Tasmania Part III
Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, is an old friend. We've visited this city at least four times but each visit has resulted in a different experience.
We remember spending time in Hobart with Ken and Sue. We went to the annual dahlia show where Kathy and Sue happily journaled all the exhibit categories so Susie could stage a dahlia show in Bucks County. A generous participant gave Sue one of his beautiful flowers, which he decided would not be show-worthy the next day. We carried that beauty around in a coke bottle, and finally handed it off when we checked in to our Sydney flight.
The dahlia show would also stand out in Ron's memory for another reason. The Gulf War was about to begin. But one of the local papers made its front page story: "Dahlia Queen Named." On page two, readers found out that one million men were set to square off in the desert. Call it Tassie perspective.
Another time Kathy and Ron looked down the harbor and saw a strange, nefarious-looking craft approaching. All we could see were two knife-shaped hulls. As it got closer and closer it became clearer: we were seeing some kind of strange catamaran. Then, as it turned we saw it was a gray US Navy ship that had come back to Hobart for maintenance.
During another visit we stayed at a vineyard, Moorilla Estate, which produced very good pinot noirs. But, their homes were even more amazing: A-frames that were cantilevered over the Derwent River. The bedrooms, the bathtubs, almost everywhere had a gasp-producing view.
We experienced a version of all three of these events on this trip.
Once we checked into our hotel, the MacQ01, we made plans to visit the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) the next day. To get there, we purchased tickets on a high tech catamaran, the MONA1. Maybe it wasn't quite a US Navy ship but it was built in the same boatyard and brought back memories.
Those memories were once again renewed when we arrived (and met Adrienne) at MONA. The modern museum is built on the grounds of ...Moorilla Estate. The prior owner had sold the land to a man by the name of David Walsh, who made his money in on-line-gambling. Walsh promised to keep the vineyards intact as well as the A-frames. In fact, he even added more river-fronting lodging.
To get to the entrance meant climbing about five stories of stairs. Then, we toured the museum, which is built into the earth. Walsh's unusual views of what constitutes art reminded Ron of the Tasmanian newspaper's view of what was news: perhaps a little offbeat. Walsh has said if some of the art was too popular, it probably didn't belong in his museum.
There was a man-made waterfall that randomly formed words as the water dropped about thirty feet. A bloated red Porsche was called "the car that ate my life." A huge Sydney Nolan work, called "Snake" that took three years to complete stretched across an entire gallery. A Nolan nude study had Dylan singing "Lay Lady Lay" on the audio guide. That wasn't the only music. Damian Cowell's rap songs with a disco background enlivened some of the art. One of verses went: "Imagine publishers looking for talent, not marketability. We'd have to pump financial assistance into the self-help industry." Ron, the writer, likes this lyric.
MONA had a large exhibit of the Zero art movement, which played with perception. In the gallery housing Light Rain, we walked among rods suspended from the ceiling that shimmered like rain when you brushed against them. Depending on where you stand, you see yourself in every mirror of Mirror Environment – or not at all. Metronomes lined the shelf in a stark, white gallery, each one happily keeping its own rhythm, taking me back to years of piano study with Mrs. Shaw.
Some of the art was definitely weird, stretching the mind. There was a man seated in a zen-like position, back to the viewers. His back was one large tattoo canvas. David Walsh had purchased the man's back in an auction. Well, Tasmania does have a history of treating convicts like slaves.
Kathy felt the museum specialized in disorientation. There are no wall labels for the art and one gallery may lead to three or four others, or none. If you try to re-trace your steps, the room you last saw in a saturated yellow color has transformed into intense grass green. Was I here before? A long, dark claustrophobic tunnel (one of four dead-end alleys in the Pharos) led to Faros, the restaurant that floated over the Derwent with the huge white orb "Unseen" in the center and windows on three sides. The theme of darkness leading to light is one of Walsh's mantras. By the way, there is no way out of the restaurant except to return through the tunnel and try to find your way through the maze of galleries.
We had no trouble discerning reality in the Tassie food scene.
We have to try to become Tasmanian poets when we talk about the Mountain Pepper Fragrant Eggplant at Aloft, a restaurant situated upstairs on Brooke Street Wharf, only ten minutes from our hotel. Somehow Chef Ryan coated the silky eggplant in caramelized native pepperberry, without turning the dish into a dessert. Each bite melted and then lingered with the eggplant and pepper the stars. I have never enjoyed beef (with black bean) tartare as much - the flavor and the textures were ethereal.
Chef's magic was also waiting for us at Fico. The crispy polenta disc topped with pecorino and fried quail egg was a bite of delight. The pumpkin and goat cheese tamale at Faros was a surprise on the menu – and delicious. Likewise the cauliflower croquette with purple garlic at The Glass House was inspired.
We seemed to recall lots of good art galleries in Hobart. Our first go was a bit of a bust with just touristy paintings of fairies or cats. We eventually made our way to a gallery called Art Mob, filled with artwork by the original Australians, the Aboriginal people. Jake, who was the sole person in the store, started to pull out artwork, several by Rosella Namok from Lockhart River in far north Queensland. Kathy fell in love with "Chilli Crossing." Ron loved "Out at Sea - Stinging Rain." We ended up buying them both and hope everyone reading this comes to our house for an Art Mob showing once the paintings arrive.
As we left Hobart for Sydney, we felt like we could have spent more time there. Maybe that's how it should be when you are visiting an old friend.
Tasmania Part III