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.


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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.



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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.

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Someone on my Fb page mentioned a demo by Muslims against ISIS that was completely ignored by the western mainstream media. I can understand the writer being puzzled; in Europe, ok there have been battles based on conflicting religions since the crusades. That event consisted of the christian knights on their way to the holy lands, slaughtering Jewish communities along the Rhine, perhaps to practise their sword skills.

Where I live, in Australia, white people venerate their ancestors, convicts preferably, bushrangers also, although laws were in place that allowed settlers to shoot to kill. They were also able to behave thus against the indigenous people. All that myopic activity spans 200 plus years.

Here, the current ultra right winger, Pauline Hanson, has described the presence of Muslim settlers as a disease, against which we must vaccinate ourselves; despite last week leading an anti-vaccinate crusade, saying that children could be pre-tested to determine if a negative reaction could happen. When she was informed that this was incorrect she quietly withdrew her support of that cause.

Just today, a cyclone is at work along the far northern Queensland coastline; a town mayor interviewed by ABC used the expression “drawn to Mecca” or “collecting at Mecca”, in a cavalier, tourist context. Since my early school days, this has been a metaphor freely in use. Of course, it is well known that the city is sacred to Muslims, who must make a pilgrimage there at least once in their lifetime. It is surely a characteristic of the dominant culture that slights to sub-cultures are hardly recognised, much less the possibility of constructing an equal one, equivalent in offensiveness, as a retort. Consider, on pub night: “we’re going to the pub, it’s a Vatican for riotous good times” hardly makes sense, much less a reference to Westminster Abbey.

We have a long way to go, doing the first thing that will encourage Muslim newcomers to feel welcome if extremism is to be avoided.

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Tim Rogers the talented lead singer of You Am I ( just google his song Heavy heart) admitted recently he was prone to anxiety attacks. The exquisitely beautiful voice of Megan Washington is manouvered past someone who otherwise stutters. As a child, I suffered; we were a family of refugees, and none of the problems of resettlement had been resolved by the time of my early years; at that age of course you are too young and unformed to mentally shape the objects that oppress; you only endure the horrible symptoms: the nightmares and bed-wetting, at school the bullying. As a teenager I began to suffer panic attacks; certain public situations, ironically, mostly in church during Sunday mass, I would suddenly freeze,

At university, I smoked marijuana joints with my contemporaries, partly because everyone did it; underlying that, the need to relax the mind. Of course, there masturbation, and at other times yoga and mediation played their part. I think the neural pathways take several attempts to learn to respond to the stimuli of THC; suddenly I was being swept away by that tide of intoxication: Lucie in the Sky with Diamonds; people I’ve smoked with have described my level of intoxication at that of the severity and depth of LSD.

Suddenly, it all started to go wrong; I would be sitting on a beanbag, then the brain would go into a spin. The freeze would would become a tussle of logic for what seemed like ages. I experienced the same sensations when I ingested LSD. My mates seemed embarrassed at my discomfort or maybe uninterested? Recently, someone suggested a grounding technique: see 5 things, say 4 words, hear 3 things, smell 2 things, taste 1 thing. I may have missed one of the factors? Had I known of this scenario, I think things would have been better. I think i have to admit it amounts to neural re-wiring. Art making, meditation, having sex should all be seen as positive contributors to mental health.

Back in 2010 I began to experience symptoms of epilepsy; my neurologist later described them as partial epilepsy; they occurred regularly, weekly in fact. I would start with a sensation of impending doom, then nausea would overwhelm me and then vomiting. In 2013 I had my first complete episode of epilepsy, which most appallingly involved a feeling of the mental slate having been wiped clean; I literally did not know who or where I was, or what had just happened. Luckily, my friend, who over time has become my carer, called the ambulance. Since 2013, this neural situation has involved severe spinal convulsions and bed-wetting, an unpleasant re-visiting of my childhood.

For a year now, I have been episode free. Personally I think the entire situation was precipitated by my cardiac operation in 2001 (aortic valve replacement) and my need to ingest blood thinners. My cardiologist warned me that they interacted badly with green vegetables and their Vitamin K; however, as he said, he was not a dietitian. Clearly, I misunderstood his instructions and removed green vegetables entirely from my diet. This is the by-product of today’s medical system and its specialisation, as my university lecturer described it, knowing nothing about everything, and everything about near nothing.

What I look forward to is a situation where Australia allows people access to medical marijuana; in my situation, I have spent ingesting THC, the helpful ingredients as well as the intoxicating ones. Clearly, we need more work on techniques of neural re-wiring, seeing that as a real therapy, instead of the lone, blanketing effect of medication. One sensible medical practitioner recently said he saw “deep meditation” as a very real therapy; that’s a step in the right direction.


