When I visited my brother who lives in Australia, he took me to a must-visit place — the National Art Gallery. Selva knew I was an amateur painter and hence, loved all types of paintings such as still-life abstract and others. It was the beginning of spring when I arrived in Canberra. The temperature was about 17 degrees Celsius and though my brother did not require warm clothing, I was all wrapped up — it was just too cold for me coming from a hot country like Indonesia. The National Art Gallery was located at the heart of the city surrounded by fountains and beautiful rose gardens. There was no entrance charge and the architecture was both impressive and unique. There were many types of paintings on display based on the painters’ country of origins, ethnicity and even theme of the painting. The paintings on display were categorised into Asian, Aboriginal (native Australian painters) and Caucasian (white painters from Australia, America, United Kingdom and other western countries). I estimated least a thousand paintings on display, a far cry from our own Art Gallery in Indonesia. the painters ranged from the most experienced to the amateur ones.
There was even a section where paintings by Art students were on display and I must say, the quality and the sheer imagination of the painters despite being mere students, were breathtaking. I was most impressed by the aboriginal paintings. There is a sad history that surrounds the natives of Australia. When the white settlers mostly from United Kingdom came to Australia in the 19th century, it was inhabited by natives. A violent confrontation ensued between these two ethnic groups. Most of the children of the aboriginals were forcibly taken away from their parents and brought up by white parents. the adults were taken to settlements where there was hardly any cultural inter-mingling. The children of the natives were known as the stolen generation named such because they were deprived of the opportunity to grow up with their family.
Some of the paintings depicted this theme. They were heart wrenching which moved me to tears. The paintings covered many themes such as landscapes during the colonial period, scenes of mountains, oceans and festivals among others. Since it was a public holiday, the gallery was crowded with students, parents and their children. It was amazing to see even small children appreciating such abstract paintings. The price of paintings almost made me faint. They ranged from AUS$1500 to a few million Australian dollars ! It was such a huge display of paintings that I was sure the government must have paid big sums of money to purchase these works of art. After three hours I was tired yet refreshed by the visit. We later adjourned for tea and pies at a cafe located on the third floor of the building. I told my brother of my intention to contact some of the Australian artists for comments and display my own paintings which I had brought along. He told me that the Australian painters were very humble and helpful. I made up my mind to contact them the following day.