Art and Culture@myLife

Live experiences with art and culture

a.Visit of the Art Gallery  18.08.2009
On behalf of visiting the New South Wales Art Gallery I got the impression that painting and literature go hand in hand, supporting and enriching each other.
art gallery

As an artist paintings can be a medium to express your feelings and associations made with poetry. As words stimulate your imagination painting gives you the possibility to take your brains images out of your mind and make them visible. Hence it is an obvious, public way to share your thoughts and meanwhile leaving room for other’s interpretation. On account of this these art forms offer humans a possibility to share their impressions and communicate. A strong link between poetry and painting can be made when inserting words as in Sharp’s The OZ Tapestry or Light in the NSW Art Gallery.

The paintings of others can help you to discover different aspects others have been thinking about and therefore lead to discussion and turn art into a “communication platform”. Regarding former times it were paintings and icons that made up written language.

What is more, I regard paintings as an aid to construct meaning. The image of places you have never been to can help to become familiar with the context and setting described in poems, drama, novels etc. This helped me especially in terms of reading Lawson and seeing Drysdale’s paintings, as I haven’t been to the outback yet.

Within the gallery I saw some pieces of art I am really drawn to[1]

Russel Drysdale


I like this painting by Drysdale as I think it shows a settler’s family “the rabbits” visualized also by the tiny rabbit next to the family. Its underlying meaning might be a reference to the Whites how brought many rabbits to Australia as the didn’t want to give up hunting them. However, due to this they damaged large parts of the landscape as the rabbits turned out to be a plague. In an overall meaning this is also what the invasion of the settlers meant for the Aboriginal people. European animals and plant erased Australian landscape whereas the European humans wiped out the Indigenous people. Interpreting his painting like this, it criticizes the White’s behavior. By letting them  appear very self-confident (body language) I shows their ignorance towards their behavior. In contrast to the painting “Sunday” the settlers have “settled down”, grown in terms of family members, belongings and powerful appearance, however not appearing to be lucky. I interpret this as following:
1. They could make a good living in the bush by exploiting the Aboriginals

2. But they didn’t achieve complete satisfaction (perhaps a typical European thing- the everlasting lurking for more…)

Drysdale seems to aim at showing the Aboriginal’s confidence with their lifestyle.
Mirroring basic events in the country’s history, the works of Russel Drysdale “Sunday” and “Group of people”


are highly significant referring to the changes due to European invasion. In the two paintings a settler’s and an Aboriginal family are contrasted. Their concepts of community and ownership can be detected. It’s basically the portrayed confidence of the Aboriginals that shows that they can really cope with the life in Australia and are determined to live there, whereas the Europeans can’t cope with the harshness.

I think Drysdale makes an important statement here. He doesn’t claim about the unfair treatment the Aboriginals had to undergo, he rather focuses on their strength, which is being able to live in the outback and having long traditions to which they can trace back their trust and confidence. Moreover he issues that Australia had a past before the European invasion.

In his painting “crucifixion” he shows Jesus being crucified in Australia and not overseas, to mention that God’s spirit is also with the indigenous people and not merely reserved for the Whites. The landscape shown seems to be without any life, indication the millions of deaths and destroyed landscape in Europe after WW2.

Ronnie Tjampitjnpa and Ginger Riley

I think that Ronnie Tjampitjinpa showed exceedingly well that the Aboriginals had a rich cultural heritage (e.g.“Tingari Story at Walungura”) and Aboriginals could really identify with the land they stayed on , yet all that was ripped out by the Europeans (J. Wright 73). Riley pictured the country in layers to detect its diversity while Europeans didn’t even appreciate one element and the establishment of culture and life on this land (“Limmen Bight River Country”).

James Gleeson
gleesonAs I saw Italy in the Art Gallery my first impression was that it was far too florid maybe kitschy with is dramatic, dark colours and the ancient symbols in it. First of all I couln’t identify a deeper meaning in this painting as the Romans usually used art for representative purpose.

However, being exhibited in the AG, I thought that there should be some relation to Australian history. I came to a similar conclusion as you did, regarding the context of the painting’s origin, I regard it as a symbol for the damage and destruction after WW2, too. Whereas the obvious deconstruction in terms of infrastructure took place in Europe (might refer to the title: Italy), it’s the social damage all over the world. Related to AUS this includes the wounded ANZAC soldiers and the problems their relatives and all Australian inhabitants were faced with.

