The Sacrededge Festival has been a yearly event in Queenscliff, Victoria, since 2014.
Seeds Of A New Knowledge by Tony Convey - winner of the 'best exploration of festival themes' award for 2018.
The Sacrededge Festival, dedicated to spirituality in diversity, has been a yearly event in Queenscliff since 2014. The Festival explores the themes of living together, the sacred, justice, mindfulness and an inclusive community. It has a special focus on refugees, Indigenous issues, LGBTI, wellbeing and sustainability. These themes are addressed throughout the festival by artists, musicians, performers and writers from all over the country.
Tony Convey was recently announced as the winner of this year's 'best exploration of festival themes' award with his painting, Seeds Of A New Knowing.
Judge Steve Singline wrote:
'Tony Convey has created a work which is rich in colour and beauty. The human family is portrayed on a circular panel that speaks of a global connectedness. There are multiple scenes depicted within the composition, each one speaking in various ways of connection. Connections between people and the environment.
'When we thought about the themes of Sacrededge, the principles and values of inclusion, diversity and care for the environment we felt that Tony's work embodied this beautifully.
'For each of us, Sacrededge provides us with opportunities to learn and grow, to be more aware, intentional and conscious. To borrow the title from Tony's work, to sow 'Seeds Of A New Knowledge'.
'So take care of the seeds that you have gathered on your journey over the weekend. May they find rich soil in your lives and enable new life to emerge in your relationships with each other and the world in which we live.'
Steven Singline is a Geelong based artist who works in the mediums of sculpture and painting. He facilitates stone carving and painting workshops for people of all ages and abilities. In addition to his studio practice, he is employed by the City of Greater Geelong as the Public Art Officer.
Tony Convey's Seeds Of A New Knowing will be on display until May 23, 2018.
In 1989, VIVE LA VIE magazine published Sophisticated Naive, a feature article by Elana Steinberg that offered a unique insight into Serbian and Australian naive art. The Australian outsider artist, Tony Convey and his work was also discussed. Following is an extract from that article.
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Painters of the naïve style take the history and lore of the peasant village and landscape to create art of purity and sophisticated innocence.
By Elana Steinberg
Among the dictionary definitions of the word ‘naïve’, Oxford could perhaps be taken mightily to task for its use of ‘artless’ as a fitting synonym. These two seemingly incompatible terms achieve a remarkably successful marriage actually, in a unique school of art that began in the fields and meeting places of peasant villages and has wound its way across the globe to include all manner of culture and practitioner, in a discipline that is bounded only by the artists’ personal interpretation of their everyday domestic and spiritual lives. Naïve art is entirely based on response rather than formula – the constraints of which are fact, happily unchartered waters for the purist naïve painter.
Described variously by observers as ‘primitive’, ‘folk’ or ‘peasant’ art, Naïve artists are all bound by a common creed – to depict personal vision and individual experience above and beyond formalised technique. Whilst lesser know Naïve artists include Serbian masters such as Janko Brasic, Sava Sekulic and Milan Rasic, names associated with contemporary mythology are also prime protagonists of the naïve artform. Grandma Moses, arguably the most famous of naïve artists, first put brush to canvas in the naïve style towards the end of her very long life. Before her death at age ninety-six, she managed to convince a collector to part with $50,000 for one of her paintings. French painter, Henri Rousseau was credited with first bring the naïve style to mainstream attention, and he was supported in his efforts by affirmed cubist, Pablo Picasso who was also an ardent private collector of Serbian naïve art.
"Naïve art is entirely based on response rather than formula"
Picasso was not alone amongst his prominent brethren in actively encouraging the naïve style; French artists Jean Dubuffet and Paul Gauguin, British painter T.S Lowry, critics Anatole Jakovsky and Andre Breton amongst many others, were all unlikely champions of this ‘unsophisticated’ artform. But perhaps the most inspired and inspiring was the magical Marc Chagall whose status as a naïve painter is often called into question, but whatever his classification, the simple serenity of his angels and the brightly coloured stylised approach are all trademarks of a gifted ‘naivety’.
