Summative Entry

Visionary Imagination, as expressed in the work of William Blake, Patrick White and Brett Whiteley, has given me a new way of seeing and understanding the world.

The English 329 unit Visionary Imagination has undeniably reshaped the way I see and understand the world. Commencing the journey into unlocking my visionary imagination was my introduction into William Blake. Blake’s determination to uncover what the true meaning of life is through his work has reshaped the way I perceive life and religion. Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience has highlighted the way in which life itself has the ability to manipulate people’s perceptions and way of life. His Songs of Innocence praise the naivety of children and their lack of corruption by society. Comparatively, his Songs of Experience take on a sullen tone that explores the dangers of influence that the world can have on our surrounding. These comparisons can be drawn explicitly from parallel poems within Songs of Innocence and Experience. For example, ‘The Nurse’s Song’ is found in both collections. Both begin with ‘When the voices of children are heard on the green’ but both are followed by a line the defines the tone and attitude of the narrator. The happiness within Innocence, the nurse’s ‘heart is at rest within [her] breast, / And everything else is still,’, compared with Experience’s nurse, whose ‘days of [her] youth rise fresh in [her] mind. / [Her] face turns green and pale.’ Through these, Blake has explored the often detrimental effects of the soul that experience often brings. Through him, I have been able to connect with my inner child and remember the simplicity of life that once was.

images.jpgWilliam Blake

In his Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake explores the misconceptions that lie within the Bible. He contends common beliefs of the Devil and God, praising the Devil for his passion that the character of God lacks. He highlights how the conventions of the Church detract from spirituality. I explore this notion more here.  It was through this critique of conventional religion that Blake reinforces the true meaning of life: to look beyond reality to see what really matters.

i9331.jpgBrett Whiteley

This notion of the meaning of life is similarly endorsed by Australian artist, Brett Whiteley. Whitley’s impressively expressive work Alchemy serves as an illustrated essay. Within his work, he makes direct reference to Blake, by alluding to Blake’s ‘grain on sand’ (‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And a Heaven in a Wild Flower. Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand. And Eternity in an hour.’ He, too, focuses on the searching for meaning within life. This meaning can be found in the simple, natural elements of the world. The distraction of materialism, consumerism and politics often deters us from our path. See: Brett Whitley’s Alchemy for more information on Alchemy.

Australian writer, Patrick White, seeks to find the answer to the meaning of life and encourages others to do the same within Riders in the Chariot. White undeniably shares common thoughts on spirituality and life that Blake and Whiteley do in an implicit way. What I found particularly potent on White, was his religious stance. This stance underpins all of White’s work. Alf Dubbo, a prime figure within Riders, demonstrates the way in which conventional religion destroys the essence of spirituality. It is in this way that he mirrors the work of Blake. Read White’s Religious Stance to read more about his religious views. Personally, White has drawn my attention to the injustice given to the Aboriginal community, in dismissing the extent of their spirituality. He has triggered empathy within me and gave rise to my own critique of conventional religion within my own community.

show-photo.jpgPatrick White

It is through the works of William Blake, Patrick White and Brett Whiteley that the way in which I viewed the world has been expounded, and my visionary imagination has been exercised.


My best critical: White’s Religious Stance

My best creative: Brett Whiteley’s Alchemy


Peer review: Jessica Smith

Dear Jessica,

Great use of your creative skills with this blog post. It is evident that you have very clearly analysed this section of Whitley’s work, with your extrapolation of the subjects mentioned in your poem. You have adopted a whimsical tone within the text that makes for a relaxing and enjoyable read. I, too, chose this topic as a blog question and interpreted the piece slightly differently. It’s always interesting to see the varying responses in individuals spurred from art. This celebration of Spring is beautiful. A line I particularly liked, was “A wind appeared as the willow wept, / The sweet cry of Autumn, the bird’s heart leapt.”

One thing I would suggest is to keep the tone constant, I feel it was lost a little bit in the last stanza.

Good work.

Link to blogpost:


Brett Whitely is ‘Golden’


Write an ekphrastic paragraph or short poem based on what you see in the Brett Whiteley image below.

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 9.26.25 am.png

Before we begin; the Poetry Foundation defines an ‘ekphrastic’ poem as “a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.”


Golden grain dancing in the wind,

The warm earth embraces.

Birds trilling on the branches above,

Chanting to the sound of the bush.

Swathed in shrubs, a comforting embrace,

Hidden from the seizing hands

That want to pull this beauty

From it roots.

But this aureate mass cannot be consumed,

For its unbroken vigour remains,

The wealth that is life,



For me, this section of Whitely’s Alchemy is a celebration of the bush. The surrounding modern elements are repelled by the power that is this golden enigma. The use of the golden hues reminds the audience of nature’s worth and power. One of the many compelling sections of his 18 part work.

White’s Religious Stance

From the film in which David Marr is interviewed about Patrick White’s briefly summarise briefly what you think Patrick White’s religious position is:


David Marr delivered an insightful video into Patrick White’s religious position. He acknowledges the presence of religion within White’s work, and the significant role it plays in understanding White’s texts.

