Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Meeting Frida and Diego

I have been trying to remember how I discovered Frida Kahlo. I guess it doesn't matter but it'd be nice to remember that moment. At first I thought it might have been Salma Heyek's fabulous biopic of her, but that was 2002 and I knew a little of her prior to the film. 

Possibly it was 2000 when my mind was blown artistically in New York. Prior to that I had minimal artistic interest and knowledge, Impressionism, Warhol, Surrealism, Dali, Monet, and Picasso. But spending time at The Met, The Guggenheim, and the MOMA meant I had this crazy introduction to myriads of styles and eras of art and I know Frida had to be part of that. Although that was only 15 years ago and I feel I have known her longer.

I love her sense of style, her strength, her serious gaze, her charm, and most of all her sense of self. This is a hirsute woman, something I can relate to lol, a feminist, an artist, and a unique and charismatic woman, and she simply did not seem to care what others thought of her. I loved this so very much.

Diego I remember very well, he had been commissioned to do a mural/fresco for the Rockefeller Centre or 30 Rock as it is known. I was having a tour of that very building in 2000 and was told this story and how it was meant to be a depiction of Socialism and Capitolism and Rivera added Lenin into the scape. He was immediately sacked and the mural painted over much to the annoyance of many. I remember being really taken by that story, and upset for his loss, especially standing in the space of where it could have still been seen.

Whenever it may have been, all I can say is my love for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahla (but oh, especially Frida) has been long and strong. So when I heard well over a year ago, that an exhibition of theirs was coming to Sydney I was very excited.

And so the time came for me to see it, I took a mid week break and met up with my cousins to share the experience.

I woke early and dragged myself out of bed - I am so not a morning person - and to the train. I love that journey to Central, much to look at out the window and that light napping one can do on a train, waking as you pull into Central, that beautiful old station, it has a lovely romantic feel to it.

I change trains to St James and end up at the edge of Hyde Park looking down Macquarie Street, but dashing to the right towards St Mary's Cathedral and slipping down her side to The Domain, through those magnificent trees to the gallery. It is a short walk but this day the rain was pouring so I looked for a taxi to keep me dry, but none were going my way. Never mind as I smulched through the trees, their canopies along with my brolly keeping me mostly dry.

I dried off at the gallery with many others and met up with my cousins. We purchased our tickets for this and the Archibald, Wynne, and Sulman prize winners and had a little time for a catch up and coffee before seeing the later.

I am a big fan of The Archibalds, such a fabulous array of portraits. So many layers and so much depth. The winner, Barry by Louise Hearman was stunning. An almost photographic portrait of the great man, rarely seen with his guard down, and yet you get that...almost...until you look really carefully and you see the twinkle of Edna in his eye.

We moved through this exhibit slowly and carefully and whilst it was stunning, we were ready for what we had come to see!

As we arrived at the exhibit space large black and white photos of Frida and Diego were blown up and displayed to meet us. It was electrifying.

And then the first section was three television screens showing home videos of the pair, backed by the stunning architecture of the gallery building, it was difficult to know where to look. But really, it was easy, once you glimpsed Frida, smiling and fawning up to the camera you were under her spell, unable to look away, taken in by her beauty and charisma.

And after spending forever watching those video we moved to the first room and saw our first big Kahlo painting. One I had seen many times. It had me transfixed and mesmerised.

In the same room were some nude sketched of Frida by Diego and some of his other paintings. His style is very different to her, very much of it's time and it reflected his heritage within.

From this room we slowly made our way down a long corridor of black and white photos depicting their early life. They were amazing to see and also to lookup and see a large photograph enlarged and seemingly watching over us as we made our way through.

Then a spurt of colour with some coloured photographs. Some letters and artefacts before heading into another room of paintings.

And then the famous monkey painting. It was a trip to see it there for real and to stare at her starring back at you.

And then another beauty, a famous one, with bright colours and intenseness. So magical to see, my heart almost skipped a beat.

And some more by Diego, before another row of photographs including those of her in her funeral bed and coffin, which I found difficult to look at.

A final room had small pencil drawings, so intricate you could barely work out what they were.

And so it was done...I don't want to divulge it all, it is still on for some months, so go and see it yourself!

We finished up with a little shop in the gift shop, not as many Frida things as I would have liked, but I managed to spend a little all the same.

We ended the day with lunch at the gallery restaurant, Chiswick. We shared a table of tapas style dishes, chatted and discussed Frida in awe, and looked out at the million dollar views around Sydney.

And so I bid my cousins adieu and dashed back through the domain in only drizzle now and napped most of the way home, dreaming of Frida.

I cannot begin to say what a day like this does for my soul and my heart, encapsulating oneself in art is a tremendous thing. I highly recommend it!

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