Writer, artist and musician Gregory Day is both a product of his environment and a conduit for its stories. Living in a small coastal community on Australia’s southern coastline, Gregory uses all his artistic tools to describe the people and the place. But it’s in his novels that he so clearly articulates the deep, hidden core of rural life that’s usually invisible to the casual observer. His previous novel, The Patron Saint of Eels, was a wonderful mix of familiar Australian earthiness and the mystical universe, where a Southern Italian saint appears in the small town of Mangowak, ministering to both the needs of the locals AND the plight of migrating eels.
In Gregory’s latest novel, Ron McCoy’s Sea of Diamonds, the town of Mangowak has become a canvas on which he paints a large tale of small-town characters and all the undercurrents of their passions and fears. It’s a world where the threads of the past stitch together the lives of the present. And in this story, it’s through the characters of Ron McCoy and his mother Min that the community finds its social glue.
In this book, we meet Ron McCoy as an old man. He’s shy, but he comes into his own in the world of rivers and oceans and fish and all manner of wild animals — and he has a vivid imagination. From a child, Ron McCoy has created stories to explain the many natural phenomena of the world around him (including the Sea of Diamonds from the book’s title).
The moving voice of American short-story writer ZZ Packer, whose understated observations of human nature have the power to get under a reader’s radar. Packer’s stories, in her collection titled Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, are set across a range of black communities in the US. Yet these stories defy colour, race, religion and gender, stripping away layers until what’s left are small, fragile human moments that are jarringly familiar and poignantly slight.
On Books & Writing this week, Shantaram—an epic novel, based on what happened when Gregory David Roberts found that ‘doing time’ for armed robbery was too much. He fled Australia, fell into the arms of India and began a vast journey of body and soul.
Greg Roberts spoke to Michael Shirrefs about his love of Bombay, about his time living and working in the Bombay slums and about the chaos of Bollywood and the violent orderliness of the Mumbai ‘mafia’.
In Shantaram, Greg Roberts manages to deliver both a riveting tale of an extreme life, as well as a modern allegory of the universal search for clarity, all told against this boisterous and colourful backdrop of Indian splendour.
When I created the art project Unravelling Morandi the intention was to reflect on the meditative mind of the 20th century Italian artist Giorgio Morandi. The works consist of an editioned artist book (4 copies), a 3D computer generated animation, an installation of suspended, back-lit images and a single artist book of ‘working’ images.
Giorgio Morandi was born in 1890 in the northern Italian city of Bologna. He was a painter and printmaker of great skill and dedication, who produced a much-revered body of work that was more like a private reverie on the phenomenon of perception, than a great public flourish of ideas. His existence was almost hermetic. He lived his entire life without ever straying far from his home city and he died there in 1964. Morandi’s life was private and quiet. He was a pathologically shy man who found life very difficult outside the security of the house that he shared with his mother and sisters. In fact to get to his studio, Morandi had to pass through his sister’s bedroom.
The subjects of Morandi’s work are most often an assortment of unremarkable objects—bottles and jars—which lay around his studio. However the object of Morandi’s attention is not these vessels, but the fundamental act of how we perceive our physical world. Giorgio Morandi could spend days, weeks, even months getting his still-life arrangements and the lighting exactly right. But once he was satisfied, he would execute the image very quickly. The resulting pictures have an immediacy and intensity that comes from the rapid and confident gestures of an artist who wants to capture a moment.
There is a very real quality to these works of someone trying to solve a one of life’s mysteries. The problem for Morandi though is that he believed that if he’d been a good artist, he would only have needed to create one perfect image to unlock the puzzle. Consequently, every time he created a new work, he felt it proved that he was failing. There is something incredibly private and intimate about this quest, as if Morandi never intended there to be an audience. It also means that there is an extraordinary lack of self-consciousness about the work. It makes the experience of viewing a Morandi print or painting feel like a privilege.
I produced Unravelling Morandi in 1998 and the editioned book was exhibited alongside a 3D computer animation, an installation of suspended back-lit, wire-frame images printed on drafting film and another, single copy book which contains a complete set of working ‘drawings’ which describe the process of the project’s creations.Unravelling Morandi uses one of Giorgio Morandi’s prints as the subject of a new series of images. The purpose is to recreate the print as as computer-generated 3D model. This model was then used to produce a series of wire-frame drawings which are meant to unpick the forms that Morandi was trying to represent. The editioned book has been made in the form of a set of quasi-engineering images, all printed on drafting film and bound in a very utilitarian way, between black-covered book-boards and bound with brass screws. The title Unravelling Morandi is gold embossed on the front cover. Two of the edition of four books are in public collections and the other two are privately owned.
© 1998, Michael Shirrefs
Five Lose Timmy was one of the myriad indie bands that roamed the venues of Melbourne in the 1980s. Over a period of 3 years, the band performed dozens of support and headline gigs at places like The Old Greek Theatre, The Prince of Wales, The Punters Club.
The 4 piece band’s name was meant to be the title of a ‘missing’ Enid Blyton book about the Famous Five, with the ‘missing’ Timmy being the childrens’ dog. The band members were Lyn Sendy—bass, Guy Smithers—guitar/vocals, Mark Loveday—lead vocals, and Michael Shirrefs—drums/vocals.
Five Lose Timmy’s time in the Melbourne scene culminated in the release of their EP, titled Really Very Thrilling, launched at the grungy and much-loved music venue The Tote, in the heartland of Collingwood. The record gained substantial radio airplay, partly because the publicity copies of the EP were delivered in pizza boxes with the tail of a dog poking out of the hole in the lid. Tasty!
All tracks can be heard/downloaded via the Five Lose Timmy website — click here