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The Promising Poppy Syndrome

Art, under this current right-wing government has become a dirty word … probably because in these times of economic rationalism, the spending of monies on things that cannot show an immediate “bottom-line” profitability is considered money not well spent. Curious that, as in days of yore, many far-right regimes would invest big-bucks in works of art and even use such to legitimise their governance … I am thinking of the Medici’s sponsoring of several now revered artists and architects of that era … and even several Popes in the Vatican pumped God’s lucre into creative works … But with these times of art becoming both a comercialised commodity and a thing to fear by the right, the encouragement of the serious amateur artist is something somewhat avoided … and many are left to flounder about in abject poverty at the mercy of their own devices.

It’s a curious thing, and unlike the Tall Poppy Syndrome, where a person of well-known repute is attacked for being too obvious or famous, the promising poppy is attacked by their closest people from their own class before they can scale the ladder to known or appreciated works … when they first show signs of talent or ambition to venture into a skilled area of craft or artistic ability. The curious thing is that the budding talent is not destroyed by a more skilled operator, that may come later, but first they are humiliated or debased by some of their own level of class … by their peers … those who see themselves as a kind of “gatekeeper” of the status quo … always fearfully on the lookout for that most dangerous of agitators; the “out of control talent” that may throw a spanner in the works of establishment order.

This is managed by those who themselves lack the “risk factor” to reach for that higher plane of achievement, a kind of social sloth, too scared to expose their deepest thoughts or emotions to the hard, sometimes unforgiving glare of public scrutiny, instead hitching their wagon to the safe long-haul star of established reward and flattery … I recall witnessing just such a moment where a young, keen person, in explaining a scenario in a moment of creative enthusiasm, who in lacking any sort of degree of higher education, mispronounced a word which was quickly pounced upon by just such a one of the aforementioned sloths and the conversation was rudely interrupted while the slight mistake of vowel emphasis was sneeringly corrected with a; “surely you mean … ?” and then followed by that social enforcer of belittlement; the smug and self-confident derisive chuckle … The ruse worked and the enthusiasm of the young person died and a silence of disempowerment descended over the group … The death of creativity was complete.

The objective of established social order is to control the unregulated and creative person or mind, for there has never been throughout history more threatening to authoritarian order than the new idea … a new way of perception borne on the wings of the creative mind … witness Julius Caesar, Galileo, or even here in humble Australia with Albert Namatjira … a superlative creative intellect that was crucified as a kind of “Black Christ” for daring to escape the conditioned cage he and his people were trapped in.

If there is no direct or deliberate cruelty in such action, there certainly is no kindness, for the humiliation that is delivered on a opportune basis can be both cutting and destructive to both the individual targeted and to any relationship they may be involved with, as each moment of belittlement chips away at the base of a relationship … and it is not as if such an individual may intend to abandon their obligations and responsibilities to family and society, but would give back to that society a hundredfold if encouraged. I recall a conversation with a fellow worker in the building trade who had set aside small brackets of time to pursue their desired calling so as not to deter from family responsibilities, only to then have those moments of reserved quiet interrupted with calls to their attention or chores suddenly dropped upon their shoulders that took them away from their personal fulfilment. This created both doubt in the integrity toward their partner and a resentment to the broader relationship that ate away at the once secure bond of their marriage.

The end objective may not necessarily be to stop completely the promising poppy’s activity, just to break the continuity of practice or perfection to their chosen craft so that they never can competently work toward that perfection of the art … and once enough interruption is done, the seeds of self-doubt take over and the promising poppy grows forlorn and doubtful of its budding talent so the perpetrator can forever claim to it not being they who sabotaged a promising talent, but rather the person themselves lacking that certain skill that would have taken them to the next level of achievement, when in reality, what is most needed is patience in a personal space of time and silence to hone those skills to perfection.

Even in retirement, when one should have the time if also the health to pursue that long-held dream of finally taking up that task of perfecting their skills, the mischievousness of sabotage can creep into their corner … the continued harassment of “jobs that now can be done” … the interruption of that silence needed with calls to their time and person. There is a sadness in all this in that it seems to be mainly those of the working classes … the “useful person” that suffer most the truncated ambition to achieve a dream … If I look back into the past of three female relatives … now since deceased, I am informed that they all had desires to reach for a higher objective than what their growing years of penury dished up to them … One wanted to be a writer, another a painter and the third a more pragmatic Vet … None however achieved their goal, even though they all chipped away with their hopes … and then their parents stealing away any capacity of making their lives more promising by frittering away a chance benevolence of enough money that could have set the family up with a more secure lifestyle … the selfishness of that action sealing the fate of their daughters ambitions by necessity forcing them into marriages that took away any hope of self achievement.

