War memorial

War memorial

Before I started my new job in January I had a few days off, so decided to head down to Canberra (about 3.5 hours south west of Sydney) to check out some more of the museums. Matt and I had been to Caneberra together once before, which you can read about here.

I had a list of 5 museums or galleries I wanted to check out in two days, and managed to get around them all. They were all free to visit, with just the price of parking in the Parliamentary area as the cost.

National Portrait Gallery 

I ended up parking by the Portrait Gallery as it was cheaper than the Art Gallery, so popped in there first for a quick visit. I’m not a big fan of portraits unless they are photos, so probably only spent about half an hour here. It was mainly paintings in different styles. They did have a special mixed-media exhibit on ‘Being Human’ which looked quite good for $10. I was going to come back to that but ran out of time.

National Art Galley

The National Art Gallery is just a few minutes walk from the Portrait Gallery. It was really good, with lots of different styles of art and art from different geographies all in one place, including a good Aboriginal Art section and a lot of Asian art. They had works by some famous artists like Monet and Jackson Pollock.

Ned Kelly by

Ned Kelly by Sidney Nolan

Some of my favourite bits were:

  • A series of cartoon-like paintings of Ned  Kelly and his adventured by an artist called Sidney Nolan
  • A life-sized print of Elvis by Andy Warhol
  • A sculpture of a group of monkeys suspended from the air by their tails and reaching forward like they wanted to touch you
  • Some paintings from the colonial times of Australian landscapes including Mt Kozsciousko and Mt Arapalies 
  • Some works on racism in Australia, particularly towards Aboriginal people
  • Outside the gallery was a cool sculpture garden which included a mini replica of the Angel of the North. 
Monkeys!

Monkeys!

National Library 

The library in Melbourne is very cool and old with some interesting displays in it. I spent some time checking out the one in Canberra. It looks quite impressive from the outside, but isn’t really too exciting inside. The exhibit they used to have on maps had finished, and instead there was one on War Mementos and one on ‘Treasures’ of the library. This had a really wide range of things in it, some of which were arranged from A to Z including a journal from Captain Cook and letters from Jane Austin. They had quite a lot of colonial things again including drawings of plants and animals by some of the early explorers which I always find interesting. Overall I thought the Melbourne Library was more interesting, but it was worth a visit. I still need to go and look around the one in Sydney.

Old Parliament House (Museum of Australian Democracy)

For my final stop on my first day I went to Old Parliament House, which has the Museum of Australian Democracy. Again, this was within walking distance of all the other places, to pretty handy. There was a small entry fee of just $2. The museum was quite big, housed in the building which used to be Parliament House until they moved to Capital Hill in 1988. There were lots of different rooms with different exhibits in, including about the Queens visit, the evolution of democracy and former Prime Ministers.

Old Parliament House

Old Parliament House

I went on one of the free guided tours of the museum, which took about an hour. We looked around all the old rooms including the old Prime Ministers office, as well as the Senate and Parliament chambers. All the furniture and decor was very 1970’s and they had even left in a lot of the old chairs, phones and type-writers. It reminded me of some of the Council offices I’ve been to in the UK. They had a section where visitors should vote on whether gay marriage should be allowed, which is a controversial topic here in Australia. I was pleased to see that yes had about double the votes of no.

Downstairs at the museum was an exhibit of political cartoons. Some of it was a bit lost on me becasue I don’t know much about the politics from before we got here, but some of the more up to date ones were pretty funny.

Political cartoon

Political cartoon

That evening I camped slightly out of town and had some tasty  dinner at Jamies’ Italian in the city. The next morning, after some breakfast at a recommended but slightly disappointing bakery, I headed to my final stop.

War Memorial 

The Australian War Memorial is an impressive building and commemorates the sacrifice of Australians who have died in all different wars. It includes a museum with a big section on WW1 which has just been re-opened. I often find it hard to engage with war-related things, so again decided to go on one of the guided tours which started just after I arrived. Our guide told us the stories behind some of the large paintings and I learnt more about Gallipoli. It was interesting to hear about the war from another countries perspective. The section had some very impressive and large dioramas of war scenes which had been recently restored.

