25 April 2012

The Archibald Prize 2012 at the Art Gallery of NSW

Sydney’s annual embrace of portraiture is in full steam at the Art Gallery of NSW until June 3. It’s just not as exciting, engaging or entertaining as it has been over the last several years. In fact I did it in thirty minutes which I think is a new record for a major exhibition.

The Archibald Prize is one of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art prizes. It’s awarded to the best portrait painting, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics. This show has 40 finalist works, including portraits of Australian identities such as David Gulpilil, John Wood, Father Bob Maguire, Kimbra and Missy Higgins. But many people I didn’t know – which kind of takes the fun out of it.

The Archibald Prize is judged by the Trustees of the Art Gallery who it seems like two kinds of work these days the huge, over oiled type or the totally photogenic, so it’s hard to feel any emotion other than indifference. 

The winning portrait titled The histrionic wayfarer (after Bosch) by Tim Storrier is a self-portrait without a face which includes a drawing of himself scribbled on a piece of paper being blown away by the wind. It certainly seemed to cause a bit of a stir the day I was there with the general census tending to disappointment.  It seemed easy to understand people’s reaction given the winners of the last few years had been easily recognisable and popular figures such as Margaret Olley and Tim Minchin.

19 April 2012

Unforgettable - Opera on Sydney Harbour

Last week I was lucky enough to see one of the last performances of HANDA Opera on Sydney Harbour – La Traviata and it was one of those ‘I’ll never ever forget nights’ that you could only have in Sydney.  Opera Australia’s grand experiment to take opera beyond the theatre and weave it into the very fabric of the harbour city has been declared a great success.

As I sat in a 3,000 seat grandstand erected in the Royal Botanic Gardens this wonderful opera unfolded before me in the most thrilling and quite unexpected spectacular for an outdoor show.

Australia’s most accomplished and daring Set Designer Brian Thomson designed a minimal but striking stage which was dominated by a giant chandelier measuring 9-metres x 9-metres, that sparkled with 10,000 Swarovski crystals symbolizing the world of Verdi’s much-loved opera with its glittering Parisian salons. All set off by Sydney Harbour - one of the most beautiful views in the world.

Tess Schofield designed the 1950’s inspired costumes, which included dazzling Mardi-Gras themed outfits for the masked ball in Act II, with the cast arriving to the stage by LED lit motorboats. The set was complemented by a sophisticated lighting design by John Rayment which created the atmosphere of changing scenes through colour, dazzling light displays and fireworks.

9 April 2012

A big round of applause for Jenna Talackova

I’ve been watching as the media attention has grown around the Miss Universe Canada contestant Jenna Talackova with great interest and now of course its world news; so much so as Jenna, her mother and her celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred have appeared on the prime time ABC 20/20 show with journalist Barbara Walters - were talking of bringing this issue to the attention of millions of ordinary Americans.  

The head of Miss Universe Canada kicked Jenna out two weeks ago after discovering that she is transgender. The official said that Jenna had to have been born a female to participate.  

At the time, a brief statement on the front page of the website for Beauties of Canada, the company that oversees the Miss Universe Canada pageant, stated that Jenna had been removed from the competition ‘because she did not meet the requirements to compete despite having stated otherwise on her entry form. 

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) contacted the Miss Universe Organisation last week after Jenna was disqualified and called on the Miss Universe Organisation to review Jenna's case, as well as open the competition to transgender women.
    Jenna Talackova

Jenna, who carries a Canadian passport, driver's license and birth certificate that all identify her as a woman, appeared on Tuesday with Los Angeles-based attorney Gloria Allred, who is famous for representing clients including a string of Tiger Woods' ex-lovers and Nicole Brown Simpson's family during the O.J. Simpson trial, demanding to be allowed back into the contest.

 "I am a woman. I was devastated and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust," Jenna said in a statement she read to reporters. She and Allred also called for the Miss Universe organisation to abolish its rule requiring contestants to be ‘naturally born’ females. Allred called it "an antiquated rule grounded in prejudice, fear and stereotypes."