Within the generic term ‘naïve art’ there are countless schools and stylistic approaches, largely due to the fact that works are autobiographical in perception and interpretation.
“Naïve artists have no formal training; they taught themselves between themselves and they teach each other. They don’t talk about specialised art techniques like mixing the paints, the colours, preparing the canvases, they talk about philosophy, about life. These were people who worded on the land; they were taught by nature and what was accumulating inside them was the urge, the sense of needing to say something and to start painting,” explains Vasa Carapic, curator of the recent Serbian Naïve Art Exhibition with Australian Guest Artists. To read Sophisticated Naive in full, please click here. Naive Art of Serbia is also a great resource.
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We welcome your comments, insights, and experiences with naive/ outsider art. We'd love to hear from you!
In an extract from his essay featured in our second monograph, SPIRIT LINES: Graphics by Sylvia and Tony Convey, writer, curator and artist, Colin Rhodes offers a fascinating insight into the Convey's graphic oeuvres. And in doing so, he somehow manages to reveal something about us all.
It is an unfortunate truism of art history that graphic work has usually taken second place to other media. Art museums like to collect and show painting and sculpture.[i] At times this has resulted in the relegation of artists who work primarily on paper to minor roles in movements in which they were centrally involved. Or, more likely, the public comes to understand only partial practices in the cases of those artists for whom drawing and printmaking played active and vital parts. True, works on paper tend to be less physically hardy than painting and sculpture, but the museum tradition of placing them in a closed ‘graphics cabinet’ as distinct from open gallery display also suggests a distinction between private and public practice. Perhaps there is something to this. There are many artists who draw incessantly, yet never show this work. They consider it too speculative, or too personal. After all, the immediacy of image making in the graphic media lends itself to revelatory statements, whether intended or not.
So it is with the graphic work of Sylvia and Tony Convey. Though they have shown works on paper at times throughout their lives (Sylvia more often than Tony), they have been represented overwhelmingly in public by their paintings, sculptures and constructions. They produced much of their mountain of graphic work over the years, as it were, in secret. It was done in a domestic setting, with no audience in mind except themselves.
It is worth pausing here and saying something about the Conveys. Sylvia and Tony are fiercely individual, with distinct characters and backgrounds.[ii] Their work is similarly distinctive, not only stylistically but also in its expressive sensibilities. They do not collaborate on single works, so there exist two separate oeuvres. And yet… Sylvia and Tony have as often as not worked together; that is, in the same space at the same time. Together they have shared new discoveries and great swathes of the highs, lows and mundanities of lived experience. During a period when Sylvia was very ill in the mid-1990s, for example, she introduced Tony to monoprinting and the two of them worked in the medium every day in a shared artistic adventure that lasted over a year. They have explored identical narratives and subjects from their particular viewpoints – compare Sylvia’s Strong Bond (1986) and Maternal (1997) and Tony’s treatments of the same subject from 1988 and 1998, for example. Their common bond goes beyond mere partnership and the transactional. In a real, though intangible, way time and interaction has performed a kind of seeping and intermingling of personhood the one into the other. The result is a kind of pronounced connectedness that actually enhances rather than threatens individual personality. We might also similarly read the sum of their work, and especially their graphic output, which reveals itself with great immediacy.
Sylvia has always made drawings, whereas Tony started, as he puts it, with a brush rather than a pen. He had already been painting for a dozen years before he began to draw. This he sees as a disadvantage since he was already accomplished in the other medium. He had developed a method. Yet the evident struggle he brought to drawing has resulted in the creation of a body of gritty, authentic work. In general, Tony’s graphic work is all accumulated tectonics – of the earth as well as the built environment. Forms are excavated, as it were. Chthonic landscapes erupt and figures reveal themselves with the primal mud or stardust still clinging to their persons. Look, for example, at images like Maternal (1998), Strange Growth (1997), and Lay of the Land (2016). Sylvia’s graphics meanwhile seem to draw their life from more ethereal realms. While no less authentic in the immediacy of their complicity in the dynamic of communication with creative forces, Sylvia seems to look out, rather than down, so that her drawings report back those experiences with a fluid lyricism that departs from simple optical verisimilitude...
