I got up early this morning to get a head start on the driving in cooler temperatures. Although I'm pretty good in the heat and humidity up here (I have to look at the condensation on our cool room door in order to identify when it's humid, in fact, while the rest of the family sweats!) driving in hot weather isn't one of my favourite things. Loaded up with eight books from BAO Edition One and my own individual entry I did a run up to Southern Cross University's Visual Arts department in time for the Friday deadline for receipt of entries. Thanks everyone for posting your books to me! (Angela, yours hasn't arrived yet so I substituted 'my' copy as we discussed).
The journey time is about 3 hours each way, but the route is beautiful: up Red Hill out of Coffs Harbour and on to the back road to Nana Glen, then Glenreagh, Grafton, Casino and finally Lismore. I've done the journey a number of times over the last few years, usually to join Tim Mosely for one of his Codex projects but Tim's away for a while now so I didn't manage to catch up with him. I love the back route: almost no traffic, and most of it quiet through miles and miles of native forest...
On the way back I felt I deserved a coffee and as my usual stop at the roadhouse in Whiporlie was closed I thought myself justified in dropping into Grafton Regional Gallery for refreshments and a squiz at their current exhibitions. And it was great! Enough caffeine to get me home in one piece and a travelling exhibition from the MGA of some of Bill Henson's early photographs and Julie Barratt's Hankie Project, in which our very own Duck featured. I was a bit sad about that show because I missed the deadline for getting my own handkerchief back to Julie in time for selection. Whoops. But it was a fun one: lots of different takes on the subject, some humerous, some poignant, all full of meaning.
I really enjoyed the Henson exhibition. It wasn't large but it was beautiful and revealing. There was series of photographs of one young man, naked but not voyeuristic. It reminded me of those late medieval (and later) paintings of Christ being taken down from the cross: there was the same bony ribcage and thin legs, pale skin and a drawn expression - not that the young man in Henson's photographs looked gaunt as such (or indeed dead)... but there was a stillness and detachment in his expression that I found moving. It was really interesting to see how Henson's more recent and controversial photographs have developed out of that early work: there seemed to me to be an interest in de-contextualising the sitters so that you had to read their expressions in isolation, and the exhibition notes talked about Henson then arranging the photographs in groups, giving them a different context. I'll stop boring on about it! I have no idea where the exhibition goes next but if you get the chance to catch it I think it's worth going. Oops, I also want to say how much I liked the boy's face (above). From the other side of a room the photograph looks very severe which is partly to do with how it is cropped, but from close-to you can see subtle variations in tone and a velvety richness that reminded me of a mezzotint rather than a photograph. If you'd told me in the catalogue that it was a mezzotint I would have believed you, both before and after looking at it. My photo is pathetically bad but Henson's original is magic.