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Toast Good Health of Our Fragile World

Herb Fellow

New Member
The show at Philip Bacon Galleries in Brisbane in November was the first time I'd properly seen the paintings I've been working on for the past two years, and I learned a lot from seeing them like that, rather than one at a time on the studio floor. I'm working now for my show in two years' time, aiming to finish the triptych of my studio, which will be the centrepiece, but I've been wanting to do a white interior painting for some time. That's at the top of my list of priorities but I haven't been able to get a run of fine weather.

What I hope for in 2008 is an accident-free year of good health. Your health comes first. Without your health you can't do anything. I've just had another injection in my eye, and they say I only need that every four months now, instead of every two, but the leg ulcer blew up recently so I've had to have that seen to. Life's full of these routine things.

I have lots of landscapes I want to do too, views from people's balconies. The challenge, the interesting part of painting, is that you don't know how you want to do it until you start.

There's not much I want to say about what I expect from the art world, but I am always waiting to be surprised. There's an awful lot of painting done, and I really don't know where it's going. There an awful lot of poverty of mind, and I do wonder what will happen to all these young painters, but there's enough good stuff to keep me interested, although you do have to look hard. I get so many invitations to openings that I just have to throw them in the bin.

Now we have a new government, I hope that it will be very generous to the arts. It has already announced a literary prize and that's a very good start. But I hope they go in the direction taken by the Queensland Government, where former premier Peter Beattie has been very generous to the arts. When the arts are thriving, the community is healthy, and people feel much better.

I am interested in encouraging regional art galleries to expand and flourish so that isolated communities don't feel deprived. In NSW, the Government puts the arts last on its agenda. I've been involved with the galleries in Armidale, Maitland and Lismore, regional galleries that were part of my early life. The Tweed River Gallery is magnificent and it has become the centre of that community.

During the past year, I've been trying to help the Lismore Gallery, where the lord mayor and the councillors have committed a great deal of money to building a new gallery. But former prime minister John Howard didn't come to the party and the state Government doesn't seem to be interested. If only it would realise how important are the arts.

Also on my agenda for the new year is the environment. I'm not a greenie but for years I've been crying out about the state of our waterways.

I used to say to Howard that we shouldn't be growing rice in areas where they need the river water. We can buy rice and cotton from Third World countries. What we should be growing is hemp, and I hope this new Government will let that happen. I've been lobbying politicians for years about the good sense in hemp, how versatile it is. I said to Howard, "Give our farmers a gift and encourage the growing of hemp", but he said he'd already given them a gift.

It's time to encourage the growing of that hardy plant.

I'm against that pulp mill being built in Tasmania. We really do have to stop chopping down old-growth forests, which are part of the lungs of the country.

It's dreadful to think that white settlement has been here only for 220 years and we've done so much damage. I do wonder if we deserve to live here.

Let's talk more, too, about the fact we are becoming toxic rubbish bins, with so much that we eat full of toxins and preservatives. It can't be doing our health any good. People tend to ignore it, the effects of all the rubbish we spray around the house in the name of cleanliness. I'm fascinated to see how many farmers' markets are springing up and I marvel at the increase in organic farming.

I would suggest that people take care of their health, read the labels on foods, because in the long run we are all responsible for our own health.

So, I'm looking forward to the rivers being looked after, to governments allowing hemp to be grown and to the new federal Government being more generous to the arts.

But I'd also like to see people being a little more generous, too.

In 2007, I donated a painting to the Southern Highlands Tulip Festival (Bowral Tulip Time) raising money for Breast Cancer through the McGrath Foundation. I suggested that this year it raise money for one of the ugly sides of health: depression. Having been through that myself, I see the symptoms around me all the time.

I get so much pleasure from donating myself, and I encourage others to help. The pleasure we get looking at paintings other people have donated across the world, allowing us to see works we'd never otherwise experience, is amazing. That's why it's important people are generous.

And, of course, the greatest gift anyone can give is music. What I'd love to see is classical music on the curriculums of our schools, so that our children experience music other than rock.

For myself, I want my work to improve. I always hope that the next exhibition will be better than the one I've just had.

Margaret Olley is of one of Australia's most respected artists.

Source: The Australian
Copyright: The Australian, 2008
Contact: Margaret Olley
Website: Toast good health of our fragile world | The Australian
 
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