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Confessions from a girl who doesn’t ‘get’ Visual Art: A review of the Paste-Up Project

I have a confession: This morning I woke up in a cold sweat when I remembered that I was reviewing the first day of the Paste-Up Project (a You Are Here festival event that involves turning the outside wall of the Canberra Museum and Gallery into an open-air gallery). I called myself a variety of names that I’m probably not allowed to write on here and even considered not going at all.

Why was this? Do paper and glue scare me that much? Does visual art send shivers of fear down my spine? Well the answer is yes (to the art question that is – I’m quite a fan of paper and glue, being an undergrad primary teacher and all). Visual art terrifies me. Because I don’t get it at all. And how can I review something that I don’t understand?

I knew without a doubt that I was walking into the event with a ridiculously strong prejudice against it, which doesn’t make for a fair and impartial review. As much as it bothers me, people have different opinions to mine (I know this for a fact, since Ulysses still sells and every copy of Eraserhead hasn’t been burned into a small plastic lump of overrated garbage), and writing from my eyes only about something I don’t particularly care for seemed…dishonest somehow.

But I decided that today was time for a change. It was time to open up my mind and heart to visual art in all of its forms, and head over there with a different attitude to the event than the one that had woken me up at 5am this morning.

So I drove to the National Museum and Gallery with my prejudices left behind and surveyed the artistic wonder that creative Canberrans had put on display…

…and I was not impressed.

I found it very messy and a lot less creative than much of the street art I see around Canberra on my drive to work or university. Granted, it’s hard to do your best work when you’re pasting it to a building in a way that’s haphazard at best; but I have to say, I expected more.

It’s not that they were bad. Though I don’t know much about visual art, I can still recognise that the pieces were done by people with talent. I think it was more the organisation of them that made it less appealing than it could have been. They just didn’t ‘pop’. Colours weren’t dancing off the wall, fighting for the attention of all those who passed them. I understand the You Are Here events aren’t targeted to everyone – that would make them stale, boring, and they would probably not appeal to anyone were that attempted. But I was hoping for something that would get people to sit up and take notice. Something that would stop them on their boring walk or drive to work and get them, if only for a few minutes, to really see and appreciate all of the creative awesomeness that the Capital has to offer.

That’s not to say that there weren’t some cool pieces – I especially liked the people with native birds and animals for heads, as it was very Wonderland-esque, which appealed to my inner child (and my inner adult). There was another piece as well – I’m not sure exactly what it was (being abstract and all) but it was colourful and eye-catching in the way that I had been hoping for.

And as a concept, I quite liked the Paste-Up Project. It was as if they were turning the wall of the National Museum and Gallery into our own little East Side Gallery, only without all the, like, history, and you know, boring stuff like that (random fun fact on that topic: the Harmonie German Club  in Canberra has the biggest piece of the Berlin wall in the Southern Hemisphere).

But visually I just wasn’t overwhelmed.

It was also quite a bad location. The people involved had to keep telling everyone to get out of the path of oncoming cars (it doesn’t reflect well on me that they had to explicitly say that), though there wasn’t really anywhere else to stand. Not that I have a solution to that problem short of moving the National Museum back a couple of feet, but it made it quite difficult to look at it all properly.

So would I recommend going? Surprisingly, I would have to say yes. It livens up an otherwise dull part of the city, it’s easy to get to, and it gives the drunks in the Mooseheads car park something to look at while they throw-up the $2 drinks that seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Paste-Up Project is running until March 18th, so if you want a small taste of what Canberra artists have to offer, you can head on over to the National Museum and Gallery to check it out for yourself.

‘Buzzcuts is review writing program for young people. It is an Express Media initiative. For more information head to: www.expressmedia.org.au

(Image Credit: 1.)

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