WW1 diaorama

WW1 diorama

As well as the WW1 exhibit, some of the other good exhibits were:

  • The Hall of Valour with details of different Veterans and the medals they were awarded
  • The aircraft hall with big aeroplanes in it
  • Anzac Hall which also had big planes and a war-time submarine
  • The replica bridge from HMAS Brisbane and
  • An exhibit on Afghanistan with lots of videos and photos
War memorial

War memorial

The building itself was impressive, and has a Roll of Honour surrounding a pool. The walls on each side had the names of over 102,000 Australians who had died in all different wars. You can buy poppies at reception and people had put them into the wall in honour of lost friends and relatives. At the end is the Hall of Memory with big stained glass windows and a memorial to the unknown soldiers.

After that it was time to head back home, via a pie from the bakery at the giant merino sheep in Goulburn.

War Memorial

War Memorial

NYE fireworks

NYE fireworks

Matt is lucky to work on Garden Island, which is just to the east of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, with some pretty cool views. The land is owned by the Navy, and for a long time they have sold cheap tickets to employees, their friends and family to go and watch the New Year fireworks from there. Last year we missed it becasue we were in Tasmania, so we were keen to go this year.

We got a bit nervous as they announced the tickets quite late this year, but it all worked out in the end and we got 5 – for me, Matt, his parents and his sister Hannah who were visiting over New Year. Gates opened from 3pm and we arrived about 4.30pm. Across Sydney for NYE there are a lot of free venues, but they close when they get to capacity, so you have to get there very early to get a good spot, and they don’t let you take alcohol. We read some stories about people who had camped out for days before to get the best views. There are also a lot of places which put on events and sell tickets, a lot of which are around the $400+ mark!

NYE fireworks

NYE fireworks

Because the island is a Naval base there were some rules about going on (closed shoes, no gazebos or big umbrellas, no fireworks of your own and only a ‘moderate’ amount of alcohol!) A lot of these seemed to be ignored! We realised when we got there we were a bit unprepared compared to most other people. Lots of them were wheeling in trolleys crammed with chairs, radios and giant wheelie eskies and cool bags full of cold drinks. We did have some picnic blankets, a small cool bag, picnic (largely cheese based) and of course some card games to pass the time (Loot Letter, Monopoly Draw and Get Bit). If we get to go again i’ll definitely be packing some chairs and an umbrella for some shade when the suns up! I also left my tripod behind, which was clearly a mistake – most of my pictures were quite blurry!

Our NYE spot

Our NYE spot

We got a prime spot looking at the Opera House and the bridge, just one row back from the people who got there when the site opened. They only sell a set number of tickets and it was quieter than I expected, which was really good. It filled up more as the afternoon went on, so it was good to get there when we did. There were some food, so of course we had an ice cream.

Throughout the afternoon there were a few bits of entertainment including a couple of flying displays and a fire boat shooting out a giant water cannon. Once it got darker they had a light parade of boats, where they were all lit up with fairy lights and looked very cool sailing around.

Flying display

Flying display

Each year they have an early fireworks display at 9pm. The idea of this is its for families,so people with kids can watch it still and then take them home to bed. This display itself was 8 minutes and was really good, so after that I was looking forward to the midnight ones even more. They also had an ‘inspire moment’ at 10.30pm, which was a short firework display. After that there was quite a gap till the midnight fireworks, so we played some more games under the handy flood lights.

Illuminated boat

Illuminated boat

The midnight fireworks were amazing. I managed to get a spot at the front, which was great for the pictures. Annoyingly becasue I didn’t have my tripod a lot of them were blurry or quite grainy becasue of the high ISO, but I’ve learnt my lesson now! The volume of fireworks was massive, and watching the choreography (is that the right word for fireworks?) where they set them off from on top of the opera house and bridge, mirroring their shapes was really good. Seeing the reflections over the water was great too. Towards the end of the display they set a lot of fireworks down from the base of the bridge which made it looks like a waterfall – it looked very cool and very pretty.

NYE fireworks

NYE fireworks

Once the fireworks were over getting back wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. It was busy, but not stupidly so. We were held for a while inside the station because of overcrowding on the platform, but only a couple of minutes. We go on a train fine, and changed train fine. At some of the stations there were a very large amount of people trying to get on because of some earlier problems involving a fire alarm and station closure, but luckily we escaped those.

