick Grieve, and Melissa Smith, who I visit next for lunch just after midday, inclusive of a tour of her beautiful new-ish studio.

Melissa and I have work in Handmark Gallery Evandale works on paper group exhibition opening at 2. I have never been to the Handmark Evandale gallery before so it’s pleasing to finally be making the trip. The gallery is in prime Evandale location and is smaller than it looks in the images on the website. The exhibition is opened and Melissa, Pheobe Middleton and myself give short artist talks describing the work we have in the exhibition, and for another chance to plug the residency. Back on the road for a 2 and half drive west to Rocky Cape home-base. I listen to radio, intermingled with long periods of silence. I think about the nature of beauty. What is beauty? What is beauty in art? Should art be beautiful? I question my own drawing. I question what I see.

Then, out to the right of my car in the late afternoon, the sun very low into the horizon and directly in front of me as I drive down the Bass highway, passing cars and being passed by cars, sudden but brief rain storms, stark reflections off the roads blinding my vision for a few moments, then a dark coloured 4wd overtakes, the spray shoots out from the back of it into this intense late afternoon light swirling graciously upwards into the air like cigarette smoke, a mist of late afternoon saturated colour against the monotony of driving for hours. Is this beauty, a fleeting poetic moment of free flowing contrasting swirling light and colour on the highway of dreariness? I am unable to answer this and my other questions at this point.

Back at home-base, dinner eaten, and I settle down to watch a double-header of film. Starting with the Australian production ‘Jindabyne’ directed by Ray Lawrence in 2006, a beautiful film tackling some difficult issues in a small town in New South Wales known for being the last stop before NSW ski resorts and for its rainbow and brown trout fishing. I once spent a year of my life living in Jindabyne after leaving high school as a late teenager, so I know the landscape and place reasonably well. Apart from some average acting in a few moments, the film was well paced and constructed. The landscape around Jindabyne and around the Snowy was photographed with love and the story is thought provoking, perhaps not as poignant as ‘The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith’ but all the same it treats issues of Australia and racism in a well conceived thought provoking manner.

Film number two was ‘Strangers on a Train’, the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock classic, and classic it is. What a great film. Superbly rounded as it moves through a riveting story with some magnificent Hitchcock-ian camera angles and shots dotted throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed Jindabyne, but Strangers on a Train just blew me out of the water with its crisp attention to detail and mise en scene. I go to bed feeling filmed out, in a good way.