Arrived safely late at night. As you fly from Perth, the city of light dwindles in the distance and then there is a long, dark flight towards Melbourne until slowly, slowly as the descent begins the lights of the city appear.
Our first day we went into the city, we drove around Williamstown to look at some of the older buildings. Then we went into the city to the Hamar Centre, which is a fairly newly redeveloped cultural complex not unlike the Barbican Centre in London. A concert hall and restaurants etc. We had a delicious meal, which I did not photograph, looking through some fairly heavy rain at the panorama of the CBD, with the diminutive building of St Paul’s Cathedral in front of the massive skyscrapers. To the right of the Cathedral is Federation Square, a very modern looking series of buildings housing the art collections, concert spaces and other media venues. To the left on the far side of the street is the red, cream and copper-domed building, housing Flinders Street Station. Legend has it that this and the station destined for Calcutta were designed and manufactured in Lego-like units off site, packed and delivered for construction – Melbourne got the Lego box for Calcutta and Calcutta the Lego box for Melbourne, the construction was nearly complete before the mistake was realised…urban myth or true story (your choice)?
We were met at the Trocadero Restaurant by Yvonne, Nick’s aunt and after lunch we went off to her flat the other side of Melbourne. Docked outside in the bay was Queen Mary 2. A floating colossus, which I did photograph, also through the heavy rain.
Before leaving Perth, I managed a very short visit to the Art Gallery of Western Australia, which has among other marvellous things, the wondrous series of paintings by Stanley Spencer (inspired by the Gospel According to St Matthew) of Christ in the Wilderness. This was considered by the ‘powers that were’ in the UK, in around 1983, not to be of important national significance, so the Perth city fathers or the State of WA snapped them up. There are eight finished canvases, and one unfinished canvas and they hang alone on one wall of the gallery of art of the 20th century.
Stanley Spencer’s Christ, a solid figure in a cream gown, is most definitely a man first, with His Divinity still latent. This is decidedly the man from Nazereth, who has grown up and been trained as a carpenter. His strong arms and hands are well suited to the adze and the hammer and yet in this famous series, he is tenderly cradling a scorpion in the palm of his hand, with an expression of pure love and wonder on his face; in another canvas he is lying on one side with a hen and chicks scratching around in the dust, cradled by his bulk; in a third he watches as eagles devour their prey. In the more famous of the series entitled The Foxes have Holes, Christ is sitting on a bank which is studded with the holes of a foxes’ lair, several foxes are appearing out of these to look at Him. It is truly a spiritual experience looking at these paintings.
I have seen them before on previous visits to Perth, but there was a poignant simplicity about seeing them this time, since I know I will not be coming here again. Indeed, this whole journey is a series of last looks, which is something I have to confront at the same time as enjoying every minute.
These may not be live links, but they give you the addresses…my own pictures will follow soon.