mardi 30 mars 2010

Conference: Found in Translation: Textual Explorations of Australia and the World

CONFERENCE : Found in Translation: Textual Explorations of Australia and the World

An international interdisciplinary conference to be held at the Monash Prato Centre (near Florence)

21-25 September 2010

hosted by the National Centre for Australian Studies, in association with the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, Monash University.

Far from being considered as a linguistic activity only, translation is increasingly seen as bridging, and sometimes broadening, gaps between different cultures. There is widespread recognition that translation modifies, or preserves, the perception of the other. Hence, translating as an activity and translation as the result of this activity are inseparable from the concept of culture.
Locating Australian literature and culture in the global context connotes reconfiguring Australia’s relationship with other literatures and cultures. The unique conditions of Australia, including the indigenous cultural traditions, the colonial experience, and the experiences of multiple migrations into and out of the country, illustrate the need for a global viewpoint in approaching Australian literature, culture and identities, particularly with regard to a European setting that itself appears increasingly multicultural.
This conference aims to consider and assess the socio-cultural value of translation not only as an interlinguistic process but also as intersemiotic activity across cultures and languages and also historically.
Studying perceptions of Australia through translation opens up new areas of research that engage with both ‘internal’ and ‘external’ constructions of cultural identity. Translation and reception of literary works involve a process of acculturation in which literary meanings, values and assumptions are exchanged and adjusted. While discussing critical issues concerning the global reception of Australian literature in translation, we will re-evaluate the economy of individuality and universality in the business of translation and the global literary market.
A key theme of the conference will be translation as a form of mediation facilitating the global exchange of cultural production.
It is envisaged that papers will examine areas where matters of linguistic translation come into contact with questions of community and cultural politics, each applying and exploring the notion of cultural translation in different senses and contexts - from, for example, the translation of texts across various locations of transnational popular culture to those of communities in migration.
Another focus will be the mediation and hybridisation of cultural texts from Europe, Asia and elsewhere within Australia to form new identities as part of both colonial and post colonial experiences. The conference aims to provide a forum that will enable scholars and students across fields such as translation studies, cultural studies, Australian and Indigenous studies and history, to share their diverse experiences. It will encourage the elaboration of proposals regarding the dissemination of national, local and transnational narratives to international audiences through translation, and will explore a range of materials, including literary texts, indigenous cultures, the built environment, new media and film. The theme of the conference will embrace such topics as transnational media, globalisation, cultural and audiovisual translation, the legacy of empire and
colonialism for indigenous and migrant identities, and intercultural relations. Related thematic areas include, but are not limited to, the following:

the role of literary translation in challenging or reinforcing cultural difference
• transnational media and their role in facilitating, or discouraging, intercultural understanding
• transnational and regional identities and their relationship to culture and processes of translation
• the role of translation in disseminating Australian indigenous and settler literature and cultural production in the world and back to Australia
• the insights that can be found in the process of thinking critically about practices of translation in research
• the role of translation in mediating the exchange of knowledge across cultural and linguistic divides
• translating the differences between subcultural, religious, indigenous, ethnic, national and transnational belonging.
• the problem of postcolonial cultural translation: how do former colonies and former imperial centres understand each other?
• translation between generations: nostalgia , memory and commemoration

Papers that address any aspect of the conference theme are invited.
Please submit abstracts of no more than 200 words and short bio of no more than 70 words in length via the website at

The absolute deadline for submission of abstracts for consideration by the Programme Committee is Friday 28 May 2010. Those accepted will be notified by mid-June.
Following the conference, papers will be considered for a range of refereed publications.

lundi 29 mars 2010

Conference: Double Vision

Double Vision: Biennial Australian Studies Conference

An international interdisciplinary conference organised by the International Australian Studies Association

25-26 November 2010

The University of Sydney

Call For Papers
Since the 2008 InASA conference took place the Copenhagen climate change conference has sharpened discussion about the environment; the election of a new American president has shifted the international political landscape; an earthquake in Chile has resonated both physically and emotionally in Australia; the federal government has released new policies that re-orient Australian history education and the health system and has continued the Northern Territory intervention; the AFL and A-League have released details of their western Sydney teams and more gold has been won in the Olympics. In the face of continuing change our 2010 conference again seeks papers from scholars re-envisioning ‘Australia’.
Double Vision is an interdisciplinary conference, so it seeks to bring together scholars from across the humanities and social sciences whose research focuses on Australia to discuss the ideas, theories, themes and methodologies that animate their work. It is this breadth of perspectives that we believe will be part of the excitement of the conference.

