Posted by: jkirkby8712 | November 16, 2011

Sunday, 13th November 2011 – various matters followed by a visit to Ballarat Art Gallery

The news late yesterday, and for the next couple of days would swing back to the road toll, after an horrific smash in the western part of the state around lunchtime yesterday  – a car containing five young people on their way to the local horse race meeting  at nearby Dunkeld, collided with a truck at a country intersection – the consequences immediately left four of a car occupants  killed plus the truck driver whose vehicle burst into flames.  The 5th car passenger, one of  twin sisters who were in the car, died today] so there were no survivors to explain what went wrong.  One dreads to think what greeted the first passer-bys on the scene [who happened to be a police car on patrol]……………as one report said ‘Police working at the scene are finding it very difficult to describe the horror before their eyes’, and looking at photos of the condition what was left of the car was in, the affect of such a smash on the human body is too painful to try and imagine. Meanwhile, the long-term affect  on the communities from which they came [the young people from Warrnambool, and the tuck driver from Terang] is likely to also have  ongoing consequences. I was walking through part of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens this morning, and passed a group of women who were talking about the accident, and the comment made that all the talk is about the five young people, and their families and friends  –  but we shouldn’t forget that the truck driver also would have had family, etc, similarly affected.

It has already being a tragic month in November on our roads, with the Christmas/New Year period still ahead of us., and yesterday’s smash is the second multiple victims accident in a few days.  People are calling for something to be done, but how do you stop a moment’s lack of concentration, or a split second decision to take a risk  –  all of these ‘so-called’ accidents are probably all avoidable if  all parties involved were always trying to do the right thing on our roads.  But we will never get everyone doing that, and I imagine that situation has been unchanged for 100 years.   My heart goes out to all involved in yesterday’s tragedy.  Ironically, Road Trauma Support Services Victoria [RTSSV] is holding it’s 11th ‘Time for Remembering’ service next Sunday at 12pm at Melbourne’s Parliament House. This is an annual event which provides a space for victims of road trauma, including family members, those injured and witnesses of a crash to reflect on those lost and commemorate their lives – as well as pay tribute to the organisations that work towards preventing road trauma. A ‘Time for Remembering’ is a state-wide multi-faith service, which is open to the public, and as one of the organisers explained it “This event is a time for people to be supported and comforted in their loss. A time for hearing some personal stories, for prayer, silence, gentle singing and music in the company of others affected by roads trauma”.   Perhaps I should go along one year – even though it is now 43 years since road trauma directed affected my family! The RTSSV provides counselling and education on road trauma.

We must turn to a brighter note of discussion! At 2am this morning, I finished reading my third Di Morrissey novel in a week. Not so much that I couldn’t put the book down, just simply couldn’t sleep at that time, so I put some use to my waking moments!  This one –  ‘Barra Creek’, published in 2003 – a story set in various places, including a New Zealand sheep farm, the east coast of Australia, and principally, in the wild gulf country of northwestern Queensland on a 1960s cattle station. It was as usual, a terrific read, and obviously, the kind of reading I have been in the mood for over the past week or so. Basically, the storyline has us in 1963, and Sally Mitchell, the well-bred daughter of a wealthy New Zealand sheep farmer, is on her way to England with her friend Pru. When the young women stop over in Sydney their plans go awry. Sally impulsively takes a job as a governess at Barra Creek, and when the mail plane that flew her there takes off, she finds herself left in a different world. Here Sally’s life changes for ever. The challenges of coping with her three young charges, wild stockmen, the l,ocal Indigenous populations & their customs, the heat and the Wet, brumby musters and cattle rushes all pale beside a great passion, a great loss and a gruesome death. As always with Di’s books, the story is fast moving, and this one, a writer’s study of the human heart and all it’s intricacies, well worth getting hold of, if any of my readers are looking for a story of passion, intrigue, and a relatively easy read!

Anyway, I managed around 3 hours sleep before getting up, and eventually making my way across to the radio station for my Sunday Classics program. Amongst much else, today’s featured composer was Beethoven. Over the past 12 months or so, I have been gradually moving through the nine symphonies that Beethoven composed – this morning, we were up to No. 8. Interestingly, a couple of years ago, when ABC Classic FM ran a competition to select their listeners’ Top 100 Symphonies, Beethoven’s 8th came in about 37th I think with at least five of his others ahead of it. Personally, I would have placed the 8th up near the top with what is probably his best known piece of music ‘outside’ of the purely classical circle music fans, the 5th Symphony Be that as it may, I certainly enjoyed this morning’s performance – by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and I would imagine that most of my regular listeners did also.

