Monday, December 29, 2014

Rex Winston's paintings, the return of the morals' police, Tom Keneally's The Commonwealth of Thieves

I have just discovered Kempsey's Dunghutti-Ngaku Aboriginal Art Gallery (DNAAG). This painting, Milky Way Dreaming - Turquoise is by Rex Winston.

Born in Sydney 1968, Rex belongs to the Gamilaraay language group.

He was adopted by a white family at three months of age and grew up at Nyngan. Winston’s interest in his birth mother and Aboriginal heritage was sparked when he first began painting. With the support of his adoptive parents and a government agency, he was able to locate and meet his birth mother.

A self-taught artist, Winton is an established commercial contemporary artist who has undertaken numerous commissions. Works are held in numerous private collections, including the Kerry Stokes collection.

Winston’s contemporary paintings are a response to his environment and landscape, expressed through an innate skill for precise dot markings.

Do have a browse through the Gallery's collection. I found a number of the works visually appealing and the prices are pretty good too.

I hadn't heard of the American writer Joseph Bottum until kvd pointed me to this piece in US publication the Weekly Standard, The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas. The piece is subtitled How it is that we once again find ourselves rooting out sin, shunning heretics, and heralding the end times.

Given Bottum's apparent prominence as a US thinker, I probably should have known who he is. Still, I tend not to follow US thinking unless I have a very particular reason for so doing.

I grew up in a strongly protestant Methodist/Presbyterian tradition tempered, to some degree, by an Anglican thread and by the sometimes broadness of view of my family with its perceptions of progress and action. I certainly understand the concepts of sin and guilt! Still, I had some difficulty in translating Bottum's very American frame to an Australian context. However, I could see what he was on about.

We actually live in very strange times marked by a proliferation of secular theologies and the imposition of right views of behaviour as seen through the eyes of a growing multiplicity of increasingly narrowly focused beholders. They all tell us what we should do, should not do, and in many cases have the political influence to enforce their views.

In the end, I did get two books for Christmas. One was Tom Keneally's The Commonwealth of Thieves, the story of the establishment of the penal colony in NSW.

I was interested in the book for several reasons. For example, how did Keneally turn what is, after all, a narrow niche subject into something that seems to appeal to a broader global audience? Then I was interested at a technical level in the way he structured his sentences, paragraphs, sections and chapters for effect.

The two link, of course. Keneally is a very good writer with the capacity to tell a tale. His simple writing structures link to his story telling role. Then his global reputation breaks through barriers in the minds of those who do not know where Sydney is, know little about Australia and care less about either. They are prepared to read because they have liked his previous books, know that he can tell a good yarn. They find from the first paragraph that they do not need background knowledge, it's a story with its own internal cohesion and context. In this sense, it can be read  just like  a novel.

I still have to finish, but I am enjoying the book.


Rod said...

Hi Jim,

I love the picture. Very funky. I can see why you liked the art gallery.

On the topic of books. I got a book for my birthday that is a real eye opener. Australia's Secret War by Hal Colbatch. It struggled to find a publisher and I think that is in part because of the controversial subject but I also think it is in one way clumsily written. Although his research seems well done the book reads a little like a list of maritime Union Sins... and there are many. A real eye opener. Alas, it is not the most exciting read from a literary technique point of view.

Jim Belshaw said...

Colbatch's book has been somewhat panned, Rod. This is an example - I can't comment without reading the book, but the reference to deliberate suppression of facts as on the Quadrant web site makes me cautious.

In a blog post ('s%20Secret%20War) Miranda Devine picks up the suppression point, pointing to the left dominance of Australia's historical narrative. Now I have complained about this to some degree too, but I was still aware of some of the official and unofficial disputes on the waterfront.

I think that the modern right in Australia is just as capable of supression and distortion as those they attack!

Still, I will reserve judgement until I actually read the work.

I hope you had a happy Xmas. May 2015 be good for all of us.