May 25, 2008

The Arts That Feed Us

This week was a reminder to me of the importance of the arts in out life. Arts of all sorts. Film, painting, literature, music, etc. It is not a distraction, a frivolous time waster. It is not elitist, it is at the very centre of our existence. Last Tuesday, this argument was put together beautifully at the Opening Address of the Sydney Writers' Festival. Delivering the address was esteemed British author Jeanette Winterson. In a speech lasting nearly an hour she eloquently put forth the argument that life is not about having the biggest car or the biggest house. It is about seeking beauty in life and where better then to find that in the arts. Whether you create that beauty yourself or just enjoy the creation of it. The speech has stayed with me since, certainly reinforcing my own thoughts on life and giving them a fresh, new boost. And she also talked about the importance of digging deeper into things to find their importance. Not settling for the easiest option. Not settling for American Idol, but looking for American Beauty. Digging deeper then the latest TV fad or bad pop song. It's just so much more rewarding.

Then yesterday a trip was made to Canberra to view the Turner to Monet exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. Seeing works by Turner, Constable, Streeton, Roberts, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Sisley and Seurat in the one room was certainly a rewarding experience. The painting above is "Boulevard Montmartre" by Camille Pissarro. This was my favourite piece, among many, at the exhibition.

Today was another Sydney Writers' Festival event. At the Sydney Theatre, Don Watson spoke about his latest book, "American Journeys". Watson, formerly speech writer for Paul Keating, was measured, erudite, witty and absorbing. His book was written after a long period of crossing the United States by rail and then trying to give his impression of that vast and powerful nation. He described the nation as being like your cousin. Somewhat alike, but a little strange and different. And the more you looked the more you become alternately repulsed and fascinated. I feel the same way. For every religious zealot from South Carolina, there is a learned scholar at Columbia University. For every Big Brother there is a Weeds. For every My Chemical Romance there is an Okkervil River. For every Bill O'Reilly (gratefully there is only one) there is an Al Franken. The same country that produced Thomas Jefferson, also gave us George Bush. A country of endless possibilities and excitement, yet also full of weaknesses and excesses.


  • At May 26, 2008 , Anonymous neill said...

    very cool print. i can lose myself staring into old street scenes.


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