This is an extract from the essay, 'The Graphics Cabinet Opened' by Colin Rhodes featured in 'SPIRIT LINES: Graphic works by Sylvia and Tony Convey' (Published in Australia by Tellurian Research Press in November 2017).
Rarely does one read a text which upends an academic discipline, slams it against the wall and with a forensic scalpel skewers its epistemology. This is such a book. For many years Bednarik has written on the blunders and follies of the archaeological establishment. In 'Creating the Human Past'  he reviewed the discipline's failure to provide a cohesive, scientific account of the surviving traces our species have left in the archaeological record of the last ice age. Bednarik is not just an iconoclast tearing down the structures of a moribund discipline as he offers an alternative, scientific way forward to those archaeologists who share his concerns about the way the discipline has been marooned in a number of dead ends created and aggressively defended by the establishment. In the preface to the second edition of 'Rock Art Science'  he notes that the first edition 'has been criticised by some archaeologists as being overly critical of their discipline. In this edition I have made an attempt to limit criticism to what is absolutely necessary to convey the gravity of issues......This is hoped to lead to academic introspection, not antagonism, and to a better dialogue between archaeologists and rock art scientists'.
Sadly the archaeological establishment has largely ignored his writings presumably hoping that a lack of 'oxygen' will see them fade into obscurity. Instead he has published this concise and ground breaking account of the archaeological establishment's ongoing inability to scientifically assess the single most important body of data relating to the evolution of our species - the rock 'art' of the last ice age. Of the hundreds of books and many thousands of papers devoted to this subject none has surveyed the surviving pleistocene 'art' of other continents beside Europe. This Eurocentric bias has distorted our knowledge of the origins of symbolism and the cognitive evolution of our species. The scale of this distortion is alarming as the European corpus provides only a sliver of the available data and the much larger inventory of Australian pleistocene 'art' has been almost completely ignored as has that of the other continents. Bednarik has rectified these omissions in the first overview of the subject to analyse the claims for a pleistocene origin of the rock 'art' of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe. He discusses the enormous problems involved in the scientific determination of the age of rock 'art' in a way accessible to the general public as well as professionals in the field. Furthermore he delivers a devastating refutation of the African Eve/Replacement theories which are still held and ruthlessly defended by the gate keepers of the archaeological and anthropological establishments. These Eurocentric fantasies have dominated the disciplines involved for decades even though their origins in a hoax have been known for some time. It is a classic case of the old trope about discredited theories only being replaced after the demise of their most intransigent proponents.
'Paleoart Of the Ice Age' is the most valuable addition to the epistemology of rock 'art' studies yet published and deserves the widest possible readership and will undoubtedly become a classic in the field. Tony Convey
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REFERENCES 'Rock Art Science - the Scientific Study Of Paleoart' Robert G, Bednarik Aryan Books International Delhi 2007 'Creating the Human Psst' Robert G. Bednarik Archaeopress Oxford 2013 'Paleoart Of the Ice Age' Robert G. Bednarik Editions Univeritaires Europeennes 2017
In the second part of our two-part series on Collected Works Bookshop, we look at the future of the iconic Shop – the heart of independent bookselling in Melbourne, and Kris Hemensley, one of the few Shop volunteers left, tells us (a little reluctantly, but wonderful effusively) about his life.
Currently located on the first floor of the historic Nicolas Building, Collected Works Bookshop has been run by a small group of volunteers since its inception, which has shrunk to three, Kris and Loretta Hemensley, and Cathy O’Brien (who has run her unique i:cat gallery in Vientiane, Laos since 2009).
