Do you like modern art? A couple of years back I would have said I couldn’t be bothered with it at all. That all changed with the Cai Guo-Qiang exhibition at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). I totally fell in love with the multiple interpretations, the scale and the variety. I’m no art student, basically, I know nothing about it at all but sometimes I like looking at it and contemplating it for a while.
GOMA Brisbane is located on the southern bank of the Brisbane River in the Cultural Precinct. It’s easy to access and has an exciting collection of visiting and permanent displays throughout the year. Since my introduction to Cai Guo-Qiang, I’ve been back a number of times and share below some of my favourite exhibitions.
We can make another future: Japanese art after 1989
Another favourite GOMA exhibition was entitled ‘We can make another future: Japanese Art after 1989’. and given my personal love for Japan I had to see it. The display was been put together from the gallery’s own extensive collection of artworks by Japanese artists created during the Heisei era. This brought me to my first question .. what is the Heisei era and why haven’t I heard of it?
As you travel through Japan you pretty quickly become familiar with the Imperial eras. The magnificent temples, castles, gardens and other design elements are preserved with great care around the country. World heritage sites, National treasures and other collections are credited to the Nara, Kamakura, Heian, Edo, Showa and the handful of other imperial eras they originate from.
What I didn’t know until relatively recently is that since 8 January 1989, we were in the Heisei (translated as the ‘peace everywhere’) era. The era begins with the appointment of a new Emperor, in this case, Emperor Akihito. Since Emperor Akihito abdicated on 1 May 2019, we have been in the Reiwa (translated as order and harmony) era with his son Emperor Naruhito taking the throne.
Some of my favourite exhibits
Yayoi Kasuma created the fibreglass and plastic flower on display at the entrance to the exhibition in 2011. Through its scale, polka dots and huge staring eye, Yayoi-san seeks to evoke power, sexuality and at the same time an air of joyousness. The themes recurring through her work include this play on symbolism and contrasts.
Masami Teraoka is a Japanese artist and a long-time resident of the USA. Her Geisha in the Bath piece was created as part of her AIDS series to raise awareness around HIV. It was a cause she was drawn to when a friend’s baby was infected with HIV from a blood transfusion. Her work draws on the Shunga style of erotic art and is a satirical expression of sexual behaviour and the government’s failure to act.
Woods III is by Shigeo Toya and draws on the post-Mono-ha style which I do enjoy. Works in this style focus on the interdependence of the individual elements, the surrounding space and the construction materials. In this piece, the elements take the form of squared-off tree trunks in a structured grid arrangement.
Toya-san carved elaborate patterns with a chainsaw revealing the inner layers and many complex spaces and viewpoints. This type of art is very interactive, designed to enjoy from the inside as well as the outside looking in. To me, it feels reminiscent of a forest, and totems and has a strong spiritual element.
And just one more. I had to include this because it’s just so KAWAII!!! And because of my own huge desire for a caravan to escape in at the moment. This is by Yoshitomo Nara who’s known for his eclectic style of cartoon meets punk, sometimes innocent and with an edge of slightly crazy. I adored it! I want to run away in it!
Visitor Information for GOMA Brisbane
The Gallery of Modern Arts is located along the Brisbane River within the cultural precinct of the Southbank area. It’s an easy flat walk from the South Brisbane train station or several bus stops in the vicinity. If you prefer to explore Brisbane from the river the two Southbank ferry stops will also drop you not too far away.
Entry to the museum and many of the exhibits, including most of the limited-time visiting collections, are free. There are always several exhibitions running at one time but I find my mind can only take in one a day as the styles can vary so dramatically – I need some sort of palette cleanser in between them to enjoy them properly.
With that in mind, you will find onsite a cafe, Bistro and Restaurant if you want to take some time out to absorb what you have seen. Alternatively, you are only a very short walk from the Southbank Parklands here and the restaurant strip of Little Stanley Street.
So what do you think? Will you make a date to get along to the next exhibition at GOMA? Do you enjoy modern art or has your perception been changed by a particular artist or piece?