Tuesday, April 04, 2006


On Saturday afternoon I caught up with CW, whom I have not seen since last year. We went to a Crispin Akerman exhibition at the Greenhill Gallery on King Street in the city.

King Street, or rather one block of it between Murray and Hay Streets, is like one of those light boothes that Scandinavians use in the winter to keep the Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay. It's a place where Perth people can go and get a dose of a hip, affluent inner-urban lifestyle... before they head back to real life in our ubiquitous suburbs. It's nothing but polished cafes, designer clothes and "homewares" boutiques, and high-end art galleries, of which the Greenhill is the oldest and most august.

Ackerman's exhibition consisted of a series of small still-lifes, painted in oils on linen, and generally depicting a few pieces of fruit sitting on a lightly swagged piece of white cloth. They were lovely works, showing great proficiency, and capturing the colours and textures of the fruit almost perfectly. When he painted a bunch of red grapes, you could see their exquisite combination of opaqueness and translucence. When he painted a nectarine, you could fully see the blushing merges of colour on its surface. All this despite the fact that his style, while realist, was not photorealist.

Even so, there's not a lot one can say about a painting of two limes sitting on a cloth. There are suggestions of purity, of the paradoxical sense of control in depicting nothing but a couple of limes. There's a sense of the fruit cast adrift from its base in vulgar reality and locked, alone and isolated, in a sterile environment, never to either rot or be eaten. But such philosophy can arise from a photo of a peach as much as a painting of one. When a painting says "I am a piece of fruit" you can muse over the layers or meaning, but you can also do that with a pencil you found on the sidewalk. I don't know how much these paintings say that can't be said by anything else, if placed in the context of Art.

All this would likely be neither here nor there if it were not for the small matter of money. The cheapest painting, about 30cm by 30cm, was $1,800. Larger ones climbed up into the high thousands. Call me a philistine, but I couldn't look at a small picture of a bunch of grapes and think, "Yes, that is worth $2,500." That's a month's wages for a good percentage of the Australian workforce. "I am a piece of fruit" is not worth a month's wages.

Afterwards, we headed up to a new cafe on Beaufort Street called, for reasons only known to themselves, Exomod. It's always very clean and polished and pristine, and so wonderfully, ruthlessly minimalist. Everything there has had the hell designed out of it, from the oddly-weighted knives that are difficult to hold to the bottom-heavy water glasses that are too fat to get your hand around. However it has two redeeming features:

1) The staff are as bright and polished as the decor, and call out friendly greetings as soon as you set foot inside their establishment, as if they've spent the day marinating in sunshine and rainbows just waiting for you to turn up.

2) They serve a large flat white in coffee cups that could literally double as vases. Ordering one costs $4.80, a good dollar and a half more than a cup of coffee at most other places, but in terms of millilitres of coffee per dollar it's cheaper than going to McDonalds.

The food also looks tantalising, but since I'm on a diet I've had to resist its siren call.


Anonymous Janine said...

It's amazing who you find in the blogosphere! Glad to see you are still writing, and so beautifully too. Will defintely add you to my faves and keep visiting! I'm guessing who you are by your email address, but if it's not you, oh well, I've made a new friend!

4:04 PM  
Blogger Chris Walker said...


I liked your take on our Saturday afternoon together - thoughtful and well expressed. The idea of fruit merely being fruit, with no more value or interest than a pencil particularly struck me; although, I know which I'd rather chew on. But then, eating isn't art... or is it?

I try not to pay attention to the prices, especially at slick exhibitions. They're usually well outside my budget, and mean I end up appreciating the art less.

I wonder where price should fit in our thinking about a work of art - as art?

5:26 PM  

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