Society too, has means and methods of locking out those who aspire to grace the art of their country with at least a little of their imagination … Society has framed those who “deserve” their work to be displayed with a border of “recognised training” in a certified institution that “honours” their students with an embossed paper that legitimises a certain level of imagination … a certain level and no more … some go on to a higher plane, encouraged by a network of access to openings of opportunity … while most are satisfied with that certificate of diploma that guarantees at least recognition of attendance and even less application to the chore of originality … I see this “validation” of art to be the new direction of what is little more than the old Australian “cultural cringe,” where an “authority of accreditation” must place a stamp of approval on a work before that work can be accepted as a work of art.

These institutionalised “keepers of the flame”, even though their qualifications may be for subjects completely alien to the one of artistic application, say; social science or perhaps psychology, they will still insist that a amateur scribbler adhere to their most strident interpretation of grammatical purity even while one is striving in a different direction with poetic licence … Heaven forbid that one takes liberty with such holy grail as language … and once again the low level of mockery is applied and one can be taken back to that memoried instance of the mispronounced word accompanied by the silent chuckle of derision … it is why so many “approved graduates” strive for the glittering prizes handed out to the favoured sons and daughters of those “noble institutions” solid built of sandstone but resting on foundations of clay.

It must be remembered and must be held close to the heart of the dedicated and honest promising poppy that the whole world of the established status quo runs on bluff and they have neither the right, capacity nor dignity to either correct your method or steer your ambition. Far too many decent but shy artists have been crushed by the juggernaut of petty jealousy of those who want creative originality but cannot achieve it and those who never had the courage and will not gain it.

A Place of One’s Own

Within everybody’s heart,

There is that little pump.

And in the still of the night,

You can hear its tremulous thump.

Within everybody’s heart,

There is a little room.

Upon the wall there is a picture

Of a place we silently yearn.

To some it is just a fantasy,

A desire they can’t fulfil.

Some will strive to seek it …

Some have not the will.

And some will substitute

A lesser philosophy,

To dull and blind the senses

To a love they will not see.

We will survive.

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  1. Phil

    Great read Joseph.

    I always remember the comedian Peter Sellers in a routine he said ” Hitler what a painter he was, he could paint out a kitchen in an afternoon with, two coats ” It was probably the rejection of his art by the different art houses etc. where he painted, that turned him into a homicidal maniac. Ha ha. But I got your drift. Laugh your head off, I didn’t mind his paintings. What do they say, I don’t know anything about Art but I know what I like.

    You would be expecting too much to think that our government that is full of Philistines would be too interested in Art even if it was turning a profit. Can you imagine for a nano second, Dutton sitting down and trying to nut a play by Shakespeare? Porter would no doubt think Charles Dickens was a communist sympathizer. Morrison would think Wuthering Heights was a block of flats. You wont find many Tories at a Bob Dylan concert. You wouldn’t think politics matters but it does.

  2. Joseph Carli

    Hello, Phil…yet one can see any number of almost exact copies by those modern, crazy right-wing tyrannies..; Britain, Nazi Germany and the USA, of Roman standards and architecture….all symbolic pastiche of power..The Victorian age went the whole hog and even twisted the classics teaching to give “validation” to their Empire. Perhaps THAT is where we get this idea that art has to fit into classified brackets…There are many who scorn the communist use of “social realism” as an art form, but then wax lyrical over the social realism of ancient Greek or Roman sculptures….most of which were moulded to a political demand.

  3. Joseph Carli

    This is a condensed part of the preface to J.M.Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World”….it is a valuable insight of information on how he used local language in his plays..

