The Girl, the Baby and the Gallery

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“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls” – Pablo Picasso

If you stop and take a moment every now and then, you notice that art exists everywhere you look; in the architecture of the buildings you pass on the bus, the graffiti scrawled on a wall, the street artist turning an everyday walkway into a passage of time with a flourish of his acrylics and paintbrush. There is an art in the way I dress Denny and Noah, picking out tones from the palette of their wardrobes and combining them to create a pleasing aesthetic. Appreciating art in its multifaceted majesty is deeply important to me, and is a passion I would like for my children to inherit.

So this week we set off to Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art to immerse ourselves in the diverse wonder and creativity beyond its glass exterior. To Denny it was almost some kind of magical playground where she could turn explorer within a huge fort composed of so many colourful pieces of draped fabric; blow on shards of reflective glass and watch the colours ripple and change; become mesmerised at the simple sight of a man and his skateboard. Needless to say the various installation pieces on display at the MCA caught her imagination.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time” – Thomas Merton

Experiencing the strict “do not touch” policy that exists within the gallery walls, through my children’s eyes, I watched as it encouraged them to go against instinct and attempt to interact with the art solely through sight and sound. Denny deftly navigated the billowing stocking canopy, the hanging lights and marbled globes suspended from the Square Cloud Compound [2010] structure, embracing the challenge to move within the art without disturbing its composition. I could see that to her it represented everything a child loves, a colourful cave full of hiding spaces and secret passageways created by the natural flow and marriage of the material and found things. Every time one sees a piece of art, a movie, a place, the vision alters somewhat to accommodate emotions, maturity, knowledge and the who that accompanies each experience. Viewing this exhibition together with my children, I noticed the familiar objects and images they recognised, the simple pleasure of watching a repetitive exercise and the endless possibilities for play that lay around every corner.

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Both children were equally captivated by a twinkling light installation, which on closer inspection I discovered to be a collection of plastic whiteware illuminated by sensor-activated lights which flash the following message in Morse Code when a viewer approaches: “I have the misfortune of not being a fool” from Charles Dickens’ 1857 rags-to-riches tale Little Dorrit. A powerful missive from one of the world’s greatest authors warning against the get-rich-quick schemes which have become the stuff of modern day aspiration, and one I want my children to take to heart in their future endeavours.

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By taking them to galleries and art museums, I hope to give them the understanding that their love of putting pen to paper, paint to easel, chalk to playground floor can mean so much more and translate their feelings into a tangible creation. More than that, the unique beauty imbued within each and every piece of art, from monochrome print to ceramic sculpture, is the ultimate lesson to take away from this experience. Oscar Wilde said that “art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has ever known”, a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with and one, as an artistic soul, I believe sets an important point of reference to everyone in reminding us that no one person is the same and to embrace difference.

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