Tag Archives: Rome

Hungry for Art indeed

In case you haven’t heard, the New South Wales government is in the process of a vigorous attack on education in this state. Judith Ridge has posted passionately and lucidly on the subject at Misrule (full disclosure: she says some nice things about me at the link, in the middle of much else). If you haven’t been noticing the headlines, you can catch up here.

Amid the carnage:

On September 11 the NSW government announced that it would stop funding art education in TAFE, leaving 4000 students without access to finishing their courses in 2013. TAFE Art courses are the main provider of art education in NSW, with many prominent artists getting their first ‘hands on’ training in TAFE. The withdrawal of funding will mean that only the wealthy will be able to afford private art education and NSW will suddenly find it no longer has emerging artists with skills coming through.

That’s right, art education in TAFE will no longer be funded as of 1 January next year. No transition – just a short sharp shock. It’s anyone’s guess what that will mean for people who started a year or two ago confident that the NSW government would honour its implied contract, let alone the hundreds of artists who survive thanks to part time or casual teaching. TAFE is of course the poor relation in art education: when the National Art School boasts of its many illustrious alumni, for example, it rarely mentions that most of them attended when the NAS was actually East Sydney Tech, part of the TAFE system. So art is vulnerable because of course the contribution that artists make to society is routinely rendered invisible, and art teaching at TAFE is double vulnerable because it doesn’t have prestige at the big end of town.

There’s an online petition at CommunityRun, which is the source of the quote above. Do have a look and, if you agree with its gist, sign it. Students at a number of TAFEs are organising, including St George, Nepean, Goulburn, Moss Vale, Meadowbank and Wollongong so far.

The Hungry for Art Festival has hardly finished attracting hundreds of people to  The Gallery School at Meadowbank than the government announces it’s in effect closing the school down. (Because where will they find alternative funding in three months, and will the school still be public, affordable and accessible if they do?) The facebook page of FAIM (Fine Arts Inc Meadowbank) is humming.

As you might guess, the Art Student is in the thick of the campaign against the cuts. Among many other initiatives, it is the subject of the final printmaking project in her Advanced Diploma.

The project is inspired by the petition sent to the Pope by the House of Lords in 1530 pleading for the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. That petition was displayed in Lux in Arcana, the exhibition of material from the Vatican Archives that we were lucky enough to see in July. As well as signatures, the petition boasted the seals of about a hundred lords and bishops hanging on leather thongs. The effect is impressive, but also beautiful.

The Art Student hopes to attract a similar number of artists to sign a petition (wording similar to the one at CommunityRun) and carve a small soapstone block with a symbol representing themselves that can be printed in sealing wax and hung from the petition.  The art student will supply the soapstone, and the artists are welcome to keep the carving once the imprint has been made..

If you know any artists who might be interested, send them this way. My email is jonathan at shawryan dot id dot au.

My trip to Turkey PS: Rome

We had slightly less than 48 hours in Rome on our way home from Turkey, just long enough to catch up with our dear friend Anny, visit the Maxii gallery and catch the exhibition from the Papal archives that’s on at the Capitoline Museums.

Anny had come down from her home in Florence to have dinner with us on Friday (our plane landed at 7.30 but it was nine o’clock by the time we met her at our hotel, and one in the morning by the time we said goodnight. We met up again to stroll along Via Cola Di Rienzo on Saturday morning, she had to catch the train back north for a Nora Jones concert that night. It was, as Anny said to an Italian friend on her mobile, ‘come si dice, Memory Lane‘. It was also a chance to hear her beautiful, lilting Italian as she did the honours with waiters, bus ticket sellers, and shop assistants.


Later in the afternoon, on our own again, we made our way to Maxii, a contemporary art museum, where there this wonderful creation loomed outside the main entrance.


Inside, the building was intriguingly maze-like with ramps and mezzanines and bridgeways, but I was unmoved and/or mystified by most of what I saw, the main exception being an exhibition of photographs by Paola de Pietri. These were gorgeous images of landscapes along a European border, of places – according to the curatorial statement – where there had been bitter fighting in the First World War: trenches worn smooth and partly filled with snow, others like scars near the crest of a hill, bunkers that could have been the remains of ancient shepherds’ huts, stony terrain, peaceful meadows. The impact was huge.

There was a beautiful presentation about a competition for young designers to make use of an area at the front of the museum. Each set of finalists discussed their project in larger than life video, while a written account of it scrolled down the wall, and a model and drawings could be perished at leisure. An even larger video showed the massive works involved in constructing the winning project. We ventured out to experience the finished thing. There were many seats made from slotted ply and cement, made to accommodate the human form in a variety of postures indicated by tiny ideograms. Sadly, whichever posture you chose, the seats were intolerably uncomfortable. I gather it’s not the first time a design competition has been won by something totally impractical.


This being Rome, we passed the odd antiquity and renaissance grandiosity on the way home.


At dinner time we walked to a little trattoria around the corner by way of St Peter’s square.

Sunday morning we walked – by way of Piazzo Navona, the statue of Pasquino, Campo Dei Fiori with its looming statue of Giordano Bruno who was burned there, and a caffe where no one could tell us how to get to the Musei Capitolini (‘Non lo so! Sono di San Giovanni, io) – to the Vatican archives exhibition.

Bernadette Soubirous wrote to one pope in a tiny neat handwriting, wishing him a holy life. Voltaire wrote to another congratulating him on his excellent Latin. A couple of popes wrote decrees establishing themselves as the supreme power on earth. A community of Native American Catholics wrote to the pope of their time. A Moroccan ruler wrote asking the pope to appoint a decent man to replace a recently deceased archbishop. More than one decree was issued ending the schism between the Roman Church and the Greek Orthodox Church. All of these documents were filed away in the Vatican archives, and all are among the hundreds of items on display.

There is a huge scroll, of which about four meters are exposed, containing the evidence taken against the Knights Templar. There’s a sizeable piece of paper beseeching the pope of the time to allow Henry VIII’s marriage to his first wife to be annulled, and hanging from the paper on leather thongs are the seals of the members of the House of Lords, at least fifty of them and every one elaborate. Photography was forbidden and there were no postcards. I gnash my teeth.

We had a quick look down on the forum below the Capitoline hill, a quick pasta lunch, a quick moment of respite from the heat at our hotel, then we were off to the airport. I’m typing this on the plane from Frankfurt to Singapore. The holiday is all but over.