When I was a child I think I must have wandered around only barely conscious to many of the things that happened in my world at the time…I sometimes feel like my memories are only punctuation marks in the sentence of time…I remember for instance really tiny things and atmospheres better than actual events or people…
Like my Uncle Rolley. All I can remember of him was he used to hook his thumbs into his pockets and all I can visualise now of him is his middrift to above his knees. No face. I guess as a kid thats the section of a human that you see because of the height differential. I clearly remember though that he was working as a submariner and as a five year old I got to go aboard a sub. I remember it smelt really bad… musty and I guess of old socks.
It was Albert and Vincent I remember best though. Thats Albert Namatjira and Vincent Van Gogh. Two of the most amazing artists on the planet. Both had very difficult lives and both had works that were reproduced widely in posters that adorned primary school walls everywhere in Australia for a while. Both artists made a huge difference to my life.
I mean I don’t remember where I saw either of their paintings first but I do remember that the light shining in through the windows of what must have been a classroom somewhere, had that bright crystalline quality of Sydney light on a summer afternoon. When I saw their paintings I knew Vincent and Albert would become my friends, they seemed to understand something that I too understood. Something about light and hope and the joy of life. Thats an amazing thing to feel when you are this homely, gawky kind of kid whose knees were big and boney and who knew for the most part they didn’t quite fit in.
I believe that all great artists take enormous risks by exposing themselves to things and conditions, interior and exterior that most people can’t actually even envisage. I guess its like pushing through the pain barrier if you are an athlete… you get to a point where it hurts so much that you either give up or go past it and reap the rewards. Probably like giving birth really. Except in giving birth you have no choice in the matter, you just have to keep going.
And great art is given life by great artists. No matter what medium, whether its visual, musical or performance based there is always a pain barrier to overcome. I think thats why so many artists have drug, alcohol and other dependency problems… its a way of masking that pain. But it is in realising the joy in the painting or the music that the artist becomes a channel from a high power. Its what Leonard Cohen described once as ‘the god moment’.
Occasionally, very occasionally I have experienced that feeling. Todays picture is one of those moments. The light was incredible that afternoon and I was looking everywhere for a photo that just ‘got it’. I turned and there it was right in front of me.
I leave this beautiful sanctuary I have hidden away in for the last four months, in a few days. This place give my soul rest. It has cement walls to prevent me from being buffeted by the wind which blows so wildly around here and huge glass windows so I can look out upon the world as it was created. It has not been easy though. I have lived by myself quite separately from most of humanity and I have learned some painful lessons.
Yet I hope I have broken through the pain barrier now and I look forward to what will eventually take life from here…