At 9am, a quick drive across to our local Bunnings Store, where the  station was holding a fund raising ‘sausage sizzle’ outside the store – I delivered a few items as requested, but was unable to remain to provide assistance, with a trip to Ballarat planned.  This was in fact my first drive outside of Sunbury in the ‘new’ car, and while the morning promised damp conditions, and remained cloudy throughout, the rain stayed away, and it was quite a pleasant trip down to my old town.  Arrived late morning, bit of a drive, and a walk around the main CBD area, break for an iced coffee, and then, I headed for the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery in Lydiard Street.  Now this building is one of my favourite locations in Ballarat, and yet as I think back to early primary school days, when I spent quite a bit of time in this particular block of the city streets [as a paper delivery boy, etc], I don’t recall spending much time, if any, at the Art Gallery, and in fact not even sure that I was really aware of the place. I don’t think ‘art’ as such was a major focus in our household!

Anyway, my visit today had a specific purpose –  on display at present was an exhibition of ‘Australian Modern Masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The Ballarat Gallery traditionally has a magnificent collection of Australian art works, but for a few weeks these were complimented by the work of artists  of modern Australian art over the period 1910 to 1970. These forty works, on loan from the NSW Gallery,  demonstrated the pivotal role that  these artists played in capturing aspects of the lives and moments of Australians during that period. Mind you, I didn’t find all of the paintings and/or artists as inspiring as galleries and experts in that field sometimes did, but nevertheless, it was rather fascinating to see original works by artists such as Margaret Olley, Grace Cossington-Smith, Margaret Preston, William Dobell [which included his Archibald winning portrait of Margaret Olley, Russell Drysdale, Donald Friend, Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, Jeffrey Smart, John Brack, Fred Williams, and John Olsen, to name a few.

The selection of works was specifically chosen to enable visitors to the exhibition to explore the work of certain artists in depth, while presenting overall a survey of what was happening during what was a critical period of Australian art history. Most of the artists displayed had died over the past 25 years, only a few survived. An interesting comment I noted was that ‘By the 1920s the artistic descendants of the Australian impressionists had degenerated into a mawkish ‘sheep, cow, gum tree and swagmen’ school, only too willing to ‘sell’ an image of the nation as a rural paradise, when in fact Australia had become one of the most urbanised countries in the world’ [Gordon Morrison, Director, Art Gallery of Ballarat]. Well, this exhibition covered the full gambit of the nation during the period –  metropolitan urban scenes, the domestic environment, ventures out into the desert and more remote areas, eg, Drysdale’s ‘Walls of China’, while Lloyd Rees’ serene views of suburban Sydney and it’s hinterlands present a more benign, and perhaps comforting and settled image of the countryside But some of our artists didn’t restrict themselves to just Australian scenes –  people like Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan, for eg, attempted something radical [for Australian painters] – the depiction of epic narrative scenes from Classical, Biblical and Australian historical sources, Boyd in particular was fascinated with stories from the Bible, such as ‘The Golden Calf’ which probably needs little explanation for those familiar with the early chapters of the Old Testament. And while Nolan also explored Biblical and Classical themes, he was best represented in this exhibition by two works from a series inspired by the epic but doomed expedition of the explorers Burke and Wills across the Australian continent in 1861. This series followed on from similar sets of works referencing Ned Kelly and the Eureka Rebellion, as Gordon Morrison described it. I have to say that a couple of the artists, whose works didn’t always impress me personally were perhaps the more psychological images, depicted by artists such as Jeffrey Smart and John Brack where their depictions of ‘human figures wrapped in their own thoughts’, or what I call rather depressing views of mundane urban scenes, such as ‘Truck and Trailer Approaching A City’. Nor was I particularly a fan of a more contemporary painter, named Brett Whiteley whose works I generally found depressingly aggressive and moody – perhaps that frame of mind didn’t help the man himself in his personal life, which led to suicide eventually.

