Its that time of the year when many shops are loaded with chocolate eggs, people are dashing off for a getaway for 4 days and autumnal weather is usually reminding one that the summer is over... even in the sub-tropics where change is not so apparent. The air is different though... and the signs of change are there if one really looks.
Unlike the northern hemisphere where Easter comes with spring and the "new life" symbolism is amplified by nature doing its thing it has always been a much different story here. As a child family Easter trips to places on the northern tablelands of NSW where the climate was cooler, the trees lost their leaves and there was an eerieness about some of the geographical locations all had a very pronounced impact with the addition of tales of the adventures of famous bushrangers that haunted this rocky terrain and the odd references to Jesus being crucified that came with the season. Another curious tangent were the tartans of the Scottish clans that gathered for celebrations around Easter.
So ... not for me the images of chickens, daffodils, eggs, chocolate and springtime!
Easter was a trip to faux Scottish highlands, crucifixion images, almost wintery, quite foreign landscapes and Captain Thunderbolt - the famous bushranger. Children do inhabit a different imaginal realm and I certainly had a potent set of images bound up with Easter - for some years at least.
I still love landscapes with rocky outcrops like in the image above though!
images : Armidale visitors information centre
Now for some very curious paintings (with rabbits ... well its easter!) by an artist whose work I very much enjoyed seeing a few years back at the Damien Minton Gallery in Redfern, Sydney. A contemporary commercial gallery exhibiting artists "who engage with the Australian cultural landscape" it features an eclectic stable of artists - Damien Minton is known for his keen eye and willingness to get behind an artist if he finds something strong to champion in their work above and beyond modish preoccupations in the contemporary art scene.
Paul Worstead is described by musician Stephen Cummings as a "painter like few others - a pungent and unique sensibility.... he's never binged on consumerism ..... dont think he's bought any new clothes since 1977... what makes him so annoying and simultaneously so great to hang out with and also partly explains why his art is so important." By clicking on the artist's highlighted name above you can read more and see his work.
I seriously considered buying one of his works a few years ago. The $'s probably went to the mortgage instead...but his work certainly tempted me. Unfortunately its long sold so I cant revisit it at this website! But here are several I chose from the gallery website:
Ayers Rock Bread (below) is in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia - a screenprint created by Paul Worstead in a 1985 collaboration for Jimmy Jones Souvineers. I remember the series of similar works which at the time were very distinctive and unusual for the included content about aspects of indigenous cultural heritage. Bush food and indigenous food sources were barely talked of in 1985 which no doubt added to the value of these as important graphics.
In fact in 1985 indigenous matters were still being completely sidelined in NSW Secondary Schools (where I was employed) and a seemingly 'landmark' Dept Of Education decision that year led to the placement of an Aboriginal Education officer for all the schools in the South Coast Region of NSW where I worked. One was virtually black-listed for arranging to speak with this Officer...even though one considered it part of the job given the number of indigenous students that were participating in school life.
Its sobering to recall the edge one could find oneself on for showing the slightest whiff of solidarity. I went on to invite a revered local aboriginal elder to talk with my senior class - organised through all the proper chanels. This was also viewed retrospectively as subversive. It was challenging to be identified with mainstream white australian ideology through this era of professional life. Consequently walking away from work that asked for this level of ignoring became a necessity. Essentially I identified far more profoundly with being an artist for the freedom it offered to navigate independantly, to find ones way though ideas and experiences, rather than toe-ing party lines for a wage. Working in an institution that required such a coerced, albeit not openly, degree of alignment with assumed 'correct' or 'appropriate' values was not remotely congruent as I saw it with being involved in education.
Well...that's the thing that an artist like Paul Worstead triggers...those quirky rabbits are bound to get one thinking! And Cummings, who is a hilarious raconteur (heard speaking at Brisbane Writers festival last year), has got a point when he says Worstead's art is important. This easter I'm going to be thankful we haven't as yet run down the world supply of cacao beens - what i'm hearing about cacao beans is pause for thought though! I'm also going to be thankful for people who dont exist to follow trends but have enough courage to find their own pretty good story and stick with it!