    “All art is a collaboration; and there is little doubt that in the happy ages of literature, striking and beautiful phrases were as ready to the story-teller’s or the playwright’s hand, as the rich cloaks and dresses of his time. It is probable that when the Elizabethan dramatist took his ink-horn and sat down to his work he used many phrases that he had just heard, as he sat at dinner, from his mother or his children. In Ireland, those of us who know the people have the same privilege. When I was writing The Shadow of the Glen, some years ago, I got more aid than any learning could have given me from a chink in the floor of the old Wicklow house where I was staying, that let me hear what was being said by the servant girls in the kitchen. This matter, I think, is of importance, for in countries where the imagination of the people, and the language they use, is rich and living, it is possible for a writer to be rich and copious in his words, and at the same time to give the reality, which is the root of all poetry, in a comprehensive and natural form. In the modern literature of towns, however, richness is found only in sonnets, or prose poems, or in one or two elaborate books that are far away from the profound and common interests of life. One has, on one side, Mallarmé and Huysmans producing this literature; and on the other, Ibsen and Zola dealing with the reality of life in joyless and pallid words. On the stage one must have reality, and one must have joy; and that is why the intellectual modern drama has failed, and people have grown sick of the false joy of the musical comedy, that has been given them in place of the rich joy found only in what is superb and wild in reality. In a good play every speech should be as fully flavoured as a nut or apple, and such speeches cannot be written by anyone who works among people who have shut their lips on poetry. In Ireland, for a few years more, we have a popular imagination that is fiery and magnificent, and tender; so that those of us who wish to write start with a chance that is not given to writers in places where the springtime of the local life has been forgotten, and the harvest is a memory only, and the straw has been turned into bricks.”
    J. M. S

    A sad condemnation on our consumerist society where a “rush” of seeking what is trite, facile or so very temporary has replaced the broad landscape of Banjo Patterson’s “vision splendid”.

  4. Phil

    ‘ A sad condemnation on our consumerist society where a “rush” of seeking what is trite, facile or so very temporary has replaced the broad landscape of Banjo Patterson’s “vision splendid”.’

    Indeed. Bango Paterson had the Australian bush to give inspiration to his poetry. Among other things I have been a keen sailor on yacht’s. It is easy to see how sailors got their inspiration to write sea shanties and other poetry.

    Just sitting at the tiller listening to the sea birds wheeling around above you, the salt spray, clinging to the rigging causing thousands of prisms, with a light show money can’t buy. Watching the dolphins chasing each other around the boat and the sound when they take a breath, would take my breath away. Watching a pod of pilot whales appear on the horizon all surfacing at the same time to breath. And watching them pass you at twice your speed and disappearing in front of you as they reach the other horizon. Not knowing where they had been or, where they were going. I am nothing if not a romantic.

  5. Joseph Carli

    Phil..I feel the same way about the desert…I was raised near the sea, but have closer affiliation with the open skies and vast open plains of the desert…to stand on a dune looking over the expanse of Lake Gairdner is so all-encompassing and indeed, made me compare the sight and feel to the sea where I grew up…I wrote of the feeling in a poem when a young man.. a long, long time ago..

    Two corellas bank in flight,
    Silouhettes in citrine light,
    Evening clouds, Ocean shoals,
    Swirls in whirls of comet tails.
    Trigg Creek trees soldier stand,
    Column static, chilling land,
    I turn my back on penumbra shine,
    Last light on hills of shingled stone.
    An ocean; the world outside my door,
    The wind is waves along the shore,
    The diggings; white-caps on the hills,
    White-caps washing seaborne gulls,
    My dreams a heavy ocean’s roll,
    Like the swirls in the whorls of a comet’s tail.

    Yes…I too am the romantic…

  6. Phil

    Joseph Carli.

    You are indeed a romantic Joseph and a gifted writer,

    We have both been gifted with what a lot of people will never experience. The love of things money can’t buy. I too love the desert and the bush. . My wife and I are/were keen prospectors and we have travelled most of this country, not looking for wealth mind you, the wealth is in the experience of searching. But my first love was always the sea. Unfortunately my wife suffers terrible sea sickness and was scared to death when the sea made itself known with a fury, which can end with dire consequences. I love my wife more than the sea, so she won. Actually no I won. Because she has let me do what ever I wanted, with out any pressure. But that is all over now, I had a mild stroke a few years ago and my second love music, has suffered from it as well as my writing ability. I find it hard to put sentences in order.

