Sunday, October 14, 2012

Henry Wagons And Napoleon

Last weekend was the last days of the Napoleon: Revolution To Empire at the National Gallery of Victoria - and to mark the occasion the Gallery was open all night on the Saturday night.  Always one for a novelty experience, Jessie and Heath and I planned to head along - and also enjoy the bonus music put on to wait out the discounted entry after midnight.

Upon driving into town, and scoring what I thought was a dream park, I had a police car screech in behind me.  I could see there was a booze bus set up ahead in the street I had parked, but didn't think anything of it until I got out and was faced with two officers.  I had pulled up short, they said, and so they wanted to do a drug screen right there in the middle of the street.  Sadly for the good cop, bad cop routine, I was too clean, after spending the day doing nothing but study - they didn't really believe that I was going to the Gallery at that hour - their loss!

I met Nicole and Mary inside, who had toured the exhibition already, and had a table stage-side in The Great Hall.  Jessie and Heath soon joined us too.

Henry Wagons has to be one of the funniest acts going around at the moment - his introduction to each song got a laugh every time, cos his such a funny guy!  Pairing his songs stories with a Napoleon theme he was showcasing his new solo album Expecting Company? 

Billed as a solo show, Henry got members of his band The Wagons up to help him out for songs, and then also The Nymphs for pairing vocals.  With songs and stories about Unwelcome Company and I'm In Love With Mary Magdalene, he enchanted and entertained the very full room.

Look at that roof - what a gorgeous space to play in!

After Henry we lingered to hear the start of the next act, with the intention of moving to the exhibit right on midnight.  But the voice and charisma of the lead of Hiatus Kaiyote had us, and much of the room, mesmorised.  

Once we finally dragged ourselves away from the tunes and entered the exhibit, we were stunned by how very full it was at this hour!  There was a crowd of people at every art and information piece in the first room.

The exhibit started by attempting to draw connections between Napoleon and Australia, through the early exploration of our land from European explorers, and the loose connection of the little commander of the Army and those early voyages to the other side of the world.

A wander through rooms plotted out young Napoleon's military career and rise to fame - with grand and pompous portraits in battle and in uniform.  His marriage to Josephine was also a dominant theme of the exhibit, and her interest in the flora and fauna of Australia kept this loose link going with France.

I started to skip over the panels of reading when Napoleon had his wife's daughter married off to his brother, and other complicated circles of relationships, but rejoined the information to check out the interiors of Malmasion and also the process of coronation and the glamour.  Only one gown has been preserved from the event, and was on display here.

The rise and fall of Napoleon was interesting, of which elements I was unaware of, or had daydreamed during these history lessons at school.  His dumping of Josephine because she did not give him an heir, and his new marriage, and then banishment from French society - all fascinating really.  The picture of the willow tree hanging over Napoleon's original gravesite on the island of St Helena, and the idea that people travelling on the seas to get to Australia stopped here and may have taken a cutting from this tree and then populated the south of Australia with it, was a lasting and lingering thought.  Which reminded me of my first visit to Paris, and seeing his now tomb now on his homeland.

As we left the NGV, and made our way home, I arrived just as the clocks changed automatically to new daylight savings time, making it a late one in the name of art, indeed!  Well worth it though!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...