Though ‘Australia’ is the focus the organisers are interested in imaginative takes on the object of study. They especially welcome work that explores: Australia in its region but also work on regional Australia; comparative work on Australia; research that locates Australia in a global vision; and projects on Australia’s past, present and future. Other themes for papers might include, but are not confined to:

*Environment and Change
*Australia and/in the Pacific Rim
*Popular cultures
*Memory and Memorial
*Indigenising Knowledge
* New histories, old histories and curricula
*Re-orienting the Social

The conference is designed for postgraduates, early career researchers and senior researchers to present new and innovative work.

Abstracts Due: Friday June 4, 2010
Notification of Acceptance: Friday June 18, 2010

Please include: paper title, 200 word abstract, full name and contact details.

Send to:

Conference Organisers:
Catriona Elder and Ariadne Vromen
University of Sydney

dimanche 28 mars 2010

Opinion: Xavier Pons's Messengers of Eros

Dear blog fans !

I have recently reviewed Messengers of Eros: Representations of Sex in Australian Writing, Xavier Pons's lastest monograph.
The review was published in E-rea

"Back in early 2005, I was loitering in the NSW Art Gallery and I remember coming across a charcoal white chalk sketch of a Standing male nude, back view (c.1867) by Hugh Ramsay, along with the following comment: “On the verso of this drawing is another life study of the same male figure from the front.” Whether art lovers were supposed to take this piece of information at face value and muse over such prudishness or read it as a witty, if jocular, note pointing to ludicrous forms of censorship of the Bill Henson kind and – in keeping with the Ars est celare artem principle (i.e. art lies in concealing art) – suggesting nudity could be raised to the rank of art has baffled me for a long time. It is not until recently when the curator of this exhibition sent me an email substantiating that there was actually a sitting male nude overleaf that I felt there was no room left for gleeful speculation. It is funny how interpretative our brain can be just for the sake of bridging the anxiety-provoking knowledge gap, isn’t it?"

More to be read here:


Copies can be ordered from the publisher here:

jeudi 25 mars 2010


WINNER OF THE 2010 ARCHIBALD PRIZE: Sam Leach with "Tim Minchin"

This year, the 89th year of Archibald, there were 849 entries for Archibald, 798 for the Wynne and 615 entries for the Sulman. The Archibald and Wynne prizes are judged by the Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The judge for the Sulman Prize was Imants Tillers.

The Archibald winner receives $50,000, the Wynne Prize winner receives $25,000 for landscape painting or figure sculpture, the Sulman Prize winner receives $20,000 for subject/genre painting and/or mural work and the Watercolour Prize (part of the Wynne Prize) winner receives $2,000.

This is the second year in Archibald’s history that an artist has won both the Archibald and the Wynne prizes in the same year, the first being William Dobell in 1948. Brett Whiteley won all three prizes, Archibald, Wynne & Sulman in 1978.


Born in Adelaide in 1973 and based in Melbourne, Leach has a Bachelor of Arts, Honours (Painting) and a Master of Art (Fine Arts) from RMIT University. He won the Metro5 Art Award and the Fletcher Jones Prize in 2006 and the Eutick Memorial Still Life Award in 2007. He has had ten solo shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and has been represented in various group shows. This is his fourth consecutive year in the Archibald Prize.


Singer/songwriter Tim Minchin is building an international reputation with his off-kilter brand of musical comedy. With his artfully unkempt hair, heavy eye make-up and bare feet, his act is a wickedly entertaining mix of piano playing, cheerfully offensive songs, physical comedy and stand-up.

His witty lyrics poke fun at all manner of sacred cows including religion, death, censorship and romantic love. He won the prestigious Perrier Newcomer Award at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe with his first solo show, Dark Side, and is now co-writing a musical based on Roald Dahl’s novel Matilda for the Royal Shakespeare Company to premiere in late 2010.

Sam Leach says he approached Minchin ‘primarily because I really like his style of comedy. The topics he deals with – social commentary, the appeal to reason over religion and that kind of thing – tie in with my work. But in a funny way I also see my career reflected in his. His career is much bigger than mine but we became successful in our fields almost simultaneously and our first and second children were also born about the same time.’

