Friday, March 08, 2013
Eternity in a Lifetime.
When I returned to Sydney in Febuary I had committed to participating in a group art-show at The Damien Minton Gallery entitled “Eternity”. The brief I had been given was to represent the concept of eternity, somehow include the Sydney character Arthur Stace and incorporate the work of Martin Sharp who had covered both subjects in previous artworks, and I attempted to do all three. The opening of the show was only two weeks away, and I had 10 days to get it in, for it had to be spaced and hung amidst the other 40 contributions, thus I painted furiously every night till dawn, the results of which you see on this page.
Arthur Stace became famous for writing the word “Eternity” in chalk on the pavements all over Sydney during the mid twentieth century. He’d been a stretcher-bearer in the First World War and had come back to Auz a broken man, getting lost in drunkenness, gambling and consorting with so-called unsavoury types such as crims and prostitutes till he languished in the gutter, deadbeat and fallen. Then he had an epiphany at the Tabernacle Church in Darlinghurst, straightened up, turned evangelical and an avid member of St. Barnabas Church on Broadway and threw himself into his obsession with the graffitti of “eternity” on every surface he could reach.
After much thought during my Indian sojourn I decided to represent his life in a mere factual manner; as a rationalist and scientist I know there’s no such thing as anything being eternal, not only do stars eventually burn out, the very Universe we co-inhabit will some day come to a heat-death and not exist as we know it, unfathomably far off in the future though it be. Certainly the human body has only a very limited life span, and not being a Christian I don’t believe in concepts such as an “eternal soul” or “life everlasting in a heavenly here-after.” Thus I called my painting “From Dust to Dust” and if the Christians give me a hard time over it I can simply reply, “Well, it is a direct quote from your precious Bible!”
Even St. Barnabas Church itself proved the lie of the concept “eternity” as sadly a few years ago some fuckwit put a match to it and burnt it down, heartbreaking really as it was of marvelous heritage architecture, a testament to the ingenuity and brilliance of humanity, (not god), and it took with it an ancient church-organ of which there are only a couple of examples in this country. I put a pub in the middle of the painting as the site of Arthur’s and many another alcoholics’ downfall and was bemused to learn that for many years St. Barnabas and the Pub across the road from it on Broadway waged a “slogan war” with each other on banners fronting the roadway, a simple example of which could’ve been “Dust to Dust” on the church and “Lust to Lust” on the pub.
The show attracted a crowd of about 500 people, all babbling and imbibing the free wine, but annoyingly nobody bought much art and certainly not my work, which I expected, as money is not my motive, communication of gutsy ideas being my burning life’s purpose. Many did peruse my painting though, and took photos of it and that made me happy. Most of the other stuff took the concept of “eternity” in its fluffy, nice sense, such as “eternal love”; well I suppose love of family is eternal, romantic love is another question. I’m happy for those who have lifelong loving marriages, something denied us gays here in Auz, but many love affairs I've witnessed end in antipathy and acrimony so I'm somewhat of a cynic. (It's true that in today's cruel world Love is a much needed phenomena, what a pity there's not enough of it! And anyway, eternal love has nothing to do with the concept of eternity.)
And few mentioned Arthur Stace himself, perhaps his story is too tough and controversial to approach, but I found it fascinating, not as a religious treatise, more as a contemplation upon the human condition. I’ve got his life stretched out between one exploding star and another, from youth to death, as if there is an eternity in a lifetime, for let’s face it, for some of us life seems long, and inside it we feel as if we could never die, we’ve always been here, slugging it out, with the pleasures and pains taking us high and low. We certainly don’t like the idea it will all end some day, and maybe there’s nothing else, that’s why religions get invented I think, in fear that life could be meaningless.
I don’t think it is, I love the exhilaration of being, of learning, of wonder at the marvelous complexity of this universe, this is all I know, I don’t long for an eternal hereafter, I have a buzz right here and now. And art as well as knowledge is my raison d’etre; the joy of creating, it’s better than cheating, stealing, selling armaments, making war etc. What a naïve fool I am as most don’t seem to give a shit about art, certainly not my meager output, I had to carry my canvas home and stash it with all the rest crowding out my bedroom, one day to be thrown in the dumpster when I return to the interstellar dust.
Even this Blog will disappear one day, for instance if there’s a nuclear war and an electro-magnetic pulse wipes out all the content of cyber-space! But in the meantime I will continue to write my labrynthine tales of “Remembrance of Things Past and Future”, jump into it anywhere you wish, head backwards or forwards, no matter, the gist will unfold, hopefully some gems amidst the trash, tales of the human condition in a world reaching for the Heavens but bent on Hell, from another of the fallen, like original sin, we're all flawed, genetics, environment, society makes sure of it.
If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.