And Whiteley (and women)


Also on the subject of Night Beach and its influences – I checked out the National Gallery’s Brett Whiteley painting while I was down there. That’s right, they only have one. I’ve seen it live before, the last time I was there, but I’d forgotten until I saw it again. It’s called Interior With Time Past, and it’s awesome. Huge, for a start. Huge and orange. If you haven’t seen it, the National Gallery can give you a quick YouTube tour:


When you walk into the area where this painting is, it’s the only thing you notice. Nothing around it compares. I think Whiteley was just a lot more alive than everybody else. He had to have been, to paint like that.

They had a bench seat set up in front of it, so I sat there for ages (this was sans kids, obviously). People kept coming up to talk to me about the painting. One of the security guards told me it was the painting she’d take home if she could. And then a lady from Newcastle (aged seventy-five) agreed with me that Whiteley loved women. She said, “Not like that other misogynistic pig Picasso – always cutting them up and making them ugly in his paintings,” which I thought was funny, and bang on the money. We both agreed that Whiteley’s paintings are a turn on. Such sensuality. 

In the painting, there’s a notebook open on the table. I copied down what’s inscribed on it (curious). This might not be quite right because his calligraphy wasn’t easy to read, and my handwriting is even worse, but it’s the gist:


Work performed as the occasion arose. Constant curiousness, autographs the last end of cannabalism. Authentic magic. No compass diviners. Truth and paradox. To be ignorantly honest who is force himself and can no more be another than I can …

Euclid’s snake, breathless attention, and the albino rainbow administered intravenously six times a day are responsible for this painting. No blame. BW 1976.

I’ve skipped a bit in the middle, mainly because I didn’t get it, but in case you’re desperate, it started with E=MC (squared) and on from there. The albino rainbow – heroin. But what I love is “breathless attention”. That’s how I’ve been writing for the last couple of months, with no room for anything else. It’s good when it’s like that (and rare, at least for me). You don’t want to talk about it, you don’t want to dissect it with anybody, you just want to do it. 

PS Gelegenheitsarbeit is a German word – because I’m fluent in Google, I’ve looked it up for you. It means what he’s said there, “Work performed as the occasion arose”.