Leach met Minchin in London last year when he was exhibiting work in a group show at Bedfordbury Gallery, Covent Garden. They talked about a portrait and Minchin suggested Leach portray him crucified on a neon Perspex cross. ‘But I don’t know if that’s my style,’ says Leach.

They had a day together at Minchin’s London home where Leach did sketches then caught up again in Melbourne during Minchin’s current tour, Ready for This. ‘I wanted a full-length portrait because he does use his whole body when he performs. It’s him in his house so there are a few personal pointers, like the baby’s lamb skin.’

dimanche 21 mars 2010

CFP: Migrant Security: Citizenship and Social Inclusion in a Transnational Era


University of Southern Queensland: 15-16 July, 2010

Original 20-minute papers are sought for the symposium ‘Migrant Security: Citizenship and Social Inclusion in a Transnational Era’. The symposium is hosted by the Public Memory Research Centre at the University of Southern Queensland.

The symposium aims to promote cross-disciplinary debate in order to probe new formulations of migrants’ experience of community and individual security. Significantly, the symposium will embed this approach with scholarship regarding transnational identities, the politics of forgiveness and belonging, and the study of social memories.

There is growing scholarly interest in migration, social inclusion and new understandings of transnational sentiment. Areas of interest include forms of insecurity preventing migrants from attaining a sense of inclusion, and how local and/or transnational networks can be used to mitigate this.

There is significant interest in the dialectic between refugee/migrant and cosmopolitan sentiment, and particularly how this is experienced as a form of security. It is anticipated that the symposium will reveal aspects of the relationship between local/national belonging and transnational identities.

Scholars are particularly encouraged to apply from the areas of anthropology, citizenship studies, cultural geography, cultural studies, developmental studies, education, gender studies, history, international relations, philosophy, policy making, political science, religious studies, social/community welfare practice and sociology.

The symposium will produce peer-reviewed conference proceedings, and papers will also be considered for publication in an edited collection.

The deadline for the call for papers (a title and short abstract) is 1 April 2010.

Full details of the symposium may be found at the conference website:

We look forward to welcoming you to Toowoomba in July, 2010.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Mason
Faculty of Arts
University of Southern Queensland
Toowoomba, Australia.

Professor Christopher Lee
Director, Public Memory Research Centre
Associate Dean (Research)
Faculty of Arts
University of Southern Queensland
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
PH: 0746311045
FAX: 0746311063

Prosopisia : the official Journal of the ARAWLII


, the official Journal of the ARAWLII

Dear all,

It is a matter of great pleasure that Prosopisia the official Journal of the ARAWLII has entered into its third year of successful publication. As the next issue is scheduled to be out by June2010, I request you to kindly email me, if possible, any of your creative piece/s for the forthcoming number. Please send your contribution to the following email address

Looking forward to hearing from you,


Anuraag Sharma

Head: Dept of English & Centre for Indo Australian studies

Dayanand College AJMER

mercredi 17 mars 2010

Stick it! Collage in Australian Art : 20 March – 29 August 2010

Robert Klippel (left)
Australia 1920–2001, lived in United States 1958–63
1955 Sydney
collage of cut printed illustrations, gouache and pencil
37.8 x 55.6 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of James Mollison, 1981
© Courtesy of the artists estate

Stick it! Collage in Australian Art: 20 March – 29 August 2010

Ron Upton (below)
born Australia 1937
Cortical blindness
1966 Melbourne
collage of cut printed illustrations and blackboard paint
48.8 x 36.2 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1966
© Ron Upton

Opening in March, the National Gallery of Victoria presents Stick it! Collage in Australian Art, the Gallery’s first exhibition to focus on this fascinating art form.

Featuring over forty works primarily drawn from the NGV Collection together with a small number of loans, Stick it! explores graphic and eye-catching works created by pasting and applying paper, ephemera and other materials to a base.
This exhibition will features a selection of collages made in the past seventy years by some of Australia’s leading practitioners of this technique, including Sidney Nolan, James Gleeson, Robert Klippel, Mike Brown, Elizabeth Gower, Mandy Martin, Nick Mangan and Brook Andrew among others.
Alisa Bunbury, Curator, Prints and Drawings, NGV said the use of collage boomed in the 1960s under the influence of British and American Pop art.
“The abundance and excess of mass consumerism and the desire to shock, provoke and joke inspired many Australian artists to explore this method.

