Archived in Pandora
from Meuse Press –
Manly Art Gallery & Museum
Ekphrasis selected to be read in celebration of the artworks in the Gallery’s collection exhibition ‘Manly: Art from the Vault’
FEATURING (roughly in chronological order of the pieces they addressed): Meredith Pitt, Danny Gardner, Jan Dean, Paul Williamson, Adam Aitken, Frank Russo, Jenny Blackford, Halee Isil Cosar, Lou Steer, Bhupen Thakker, Marie McMillan, Rebecca Kylie Law, Magdalena Ball, Colleen Z Burke,
Gisela Sophia Nittel, Ian Pettit, Leigh McGregor-Upton, Angela Gardner, Malcolm Fisher & Doug Neale.
after Manly Beach with lady lifesavers by Percy Spence
have been standing on the beach, waiting
for my turn to breathe since I was four
there have been years where I watched
the seagulls for a signal—
their white shit always missed
A lineage of women who wore half-moon aprons
and ironed with an astronaut’s helmet
attached to a shoulder bag of hot air
My tunnelled escape meant assuming past the point of knowing
until another appeared
A conversation waiting to be had
splits ripe—it’s not me you want at your side
but a child’s crayon drawing
I’m sorry I can’t be your missing mother, or
mine. I still buy sandalwood soap to keep in my drawers.
Two currawongs visit me,
pacing the railing of my balcony. I’ve
learnt not to approach but allow them
to ignore me
A Response to: Moslems in Procession by Emanuel Philips Fox. 1911
It’s a matter of knowing when you should go – that’s the key.
Did Mr Fox meet and talk with them -
the other artists and writers - from Europe?
People like Andre Gide, Antoine Saint Exupery,
Paul Klee, August Macke, Henri Matisse and so many others.
They were all interested in finding out about the oriental at that time.
Did they ask him about the Antipodes?
Or did he see them and shear off – wanting the Orient to himself,
keeping the low profile.
Did he interact with the Moslems at all?
I’m sure he had to hire all kinds of guides.
Everyone has to pay ‘baksheesh’ to village urchins and their mummies.
It’s been said the artist’s first aim is to observe
And what was that quote of William Hazlitt’s?
‘In a stranger’s ignorance of me and my affairs
I – in a manner – forget myself.’
Red floral swimsuit 1950
Railway Picnic, Manly 1950
Tired from the trip and so much excitement, I flop
on the pontoon with friends, watching a teenager
stride the sandy strip in her colourful costume
bright red with blue and yellow flowers.
We’ve seen nothing like it. She walked out of a dream.
The long journey, ginger beer from a barrel, ice cream
in tiny cartons with wooden paddles, lollies in paper
bags with twisted tops, the sack and egg & spoon races
fade into insignificance.
Thanks to her swimmers, the teenager is more potent
than Wonder Woman because those colours dazzle.
Her mother must use Persil.
I pleaded for this bubble swimsuit with elastic shirring
on the bodice, all the rage for fellow ten year-olds
back home. Now it’s feeble, the way the world looks
through blue cellophane. Still, I can wriggle inside a towel
to dress and undress in full sight of company
but imagine the teenager uses a dressing room.
When I peel my cossie off, it leaves scale marks on my skin
and my scrawny straggle of long plaits, dripping after a dip
feels fishy, whereas the girl on the shore is adorable
trimmed by her tiny skirt, perky yet demure.
My suit is a bubble atrocity and I’m kin to seaweed.
Here I am; a pretend member of the family of seven across
the street whose father works for the railways, tagging along
at their annual picnic. When I grow up I want to be
that teenager. Her swimsuit will never get wet
so maybe I should stay a legitimate form of sea life.
Alan Hind Surfers with Long Boards 1950
Breakers roll in - they are smaller today.
It doesn’t matter.
Dull sun freshens the white roofs
of shelters, sharpens their peaks.
Gulls move quick red legs across the grass.
Two long-haired surfers sit on boards
waiting in low swell for their next ride
during our visit
to the semi-eternal mother
at this ancestral edge that holds a place
to reconcile us with what we are.
Others dream of forests
Our lot longs for seashores.
