(Apologies to artists. This is my first such blog. Next time I’ll document names and attribute carefully.)
Although I live in the country, I’m surrounded by small galleries that feed my aesthetic hunger with a great variety of exhibitions, a manageable number of pieces and frequent changes. In the last few weeks I’ve visited three exhibitions and could have at least doubled that number by going a bit further afield.
All three galleries have reinvented the purpose of old buildings (the School of Arts in Narooma, the Mechanics Institute in Moruya and the back part of the Post Office in Bodalla) to create pleasant and accessible spaces.
At the Mechanics Institute I see an exhibition by the Eurobodalla Fibre and Textile Artists group. Silk coloured by onion skin and geebung bark floats with the movement of air. There are felt landscapes, large felt bowls, shoulder bags created from a variety of materials, sculptured 3D scarves and a few renegades consisting of twigs and lacquered pieces of lemon. A later Christmas sale of works made by the fibre artists fills one of the empty shops in Moruya and offers a rare opportunity to shop in the evening for something other than groceries.
At the exhibition in the recently-opened SoArt Gallery, diversity is marked. Local land and seascapes hang on stark white walls. Beautifully crafted dolls perch nonchalantly on columns. 3D pieces featuring feathers from an astonishing variety of birds showcase the design skills of nature and the artist, as well as the destructive capacity of human beings. Margaret Olley’s painting taught me deep apprecation of the possibilities of still life – my favourite here is conventional, except for an egg sliding over the edge of the table in an amusing tribute to Dali.
At the post office gallery in Bodalla, splendid photographs pay homage to local forests. Early light slants horizontal towards columnar trunks and across ferns. The whole coast and hinterland is laid out in a joined sequence taken from a helicopter. An echidna with gold tipped quills and a russet brush-back snuffles amongst the leaf litter near a rotting giant. Grand trees supporting vines and covered in moss tower on Gulaga mountain, survivors of the 2009 fires. My favourite is a black and white shot of buttress roots rambling across the forest floor, so rich that I look at it a number of times before I decide that it is indeed black and white and not the dim green subtlety of light beneath the canopy. However not all the photos are a celebration: one is an elegy, as the smoke puffs up and hangs thick in the air from a forestry log and burn.
The Bodalla Gallery is my favourite I think. Because it’s so close to home, I can pop in to see the same exhibition a number of times, a treat I envied my friend when she worked opposite the National Gallery. A recent morning with Ellis Rowan and George Raper paintings and four visits to Fred Williams gave me a taste for slow art and this gallery indulges my desire for revisits and savourings.
Links to websites of some of the photographers represented in the Bodalla Gallery exhibition