Calendar: February 2014

31 01 2014

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The Bedolina Map

30 01 2014

I was watching one of my old map documentaries today.
You know, for fun and visual stimulation.

It highlighted the ‘Bedolina Map’ … more formally ‘COMPOSITE PETROGLYPH MAP FROM BEDOLINA, VALCAMONICA. (North Italy). Size of the original: 2.30 x 4.16 m.

click on image for original source

click on image for original source

Amazing right?

click on image for original source

click on image for original source

Almost like a Miro!

‘Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia’ @ National Library of Australia

27 01 2014

The second of the two exhibitions that brought me to Canberra was ‘Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia‘ at the National Library of Australia (NLA).

Maps interest me in how they make evident the manner in which people perceive and place themselves in the landscape, and then how they represent their three-dimensional world in two dimensions. This exhibition shows that to some small extent, though (naturally, given the title and focus) is more about how maps of the ‘modern’ centuries evolve to show snippets of what came to be called Australia.

Exhibition media: “Mapping our World is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see rare and unique cartographic treasures from around the world. Discover how European explorers unravelled the secrets of the great south land.
Highlights of the exhibition include the magnificent Fra Mauro Map of the World; the remarkable Boke of Idrography presented to Henry VIII; an intricate world map by the Benedictine monk Andreas Walsperger (1448); a fifteenth-century Ptolemy manuscript; magnificent and controversial ‘Dieppe’ charts; one of only four surviving copies of Mercator’s groundbreaking 1569 projection, and original manuscript charts by Pacific navigators including Louis de Freycinet, James Cook and Matthew Flinders.

There are some absolutely magnificent works of art here – and yes, they certainly do deserve that lofty description. The most stunning of course being the map used in media for the exhibition: the ‘Fra Mauro Map of the World‘ (1448-1453). This is the first time the map has ever left Venice … ever. If you only go for one reason, this is sufficient.

click on image for original source

click on image for original source

The above map is detailed beyond comprehension; and its counterpart could be considered to be the little map that struck me for its simplicity and design, and also its proposal of not-yet-discovered places: Macrobius’s ‘Zonal world map, in Commentary on the Dream of Scipio’, from the 11th century.

click on image for original source

click on image for original source

The most significant impact this exhibition had on me was to underscore how inadequate my primary school education had been in such matters. I was taught that Captain Cook ‘discovered’ the east coast of Australia in 1770. I don’t remember being taught anything of the Dutch reaching the west coast (it wasn’t until my thirties that I came to this knowledge, via someone raised in Perth and taught such things in school), nor that the Portuguese were more likely the first ‘Europeans’ to map the shores of the continent in the 1500s (if not earlier, as such knowledge was fiercely guarded).

Regular readers will know how I love maps; though visiting this exhibition was almost too much of a good thing. I found myself developing map-fatigue half-way through the rooms.

I’ve given this some more thought and consider it akin to compassion-fatigue (and of course closely aligned to art-fatigue, if not exactly the same): being surrounded by so many amazing objects, bombarded at each turn with a map deserving of attention and contemplation in its own right, creates such a weight that it’s overwhelming and desensitizing. An individual brilliance is dulled and suffocated by the company of many others of equal value.

Others have written more eloquently of this experience, so I won’t expand any further on it here. Though I have wondered if my ‘fatigue’ is speeding up with age – I feel I am reaching saturation point earlier in an exhibition than I did in my twenties or even just a few years ago … perhaps a larger and growing ‘back-catalogue’ of accumulated images and experiences casts a longer shadow over the new?

There is so much to appreciate in this exhibition, and it’s free.

Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia‘ is at the National Library of Australia (Canberra) until 10th March 2014.

No jewellery for you

24 01 2014

Have you heard this before: “I can’t give her/you/him jewellery for their birthday/xmas/awesomeness celebration; they’re a jeweller, they make it themselves, how could I possibly choose what to give them” ?

Or have you been the one to say it?

I admit it is a field fraught with danger … similar to being asked to select a bottle of wine for a gift to a wine blender or wine judge. Shudder. ‘Tis a task usually worth your avoidance.

Allow me to offer the potential gift-giver some thoughts if you find yourself willing to take on the risk of giving jewellery to someone who may be considered knowledgeable or a connoisseur of the genre:

  • it is not for the fainthearted, you do need to be aware of the recipient’s preferences (if you know them well enough to want to gift them jewellery, I’d suggest you’ve spent enough time to get a general feel of things in this department)
  • perhaps you can secretly request the help of family or friends
  • even better, the help of a maker-jeweller-friend of your recipient
  • I would err on the side of ‘the simpler the better’; the fussier the item, the higher the chance of a misstep
  • if you can be involved in the design, or even the construction, so much the better (I’ve written before about commissioning bespoke jewellery)
  • sentiment matters
  • consider involving the recipient – the receipt of the finished object won’t be a surprise this way; but your introduction of the idea and your desire to gift them something they love, the anticipation and involvement during the design or selection process may make up for that; and you’ll know the piece will be to their liking/loving
  • one idea I especially like is for said gift-giver to work with a maker who uses wax-casting, roll a little sausage of wax and shape it into a simple ring with your very own hands, so it has your very own fingerprints on it, and have it cast in the metal of choice (no polish, for heaven’s sake, no polish; and best a matt finish)

Oopsies, that last one there turned out to be more about my preferences. Dear me. How did that happen?

