We walk over to the gallery fashionably late. After hours of pounding the pavement in search of hot campus news stories, time has gotten away from us – and as is typical after a long day of student journalism, Lucy and I have hit the bottle of Whispers 2014 Shiraz a little too hard.
Eagerly anticipating an unforgettable night of debauchery, I am rather excited to mingle and exchange witticisms with the university’s thriving young community of visual artists, writers and poets, who are known to converge at that much-lauded centre of progressive campus culture, the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery. Adjusting our berets and stamping out our cigarettes, Lucy and I pause for a moment to enjoy the feeling of electricity in the summer night air. We have both skipped our fortnightly Communist branch meeting for this occasion, and are ready to get fucked up.
Entering through the secret back entrance, we pass Tim Winton, ponytail glowing in the moonlight. He is whispering an angry “Don’t you know who I am?” at the stony-faced doorman. Flashing our press passes, we are ushered straight through and handed complimentary flutes of champagne. The lights are dimmed and the room is humming with raucous conversation and titters of laughter. I immediately make subtle eye contact with a handsome bespectacled poet from my creative writing tutorial. Chardonnay in hand, he is standing across the room from me and coolly regarding a piece from the Cruthers collection. I flash back to a sexually charged in-class debate last week, during which he angrily called me, among other things, a post-Freudian pop-feminist hack. I make a mental note to save him for later.
Lucy and I calmly circulate, working the room while emanating mystery, cool, and art world knowledge. Over in a dark corner I think I spot Dorothy Hewett in heated conversation with Katharine Susannah Pritchard, her face is scrunched in concentration. Meanwhile, I hear the symptomatic clicking of a spontaneous spoken word poetry slam having broken out in the back room. To my left, an honours student has stripped naked and encased herself in a glass box, encouraging gallery-goers to observe her over a 24-hour period. I grab a handful of canapés and munch slowly, taking it all in. It is thrilling to be a part of this, to be here in this time and this place in this moment.
After making a no-doubt marked social impression, it is time for us to turn to the works on display. Ah yes, the art. Lucy moves away to inspect a conceptual sculpture, but it is a nearby painting that piques my interest. The catalogue describes the artist as a local WA up-and-comer, Bayswater’s answer to Richter. I am very moved by his use of colour and form, and find tears welling in my eyes as I stare further into the transcendental depths of a work that I have no doubt will set the pace for the next ten years of Eastern suburbs post-Expressionism. I find myself openly crying now, so great is the beauty before me. Truly, this piece changes everything. I feel a sympathetic hand on mine, and look up to see my handsome enemy from Creative Writing 2203. We silently gaze on in wonder.
We enter the gallery, quickly realise that there is no booze, and leave.
Words by Kat Gillespie