It was a great day and evening and we were really lucky to be able to get cheap tickets to see the fireworks from such a good spot 🙂

NYE fireworks

NYE fireworks

 

Every year around Bondi Beach for about two weeks they have the FREE ‘Sculptures by the Sea’ festival, which does what you could expect. It’s been going 18 years now.

We went along last year and I thought it was really good. You can see my favourite pictures from that one, here.

This year we went down after work again, but by the time we had finished getting distracted in the new ‘traditional’ English fish and chip shop in Bondi (complete with a fryer from Yorkshire), it was getting a bit late. So instead we headed for some ice cream from Messina (awesome) and I went back the next day as I had the day off.

This was a pretty big mistake, as it was truly rammed, mainly with many many groups of kids on school trips. At times I was doing the penguin waddle along the path, and it was really hard to enjoy the sculptures with so  many other people around and getting in the way of my view and my photos! I know, I’m antisocial!

There was some cool stuff though. My favourite ones are below, this time with non-artistic commentary, because it turns out the brochure we got for free last year actually costs $10! I definitely recommend going in the evening.

There were lots of these newspaper ants hiding in the cliff nooks and crannies. They are called Look Who.

Scupture4

 

This sculpture was wood and wire, and looked like some sort of sea creature, maybe an anemone. Its called Currawong, which is a bird.

Sculpture3

This one I liked because it was like a cross between a pine cone and an anemone, made with wooden plans and wire on the top. It was called The Grove.

Sculpture1

This one reminded me of a Cairn, and is called The figure in the landscape.

Looks like a cairn

Looks like a cairn

This one was my definite favourite. Its a big wooden whale, called Breaching. I really liked its form, and how it suited the setting of the coast.

Sculpture2

 

Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge

If you want to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge it will set you back at least $300. On the other hand, you can go up on of the pylons for $13!

We’ll do the Bridge Climb eventually, probably when we have some visitors who want to do it. But in the mean time, we thought we’d go up the pylon.

Inside there is a lot about the history and building of the bridge, including a lot of facts about it and cool pictures from when it was built. The views at the top are pretty good, and you dont have the fence in the way like you do when you walk over the bridge itself. You also get a good look at the bridge itself from another perspective, and a good view of the people actually climbing it.

Bridge view

Bridge view

Here’s some Sydney Harbour Bridge facts:

  • The bridge took 8 years to build, with 1,400 men. 16 sadly lost their lives. It cost $4.2m.
  • The bridge is the tallest steel arch bridge in the world, measuring 134m from top to the water. Is the second widest long-span bridge in the world. The Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver is wider.
  • The bridge has 52,800 tonnes of steel including the arch and approach. Only 21% of this was from Australia though. The rest was imported from England.
  • The bridge has about 6 million rivets. There were all made in Australia.
  • The bridge can expand and contract with heat by 420mm on the deck and 180mm on the arch.
  • The bridge was meant to be opened (on 19 March 1932) by the NSW Premier with some ornamental gold and opal scissors. But a Captain Francis de Groot from the New Guard parliamentary group beat him to it by riding up on his horse and cutting the ribbon with his sword! He got arrested, they tied it back together and then carried on with the official opening.
  • The bridge used to have a rooftop cattery in the 50’s and 60’s with lots of white cats.
  • You pay between $2.50 and $4 in tolls to drive south over the bridge. Its free to go north.

 

View of the Opera House

View of the Opera House

Foxy

Foxy

When we went to Dubbo we also dropped in at the Cultural Centre. This is a free place, with an art gallery and a small museum. It also has a good cafe, where we accidentally stuffed ourselves with a late lunch big enough for 3 or 4 people!

The museum had lots of old things from the area, including some crazily narrows shoes and a replica of an old school classroom. The wooden desks with ink wells and space for books inside reminded me of the desks where I went to primary school, and they even had old books in them!

Back to school

Back to school

The art was particularly good. They had a few different exhibits, including some ‘designs’ for silly futuristic things like a flying polar bear farm (?!?!?!) and an exhibit from a competition on making art out of everyday rubbish. The pictures of my favourites are here. They’re a lizard made from a tyre, a fox made from chicken wire and old curtains and a penguin made from an old gas bottle. He looks pretty mean with a cigarette in his mouth.

