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Newsletter 475

Published January 23, 2023
Welcome to the Year of the Wascally Wabbit

This was one of those weeks when as soon as one job finished another began. There was once a time when January provided a reliably slow start to the year but that seems to be an obsolescent concept. Just to make matters even busier, it’s Chinese New Year – and like all auspicious events on the Chinese calendar, it’s not just a matter of one boozy evening, the whole thing carries on until 5 February. Even though ours is a Sino-Australian household, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

This is the year of the Rabbit, which we’re told will be “a year of hope”. If this doesn’t sound like an especially radical prediction spare a thought for the shamans of Peru, who recently had their annual get-together and predicted, daringly, that Pele would die this year. In fact, the soccer great was already in a critical condition, and passed away almost before the shamans had consulted their oracle. Another bold prediction was that the USA would suffer from natural disasters in 2023 – and look what’s happening, even as we speak!! They also said the war in the Ukraine would finish before August but were short on detail.

One wonders if Vladimir Putin has been listening to these remarkable predictions. The Russian leader would have orginally imagined he could outlast the Ukrainians if the unthinkable happened, and he didn’t overpower them within a fortnight. As the war now seems interminable, it’s looking as if time is on the Ukrainian side.

What’s most surprising about the predictions from the Year of the Rabbit and the Peruvian shamans, is their conservativism. Perhaps they’re not big social media fans in the Andes, but they must have seen that nowadays people in America – and most other places – will believe anything, no matter how crazy, and forget about it just as quickly. What has a fortune teller got to lose? Have a go yer mugs!

The first art column for the Year of the Rabbit is Spowers & Syme at the S.H. Ervin Gallery. This touring show from the National Gallery of Australia, includes several types of bird, the odd horse and a china gazelle, but to the best of my recollection, no rabbits. Two accomplished printmakers, Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme were wealthy young women from Melbourne high society, who studied in London and Paris, and took up the modernist banner at a time when Australian art couldn’t get out of the gum trees. Their work still looks remarkably fresh today, it’s a pity there’s not more of it.

The movie being reviewed is Emily, Frances O’Connor’s unorthodox bio pic of Emily Brontë, who eventually gets to write Wuthering Heights, after bingeing on opium and having a raging affair with the local curate – activities that won’t be found in any of the biographies. I don’t know why directors insist on taking so many liberties with the historical record nowadays. Are they concerned that viewers might find the truth too boring? This has, admittedly, been going for a long time. I remember Caravaggio and the boys in Derek Jarman’s film of the same name, hopping on their vespas and riding off somewhere. Who knows what ahistorical horrors lurk in the vaults of Hollywood… If you can overcome the embellishments, Emily is a very watchable film, but it would help if you knew absolutely nothing about the Brontës. I suppose it could have been worse: in 2003, MTV did a version of Wuthering Heights set in a California high school. At least O’Connor lets us keep the Yorkshire gloom.