The best thing about this writing caper is getting to work with people you admire. And in all the excitement of getting GDS together (I use ‘excitement’ in a loose fashion there, like the excitement of having a colonoscopy while defusing high explosives), I never quite managed to write about this other exciting thing that was happening (exciting like being given your first unicorn on the day you’re crowned Princess of Rainbow Sugar Castle).
First up I have to admit that I rarely get art, of the hang-on-the-wall type. Nice things look nice, and I’d rather have a house full of paintings than bare plaster, but paintings rarely grab me in the same visceral way as other art forms. I went to see the Picasso exhibition, and it was incredible because that guy had so much stuff going on in each frame. But most of the possibilities, be they crusty Old Master washerwomen or ultra-moderne stapled trash collages, rarely make an impression beyond the superficial.
Very occasionally, something hammer-drops me, but it follows no apparent logic. And yes, it makes it a bit awkward editing a publication with a strong emphasis on the visual. “Hey, that’s cool,” I’ll say.
“Why?” asks Jess.
“Um… because it… has a wizard in it?”
So to me, when I say that Tai Snaith is my favourite artist, it really means something. She’s been able to bridge that lack of connection or comprehension not just once, but consistently. I first fell for her work when she did the cover for Going Down Swinging #25, many years before I had anything to do with GDS. I’ve been to her exhibitions, followed her progress. The one piece of artwork I’ve bought in my life was one of Tai’s.
So when she contacted me out of the blue to ask me to do a collaboration, it was a bit like Steve Waugh asking me to go for a hit in the nets. “Uh… sure, I could… make some time for that…” I said. Ahem.
The brief was to write a short piece, any style, about a treasured object. Tai would not be allowed to see the object, but would draw or paint it from her imagination having read the piece. Seven other writers would also be involved, I soon learned. As it turns out, it was quite the list.
There was Benjamin Law, a brave and dangerous mind, with his ultra-suave personal demeanour and foul-mouthed online counterpart. Anna Krien, my role model as a literary all-rounder, with the lowest pretension to talent ratio of any artist I’ve ever met. Sean M Whelan, whose work with the Mime Set made my brain burn years earlier at my first ever Voiceworks party. Lorelei Vashti, whose ‘Dress, Memory’ posts leave me inclined to have a quiet weep on a weekly basis.
There was the recalcitrantly lower-cased alicia sometimes, obsessed with stars and quasars, bringing voice to poets over weekly radio waves. Richard Watts, godfather of Melbourne art, who has somehow been a presence in every venture I’ve ever undertaken. And Leanne Hall, who stunned with her novel This is Shyness (and also happens to be Going Down Swinging’s commissioned author for our next issue).
When the eight stories were written, and the artworks done, Tai shuffled them up and sent one artwork out to each of us. Without having seen the story that inspired the piece, we had to write a piece based just on the image.
And now? Now it’s done, and it’s a privilege to be keeping this kind of company. All eight artworks will be on display, alongside both their before and their after stories. Tai’s piece done for my first story is below, to give you a taste.
The launch is free, is tomorrow night (Wednesday 29th), and six of the writers will be present and reading. The exhibition is open until July 23.
The upshot being, come along.