Art Essays

Newsletter 280

Published March 30, 2019
Labor voters flock to the polls

Well it’s all over bar the blood-letting, and that will be strictly on one side of the fence after the NSW Labor Party crashed and burned in the last week of the state election campaign. With pinpoint timing the Coalition released a video of Labor leader, Michael Daley, making a foolish statement about “Asians with PhDs” coming to take everyone’s jobs. This was the last impression most people took into the media blackout period before voting day.

Daley may have been on the receiving end of a dirty trick but there’s no excuse for a politician making stupid, racist remarks in public. After a good start, and a bold face-off with horror DJ Alan Jones, Daley tumbled into a deep ditch. The end result sees Gladys’s team of self-serving spivs and wide boys returned with an added spring in their step. This means the battle to preserve the Powerhouse Museum will inevitably move into a new, more desperate phase.

One thing that emerged strongly from this election was a deep disenchantment with all the major parties, as votes bled away to independents and groups like the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. It’s understandable, as a figure such as Roy Butler, the newly elected SFF member for Barwon, comes across as a committed, straight-talking bloke with a genuine concern for his region.

The Labor Party in NSW suffered from such a lack of visibility that hardly anyone can name more than one or two of its MPs. We all refer to “Gladys” as if she’s an old friend, but the Labor leader remained “Michael Daley” – a largely unknown, middle-aged, grey technocrat. For Labor that lack of recognition spelled doom because the party has yet to rid itself of the lingering stench of their last stint in government, which sank into a quagmire of corruption. There’s a clear need for generational change, not to mention a bit of charisma.

Far from the land of politics this week’s art column looks at Hans and Nora Heysen: Two Generations of Australian Art, at the National Gallery of Victoria. I went down to Melbourne to watch Cai Guo-Qiang let off explosions in Williamstown, and stayed on to visit this exhibition, which brings together the works of the most famous father and daughter combo in Australian art. The NGV has presented the show in an imaginative way, mixing up the chronology so as to show both Heysens working on similar themes, and in similar locations, over the decades. It allows a clearer view of a relationship that has often been shrouded in clichés and misassumptions. Curator, Angela Hesson, has allowed us to see both artists more clearly, and that’s everything one would want from such a display.

The movie being reviewed is Jordan Peel’s Us, an ambitious horror movie with an intellectual agenda. The film doesn’t quite succeed dramatically but it’s bound to generate a huge amount of conversation. Despite all the usual horror movie shock & gore it’s basically a political fable about a deprived group rising up against their masters in bloody revenge. If the re-elected NSW government continue in the same merry way for the next four years, we might see a similar scenario closer to home.