A Ruff Review of Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Animal Kingdom: Bailey (Assistant Director, Seagulls) reviews Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is back! I’ve been nosing around checking out this year’s top 100 images, now on display at the museum. Have you seen them yet?

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Fish… finishing this weekend

Has the Australian National Maritime Museum fetishised fish? and is fetishised even a word?

This weekend is your last chance to find out, and to view what I think is one of our most inventive readings of Australian art from a maritime perspective.

Entering the ‘Fish in Australian art’ exhibition guided by Deborah Halpern’s ‘Fish’, neon lighting and perspex, 2010

Fish in Australian art  is an exhibition of watercolours, prints, publications, drawings, paintings, multimedia, artefacts, and artifice… all of which feature Australian stories of fish or fishing. Through artist’s eyes you see the wonders of fish,  fish as characters in dreaming or creation stories, as objects of European curiosity, science, charm, fantasy, nature, and the sublime. You see fish as decorative or design elements, and you see fishing as a way to while away the hours, for musing, sport or industry, and above all for cooking, eating, or serving at the table.

The exhibition includes works from important Indigenous artists like Yvonne Koolmatrie, Arthur Koo’ekka Pambegan, Micky of Ulladulla and Roy Wiggan, and many household names of European Australian art like Arthur Boyd, William Buelow Gould, Conrad Martens, John Olsen,  Margaret Preston and Anne Zahalka, in an exhibition which is both thematic and broadly chronological. I especially like the luminous drawings from the natural history painters who worked with pencil and brush to document all they saw around them – here, the fish and the fishing techniques of Indigenous Australians, and their watercraft.

Richard Browne watercolours

There are a number of works by the Port Jackson painter, Ferdinand Bauer and Thomas Watling on loan from the British Museum of Natural History which are truely sensational and here in Australia just for this exhibition.

These works show Indigenous people fishing from their nawi and cooking their catch.  They are beautifully drawn. There are so many nuanced details, like the moon rays floating to the water in the ink and watercolour sketch A N. South Wales native strikg fish by moonlight while his wife paddles him along with a fire in the Canoe ready to broil the fish as caught attributed to the Port Jackson Painter, 1788-97. These details remind you that these painters were not just about picturing science and are worth a really good look.

Artists of Port Jackson works in ‘Fish in Australian art’

The exhibition blends media and artefacts, and in this early colonial section you see a canoe of bark with tied ends, made by Albert Woodlands from the west Kempsey region, built before 1938, and on loan from the Australian Museum. This Indigenous canoe is used to interpret the fishing drawings and to add texture and meaning – together they become a delicious viewing experience for those interested in Aboriginal watercraft. The canoe – similar in style to the nawi used by Sydney Aboriginal people – forms such a refined shape that it is almost sculptural.

There is much to see in this exhibition and I can only suggest you make it to the museum this weekend to catch it before it goes…

Canoe and watercolours from Fish in Australian Art

Craig Walsh: illusionist

image of art installation, restaurant on a street in toronto

Craig Walsh, documentation of Incursion (Water), 2007, image courtesy the artist

An unsuspecting shop window on a dark street, empty, except for a few wooden chairs and tables.

A trickle at first, then pooling, sloshing, filling, water floods the restaurant.

Tables bob,tip and capsize, gigantic Groper-like fish swim in and around.

On the street outside a small crowd gathers to watch in disbelief, passing drivers crane their necks to do a double take of this uncanny scene.

I’m watching documentation of artist Craig Walsh’s digital projection work, Incursion, a site specific project for the 2007 Nuit Blanche in Toronto, Canada, and a featured work in our lovely exhibition Fish in Australian Art.

In just a few short weeks Craig Walsh will be here at the museum for an in- conversation event with Stephen Scheding, co-curator of Fish in Australian Art. It will be an opportunity to hear from Craig on his work, his use of technology, his collaborative process and a chance to see extracts and documentation from some of his diverse and spectacular site-responsive installations and projections. After the talk, audiences will also enjoy wine, cheese and the chance to pop in into see the beautiful exhibition as it enters it’s final weeks.

