Features Australia

Australian arts

4 July 2020

9:00 AM

4 July 2020

9:00 AM

For artists, writers and creative people in general the isolationist directives make very little difference. As usual, we go about our solitary work with the added incentive of not going out or seeing anybody. For me it is just a matter of pulling on my trousers, walking as usual to the studio to confront the difficulties and obstructions inherent in making a painting. The demands of creative work are impervious to viral infection and by not going out I’ve saved a lot of my personalised apology cards for another day or rather, night!

In my studio I have a large library of art books. I can spend hours just musing over the painters represented; William Nicholson, Poussin, Sickert, Sargent, Soutine, Whistler, Goya, Lovis Corinth, Adolf Menzel and Chardin are some of the more favoured tomes. They are so familiar that just reading the spine gives me the picture. I have found that the book reproductions are more like looking at a painting than images on electronic media; an iPad for example, where the primary colours tend to be oversaturated. This gives the image a sort of Walt Disney quality. It is a bit like comparing a stained glass window to an oil painting. The mediums are not compatible. Not that Walt Disney is not a great artist. He is. In the distant future he and  Norman Rockwell may well be regarded as American masters along with Andrew Wyeth and Robert Rauschenberg, William de Kooning, Edward Hopper and all those other great American painters. I say this because people like and understand the empathy in Disney’s and Rockwell’s work and both have huge technical ability and understanding of American life.


However, the way America is going it is likely that Andy Warhol’s work will be sneered at as an advertisement for the hated capitalist beast and artists like Sol Lewitt, Jackson Pollock and Rothko, to name a few, may be of little interest or value as their work will be regarded as corrupt baubles of the despised rich. We are already seeing a fading of interest and understanding of abstract painting because fundamental art education is lacking. If the destructive revolution currently going on in the USA results in a victory, Antifa and a hard left Democratic party, may well cause a seismic shift in American culture.

If you look at the art that was prescribed by the state after the Nazi and Bolshevik revolutions you notice that with the exception of the swastika and hammer and sickle symbols the works are interchangeable. Can we expect to see a new generation of images of large breasted women and muscular men thrusting ever forward with the tools to create the Utopian future? (Maybe that should read trans woman/gay man). We may not be far away from the point where the state dictates what you should paint, write or film and if you don’t you won’t get fed. This is already happening to a degree with state- funded arts grants. You may think this is a little extreme but it has happened in comparatively recent history which as we know tends to repeat itself.

I suppose that it is comforting to know police are now guarding our state borders. Nurses and health workers are now regarded as heroes and public service health officials are the new militant guards. They use neo-military terms to describe their ‘war’ on the virus. On Fox, a coronavirus channel presents an endless parade of officials all predicting mortal damnation if we don’t obey and worst of all we have to watch the antics of the obligatory signer for the deaf, obviously necessary but unfortunately they remind me of that monumental French bore, Marcel Marceau pretending to be a tree. Deaf people are very good at lip reading, but that is not much use as Australian officials tend to speak in a tight-lipped mumble.

Meanwhile, here in Bowral we have the occasional yellow-tailed black cockatoo and what a delight their gorgeously coloured antics are. Immediately any of the little seed-gangsters appear my wife rushes to them with their preferred tucker purring ‘my little darlings’. We have a long nosed foxie called Trigger whom she also fawns over. When he hasn’t tipped the garbage bin over or done something unspeakable on the Persian, she looks at him and softly says ‘oh look at him, look’ in the way women do to a baby. She also cooks his meals for him. If only I could grow feathers or at least some fur, just think how much my life might improve!

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