This exhibition looks at how artists have used this technique, both as a final product, and as a step in their creative practice. The viewer’s familiarity with the objects forms an immediate connection with the collage, while the unfamiliar combination of materials and contexts is both stimulating and challenging,” said Ms Bunbury.
Many collagists are collectors, hoarders, scavengers in op shops and book shops, who save an interesting face, body or machine part, animal or texture from a book or a magazine. This art practice often involves mass-produced materials that are readily available and recognisable including newspapers, photographs, postcards, stamps and tickets.

Widely used by Cubists, Dadaists, Surrealist and Pop artists, collage became popular in Australia as an art form in the 1930s. Among the first Australian collages were those made by the young Sidney Nolan. The earliest work in the exhibition is Nolan’s A mythological battle 1938, comprising two nineteenth-century engravings that have been cut and collaged together.
Frances Lindsay, Deputy Director, NGV said: “From early work by Sidney Nolan to recent collages by Nick Mangan, Stick it! demonstrates the practice of using everyday material to create a work of art that challenges traditional art forms and one’s own perceptions.
“This is the NGV’s first exhibition to focus on collage showcasing the Gallery’s significant collection of works that concentrate on this technique,” said Ms Lindsay.

Stick it! Collage in Australian Art will be on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square from 20 March to 29 August 2010. Open 10am–5pm, closed Mondays.

Entry is free.

For further information visit

mardi 16 mars 2010

Call for chapter submissions: Reading Across the Pacific

Reading Across the Pacific was a delightful conference with a lot of fascinating talks and relaxing moments like this dinner we had at a nearby restaurant. More pics are to be found on the conference website:

I really enjoyed meeting my colleagues in the field for the first (it's nice to be able to put a face on a name) or for the umpteenth time (any occasion is good to meet again and have a good chat and chew).
Robert Dixon (left) and Nic Birns (right) are calling for chapter submissions so you'd better be quick as they expect to have them in by March 31st.
Details are to be found below.
Regards, JF

Reading Across the Pacific: United States-Australian Intellectual Histories
Edited by Nicholas Birns and Robert Dixon

Call for chapter submissions

Thank you for presenting a paper at the Reading Across the Pacific conference at the University of Sydney on 14-15 February. The conference was a great success in many ways, and we thank all delegates for their intellectual generosity and collegiality.

We have now written up a formal publication proposal and are in the process of submitting it to a series of possible publishers in the US and UK. Our hope is to have a final manuscript, including front matter, introduction, chapters and index, ready for delivery to the publisher by August 2010.

We are therefore seeking from you the submission of your conference paper for publication as a chapter in the book. Chapters will be divided into five groups:

• Trans-Pacific: National Literatures and Transnationalism
• Poetry and Poetics
• Literature and Popular Culture
• The Cold War
• Publishing History and Trans-Pacific Print Cultures

We hope to include as many of the submissions as is consistent with these themes and the final word length, yet to be negotiated with the publisher. We invite you to take this opportunity to edit and perhaps expand your material within the word limit of 3-5000 words. The entire manuscript will need to be copy edited, but you can assist us at this stage by using endnotes and adopting the MLA style.

As we want to move quickly to ensure timely publication, we ask you to submit your chapter as a Word document attached to email by 31 March 2010.

Nicholas Birns and Robert Dixon

Please send chapters as word documents to:

Professor Robert Dixon, FAHA
Professor of Australian Literature
English Department
Rm N404 John Woolley Building A20
University of Sydney
Sydney 2006

lundi 15 mars 2010

Littérature aborigène, Estelle Castro 18 mars EHESS 11h-13H s.10

Séminaire de centre Iris à l'EHESS: Questions Autochtones Contemporaines

Séance du jeudi 18 mars, en salle 10, 105 bd Raspail, de 11 h à 13h

Estelle Castro présentera une communication sur le thème suivant:
"Poétique et politique de l’engagement et de la reconnaissance dans la
littérature aborigène contemporaine"

Proposant un panorama de la littérature aborigène australienne (depuis son émergence dans les années 1960), ce séminaire soulignera les interactions entre l’histoire et l’espace littéraires aborigènes et la scène politique australienne et internationale. Il s’intéressera aux dialectiques
identitaires et aux techniques de réécriture qui façonnent et s’articulent dans la littérature aborigène, dans laquelle s’entrelacent traditions orales et traditions de l’écrit, histoires ancestrales et histoires de la colonisation et de la mondialisation. L’analyse d’œuvres et de performances où s’expriment une mise à distance de différentes formes de violence et
l’espoir qu’un terrain symbolique et culturel puisse être regagné sur le continent australien, permettra de mettre en lumière les enjeux poétiques, sociopolitiques et axiologiques qui traversent cette littérature.