With 2018 fast approaching, the Bookhop is contemplating a move out of the city beginning in 2019.
For many of us, this is heart-breaking news, so if you’ve been meaning to visit, or you haven’t dropped in for a while, take the time to wander in. Chat with Kris or Loretta, browse the treasures that populate the many bookshelves, and marvel at the rare ephemera – posters, newspaper clippings, handwritten notes, signed scraps of paper – each offering visual cues into the long, rich history of our arts and literary culture.
Outside, Melbourne is being reconstructed. Inside, people sit quietly reading, exploring, ruminating… they're a little wild sometimes too!
* * * in the other room so often close to me… (HE) Kris by Kris…
I was born in 1946 on the Isle of Wight, UK. My father was English, my mother from the illustrious Tawa Family of Alexandria. Our family lived in Egypt between 1949-52, returning to Southampton where I completed my schooling. Dropping out of full-time education in 1964, I had a succession of jobs (dustman, encyclopaedia salesman, railwayman) before working on the Fairstar in 1965, during which voyage I first saw Australia, immigrating to Melbourne in 1966.
I met Loretta Garvey in 1967 who introduced me to the New Theatre (Melbourne), where I edited some issues of the newsletter, Spotlight, and had my first play, The Soul Seekers, produced. I became a friend and ally of Betti Burstall and her La Mama Cafe Theatre in 1967; several of my plays were produced at La Mama between 1967 and 1989, and I directed the influential weekly poetry reading aka the La Mama Poetry Workshop, 1968-9.
I met Ken Taylor at La Mama in 1967 and we collaborated with poetry readings, a book (Two Poets, 1968), and several radio programmes including "Kris Hemensley's Melbourne" on the ABC in '69. Between 1969 and 1972 I lived in Southampton, UK, where my son, the rock-n-roll musician Tim Hemensley, was born. (Tim played with such bands as God, Bored, & The Powder Monkeys; died 2003.)
I threw myself into the English small-press poetry scene, publishing widely and editing the magazine Earth Ship (1970-72). My other magazines include Our Glass (1968-69), The Ear in a Wheatfield (1973-76), The Merri Creek Or Nero (1978-80), H/EAR (1981-85), a selection from The Ear in a Wheatfield, "The Best of The Ear", was published by Robert Kenny's Rigmarole Books in 1985. Rigmarole also published several collections of my poetry (e.g., Sulking in the Seventies, 1978) and prose (e.g. Down Under, and Games, both in 1975).
My English collections include the prose No Word No Worry (Grosseteste, 1970), and Dreams (Aloes/Edible Magazine, 1971). Other Australian collections include The Going (Crosscurrents, 1969), Domestications (Sun/Macmillan, 1974), The Poem of the Clear Eye (Paper Castle, 1975), A Mile from Poetry (Island Press, 1979), Christopher (Swamp Press, 1987). Other publications include Montale's Typos (1978), The Miro Poems (1979), and SIT[E] (1987), all with my brother Bernard Hemensley's Stingy Artist press. In 2009 I published the cd + booklet, My Life in Theatre (River Road Press), and in 2011 the chapbook Exile Triptych with Vagabond Press.
In 2016 I published my first full collection of poetry since 1979, Your Scratch Entourage (Cordite).
I was briefly a co-editor of New Poetry magazine for Bob Adamson (1973-4), poetry editor of Meanjin Quarterly (1976-1978), and a contributing editor for Hobo in the early 1990s. I also contributed some Melbourne commentary for Michael Schmidt's PN Review (UK) in the ‘90s. Late '70s, early '80s I was Melbourne commentator for ABC radio's Books & Writing programme.
