a little east of reality

Friday, June 24, 2005

the archibald prize & travelling with the boss

I was back in Sydney today, but not on holiday. This was suit & briefcase stuff. We were seeing Optus, a major telco, to get their input on a new policy we may be implementing over the next couple of years. The meeting didn't worry me. I knew that this was a learning experience for me and that I was not expected to say very much. I'd also dealt with one of the Optus guys on a seperate project, so I felt like I had a friend in the other camp. The meeting went very well, and I did contribute a couple of times, so snaps to me and all.

It was a little more daunting to be travelling interstate with my immediate boss, MsPlum and her boss, our group manager, The Scot. They are not only people who control the work I have access to, but they are also both wealthy, intellectual types. You know the kind of people who will read a book that's won the Booker prize in preference to a more populist Pulitzer winner? (Hmmm...is that an example of British snobbery...the Pulitzer being American and the Booker of the Commonwealth?) I can hold my own with people like that, but it bores me to do so. I did not today have the luxury of looking bored. Of course that sounds like I don't like them, and I do quite like them both. It's just the highbrow culture thing that gets tedious.

Luckily they redeemed themselves in a couple of ways:
One was the suggestion, when we got a call to say our flight was being delayed, to visit the art gallery where the entries for the Archibald prize were being displayed. Yes, yes, typical highbrow suggestion, but who cares? Art is art and I love good art, partially because I have little talent at creating it. But I digress.
The exhibition was wonderful. The winner, sadly was not. The Archibald is a prize given for a portrait painting. There were some fantastically true-to-life paintings, and some very interesting more representative or impressionist pieces. The winner was the piece of unarticulated, could-have-been-drawn-by-a-child-who-really-likes-brown piece of crap to the left.

I have two criteria for judging good art. I don't know all of the 'rules' but I know what works for me. One is the use of light. In fact that is probably the most important thing for me in deciding on artwork to buy for my own walls. The second thing is that it has to speak to the viewer in some way. There has to be something that makes you want to look at it and holds your interest. It's a bit hard to define what that is in general terms - it's different for each work - but it gives me the feeling that something the artist wanted to convey has been conveyed. Sometimes I even feel like something the artist didn't plan to convey has been conveyed. Good art ellicits some kind of response, just like good music does.

I had literally no reaction to this piece. It was so non-descript and unappealing that I actually walked past it without seeing it. It wasn't until I mentioned that I hadn't noticed which painting won and someone pointed it out to me that I realised I had carefully looked at the paintings to its left and right, and completely missed the crappy brown excuse for a painting in the middle. I left the gallery glad to have seen so many amazing paintings, but with one thought recurring again and again:
What were the judges thinking?
The second way my bosses made me smile today was by telling me 'upgrade' stories. The Scot once even got to fly around the world first class because of work tussle with the union (complicated story, but the point is that he travelled around the globe first class at no expense to himself...sweeeet!!). The point is that they lost all of their cultured air at this point. Getting upgraded to first class, finding yourself there unexpectedly, is enough to make anyone get that rapt look children have when they rush out on Christmas morning to find that presents have mysteriously 'appeared' under the tree.

They also invited me into the Qantas Club lounge to eat a free lunch on cushy sofas, a comfort I appreciated when our flight home was delayed by more than two hours. Sometimes highbrow has its benefits. ^_^