David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

16 September 2018

TAR* here Jack!

We read with compounding interest the Rex Butler article Tom Roberts, Shearing the Rams in memo review yesterday.

 Tom Roberts
 Shearing the Rams 1890
 Oil on canvas (lined onto board)
 121.9 x 182.6 cm
 Signed and dated l.l. Tom Roberts/1890
 Felton Bequest 1932
 National Gallery of Victoria

 Original frame by Melbourne frame-maker John Thallon.

Approaching his conclusion, Rex writes 

But what is the meaning of this young girl holding the tarbrush and catching our eye at the quiet centre of the painting, I kept asking myself? (And it was increasingly being speculated, against previous scholarship, that she was even the model for the slightly older boy to her left holding the shorn fleece.) Why did she seem after all the hidden secret to the painting?

Click go the shears, boys, click click click

And then it clicked. Roberts' late addition of first a girl with a broom and then turning that broom into a tarbrush was a last-minute nod to the act of painting his picture ... That tin into which she is about to dip her brush in order to seal any small wound inflicted by the shearers on the sheep is strikingly like the palette and paintbrush Roberts used to make his painting.


In other words, what we are actually looking at in Shearing the Rams is nothing less than the various stages in the long process of Roberts making his painting.

various stages : a view from the TAR pit 

In other words, what we are actually looking at in Shearing the Rams is nothing less than the various stages in the long process of our re|making ourselves as pain|things, a Theatre of the Actors of Regard*. 
TAR* here Jack! 

a postscript jot c.1980

"One day in the early 1970s, I was looking at Tom Roberts' famous painting Shearing the Rams (1890) at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Beside me were three women.

The figure of the youth with a tar brush 
('...tar here Jack'), the only figure in the painting recognizing 

the presence of the painter constructing the painting and us re-constructing the painter's painting, who 
I had always thought to be a young boy, was being addressed by the three women standing beside me.

On either side of a very old woman were what I guessed to be perhaps this woman's nieces**.  It was she who had been the youth with the tar brush. 
Now, some eighty years later, she was looking at 
this painting, answering her nieces' questions, remembering the time the artist painted this painting."

**Have just found this online video... 

click the arrow above to watch video or go to here

... in which family members Dorothy and Gayle Ambrose describe this one and only visit by 'the tar boy' Susan Bourne with her daughter-in-law and sister-in-law to the NGV to see her younger actor-self in Tom Robert's Shearing the Rams, as witnessed by your TAR correspondent :

click image to enlarge  

Theatre of the Actors of Regard  
A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/
someone looks at something... 
Q. Where did your grandmother first see the original painting?
A. (Dorothy Ambrose) Well, she saw it in the gallery in Saint Kilda. It was the National Gallery, I think. And she was seventy, at least. And her daughter-
in-law and her sister-in-law took her to see it. And 
she stood in front of it and looked at it and said, 
"There I am." And she hadn't seen it ever before. And she only saw it the once."

Susan Bourne died in 1979.

Theatre of the Actors of Regard   
A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/
someone looks at something...