Monthly Archives: August 2014

Dispersal – a review by C. Murray

‘Frances Holloway is a poet storyteller whose work is wry and full to bursting with ideas. Pomonal Publishing have done well in snaring the woman and bringing her work out. Holloway’s books capture a universe, they are almost nourishing. I say this as a reader who seeks visualism and colour in her poems. I look for intensity and light in a poem, I do not care if the light is dark or jewel-like.’ 

This is an extract from Chris Murray’s review of our latest publication. Frances Holloway and Pomonal Publishing are immensely grateful for the press she has given this book, both on Poethead and on social media. As previously confessed, we don’t do social media ourselves, so rely on all of you to spread the seed/word (allusions intended).

You can read the rest of Murray’s insightful review here.

In my next post I’ll talk about her own recently published cycle of poems, ‘The Blind’, and about its impact on me, half a world away from Ireland in the dry land down under.


Leave a comment

Filed under Pomonal Publishing, Reviews

The Ruthless and The Lyrical

The following is an essay I wrote for ‘Undercurrents, paintings and drawing by Chris Nicholls’    Pomonal Publishing 2013


‘None of these are actual places,’ Chris once said to me when we were looking at some work in his studio. ‘They’re landscapes of the mind.’

That they were none-the-less very much connected to the real world was evident to anyone who had seen him in the bush, climbing a steep rocky trail as effortlessly as a bandicoot, standing for hours beneath a chough’s nest to catch a glimpse of the hatchlings, watching the sun go down or the moon come up – often with a camera in hand.

Now, walking along a dirt road or pressing through unruly scrub near the Grampians, close to where he worked in the Wimmera, I find myself confronted with Chris’s Landscapes of the Mind. I see them in patterns that spring out of apparent chaos – the difficult tangles of the Aussie bush – startling angles in a branch or a creek bank, the way the shifting light suddenly brings forward the trunk of a tree while the rest sit back in sombre harmony. So many ambiguous shapes playing across the mind like images from a dream – faces, animals, monsters … I recognize his brushstrokes with an exhilarating Aha!

Chris seldom spoke at any length about the concepts behind his work, though he was quick to vocalize other passions; among which was disgust for what extreme aspects of civilization had done, or might still do, to the natural world. He had respect for the old timers who had done things more gently, and he loved to fossick for remnants of that particular past. He was also deeply reverent of the many signs of Aboriginal occupation in the region. It is not difficult to connect all these threads with the work he would not, or could not speak about.

Chris did sometimes speak about the creative process itself, and how it related to the life he lived. Whatever I can say of his attitudes and intentions I owe to late night philosophy sessions over the phone. Brother and sister ‘putting the world to rights’. He often mocked ruthlessly anything he felt to be synthetic, contrived or pretentious. He sensed that the role of the artist was changing, being forced into step with interests more yoked to industry than to culture. He didn’t want any part of that, and feared that a public account of himself within that arena might be so removed from his actual experience of creation that it would, in some way, damage the process. And then that process, so precious and transformative, could no longer be authentic.

When we were building his website together, I witnessed his frustration as he attempted to write something about his work. It’s not that he couldn’t express himself in writing – he wrote poetry, and fantastic letters. But he found that whatever he said about his work one day, never felt quite as true the next. And of course, like many other artists, he simply feared misunderstanding and rejection. So he chose to remain silent.

There were many sides to his work, many voices that sometimes converged, sometimes contradicted. He gleefully confronted the darkness within himself, his family, and a wider social sphere; he could, especially in his quick drawings, be cutting, cruel, or intentionally shocking. (‘Border Protection’ for example.)

In ‘Grampians Wedding Party’ and his ‘Landscape with Lawn’ series he pits the timeless grandeur of the earth against a paltry attempt to elevate human vanities. This play of contrast between the man-made and the natural world is a recurring theme refined in ’Down River Drive’ and ‘Landscape with Lawn’ series, where towns encroach upon wild landscape, and wilderness threatens repossession.

