Patch of Grass by Pants
I expected resettlement issues when I returned to live in Australia. I also anticipated that, after a period of hysteria, I would calm down and remember that it can’t be that difficult to work out how to open a bank account and get a new driver’s licence. My projections were wildly optimistic as it happens. However, one must find ways of turning mental collapse into art as it has no other practical application as far as I’m aware.
Above, my homage to Vincent Van Gogh which I will call Patch of Grass in his honour. Reading one’s beloved Guardian online is not ideal as I prefer to curl up in bed with it and an accompaniment of crumpets and honey. The laptop does not lend itself to this level of advanced cosiness. So much did I crave a Guardian perspective that I suspended disbelief for long enough to manage the horrific out-of-bed experience of the farm’s vile Macthing. I had made my own picture some weeks ago so I was delighted to find I had been channelling the great master.
A few posts ago I wrote about the row over photographer Bill Henson’s nude child photos. This rumbles incongruously on despite new things to say on the subject having been exhausted within hours of the story … er… developing. Last weekend’s Australian carried an op-ed piece by Deborah Hope on the arts and purpose, tediously rehashing John Carey’s 2005 anti-Kant rant What Good are the Arts? The book challenges the concept that works of art have the ability to connect with us cerebrally, producing a benefit to the individual and, by extension, humanity. My copy is in a crate somewhere in the industrial wastelands of outer Melbourne so I’m unable to refer to it but I seem to remember that the main target for Carey’s ire is a perceived ‘elite’ whom he fancies conspire to enchant us with the notion that it's possible to draw joy from an object which does not innately contain it. So, love of the arts is a societal construct and appreciation of them a learned response? Who knew! I remember having quite a chuckle about that great exposé at the time. The revelation didn’t stop me from retreating to a room full of Rothkos when my angst with the world bordered on unmanageable. Funny that.
Carey hilariously attacks Jeanette Winterson as one of these wicked elite who bogusly assign inappropriate magical qualities to works of art and Hope takes a swipe at her here for the speech she gave at the opening of the Sydney Writer’s Festival recently. Winterson famously had what she describes as a ‘crummy’ childhood bare of books and other earthly pleasures. She was derided as ‘a social experiment’ when she went to Oxford as a student who excelled her way out of the grimy north. Oxford is the university at which Carey is very much part of the establishment incidentally. It’s difficult to take claims that a love of the arts mutually excludes ordinary folk seriously when you’ve lived in the same city as the Tate Modern, consistently among the most popular attractions in Britain. Admittedly it’s free, awash with comfy sofas and it’s also quite easy to lose children in a Turbine Hall installation for a couple of hours while one nips into one of the chi-chi bars for a resuscitative Sauvignon Blanc. These could be contributory factors.
Despite the entreaties of academics and journalists to convince me otherwise I am sticking with the arts as my soma for the soul of choice. Sometimes the thought of Max Ernst's Celebes is the only thing that stands between me and insanity. I do find it amusing that neo-Calvinists frequently demand mainstream education make itself more inclusive by devoting itself to real-life skills like writing CVs and changing nappies at the expense of the arts. I rather like the idea that the arts could one day find their way by default into the realm of guilty pleasures. I can just imagine kids skiving off Parenting 101 to catch a matinee of Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Closer to home, there are some artistic triumphs to report. Pants family member Andy Young, hugely talented jazz composer and guitarist has been nominated for an Aria Award (Australian Music Industry Awards – like a Grammy or a Brit), for Best Jazz Album for his CD Downside Up. It goes without saying that you must immediately go on-line and buy it. My old friend Katy Evans-Bush has a book of her brilliant poems out called Me and the Dead. How can you not buy a book containing a poem called As the Sun Sends the Sequins on my Handbag Scattering. Waste no time, go. While you’re about it, check out my blog pal Nasim Marie Jafry’s novel The State of Me. Your credit card never had it so good.
Finally, another little tit-bit from one’s adored and much missed Guardian. Music consumers are protesting that printed song lyrics are frequently omitted from CD packages. It’s important, apparently, to know what’s being said ... er… I guess that’s why they call it song. At the risk of descending further into fogeydom, not to mention articulating the painfully obvious, is it too much to ask singers to master the art of annunciation? I would point out that John Lydon, AKA Johnny Rotten could manage to make his meaning clearly understood. In fact, he even rolled his ‘Rs’ as I recall. Standards have certainly plummeted since the golden days of Never Mind the Bollocks...