Angela Brennan – Forms of Life @ Ian Potter Museum of Art

5 Sept 25 Feb 2018

Angela Brennan has mounted an exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art that plays with ancient artifacts discovered by Melbourne University Archaeological expeditions. The pottery is colourful and varied and is inspired by a set of pots that are also displayed in the gallery. She has added some dresses inspired by the same ancient cultures. The gallery web page is below.


Escape from Pompei @ Australian National Maritime Museum

Historical blockbusters are things I stand in awe of. I love the curation. I love the presence of ancient objects. I love the maps, the quotes, the carvings and the historical backgrounds of materials I have a vague familiarity with.

The big Pompei exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum was a rich education for me. I have taught this topic to year 7 but this exhibition created a deep new understanding from the brief eight minute recreation of the 24 hours that destroyed Pompei. The curators have woven a story of the historical context, the aftermath and the significance. The details, the objects and layout tell a fascinating story and I was enriched by the visit.

See some of the pics below.

History of the world in 100 Objects @ National Museum of Australia

I finally got to see these objects in a room close enough to touch them. I heard these wonderful 10 minute podcasts off the BBC website over a decade age. There were pictures and text on the website and the choices and range of the objects were extraordinary.

I loved it then and to have them bring 100 objects of such historical significance all the way to Canberra filled me with a sense of awe.

The objects cover rock axes through to modern technology. The curators have drawn items from every continent, lots of different historical epochs and have woven in some remarkable historical anomalies. The striking thing about the exhibition for me is how creative humans are across the ages. Lots of the functional items are turned into items of striking beauty with artistic decoration and craftsmanship.

I will put some pics but say no more as it is best to see this one.

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Celestial Empire – Life in China 1644-1911 @ National Library of Australia

Occasionally I make a point of going to the first day of an exhibition. I have been looking forward to this one since I first heard about its coming maybe six months ago. A comprehensive exhibition on the Quing Dynasty from 1644- 1911 drawn almost exclusively from the resources of the National Library of China would be hard to make a mess of.

Walking into the crowded space today immediately confirmed my expectations that this would be exhilarating. The first object was a huge blue and white map on fabric that must have been 12 sq mtr. Around the corner there was an abundance of hand drawn maps and story books, maps, building plans, rich, beautifully coloured illustrations and massive paintings of 3D map like paintings on silk scrolls.

In the centre of the gallery there is one of those fun glass topped touch screen map devices. I spent 20 minutes on it. There were translations of documents, information flags on map locations, historical photo collections and exquisite painting reproductions linked to elements of the main map. I guess I got less than half way round and will go back for more.

I plan to go back for several more visits. I was almost shocked that it was free. The quality of the objects exhibited and the helpful amount of detail in the text was enjoyable. As there is a photograph ban in the gallery I have included the webpage link and a picture of a horse drawn carriage from the foyer of the Library.

It was a privilege to view this material and chatting with several Chinese visitors I got some insight into some of the untranslated text. Thanks NLA staff – it was awesome.

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Revealing the Rothschild Prayer Book @ National Library of Australia

prayer book

Canberra being such a recent arrival on the planet and the fact that I have lived in this young town for most of my life builds a sense of awe in the presence of old stuff. The current exhibition at the National Library of Australia centres on manuscripts that are half a millennium old.

Revealing the Rothschild Prayer Book c. 1505-1510 from the Kerry Stokes Collection is an exhibition centring on a remarkable book with a fascinating provenance. The exhibition has some historically interesting accompanying text and other documents around the walls and in cases. The heart of the exhibition is a large flat screen on which in high definition page after page of the book are projected in large format. It was a marvelous experience to see such gorgeous creative beauty that had been generated over 500 years ago.
A no picture taking rule applies in the gallery at the National Library so I have no shots but there is a good web page for this at the link below

Radicals, Slayers and Villains @ Ballarat Art Gallery

Dr John Ord Poynton has blessed generations through his donations of art.The exhibition Radicals, Slayers and Villains at the Ballarat Art Gallery is curated from a collection he donated to the Baillieu Library at the University of Melbourne. The thing I love about an exhibition like this is the age of the material and the insight it gives me into the methods, styles and ideas of say the 1500s. Below there are three pics that are taken from the three sections of the show. All were produced in the 1500s. I still am in awe when I stand in front of an art work in great shape that is 500 years old. I have also included some pics of some of the informative wall text that is with the exhibition.
A Radical is embodied in
Heinrich Aldergrever Martin Luther 1540
A Slayer is embodied in
Giovanni Battista Scultori – David Cutting the head off Goliath 1540
A villain is embodied in
Albrecht Durer – A Coat of arms with a skull 1503



EIKON: Icons of the Orthodox Christian World @ Ballarat Art Gallery

The Christian form I am involved in is not really into art, creativity and religious representation – plain walls no decoration of anything. The exhibition at the Ballarat Art Gallery is an exhilarating experience for me. It consists of religious objects of worship drawn from Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East.
Each of the objects has a religious purpose, a religious context and tells a deeply religious story. Some of the pictures are of the great characters and stories of the Christian and Hebrew scriptures. Other pictures weave the stories of the great characters and heroes of the Eastern Orthodox Church. There is a whole room devoted to mother and child portrayals.
These icons are majorly made of egg tempura paint on wood. The representations are fairly flat and have little depth of field. They are created to aid people’s devotion. They are at the heart of controversies between several branches of the Christian movement during the middle ages.
The exhibition is beautifully laid out on red walls with dim lighting and a fabulous set of textual boxes explaining the history and background of each icon. The whole set is supplied by a single Sydney collector and is accompanied by a remarkable hardback book that includes lots of the icons and plenty of background information.
Here are a few pics to give a sense of the set.











Pacifica Gods; Easter Island, myths and popular culture @ Casula Powerhouse

This is a wonderful rich expression of a collector. I know nothing about the collector but he has brought together a celebration of Pacific paraphernalia, reflecting a broader cultural absorption in the myths and heritage of this Ocean islander world.
The walls have thirty or so densely written and illustrated information panels. The long narrow gallery space has lots of glass cases full of wonderful cultural arifacts. There were lots of cups and caps and other memorablia. There are lots of books, records, comics, games and every conceivable salable object with Pacific Easter Island theme. The quality and range of the collection was thorough and fascinating.
Below are a couple of picturesIMAG9206









Pacifica Gods Ancestors, Spirits and Demigods @ Casula Powerhouse

As part of the Pacific festival at the Casula Powerhouse recently there was a set of exhibitions on the spiritual beliefs, practices and artifacts of the region. One specifically focussed on spirits and ancestors. The artifacts and images were creatively wrought and obviously were a product of a respectful people. See some educational material and pics below.




Aztecs @ Melbourne Museum

Having been raised on European History as if that was all that was happening on earth, I love every time I encounter other civilisations. Teaching Ancient Civilisations and Medieval History in year seven and eight at present I am excited by an exhibition like this. There is a great insight into a civilisation through a set of artifacts like the large collection on display in the Aztec Exhibition at Melbourne Museum for me.
The Aztecs were prominent in Mexico from 1200-1500. Their civilisation was a rich, layered, complex culture. I found their engagement with death particularly interesting. A couple of high points of the exhibition for me were the three three dimensional models of both their agricultural systems and their markets. (Pics below) and the great video clips from various experts giving background. We only had two hours and I could have stayed longer as it is such a rich and multi method telling of the story.