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Fast Forward from The Night Watch to Wallander

July 8, 2012

One of our gallery fixes last week was the opening of a photographic exhibition Night Watch by Gary Cockburn and Eva Collins at Artman Gallery. The exhibition was opened by Dr. Brian Gilkes, former lecturer at RMIT and current Director of Pharos Editions. Gilkes began by showing us a copy of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch to illustrate his point of reference – juxtaposition between light and dark. Eva Collins photography dips below the surface of the moment revealing unexpected facets of image and emotion.

The painting by Dutch artist Rembrandt’s The Night Watch was a highlight for me of the beautiful Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The Night Watch is one of the most famous paintings in the world and is renowned for the effective use of light and shadow and the perception of movement in what would have been, traditionally, a static military portrait. My first glimpse of this monumental painting was during my early travels to Europe. Nothing quite prepared me for the physical immensity of this work 12 ft by 14 ft and the amazing detail especially the girl in the yellow dress.

The Museum closed its doors for renovation in December 2003. Nine years later with 375 million Euros spent on its restoration the museum is still a building site, except for one small wing opened to the public. An unexpected delay has been due partly because a cyclist lobby objected to the museums plans to turn a passageway through the centre of the building into the museum’s main entrance. It seems the argument is still going on.


The museum has still retained the 19th century architect Pierre Cuypers vision of “a neo gothic” cathedral of art. The recently appointed director of the Museum Wim Pijbes said “ one of the biggest factors in the delay was not the money, not the ambition. it is the Dutch democratic process of listening to everybody. Even if it’s only a handful of people they can frustrate the whole process.” Perhaps we can all learn from this departure from reason

Amongst the plethora of programs available on free to air TV it is refreshing to find that television is still able to deliver high quality drama. Britain’s BBC TV certainly has the capacity to deliver some outstanding thrillers such as the current Wallander Series. Wallander is set in bleak, flat farmland around the small under populated town of Ystad in southern Sweden. The camera work and visual imagery has much in common with the high drama of Rembrandt’s masterpieces. Wallander seems to have the ability to stretch time from moments of complete stillness to intense action. A version of “Nostalgia” by Australian singer-songwriter Emily Baker is the opening theme.

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