We slowly calm to the dull roar.
previously published To the Spice Islands (Belgrove, 2015)
Ashton’s Notre Dame
Sir John William Ashton (1881-1963)
Notre Dame undated oil on canvas
mounted on composition board
38 x 54cm Gift of Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo, 1954
What is it you really want to argue with
stone machine of anti-gravity?
Statement buttressed & exquisitely glassed
in a summer in Paris.
(Cathedral Industries that thrive.)
Today three gentlemen walk by
on their way to the view.
Nearby a man in a pink smock
and white cap
They see a river
dust or swallow feathers
some stony sense of it
take off into cumulus.
Painting another summer in Paris
twin tower of levers and stained glass:
magnificence come to Mosman,
the origin of light (blue sky version).
Tom Thompson Annunciation 1973
Mary of Bingara, of Gongolgon,
of Mahra Station, sits beneath
the skillion verandah, watching
the trees on the horizon
as if they might transfigure
into horsemen in clouds
of hoof-kicked dust.
Six days now her husband left,
with him five stockmen,
a thousand head of short horns.
The wooden dining table polished,
the linens, bore-water washed,
stiffen in the dry wind.
She keeps company
with the old man saltbush,
make believing it speaks to her
in the blithe tones of childhood
until her daydream is interrupted
by a low susurration,
a flutter of wings
caught in her left field of vision.
Fearing a hawk or a kite, she shields
her face from the light.
Glimpsing the form before her,
she imagines it a Birra-gnulu
the local women speak of—this landscape
of red earth and dunes
is a place for spirits, not saints—
and trembles at the sight
of the emu-god transformed
to human flesh, two-pocket
cotton shirt loose around his form,
skin and hair sun-baked to a flaxen glow.
As he speaks, she thinks of how
the tin awning her husband built
is no altar of incense; the nearest Galilee
forty days ride by horseback.
Once the spirit has departed
she gathers the folds of her cloak
and observes the landscape shift
in the morning light: the earth a swirl
of coral-shaped channels, organs
of salty white and pale marine
soaking past the wooden posts,
heedless of lines drawn on parchment.
Promotional Poster South Steyn
Landlocked in Bexley North,
cramped all week in the wooden desk
stained blue around the inkwell,
I pined for the sea.
Wherever my parents drove us – tear-free
Sans Souci, Picnic Point, or Manly –
I fell fully-clothed into water,
came back wrapped in Dad's holey old jumper
from the car boot. Too often I skinned my knee
on rocks. There's still a tooth-scar on my lip,
if you look hard.
The South Steyne ferry was heaven
for me, though doubtless hell for parents
trying to keep me from dragging my baby sisters
over wooden sides not quite steep enough
to deter a determined child. The trip took days,
or months. Pure ecstasy
with ice cream at the end.
Then the ride back with sleeping babies
piled over the parents,
and my last chance to fall.
Halee Isil Cosar
Bill Samuels Shino Bowl 1995
Perhaps he has no expectations
after all these years
He knows the kiln can produce
The fire, works its magic
in the confines of the womb
Stains the cup where it has the deepest wound
Each one is made with the same materials
He guides, the breast like white with fingers gliding
A meditation of work that writes its own destiny
To create the cup that is empty, he must be empty
He must be present, yet willing to let go
Of wanting to know
He is just like this shino cup
Made from clay and cooked by life
His glazed skin is mist that covers his stains
He also fits into his maker’s hands
Paola Talbert, Kairos (Moment of Truth) 2000
not - as we imagine -
in a cloud of cherubs, trumpets blaring -
softly, a feather falling on water,
silent, a breath in the deep.
floating beneath the surface of your thoughts,
suspended in a solution only you can make for her.
Her party finery trails behind her,
shedding pearls, diamonds, periwinkles,
glimmering drops of light into the abyss.
She reaches out her hand, takes yours,
her pearly fingertips brush your palm,
tracing a phosphorescent trail along your destiny line.
Muse needs your poor hands and mind
to show her to the world.
leaving no trace –
except the dreams you try to capture before they vanish.
