Our nation’s capital
I used to think Canberra was really lame; a grid of brown brick and tile, bitumen and drought-stricken paddocks. I even remember having a heated debate with my Dad who was trying to convince me to move there for a well-paid government job. At the time I thought that no amount of money could lure me to Australia’s most boring capital city.
Strange how a couple of years can change your mind. I went down to Canberra to visit my sister a couple of months ago and for the first time, I really saw the place. The sparkling lake surrounded by endless grass and trees. The vast spaces between suburbs. The quiet darkness at night time. Canberra was peaceful and what’s more, I liked it.
Kate, my immaculately organised sibling, had arranged to take me to the National Portrait Gallery on the Saturday afternoon. Stepping inside this austere building, you get a real feeling of blankness. Glass and timber and sky collide into zen nothingness which is an ideal palate for the banquet of faces that lies within. Starting with portraits of early settlers, the gallery is designed in such a way that it digests you, moving you from decade to decade until eventually it spits you out in the modern day, with monster-sized paintings of Peter Garrett and Deborah Mailman for company.
Many of the recent works in the gallery are the product of the Archibald Prize so you do get a sense of deja vu if you are a fan of NSW Art Gallery during celebrity season. Nonetheless, there is a real sense of gravitas about the collection, characterised by the eery reflection of thousands of oily eyes – the eyes of the people who made Australia what it is today – watching you and wondering, ‘Will you ever make it onto the wall? Will you ever do anything interesting?’
To find out more about the National Portrait Gallery, please visit http://www.portrait.gov.au
Quick Quiz: Canberra – boring or beautiful? Tell me your thoughts …