Biographie de l'intervenante:

*Postdoctoral Research Associate à Royal Holloway, University of London, Estelle Castro poursuit ses recherches sur la littérature aborigène et les performances aborigènes et autochtones dans les festivals dans le cadre d’un projet international et pluridisciplinaire sur
l’autochtonie dans le monde contemporain ( Elle est titulaire d’une thèse de doctorat (Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris III/University of Queensland, 2007) sur la littérature aborigène des 20è et 21è siècles, et a enseigné la civilisation australienne et l’histoire
politique et économique de l’Australie à l’Université Paris XII.

En complément de cette manifestation vous pouvez vous procurer Panorama du roman australien

dont une critique universitaire en anglais vient de paraître pour la première fois en Australie. Visible sur le site des éditions Hermann

Cet ouvrage aborde l'émergence et l'affirmation du roman aborigène, en le replaçant dans un contexte historique beaucoup plus large, permettant au lecteur d'avoir une vision synoptique de l'évolution du roman australien contemporain -- vision qui, tout en faisant un sort aux singularités de ces littératures plurielles, évite le cloisonnement des genres.

jeudi 11 mars 2010

Charles Billich: A Biography

Illustration: Sketch of blogger Jean-François Vernay by

© Charles Billich. Private collection.

Charles Billich: A Biography
Sydney-based artist Charles Billich can be defined as a man of dualities who revels in reconciling opposites. To some extent, the man himself appears to embody the coincidencia oppositorum principle. At the bridge of two cultures, this Australian-Croatian painter-cum-sculptor plays with extremes: the public man is poised between solemnity and light-heartedness, the host juggles with luxury and simplicity, the researcher intersperses his erudite discourse with small talk, while the artist regains the whole rigour of his style in the chaos of his studio.

Donned in conspicuous outfits, quipping his guests with the most surprising ideas, Charles Billich, whose inquisitive mind keeps him mentally alert, cuts a very colourful figure in the art world. If his action-packed boyhood sounds like a James Bond thriller, his life reads rather like a tale of reversal of fortune, namely a rags-to-riches success story. Born on 6th September 1934 in Lovran (presently Croatia), Charles is the only son of Carlo Billich and Anna Palmich. He was educated at the Classic Lyceum and at the Scientific College of Rijeka. A few years later he completed his formal education at the University of the Philippines Art School in Manila.

As a fifteen-year-old boy, he was admitted to the Rijeka Opera Corps as a ballet dancer from which he developed a high sense of movement (which caused an art critic to dub him ‘the kinetic painter’) and anatomic proportions which would become the hallmark of his opus. At the same time, he engaged in a short-lived career in journalism. His uncensored anti-communist prose was eventually to cause him a lot of trouble when, by a twist of fate, he found himself living in Yugoslavia under a harsh regime. Given away to the authorities by his girlfriend who acted as an undercover agent, he was arrested and thrown into jail as he came of age. Though Charles almost died of exposure, he compensated by catering for his libido sciendi. While literature provided him with food for thought, he was able to quench his thirst for knowledge by learning a few languages from his inmates, and gathering information on stage set designs. Thanks to another twist of fate, Charles was part of the lucky half of the prisoners who were released in 1954 after being granted an unexpected amnesty. His imprisonment as a youth has markedly shaped his thinking. As he says, “My time in prison exposed me to the basic issue of coping with cold and hunger, repression and total lack of freedom. I formed convictions that will stay with me forever”. His democratic ideas were enforced; his humane feelings were enhanced while his rejection of tyrannies and hostilities grew stronger. Drawing a lesson from this traumatic experience, he started thinking in a Heraclites-like way. He thus pointed out, “How can one appreciate freedom without having tasted slavery? I’m grateful to fate”. Beaming with optimism, he learnt to be tolerant and never to complain.
Shortly after his release, he fled to Salzburg (Austria) where he studied art at the Volkshochschule. The call of the unknown and of a land fit for pioneers appealed to his entrepreneurial spirit and led Charles to cruise across the oceans and reach Melbourne in 1956. Despite his mother being hostile to an art career, Billich enrolled at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and eventually at the National Gallery School of Victoria to perfect his techniques. A series of odd jobs (he was in turn a morgue attendant, a cab driver, a waiter, and a sign-writer) allowed him to fund his studies before he could paint his way to fame and become the now worldwide acclaimed artist.

