We left Australia two days ago. Today we are sitting on the verandah of a little bamboo hut, wind sifting through the leaves of the giant banyan tree in whose elegant web of roots we nestle. The waves are lapping insistently on the sand and children are running and laughing, in the distance some awful tune is playing from gigantic speakers at a local children’s fun sports day on the beach. We are on Koh Pu, an island off southern Thailand, staying at Luboa Hut for one precious week.
Australia is huge. We had the good fortune to take a day flight whose path took us over the Simpson desert and Cooper Pedy, Uluru and the Olgas and on through to Derby before the red earth bled into the turquoise waters of the Timor Sea. Peering down onto this great lonely desert we were reminded of aboriginal paintings, paintings like maps defining water holes and stretches of land in varying red and ochre, of the great salt lakes, their white fat fingers stretching greedily, around them circles of ghostly white rising, of the lines of rivers dotted with trees and their tributaries and distributaries fanning in and out, full of water and glistening in the sun, life veins in this country now in wet season.
Rover Thomas in the dust under a boab tree in the Kimberlies. I have an image of him there in his own quiet, earthy space, painting his land, a little away from the rest of the community, but part of them all nonetheless, every so often getting up to go walk-about, feeling the land, being the land, honouring the waterholes and their great spirits, throwing a stone in the water when he arrives to let them know he had arrived and washing his hands when he leaves so not to take their spirits with him. His paintings, the land, beautiful empty canvases of burnt siena and ochre, defined and pure, is-ness, being.
Artists need to be a little separate from their communities. They need to stand outside and look in, perceiving the inner-ness of their people, breaking the ground that needs to be broken, not for fashion’s sake, but because things are old and stale and life needs to be looked at anew. The artist as a commodity. These are todays trends. Artists engaged in making themselves a public entity, marketing and selling out. Feeding the galleries and the public what they want. Their spiritual role broken. They could be designers in any field where once they stood alone, a store house of ideas for all the design fields, now just a celebrity, a fashion icon, here and gone in a minute, no longer timeless.
The dilemma of the artist. Here we are, on this little island in the Andaman Sea, a space between lives, a space to think about ourselves and our work. Nothing to do for a week. We walk on the sand and swim in the sea, all day. We wonder at the emptiness of our thoughts. Nothing to complain about but a hard bed. We wake in the morning a bit cricked. But then we eat a luscious breakfast reclining on pillows at a low table and then we walk along the sandy bay dipping in the water and lying in the hot sand and walking and dipping in again. Any attempt at serious talk leaves the other looking dazed. Maybe it just has to be till we have emptied out the old and ready soon for the new.