Exhibition Review: things borrowed, all of them blue

I ducked in to see Alchemy of Colour at the National Gallery of Victoria, as a kind of respite. It was a dark retreat from a Friday afternoon in the city. It was quiet, and peaceful. It was everything I needed. It was blue.

Deft touches on the Delft-ware.

Deft touches on the Delftware.

Although the exhibit closes on April 3, most of the works are drawn from the NGV itself, so you will be able to find them, not just in the same restful space, if you miss this.  I won’t go into the symbolism of blue, or the history or chemistry, but rest assured there is plenty of each. If you are so inclined to read up about dyes, colour, and international fashions and exports, the link to the exhibition (above) is a start.

Dye me the blues. Indigo for health and for sleep.

Dye me the blues. Indigo for health and for sleep.

I liked it because Delftware was next to illustrations from India, while porcelain from China sat beside English bedspreads, and jars from Worcester were positioned next to items from Japan, Turkey and Indonesia. Garments and bedding hung triptych-like to be viewed from every angle.

Triptych in Blue

One triptych to blue

Delicate porcelain from China, Italy, and Korea, scraps of Egyptian clothing, a Portuguese valance: I liked the juxtaposition of the patterned pieces each coloured with indigo, or cobalt or Prussian blue. There is technical skill, eye for design, and deep symbolism attached to each piece. Things like this help me think and help me not to think. All at once. Going to exhibits and shows like this either here or at the Melbourne Museum, have inspired stories before. They might in the future, but it’s not (the only) reason to go.

Persian tile 13thC.

Persian tile 13thC.

With these kinds of exhibitions you can spend 15 minutes or an hour or more looking. You can read everything or just appreciate each piece for its craftsmanship and artistry.

Even the moody shadows were blue. Indigo resist process.

Even the moody shadows were blue. Indigo resist process.

Unlike the big ‘block buster’ exhibitions like Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei (situated directly below this in the building), there was no queue, and, it’s free,. Mostly, it’s you and the art. Sometimes, I wish the these kinds of exhibitions were promoted more, but equally, I appreciate that they aren’t.

Bowls of blue too.

Bowls of blue too.

It’s nice just to be in a gallery and not feel hurried, or pushed or deafened. For this reason, and others, the next exhibition I’ll find the time to visit is the Jan Sensberg exhibition at the NGV Australia (Federation Square).

Details in blue.

Details in blue.

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