Chris often spoke of his regard for the local poet John Shaw Neilson. When I finally read some of Neilson’s work I was unprepared for its level of romantic lyricism – because Chris seemed to edit out this quality from his work. Many paintings were destroyed, painted over, dumped with garbage at the local tip. Fortunately we still have photos of many of them, and, I find it is frequently these lyrical, romantic, somewhat sentimental works that have not passed his ruthless scrutiny.

The word he was most afraid of was ‘facile’. In 1985 he had an exhibition of post-bushfire Grampians landscapes at the Horsham Regional Gallery; 43 stunningly beautiful works, mostly on paper. The show almost completely sold out. Afterwards Chris said, ‘I’m not going to paint like that anymore!’ He was content to work in relative obscurity because it allowed greater honesty, and freedom from artificial influence.

He didn’t want to play the self-promotion game. I got the impression that the ruthless honesty he demanded from himself was his counter to what he perceived as an increasingly contrived and synthetic world wherein anybody with a camera or computer might exhibit their too easily hatched images.

Not withstanding my brother’s efforts to be ruthless, authentic and uncontrived, for me it is Chris’ more lyrical work that has most power. Those that rely upon a subtle play of light, or the contrast between light and darkness. In these he seems to have captured something potent and primitive from his source and distilled it into a tincture, a remedy for my overly civilized sufferings.


1 Comment

Filed under Pomonal Publishing, Visual Arts, Writing & Publishing

What is this Freedom we so value?

Recently I found myself disturbed by the resignation of an Australian journalist, Mike Carlton, in the wake of attacks made on him – and his own response to them – arising from his take on the current Israel-Gaza conflict. It’s not that I’m a particular fan of Carlton, or have any beef against Fairfax…

For a while I couldn’t work out what exactly I found so disturbing – the slinging of terms such as Fascist, Nazi, Anti-Semite, Jewish Bigot, etc., among people one had regarded as somewhat educated? Possibly. Then I got it – It’s the fuss that is being made, and how it has degenerated into personality attack, rather than focusing on the issues Carlton had raised in the first place. The actual humanitarian issue in Gaza and the need to speak out about it.

So, to calm myself down, I submitted my own comment on the HeraldSun website. To wit:

I thought we valued freedom of speech in this society? And yet we go berserk when a journalist writes passionately about images of injured civilians in Gaza and reports the words of a surgeon struggling to cope with the rising toll. Surely an open and frank discussion of what is happening in Gaza – including an assessment of political policies impacting on the situation – is within a journalist’s province? Or are there still sacred cows, emperors without clothes, and elephants in our rooms?

Although Carlton’s does not include the entire history of the Arab Israeli conflict in his article, it is none-the-less a reasoned and humane response to what has been clearly witnessed. He speaks out against unbridled attacks on civilian populations and acknowledges that both sides have engaged it this.

The most damning remarks about current Israeli policies in this column were actually quoting an Israeli journalist whose life has come under threat for speaking out. Punishment for speaking out against atrocity has always been the hallmark of extremism (L & R) and I question the politics of those who would disallow this freedom.

I also question the policies of the current Israeli government, as I question all extreme nationalistic politics and powers – across all national, religious, or territorial divides. And right here at home!  Am I anti-Semitic because I use this freedom to judge an action, a policy, even war itself, on its merits or lack of them?

And look at the manipulation of language in this  fracas – forgetting that Arab peoples are also ‘Semitic’.

As for the cartoon so hastily apologised for – depicting Netanyahu in an armchair, remotely detonating a bomb – nobody takes offence when Australian, American or any other country’s politicians are depicted as, shall we say ‘war mongering’.  Within a democracy, the worthy tradition of political cartooning allows such commentary – and yet we are now told that this eloquent image was anti-Semitic and offensive.

What is really going on here?

Just how much freedom of speech, thought and discussion is left to us?

Mike Carlton’s ‘offending’ column.

Crikey’s report on the ensuing resignation.

Sample of reader response to Carlton’s article that set it all in motion.

In the interests of full disclosure:  I am neither Pro-Palestinian nor Pro-Israel.  I am simply Anti-war.  It is no longer an effective tool in conflict resolution.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editing issues, Journalism, Writing & Publishing