QAGOMA Store Highlight: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

 

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In 1631, painter Sara de Vos was a woman ahead of her time. She was the first woman admitted to the Guild of St Luke in Holland, and one of the few women to veer away from the accepted path of still life painting. Sara produced a haunting winter scene At the Edge of the Wood which, when we skip forward 300 years, is hanging in the Manhattan apartment of Marty de Groot.

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Henrik Avercamp 1585-1634 / Winter Landscape 1608-1609

Marty de Groot is a wealthy patent attorney and the painting that hangs above his bed has been in his family for over 300 years. One night during a charity event the painting is stolen and replaced with a forgery. At the same time in Brooklyn, young Australian Art History grad student Ellie Shipley  is restoring paintings to earn some cash while she completes her doctoral thesis. She is approached by her usual contact with a request to undertake, not a restoration this time, but a copy.

Jump forward again half a century to Sydney where Ellie is now curating an exhibition of female Dutch painters, and now as both versions threaten to arrive, the ripples of her actions some four decades earlier have finally reached her and threaten to unravel her career.

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Judith Leyster, 1609-1660 / Blompotje (Flowers in a Vase) 1654
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Judith Leyster, 1609-1660 / Self-Portrait c. 1633

As the story moves back and forth between time and place Sara’s tragic life and how she came to paint At the Edge of the Wood is revealed. Marty’s slightly sad story of inherited wealth and a dull job improves when he forges a new identity in order to track down the people responsible for his painting’s theft and forgery. Ellie’s chapters give us an insight into the art world; the craft of art restoration and forgery, art academia and finally the non-public sphere of a major gallery.

The movement between storyline, time and place is done superbly. Dominic Smith has created three fabulous characters but I think Sara, who is a composite of two Dutch women artists from the 17th century, is the most vibrant. This is a page turning book definitely worth reading.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
Dominic Smith
384 pages /  Paperback
Available online from the QAGOMA Store

MEMBERS EVENT
Meet Dominic Smith
5pm Monday 8 August

Join us for an evening with Texas-based Australian writer Dominic Smith as he speaks about his new book The Last Painting of Sara de Vos 2016
$10 Members | $15 Members’ guests
Ticket price includes a drink on arrival
Book online or call (07) 3840 7278 to RSVP by Friday 5 August 2016

Save with a package. Ticket + signed copy of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos 2016 [RRP $32.99]
Members $30 | Guests $39 | Call to secure this special price: (07) 3840 7278.

QAGOMA Store Highlight: GoatMan

 

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Check out what has just landed in the QAGOMA Store – another quirky book you must read.

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a goat, come on surely you must have, doesn’t everyone! Oh, ok a bird yes, a dolphin yes, but no takers on a goat? Well it must just be Thomas Thwaites, you may know him from his previous success The Toaster Project

So here’s the story.  A research grant offers Thwaites, a British conceptual designer, the opportunity to take a holiday from the stresses and worries of being human – by transforming himself into a goat. What ensues is a hilarious and surreal journey through engineering, design, and psychology, as Thwaites interviews neuroscientists, animal behaviourists, prosthetists, goat sanctuary workers, and goat herds. From this, he builds a goat exoskeleton, artificial legs, helmet, chest protector, raincoat from his mum, and a prosthetic goat stomach to digest grass (with help from a pressure cooker and campfire) before setting off across the Alps on four legs with a herd of his fellow creatures.

Thwaites is interested in how humans will use technology to fulfil their desires. He claims that people are always interested in becoming more intelligent and stronger but could be interested in simplifying their lives through a simulated devolution. Thwaites said ‘posthumanism, transhumanism technology and stuff, is about allowing humans to achieve their desires in a way and I guess some people’s desires aren’t necessarily to become super intelligent.’

Well, if nothing else – it’s certainly a unique approach.

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‘I struggle on a few more metres, but I know it’s in vain. The bleats of the herd are fading out of earshot, and then I’m the only goat, a lonely goat, high on a hill.’
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‘My short neck comes back to haunt me’

He lasted three days on the goat farm, before he left and crossed the Alps, and now is happily back to normal human life. Thwaites says that he would recommend being a goat, describing it as a ‘special kind of time’.

A wonderfully eccentric, at times absurd, exploration of what it means to be human and what it might be like to be a goat.

GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human
Thomas Thwaites
Princeton Architectural Press
$49.50 | Shop online and pay 10% less