Monday, February 22, 2010

Gone sub-troppo

Wow, two holidays in two months. That's some kind of record for us. But that's just how things have worked out recently. In January Pam and I went troppo in tropical Darwin, and last week we dashed up to subtropical Brisbane to see friends and also to catch the Asia Pacific Triennial Art Show at the Qld Gallery of Modern Art before it closed. Having been blown away by the previous Asia Pacific art show three years ago, there was no way we were going to miss this one. And besides, Brisbane is quite green and lush right now, so there was plenty for garden-lovers to take in, too. What follows is a bit of both (and all photos are by our official family holiday snapper, my wife Pammy).

First, a garden-themed cornucopia by Iranian artist Shirana Shahbazi, that's about 15 feet high and 20 feet wide. I came across it by turning a corner, then wham! Worked for me.

Outside the art gallery, the gardening staff had made a nice artwork of an ixia hedge in bloom and some neatly trimmed buxus.

Just try to ignore the awful metal barrier at the base of this tree and just take in the astonishing way in which ancient fig trees send down aerial roots which, when they finally touch ground, then grow to become extra tree trunks in themselves. I think this is just one tree, even if it looks like a forest. It's a Moreton Bay Fig in the City Botanic Gardens in Brisbane.

This was our view from the balcony of our apartment in Spring Hill, a lovely poinciana in bloom. When old and given space, these trees spread into a wonderfully wide canopy of lacy foliage, topped with red blooms. Last year in a garden-bloggers' meme about desert island plants, I picked a poinciana as one of my three 'desert island plants'.

How's this for a segue from gardening to art? Well, it's the best I can do. It's by Zhu Weibing and it's called, sensibly enough, 'People Holding Flowers'. Full of subversive symbolism to those familiar with the history of Mao Zedong's purges in the Communist China of the 50s and 60s, it's an outwardly cheerful image which contains within a sinister message about the loss of individuality in modern China.

The choice of materials in many pieces is so important. Here, Pam and her great mate Judi spent ages admiring this exquisitely detailed work in silk embroidery by South Korean artist Kyungah Ham. (Both artists, Pam and Judi love going to galleries together. While they of course admire the art for its imagery, colour and meaning, both of them spend ages checking out the technical aspects of how each piece is actually made.) But these weren't the only nuclear mushroom clouds on show.

Indian artist Subodh Gupta's huge mushroom cloud of old brass and copper pots, pans and other utensils is a spooky thing to stand under. It rises at least 15 feet tall and softly glows through the patina of clapped out, ordinary objects.

Much more shiny is Mr Gupta's life-size, perfect, solid brass Enfield Bullet motorbike, the hard-working 'milk carrier' model.

As old and authentic as can be is the poignant installation by Chen Qiulin of a real Chinese village house, one of countless thousands destroyed by flooding as a result of the 'Three Gorges' dam project. This is protest art at its most powerful. When you read that this dam project flooded 13 cities, over a hundred towns and over a thousand villages, the callous, arrogant disruption to the traditional way of life of literally millions of people is still a source of huge protest and anger in China. Several other works at the Asia Pacific Triennial by Chinese artists included protests over this Three Gorges catastrophe.

It's amazing what you can find on eBay. Japanese artist Kohei Nawa bought an actual stuffed elk at an online auction site, then transformed it with glass beads. It was set into a room of its own lit with bright white, translucent light which reminded me of a Stanley Kubrick movie's space ship interior. Yes, Hal, there's an elk on board.

Some of the exhibits were to be touched, experienced, like these 'clouds' of white cords suspended from the ceiling (not sure of the artist's name, sorry). A favourite with the kids, of course, and Pam liked it too.

Indonesian artist Rudi Mantofani created several amazing 'unplayable' guitars as a protest against western musicians doing a benefit concert. He's pissed off with the gap between the token philanthropy of rich western – especially American – musicians and the foreign policy of the west towards the muslim world. Those who didn't read his blurb to the left of his exhibit would probably never guess what he was on about. Perhaps the perfect execution of each guitar, absolutely beautiful looking guitars, stole the limelight from his message.

This way to the North Korean section! And no, it wasn't all like this. In fact, the North Korean art included some of my favourite paintings in the show. There was a whole wall of superb linocuts and woodcuts, and another room filled with typical communist subject matter of workers in blast furnaces and factories, but painted not so much in the usual 'heroic' style of North Korea but more in the French impressionist style, where natural light and realism governed the artists' choices.

Finally, here's me discovering yet another astounding bromeliad to stand beside, while grinning stupidly. Brisbane is lovely in summer, and while it's normally very humid and hot and rainy at this time of year, we were lucky with the weather, which was a bit cooler than normal. Everything up there is growing like crazy now. They've gone through a long, harsh drought and only recently the heavens have opened, spectacularly at times. It's nice to see the place green again, though. Great town, Brisbane. I love it.

Hello, anyone still reading? Probably not, as this is a gardening blog! Oh well, that is one of the problems I have with blogging inside a category. I know I could start up an art blog, but I'd only post something once every month or so. As for books and reading I guess I'd post very frequently, to a loyal readership of seven equally strange people. And ditto music, movies, cooking, sport, history, wildlife, ecology and all my other interests.

In fact, I think I might be getting closer to the point where I've said a large part of what I want to say about gardening and maybe I should slow down this Garden Amateur thing after almost two very hectic (for me) years of posting. Not sure what I'll do at this stage. I am still enjoying blogging very much, but I am feeling just a bit restricted by sticking to gardening. My interests are a lot more diverse than just the wonderful world of gardening and plants. Do I start up a second blog or extend the scope of this one? That is the question. (And thanks for reading, if you got this far!)


Liss said...

That looks like a fun, jam-packed holiday! Mr Gupta's bike is VERY cool.

Chandramouli S said...

A fun filled holiday! I see you had great fun!
About the blog you should extend the scope of the blog and may be mention if it's a non-garden blog in the blog post title, so that people who aren't interested in non-garden post, they'd ignore and people who like reading your posts like me would find it easier. That's just my suggestion.

Melinda said...

I hope you go on posting, even if the 'scope' of the blog does extend. I know what you mean - blogging on one topic can feel restrictive and as you change, so should your blog.

(But I do enjoy reading your Gardening posts!)

Jess said...

I agree with what everyone else has said, and would just like to add that I enjoy reading your blog immensely and hope you continue to post reguarly for a long time yet!

Chookie said...

Just extend the scope. It's your blog, and if people don't like it they don't have to read it.

Miriam said...

I do hope you still keep posting as frequently! I came across your blog a few months ago and have been a fan ever since! i love reading about your garden and all the diverse plants! I am in Perth (originally from Sunshine coast, QLD)and adore gardening! I love finding out tips and learning about different plants and just generally enjoy reading your blog and the way that you write it! If your post extends past gardening, I'm sure I would love to read on and learn even more :)

Jamie said...

Thanks everyone for your kind comments and putting up with my little moment of self-doubt.

And you're right Chookie, it is my blog and I should just blab away about anything I like, which is how it will be from now on (although I have a gardening one coming up next!).

Dirty Girl Gardening said...

those tree rots are incredible! looks like so much fun..

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

Clearly you've continued on - hooray! Just because you're called Garden Amateur doesn't mean you can't have outside interests. Love your work. Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro today. :-)

Lucy said...

Thos images are amazing! Thank you...

Karen said...

That fig tree is amazing!! We went to Melbourne Zoo the other week and the boys loved playing on a huge fig tree in the gardens.