Following the Herd

The Brit pop group Blur wrote an ironic song called Boys and Girls about the androgynous herding instincts of Brits on holiday. Given the myths in circulation about aussie hipsters today I’m sure the same happens with our lot in Greece, Japan, Bali etc. A few nights ago I accompanied a friend to a Darlinghurst gallery to see an exhibition of photography in newly gentrified East Sydney, so different from the down at heel, run down hippie streets of the 70’s/80’s. The Govinda restaurant was still there while its ashram was round the corner: hare Krishna, hare Krishna; Krishna, Krishna, hare, hare; hare Rama, hare Rama; rama, rama, hare hare.

Afterwards, we dined in a German restaurant, a legend even in the 70’s. It was a 3 waitress place, packed to the rafters. The table behind ours was filled with hipsters drinking those huge flutes of beer; their laughter grew commensurately. The volume of noise in fact was ear piercing; it must be that, like the recluse in A Rebours, I simply do not often expose myself to such experiences.

Afterwards, my dining companion remarked that the French would not have tolerated such conditions, labelling them “mal eduque”. Even in Sydney there is a wonderful restaurant, Mere Catherine in Victoria Street Potts Point; bookings are required three months in advance since there are but six or so tables; the atmosphere hums at whisper level above the occasional. minute kitchen noises. Needless to say, the quality of the food is indescribable.

Likewise, my friend talked about places that were to be found on Japanese streets, barely booths seating four people. Imagine the quiet attention to detail, the reticent quality; my favourite Japanese restaurant in Wolli Creek is such a place, if only for the fact, apart from the ravishing quality of the deep fried battered chicken, that as we have become regular clients we are greeted with a pot of green tea mixed with toasted rice.

I have the darkest suspicion that the English/Australian impulse is to congregate densely like a bees’ nest and thus assert the validity of their collective if not individual identity.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anniversary of Jane Austen’s death

Today is the anniversary of Jane Austen’s death; after Shakespeare she would have to be the quintessential English writer, at least for, as it is called, “chick lit”. Her novels are filled with nuances of behaviour and manners, with perfumed clothes. I am reminded that this year the waist coat of Captain James Cook has been found, form fitting and decorated adventurously with floral motifs. The link between the the two is that Austen’s politely mannered family made its income in the slave trade of the New World. Likewise, Cook began the tradition of massacres in the Australian outback of its indigenous people.

But it has to be said the Austen was not the only English writer of her time to ignore the brutal reality on which English culture was based; the only person to speak out was the poet William Blake in his shrieking poetry: the children of Albion, the children of the New World. The best way that his contemporaries silenced him or at least discredited him was to pronounce him “mad”.

All of this springs to mind watching the excellent BBC sit com Unforgotten, about the transition of Brit culture from rock n roll through hippy to punk, homophobia, 1970’s mob criminals. Curiously, the pursuers of justice slowly come to resemble the worn, sad, wretched, certainly haunted faces of the criminals. What struck me though, was the extraordinary beauty of one African actor; perhaps Jude Law in the series Young Pope once matched his looks? One hopes for him an exemplary career.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spirit

“Heaven in a wildflower”. Exif_JPEG_PICTUREWilliam Blake, one of the English Romantic poets, was most political in the topics of his verses . In last night’s ABC TV show The Drum, one of the panelists was adamant that the artist was a political animal, as were we all. The 70’s slogan “the personal is political” continues to apply.

In 2001, I was in hospital having an aortic valve replacement and pre-op engaged in conversation with my very personable surgeon. As an agnostic, I made my views felt. “After all”, I said, “god is not palpable”. “Oh but he is palpable”, the surgeon insisted and proceeded to narrate the following. He had gone to China some years earlier to attend a cardiac conference when his hosts asked, no, demanded that he perform complex and urgent surgery on a senior member of the Party. Protestations that he had not the necessary equipment fell on deaf ears; he whittled his surgical requirements down to three items, which one by one mysteriously were found. The surgery was performed and the patient lived to continue to govern. I think the surgeon had prayed and believed that his prayers were answered.

Post-op, I was in and out of the intensive care ward as my condition stabilised. There, I witnessed the slow decline and death of a fellow patient, whose days and nights were filled with a racking cough. He died, the moment was marked with an end to the coughing. The nurses closed the screens round his bed; when the surgeon arrived the staff lined up in two rows and held open the curtains. The surgeon flounced into the room with a magisterial gesture. Father Brown could not have done better.

