"Wow, it's just so amaaazing…."


Kandinsky. "Improvisation 28"

From September '91-January '92 the Art Gallery of New South Wales was fortunate enough to host an exhibition called "Masterpieces From The Guggenheim". It was a rare opportunity for the people of Sydney to see some of the world's most important pieces of modern art on loan from The Guggenheim Museum in New York. Works by Picasso, Mondrian, Pollock, Miro, Kandinsky, Magritte, Leger and so on. It was a big deal.

I had a call from TV host and absent 'Absent Friend' James Valentine. He was doing a story on the exhibition for "Good Morning Australia". He asked me whether I'd like to appear in the segment as an informed person of the arts. Perhaps give a bit of the history of the profiled artists and even touch on the influence they've had on the arts today.

It all happened so fast that I'd agreed to do it before I'd even had a chance to think about it. I spent the rest of the day and night regretting my decision whilst boning up on as many interesting facts and relevant figures as I could lay my hands on. For example, I'd memorized Picasso's mother's middle name. (Surprisingly, it was "Picasso").

I'd intended to come across as cool, collected and remarkably well informed. I even was thinking things like, "Who knows, maybe this could turn into a regular TV spot …maybe that's what I was meant to be all along … a popular arts television personality". I'd intended to get to the gallery early to peruse the works at my leisure, and perhaps slip in to the men's room and floss before we went to air.

Unfortunately circumstances beyond my control put me at the gallery just as the cameras were about to roll. Although I was perspiring profusely and was somewhat breathless from the sprint up Domain Rd to the gallery, at least I knew I'd done my homework. They sponged me down and told me to relax. I thought I was relaxed until they said that, then I didn't feel relaxed anymore.

Camera, action! James and I were filmed casually entering the first room. The cameras were rolling and I could hear James asking me something, but I didn't know what.
Because I was in shock. Stunned. Agog.
I'd never seen the big Kandinsky's in real life before.
The colours! The Beauty. The Revelation!
The inventing of abstract art!
I had no idea it would be so awesome.

I was literally dumbstruck speechless. In response to James' questions, all I could do was shake my head and mouth inanities like, "Wow, it's just so amaaazing" or "Unbelieeevable." I kept this up for the duration of the interview, although I do remember muttering something about Modigliani, marble dust and absinthe (or was it hashish).

Of course I apologized to James afterwards. He was really good about it and explained that it was a pre-record and could be (severely) edited later if need be.

I was in Adelaide a few days later when it went to air. Mum was watching the TV and it came on. She called me in and I managed to catch most of it. It was a very smooth production. James talking to the remarkably relaxed gallery chief, Edmond Capon, who was giving a bit of the history of the profiled artists and touching on the influence they've had on the arts today. He was cool, collected and remarkably well informed.

Yes a very slick little presentation indeed…apart from when they cut briefly to a sweaty and somewhat disheveled punter, self-consciously groping for meaningful dialogue and eventually and disappointingly settling on, " Wow, it's just so… amaaaazing!.."