Arts

For at least the first half of the twentieth century, Australian playwrights were not held in high regard by their compatriots. Popular opinion was summed up by fictional theatre manager M.J. Field in Frank A. Russell’s novel The Ashes of Achievement (1920).

... (read more)

Light Shining in Buckinghamshire 

Belvoir St Theatre
by
20 April 2022

Caryl Churchill’s Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, first performed in 1976, is a dense and difficult play set during the English Civil War. The period may be distant in time but Churchill, working in a broadly Marxist tradition, sees it as an era when fundamental questions of governance were tested by a mass of ordinary people. From whom does the state derive authority, and is a person bound to obey laws they find unjust? Does the existence of private property – those enclosed lands cultivated for the profit of a few – offend against the common good? Do the rich offend God? ‘For a short time when the king had been defeated anything seemed possible,’ Churchill wrote in a 1978 introductory note. The possibilities included, for some, Christ’s return and with it the instigation of an earthly Paradise.

... (read more)

The Western, colonial, patriarchal hegemony having eroded somewhat in recent years, the purposes and methods of art and of museum management and curatorship are undergoing fundamental change. Formerly unchallenged Anglophone-transatlantic canons and practices have been undermined by broader international perspectives, by the impact of digital technologies, and by the politics of identity – in ethnicity and nation, gender and sexuality.

... (read more)

Daniel Cottier: Designer, decorator, dealer by Petra ten-Doesschate Chu and Max Donnelly, with Andrew Montana and Suzan Veldink

by
March 2022, no. 440

Among the most celebrated of nineteenth-century British decoration firms, but one that is almost completely forgotten today, was Cottier & Co., founded by the Glaswegian decorator and stained glass artist Daniel Cottier in 1869. The volume Daniel Cottier: Designer, decorator, dealer is the first comprehensive scholarly treatment of this decorator and his eponymous firm. With branches in London, New York, and Sydney, this was a remarkable international enterprise disseminating the principles of Aesthetic interior design, the movement that construed the role of art to be the provision of uplifting delight through visual beauty.

... (read more)

When the Morrison government decided in December 2019 to axe the federal arts department and to fold it into the department of infrastructure, transport, regional development, and communications, it was a strong signal – if another was needed – of the low esteem and influence the arts wields in Canberra. But it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The decision was made just months after the 2019 election campaign, when the Liberal Party offered no arts policy, and Labor only a nominal one. The depressing news came on the back of a decade of crisis and neglect for the sector, well before the spectre of Covid wreaked havoc for many artists and performers.

... (read more)

We know exactly when the first image of a Roman emperor arrived in Australia. It came as part of the goods on board the ill-fated Batavia, which ran aground off the west coast of Australia on 4 June 1629. This shipwreck went down in infamy following the mutiny of a group of the survivors and the subsequent murder of, at least, 110 men, women, and children. Eventually, the survivors were rescued and the horror of the actions of the mutineers was revealed.

... (read more)

Frances Burke (1904–94) was the leading textile designer in Melbourne from the 1940s to the 1960s. Her modernist furnishing fabrics, preferred by architects, interior designers, department stores, and homemakers, were popular in domestic and commercial interiors, and her reputation was national. Her design skills were complemented by a good head for business and her command of all aspects of production, distribution, and marketing. The distinctive style of her textile designs is neatly summarised by the authors of this splendid volume: ‘ A single, bright colour and clean, simple linework printed on quality cotton or linen made Frances Burke’s designs modern in style, instantly identifiable and very appealing.’ Burke’s wide-ranging design sources included flora and fauna, indigenous and exotic themes, as illustrated in a selection of her titles: Canna Leaf, Tiger Lily, Seapiece, Totem, Rangga, Pacifica and Moresque.

... (read more)

Patrick White’s plays are conventionally assigned a marginal place in the landscape of his writing. Historically, they have either been regarded as poetic but unconvincing extensions of the performative dimensions of his prose, or as fundamentally misconceived exercises in contempt. Tim Winton spoke for the latter camp when, writing in the London Review of Books (22 June 1995), he dismissed White’s dramatic work as a ‘long and wasteful engagement with the theatre and its poisonous hangers-on’. Winton’s judgement is informed by a solitary model of authorship that can be applied to the rural metaphysics of White’s Castle Hill novels but that is increasingly inapplicable to the urbane satires his work became following his move to inner-Sydney in 1964.

... (read more)

Since the time of celebrated figure painter Gu Kaizhi (345–406 CE) of the Jin dynasty (266–420 CE), artists in China have been researchers of sorts. Over millennia, a scholarly ideal in painting would emerge. Late in their working lives, many artists sought an aesthetic that was uncontrived and conformed to the inner workings of nature. For Nanjing-based art historian Xue Xiang, this was Fairweather’s achievement. A Scottish-born artist, son of civil servants to the British Raj, war survivor, migrant, vagabond, builder of makeshift rafts and huts, well-connected recluse, acclaimed foster child of Australian art: what makes Ian Fairweather resonate with Chinese artists across millennia?

... (read more)

About as eminent an academic philosopher as they come these days, Robert B. Pippin made his reputation with a sequence of brilliant studies rehabilitating the great names of German Idealism – Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel – for a (mainly) baby boomer American audience. In the wake of the path-breaking interventions of Wilfrid Sellars and Richard Rorty, Pippin, alongside such colleagues as Terry Pinkard, Robert Brandom, and John McDowell, has argued for a version of the essentially dialogic nature of all philosophy, which seeks to bring together metalogical ratiocinations and nitty-gritty semantic theories with reflections on the diversity of social interactions.

... (read more)