I related the above because it seems to me that medical specialists and nurses, at least those vitally concerned with the care of others, grow in their psyches a type of determinism. Birth and death are the milestones of existence. By comparison, judgementalism is a disease that some in our species feel the need to inflict on the rest of us: politicians, policemen, judges and pharisees. The USA is currently the unfortunate breeding ground of such self congratulating judgemental religiosity. The type of pastor who feels it appropriate to stand up in a place designated for the worship of the deity and utter obscenities like: “if same sex unions are allowed I’ll eat my own faeces”; how are they to be judged, or rather treated? Another compared gays and lesbians to the children of Satan. Concerning the “naturalness” of gay, an advocate said recently “if god disapproves of us why did he make us”? Meanwhile Blake’s comment on human behaviour was that what we most wanted were “the lineaments of gratified behaviour”. Blake found his in the garden of his cottage, sunbathing nude with his wife and her sister.

William Blake, when he was writing his poetry in an age of revolutions and injustice, chose not to recognise the local church. His complex symbolism included such deliberations as the idea that John Milton was of the devil’s party; Milton’s poem Paradise Lost depicted Lucifer as a valiant hero banished from the luminous regions by a despotic ruler to dwell in fiery darkness. Using the cloak of such imagery Blake was safely able to discuss the independence of the American colonies, the French revolution and injustice at home, all treasonable thoughts.

Finally, he turned away from organised religion, or housed, collectivised religion, to meditations in his garden or in the country. How ironic it is that his poem Jerusalem, “And did those feet in ancient times” is now a hymn much loved by the established church.  William Wordsworth roamed the Lake District; Coleridge dwelt in the interior world of opium. A younger generation, namely Percy Bysse Shelley and Lord Byron were post-revolution, Shelley being openly atheistic and Byron: mad, bad and dangerous to know”. Like Qld’s honest police during the 1980 gambling corruption scandals, they might well have written on their lockers: NRMA, “nothing really matters anyway”. William Blake was best, of all of the English Romantic poets, to know the difference between religiosity and spirituality, the latter a formless creative awareness, (see Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spirituality in Art) that finds “heaven in a wildflower”.

35-krishna1

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Modern Art

Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’Herbe is considered the departure point for modern art; it was rejected for inclusion in the 1863 Salon and treated with laughter and derision. It however strongly referenced various moments of European art, including Titian’s Concert Champetre and works by Watteau. But Manet made no concession to subtle gradations between light and shade, seen as necessary to representation. Nor was perspective very accurate.tmp_3b17289b6d7cee08c169c5689c4e13fd

From that great work we have arrived at the ferocious Appel and his fellow Cobra artists to more recently the graffitti coated images of Basquiat.

This year the American Tapestry Association (ATA) is holding an exhibition of small tapestries in Denton, Texas, and Tacoma Washington. The NY curator and judge Rudi Dundas looked at 125 works and selected 40, of which I was one. My polyptych of five pieces is called Peter and the Wolf.

thumbnail_pw high res

Of course it is a reference to the Prokofiev work, that has strong folkloric tones. My pieces are the grandfather (top left), the bird (top right), shouting mouth (centre), boy looking very sure of himself (bot right) and wolf (bot left}.

None of the works are larger than 20 cms per side. In the grand tapestry weaving ateliers of France a small piece of woven tapestry was referred to as a “dishcloth”. However, the wheel of culture has turned somewhat. While large works of whatever medium are still regarded more favourably in galleries, collages using fragments that add to the theme of the whole by their arrangement are also seen more frequently. Personally, I find that small works are more intense. Though, not having worked in a tapestry workshop, it is not for me to compare the two without prior experience.

My works lack much perspectival subtlety or any attempt to define shapes by traditional means of shading; I have not, on the other hand, resorted to a brutalist or so-called primitive means of representation. I look forward to the reaction of viewers at the two venues.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Modern Art

Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’Herbe is considered the departure point for modern art; it was rejected for inclusion in the 1863 Salon and treated with laughter and derision. It however strongly referenced various moments of European art, including Titian’s Concert Champetre and works by Watteau. But Manet made no concession to subtle gradations between light and shade, seen as necessary to representation. Nor was perspective very accurate. tmp_3b17289b6d7cee08c169c5689c4e13fd. From that great work we have arrived at the ferocious Appel and his fellow Cobra artists to more recently the graffitti coated images of Basquiat.

