I have just returned from a nearly four week trip overseas to Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Munich and Abu Dhabi. Travelling by train between Berlin...Prague...Budapest and Munich to take in the country-side.
I have not been overseas for nearly ten years and this opportunity provided me with a chance to suss out some possibilities for my art practice, such as residencies, exhibition, collaboration and networking.
I have long held a desire to undertake a residency, but due to commitments to children, this has not been something I could pursue...until this year when my youngest child finishes school. Yay! So...from the end of the year I am open to all sorts of new possibilities!
As a result of the trip my mind is full of ideas, not only for such things as residencies, but also for new paintings. In Berlin I visited a number of small commercial galleries, plus some large institutional ones. Old East Berlin, in areas such as Mitte, is abuzz with new galleries, coffee shops, restaurants and interesting boutique outlets.
I attended the opening of an exhibition of photographs by Australian artist Rex Dupain at the very hip space opened by enterprising Australian art dealer Michael Reid . The gallery is in Mitte, previously part of Easter Berlin. I also visited various other galleries including Gallery Eigan + Art and CWC [Camera Work Gallery]. The latter had a stunning exhibition Before They Pass Away of British photographer Jimmy Nelson's work. Information about this exhibition can be found on CWC's site and at Youtube.
The two photographs above are of me standing next to preserved parts of the Berlin Wall called East Side Gallery. Artists from all over the world have painted sections of this 1.3 km section of the Wall.
The photograph above is me standing with Joseph Beuys's Unschlitt...20 tons of tallow fat exhibited along with other of his works at the large contemporary gallery called The Hamburger Bahnhof...yes an old railway station. You can read more about Unschlitt HERE The gallery was fascinating, with artwork by many contemporary artists, some I knew and many I did not.
Another major institutional gallery highlight was seeing Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's exhibition Evidence at the Martin Gropius Bau. This large and extraordinary exhibition comprising installation, video, sculpture and more was thought provoking. I would have loved to have been able to return to see it again...there was a lot to take in.
I also visited a young Australian/Brisbane artist Karla Marchesi who has a studio in Berlin. It was wonderful to see a Berlin artist's studio...up five floors, in an old building in a suburban part of Berlin that would have been in the walled-off East section. Karla was busy working towards an exhibition in Singapore, plus she had just sent paintings to Brisbane for inclusion in an upcoming exhibition David Malouf And Friends at the Museum of Brisbane [MOB].
I loved Prague! Here's me rubbing the lucky sculpture of St John Of Nepomuk on Carles Bridge. Apparently this brings good luck and return visits to Prague. So, I was keen to line up for my turn to rub!
Prague is a truly beautiful city...like a fairytale. One of many highlights was visiting the Klementinum and its Astronomical Tower and old library. With my interest in cosmology, a visit to a place where scientists from centuries ago studied the Universe, was particularly amazing. The photo below is me after I have climbed to the top of the Astronomical Tower to then be rewarded with terrific views across Prague.
As a result of my visit to Prague I am very keen to pursue a residency in the Czech Republic. I have a young Czech friend, who I hosted in Brisbane when she studied English a few years ago. She suggested then that I should go to the Czech Republic for a residency...and she was right!
And one more Prague photograph. This time I have the city behind me after I have climbed to see the Castle area. I am on my way down. As you can see the blossoms were out!
Another magical city! I was not sure what to expect in Budapest, but it was fantastic. The sense of a magnificent history permeated every corner. Like Prague the old buildings resonated with elegance and a quiet majesty, despite ghostly remnant reminders of the communist presence during the Cold War.
I was busy in Budapest with visits to the castle area, a walking tour through the city, bathing at one of the old thermal baths, visiting a few private art galleries, night time river cruise along the Danube and more. The galleries I visited were in old buildings accessed via intercom, into a courtyarded area, up a few flights of stairs and into charming apartments made into very contemporary spaces.
The photograph below is of me gazing over Budapest from the castle area on the Buda side of the Danube.
The photo below is of a public artwork/sculpture I found whilst wandering through the streets of Budapest. It is a fountain of sorts! The water acts as a page of a book being turned. You can find this intriguing piece at Henszlemann Imre Utca...but I cannot find the artist's name anywhere...and rest assured if I could I certainly would acknowledge him/her. It is one of the best public art pieces I have seen. [If anyone can tell me the name of the artist, please let me know!]
I had been to Munich for a day in 1986 and had always wanted to return to this elegant and beautiful city. I met up with Dr. Charles Savage a great mentor, teacher and communicator. I've known Charles for a few years and admire his pursuit of community and spiritual depth. I was thrilled a year or so ago to be invited by him to conduct a presentation via Skype to MBA students at the Munich Technical University.
So, only a few days in Munich and they were packed, even though it was over Easter. I visited the Pinakothek de Moderne [Gallery] and saw some more Beuys works, plus earlier masters-of-modernity such as Picasso, Braque, Klee, Miro and more. A exhibition Drawing by British artist David Shrigley was particularly delightful.
I was also taken by the paintings of controversial German artist George Bazelitz's. One gallery space exhibited a number of his works. Baselitz is the artist who famously [or infamously] recently announced that women cannot paint...here's link to an article by Nicholas Wroe in The Guardian that will introduce you to Baselitz, if you have not already heard of him.
As well as the art...there are the cakes in Munich too...see the photo below. I discovered this cake shop on my way to see the Nymphenburg Palace...a lovely palace too [see the photo belwo the cake one]
And, after the Spring lushness and colour of Europe I landed in Abu Dhabi, a place I had wanted to return to since 2005 when I held a solo exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. The contrasting landscape really hit me. Sand, dust, massive V8 cars everywhere, architecture gone wild and people in their flowing robes, women in black and men in white.
I had two days of meetings with various people from different organisations. I am keen to see if I can return to the UAE for a residency and/or exhibition plus to give presentations and workshops.
My meetings went really well, with positive responses from everyone.
And, now I have to work out and strategise what I want to do! I only got home yesterday and I have already sent emails off, looked up grant and residency applications and so on. My thoughts are forming into a 12 to 18 month long project...shall keep you posted!
It was a wonderful and stimulating trip, which paves the way for the next period of my art practice!