Quiet: Contemplating the Collection


Imagine it is quiet, the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) is not yet open and you are walking slowly through the distinctive spaces of the reimagined Australian Collection. An artwork grabs your attention, maybe it is Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s vibrant Utopia panels 1996 or the rhythmic, gridded and evenly spaced boards of Rosalie Gascoigne’s Overland 1996.

You stand in front of the work, contemplating its colours, textures, surface, and materials. You start to think about why you were drawn to it, what it reminds you of – memories, feelings, a conversation you had the night before.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Anmatyerre people, Australia b.c.1910-96 / Installation view of the Australian collection at QAG featuring Utopia panels 1996 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas / 263 x 87.4cm each / Commissioned 1996 with funds from the Andrew Thyne Reid Charitable Trust through and with the assistance of the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Emily Kame Kngwarreye/Copyright Agency / Photograph: Natasha Harth © QAGOMA
Rosalie Gascoigne, Australia 1917-99 / Installation view of the Australian collection at QAG featuring Overland 1996 / Painted, warped plywood panels on wood blocks / 25 panels and 16 blocks (installed, variable) / Gift in memory of Rosalie and Ben Gascoigne through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2014. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Rosalie Gascoigne/Copyright Agency / Photograph: Natasha Harth © QAGOMA

A calming voice then calls for you to gather and leads you on a guided meditation. Drawing on your experience of looking, you are also encouraged to let go of your surrounds and focus on breathing slowly and deeply. You drift into a meditative state, occasionally disenchanted by a faint noise or tingling in your feet.

Once you have opened your eyes, you reflect on the artwork that initially drew your attention, and whether your feelings towards it changed as you meditated. You share your experience with the group and leave feeling relaxed, inspired and ready to start your day.

‘Calm living meditation’ takes place at QAG on the first Tuesday of the month. Launched in October 2017, this early morning program is part of ‘Quiet: Contemplating the Collection’, an ongoing series of poetry, drop-in drawing, meditation and yoga that embraces the Australian Collection as a place of quiet contemplation.

Inspired by an international shift towards slower, more contemplative approaches to looking at art, as well as increased interest in mindful living, ‘Quiet’ offers a fresh perspective on the collection, using art as a gateway to reflection and relaxation.

‘Calm living meditation’ is a unique experience as it combines slow art looking techniques with the art of meditation. Led by meditation and yoga practitioner Miriam Van Doorn, each session takes inspiration from the artwork and architecture of the Australian galleries at QAG to bring balance and awareness into daily life.

In sharing her experience, Miriam said that the art gallery provides an oasis of peace and calm.

The awe of the artworks enliven our senses and encourage us to stop for a moment and be completely present, letting the emotion of the work ‘wash’ over us. In our daily lives, we forget to stop and take a moment to be grateful, to let an emotion, awareness, a thought ‘wash’ over us, and not be pulled into the maelstrom of life. Every time we do a calm living meditation session, this awareness and feeling of gratitude is re-affirmed. We walk away feeling more at peace with the world and ourselves.

Alice-Anne Psaltis is Public Programs Officer, QAGOMA

Calm living meditation’ is complemented by ‘Mindfulness yoga’, a flow-style yoga and mindfulness class in the surrounds of the Australian collection, as well as ‘Members Yoga and Meditation,’ which combines a gentle stretch yoga with calm living meditation. Bookings required, all levels are welcome, with no experience needed.

Feature image: ‘Quiet: Contemplating the Collection’ with Miriam Van Doorn