Recently I visited Melbourne to see the first ever Australian exhibition of the Salvador Dali collection.
This was an extremely personal journey for me - Dali was the first artist I ever studied, and studied in detail, when I started in art twenty years ago.
I haven't done a lot of travelling in the past few years - too busy with a different kind of journey - so to actually go through the process of dealing with timetables and public transport was in itself something of a surreal experience after so long. And this was my first time in Melbourne as an adult... The first and last time I was there, I was only 12 years old, and didn't remember much of the city at all.
Turns out that Brisbane and Melbourne share much in common however - another surreality, that a city so foreign to me would immediately feel like my old home.
The National Gallery of Victoria is a wonderful place - very welcoming, with very helpful and friendly staff - and the building itself has a reverence for the sharing of art and soul.... unlike so many galleries which feel like tombs or state libraries. I was with a friend, Paula, for whom this was a first major exhibition.... I felt like I was introducing her to an old friend.
There were quite a few other visitors that day - but like most who visit galleries, they looked, read the blurb at the side, and moved on. Ever seeking the profound moment, I grabbed Paula and made her stay in one spot, and said 'This is now, stop and soak it up.' I wanted her to have a chance to see if the work moved her, more than just stimulating her mind and vision - did it make her feel?
And this was for much of the exhibition - we both moved and found ourselves drawn to specific works, stopping for long moments in front of some, shifting past others, but it became for me a different place mentally and emotionally. Here was the work that I first related to, here was personal history - not because of Dali himself; his choices and expressions were now history to the world, iconic and other kinds of blah blah. This was about my personal journey, what I found in his work for myself, for all these years. And it was a river of feeling, of thought and motion and movement.....
It only took us a couple of hours to go through the collection - it was only a part of the whole collection, and therefore quite small. After lunch, we went back to the main part of the gallery to see the other collections; which became another journey of feeling, thought and movement. It was transporting on so many levels, many of which I could not describe in words.
On returning to Wodonga, Paula and I agreed that it felt like we had been travelling for days, not just one day - we had done and taken in so much, it didn't seem possible to have done it all in that one day. In the days that followed, I found myself constantly returning to moments in the trip, needing time to absorb the experience; and finding a new perspective growing out of the journey. It isn't over yet - I think about just shutting myself away in the studio for a few weeks, keeping to myself and allowing another journey to start. It's not possible of course, ordinary life has its priorities.....but there's definitely another sense emerging in my own artistic evolution.
And again, it begins with Dali.