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: https://jessicaandliterature.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/visionary-imagination-5/

 

Brett Whitely is ‘Golden’

 

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

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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

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,

Beaming.

 

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.

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: https://ngaireale1.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/week-8-blog-post-3/

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: https://claudiaenglishliterature.wordpress.com/2018/09/13/critical-say-whether-blakes-view-of-the-divine-challenges-or-expands-your-own-views-of-religion/comment-page-1/#comment-9

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

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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.

Spring time? Time to exercise our Visionary Imagination

This semester we will embrace the literary wonder that is William Blake. Between his artistic talents and his ability to transcend readers beyond reality into something, or to somewhere, more meaningful, he is one that should be celebrated during this third-year unit. From this unit, I hope to exercise my visionary imagination, experience something that Cezanne’s would describe as ‘petite sensation’.

Watch this space for creative, creative and some spur-of-the-moment blogs of inspiration.

Crossing Brooklyn (Bridge)

ii. Choose one of the stanzas from Walt Whitman’s poems (in LEO) and discuss how it has amplified or enhanced your understanding of a particular place or event seen in today’s travels through New York. Try to imitate the style of your poem by writing one stanza which describes the place or event that you have chosen to focus on.

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Part 3, stanza 1

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,

I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,

Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,

Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,

Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,

Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,

Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

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Brooklyn was an incredible experience, that Whitman’s ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry’ enhanced immensely.  It was not crossing the river by ferry, but by walking across the bridge, that the same enchantment that Whitman described was emulated. First published in 1856 as “Sun-Down Poem” in the 2nd edition of Leaves of Grass, then later “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”, in 1860, Whitman has foreshadowed the constancy of the Brooklyn bridge and its ability to connect people, place and purpose.  Whitman notes ‘yet with the swift current, I stood yet hurried, / Just as you look on the numberless masts of shops and thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.’ It is within these two lines that the experience of crossing the river has withstood the continuum of time. Within 2018 on my travels to New York, ‘I stood yet hurried’ amongst the bustling of people making their way across the bridge, whilst still in the moment. This oxymoronic statement perfectly emulates the atmosphere of the crossing. People are caught in the beauty of the journey, yet focused on their destination. This process has been one that Whitman describes as the ‘impalpable sustenance of me.’ Th
is deification, a disintegration into New York, as a place, yet as a living entity. It is these people who cross, from place to place, who travel, live and work, that constitute New York, and animate it into the being that it is. It is amazing to acknowledge that even in the 1860s, ‘other will enter… Others will watch… Others will see…’. As an ‘Other’, I have entered, watched and seen the beauty that lies between New York and Brooklyn. It’s a combination of the water, the expansive sky, embedded with tall towers, the bustle of the city, the Statue of Liberty. As you view this piece iconography representing freedom, it marries well with the freedom of the individual in this action of crossing the Brooklyn (bridge). Whitman celebrates the individual: ’Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!’ I feel that this poem highlights the brilliance of New York, of the people that constitute it, and the timelessness that this amazing city has.

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(Image was taken on my visit to Brooklyn Bridge #nofitler)


My attempt to emulate Whitman in my description of Brooklyn Bridge:

Crossing Brooklyn Bridge

It avails not, time nor place – distance avails not,

For it was yesterday, today, tomorrow, or in the hundred years forward,

You would feel the breeze whip through your hair, the refreshing chill on your face

You would feel the vibrations of the hurrying cars beneath your feet, a comforting hum,

You would feel the air, fresh and free as you inhale, a breath of liberty

You would feel the city, as you see it, the tall buildings of promise, for more for you to see.

As you cross the Brooklyn Bridge, many run, many dance, many stroll, many bustle

Whatever their cause, they cross

Whatever their destination, they cross.

And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence have more to see,

When you cross that Bridge of liberty.

Great Minds Think Alike; Benton and Fitzgerald

Choose a painting that you have explored at MET and discuss how it has amplified your understanding of the literary themes and forms that we have been exploring

The 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald aims to critique American society for their values and ideals during this period. Give or take a few years, between 5 and 6 to be precise, it appears that Fitzgerald was not the only one to acknowledge America’s follies. Thomas Hart Benton’s ‘America Today’ (1930-31), proudly – I say proudly due to its 10 panels, with dimensions of 92 x 117 in – exposes both the beauty and hardship of life within America. Both artists accentuate the struggling society as well as the attractiveness of 1920s-30s American lifestyles.

The allure of The Great Gatsby for many is the extravagance that Gatsby himself promotes through his parties. His parties are very prestigious, owing to Gatsby’s own reputation: ‘You must know Gatsby” (11), however, Fitzgerald critiques these attendees to Gatsby’s gatherings by comparing them to the fickle moth: “There was music from my neighbour’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whispering and the champagne and the stars” (39). These social festivities were a fad or phase that would eventually pass, but for the moment captured the attention of the petty and materialistic guests. They were an accessory to be worn, to show off for their fellow socialites. These behaviours are subtly being criticised by Fitzgerald in his attempt to acknowledge the dangers of materialism in the transforming American society. It is the cycle of industrialisation and materialism that both Gatsby and Benton capture in their works.

If you were to imagine the ambiance of one of Gatsby’s soirées, I wouldn’t look further than panels ‘b’ and ‘c’ of Benton’s ‘America Today’. Within panel ‘b’, the colours are golden and lavish. The subjects are vibrant and alive. These animated figures are featured wearing sultry red dresses dancing close with their companions, eyes swooning at barmen,  and entertainers being celebrated in a likewise manner to Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ (1508-1512).  This allusion to such a great work highlights the similarity of adoration for these entertainers and lifestyles they promote. The tone of the work darkens as you enter into the next panel, ‘c’. This shift in tone adds an ominous sense of danger, a forewarning of the potential disasters this lifestyle can cause. It turns dirty, almost illicit.
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Panel ‘c’ 92 x 117 in

This dangerous tone transcends into the darker aspects of American life. The harder, more strenuous work that is often out-shone amongst the bright lights of cabaret and parties. The mechanic, the industrial yard works, the dirty, the penniless. This is epitomised within Benton’s panels ‘d’ through to ‘i’, and encapsulated magnificently in the deliberately smaller panel ‘j’. These panels exhibit the laborious tasks that are essential within the developing world. The juxtaposition of panels between ‘i’ and the 8 x 97 in of ‘j’ accentuates the overlooked nature of those within the American society struggling money and a comfortable livelihood. The hands are powerfully painted to capture the urgency and desperation as they grapple for money, food, and the featured coffee.

These elements are epitomised within Fitzgerald’s character, George Wilson. He, like panel ‘j’ is often overlooked in its power. Mr. Wilson is a humble man, who does not bestow the negative characteristics of Tom Buchanan or Gatsby, but lives life to work and earn money, and to love his cheating wife. The hardship he endures is captured within Benton’s industrial panels, as well as the hardship he endures over his wife’s yearning for the luscious lifestyle. With little to claim for himself, Mr. Wilson follows God, and reiterates “God sees everything”. This omnipotent God emulates the nine panels of Benton’s. “God sees everything,” just in the way that these enormous, all-encapsulating panels observe the many facets of American life; it ‘sees everything.’


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Benton’s ‘America Today’, as I observed it and analysed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York ,amplified my understanding of the literary themes within F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

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