Wednesday, January 16, 2008
In which the fish has a brief moment in the bush
By way of exploring the materiality of objects, of paintings,
I was able to be led into the innards of the National Gallery Victoria, down to the conservation department.
I sat, among a small group, in a circle, and listened to the head of the department explained concepts regarding patina, aging, removal and other such things.
He talked about Damar varnish, something I love to make: chunks of resin dissolved , suspended in muslin, into pure gum turpentine. The scent is wonderful but harming to the nose.
I stared at the painting on the easel, one of my favourite painters, who has become so quite recently. Von Guerard, right there on the easel. Naked, unframed. The conservator continued about ways to remove erroneously applied filler.
As i stared, the room seemed to silence itself beneath noises of the valley, the moist breath rising from beneath eucalypts , cleanly rotting gumleaves and the expanding green of ferns. Currawongs called, a whipbird was almost unheard, a crack of sticks distantly.
Small tang of smoke: forgotten things, making music.
It all radiated out into the room, louder and louder.
I elbowed my new friend, hey, I said
can you hear the soundtrack of that, coming out?
and nodded at the painting. She raised an eyebrow, and gave me a look.
I went back to my listening and sniffing until it was time to leave.
There was soil, and birds, and the wind in the bushy heads of trees which haven't known fourty four degrees to shrivel their heads into brown burnt bacon.
Time to go, says our host
We walk the corridors. Return to the clatter of the gallery.
It was a symphony, she said, that noise. An orchestra.
The painting had sung her a different song.
It was sunny outside on the street. Tram bells rang.