Archive for the ‘WRITING’ Category

Tom Carment’s “Womerah Lane”


I used the excuse of a recent significant birthday to treat myself to the just- released memoir by Tom Carment, Womerah Lane: lives and landscapes.


I think of Carment’s paintings as honest and faithful – both to his subject and to his process. Most often his works are  modestly sized, sitting quietly amongst the crowd of the Archibald Prize;  the Adelaide Perry Drawing Prize; the Wynne and Sulman; the Dobell Biennial; Mosman Art Prize and many other exhibitions.

Were I the judge, he’d receive the prize every time. He’s regularly received formal recognition over  his long career of course, but it’s easy for his works to slip through the net. They don’t have the vivid drama or commanding scale of works that may go on to become popular favourites – though I doubt the artist would find that too troubling.


Coledale Camping ground

2013, watercolour on paper, 11 x 15cm


Images of artworks – plein air and still lives – are peppered throughout this memoir that takes a long look over the artist’s career.  Carment’s writing is indeed, as Helen Garner commented, just like his painting: gentle and understated. He has a deep love of country, speaking fondly of travels to far-flung properties of friends and family. Much of his travelling is done on pushbike, affording him the time for a rich appreciation of the countryside as he quietly passes through. He describes how he will stop and simply set up to paint a scene that strikes him. Many images he paints have been painted before, some many times over the years. The artworks themselves are a journal of sorts.


Afternoon shadow, William Street, 1989

oil on linen, 100 x 87

It’s a sign of a master when a description  of a quotidian object like a potato or an egg manages to cause true visual excitement…


Two eggs, 2017

oil on linen, 15 x 20cm


Tom and potatoes


As a painter myself, I perhaps predictably most enjoy those sections where Carment speaks of his actual painting process – his rucksack set up with a certain small number of favourite colours; a self-designed box to transport wet oil paintings so they are held secure but separate. Over the years he has honed his technique and keeps to the bare minimum what he must lug about. Painting, like writing, is always about what you keep and what you leave behind.



Alex Olivetto, oil on linen, 41 x 51cm, 2o17





The creative


Choose your own path, 2018

mixed media on A5 paper


It took a long time before I realised that one must answer the call to create. Not just when I felt like it. Not just when I felt inspired or had time. There is a respect that must be paid to …well…whomever or whatever you  call it. That divine wellspring. The origin.  This is a poem about that.


The creative 

This  the demand:

 …your ‘yes’ must be oceanic. Wide, glad-hearted. Dark

is OK: troubled, turbulent, all that, just keep on. The shoreline

shows up only at your final depletion…


Her skin is hot, her arms  a drawstring strained

around kids, lover, home.


Here’s her mouth loosening. A howl, a torrent

down her cheeks as out she wades.


Oh brave and brave, knowing herself

insufficient, yet strangely perfect for the job.


(for A.C.)


Live on, survive, for the earth gives forth wonders. It may swallow your heart, but the wonders keep on coming. You stand before them bareheaded, shriven. What is expected of you is attention. SALMAN RUSHDIE









Vyvian Wilson, Island Blazing, mixed media on canvas triptych.


Clifton School of Arts remains an under-recognised treasure in the Northern Illawarra, despite many high-quality exhibitions being held there over the past several years. As a result of the current Committee’s decision to boost the profile of this cultural venue, the CSA’s own inaugural exhibition Feeling the Heat has been born.

Curators and artists Vyvian Wilson and Ruth Harvey have populated the beautiful, light-filled space with the works of 19 invited artists. It’s a good strong mix of ideas and expressions; an evocative and sensitively hung show with some lovely rhythms and punctuation.

The ground floor space includes some works that appear light-hearted in approach but serious enough in message. David Rowe’s political cartoon afr cartoon 2014 shows a lewdly winking Tony Abbott with his pants most definitely on fire, bending over obligingly for big business, who light their cigars from the conflagration.














Lizzie Buckmaster-Dove,  Life and Its Marvels, The Natural Balance of Life 2013.


Lizzie Buckmaster-Dove’s Life and Its Marvels, The Natural Balance of Life brings us shapes cut out from a 1960s children’s encyclopedia. We can see the book; the cut-out shapes (based on small plastic items of rubbish) ands scraps of text. We gather from the imagery that what is being described are natural environments and biodiversity. We can’t make out more than a few words at a time; we gain an impression only, but are left with a sense of loss (Glenn Albrecht’s ‘solastalgia’ – a sense of loss for a changed environment that once provided solace.) [1]

This downstairs area has a kind of grumpy guardian spirit overlooking the proceedings – Alannah Dreise’s King of Green. This dominating figure, arms akimbo, was inspired by an actual theatrical character seen at local Festivals. There is a connection, though, to the ancient Pagan tradition of the “Green Man” – a pre-literary deity, the personification of all that is living, green and sacred. How appropriate that the King greets us early in a show  which contains so many works expressing ecological concerns.













Alannah Dreise, King of Green.


The temperature rises as we climb the stairs. Damian Bancks’ collage Simmer till ready is a densely convoluted, almost woven field of collage, which seems somehow to radiate heat. Its sibling, Heat of the moment, stands at the other end of the room; I see here an echo of our green guardian downstairs. This fiery-red figure, arms stretched out, centrally placed amongst a busy collage, could easily read as a burning man. He overlooks this group of works that generally has a more elemental feeling than downstairs.

