Monday, April 12, 2010


I had a really broken night's sleep last night, finally culminating in me losing my patience with tossing and turning and getting up not long after 5am. Sadly (sometimes) I'm one of those people that wakes up easily and is fully awake in a finger snap, so the only thing for it is to get up, or maybe read, but do anything other than lie in bed and wait for tiredness to return. My regular working week is Tuesday to Saturday these days, so I wasn't stressed about having to get up early for work this morning.

So I pottered around a bit, then came back to bed and watched youtube clips of the earlier seasons (not shown in Australia) of my beloved tv show QI. [Official website and QI on youtube.] I could not love Stephen Fry more! It's true. About 7am I started to get drowsy, so I rolled over and went back to sleep until just before 9am.

I hadn't been up long when my friend Judy rang about 9.30 and suggested we head on in to the Art Gallery of NSW to see the portrait competition The Archibald Prize. Judy doesn't work any more and so she and I often use my Mondays off to catch up and do fun stuff. Today also dawned a glorious mild day, so it was lovely to get out and about in it.

It also saved me from my one big 'plan' for the day. Housework.

One thing I love about urban Australians is just how much we appreciate and use our galleries. The Archibald has been going strong since 1921 and is so heavily patronised that they have to have crowd control. Winners, and the inevitable controversies, make the prime time news. There's a people's choice selection, and a 'packers prize' for the favourite of the storeroom packers. Even on a Monday morning the line for the exhibition snaked around into another gallery space.

These days a ticket into the Archibald also gets you into its 2 sister competitions, the Wynne Prize (landscape paining or figurative sculpture) and the Sulman Prize (subject, genre or mural painting). For only the third time since 1921, this year the Wynne and Archibald were won by the same artist, Sam Leach. I had a shortlist of favourite's in both exhibitions, but was completely entranced by Leach's 2 small jewel like paintings (especially his landscape), so I had no quibble with the outcome.

The first thing I spotted when we walked into the Archibald was a huge portrait of a musical favourite of mine CW Stoneking.

"CW Stoneking" by Cara Fletcher

I only discovered Stoneking recently but I'm swept away by his unique pre-war jazz and blues style. To quote his website his work swings from "lonesome field holler blues, to hokum blues duets, to full blown jungle epics". His songs make me think of prohibition gin, mixed race bayou bars and rolled down stocking tops. Amazingly for someone so steeped in blues traditions, although he was born to American parents Stoneking is an Aussie and lives in Melbourne.

"Jungle Blues" by CW Stoneking

After a truly fab ramble through the gallery, some lunch, and a walk through the park, we ended up where else but at Tiffany's. (I don't ever think I've stood as straight.) We strolled further, fondled some cashmere at House of Cashmere, bought comestibles at the David Jones foodhall, browsed for books, and had tea in The Strand Arcade before heading for home late in the afternoon.

Housework be damned.

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