‘Gold and the Incas’ @ National Gallery of Australia

22 01 2014

There are two amazing exhibitions on in Canberra right now; and this dear heart believed such magnificence warranted a personal appearance. And so off to our nation’s capital I traipsed for a day of art-fatigue-and-visual-overload.

First: ‘Gold and the Incas‘ at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA).

Exhibition media: “Gold and the Incas showcases the splendour of ancient pre-Hispanic cultures of Peru. Art made of gold, silver, precious stones, textiles and ceramics will excite our visitors and provide a new experience at the National Gallery of Australia. More than 200 objects are included, from gold regalia, intricate jewellery and striking vessels to elaborate embroidered and woven cloths. Australian audiences will encounter the aesthetic depth, drama and beauty of the famous Incan empire and its predecessors.

The most important comment I’ll make to potential visitors – it’s not all about gold. There is a rich collection of ceramics and the most exceptional textiles in this exhibition; and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of items. So if gold isn’t your thing, perhaps it’s still worth a visit.

Best overheard comment: “they sure did like nose rings”. Yes, yes they did. Below are some sketches of some of my favourite nose ornaments [left, top right, bottom right].

nose ornament 1inca_003

One of the pieces that made me giggle was a Nazca forehead ornament: with an central impressed design of a face (serious, straight mouth), with little heads floating above his head, and little serious faces in the eleven ‘rays’ from the top of the object … a forehead object, with a man who looks like he also has a forehead object on, with little men with foreheads … ha, iteration hilarity, oh the fun I had in that little moment.

Along with nose-rings and being quite obvious about the sexy-time (I was terribly disappointed to realise that I had missed seeing the splendid cock vessel in person … boo), they also liked huge headpieces. The last room in the exhibition is worth the visit alone. The sketch below only gives the barest of ideas – but it is splendor you cannot imagine, on a scale that is formidable, in a display that is stunning. Earrings the size of your forearm? Oh for sure!


The most breathtaking object is the Sican-Lambayeque mantle – it is lit in such a beguiling and entrancing manner, and the unevenness of each of the individual little ravioli-shaped silver components (sewn on to cotton I think) plays beautifully in the light.

The most surprising to me were the textiles – stunning.

Finally, the objects I found most moving were the Quipu. Strange really, considering their use was actually for trade; but when I first saw them I thought they may be maps or objects for personal memories.

My most significant, though minor in perspective, gripe is the darkness of the rooms … truly, many times I couldn’t see where my pencil was on my paper (explaining my less-than-fine drawings). I do understand that this is often necessary for conservation, especially for the feathers and textile pieces; and on the upside, it did make the gold stand out (perhaps the most pertinent reasoning for the low voltage?); but it was disorienting and tiring and somewhat oppressive.

I must admit that my most recent visits to the NGA have been enjoyable, to the extent that I would say (now the value of timed entry ticketing is well understood) that I like how the NGA does blockbusters – specifically, (so far) avoiding traps of ‘ambiance’ manufacturing, ‘real life dioramas’ and ‘virtual experiences’ and such banality some exhibitions fall for.

Gold and the Incas‘ is at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, until 21st April 2014.

See my other posts about exhibitions at NGA here.
Please note: sketches in this post not to be reproduced without author’s permission.


Update (28th January): It’s been on my mind since my visit … the low lighting that is.

To give you a gauge of how odd it was: the round nose ornament in bottom right of the top image is actually half silver and half gold, and the lighting was such I couldn’t even tell they were different. It should have been obvious right?! And in the same case, the nose ornament on the left in the sketches has two twisted wires between the plate and the spiral components, but the lighting was so poor I couldn’t tell what was going on there, just that it wasn’t flat and not round – I just couldn’t see the detail. The room was dark but the display boxes so lit that the contrast was washed out.

And from memory the lighting was in fact brighter in the places where the ceramics and textiles were displayed – so may I be so bold as to suggest that the low lighting in the gold displays was for dramatic effect only? I mean honestly, gold or silver is not going to fade or be damaged by a little more helpful lighting; certainly no more so than feathers and textiles.

Yes, I’m unreasonably annoyed by the lighting … but the exhibition is still worth a visit.


Calendar: February 2014 sneak peek

16 01 2014

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Hot sunrise

15 01 2014

It got to 43°C yesterday.
It got to 42°C today.
It’s forecast for 44°C tomorrow.

At least the sunrise this morning was beautiful (it was about 30°C at the time).

15th Jan 14

15th Jan 14