back toJacket2

J A C K E T   #  S E V E N    |   C O N T E N T S    |    H O M E P A G E 


Garrie Hutchinson

Buoyed by Arthur in 1969
You can read Garrie Hutchinson's long poem about "Learning to Live Together" in the 1970s in Jacket # 8.


ARTHUR BOYD who died in May 1999 was arguably Australia's greatest late twentieth century painter, whose felt vision of the Australian landscape and what happened in it, plus some big subjects such as life, death, innocence, sex, remorse and penitence, gave him a range approached only occasionally by coevals such as Sid Nolan, John Perceval, Albert Tucker and John Brack.
      The biggest accusation levelled against Boyd by snooty antipodean critics is that he 'painted too much' - reminiscent of Peter Shaffer's invented quote attributed to Salieri about Mozart and 'too many notes' - but what notes! And what paintings.
      Boyd loved to work, and painted every day of his life, it seems, judging from the thousands of works an he gave to the people of Australia via the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, and his property on his beloved Shoalhaven River at Bundanon, which he intended as a centre for painters and other artists to work.
      He was at the time, in January 1999, the second living Australian to be honoured with a postage stamp - the other being cricket legend Don Bradman, still batting on. And that is exalted company down under.


Arthur Boyd postage stamps
Boyd was born in Melbourne 1920 into a potting and painting family where his talent was nurtured. He first visited London in 1959, and after that divided his time between England and Australia, a task made more difficult because he refused to fly.
      I had a brief powerful encounter with Boyd, when I was a young poet in exile from the Australian government's hope to lock me in gaol for two years because I, like thousands of others, had not registered for what was euphemistically called 'national service' in Vietnam. It was conscription, the draft. Australia, unlike Britain, was a willing participant in the United States' disgusting folly in Vietnam and participating in a losing cause, but with 'only' 500 dead, including many conscripts. This was a drop of blood compared to the United States 50,000, but it continued to have a resonant effect in Australia - and in London with the expatriate radicals.
      I spent most of 1969 in London, arriving, symbolically I thought, just a few days before man walked on the moon. I needed some months to think about what to do - with my life, poetry, the revolution and the whole damn thing. I eventually decided to return to Australia and take my chances with the inefficiency of the government and the perverted logic of the court system.
      While there I met and for a brief time 'hung out' with some of the children of Arthur Boyd and another terrific Australian painter, John Perceval, and helped Arthur hang the three exhibitions he had running that year in London. Paintings at Tooths in Bruton Street, etchings and lithographs at Maltzahn Gallery, and tapestries and drawings at Hammet Gallery, both nearby in Cork Street.
      The paintings seemed to be made under the influence of Mahler's mighty Resurrection Symphony, which you could hear booming up from the cellar-studio in Highgate where Arthur was still at work up to the day of hanging. Some of the heavily impasto-ed flourishes and touch ups were wet when we hung them.
      The Nebuchadnezzar paintings are inspired by the notion that the builder of Babylon and the great King of Chaldea also had a Lear-like mad experience in the wilderness where he was touched by God. And also, appropriate to my circumstance, by the suicide deaths by burning of monks in Vietnam, Jan Palach in Czechoslovakia and a number of people, now sadly forgotten in the United States.
      But I was less inspired by the greatness of these paintings (though they had a wonderfully apocalyptic feeling about them) than by the sights and sounds of the artist at work. Arthur was just 49 years old then, the same age as I am now. To me he seemed a wise old man; writing this I feel as young and dumbstruck as I did then.
      When I heard about Arthur's death, I thought again of my brief meeting thirty years ago. I remembered that I had written a poem, after a conversation at breakfast one morning. It is reproduced below.

Garrie Hutchinson, December 1970

Garrie Hutchinson is or was a poet of the so-called 'generation of 1968', published in Australian Poetry Now (Sun, 1970). He published Nothing Unsayable Said Right: 50 Poems 1968 - 1972 in 1974, and Terror Australis: Poems (Outback Press, 1975) before retiring from poetry to write different rites. Recently he published the travel/history book An Australian Odyssey: From Giza To Gallipoli (Sceptre, 1997) and Not Going To Vietnam: Journeys Through Two Wars (Sceptre, July 1999). This book contains a memoir of poetry and politics in Melbourne and London in 1968-69. (Photo: Garrie Hutchinson at work on concrete poster poems, Melbourne, circa December 1970.) You can read Garrie Hutchinson's long poem "Learning to Live Together" in Jacket # 8.



poem for arthur boyd (ix/69)
over an earthenware jar
stones & jam
/only a fellow traveller
to join was to commit heartfully
but there was
money for oils
there was the fire
as they burned
a painter stumping tribunes
licking stamps?
apparatchiks always come later
carry the coals to airless places
or block in the air with green wood
the smoke to mystify
but khaki shorts
a woollen jumper
paint on you the freckles on real hens eggs
needing only a red star on a cap
& mud on some boots
to be a red guard
to butt the problems
to be the occupation
the strike
some more coffee & toast
you were already half away
with a stomach that knows better
knows the fizz
knows today won't be sitting and squeezing
an empty paint tube
that today will be like a tap
a sun tap
then down you slid
fire man
pearl diver
to conjure opal thrusts
under the stairs


* jumper = sweater, pullover


J A C K E T  # 7   Back to Jacket # 7  Contents page 
Select other issues of the magazine from the | Jacket catalog |
 Other links: | top | homepage | bookstores | literary links | internet design |
Copyright Notice
- Please respect the fact that this material is copyright. It is made available here without charge for personal use only. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose  | about Jacket |
This material is copyright © Garrie Hutchinson and Jacket magazine 1999
The URL address of this page is