Yesterday I spent a pleasent day with friend M.B., he invited me to join him to see the Margaret Olley watercolour exhibition at the University of Queensland Art Museum. We took the ferry from South Bank and travelled up river spotting attractive tree clusters, hidden river perches and generally enjoying all the interesting things one never sees from the street.
The University of Queensland is a beautiful campus with a collection of curious architectural specimens ranging from the dignified sandstone of the Great Square to the concrete spirals and shaped bronze of the 70s...it really took me back to my own uni, the ANU, which has a similar 70s vibe. But most deliciously, it was the tropical rainforest atmosphere the UQ campus had after the recent rain - rich earthy smells, and mushrooms everywhere!
It was my first visit to the UQ gallery and it was a real surprise. It's a beautiful building, the friendly staff there told me it was formerly the Graduations Hall, now completely remodelled internally. They directed us upstairs, where the whole floor is currently dedicated to the Margaret Olley exhibition. I wasn't aware Margaret Olley is a Queensland girl, she now lives in Sydney, and as I myself am a Queenslander I enjoyed her Queensland sketches the most. Like in the first painting above, perhaps only a Queenslander could appreciate the subtle implication of the crazy marks of green. I smile to recognise the tropical summer growth that's slowly getting the better of the careful garden caretaker...much like what Brisbane is experiencing now.
Margaret Olley is known mainly for her oils, but these ink sketches reveal the artist's skill. Her brief colour washes have the effortless elegance of a master. The skies are particularly fine. While her simple lines are generally bold and confident they display equally a curious and charming quality that betrays a fine sense of humour, never mawkish, for her subjects. I can feel her enjoying herself in the production of these works - in her abbreviations she squashes the cold distance of the subject while maintaining its fabulousness and beauty, she leads you into its everyday intimacies - a talent I truly appreciate.
The exhibition, Margaret Olley - life's Journey, is on at UQ Art Museum until the 19th April. Then tours to S H Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 8 May – 28 June and Newcastle Region Art Gallery, 15 August – 26 October.
Images above taken from the catalogue of the exhibition, "Margaret Olley - Life's Journey", Queensland University Press, 2009.
Image 1: A Queensland Property (Aroo), c. 1960, pastel and watercolour on paper, private collection.
Images 2: The Tiled Stove, 1956, ink and pastel on paper, private collection.