No matter how much care you take,
you never quite surf the crest of her wave
as she breaks over you.
Human - your visions are limited
by the daily grind of living,
your need to keep that body going,
so your mind can soar free into Muse’s realm.
Nothing to do now -
but accept the extravagant praise
of those who have not felt her touch
and yearn for her uncertain return.
John Olsen Sydney \Harbour Seaport of Desire 2003
(spirit of the collection) …..An old Indian woman who speaks no English
lost her sparkle at seventeen. Her husband threw her art against a wall and pointed to his many siblings who needed looking after
Sunita did it well.
a walking stick roams a gallery- by a light blue harbour, beside golden sand. The determined Rat tat tat tat wakes a lonely art group… swaying elderly traditional clothing sends messages
I like the sweep of the bridge in this….pointing to the John Olsen
I was as beautiful as that. The Rah Fizelle
in Manly Art Gallery. Sunita does it well
And look at this one she utters to her son. You see how the purple is, to lead the eye into infinity……….” Ketlu saru kam che” she says in Gujarati…”what beautiful strokes”. This is the Ralph Balson. ”Gulabi ketlu Nache che” - “pink dancing strongly”,“safed jane bole che”- “the white almost talking”,“lilu chupai ne bethu che”- green hides and sits,“shu light blue joyu”- did you see the light blue.“Ane soneri jaane swarg no darvajo”- and the gold like a door to paradise…
Sunita sits down for
perhaps a thousand long breaths/sighs , a thousand memories, a thousand tears, a thousand imagined strokes of paint, a life missed, of no regret, of many religious chants, a thousand perfectly shaped chapatis…and delicate aromas of crackling mustard seeds
touch orange awareness yellow hearts green
words light blue sounds indigo blue presence navy blue holiness pink pink
truth gold the wonder of purple sparkle gold
a air-bubble critique in Gujarati surfaces.
Sunita sparkles well
leaving eventually a repose of a second, a second’s recognition, a second of happiness, a second of remembrance with a glance back to the Ralph Balson on her departure rat tat tat tat
Years later her son walks past the John Olsen noting the curviness of the bridge, past the beauty of the woman in the Rah Fizelle and sits with his walking stick opposite the Ralph Balson by the light blue harbour near golden sand
white quiet, gold sparkle, purple wonder, gold truth, pink holiness, navy blue presence, indigo blue sounds, light blue words, green hearts, yellow awareness, orange touch and red stillness know him
He wonders how Sunita is. Whether she sparkles? He does not see her much due to her domineering. It’s best this way he thinks. We both sparkle…in our own ways
LAUNCHED IN LINO
Peter Kingston’s Friday Night at Kookaburras 2003
cream laid tissue
Old Hegarty's ferry plies
jarred, some others jaded
Warmth beckoning from inside
Old beacon of conveyance
- by briny cousin Charon -
Ferrying t'other side
Of living harbour
Whose hidden depths
A ligneous lighthouse
Its shadow doppelganger
Floats in timbered sea’s
A severed arboretum
In aqueous diagonals
Its sylvan ancestry
Slashed and slivered
Its frothy ruff, it
While tail of noirish wake
Wags ‘cross the
Until the vessel's launched
We're told 'twas Friday night and latish
Straight rain and
Cross-seared, cut deep by
Spill from chimneyed,
His finger tips excoriated,
Scraped and bloodied
(Perhaps even band-aided)
From glass 'n blades and knives
Is artist Kingston now?
Of Hegarty's ferry
Would have been very
Rebecca Kylie Law
After Chris Langlois’ Landscape (Narrabeen Lake) no.2
Standing in the prayer space
of headland rock at low tide,
flat and empty of ornament,
I followed you to the water’s edge,
avoiding ‘the brown’ as we called it,
the hazard zones of ocean peat;
and every now and then steadied myself
when you turned with your hands in your pockets
for a kiss. You talked later, as we
stood at the island’s edge, about
the water’s tendency to move back into
shore surreptitiously; and how many tourists
had found themselves marooned here
for oh, hours until the tide turned.
We fossicked for crabs in the pools
back inland of the prayer space
and when I held out my palm
to receive one you’d hidden inside,
behind knuckles, I looked up smiling
and said softly: “it’s okay, I like them.”
