It was Monday night that I struggled to sleep. Mind racing; random thoughts delivering a muddled theme without even a trace of reality.
The more I tried, the more I failed, and even a fascination with Hemingway’s use of punctuation, particularly commas, was futile in delivering a pause that would facilitate slumber.
On reflection, I was worried. Banksy, perhaps also known as Robin Gunningham, the guerrilla artist, was keeping me awake.
The renowned enigma and artistic phenomenon, Banksy, cloaked in camouflage to protect his identity, both fascinates and scares in equal measure.
He has amassed a fortune from graffiti art; stencilling simple yet captivating images, often politically or culturally inspired.
Banksy’s most recent artwork involved the partial shredding of 2006 painting, Girl with Balloon, after it sold for A$1,924,269 at Southeby’s in London.
A remote-controlled cutting device fitted to the base of the frame leaping to life once the gavel fell.
The reaction was intense: aghast facial expressions, coupled with descriptions of brilliance and genius, creating a new artwork that may be worth more than the original.
I’m sure gambler, collector and philanthropist, David Walsh, would agree.
Concern bombarded my brain – ridiculous anxiety for John Glover’s paintings, Provenance and In the Val d’Aosta Switzerland, dramatically falling victim to a shredder, not unfamiliar to Tasmanians, striking again, destroying precious works immediately upon purchase at Launceston’s Armitage Auctions on Wednesday morning.
Would Banksy travel across the world to practise his artistic destruction again?
Afterall, we’ve had our own touch of Banksy with Lord Scabar’s tiny doors.
And what would Glover have thought of this artistic bunkum we could term “shredder-gate” as his paintings went under the hammer?
Glover’s landscapes are often found in deceased estates uncovering, amongst others, blue skies and scattered clouds, sprawling bush and midland scenes; utilising ochre, greens and grey to capture hills and mountains, and clearings and gum trees, which we have become accustomed to observing.
The annual art prize for landscape painting honours Glover’s name, who was also an Englishman, born coincidentally on February 18, the same day as the person who encouraged me to think more deeply about art, Katie.
He moved to Tasmania on his 64th Birthday in 1831.
For those educated in Tasmania, an awareness of Glover’s style is etched in our memories having spent hours imitating his works at museums on school excursions during primary school.
In fact, Glover’s detailed paintings were the only art we knew. Initially respected because of their perceived likeness to photographs; vivid naturalism, feeding an appreciation which valued subtle brushstrokes, and later for their skillful portrayal of Tasmanian scenes.
Leap forward nearly 100 years and like Banksy, MONA has changed the vista.
No longer are we rendered captured by likeness and required to appreciate landscape paintings to define artistic quality.
We are challenged by poo machines, bubble cars, cascading waterfalls with words, and an intriguing wall of plaster cast moulds, which most scurry past with feigned surprise.
That is not to say we undervalue or underappreciate Glover, rather our palette has matured, allowing us to appreciate art that provokes a response; whether positive, negative or perhaps in disgust.
And that is how MONA has shaped and changed our cultural appreciation.
Taking that theme further, imagine Tasmania as a modern canvas, a stage, an orchestra, a note pad, a sculpture.
What could we create together?
It may still represent a landscape; a truly iconic panorama, however, I suspect it would be framed in a more reflective masterpiece.
Full of contrasts, recognising British institutions whilst acknowledging First Nations peoples.
Would we all like the finished product? Probably not, but does it matter?
Perhaps, a consensus that art stirs our senses could bring us together, with the opus underpinned by the imagination of people who make our state unique.
Plainly, Tasmanians hold a myriad of views but, with time, we can all learn to appreciate and respect difference.
On Wednesday at Armitage Auctions, Glover’s paintings weren’t shredded like Tasmanian documents of the past, as the pair were safely bought by a local legend.
Maybe now I can sleep, content we are beginning to reconcile the past and look to the future, aware that art can, like Banksy, unite us in reaction.
- Brian Wightman is a former Attorney-General and school principal