While I continued to write poetry, and works for theatre (e.g. European Features, 1989, whose cast included the young Cate Blanchett) and for radio (eg, The Mysterious Baths), I began withdrawing from publishing in the late '80s. Apart from the mixed prose and poetry work, TRACE (Alex Miller's Ingle Publications in 1986), I didn’t publish another collection in Australia until 2016.
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In her 2016 review of Your Scratch Entourage, Gig Ryan aptly wrote: “...although there is a looking back over time, there is more a re-inhabiting of time, a sense that all times exist at once, that all we experience is forever in us and with us, with all those colleagues who have died still being present in our poems.”
I travel the trains as tho’ in a stagecoach or on the back of a recalcitrant angel who can’t yet dispose of his love of the earth
Bloomsday 2016, Collected Works Bookshop (photograph: Richard Mudford)
Kris Hemensley's book launch, 2016 (photograph: Richard Mudford)
Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building, 1997 (photograph: Liz Ham)
In the first part of our two-part series on Collected Works Bookshop, Kris Hemensley writes about the Shop’s inception, its early history and the Vali Myers connection.
A meeting place for writers and readers, Collected Works Bookshop is one of Melbourne's favourite independent bookstores currently located in the historic Nicholas Building on Swanston Street. In fact, writes Kris Hemensley, the bookstore's current location was "an idea promoted by the late Vali Myers”.
Collected Works Bookshop was the natural issue of the Small Publishers Collective of 1984, the most important literary press among which was Robert Kenny's Rigmarole Books. It was Robert's brain-wave to create a bookshop dedicated to small press literature, run by a voluntary roster of writers and publishers. Some of the better known members were Jurate Sasnaitis, Des Cowley, Pete Spence, Nan McNab, Rob Finlayson.
Vali Myers began visiting the Shop when it was situated in the Flinders Lane Arcade building on Flinders Lane (our home from 1987-99), opposite Ross House. It would have been into the ‘90s when she first came in. Vali and friends, kind of Pied Piper-ish. She found us again in the 99-02 when we were down in the basement at 254 Flinders Street, a tenant of the CAE. As it became increasingly uncomfortable down there (CAE plans to sell that part of their property) we began sussing out other locations. And Vali’s famous comment was, ‘What are you doing in this dungeon, darling? Come up to my building [the Nicholas]’ …which in fact is what transpired, but at the eleventh hour, last days of December 02, receiving the keys the day before Gross Waddell (the agents at that time) closed their office for the holiday! I love the thought of the connection with Vali… several visits and conversations over a period… When we got into the Nicholas I sent her a card to tell her we’d made it to her building. Very sadly she was in the Epworth Hospital at that time… I’d seen a piece on her in The Melbourne Times, and photographed in her hospital bed… looking forward to her next journey she said… She died shortly after. Would have been wonderful had she been able to visit us there… Hers, of course, is an important spirit of the Nicholas Building…
'It Takes Two' by Sylvia Convey. Oil stick/paper, 1988.
A woman with a resigned look sits on a rock by a midnight sea oblivious to a large fish with gaping jaws breaking the water beside her. Another woman talks to a mask while standing on a carpet. These images, initially startling and inexplicable, on closer study recall the confusions and dilemmas of interpersonal relationships. We all play multiple roles within the context of our private and public worlds, however these shifting personas are often unintegrated and a source of anxiety.
Some of these images evoke the old question – What constitutes personality? Others chart the contours of desire and gratification. They do not depict the topography of everyday life but rather the silver tracery of dream where the events of the day are sifted and measured against our accumulated experience, hidden fears and secret expectations. These are challenging but rewarding pictures, mysterious yet accessible and all clothed in luxuriant, richly patterned surfaces.
Sylvia Convey’s images have a deep psychological resonance and allude to meanings which tantalize and disturb while remaining just beyond the grasp of rational understanding.
'The Magic Eye and its Dream Rivers' by Stephen Convey.
'One Sided Conversation' by Stephen Convey.
