• Kirsten Johnston


I am in Melbourne at the moment and took today to go to the National Gallery of Victoria and see the Alexander Calder exhibition. An American artist, Calder was born around the turn of the 20th century. His work is greatly varied – sculpture, drawing, painting, jewellery – but it is for inventing the hanging mobile that he is best remembered.

And I was entranced by those mobiles. The more delicate the better. Pictures in books had conveyed, as always, a poor representation of their real beauty. Their balance, their floating presence and their (very) gentle movement in the air of the gallery made me want to take each one home and hang it in a suitable vantage point in my home (although, it would probably need a new, dedicated wing to adequately house such glorious things).

They looked so light and were, quite literally, free of the earth. It made me ponder lightness. In my singing days I had a voice that was firmly grounded in the warmth of the soil (and, certainly, there are delights that come with that) but I used to marvel at the voices that seemed to break free of gravity and soar, unfettered. They had a lightness that my dark tones couldn’t replicate. It is those trees with narrow leaves, with subtlety, that attract me most. That delicate word in a poem, a fine piece of jewellery, the faint hint of detail in a drawing, are things that move me.

At the moment I am painting a solid piece – a large, bold, abstract exploration of rocks and caves – but I am now wondering how to incorporate a lightness into it, how to lift it beyond its earthly subject matter and add that piece of magic. How can I make it soar, gravity-free?

That’s my challenge for the week.

Until later,


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