    My boat her sails billow as white & pure as Irish lace
    The wind picks up now fresh moves her along at a pace
    The wind gets stronger she starts to buck like a horse
    A few more points off the wind she settles on her course

    The Dolphins appear like they have been invited for tea
    A large grey back whale broaches appears on my lee.
    I sit there in awe of the nature very few of us will see
    A show put on its special magic put on show only for me

    The sun now low on the horizon it’s now time to heave to
    You must be careful at night when you are the only crew
    So go below close the hatch and check the radar screen
    To be safe at night it’s where you are going not where you’ve been.

    I wouldn’t be dead for F&%$*#@ quids.

  7. Joseph Carli

    Phil….nothing wrong with your pen hand in that piece…you read above in that quote by Synge..:

    ” This matter, I think, is of importance, for in countries where the imagination of the people, and the language they use, is rich and living, it is possible for a writer to be rich and copious in his words, and at the same time to give the reality, which is the root of all poetry, in a comprehensive and natural form.. . ”

    The natural world has to now be our inspiration, for I believe the people are devoid of the one community unity that gives inspiration to the writer…By the way..have you ever read Synge’s : “Riders to the Sea”….a one act play that is fuckin’ brilliant in its portray of mood and myth…even Greek George would have to dip his lid a tad..

  8. tom baxter

    Art is one of the first victims of a society in decline it seems. I can walk into a thrift shop, anywhere across my city, and find decent oil paintings that took days or weeks to create, all selling for $20 or $30. I have bought quite a few too, the ones I found aesthetically pleasing of course, but I always consider too the effort and creativity that went into producing them.

    Even the often elaborate timber and molded frames I can find pleasure from, because they too are a work of art in their own right. It’s a sad indictment on a culture that it prefers expensive gallery objects vetted by “institutionalised “keepers of the flame” or more, often due to income constraints, dollar store or big box store mass produced forms of art, rather than pieces produced by its own citizens. But then when citizens morph into consumers, their passions controlled by media advertising, a lot seems to be given up in terms of wisdom and appreciation for the truly beautiful.

  9. Joseph Carli

    I too, Tom Baxter have purchased more than a few of those amateur pieces from op shops…sure, they aren’t in the league of a Constable, but they do have the hand of the creator imprinted there on the canvas…and even though it may be hesitant or clumsy in the application, it still is original…and one can peruse it to one’s own pleasure..
    I have posted on this conundrum…here;

  10. Phil

    By the way..have you ever read Synge’s : “Riders to the Sea”….a one act play that is fuckin’ brilliant in its portray of mood and myth…even Greek George would have to dip his lid a tad..

    No Joe I will see if I can find and buy it. There is much I want to fit in over the next few weeks and months. I am convinced we are headed for trying times. Listening to some of the people that are involved in the lock down in Melbourne you would think they were put on Death Row. Wtf they will be like in a few months when the economy really collapses, is anyone’s guess. The community spirit if we ever had it, is long gone. How these people would have faired in the blitz would be interesting.

  11. Joseph Carli

    Phil…don’t buy it…it is here online free at Gutenberg….

    “Great tragedy, it is frequently claimed with some show of justice, has perforce departed with the advance of modern life and its complicated tangle of interests and creature comforts. A highly developed civilisation, with its attendant specialisation of culture, tends ever to lose sight of those elemental forces, those primal emotions, naked to wind and sky, which are the stuff from which great drama is wrought by the artist, but which, as it would seem, are rapidly departing from us. It is only in the far places, where solitary communion may be had with the elements, that this dynamic life is still to be found continuously, and it is accordingly thither that the dramatist, who would deal with spiritual life disengaged from the environment of an intellectual maze, must go for that experience which will beget in him inspiration for his art. “

  12. Phil

    Joseph Carli.

    Thanks Joe I will have a butchers.

    You are of Italian extraction Joe, you were born to love and appreciate art.

    Even Italian food which is sublime, is usually made by an artist. Especially when you consider the dog shit we Anglo Saxons eat and pass it off as cuisine. Jesus even Italian cars are a work of art. If I was loaded make no mistake Joe, my summer address would be in Tuscany. Although I would probably have to get some what more cultured first 🙂

  13. Joseph Carli

    Italian extracted from an Irish/Cornish mother!….there’s a bit of bastard in me there!

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