Posts Tagged ‘Burghers of Calais’

It’s certainly marvellous.

Fog Sculpture, 1976, Fujiko Nayaka

Fog Sculpture, 1976, Fujiko Nayaka – this photograph is large enough to make a desktop wallpaper from, if you happen to like it that much. Just snapped with my iPhone; amazing device, really. Just right click and save as etc.

Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya installed a series of vents that blow mist (for two or so hours every day) across a reedy, watery, pondy landscape in the sculpture park at the National Gallery in Canberra.

Clouds of diaphanous water mist float ethereally across a naturally obscured landscape that weaves in and out of the grey; a seeking, grasping, floating miasma. It is at one and the same time unsettling yet curiously peaceful. As the breeze changes direction, so, naturally, does the sculpture. The vista changes, subtly, constantly. You can’t take your eyes off it.

Another view, with a stylised boat ‘beached’ on the edge of the pool.

And again.

It really is a remarkable cultural experience.

As, indeed, is much of Canberra. The National Gallery would grace any city in the world, and the cluster of dramatic modern buildings of national significance nestled around the fringes of man-made Lake Burley Griffin is truly breathtaking. Everywhere you look, there is another fine building to admire, let alone visit.

Elsewhere, meandering along the boulevards, the view along the Parliament-Old Parliament-War Memorial axis is genuinely one of the great pieces of massive, permanent city design – truly, a spectacular attempt to tame the natural landscape – to be seen anywhere in the world.


Canberra with the National War Memorial in the foreground, then Anzac Parade, then Lake Burley Griffin, then the Old Parliament House, and then the New Parliament.

It is damn cold in Canberra this weekend – down to minus 2 tonight. I am sure the capital of Australia has its charms in all seasons, but to me it is clear that this was a city that was born to be seen, like this, on crystal-clear ice-cold winter days, where no heat haze or dust obscures the designer’s grand vision.

Right around the corner from the Fog Sculpture are a clutch of Rodins, the Burghers of Calais, a fine effort from one who was surely one of the finest representational sculptors in history. From one extreme to the other, one might think.

And yet, despite the obvious differences between the solidity and permanence of Rodin’s massive bronzes and Nakaya’s momentary, evanescent impression of clouds and half-seen greenery, there is a great continuity in the goals of both the artists.

They both seek to move, to impress, to encourage introspection, to make us leave the daily round of minor matters and think: to calm us, to simultaneously provoke us – ultimately, to make us stop and consider our mortality, and loss. And love, and pain, and how in the final analysis, it is all the same thing. Just life.

It is good for the soul, in short, and on occasion, for one to step aside from the daily round and simply look about a bit. I really must remember to do it more often.

Remind me, Dear Reader, next time I forget.

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