P – IS FOR PATRICK HALL (at TMAG until August 30)

Gallery experience, free workbooks for kids, tour by the artist, and our own little post gallery makers session with friends. How could you hope for a better way to spend the morning?!

One of my first jobs was at Arts Tasmania (who were then located in a large government building). In the entry to level 8 (where I worked) there was a sculpture by Patrick Hall. It was a tractor driving through a field of nails, where the wheels had driven the nails where pushed in, the others were still ‘growing tall’ over the rolling mettle hills. It has stayed in my memory ever since, and is one of my favourite works. (Radically different from the works I usually tend towards, but I love it nevertheless!)

So when I found out that Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery were doing a retrospective of Patrick Halls works I couldn’t help but get excited about sharing this artists work with the little people in my life.

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We entered the gallery at opening time (10am) and spent our first round exploring the works through the 3 rooms, following the kids direction and pace. There truly is so much for kids to enjoy in this exhibition; hidden images in larger work, identifiable and playful expression of recognisable objects, questions to ask, answers to find.

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A favourite for our small group were the phones that gallery goers could use to listen to the audio of the works, the kids spent a long time ‘on the phone’ listening to these works (even our youngest member delighted in listening to these phones from his pram).

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The other big draw for us was the interactive wall where each child could open a draw to hear a different voice. People who frequent Mona will know this work well, but my own children are always so taken by the physical space at Mona that they often miss a lot of the work (anica saying ‘the walls’ are her favourite artwork at Mona!) This was the perfect opportunity for my kids to see this work in a new context and give it the time to capture their hearts. Interestingly theirĀ favourite voice was that of a child.

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As you may have noticed, the works given the most attention by my children on this first round were all the works that were interactive. We then went back to the beginning and picked up a free booklet designed for children to use as they work their way through the gallery.

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This booklet was designed as somewhat of a ‘quest’ for the young gallery goers to find certain objects and answer various questions (about the work, and indeed their own thoughts and opinions). This book was enjoyed immensely by my older child who loves a bit of structure and some instructions to follow, but the younger (who is less interested in instructions!) did not have the desire to spend as much time completing the book as her older sister. Nevertheless the younger still enjoyed her extended time in the gallery, finding pirate ships (as a particular point of interest to my young explorers at the moment!) among many other adventures and invented stories.

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We were also fortunate enough to have been at the gallery on the day that the artist came to give a guided tour of the works, as one of the many similar events happening during Tasmanian International Arts Festival. Watching him casually explain the works, opening draws and parts (that as a gallery go-er you are unable to touch and don’t know existed!) held the attention of the children very well. As we moved around the space they moved ahead to ensure that they were always at the front in the sea of adults that surrounded them (and the adult gallery visitors were very welcoming to their presence!)

After this additional insight (and extended period of remaining quite!) the kids were ready for a snack and some free making of their own. We headed for the wide open space of the museum courtyard and unpacked our ‘treasures’ (various objects collected from around the house).

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The creations quickly began to form as the kids each took their own approach to creating a robot. (The instruction was simply to make something, not specifically a robot, but it seems the group was collectively determined to all make robots after seeing a very impressive little fellow in the gallery moments before.)

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As you can see, each child’s creation feed off their creative environment (as they observed the others making around them) but each was unique and every child was incredibly proud of their creation.

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We had superglue and a glue stick on hand to assist with their creations, but the superglue did not prove very successful so the only method of attaching was a glue stick and their own imagination. This proved to be far more rewarding than if the glue had been more easily available.

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To my surprise no child expressed any frustration at the lack of a strong glue to work with – they simply worked around it and built according to their materials. As any adult I was hesitant to put this challenge in their way (expecting it would prevent them from making) but the process of problem solving was far better for their overall development and creativity than any stick and paste experience could be.

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So, when you head to see the amazingly child friendly art of Patrick Hall (open at TMAG until August 30, 2015) bring a collection of objects from your junk draw to give them new live and harness your tots creative determination to make something after visiting the gallery. It really is a great way to spend the morning.

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