Tuesday, June 22, 2010

art gallery dreaming

Since I last blogged, after Dungog, I've been wandering up and down the eastern seaboard, seeking adventure, clarity and creative inspiration. There's plenty to be written about the first two aims, but right now I'm just going to write about the third, and a beautiful exhibit that I saw yesterday in Melbourne, at the NGV Australia.

So Rupert Bunny was a Melbourne-born painter, who spent about thirty years in France, and basically moved between the two countries for his whole life (1864-1947). His style, therefore, sits somewhere in between the two, gently inspired by the ebb and flow of historical context. There's a pretty broad range of styles going across his work, and towards the end it starts to be much more stylised, allegorical and in-your-face.

Admittedly, I was most attracted to the pre-war stuff; when he was evidently creating from a place of contentment, producing beautiful pieces that echoed French impressionism (and therefore many of my other favourite painters). Yet there's something very unique to his work too: it's dreamy, moody and elements of magic realism pop up all over the shop (mermaids, fawns, etc.). See:

He's evidently obsessed with women and femininity - and while there are all sorts of arguments you could make about exotisising the other I prefer to think that he idealises the gender out a place of respect. Pow. I especially love his use of soft colours, that dreamlike quality, and that hint of mystery that he captures in the women's facial expressions.

Here's a quote that accompanied the exhibit, and that I very much appreciated:

"What a period of dreaming!" my mother said. Looking back on in wonder at the unreal psychic state of the feminine world of her youth, she attributed this phenomena to the repressive ideas of the era. "We were the last Romantics," she said. "Novels and embroidery were the drugs of the period, stimulating and tranquillising according to emotional state. Dreaming was our only freedom and way of escape from boredom, and through dreams we managed to create a beautiful, enchanted world."
- Collette Reddin, 1987

Once again, is this a case of idealising repression? Perhaps, but goodness, if you'd seen how beautiful these paintings were you'd probably be OK with that.

xxx magda

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