how can one walk the earth of Australia and not think
of the people who have gone before
the crags sing of them
the water wells salty with tears
the earth is red as the blood that was shed upon it
* * * * *
Country: In Aboriginal English, a person’s land, sea, sky, rivers, sites, seasons, plants and animals; place of heritage, belonging and spirituality; is called ‘Country’. (Source: Glossary of Indigenous Australian Terms, Australian Museum, Link.
More of my writing on aboriginal issues here. More of my haiku on this blog under categories here and on my old blog here. Feel free to have a browse.
‘spinifex dot painting country’ was first published in Journeys, an anthology published by Haiku Bindii, a local Adelaide Japanese poetry group. I don’t think they have any more copies but I have a few. If you are interested contact me here, and I can get one into the mail for you.
I have a thing about this genesis story. It pisses me off that women take the rap for all that original sin shit, and have to cover their hair and be treated like dirt. Anyway it is fertile ground for creative stuff, as are most myths. This painting is called, Togetherness, with the subtitle, Surely the Omnipotent One Saw It All. Well, actually I forget what it was called, but something like that. I painted it a while ago now. Those blue eyes are His. I don’t know how I came up with the idea that the serpent and Eve and Adam are one being, but I quite like it. Take responsibility for the serpent in you, and stop blaming others. Keep out of it, God.
Following is a poem about the same story. Also written quite a while ago. I think I’ve blogged it before, but it’s a good read. It will be in the book I have coming out at the end of the year.
Adam’s belly was tight with seriousness and blind faith.
He knew nothing of sensual delights or even animal instinct.
He was on his rock waiting for God I think.
He was lean with fasting. Meanwhile I was retching
on my desire and curiosity, growing thin
on stars and water. I wanted words and ideas,
vivid opinions, something more interesting
than the garden. Then I met the serpent.
He understood my predicament and boredom.
He shared with me some secrets he’d learnt
when he was in God’s good books –
that there is so much more and we can know it.
‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I’ve had enough of basking
on lawns all day. Give me some stimulation.’
So I enticed Adam down from his rock
and we shared a bit of knowledge.
I’d been so used to him hanging around on rocks
that I hadn’t even noticed his superb body.
The sex we had was so intense it was embarrassing,
hence the fig leaves, besides which later
we could strip them off each other.
God heard our moans. That’s what woke him up.
He didn’t have a lot to say because he was so jealous
but he cast us out of his paradise into the rest of his creation.
Out here there is this minor problem of death
but the sex is still good.
chaos order chaos order
things coming, things going, things coming
integration, dissipation, integration
the endless cycle
the making of something through chaos (painting, writing, performance, life)
how, in the making of art, there is a tipping point when chaos dispels and boring starts.
so much of art is about leaving things slightly chaotic, slightly disordered.
where else would the viewer find room to relate? room to ponder?
This was written in response to a post on The Letters Project, an artist/mother (performance primarily) who is exploring the quandary of being a mother in today’s art scene, and the fertile themes of absence and presence. A very interesting project, still in its infant stages, I suspect. Check it out.
The better part of my art is about this order/chaos cycle. Have a scroll through, or check out the work in ‘my art’, above.
The baby by the way, is still a newborn, and the most exquisite, wriggly, responsive little chap. I know, because the artist is my daughter-in-law, and I am one of the child’s many grandmothers. (He has at least four. I am known as Granny Bill and am one of the ‘step’ grannies. Not that it makes the slightest difference to us!)
I’ll never hear whale song on the open ocean.
The end of this jetty is the closest I’ll go to mid sea.
You can have your adventures in a tiny boat
on the surface of that great mass
alone with albatross and storms.
The exhilaration of surviving there
is not for me. I like my feet on land.
Still, there is something in the deep,
the dark forever, in the immense silence
of the sea, that pulls one.
As if one’s body belongs there,
came from there, wants back.
If ever I need to suicide …
But no, the voices of children are behind me
on the land, and all the ones I love,
and honey eaters with their feathered tongues,
and dragonflies and daisies.
Not for me the slippery world of salt water,
even on a moonlit night with whale song.
as if after a voyage
the meeting of bare feet
Once, when I was young and stoned, I painted a perfect ribbon. It was green satin and, when I’d finished, it really looked like green satin. Pure accident. The paint was thick and ugly, phthalo green, so I ran my thumb along it to take off the excess and wiped it on a towel. Now, anyone who knows phthalo green, will know it’s transparent. When I looked again, the paper below the paint was showing through and there was an amazing ribbon with light playing on the satin. The rest of the painting was shit, but never mind. Interesting how you learn things. And interesting how accidents can give you a result. I got so fond of accidents, chance mistakes, that I spent a lot of time seeking them out. I really dislike slick paintings and began painting with lumpy paint and bits of stick. (Hence the poem called how to paint a painting in the blog post below.) I would paint in negative, white on black, because it gave a fresh feel.
What do we seek in pursuing art? What I most desire is those times when I’m completely engrossed in the work, so far in that time, pain and mind disappear, so far in that when the happy accident happens, it feels like I’m being acted upon, like the hand of … God, or something.
Mix paint so it won’t flow, or so it will drip unexpectedly and in the wrong place, or will dry a different colour, or so it cludges or pools.
Choose a brush that doesn’t work, has its bristles all askew, is dried up like a stick, or is a stick, or a grass stalk, or the hair of a dog, or a clump of your own hair bound with string, or paint with the string.
Choose a canvas that has holes in it, is the skin of your lover, or the hide of your ex-lover.
Take a large garbage bag and into it discard: your concerns, your politics, the shopping list, your body, your hard-earned craft, your ego, your desires, your name.
Look at your subject (if you have one.) Stare at it a long time. Stare at it until it shimmers like illusion. Stare until it dissolves behind its own negative.
Now, paint what it isn’t. Don’t look at what you’re doing even if you can see, just keep sticking your branch in the paint and the paint on the canvas.
Some time after you’ve finished you should look at it. Is it clever? Are you in it? Who did it? If you can answer these questions, throw it away.