Monday, April 05, 2010

Welcome to Prozac Valley

I can't quite define what irks me about these places. I mean, are they really

any worse than the subdivisions depicted by John Brack

(1920-1999) in the nineteen fifties?”

There are the same raw edges, unsoftened by vegetation, monochrome colours and the starkness of powerlines and fences. The backyards are smaller now and the houses grander – four bed, 2 bath is the norm, with extra prominence given to the family cars. The airconditioners are new and so are the solar panels and the perfect square of lawn probably has an automatic reticulation system. Perfect of course, for those migratory flocks of fly –in/ fly out workers who have no time for gardening or community involvement.

It is all very neat, modern and clean with thick stone walls to keep out the gaze of the vulgar public. But it’s the public spaces, where they exist, which disturb me most -the private golf courses, the safe bicycle and jogging tracks with an artificial lake as their crowning glory. Beach access where it exists, is restricted to a bare carpark neatly laid out in angle parking – no toilets, no seats, no shade, no little shops for icecream, a paper or bait for fishing rods. The joggers all wear headphones. The dog walkers don’t speak. This is about personal fitness and very private lives.

There are no wild places here. No places to hide. Nowhere for the imagination to take flight. No chance of surprises. No secret lover’s lanes. Not even clothes on clotheslines. It looks like a computer simulation or the inside of the movie set used in The Truman Show- that film with Jim Carrey in which every aspect of Truman’s life from infancy to his thirties is scripted and televised until he begins to seek freedom from his perfect life. It makes me miss those old little old towns – a little scruffy around the edges now, with their village halls and scout troupes, Rotary Parks with creaky swings, old pubs and swimming holes. Where those older subdivisions eventually grew together, I suspect that these never will.

My unease is about about the loss of the commons, about the loss of community and the loss of individuality. We are a nation of transients with an eye on resale values, because we don't know where we'll be tomorrow.

I long to see weeds, children playing in the streets, decent climbing trees, wild fruit, little tracks to the beach. All that neatness makes me want to be willfully disobedient –smoke a cigarette, toss a tinny, or paint Eternity or maybe Get a Life on those bland walls.

I can't stand it - even the grasses are planted in straight lines!

One place intrigues me. It looks like all the others, except for one thing. All the letterboxes in this street are square pillars identically placed but this one is shaped like Ned Kelly. I'd like to meet the person who lives in this house.


Onya Mate!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

wild art

Attractive Metal Cutouts with explanatory notes along the Golden Discovery Trail

It seems that a lot of art is escaping from galleries these days and for the most part I don't mind that at all. I am often overwhelmed by too much of a good thing. I love it when the setting becomes part of the work, as with Antony Gormley's project at Lake Ballard or some of the various Art in the Forest or Art by the Sea displays.
There is another kind of outdoor art though, much more primitive - indeed a lot of it borders on kitch, but I do love the element of surprise in either the medium, the location or indeed, the subject matter. It says somewhere there is a creative spirit at work, or at least someone. This collection is by no means complete, just a few little things that have tickled my fancy here and there.

There's lightpole art at Chittering

...and Lancelin

Totems in Waroona, WA

Creative Tree stump en route to York, WA

In Australia's vast open spaces it is almost enough to know that another human was there, particularly if it was one with talent or a sense of humour.

Help! The tourists are coming!
Sculpture in the Park, Mundaring

Fremantle Small Waterfront Sculpture

Peopling the Landscape -strange figures adorn the hillside at Chittering

Murals add interest to many a faded wall.
This one is at Westonia

"Ben Horse - another Charlton Horston Epic " says the sign

Horsing around.
Almost did a double take when I saw these apparitions near Kulin while driving late at night. There are dozens of figures like this, all made out of old drums. Oh I get it! Kulin is the home of the horse. I'm sure I will never forget. They certainly set it apart from all those other wheatbelt towns and add a little interest in what is basically a very monotonous landscape.

Those roadside 'attractions'

While you might cringe at the thought of Queensland's Big Pineapple or Big Banana, Tasmania's Big Potato, Rockhampton's big Bull, or Harvey's Cow (note that I have not included them here), these things do visually distinguish each place from its often very similar neighbours and etch themselves indelibly on the mind - yes, whether you like it or not.

Transformation of everyday objects
A lot of graffiti is ugly . I am not a big fan of tagging everything indiscriminately but in some places it's definitely an improvement. I am thinking of utilitarian objects such as miles of pipeline in Darwin or grey concrete bus shelters in Perth or those endless backyard fences you see from suburban trains. Tram art is a delight in Melbourne as are the junction boxes in Brisbane's Gap - I vaguely remember one covered in very lifelike ants - and these rubbish tins in Beverley, WA.

Who said rubbish bins had to be ugly?
This is one of several in the main Street of Beverley, WA

Wish someone would do something about those wheelie bins

Creative Bus Shelter, Perth

I adore the often subversive grafitti in Hobart's underground Rivulet. There are declarations of love, some are purely artistic, some of it is political, philosophical or full of wit. Mostly though, they are about the joy of individual expression. This bit of Western Australian Grafitti definitely falls into that category.

Dunno who she was, or what she did, but we know how he felt....

The case for Grafitti: How ugly is this?
Historic Tanks on the Great Western Highway.
This is one place where I wish they had left the graffiti.

Whoever scrubbed off the grafitti here, not only has no artistic sense but no sense of history. Imagine the people who would have passed by here over the last hundred years or so, before the road was built - Swaggies, stockmen, poets and rogues. Today's grafitti may be tomorrow's Lascaux Cave.
Of course there is that awkward stage in any object's life between growing old and grubby and becoming a valued antique, regardless of its imperfections.

I know this is a bit of a mixed bag and no, I don't want you to go around daubing paint on everything, nor do I want every other town to do the same thing, I just wanted to acknowledge originality and a bit of free spirited fun.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


Two weather systems converge....

The earth is energised

Trees breathe a sigh

The storm moves on...