There were small shells and larger shells,
the one still holding a creature in good conscience
you lobbed back into deeper waters, not so much
soundlessly as reverently, the sunlight on turquoise
promising a further passage. In your bright green, v-necked
t-shirt, my friend, I asked you if you had ever
thrown a stone across a lake and watched
it skip. You replied yes and I thought of that
awhile, moving into shore behind you,
the light still sunny and cloudless
though winter had come; that in those
moments it was a wish cast also, though
the thrown stone would plummet and its
wholehearted dream would soar.
Published "Earthly Darling Came" (Ginninderra, 2017).
Just like that
After Chris Langlois’ Landscape (Narrabeen Lake) no.2
Just like that, she was there
the mirror that was your lake
creeping across the shore
in shadow like a film
disappearing as heroes do
beyond sea, sky
the end of this day or every day
fogged up into memory
the patina rubbed to satin sheen
so all you feel is a tug
a longing where words fail
fall to hunger, desire
thistle, or liseran purple
cut down to the raw centre
becomes gravity, charging a force
two bodies of mass drawn together
the brain aches with the smell of it
knows what it knows
and reaches for what it no longer sees
it could be anywhere that space
with you in it and not
a body in the darkening day
low tide drawing the eye
you know your fingers will pass
through that water as glass
she isn’t the only ghost
inhabiting the scene
you too, breathe out mist
sliding deep into the space
and listen for it
the twist, when the lake becomes
blood, your eyes shield against
soft glare, and hold.
Colleen Z Burke
After Chris Langlois’ Landscape (Narrabeen Lake) no.2
Waters of the mauve
slide into silvery riffs
spiky with darkness
as a woman
enmeshed in mist
with barely a ripple
Only her mossy scarf
splices the lagoon
as lake sky merge
and hills bush
Gisela Sophia Nittel
Joshua Yeldham (1970- )
Mangrove Country, Hawkesbury River – Protection 2009
Patterns of surrender
Such understated culmination
in these Hawkesbury River mangroves.
A different time zone to your mountain
climbing days, your days of Emmy triumph
& Oscar nomination for the re-creation
of what seemed such folly at the time:
a near hubristic plan to scale Pico Humboldt,
Venezuela’s second highest peak,
without map or guide.
Your camera was abandoned for a paintbrush
years ago. Even so in interviews your eyes
spark with semi-disbelief, recalling that green
teenager, so irreversibly lost until Chucho,
the local hermit, found you. Muy loco!
he scolded. Yet struck a deal to lead you
to the top, wearing your Gore-Tex boots
while you trekked on in the only other shoes
you had – your father’s leather loafers.
Muy loco, indeed.
Hard to trace this reckless youth back
to that reclusive eight-year old, who hid
in racks of fashion garments, watching
his parents entice customers
with the latest shipment of exquisite imports.
Like the young Matisse, you swooned
with love for textiles, surrendering your eyes
to colour & succumbing to the mesmerising
language of repetition in design.
Here now in the mangroves of ‘Protection’
I search for anticipated shades of green & blue
but find instead pale blood-orange tones
& fleshy hues that blush with youth
& vulnerability. Or is it maternal warmth
that forms an amniotic backdrop to textile
textures, whose patterns could be crinkled layers
of sun-ravaged skin under a microscope.
Front stage, burnt-match-coloured outlines
form reverse x-rays of speckled trunks
& limbs painstakingly hand-carved on what
could be a sheaf ripped from a paper-bark.
Initially perplexing, your palette now
soaks up clarity. Why not cast flesh
tones & patterns of scaled skin
as a silent chorus
for wiry, charcoaled trees
born to sing the arias of oxygen
to an audience of life in muddy tributaries
between land & sea? With boundaries
so porous, protection works both ways.
