I gravitated towards two of my favourite paintings: John Olsen’s Five Bells and Brett Whiteley’s Balcony 2. Large-scale, detailed, full of incredible depth and, oh, those blues, they sat comfortably as part of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ permanent collection.

We popped into the gallery shop afterwards (oops!) and somehow emerged with posters of both, carefully rolled, surrounded in brown paper and inserted into a long tube for the trip home. Treasures.

Of course, they are not the real paintings – the colours are not as mesmerising, glimpses of the painterly strokes are hard to see and, of course, they are smaller – but they are not meant to replace the actual items. They are mementos.

Mementos are reminders that something or somewhere or someone exists or existed. They are not the thing. They are their own thing, infused with meaning. They connect us with otherness over time or distance. They are junctions in the webs that we create to link us with the world – to experiences, places, people.

I’ll frame and hang the posters. They’ll remind me of the majesty of the originals, the feel of Gallery, the specialness of my companion and the sunny Sydney day. They have a majesty of their own – not merely mementos but richly layered and valued possessions in their own right.

Until next time,


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