This year the American Tapestry Association (ATA) is holding an exhibition of small tapestries in Denton, Texas, and Tacoma Washington. The NY curator and judge Rudi Dundas looked at 125 works and selected 40, of which I was one. My polyptych of five pieces is called Peter and the Wolf. thumbnail_pw high resOf course it is a reference to the Prokofiev work, that has strong folkloric tones. My pieces are the grandfather (top left), the bird (top right), shouting mouth (centre), boy looking very sure of himself (bot right) and wolf (bot left}.

None of the works are larger than 20 cms per side. In the grand tapestry weaving ateliers of France a small piece of woven tapestry was referred to as a “dishcloth”. However, the wheel of culture has turned somewhat. While large works of whatever medium are still regarded more favourably in galleries, collages using fragments that add to the theme of the whole by their arrangement are also seen more frequently. Personally, I find that small works are more intense. Though, not having worked in a tapestry workshop, it is not for me to compare the two without prior experience.

My works lack much perspectival subtlety or any attempt to define shapes by traditional means of shading; I have not, on the other hand, resorted to a brutalist or so-called primitive means of representation. I look forward to the reaction of viewers at the two venues.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Abstraction

Even before my recent trip to the Netherlands I was interested in the Cobra art movement. It was ironic to see in the Dutch embassy in Bondi Junction recently, while renewing my passport, a poster of a Cobra exhibition at the AGNSW in 2014 (?). In the Netherlands I managed to see works presumably too fragile to travel, such as a painted wooden column by Appel about refugee children. The paintings were furiously, vigorously energetic and colourful. But my attraction to them was that they were a natural descendant from Derain and Jawlensky, who, admittedly broke the ground, leading away from realism and impressionism towards using colour to express emotion; and we all know where that ends!

The moment in Jawlensky’s work, even its equivalent moment for Kandinsky, when the artist has not quite relinquished his hold on realism and turned to abstraction, as in Kandinsky’s last paintings, point the way inexorably to Appel and his colleagues.

Part of my attraction to these artists is that they explain the possibility of progressions of shapes, ones that suggest realism, but not quite: the various methods of doing so, too, are of interest.

My latest work, just finished, Hello Mr Appel, Dutch art movement leader: 16 cms H X W, cotton warp 8 per in,. cotton, linen, synthetic wefts.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Making Peace not War

The Rolling Stones song Gimme Shelter talks about war being only “a shot away” while peace is “only a kiss away”. We were the original peaceniks of the Vietnam era who believed this; although, during WW1 (?) a generation were also despised conchies. The conservative party in Australia were all the way with LBJ; but then a left-leaning inspired leader, Geoff Whitlam, came to power and offered my age group the opportunity not to fight in Vietnam. Up until that moment I had used my university education to “dodge the draft”.

Finally, things could no longer be put off and I fronted the recruitment office to be examined by its doctors, one of whom was amused by my lack of athletic chest expansion. One wonders what his moral and ethical values consisted of. Given the new political directive, he had to ask whether I wanted to be included in the call up. I replied that I felt “I was not emotionally compatible” with the concept. I suppose the good medico read that as code for my being gay, because he looked embarrassed and marked my file accordingly.

We have all heard the Red Gum song I was only 19, and seen the colossally mythic film Apocalypse Now. But the reality was that these diggers as we call the returned soldiers came home and were completely incapable of living normal lives. Was it the repeated memories of having killed people? Many soldiers committed suicide. Our post war rehabilitation was pathetically inadequate.

More recently we fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars based on corrupt information; one of the pertinent anecdotes was that one of the US army generals involved in the planning of those conflicts admitted that allies were involved because there was nothing else happening. In other words, the massive budgets set aside for military spending needs a target, justified or not. In Iraq, my nephew was part of a night patrol; he came back at dawn inexplicably tanned. The US invention of artillery shells filled with depleted uranium material deserves an International Court of Justice’s condemnation.

Now, we see US President Trump and North Korea Kim Jong Un facing off; both are toying with ultimate (nuclear) weapons; it reminds me of the European intellectuals prior to WW1 announcing that western civilisation was sick and in need of complete renewal. People on my Facebook page say: put them both in a boxing ring and let the rest of the planet get on with the more delightfully fragrant activity of living harmoniously. I, for one, do not believe in war; we could all  vigorously repudiate its existence. We could start by reducing our national military budget.

More than ever, we should GIVE PEACE A CHANCE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment