This excerpt from a review of a new book by Darleen Bungey
about John Olsen the Australian painter
at first I thought to send just to Andrew Burke and Bill Wootton
but on reflection I’m sending it to the list.
Well, my wife is always complaining to me that Australian writing
laboriously overdoes its landscapes.
She also looks with me at Australian landscape painting -
with a fraction of the interest it elicits from me.
A symptom, a test, might show up in this excerpt.
Pearce warms to Darleen Bungey’s prose poem, but do we think much of it?
[Max in Seattle, just a bit homesick for those grey-green treescapes]
There is also [writes Pearce] perhaps too much backgrounding with colonial and Aboriginal histories of places where Olsen lived or travelled that feels like unnecessary padding, with many of Bungey's own descriptions of what he was experiencing more to do with her ambition as a writer than him.
Nevertheless, when one comes across a passage like this, relating to Olsen's first visit to Sofala and Hill End in 1962, it is hard not to forgive:
"He roamed under the burnt yellow of an autumn sky, through pink clay under white gums with grey-green leaves and by trees alive with roots like legs that dangled along eroded riverbeds; and by trees dead and upturned with roots like arms, pleading skywards. He wound about snaking creeks, peered down black tunnels of abandoned mine shafts, and circled brown gorges and red slag heaps. He watched as sunlight sliced through slanting palings of fences bordering paddocks of sundried grasses, and contemplated the souls who had once lived where rickety chimneys rose like headstones over ruined foundations."
A potential poet lurks here, making Bungey an ideal sensualist for this creature of contradiction, this elusive escape artist, this genius of gesture, immersion and pictorial collision she has boldly taken on.
Barry Pearce is emeritus curator of Australian Art, Art Gallery of NSW.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/biography-of-the-artist-john-olsen-reveals-a-landscape-of-desire-sex-and-frustrated-love-20150109-12kd2e.html#ixzz3PTmH9e9J