To put simply, I would not say that Patrick White is religious. I would, however, say that Patrick White is spiritual. White strays from conventional means of religion. Marr recounts White’s first church, St Paul’s in Castle Hill, and how White was bemused by the ‘regimented demeanour of the Anglican Church.’ In my opinion, White considers the routinized behaviour of Church, Anglican, Catholic or otherwise, as a deterrent from spirituality and God. I believe it is for this reason that he drifted from orthodox Christianity.

I believe White religious position lies within a spiritual connection to something greater than reality, that, paradoxically, lies within reality. Marr states that White received an ‘epiphany delivering meals to his dogs in the paddock of his house in Castle Hill’. He doesn’t delve into what the epiphany was, however, the everyday practice that is feeding your dogs, may have spurred such an event. The love that is shared between a human and their pet, can conjure immense emotion. It is the simple loves in love that highlight the world and humanity’s greatness.

Marr says that for Patrick, the heart of true religion is a search for meaning in the world, ‘a search for some kind of underlying meaning that would make sense of the chaos of the world in which he saw himself living in.’ Perhaps it was the simple task of feeding his dog that he saw the meaning of life, seeing something extraordinary in the ordinary.

Whilst not involved in conventional religion, Patrick White believed in something beyond the everyday. He saw external forces in patterns, and that coincidences were an explanation of a manipulating spiritual presence. You cannot deny his spirituality. Within each of his texts, White’s concern was with grace, the existence of a deity, the creation of the world and the nature of spirituality are all vital themes that run across his oeuvre.


This is particularly potent within the inspirational character of Alf Dubbo within the 1961 text, Riders in the Chariot. Alf Dubbo serves as a messianic figure, mirroring the figure of Jesus Christ. This representation serves to critique current conventional methods involved within the Church that detract from the true meaning of life, the meaning of spirituality and the meaning of the self.


White’s works encourage his audience to question religion in the same way he does. Moreover, he urges his audience to question “what is the meaning of life?”


Ngaire Ale – Peer Review 3

Ngaire, this was a compelling piece to read, providing a great comparison between Blake and Whitely. You drew parallels between their distinct message of seeing beyond the ordinary, viewing the true meaning that lies beyond the materialistic. Your description of Alchemy as an anagnorisis really hits the nail on the head. I completely agree. You highlight the journey that Whitely paints through his use of varying styles across the artwork, that illustrates life from birth to death (and the messiness in between), all that needs to a revelatory moment that is ‘IT’.

Great work.

Link to post:

Peer Review: Claudia Straface

Hi Claudia,

Having chosen the same blog topic, I found your entry interesting to read. I love how you opened by highlighting that in the same way Blake challenged your views of religion, he simultaneously expanded them. What I thoroughly enjoyed was your explanation of the necessary duality between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in order for existence to occur.


I similarly mentioned the institutional use of God, but I did not mention the ‘destructive nature of repressed natural energy’ that you did. I love that you incorporated this, as it reminds me of the strict parents who end up with rebellious children. In the same sense that is what religious institutions do. Instead of celebrating the energy and desire that are often interpreted as ‘sinful’ traits, we should celebrate them.

Your incorporation of The Devil’s Advocate (1998) was particularly interesting to read.

This was an exceptional blog (that makes me feel inferior about my own!), with great insight into Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Great work.


Link to blog post:

Brett Whiteley’s ‘Alchemy’

Brett-Whitley-alchemy-1.jpgA short blog expressing simply what inspired you most today, or what moment you felt was most illuminating, or what you enjoyed most about today….

I had briefly visited Brett Whiteley during my final years at high school, but never appreciated the power of Whiteley until my visit to the Surry Hills Brett Whiteley Studio at the more ripened age of 21. A mere fold-out pamphlet that I perused whilst I was 17 could never amount to the experience of visiting the 18-panel magnificence that is Alchemy.

Alchemy was the highlight of my day – this emotionally engaging piece in addition to the Spring weather made for an enjoyable day. Alchemy was a perfect artwork to study alongside our focus on William Blake during the semester. Blake’s ‘Marriage of Heaven and Hell’ is an amalgamation of opposites that create something new, just like the title of Whitley’s Alchemy.  Like Blake’s view on the visionary imagination, in seeing beyond the material substantiated world into one where true meaning lies within the mundane, Alchemy, too, is an encouragement to see beyond what doesn’t exist. It is a type of anagnorisis for the individual who sees beyond, using their visionary imagination. This enlightenment can be seen in the golden landscape depicted by Whiteley.


These golden panels from the left of the work could be a respectful tribute to the roots of alchemy, where one attempts to turn base metals into gold. However, this was not the only definition of ‘alchemy’: many also sought to prolong life through the study of alchemy. In a sense, this identification with the world beyond, is an extension of


life, a deepening of the reality that one can experience. Gold was known as the perfection of the soul.


