Tuesday, 7 August 2012

It's always ourselves we find in the sea

What is it about the sea that attracts me, drawing me back to it again and again with the inevitability of the tide ...

For a long time I have loved and hated the sea with equal measures.

I come from a fishing family and every Sunday morning, and sometimes Saturdays too, we'd wake up at 5am and travel an hour or two off the coast to fish at the reef.

Crystal clear days. 

Hot burning days.

Some of my finest childhood memories are of dolphins swimming alongside the boat as we sped towards the horizon; peering over the edge and seeing colourful coral many metres down through clear water; a school of hundreds of mackerel passing us by; jumping into the salty water at Pelorus Island after being stung all over by angry wasps.

Then the hate of the sea comes from terrifying memories such as skirting the edge of a massive storm in the Roberta Jane, the boat almost tipping as it was hit side-on by a monster wave, with cups and plates crashing to the floor of the cabin.

I was so young then, and these memories have rubbed love and respect for the sea into my skin forevermore...

Some of the most joyous moments of my life have been while body surfing. There is nothing on earth like the feeling of being picked up by a wave and carried tumbling forward to the shore. You realise the power of the surf in an instant and do your best to stay on top for as long as the sea allows. And when the wave dumps and drives you into the sand head first - it's just a reminder of who's the boss.

My love for the sea is not limited to the physical and experiential.

There is something awesome and profound about standing on the ocean edge and looking to the horizon. It's both empty and full at the same time. There is also something very special in the way the sea reflects back all that is around it - clouds, sky, birds, people. It's as if the sea knows how beautiful the world is, so shows it to us as reflections. And this also allows the sea to keep its mysteries hidden, in the depths, in a treasure chest.

I think e e cummings sums it up best in his perfectly-formed poem maggie and milly and molly and may, where the girls go to the beach and find a shell that sings, a stranded starfish, and a smooth round stone, and which ends with the great lines - 

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
It's always ourselves we find in the sea

The next time I lose something, I'll head to the beach straight away.

I'm sure I'll find it there.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

We need to talk ...

As a new Melburnian I see beautiful art everywhere I look. Not just in the galleries, and not just commissioned street sculptures that come with the obligatory plaque. On almost every street in every suburb, and in some of the great laneways of the city, there is a flourishing gallery of new and interesting art works popping up every day.  

There is humour, sadness, loneliness, savagery, reverence, illumination and obscurity.
There is sly, wry and spry.
Graffiti, from the Italian word graffiato, means scratched. So let's scratch beneath the surface. We've been doing it for thousands of years, and we've been doing it everywhere. Cave paintings of family or gods applied with sticks, or records of hunting trips daubed on with animal bones are found in Australia, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. In ancient Rome and Pompeii they declared their love, threw curses at each other, promoted political agendas, even prostitutes used graffiti for their business.Back to the here and now, in Melbourne many of the works are faces. And I believe this expression is a very human attempt to paint ourselves into the city that surrounds us. A skyscraper cannot overpower us if we, at ground level at least, mark it with an artist's name or a cartoon and bring it down to human level. But these works do not just humanise the city; they also create a legacy, an "I was here" moment in time.       
That this legacy is often painted over or scrubbed away hours or days later does not matter.              
It was still seen and remembered.

And then some of the works are messages of a more literal type. Some of the artists casting their lines into the sea of walls catch your eye immediately with grand designs and bold, electrifying colour. But look closer at the spaces between the large artworks and there are silly sentences, quiet whispers, cries for help, declarations of love, and coded secrets. Much like graffiti on a toilet wall, these messages become conversations as the next person, and the next after that, have their say too. Organic and real, these dialogues are messy, colourful, overlapping - these artists literally talk over the top of one another. But I'd much prefer the passion and simplicity of "Eat me" over the brainstormed, workshopped, focus grouped, key messaged and expensive banality that is flashed onto prime time television each night or writ large, many metres high, on spotlit billboards.                                                               

As a dynamic, these conversations may grow into a tree with many branches, or wither as the writers become stumped. Clever conversations now include internet links so the talk walks off the wall and online. And there are websites like www.melbournegraffiti.com that have archived the works of many. Even this post on this blog carries the conversation onwards. To you. 

Where on Earth will it go next ...