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The Fall of Milo

In the Drum last night a young woman who described herself as a conservative and at times defended Milo Yiannopoulos as a supporter of free speech at times negotiated the moments when Milo crossed the line. When asked what free speech she would condemn she replied that only when a person ordered another to go out and hurt others would she feel that the line had been crossed. Yet, an atmosphere of moral equivocality has been established under Trump; the Jewish community, always vulnerable to right wing bigotry, has recently suffered a wave of nasty behaviour: swastikas painted on synagogues, for instance, or a Jewish cemetery desecrated, tombstones overturned. Trump’s style is to express prejudice one day and then to deny it another, which creates an environment of moral relativity; people in need of targets for their anger and outrage feel they are permitted to behave accordingly.

Yianni’s sneering about gays, all of which was equally applicable to himself, as the interviewer said, and not tolerated in Nazi Germany, covered some interesting ground. Yes, after an extraordinarily harsh upbringing we are in need of counselling, at the very least. Here, the interviewer agreed, to the point that his personal opinion was that ALL religions were hateful and damaging. But Yianni is a living examplar of internalised homophobia: powdered, bejeweled, wriggling and weirdly opinionated, hating his own kind, following the Trump.

Re the infestation of feminism, the Shulamith Firestone book of the 1970’s speculated that young people and adults would negotiate their relationships. As she belonged to the far left, perhaps her opinions were expected to be extreme and thus ignored.

Since I wrote the previous blog, Milo has lost his book dead with Schuster NY and his connection with Breitbart. I watched an extensive analysis of the interviews Milo gave in 2016 (?) and the speaker made the assumption that Milo was only now being punished for his seeming pro-pedophiliac comments because he was also pro-Trump, whom he disgustingly called “daddy”. I wonder if this a use of gay porn idiom? But, when Milo said that he had actively pursued the Catholic priest, whom he remembered as being “hot”, he insisted the relationship was affirming. I have an older friend who made a similar claim, that he had nobody in his adolescence to whom he could turn for sexual education. The reviewer of Milo’s demise as a public figure said that pedophilia occurs with children belonging to disfunctional families, to children who cannot reach out to their local priest or teacher for protection. The use of the term “grooming” is useful here, because the victim brings a damaged sense of self to the abusive situation; what results is that the victim comes away with a triumphant feeling of having drawn the attention of an adult, a person of power, compared to the victim who is confused and powerless.  Years later, perhaps the victim needs to continue to assert that the experience was minimal, that it actually had positive effects. This was certainly my case.


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homophobia lately

A far right (Christian?) group met last week to air their anti-gay opinions and to voice their views about Muslims: “I don’t mind them, BUT” It’s all in the BUT. An ex-Liberal pollie voiced what was for him a dubious ancient scenario: “Hadrian was in love with a young man called Antinous, who fell off their barge and drowned. They were probably snorting coke at the time”. Had he made light of a fated heterosexual situation the true tastelessness of his comments would have been apparent. Instead, the audience reacted with a metallic laughter, scary in its righteousness.

Another member of the bigot think tank, a cartoonist from the Gold Coast, made the extraordinary comment that Muslims were ok, because they threw pillow-biters off the tops of buildings. I went into shock at the barbarity of this viewpoint. Firstly, that now antiquated name calling of “pillow-biter” is so inadequate: for a homosexual act to happen there has to be both active and passive partners; does the tag imply that only the passive partner deserves derision? It certainly concurs with a lot of apocryphal opinions that even hetero males can indulge in male male sex so long as they maintain the sanctity of their anus. Jesus wept.

As for the barbarism of recent ISIS behaviour, it is worth noting that one of their leaders was found to be indulging in male boy sex: four legs bad, two legs good? The Australian cartoonist who approved this style of execution should put his legs where his mouth is, and travel to Syria to join his like minded bigots. Democracy with its insistence on mutual respect for all citizens is wasted on such people.

I found it curiously psychopathic that Elizabethan England had similar events as ISIS run lands where the locals were made to watch as people were dispatched in the piazza: by hanging or beheading; Iran under the Ayatollahs with its dubious chastity police had similar events: people strung up in the local square from cherry pickers.

However, having read on Facebook, of the behaviour of US right wing evangelists, their attempt to have the bible taught as a valid science text in schools is the least absurd item of their bigotry, nothing surprises me now. To have one preacher promise that if same sex marriage is legalised he will smear faeces on his face. Where are the psychiatrists to tell such people how desperately they need treatment?

hanging-garden35-krishna1harm fabric I find it so predictable that these bigots only refer to the Old Testament (I am a jealous god); the beauty and gentleness of Jesus are rarely quoted, much less lived.


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