Anyway, that was my latest little visit to the Ballarat Art Gallery. Unfortunately, I can never remain at a Gallery of that nature as long as I would like to –  find the walking around ‘looking’ at objects etc, wearies my feet quite quickly –  at one stage today, I was attracted by the sound of some beautiful piano playing, and following the music, I came to a part of the normal gallery display, which had been set up as a form of concert venue [Ballarat Art Gallery regularly hold music concerts, etc], and in preparation for a concert later that afternoon, a small group of young people [primary school aged children] were undergoing rehearsals for the concert they were going to perform in later on. It was an event I gathered, put on by the local piano ‘school’, and while these children were not very old, it was lovely to listen, for about the 25 minutes that I remained there [resting my feet], to their piano playing abilities. Obviously, all were very talented already, and perhaps the rehearsals were more as an attempt to aid them in the other aspects of their performance, which were not always so accomplished – introducing the music they were going to play, bowing to the audience, etc.  An interesting little break to my artistic viewing!

I left the Art Gallery early afternoon, had a very light lunch, before driving out to Enfield [about 20 minutes out of Ballarat] where my sister, Jean, and husband Ross live, although I did go for a brief drive around my beloved Lake Wendouree beforehand –  lovely to see the Lake so full again of water, when just a couple of years ago, people were lighting fires in the middle of the lake which was completely dry following ten years of drought. I would return here next morning.

I would spend the rest of the afternoon, and evening with Jean and Ross, and their youngest son, Alwyn, the only one of their three children living at home now, and currently studying for his Year 11 exams at the Ballarat Grammar School – where in fact Ross works as a lecturer/tutor of some degree. He also spends most his weekends, as he was today, as a motor bike licensing instructor [loves his bikes, does Ross].  So for me, that was a pleasant relaxing change – just simply sitting around chatting, watching the TV, etc, etc. In fact, such limited activity left your writer feeling rather weary by the end of the night, not been used to being so inactive for so many hours on end.  However, I’m sure it did me more good than harm, and gave the opportunity to spend time with one of my siblings, something that doesn’t happen very often these days, though perhaps with Jean now the only sibling living in Victoria, we really should get together more regularly. Meanwhile, Jean’s oldest son [Vincent] was living in Ballarat itself, with his sister Rosemary & her boyfriend. That didn’t mean however that the property at Enfield was now basically deserted – Ross & Jean have a vast range of friends, relatives [on his side], CFA contacts etc, and I don’t think I have ever been here, when somebody didn’t visit for one reason or another.  A very sociable couple, a little different perhaps, to the personality of her eldest brother! There are no dogs on the property any more – but plenty of birdlife, of the natural variety, plus a large collection in the bird aviary which Jean & Ross inherited from Colin, when he moved up to Queensland last year, and a clutch of eight hens plus a rooster  [which I was to discover makes it’s presence felt at around 4am each morning!].  Mustn’t forget the resident cats – think there are currently three of them on the property, one of which is a sister to one of Susie’s cats in Sunbury [and daughter to the mother of course, also still with us].

Tonight’s news had a story of a sad happening over in South Africa early this morning, our time –  and I took particular notice as a regular listener through most of my life to ABC radio cricket broadcasts. It was a report that former English county cricket captain and respected commentator and journalist, Peter Roebuck had died at the age of 55. He died at his hotel in Newlands, Cape Town, where he was covering the current Test series between Australia and South Africa, and would have been a part of the Test panel for the ABC, in that match which was shortened by two days because of Australia’s 2nd innings collapse. Roebuck had the day off on Saturday, and later reports indicated that his death was treated as a suicide. Tragic, as it seems were the circumstances leading up to this respected journalist taking the action he did.  Apparently he was spoken to by police in his room shortly beforehand, and called one of his fellow ABC cricket commentators to his room at that time. A pity his friend wasn’t able to stay a little longer with Roebuck, because shortly afterwards [in an apparent brain snap] he jumped from the hotel window. Later reports indicated that Roebuck was being questioned about a claim sex attack he committed against a South African man, and he was shortly to be arrested. Speaking later, a spokesperson for the ABC’s Grandstand team described Roebuck as “an integral part of the Grandstand Commentary team apart from being a magnificent print journalist. For us he could describe a game of cricket in such a way that even if you didn’t like the game, you liked the way that he went about his business”. Sadly it seems, that ability didn’t quite apply to his personal life./ The Sydney Morning Herald described him as ‘the bard of summer for cricket-loving Australians’.  A rather sobering story to end a rather full day with.



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