When many of you think of Australia I’m guessing that you associate the country with kangaroos, beer guzzling folk, shrimp on the barbie, and a host of other stereotypes. But my home country has become a multi cultural Mecca of creativity and taste tempting restaurants alongside the always yummy lamingtons, vegetarian rolls and pavlovas. But Australia and Australians have so much more to offer.
On my last few visits I’ve been lucky enough to time my trip at the end of the calendar year when the matriculation and university art students have the privilege of showing the crème de la crème of their portfolios at local art museums and galleries. Simply put, these works, in all mediums, are alive with individuality and imagination.
So why is this? Maybe it’s because Australia is an island, far away from the rest of the world – where the young artist is free to explore his/her own originality with color and depth, resistant to what the rest of the world is currently rallying as the next hot artist or style. Or is it because Australian art and artists are not dictated by business, but rather a place where the young artist is supported and encouraged?
In January 2012, while touring a local Australian art museum I felt invigorated – excited by what I was experiencing from the complex minds of seventeen and eighteen year olds. I’ve not seen multi-media pieces that captured me as quickly or had me excited about this medium for that matter, ever. And this was in Tasmania for God’s sake – where the fruits of the island’s artistic culture was regarded with high regard as her apples.
When I arrived in Sydney I was mesmerized, overwhelmed with the creativity on the streets, in the art galleries, in the windows of hip arcades, even on my dinner plate at a restaurant in the fashionable Rocks area.
On a side street was a brick wall covered in graffiti, it’s rhythm and rhyme tickled my senses and made me chuckle. I immediately thought of a similar wall in Los Angeles that had been graced with the creativity of the visiting English graffiti artist, Bansky, only to be vandalized then painted over a few days later by the powers that be.
To the side of the wall that displayed the graffiti art in the little street in the heart of the Sydney CBD was a plaque – it read that the art piece was sponsored by a certain airline in their support for ongoing art within the city. Two pieces of graffiti art; one said creative freedom the other echoed depression, anger, and constriction of creative freedom in a so-called Democratic society.
I couldn’t wait to get back to my own students and encourage them to explore mediums that they’ve not thought of combining before. To look at life’s daily emotions as poetry drenched in paint and film – to go beyond what they think they’re capable of. As I walked around that gallery in Tasmania, I felt a sense of freedom that I have not felt for a long time. Yes, art made me feel free. Or maybe it’s my home country of Australia that does that to me. Perhaps it is time to return home after thirty years away. Something to think about – and isn’t that what art’s all about anyway? It makes you think.
Kudos to the teachers in Australia who guide their eclectic students – you have done well and it shows not only through each brush-stroke, transfigured piece of clay, fabric, photograph, print or digital film, but, in the eloquence of words used by each artist in describing the emotional reasoning behind their work. These young adults are wise and talented, and I thank them for reminding me to keep on pushing my own boundaries.