We continue to hover between laziness and lethargy as summer temperatures make Sydney balmier than expected. A couple of days ago, planning a visit to Colin and Liz Laverty, we decided to make our way from the CBD to a nearly suburb via the Sydney Olympic Stadium. If you know your Sydney geography, you’ll understand that that was not the most direct route, but it was one that afforded a couple of hours on a river ferry. Even a position in the prow of the boat couldn’t make the sun’s warmth disappear completely: this has been a welcome change from both the scorching summer back home and the occasional brush with freezing temperatures we felt farther south on this trip.
We had a brief but most enjoyable visit with Colin and Liz on Friday afternoon before heading down to Potts Point for dinner and a visit to the Potts Point Bookshop, where I picked up a copy of Sarah Maddison’s Beyond White Guilt. When Penny heard this, she decided that I had to read Maddison’s Black Politics first, so I’m now stuck into that, thanks to Penny’s generosity.
On Saturday we headed out gallery hopping, starting off at 2 Danks Street, where we saw impressive works by Harry Tjutjuna at Gabriella Roy’s Aboriginal and Pacific Art Gallery. Gabriella herself looks as lively and tenacious as ever; it’s good to see Sydney institutions thriving. We pottered about downstairs for a while and then headed up to say hello to Christopher Hodges at Utopia Gallery, and we were treated to a backroom show of some impressive recent works from Papunya Tula. Especially nice work from Ray James, who has broken out of the standard visual frame he’s enclosed himself in for many years; he’s even coming up with subtle variations on his palette. Likewise, Joseph Jurra’s compositions are becoming more colorful in a way that doesn’t compromise the subtlety of his drawing. There was lovely work by Nyilyari and by Hilary Tjapangati, and just to impress us, Christopher brought out two very early paintings by Emily Kngwarreye that made us appreciate her genius the way that only a direct encounter with the marks on canvas can do. Afterwards, we rode down to Lower Paddington to visit Stills Gallery and meet Bronwyn and Kate in person for the first time.
The day ended up at the Belvoir St Theatre for a production of Windmill Baby by David Milroy. The play is having its Sydney debut six years after first being mounted by Yirra Yaakin in Perth. It’s a one –woman show, and Roxanne McDonald is astonishing as Maymay Star, who returns after fifty years to the station where she lived as a young girl, married, and matured through sorrow and struggle. McDonald’s presence is extraordinary. It’s a tiny theatre, with five rows of tiered benches wrapped around the set. McDonald entered through the same aisle that all the audience had come through and silenced the entire house just by standing at the edge of the set and looking left to right. It was an amazing moment of theatre, before the play had even begun. Once she got into the story, she kept everyone enraptured till the final moments.
Sunday was our last day in Sydney and we took it easy again: another stroll through the AGNSW to start the day off. The ambience in the Yiribana Gallery is much improved since our last visit three years ago, but I do wish there was occasionally a place to sit and contemplate the work. Standing through Genevieve Grieves video left my back sore, and I would have enjoyed making the intended comparisons across three large Papunya Tula canvases (black and white monsters by Ningura Napurrula, Ronnie Tjampitjinpa and George Ward Tjungurrayi) much more if I could have relaxed while doing so. And if anyone from the gallery is reading, please check the labels on the barks on the main floor. On the left hand side there are two large bark, one showing the Djangka’wu Sisters and the other the Wagilag Sisters: but the labels are reversed.
We ended the day by seeing the movie of Red Dog and dining in Glebe. Red Dog is great: totally new to me, and as sentimental as it is Australian. A wonderful thing to see while we were here. I was proud of myself for walking past Gleebooks twice without entering, but I’ve kind of lost the good karma in the bookshops of Alice Springs. But more about that later.