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Writing with a whoop

May 1994, no. 160

Writing with a whoop

May 1994, no. 160

Janine Burke built her reputation as an art critic specialising in the work of women painters, but she has been steadily supplanting that reputation with another, that of fiction writer. Since Speaking was published in 1984, she has written Second Sight, which won the Victorian Premier’s Award, and Company of Images, a novel about the Melbourne art world.

With her fourth novel, which she says has taken her four years to write, she heads in a new direction, although the locale is still close to her Melbourne home. She explains here firstly how the change from art historian to novelist was achieved, and then how the themes in her writing both continue and have shifted in her new novel, Lullaby.

I’ve left formal art criticism behind to a certain extent and I’m glad to do that.’ I found the area of art criticism very inhibiting and when I was waiting the book on Joy Hester in tandem with my first novel, crossing the t’s and dotting the I’s, and getting everything absolutely correct, suddenly seemed enormously constraining. But writing about Joy Hester, who is difficult (because so many of her works deal with states of feeling), I think I helped push my writing further and further away from the correctness of art history and towards a much more lyrical and imaginative way of writing.

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