Charles Billich’s sentimental life is as colourful and romantic as some of his paintings. Although he had many flames, no woman ignited passion in him like Christa Brunhilde Ostermann who was introduced to the painter as a distinguished collector and admirer of his art. Charles wanted to treat her to a head-and-shoulders portrait but the alchemy of mutual desire brought in all the ingredients for an erotica session. From then on, Christa – more than any of his former wives – would become his muse and inspire the bulk of his nude paintings.

Charles Billich can be described as a humanist. Drawing upon Greco-Roman motives, he appears as a classicist but his knowledge is quasi encyclopaedic. A citizen of the world, Charles “feels at home wherever [his] canvas is”, though he feels sometimes craves for a change of horizons to explore another civilisation, new mores and lore. He roams across the seven seas in constant search for new themes and concepts to fuel his reservoir of creativity. A remarkable polyglot (he fluently speaks over seven languages, five of which he learnt when he served one fifth of his ten-year-sentence), he masters English with such expressiveness that his florid style always captures a mesmerised audience. As an international artist, he owns studios and galleries in all over the world: in Sydney (Australia), in Lovran (Croatia), and in Beijing (China). The numerous commissions to which he readily complies are no impediment to his boundless creativity as he is often given the freedom to enforce his own ideas. Not only has the master won his spurs thanks to his second-to-none technique – as talent often turns out to be the make-or-break point –, but he has been ground-breaking in many ways.

Now hailed, now disparaged, Charles Billich – who passes far from unnoticed – stirs up a lot of passion in the land of controversy. In 1995 the painter fell a victim to the tall poppy syndrome which, in the words of Carolyn See, is “a national preoccupation [in Australia] with cutting those who would be successful down to size.” (in The New York Times, 14 May 1989, p.1). The “Great Knocker” in this case was the art critic John McDolnald who dismissed Billich’s painting as “a slippery form of graphic design backed with a high-powered marketing strategy” (in Sydney Morning Herald, 7 January 1995, Spectrum p.12A). Later Charles was able to comment unabashed on that gratuitous act of contempt : “If you give the best of your talents, if your ambitions tandem with hard work, if your achievements mirror the geniality of your opus – be prepared to be detested by a large, sick stratum of our confused society”. Saying that Charles Billich lacks academic recognition could be likened to mendacity : he has an entry, as lengthy as Geoffrey De Groen’s for instance, in Alan and Susan McCulloch’s authoritative The Encyclopaedia of Australian Art. Incidentally, a surrealist painting by Charles Billich also features prominently as front cover of distinguished Australian writer Rodney Hall’s anthology of poems Australians Aware. That very painting – “Levitation, Suspension” – was duplicated inside the book as part of a selection of illustrations by illustrious Australian painters such as Brett Whiteley, John Brack, Joy Hester, James Gleeson, John Olsen, Fred Williams, John Passmore, or John Perceval, to name a few.

Mr. McDonald, who mistook freedom of the press for freedom to insult, went on with likening Charles Billich’s art to kitsch, to which the painter mockingly quips : “Better to be the King of Kitsch than the Knight of Mainstream. […] Art critics should look for more derogatory terms; kitsch is not an insult. I mean, if you have an imitation vase from the Ming Dynasty, or the original, the image is still the same. Kitsch is original, it says something new, it’s creative. High kitsch, low kitsch, I cannot spend my life deciding whether something is kitsch. I just go ahead and do things, to hell with adversity.” To some extent, Mr. McDonald’s scathing comments are illustrative of the malaise within the Australian artistic arena where the peintre maudit myth is taken as evidence of artistic skills. In other words, you have to be a penniless and starving painter to be given credit. So multi-millionaire Charles Billich – whose works sell like hot cakes, at somewhat fancy prices – fatally blows the myth. A Japanese art collector walks into the Billich Gallery and buys a $ 50,000 Düsseldorf painting, a German couple purchases a Cologne cityscape for another modest $ 50,000; and a mural of New York worth $ 100,000 now hangs in a Californian private collection next to other great Masters. These stupendous sales climaxed when Japanese property investor Esamu Sano gave away $1,500,000 for a series of eight Australian cityscapes. In Australia, as elsewhere perhaps, critical and commercial success seem to be poles apart.

