ACT News


Turbines at dawn for Turner

This column has been engaging in shameful, plagiarising imitation of ABC Radio National's Breakfast program which has asked its listeners to nominate Australian subjects they think J. M. W. Turner would be eager to paint if he could be with us today. Breakfast is giving the winners of its competition jaunts to the Turner From The Tate extravaganza at the National Gallery of Australia.

We have been asking readers what Canberra and regional subjects the artist would find irresistible.

The best suggestion by a reader so far (other than this columnist's certainty that the master of the interplay of light with smoke and haze would leap to paint the burnouts at Summernats) is that Turner would fall in love with the 21st century's wind turbines and would scurry out to Lake George to capture them in the lurid light of dawn. Yes, one can tell that The Canberra Times photographer Stuart Walmsley was subconsciously influenced by Turner when he, Walmsley, took this Turneresque photograph in 2012.

Meanwhile, Glenys Bishop a volunteer guide at the Australian National Botanic Gardens says: ''Regarding your question about Canberra scenes for Turner to paint, at 11am every Saturday morning [until the end of August] the volunteer guides are leading free 'Turned On' walks looking at the colour, light and atmosphere of nature in the gardens. The walks use the themes featured in the Turner exhibition to provide a context for viewing the gardens.

''For instance, we highlight landscapes in and around the gardens and pick vantage points that parallel paintings such as Richmond Hill or The Prince Regent's Birthday. We admire the grandeur of nature [and go down into] the rainforest gully. This gully is a wonderful place to observe another favourite subject of Turner, the sky.''

Yes, one can imagine Turner taking his easel to the gardens, but should he show up here we must, as considerate hosts, shield him from the chocolate box horror of Floriade. Drawing quite a long but a very creative bow Bishop advises us that ''there is an intriguing connection between Napoleon, featured in one of the paintings in the Turner exhibition, and Australia's plants.


It turns out to be that Napoleon and his Josephine were besotted with Australian plants brought home to France by gallic explorers and grew some in one of Josephine's palatial gardens. The Botanic Gardens in Canberra has the very species of golden everlasting daisy and two species of bottlebrush that made Napoleon and Josephine go ''Gosh!'' (or more probably ''Mon dieu!'') and the Turned On walks take participants to these wonders.

By Gough, a grand image hits the net

In this week in which Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has visited Papua New Guinea, the National Archives of Australia has, coincidentally, proclaimed its digitisation (making it available to all online) of this striking photograph of prime minister Gough Whitlam visiting Papua New Guinea in 1975.

Whitlam, though famously credited in his prime ministerial heyday with ''a certain grandeur'' (not the kind of thing anyone thinks of saying of 21st-century Labor prime ministers) is here eclipsed in grandeur by a local in the grandest headdress imaginable.

The archives has a new Stream Of Digital Archives (SODA) website on which it displays hitherto dust-gathering treasures, like this one, it has just scanned.

While on the subject of Labor prime ministers, some think they see the convoluted, scholarly style of Rudd or of his speechwriters in the language of a call from the Australian National University's School of Inconsequential Studies. The call is for papers for a forthcoming panel ''Worlding personhood in Oceania: movements, intersections and emplacements.''

ANU organisers advise: ''This panel explores the engendering of personhood in Oceania through movements, intersections and emplacements; how sociality traverses distances and spans imaginaries; and how places are made at the intersections of social worlds … Issues of gender, religion, land and exchange, so central to questions of personhood, are considered through this fluid lens.''

Classic 1960s, or is it?

The photograph of damsels of the 1960s seems so authentic that when you look at it you can almost hear (however hard you try not to) the greatest hits of the era such as Ohio Express' Yummy Yummy Yummy I've Got Lurv In My Tummy and Brian Hyland's Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini. With any luck, drowning out those shockers, you can hear instead distinguished '60s classics such as Betty Everett's The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss).

But, in fact, this is yet another of the carefully created period scenes from the Women: Celebrating a Century of Women in Canberra exhibition featuring 21st-century sheilas of the Majura Women's Group. They've done painstakingly historically accurate dressmaking, dressing, posing, hairstyling, making-up and imitating of the photograph techniques of the time to re-create, exactly, the looks of Canberra women at different times of the past century. The exhibition in the foyer of the Belconnen Arts Centre continues until Sunday, August 4.