A Strange Dawn At Canberra’s National Gallery Of Australia

As I go into 2019, I’ve been reminded of a sunrise that I once watched in Canberra.

As the sun rose across south London this morning while I methodically applied makeup for work, I was reminded of a visit to James Turrell’s outdoor art installation at the National Gallery of Australia: Within without. 

The spring morning was freezing and the sky still black when I arrived. I sat in silence inside a spherical stone chamber with a perfectly circular hole in its roof and searched upwards for the Canberran dawn.

Artificial light, first blues then pale reds and oranges, rolled in swathes across the inside of the dome. My brain was tricked into second guessing the sky’s hues outside. First it went lighter but then appeared suddenly darker again, before eventually turning a wan shade of blue. I remember questioning whether the sun had risen at all when I left about 10 minutes later.

Perception is a funny thing.

Whether in tangible forms like how we see light in a space, or more abstract concepts such as opinions and beliefs. Our perception of the world is driven by every experience and in turn has influenced all our desires for the year ahead as well as our memories of how last year went.

As I try to eat healthily and stay off the wine, my mind wanders to a more inspiring thought: Maybe the best resolution is to simply start again. What would we each do with our 2019 if our minds were a blank canvass?

Sunrise started and the sky got lighter against the red tones of the walls
When bright yellows bathed the walls, the sky turned a deep royal blue
As the artificial light faded, the morning sky took on its natural shade

Happy new year to you all and I hope your 2019 is filled with adventure!

2 thoughts on “A Strange Dawn At Canberra’s National Gallery Of Australia

  1. Hi Rachel, loved your post. You are spot on about perceptions and a clean slate. On the other hand, every new moment in our life reshapes our future and Tennyson’s words come true:-
    ” I am part of all that I have met
    Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
    Gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades
    For ever and for ever when I move.”

    Loved your photos and words on Turrell’s space thing at the NGA. What an amazing place that is, but one must always be in it on ones own!

    I can well imagine the juxtaposition in your mind , waking up to a cold, damp, grey and gloomy morning in England and the images of Turrell’s space and light-filled, radiant Canberra. I used to live in England. As you are no doubt aware, Canberra is in a heat wave. Deep blue skies, but hot, one reels under the incredible dry heat and searing , unique white light of Australia. Cicadas scream, Eucalyptus scents the air, it is crackling hot, swimming in the Bidgee, Magpies carolling.

    wishing you a happy new year and a wonderful 2019

    Best wishes


    1. Thanks Barrie. Ah you have made me jealous with talk of heatwaves – it’s been a solid five days of slate grey here now, with the sun only poking through as it comes up!

      I think my favourite line is the first – I am a part of all that I have met – isn’t that true. I do love the memories that we all take with us of everything that’s come before but it doesn’t stop me wondering what life would be like without it!

      Enjoy the intense Canberra summer – I do miss those blue skies and even the sweltering days. Very happy times.


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