Thursday, November 25, 2004

But wait, there's much more!

So, I've been to Perth and back. And it was grand. But let me tell you a bit more about my trip to England, first. Just pretend you're reading this a few weeks ago.

Naturally, I had to visit the mammoth British Museum. After some contemplation I decided to stick to more recent periods. Because it was school holidays, there were hordes of kids swarming over the Egyptian and other ancient exhibits. I saw the 18th century Enlightenment exhibition in the King's Library, which was presented in lovely mahogany and glass cabinets.

I also went to the Prints and Drawings section to see the Alexander Walker Bequest. Alexander Walker was a well known film critic for London's Evening Standard. Walker was also an avid collector of modern art, especially prints and drawings post-1960. There were also some earlier artists represented including Picasso and Matisse. The exhibition booklet includes several photos of Walker's tidy flat with the walls completely covered with art - he lived with it all around him, even filling all the walls of the bathroom.

A lot of different printing techniques were represented. The one that caught my attention was 'Marta/Fingerprint' by Chuck Close, a portrait by fingerprint etching. The picture was formed of inked thumb prints on translucent sheet of plastic, which is then photographically transferred. Grown up fingerpainting. I was also fascinated by Philip Guston's hooded, creepy 'Little Bastards', with which he shocked the art world in his switch from abstract to figurative painting. He said the reaction was 'as though I had left the church'.

I also took a brief look at an exhibition of Japanese swords, and was amused but not surprised to see that the people in there were almost all men. I do have some appreciation for the craftsmanship and beauty of these swords, but unfortunately I don't know enough about the subject to really have appreciated the display. But, there were an awful lot of them.

I also paid a visit to the Natural History Museum. I wasn't actually planning to go in, I was just walking past and was drawn into the grounds by the building itself. Up high on the corners where you might see gargoyles on some buildings, there were animal statues instead. I wanted a closer look - and some pictures - but my ancient camera doesn't have a zoom lens (or any other features for that matter). So I actually only went inside in the hope of finding a postcard with a closeup of the building. There were several shops inside, which took a lot of wandering to find, and in the end, no such postcard. I did wander through quite a few of the exhibits, though the place is massive and I only saw a small percentage. A lot of the stuffed animals look a bit musty and old, probably because they are. It’s all part of the charm. The fish were fascinating, especially the truly weird ones found very deep in the ocean. I sucked up the courage to walk through the birds exhibit – I did this in Adelaide a couple of years ago too – they are kind of interesting in a scary, beaks and feathers kind of way. The scariest was an ostrich that was in a bundle on the floor, waiting to be wired up into position. I also went into a truly huge room full of minerals: fossils and gemstones, including some jewellery and other items. And of course I couldn't miss the dinosaur skeletons and giant fossils.

Hands down, the tackiest thing I saw in London was the Diana and Dodi memorial in the Egyptian hall in Harrods. The unwashed wine glass from their hotel room that fateful night – a symbol of true love?

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