There is plenty of mystery here. Lesley Goldacre’s photographic work The Spirits was created sans Photoshop jiggery-pokery, but you wouldn’t think so. It feels supernatural…it’s not clear whether we’re looking at columns of fire, or simply clouds reflecting violent and fabulous golden light. Then there are the repeated giant figures, silhouetted against this bright sky; but what they boast in size, they lack in solidity. They are only half there…almost wiped from the record. This could perhaps suggest a memory of trees, dwarfing the ‘real’ ones described in dark tracery at the top of the hill.


The Spirits








Lesley Goldacre, The Spirits


In the corner next to Vyvian Wilson’s spectacular Island Blazing (which is so compelling that the the viewer could be concerned that embers will fall on her feet where she stands) is a modest piece with content as big as the world. Annie Bourke’s Sunset Reflection is a tiny oil painting describing the light of the dying sun over the ocean. There is a tanker, an industrial ship, in the scene also which adds to the humble nature of the presentation. It is a quietly Romantic gem.

There are some welcome and necessary foils to all the heat. Arja Valimaki’s Birch Dream suggests a rhizomatic growth pattern, densely linear with muted earth tones that would probably read as warmish anywhere else; not here though. Carefully woven throughout the whole show are moist and lovely oases of various types: a cool misty Coledale by David Manks; bright, lush scenes by Tony Hull (Heat Haze, Kendall’s Beach Kiama and Summer Heat, Wombarra Pool)  and Simon Tognetti’s ceramic bowl, The Rockpool.


Birch Dream











Arja Valimaki, Birch Dream, acrylic on canvas.


Context truly is everything, as Curators are well aware. Anthony Buselli’s Altar describes rock formations on the beachfront.  This prompted powerful associations, sitting as it does amongst this hot congregation. Being a Coledale local, for me the beachfront is very much a part of my Escape Plan for the inevitable “catastrophic” category fire risk days. Then I remembered those families down in Tasmania –I think last year – forced to remain standing in the ocean for hours on end simply to survive. An altar at such times might be not so unlikely a thing.



Anthony Buselli, Altar, acrylic on canvas.


[1] US National Library of Medicine; National Institutes of Health, Solastalgia,


Facing the mountain at Sydney Writers’ Festival

I spent some time this week up at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, along with thousands of others. This fortnight of activity is hugely popular now, and with good reason. There are many speakers from overseas as well as plenty of home-grown talent.

There was a huge preponderance of middle-aged women, which was disappointing – where are the blokes?

I was entranced by a talk given by Huw Lewis-Jones. In 60 minutes he took us right to the top of Everest, following in the footsteps of George Lowe, photographer to the famous 1953 Hillary expedition. Admittedly, the man had good material to work with, but what a speaker he is. I was in tears several times. We were there. Lewis-Jones is an historian of adventure, and also serves as  a Polar Guide annually. He knows what it’s like to get very cold feet, let us say.








Huw Lewis-Jones


Lewis-Jones has written a book using Lowe’s photographs: The Conquest of Everest, which is now added to my wish list. Lowe’s son was in the audience, and lent the speaker Lowe’s wrist-watch for the session. This simple act of connection with the subject of the talk, who died last year, brought him into the room with us in a surprisingly moving way. What an incredible generation of climbers they truly were. ..


A generous speaker inspires us to carry on.

I had a wonderful experience last week. My poem was given a Commendation by none other than Mark Tredinnick, who was judging on behalf of the Society of Women Writers NSW. Tredinnick is a bright star in the firmament of Australian Poetry. This, then would be excitement enough.

What really made the event though was the generosity he displayed. A public speaker occupies a privileged role, and it is a role so often abused . Not here. He spent time with the winning poems, sharing with us the minutiae of what he considered praiseworthy. He also described his ‘near encounter’ with the late, great Seamus Heaney at the recent Oxford Writers’ Festival, and even read some stanzas from Heaney’s Squarings.

Finally he expressed admiration for the winning works in a way I found so inspiring. He lifted my spirits and encouraged me to write; to think; to expand and to celebrate.

Find out more about Mark Tredinnick here


A beautiful poem of Mark’s:



Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo at Dusk

 We sense and we experience that we are eternal

—Spinoza, Ethics, Part V


The white bird high in the crown of the elm is a better idea

Than any you’ve had all day; a smarter prospect than her name


Implies. She’s a flag of erotic surrender, an outbreak of love

In the middle of June. Behind her, the whole sky is a ghost, hunched


Inside his famous grey raincoat, and a rainbow hangs from his pocket

Like an old joke. Dusk swells and strands the tree in halogen floods.


You, at your window, are the bird’s entire audience, and she knows it,

And she drops from the treetops and flies at you as if she doesn’t mean


To miss—until just metres from the glass she departs hysterically,

From the script, and does. The world works best when it misses


Its mark. Good ideas rush you, but never quite arrive, leaving room

For doubt and time for questions. A life lived there is a life in love: desire,


Growing wise in the attempt, flies from how things look to what they are

Or might be yet, and your body, losing its footing, becomes your soul again.


Mark’s poem is published in The Wonder Book.


My poem:


Start me up; untuck,

drive mad to sweet spot.

War-smoke; wild – eyed

convince me I’m alive.


I’m foreign to your dark heart;

can’t see where foot falls

but old graffito indicates

some way; some gate.


Thunder up, rain down;

All dive and drink deep.

Earth me soft; cradle clean,

grow me, grow me green.