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Where art meets nature in the spectacular Yarra Valley
If you haven't been to TarraWarra Museum of Art, it's high time you went. Art aside, this privately funded publicly owned visual arts museum is housed in an award-winning building that is a work of art in itself. Melbourne architect Allan Powell's concept was to create a structure made of natural materials and in complete harmony with the Yarra Valley landscape that forms its backdrop. And guess what? He did just that.
The latest exhibition is titled 'Solitaire' - a brilliant theme around which to weave the works of some of Australia's most celebrated artists. It covers ideas of solitude and aloneness, social isolation and issues of privacy, with all the nuances both positive and negative that these words evoke.
Anthony Fitzpatrick, the quietly-spoken young curator of the exhibition, has brought together works from the TarraWarra collection, other galleries and private lenders and exhibited them as an intriguing and cohesive whole. The solitaire theme is reflected in some works using the landscape as a backdrop for man's aloneness in his communion with God or the forces of nature. Euan Macleod's Ocean/Fishing 2013 immediately conveys the simultaneous majesty and threat posed by the ocean.
Artists like Edwin Tanner (Man in Office c 1954) and Noel McKenna (City painting B 1992) use urban settings as the backdrop for solitary figures. Andrew McQualter's untitled 2013 sculpture shows two pedestrians dissecting each other, symbolising the crossing of paths without ever interacting or even seeing each other. The solitary theme ties in nicely with the age of social media, in which everything is 'shared' with 'friends' in cyber space, and raises the question of whether we have lost the capacity or even the desire to be alone.
As is always the case when a major exhibition is held at TarraWarra, the North Gallery (whose breathtaking picture window captures a landscape as beautiful as anything within its walls) shows the work of a single artist. Yellow Eyes Burn and Return by Michelle Ussher presents a series of new works on paper, recent oil paintings and a sculpture in glazed ceramic. Her work features images of the eye and mystical characters reminiscent of Greek mythology. High on the evocative and low on the cut-and-dried, these intriguing works are open to individual interpretation and demand a second look.
TarraWarra is the perfectly-sized space to let you go around again without fear of exhaustion. The secret to maintaining your stamina can be found in the gallery café and wine-tasting room, where eager art lovers can retire for refreshment between circuits of the gallery. Sit at one of the tables, either indoors and outdoors, or borrow a picnic rug from the helpful waiting staff and spread yourself out under the trees to get a better view of the duck pond and the valley beyond.
Well worth the hour-long drive along the Maroondah Highway for the café and wine tasting alone, TarraWarra's latest exhibition is the icing on the hummingbird cake. Go for the art, stay for the view. Or vice versa. Just make sure you get there.