Whenever I look at my brother's pictures I am taken back to our childhood. Our environment the inner suburban world of Prahran, Richmond and South Melbourne; small houses, streets, factories and parks was, from our angle of vision, imbued with the marvellous and populated by strange and baffling people. We loved exploring this world on long spontaneous walks. We would stare wide-eyed at the 'Meanie' shrieking and gesticulating with a gnarled oak branch outside his tumbledown home. We had to step back into the lane as the 'crazy girl' chased her father down the street with an axe. Between two side streets there was a factory complex with oddly shaped yards littered with tangled metal and crates of various sizes. The juxtaposition of fire escapes, pipes, vats and rainbow-coloured slime in the gutters made it a fascinating but overwhelmingly sinister place.
Stephen was drawn to a small courtyard near the entrance which always had large patterns drawn with coloured chalk on the pavement.
Once at twilight in a blind alley we were horrified to hear screams tearing out of the barred windows of an empty factory. When we breathlessly told a cop in Chapel Street he grabbed us by the arms and said, 'There are two kinds in the world, the quick and the dead. Piss off.'
Empty houses, especially when reputed to be haunted, were magnets. They were psychic traps in which random aural and physical manifestations of previous occupation lingered. Stephen would stand in the middle of a room and momentarily close his eyes...
Sometimes at the end of these walks we would sit in the no man's land between the grimy factories and the Yarra River feeling the earth turning and listening to the hum of the wheels and wires. We had left the world of school and regimentation and our eyes had gorged on wonder. Later we moved to Glen Iris, a garden suburb with tree-lined streets built on the slopes above Gardiners' Creek. This became Stephen's special place and he formed a strong attachment to the rippling creek. It was as if he intuitively empathised with the original inhabitants whose stone tools lay buried in the grass.
Stephen never lost his sense of wonder and every time he picks up a pen to make a picture his quest continues.
Originally published in 'Outsider Art In Australia'. Ulli Beier, Philip Hammial [eds]. Aspect, 1989.
A Google search of his name reveals that William Augustus Schipp was a renowned explorer and plant collector, who had collected in Java, New Guinea and Northern Australia before spending the years 1929-1935 collecting in British Honduras. After his health suffered from years spent in remote areas under arduous conditions he returned to Australia in 1935. He lived a semi itinerant existence working as a gardener, labourer, prospector, and for a while as Norman Lindsay’s landscape gardener, before moving to the Bathurst district where he spent his last years. His plant specimens are held in major botanical collections around the world, however it is not mentioned that he was also a gifted botanical illustrator and a distinctive naïve painter. Obviously Schipp had used his skills to illustrate his discoveries, however it is not known when Bill, as his friends called him, began painting his colourful outback scenes, the images of the Barrier Reef and ‘floral medallions’.
Naïve art began to be recognised in Australia from the 1930’s onwards, usually by fellow painters such as Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, John Olsen and Garth Dixon. By the late 1950’s several prestigious galleries in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne were exhibiting the works of naïve artists on an intermittent basis, usually in group shows. For a few like Henri Bastin and Sam Byrne, this opened up significant careers as artists, which led to them winning art prizes and being collected by institutions.
For most, however, it was a fleeting recognition, which soon evaporated leaving the artist with no support structures and, for some, a certain bitterness due to inflated aspirations that the initial recognition had engendered. Gallery A in Sydney exhibited Schipp’s work circa 1964 in a show called Naïve Painters of Australia. Other outstanding naïve painters included in the show were Lorna Chick, Irvine Homer and Matilda Lister. The exhibition was possibly also exhibited at Gallery A’s Melbourne branch. Schipp was also exhibited at the Sydney Royal Easter Show where he won a prize for one of this ‘floral medallions’.
