Sunday, June 22, 2014


I was 5 minutes late (6.20am!) – for my latest appointment with fellow humans in my continuing #humanbrochure adventures. A trip to 'Skyscape' an art installation at the National Gallery of Australia - not (as it sounds) a trip to watch a 70's sci-fi movie starring Dennis Quaid.

A frantic jog/run from the bus stop across the Parliamentary Triangle.
I crossed the damp expansive lawns and saw Old Parliament House bathed in the dark and wondered what on earth I was doing here at this time in the morning...

Breathlessly I reached the main entrance of the National Gallery (our agreed meeting spot) and found nobody there.

In deciding to come here I’d given up the chance of watching the second half of the England v Uruguay game on the tele.

In World Cups gone by this would have been sacrilege, but I’d become increasing disenfranchised with the England team. (Wolves recent promotion from League 1 meaning much more to me), so this morning I’d given art a go...over sport. The fact that Saurez had headed Uruguay into a 1-0 lead just before half time made leaving the warm solace of our house easier too.
Fortunately it only took a couple of minutes to find the group. I was ushered down into a grassy pyramid surrounded by an infinity pool and into the Skyspace where I found a group of 15 of us humans sat bathed in the half light of the dawn.

It was an AMAZING place, and somewhere I had no idea existed in Canberra until now.

That said I must admit I wasn’t convinced by Skyspace at first.

Above us a circle of the sky (probably 6 feet in diameter) revealed the sky. Our guide explained the significance of the place – the domed floor – the ‘moonstone’ an attractive piece of marble and the heated seats (very welcome at this time in the morning).
The 'piece' was designed by American James Turrel - he's got works like this across the world with this one being one of the largest and most 'complex' - it was funded by the money made from the National Art Gallery's extremely succesful 'Masterpieces of Paris' exhibition.

No, this isn't a beginners guide to Powerpoint, but the sky in skyscape

We sat and watched the sky, leaning backwards against the cold wall.

I couldn’t help thinking that man can’t really enhance nature. Would the view of the sky have been better from the top of Black Mountain – I’d have seen more of the stars that way rather than having my view restricted by tons of stone and plaster (albeit a FABULOUS plastering job). 

A cloud drifted by, followed by hushed excitement from us onlookers. A solitary star gradually disappearing as the light increased.
The walls of the sky space changed colours – a rainbow of calming hues, pinks, yellows. Initially I actually found it distracting rather than relaxing. A couple of times the colours ‘jumped’ and left me almost disorientated – is it light or dark in here?

Eventually though I got into the rhythm of the piece. We stayed observing the sky for 20 minutes or more the colour tones of the wall and sky rising and falling. It would have been easy to look at it for 10 seconds and dismiss it as frivolous, but actually there WAS something about it - I just had to give it time. Perhaps England's struggles in Brazil were still too heavily in my mind to start with!

As the sun rose and the black circle gradually turned to blue it became apparent that we had witnessed something – the birth of a new day through an art work.

Afterwards we were treated to a delicious breakfast of croissants, crepes and bircher museli (with dark chocolate) – all beautifully packaged in a cute cardboard box with wooden cutlery (of course). The lovely people at the National Gallery of Australia also treated me to a welcome hot chocolate.
I guess what makes modern art intriguing is the inability to pigeon hole it. I worry sometimes that it’s easy to get sucked into the 'Emperor’s new clothes' of it all and pretend you can see a depth in something that doesn’t really exist.  People get too scared to say something is crap when it clearly is.

Let’s face it both Tracey Emin’s bed and Hirst’s shark in formaldehyde are a load of rubbish really aren’t they? That said I saw an upturned orange Toyota at Belconnen Art Centre last week and thought it was the best piece of art I’d seen since the Birth of Venus in Florence – so what do I know!
In the case of Skyscape though it is worth the journey. The combination of colours, the peace and tranquillity of the water and the beauty of the birth of a day all unite to make it a really calming and lifting experience.

Is watching the sun rise through the top of a dome as the walls change colour as good as watching the sun rise over the Brindabella Mountains and illuminating a dew drop captured in a spider’s web? I’m not sure – perhaps both of them have their place.

If you want to know more about Skyspace click here

(delicious) Breakfast in a box

hearing more about the exhibit

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