Tyre lizard

Tyre lizard

 

Penguin from a gas bottle

Penguin from a gas bottle

 

 

 

Vivid1

It’s weird that now we have been here over a year, the same major events are coming around again. The Vivid light festival is one of my favourite Sydney events, which I wrote about before, here.

This year I went twice, once on my birthday and then again the following weekend with my friend Toby. Again the projection onto the Opera House was my favourite part. The Opera House is very cool anyway, and when its transformed with the lights and music I find it amazing. The show had animal patterns, a video game, a section about the construction of the opera house where they built and took it apart, it got splatted with paint and had lightning hit it.

Customs House and the Contemporary Art Centre both had big projections on them too, as well as other installations like giant inflatable white rabbits, lit up boats around the Harbour and a musical fountain in Darling Harbour.

I didn’t take my tripod along but managed to get some relatively good pictures hand holding my F1.8 fixed 50mm. Here’s some of my favourites.

vivid4

 

vivid3

 

vivid2

 

VividRabbit

 

vividdog

 

John Lennons glasses

John Lennons glasses

In Sydney, on the edge of the Harbour overlooking the Opera House if the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia. They have a free collection which changes regularly, and rotating paid exhibits to.

Since November there has been a series by Yoko Ono there called War is Over! (If you want it). Tickets are $20 and I thought it was worth a look. There are about 25 different works there, and I spent about 90 minutes going around. The works include sculptures, installations, interactive pieces, films and photographs. The theme (according to the booklet) is about “capturing the power of the human mind to transcend the present and wish for a better world in the future, without conflict”.

I enjoyed the art, and here are some of my favorite pieces (some of this stuff is a bit profound):

Play it by Trust: Another interactive work, these were chess sets where all the pieces on both sides are white. The piece is originally from 1966. Once you start playing and the pieces mix together its hard to know who’s piece is which, the idea of competition breaks down and it is meant to create a shared understanding and a new relationship based on empathy rather than opposition. Like in a real life battle or war I guess, if you realise we are all people. Matt wasn’t there to play a game with me, but given that he wouldn’t have been able to win i’m not sure he would have enjoyed it!

Play it by Trust chess set

Play it by Trust chess set

Telephone in maze: This is what it sounds like. The maze is made of perspex, and very disorientating as you can’t easily tell where the walls actually are. When you go in they warn you to put your hands in front of you as they’ve had a few minor injuries! I was OK inside the maze, but may have had a slightly embarrassing moment when I tried to go into it in a place which wasn’t the door! (Ooops). 

Doors and sky puddles: This was a big room, with a out 10 upright and a couple of fallen over suspended tatty doors with small messages from Yoko on them. On the floor were puddles coloured like the sky – sky is a recurring theme in a lot of the pieces. The booklet says ‘doors are just a figment of our imagination’ and barriers exist in our mind as much as in reality and that we need strength and courage to pass on through them. This idea resonates well with me. What barriers do you make for yourself? What if you didn’t? (A problems not a problem until its a problem).

Doors and Sky Puddles

Doors and Sky Puddles

We’re all water: This is named after a song with John Lennon, and is a wall full of glass bottles, all full of the same amount of water. They all have names of famous people on them from Charles Darwin to Hitler and Cleopatra. The idea (I expect) is all about highlighting the commonality between different people. It made me think about the nature of the self – briefly, until that all became a bit profound.

Touch me III: This was weird. Its about violence done to women and is a series of boxes, with silicone body parts in it laid out in a body shape, some of which have become deformed and worn over time. You’re invited to touch them, which I did. It was very strange as the silicone was a lot wobblier and softer than I expected. That’s all.

Vertical Memory and Wish tree for Sydney: These two pieces were on a similar theme of participation. In the first one you wrote where you wanted to go on a luggage tag and put it into a suitcase (I really had to think about narrowing my list down for that one). The second one was you wrote down a wish and tied it to one of several lemon-scented eucalyptus trees out on the balcony overlooking the Opera House. Its about Yokos belief in the power of the mind to effect positive change. 

It’s definitely worth a visit if you like art, even a little bit. Hopefully this post wasn’t too out there!

 

l there is