Thursday, 12 January 2012

Monet's Garden and Fairweather's Island

Monet's Garden at Giverney

When I popped this DVD in and sat back with a cup of tea and an anticipatory smile, I expected to see lots of Monet's paintings, intercut with shots of the bits of garden that inspired them. Instead, I saw a very interesting and informative film about the garden itself, and as the camera roamed the familiar settings, I saw the paintings in my head rather than on the screen.

The film follows the life of the garden through a year, from the first spring flowers, through the riotous summer colours, to the winter season when the garden closes to the public and the eight gardeners do their essential mantenance.

There are fascinating interviews with artists, gardeners and members of the Monet family. I liked the Japanese landscape gardener who explained that the famous bridge is not really the right shape for a Japanese bridge, and in any case Japanese bridges are not green, but red for contrast!

The garden is in two parts: the flower garden and the water garden which was only built later. Monet was a passionate gardener and created the garden with great consideration and an artist's eye for colour and design.

The gardeners among our members will especially like this DVD.
Fairweather Man
"Fairweather Man" is an intimate portrait of the life and work of Ian Fairweather, an eccentric, reclusive, driven artist. It runs for 52 minutes, bringing his story to life through letters, diaries, archival footage and interviews. I particularly liked the inclusion of so many of his paintings: we are able to see his talent unfold, the development of his oeuvre reflecting the influence of events in his life and places he lived.

Abandonment as a child and the horrors of active service in World War I gave him a good nudge toward a habit of reclusive introspection. He could not settle, and China became the first stop in a life of wandering. Chinese culture had an overriding and lifelong influence on his art.

At 60 years of age, Fairweather experienced an epiphany. He built himself a flimsy raft and set sail from Darwin on a foolhardy, death-defying trip across the Timor Sea. For 16 days he drifted in a semi-conscious and hallucinogenic state. It is said that before that journey he was an extremely talented artist, but afterwards he became an extraordinary one.

For the last 20 years of his life Fairweather lived a hermit-like existence in a grass hut on Bribie Island, off the coast of Queensland. It was there that he created his greatest work, despite the primitive and unhygienic conditions. When he died in 1974, Australia lost a great painter, but you can see some of his best work at the Ian Potter Gallery any time you like. Go and treat yourself, it's free!

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