These golden panels highlight the beauty of nature, the illumination that spurs from the simple magic of the natural world. Whiteley celebrates the Australian landscapes throughout these panels. As we move from left to right, more environmental influences emerge throughout the piece. The Vietnam War, money, and a brain were featured. The mixed-media nature of this work allowed Whitley to incorporate pieces that enhance specific meaning he wants to convey. One addition was a real-life brain. In the centre of the brain, was the Chinese philosophic symbol of yin and yang.


Coming back to Blake’s ‘Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, Whitley further reiterates the wedding of two opposites to create a unified whole. In a traditional marriage, where the opposites of men and women are merged, yin, the female element, representative of the dark, night and water, is fluidity integrated with the Yang, the masculine counterpart, symbolising light, day and fire.  It is within the unification of love and hate that individuals seek the meaning of existence, which when sought, is exemplified through the colour gold. Whitley continually refers to Blake and the notion of the meaning of life.

As you continue from left to right across the panels, you reach the middle, striking panel: IT. Associated with many connotations, ‘it’ could be referring to objects, things. To the right of the panel (when reading in this direction), is a little dot, representing ‘Blake’s grain of sand’. If you aren’t familiar:


“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

And with that, the audience has more of an understanding of what ‘it’ is. It is life, it is the appreciation of the world around us, in the beauty and magnificence of the creation of life.

As you continue, the work because more colourful, animated… and slightly messy. An intentional juxtaposition to the beginning of the work to symbolise the havoc that the individual endures when consumed by life events. The background of these scenes features a universe, with bright blue water, and two naked individuals creating life. In these latter panels Whitley attempts to remind the audience of creation and the wonder of life through the distraction that is life itself.

I read the artwork from left to right. However, you may start from the middle ‘IT’ and read right to left, then left to right. Or begin at the very end and journey from the beginning of life to the end where the accomplishment of encountering Blake’s ‘Grain of Sand’ leads you to the golden world that is ‘understanding’.


This work is one that I not only visited on this sunny Spring day, but has stayed with me days after as I write this blog post. There is a power in art that can unite the individual, the artist, literature, and the world. Whiteley and Blake’s works have the ability to transcend time by addressing the issues that the universal human deals with, making their works relatable to myself, a 22 years old millennial, or elder man and women of years past. The intertextuality and allusiveness that Whiteley incorporates in his work make for not just an 18-panelled artwork, but an essay about life itself.

Visiting the Brett Whitley studio was thoroughly enjoyable, and I encourage anyone else to experience this artwork in real life to capture the true power of it.

Peer Review 2 – Suzanne Solaiman

Hi Suzanne,

This was a succinct piece that successfully captured the meaning behind Patti Smith’s song ‘My Blakean Year.’ Your identification of Blake’s power in aiding Smith’s journey was exceptional. The structure of the blog was methodical and easy to follow. A well-written piece! I would have liked an expansion on the poem’s relevance to today’s world, but otherwise, a pleasure to read.

Link to post:

Errors in the Biblical Code? Blog 3 Due 17/09/18

The-Bible.jpg1/ CRITICAL Say whether Blake’s view of the Divine challenges or expands your own views of Religion.


Blake’s poetry has expounded on my view on religion through his opinionated view of the Divine. His query into traditional customs paved by the Church ironically marries with the foundation of the Church itself. Not only does he highlight the contradictory nature of the Divine, moreover, Divine institution, he accentuates the power that it bestows in its ability to influence. Not only action, but perception is always swayed by the cajolery that is inevitably found in the Scriptures. Blake interrogates this, with particularly provoking messages found within The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and The voice of the Devil.


Blake questions the Divine opinion on the two entities that inhabit the human: the Body and the Soul. Blake particularly argues that two entities are solely one entity and that no separation is needed. They are a cohesion between body and spirit, the tangible and the intangible, and as such, should be treated in unison. He notes that as an ‘error’: ‘Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.’ He believes that this error should be corrected by identifying the power that each entity has on the other: ‘Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy,’ and as such, ‘Energy is Eternal Delight.’ This is a refreshing outlook on living. Many undermine the power of the physical body, and look forward to the celebration of the Spirit in the afterlife. Blake celebrates the self in this unison.


Blake highlights further contradictions outlined by the Divine: the presence of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Are these juxtapositions not born from the same seed? Within plate 8 of the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake acknowledges the sinful connotations with nakedness, and yet highlights the inconsistency with the fact that ‘The nakedness of woman is the work of God.’ Blake extends his viewpoint by applying such notion within his home. He and his wife hang leisurely within their home completely naked. When questioned why he would take leisure in this state, he retorts that it is the Divine who created us naked, he was simply replicating the scene of Adam and Eve. Similarly, sinful traits such as greed, gluttony and lust are also created by the Divine: ‘The pride of the peacock is the glory of God. The lust of the goat is the bounty of God. The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.’  Blake suggests that there should be no negatively held against these traits, but an ability to manage these traits. He notes: ‘Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.’


Blake highlights errors within the Divine and its teachings. By highlighting the contradictions within the Bible, Blake has expanded my understanding of the Bible, and as such, the way in which I live. This is due to the overpowering influence of the Divine’s teachings, which makes Blake’s writings so controversial.


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