Negative Capability

Month: March, 2011

Occidental Tourist

Details: Michael O’Connell: My Grandparents morphing into Mr & Mrs Howell, 2011, oil & acrylic on canvas. Lorna Murray: Decoration and Other Indian Remedies, 2011, laser cut perspex and etching, board, bindis, photographic transfer

Lorna Murray
Michael O’Connell
1-20 April, 2011
Opens Friday 1 April 5-7pm
Meet the artists
Harrison Galleries
294 Glenmore Rd


Rainy weekends are conducive to writing, yet somehow I managed to plough through a bunch of accounts and acquittals last night. Phew! Ciao taxman, ciao arts administrators–call me in another six months. Now I’m free for yoga, though my shoulders ached this morning. I’m free to read, play and think and…oh yes, spend a few hours editing too.

Today’s launch of Antipodes, edited by Margaret Bradstock embodied blackfella, whitefella, (& brown) poetic responses to the settlement of Australia. It was a really special event, being well attended, with Anita Heiss in fine form. Great to hear poems which openly explore the traumas of invasion and settlement read by Judith Beveridge, Stephen Edgar, Lionel Fogarty, as well as younger poets: Ali Cobby Eckermann, Stuart Cooke and Benjamin Dodds.

Here’s a poem by Lionel Fogarty, guerilla poet, songman, whose lyricism and language disrupts the codes of Anglo-European models, with their underlying colonial assumptions.


Love…walk with me
Love…waken with me
Love…is a black newborn
Camp fringe dwellers are my love
Love is not seen in cities
Love is my Father
Love is my Mother
Scrubs are hid in bush love
and we say
Love’s mine.
Love is alive and received.
Love is a kangaroo
Love is an emu
Love is the earth
Love is the love of voice
Love is my friend.
And what about us
who has no love?
Well, love smells.
Us Murris knows
It’s love in bad love.
Give us love. Give us love.
Our Dreamtiming is love.
Catch my love over a fire
Fire of love.
Culture is our love.
Culture is ourself in love.
This school don’t give love
so we black power give you love
Proud and simply
love is the love
to our lands love.
Love walk with me
Love awaken with me
Now give us the true love.

(from New & Selected, Hyland House, 1995, p51)

With Lionel Fogarty at the launch of Antipodes

Return by Andy Ewing


From the vocabulary of the male body in feminist terms, Andy Ewing critiques the cultural constructions of gender in his paintings. Though he dismisses the work as ‘activism,’ his style is by turns provocative, animated, spiritually expressive, tribal, disrupting the codes and conventions that “sex” the body into binaries of power and powerlessness.

PQX is tongue in cheek, suggesting bondage, subverting the language of constraints and norms, with its sterotypical performance of gender. The surreal and abject figure in Wolf Mother gently troubles the stable boundaries of biological assumptions.

Ewing acknowledges being interested in the slippages between ideologies, the notion of a ‘spirit’ that is unknowable, existing beyond the natural or cultural realm. This is evident in Prana and Ancestor Spirits. He is drawn to the liberating processes of painting, to the transition from blank sheet of paper to a narrative, a feeling, a locus. The floating colours and fluid identities evoke the sensory, the energetic, the pleasurable agencies at play, resisting what Foucault might describe as organised forms of knowledge.

These paintings are from a series which Ewing calls ‘Return.’


Wolf Mother

The Lucid Krishna

Just went for a gorgeous, breezy walk on the first day of autumn, my favourite season. Time to blog away my toothache.

How cool is this: a Tanjore (tanjavur) gold leaf painting of the blue-skinned Lord Krishna as Vishvarūpa, the title of my forthcoming collection of poetry. Vishvarūpa is the infinite form Krishna reveals to Arjuna in the battle at Kurukshetra, circa 500 BC. Krishna arrives at the scene to counsel Arjuna at a time when he must chose allegiance to either duty or filial love. The apparition is narrated in the Bhagavad Gīta, and the Mahābhārata. Basically, Krishna appears with a plethora of heads and arms, representing the “universal,” the interdependence of all living things, micro and macro. Among other things, such as saving Arjuna’s men from ambushes, astronomical faux-pas and conflagrations, he tells Arjuna to stop contemplating his navel and get on with the business of fighting a war against his cousins, the Kauravas.

by Ramesh and Selvaraj, from the Collection of Akkisetti. Ramprasad Naidu, Pune, India

While I do like Krishna quite a lot, I reference the name in another way, as a secular cast for hybridity, multiplicity and abstraction. The shapes which language and belief inhabit are fascinating. I’m interested in myth as a watershed where structures of identity through history and culture might be reimagined. Fellow poet & translator, Priya Sarukkai Chabria, kindly located this image from the collector Ramprasad, noting that it’s lavish in mythological detail and true to type with the gigantic Vishnu avatar figure dominating the painting.

Speaking of Krishna, the literary journal Southerly has uploaded a Long Paddock teaser for their India issue. It looks great; there’s some excellent work here, reflecting Australia’s extended literary exchanges with India, which have been characterised by diverse and unique voices. So far I’ve particularly enjoyed a Devadatta poem by Judith Beveridge, the fine review by Ali Alizadeh, of Kerry Leves’ A Shrine to Lata Mangeshkar, and Vicki Vidikkas’ New and Selected, . & yeah, there’s also my story, The Lucid Krishna.