Today, spurred by a last-minute reminder and possessed of an odd amount of energy for a Saturday morning, I packed Squawk on to the train and we trotted into town to catch Shaun Tan's "The Singing Bones" at the No-Vacancy gallery.
I very nearly didn't go: Squawk is tired and cranky on Saturdays, which meant the visit was likely to be either largely frustrating or else a downright disaster. And Shaun Tan himself was due to be speaking/signing at midday, and it was the exhibition's second-last day, so the toddler meltdown was likely to happen in the midst of, and inconvenience, a large crowd. Better and better.
But we needed an outing, so… we went. And then this all happened:
- awesomeness the first
The absolute first piece that hit me, as I entered the gallery, was The Riddle:
Seriously, how awesome is that? I know he's never heard of my nasty little crows, and I know crows eating eyeballs isn't all that impossible to come up with, but the synchronicity was nevertheless delightful. You simply can't ask for a better artist to conceptualise your fiction, however inadvertently, than Shaun Tan.
I love the stark, clean lines, which speak to me of swiftness; and that inquisitive cocking of its head, a charming gesture which contrasts so beautifully with the bright blue reality of its meal.
- awesomeness the second
The fine folks at the gallery (and/or Shaun Tan?) had set up a plasticine table for visitors to make their own sculptures. Squawk planted herself there and happily made me a green dinosaur, and superman, and pretend ice cream, for twenty-five whole blissful minutes — during which time I wandered the gallery in peace, able to peer at each sculpture in turn and at my own pace. I have not felt so rested, so human in … I can't remember how long, actually.
Huge props and my eternal gratitude to whoever had and implemented this idea. You made me feel welcome, which can be rare with toddlers.
- awesomeness the third
After Squawk got bored of her lonesome, she and I went around the gallery again, together this time. It was her first time in an art gallery, so I taught her to look at each piece, to talk about what she liked and didn't like, to try and find a story behind it. This, guys, this is my field and forte, and sharing it with her was so much fun. It was fascinating to note what she did and didn't find scary, and glimpse her world by listening to her stories.
- awesomeness the fourth
Squawk was so patient, we were still in the gallery when Shaun Tan arrived, so I got to get my books signed.
Squawk, when she realised the man who'd made all the sculptures was here, decided to make one for him. Which she did, using orange and purple (her favourite colours). Then she was too shy to give it to him — because it wasn't good like his sculptures. (Aww…) Luckily, Shaun was all class and had the grace to admire her creation, and even drew a little picture of it into the title page of the book, so I now have a physical momento of her swirl-faced man.