art installation toronto

Craig Walsh, documentation of Incursion (Water), 2007, image courtesy the artist

Craig is well known for his large scale public artworks, projections that simulate surreal scenarios, artificial life forms, portraits and stories onto the landscape or sites of significance. He plays with the sculptural properties of projections to instil a kind of mythology into any chosen location. Having exhibited as far and wide as Yokohama, Gwangju and Murray Bridge, Craig has had the opportunity to work with people and places from all over the world, particularly through the recent Digital Odyssey project, a tour and residency that saw him packing his life and his studio into a caravan to travel around Australia producing 16 new works the space of 18 months in collaboration with regional communities. For the moment, he is enjoying the stability of a home in the suburbs while he undertakes a residency in Sydney.Looking at Craig’s body of site-specific work makes you wish you had seen all this in situ. There is something special about accessing the insight that an artist can shed on their own practice, particularly in revealing the visual trickery behind artworks. For example Incursion is not just a projection, it has elements of performance and sculpture- the footage was made by creating a scale model of the restaurant into which water and fish and miniature furniture were all placed and filmed through the glass. The resulting footage projected onto a rear projection screen covering the glass windows of the real restaurant created a captivating illusion, an environment where the fish were not part of the “…of the day” menu but rather the dominant species invading and consuming the space of the restaurant.

Questions for Craig? Why not join us for Craig Walsh: In Conversation 9 August at 6pm. Tickets and more information at http://fishexhibition.anmm.gov.au/en/Events

Mystery Men

Portrait of a man holding a bottle

Portrait of a man holding a bottle. Reg #00013712, ANMM Collection Gift from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron

Portrait of a man

Portrait of an unidentified man. Reg # 00013263

Can YOU help?

These portraits are part of the museum’s William J Hall collection, a little-known Sydney photographer whose varied portfolio includes images of sailing and harbour scenes, landscapes, and livestock and agriculture photography.

However, within this extensive collection there are also a series of striking studio portraits. A nun, a priest, babies and brides, grooms, soldiers, sailors and costumed performers are all part of the impressive line up of subjects and, unfortunately, they are all unidentified.

Group portrait of three unidentified men

Group portrait of three unidentified men. Reg# 00013308

Recently we have had some success in identifying people and places that feature in some of the museum’s photographs. The ladies who stylishly attended the foreign naval visits in Sydney Harbour in the 1930s are slowly making themselves known to us, as are the landmarks photographed by William F Hall around the Hawkesbury River in the late 1800s. Over on our Flickr page knowledgeable members of the public have been contributing to the Australian National Maritime Museum’s collection by suggesting names, locations, dates and events that relate to our photographic records. In doing so they have been adding invaluably to the wealth of information in the museum’s records. Like many museums, we are trying to make more of our collections available online, not only so we can provide information, but so we can collect it. The objects, records and photographs of museums are created by and collected for the communities around them – so who better to assist with our research?

So, can you help us solve some of these little mysteries? Do you know the man in the hat? The guy with the pipe or the masonic apron? Who’s the man with the banjo and the lady with the veil? More importantly, who was their optometrist? If you have answers, or just want to view some amazing photos, head on over to our Flickr site!

Penny Hyde

Curatorial assistant

Group portrait of three women

Group portrait of three women. Reg# 00013339

Portrait of a man holding a banjo

Portrait of a man holding a banjo. Reg# 00013213

Endeavour re-opens to the public

HMB Endeavour replica will re-open to the public at the museum tomorrow, Saturday 23 June.

Photo of

HMB Endeavour replica at museum

This is the first time visitors in Sydney will be able to board the ship since arriving back after an epic circumnavigation of Australia! The ship will continue to be open everyday at the museum.

We look forward to seeing you on board.

Terrific Tugs Family Day – Sunday 24 June

This Sunday at the museum we are celebrating all the things we love about tugboats! We have a great day of activities planned, so we hope you can come along and join us.

Our ever popular Kids on Deck program will be running, where children can make their own model tug, play lots of games, along with character led tours of our wharves and museum!

On the wharves we will host five visiting tugboats, including Albert, the cute mini tug who will be zipping around the basin. Visitors are invited to climb aboard a working tug to learn how they operate.

Book cover featuring Heroic with Queen Mary as a troopship during world War II, on Sydney Harbour. Photographer Samuel Hood. ANMM Collection

Author Randi Svensen will also be speaking about her new book, Heroic, Forceful and Fearless: Australia’s Tugboat Heritage, and recount the memorable characters and the brave little vessels of our tugboat industry, past and present. Bring along your copy or purchase at the museum store for signing!

To find out more about Terrific Tugs Family Day, head to our website.