Joshua Yeldham (1970- )
Mangrove Country, Hawkesbury River – Protection 2009
Red Mangrove Country
Trollope called the Hawkesbury River Australia’s Rhine
Mangroves are our castles, our bulwarks, with complex roots
Binding the mud together, reducing erosion
A superstructure above and below saltwater
Within which is a most rich, complex environment
Managing high salinity, tidal inundation
Full algae, Sydney rock oysters, sponges, barnacles
Shrimps, mangrove crabs, destructive termites, moss animals
They cope with low oxygen in soil, intense sunlight
Australia’s mangrove species may be red, black or white
On a red mangrove, one of many seeds germinates
The seedling inexorably grows out through the fruit
To form a propagule for ready away to float
The mature propagule drops into the water salt
Remaining dormant and resisting from drying out
For about a year drifts while the density alters
The elongated shape’s like a vertical fish float
So it is more likely to lodge in the mud and root
A teaspoon of mud from temperate mangrove forest
Contains more than ten billion bacteria, mangroves
Produce one litter kilogram per square meter per year
Some is consumed by crabs but most must disintegrate
As bacteria and fungi reduce unusable
Carbohydrates and increase up four-fold the protein
Becoming available to other animals
All this nutrition, partly decomposed particles
Of leaf are then eaten by prawns and fish, they produce
In turn, waste which, along with smallest mangrove debris
Red Mangrove Country
Is consumed by molluscs and small crustaceans, shrimps, prawns
Dissolved substances are eaten by plankton, or landing
On the mud surface, are consumed by crabs and mud whelks
The mangroves are a nursery for many fish, sharks
Chasing and growing amongst the root forest playground
Until their size and strength for independence are sound
Peter Tilly and Andy Devine exhibition Black Harvest
Walking along the Corso
After visiting manly art gallery
Watching children playing
In the fountain in front of me
Another day passing me by
In this beautifully lavish land
Comprising of pristine beaches
With magnificent golden sand
Contemplating the future changes
Taking place on the land and sea
As I reminisce about ‘Black Harvest’
An exhibition on the coal industry
Questioning the devastating mess
Its impact and environmental effects
Partly created by human’s excess
Waiting to see sustainable progress
I continue walking to Manly Beach
The smell of salt lingers in the air
Feeling blessed that it’s wintertime
No clouds in the sky, completely fine
Figures on Manly Beach, Anne Zahalka (after Nancy Kilgour), 2015
It has the stillness of Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte,
that recognisable indolence of a Summer day. Sun that warms our backs
even as it dazzles headland cliffs with green alps, suggesting we lay down
in the alternate violet-scumbled shade, here on the yellow zing of beach
towel, the soft abutting lemon-wedge of sand. The figures, arranged,
regard the sea (its arrested movement of the waves). A boy’s semaphore
-stance (looks straight to camera), a supplicant girl-child to her mother,
a clothed man holds his surfboard, each we measure against the bright
red beach umbrella with its furled tight flag. Sun dresses and boardies,
bright towels and dark glasses, beach bags and bikinis, all the expected
objects for a day at the beach. Receding: the sea and its successive blues,
What’s Past is Present.
Imagine the industry, the concentration, the blended juice of creation.
Captured and distilled, frozen in time.
Living an infinite life, on Manly’s care-free shores.
Picture the conceit, the frustration, the triumph.
Condensed, harnessed, coveted.
Fragments of forgotten lives, sweating still.
Reaching out with coded cyphers.
Canvas time-capsules leaking emotional energy back into the world.
Drip feeding the past’s composure to a restless present.
The collection exhales, reflects, reveals.
It lives on in curated spirit.
Preston, Proctor, Rees.
We still hear you.
Still see you.
Calling out to a time past
Here Kay-ye-my, sandstone and sand,
Site of concrete, brick and mortar
Sleeping pavilion garments into gallery.
Abstract white rendered walls
Exhibit the passage of memory,
Ushered upon stained timber floors
A burst of claret and fired medieval nature
Hardened glaze in a cacophony of shape and colour,
Kangaroo, owl, tea and flower
Bob and his medals oversee his beloved's room.
Sculpture, photograph, watercolour, painting, once witnessed,
Roberts and Rees, Proctor and Preston
Ferry and fashion, rock and roll,
From social comment
To social voice
The gallery sees.
MEUSE PRESS publishes this collection.
All work © the authors.