David Shea

There is a second one I liked by David Shea: I think this one shows his criticism on European settlers – depicting the rabbit-as plague, they brought to AUS and a naked women – Irish females shipped here due to the famine and poor conditions in Ireland to please the men. They are sitting on the Australian flag, showing that in their minds, they are the ones owing this soil and having created the nation.

Jeffrey Smart
Moreover, the painting “Matisse at Ashford” caught my attention as I admired its precision. On top of that I liked other paintings by Smart as well as his choice of color is always very inspiring and angle point stimulates my imagination. He has definitely a talent to depict the ordinary in a extraordinary (aesthetic) way.

b. Visit of the Seymour Center 18.08.2009
Getting to know the true promise of a theater visit in Sydney we watched the plays Norm and Ahmed and Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah: Soft revolution, both staged after another in one performance by the Alex Buzo Company.
Although the plays were to some extend very different, there is one major similarity visible. Both deal with “otherness” in Australia.

Whereas Norm and Ahmed, originally from 1968, deals with a Pakistani student meeting a real middle-aged “Aussie”, Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah: Soft revolution focuses on two family members discussing religious issues. The two plays show the disagreement of the major characters around cultural and to some extend generational questions.

Shafana as well as Ahmed have individual aims making them different to the mainstream.
30 years ago it was not common to study abroad, so it is rare to find a Pakistani at university. Hence Ahmed is faced with the status of extra originality and is investigated by Norm about is life.
Shafana considers wearing the hijab although this might reduce her possibilities to be offered a good job. This shows the lacking understanding of Australians for the Muslim religion, probably resulting out of the majority of Christian settlers in the 18th century. Moreover it is evidence for the society’s focus on wealth instead of personal enrichment.

As both plays appear to inherent the underlying topic of ethnical diversity it seems to me the director has decided to show them together.

c. “Chinatown”
In order to get a broader insight into the relationship between Australia and China, not only a close neighbor but also a friend, that largely impacts the Australian culture, I strolled around Chinatown.
Highly eye-catching is “The Golden water mouth”, a sculpture of a tree covered with gold, made from a dead tree dunk. Generally, golden color symbolizes wealth and good fortune, for this reason it shall bring prosperity and luck to the Chinese community.
While wandering around, one gets a brief insight into some core concepts of Chinese culture. For instance the tradition of giving buckets of red and yellow flowers to newly opened shops, ‘888’ being a lucky number and the everlasting desire for harmony,
incorporated in the concept of ‘Yin and Yang’.

Moreover I entered “The Chinese garden of friendship”, given as a gift from its befriendedCIMG3134 city Guangzhou, the garden memorizes the friendship between Australia and China. The celebration of the Bicentenary in 1988 was the sparking event to give the garden to Sydney.
Generally, this type of garden can be found within the estate of a rich Chinese family. As the “Chinese garden of friendship” is a replica of such, it follows all common Chinese guidelines for these gardens.

d. “The Rocks Area”- Convict Sydney
Visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art 20.07.2009
Hyde Park Barracks 23.07.2009
First Uni Excursion 034
In order to get in touch with recent art in Australia I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was interesting to see how recent Australian painters see their presence, past and possible future. Herein lays a basic parallel between literature and creative art as both forms of art express thoughts and worries about certain issues. Moreover, the whole area of The Rocks gave a good impression of early settlement in Sydney.  I gained further knowledge as I visited “Hyde Park Barracks” – The Hulks – ,CIMG2923
build by male convicts to have night lodging; give a further insight into convict times of Australia. It was interesting to get to know more about their everyday life, especially on board (diet, games, punishments), in the city as well as about the buildings further use as “Female immigration depot” for Irish women and as “Female infirm”.

e. Visiting the Australian Museum 11.10.2009
This museum renders excellent insight into Australia’s past in terms of Aboriginals, Dinosaurs and other animals living on land or in the sea. It is interesting for me as European to see clear similarities between Australia and Europe, but also differences as some rather European animals have related animals here to suit the conditions in Australia.

f. Opera House 25.10.2009
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to see a show at the Opera House yet, but still I was able to do a guided tour through it. To me it is especially dancing, but to some extent also singing art that can be regarded as an aid to construct meaning. Especially as operas are often based on literature. On account of this I would love to see a show and try to detect elements that make this art form so expressive and identify (aesthetic) intentions of the choreographer or other staff in charge.

[1] Stephanie Heinen:

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