Another notably dismal day here in Sydney, groovers… I was saturated on my walk yesterday, thanks to leaving my good umbrella on the ferry Tuesday night, thus being left to contend with a back-up brolly that offers as much protection as the soggy newspaper fish and chips come in. I finished walking bedraggled to the point of some curious satisfaction. There’s something strangely empowering (slim pickings these days, but I’ll take my scraps where I find ‘em) about pressing on even after the path has completely emptied of people, all the less unhinged members of the community having sensibly taken cover. I was all alone out there, well, with the always hardy surfers, and I returned home feeling much improved.
Then I sat and worked on my MS until nearly midnight – Llew was working back so there were no interruptions, and I ate dinner at my desk. I am pleased to report that I have finally (can this rain get any heavier? No, really. Can it? Is it possible for rain to fall from the sky any harder than this?) finished phase one of the redraft. It’s taken me quite a bit longer than I expected, but, really, I should have known better. Each redraft is its own beast entirely, there’s no set course to follow because the work is a slightly different thing each time and must find its own altered logic. This is true even though the story is essentially the same as it’s been for a long time – although I did have one especially radical idea last night that may bear thinking about… except of course that may have been the delirium talking. I’ll take a long sober look at it in phase two and see what my less exhausted calculations suggest, because you can be sure I was in no condition to make such a colossal decision at 11:45 last night. Llew arrived at midnight, took one look at me and said, “You look shattered”: ironic coming from him. What a pair of hollow-eyed wrecks we are.
Speaking of which, I must tell you about the Skeleton Gallery at the Australian Museum, and the wonderful exhibition we attended there on Tuesday night. It made such an excellent venue for artist/comic creator/illustrator Matt Huynh’s purposes – it was the most complementary space for his Asperatus series to meet its public that I could imagine, especially as one of the works prompted instant associations with the River Styx.
We never really have an unmediated reaction to art, do we? As viewers, we can’t help but bring such a lot of our own conscious and sub-conscious threads to our interpretations. One of Matt’s other works sparked Lord of the Flies correlations for me; another, Gulliver’s Travels, and yet when I asked him if he was deliberately alluding to these works, he said he’d never read them, but that he’d heard other people say the same thing. Interesting on both counts, if you ask me.
Some of you may recall I first became aware of Matt and his work when I attended a UTS lecture on comics (I am now on a terrifying fast ferry ride across Sydney Heads – oh my god, is this swell frightening…). He’s an impressive Gen Y-er, Matt, with what Llew so aptly identified as a ‘Vietnamese Steve Buscemi’ intensity and charisma, one of those super talented over-achievers who never switches off. His mind is always roving ahead at a hundred miles a minute – trust me, you can hear it breaking land speed records from across the room. I kept hoping he’d speak to the assembled guests in the Skeleton Gallery, and perhaps he did later in the evening, because Matt in full flight – as he was at the UTS lecture, the only time I’ve seen him before – is something to see. But moving around the gallery was more than enough to satisfy us – Llew and I both love his work, it inhabits exactly the kind of lawless territory of which I am so fond. Asperatus, Matt says on his website, loosely translates from the Latin to agitation, and for me that specific site, the place where friction lives, is the most compelling creative space of the lot. It was good to meet Matt face to face after our emails back when I was searching for an illustrator – I was so pleased he thought to invite me – and more than that, the new series just highlights why I came away from UTS so excited about the possibilities of the comic form. Marcelo Baez, with whom I used to work and whom I did end up commissioning thanks to Matt putting him back in my path, sadly couldn’t make the exhibition Tuesday night, but he has completed the limited commission I was able to afford: three spot illustrations. These accompanied my Penguin Varuna Scholarship application, so we’ll see how we go.
So yes, I guess I have hauled myself out of my despondency by sheer force of will and work. Keep calm and carry on: words to live by, what.