In fact, that sad tall-poppy-syndrome episode which could have been counter-productive had a welcome reverse effect on the artist as it prompted him to withdraw from the public world of art and indulge in an increasing output. As workaholic Charles Billich puts it : “Painting is the most serene, tranquil and spiritual of callings. Provided you stay away from vernissages, mainstream galleries, art columns, art competitions, art world scandals, fakes, frauds and conspiracies”. Charles Billich, who has now earned a reputation of being anti-Establishment, does not comply to the system. He remains an outsider which, for that matter, has proved to be a benefit for his career: when most artists are persuaded never to sway away from a theme, Charles constantly widens his newly-inspired subject matter. Hence his embracing an impressive range of styles, being a deft hand at portraiture, nudes, cityscapes, figurative art. At times his paintings are surrealistic, impressionistic or photo-realistic. His recent works are so accurate, minute in their compositions, that his poetry of details and the sense of place he captures on his canvases are to some extent reminiscent of the works of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Nowadays, Charles Billich is perceived as a well-rounded successful artist whose works adorn the walls of boardrooms, galleries and revered institutions across five continents. An honoured guest in many countries, recipient of the Order of the Eagle in 2000, Billich was made Doctor honoris causa by the US Sports Academy (Alabama) in 2000. Strikingly enough, despite this worldwide fame which came together with numerous prizes and titles, Charles remains an accessible man whose art can be easily construed. His appointments are too numerous to be listed but suffice to mention his winning on three occasions the prestigious Spoleto Prize in Italy from 1987 to 1989 to realise that art judges are not chary of recognition when it comes to assessing a Billich artwork.

The father of three children (Jonathan, Eliza and Jane), Charles currently shares his life between the welcoming Oriental charms of Beijing and the luxurious teeming suburb of East Sydney where he occupies a large Baroque-style penthouse. His German-born fifth wife Christa coordinates his exhibitions worldwide and manages the Billich Gallery in the Rocks. Charles, who describes himself as “a gentle person and a savage, an idealist and a hedonist”, has built a fortune with his originals and limited editions.

© Article by Jean-François Vernay.

To see his paintings, click here:

samedi 6 mars 2010

Opinion: Hoax Nation by Simon Caterson

Photo: Journalist Simon Caterson.

Carterson's bionote:

I first met Simon Caterson in February 2009 when he interviewed me for my new book -- a literary history on the evolution of the Australian novel, the translation of which is now available in English under the title of Panorama of the Australian Novel.
One might say he is cut out to be a literary journo with his storytelling gift and intuitive sense of picking out the most interesting parts of a story.
Little did I know at that time that he was working on a book project, commissioned by Arcade Publications, a literary project I eventually found out about four weeks ago when I had the book in my hands!
Hoax Nation (2009) and Panorama cover common grounds in the sense that they both deal with literary hoaxes. Yet, Hoax Nation which purports to be a monograph on the subject of hoaxes, fakery, forgeries and impersonations is even more inclusive, even tough it sketchily covers some of the charted territories, like the chapter on "Not-so Indigenous identities" which could have been fleshed out a bit more.
Caterson opens his book with the Norma Khouri hoax, which was exposed on 24 July 2004. Forbidden Love: A Harrowing True Story of Love and Revenge in Jordan turned out to be fake, but it sold close to 250,000 copies in the US, UK and Australia alone. Using a conversational tone and a series of inserts (anecdoctes, proverbs, ...), Simon Caterson has the gift of the gab to entertain his readers throughout this 170-page pocket-sized book. At the close of the book, he moves away from the publishing world to investigate the art world, with brave statements on art frauds such as this one: "But it's a matter of public record that forgeries of many of Australia's best-known artists have been listed in sale catalogues only to be withdrawn." (151)
Admittedly, the not so inquisitive minds will find forgeries and hoaxes hard to detect, even when contradictory information is given. In some cases, unless you are given different versions of a same story, it is extremely difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. In other words, you needn't have to take things at face value to fall a victim to hoaxes.
Peter Carey drew everyone's attention with his epigraph to his second novel Illywhacker (1985) when he quoted Mark Twain who, following his lecture tour in Sydney in September 1885, pointed out that "Australian history [...] does not read like history but like the most beautiful lies". There has always been a tradition of frauds and fakes in Australia and one might say that Simon Caterson has managed to illustrate this sweeping statement with his bird's eyes view of hoaxes in Australia.
Hoax Nation is an enjoyable and informative read which I highly recommend to readers.
Jean-François Vernay.