Garth Dixon befriended Bill in Bathurst in the early 1960’s. Garth was an artist and art lecturer at the Bathurst Teachers College who had discovered the classic Outsider artist, Selby Warren, and encouraged others like Matilda Lister. Bill was considered an eccentric by the locals and an oddity by the children. He lived very modestly in one room on a verandah, and was a familiar figure shuffling around town wearing his large Stetson hat and long overcoat with a sugar bag full of tools and specimens over his shoulder. He worked mainly as a gardener, but also visited schools showing children his plant specimens, precious stones, rocks and Indigenous artifacts, and telling them about the wonders of the Australian bush. The subjects of his paintings include meteorite craters, the Barrier Reef, Western Australian landscapes and the historic Lennox bridge in the Blue Mountains, NSW.
Bill Schipp had only minor success in the art world and in this he was like most ‘discovered’ naïve artists who spend much of their working lives under the official art world radar. Apart from the broken dreams of making a living as artists, the tragic downside of this is that with most of these artists a lack of ‘official’ recognition led to their work not being valued by their families and friends who are usually given work by the artists. Eventually, most of this work is either lost or taken to the tip. As late as the early ‘70’s in Tasmania there were accounts of paintings by convict naïve artists William Buelow Gould and T. H. Costantini being given to op shops or thrown away.
When Tony and Sylvia Convey were living in the Mitta valley in North East Victoria in the 1970’s they saw a wonderful old painting being used as a gate by a lady living in Tallangatta. Astonished, they asked her about the picture and whether she would be interested in selling it. She said it was just a piece of old junk and it would stay where it was. Tony and Sylvia suggested that the picture might have some historic value and that it should at least be taken inside and protected from the elements. She laughed scornfully and told them to mind their own business. After her death a year or two later, they asked her son what had happened to the picture and he said, ‘Oh, mum burnt it.’ Sadly, much of Schipp’s oeuvre has also be lost or destroyed.
1954 MORNINGTON PENINSULA An extract from ‘RITES OF SALVAGE’ Tony Convey Canberra 1984
While incarcerated in a boarding school conducted by nuns I began shaping boats, vehicles and companions out of materials found on the beach below the school. One morning we were taken to see Queen Elizabeth II passing through the Shire centre. To emphasise the significance of the event we were all given a bronze medal commemorating her visit to Australia and then led to a beach adjoining the pier where we feasted on hot pies seasoned with sand. While sitting on the beach I fashioned a companion out of wire, wood and paper. As I stared at him my surroundings were obliterated and I perceived an image of a bearded man on a storm tossed mountain.
At the time I was being subjected to a continual stream, visual and verbal, of biblical imagery. The stories of Daniel, Jonah and the men in the fiery furnace evoked strong feelings probably because with the self absorbed eye of childhood I identified with their imprisonment. My response was to summon up my own images of escape and transcendence.
One of my clearest memories is of a voyage undertaken in company with a raven and a bull. We sailed over glassy ultramarine seas alive with fantastic rainbow hued fish and serpents. The vessel was made out of driftwood, flattened food cans with wisps of faded labels still attached and a torn rag as a sail. This voyage was of course more successful than my five attempts at physical escape from the school and is in a sense still in progress.
A statue of St. Sebastian riddled with arrows was a particularly disturbing presence. For some reason this image intermingled with the legends I had heard of Lucifer and his rebellion against the established order in heaven. It laid a pattern of rebellion and ensuing punishment on my consciousness which was to be repeated over and over during the remainder of ‘my education’ and subsequent experiences in the ‘work force’.
It was here that my love of music and its transformative power was born. Each time I heard the bells my spirits soared. On Saturday mornings we had singing lessons in the courtyard looking over the headland. We stood on little wooden steps and sang old songs like Westering Home. Our conductor was a manically cheerful little man who rode a battered bike and played a clarinet. He wore what seemed to me odd clothes and as he conducted he threw little packages of sweets to those whose voices were most pleasing.
The experience of communal singing was overwhelming. I was a voice and I was every voice and we seemed to be suspended on a shining cloud high above the mundane world.