Inner City living and Art appreciation. Painting by Lloyd Rees.
The time of the early seventies in the Inner West and especially Balmain was the entering of many people testing the waters of inner city living. They braved the pervading tradition of block of land and house in the suburbs, and in fact sometimes heaped scorn on those poor sods that travelled for miles to and from infrastructures such as shops schools and especially work. Many thought that it was just not a ‘dream’ to live out miles away, where the streets where empty and the houses looking deserted with inhabitants cowering inside except when washing the car or trimming the petunias. This was also of course, the period of Barry Humphries and the satire on Australian suburbia through Dame Edna Average and her ever- present bunches of gladioli. Property prices, as a result of those willing to test the waters, went up rapidly and many moved in and re-sold into bigger or better situated places such as Birchgrove or East Balmain. Soon there were areas with more prestige than others in the Inner West. An ominous sign.
With the decorating and painting business booming I did many paintings and also joined an art appreciation course at Circular Quay which was run by a very well known art teacher. His name was Desiderius Orban (1884-1986) who was already in his late eighties when I joined. His main quality was that he never taught any tricks or skills but tried to encourage students to paint or draw from within. His aim was to make students loose fear and to try and get back to a creative expression which, he always claimed, children are born with, but loose through bad parenting or education or whatever else that make children comply and conform. He was very likable and being Hungarian born was of course very charming and witty. The ladies loved him and picked him up from his home and delivered him back home, baked cakes and would often come with all sorts of delicious morsels. It was a time of much delight and we were invited to always bring in our work for critique by everyone, but especially the master. He was quite sincere and honest in his appraisals but at times a little harsh as well and some students would end up in tears. He seemed to like my work and often would compare my work with others and point out differences between those that did not let go of conventional drawing and mine. I was of course flattered but also thought that the mixing of money making, bringing up children and art was hard. There were many exhibitions that I entered and indeed, won a first prize handed out by no less than Lloyd Rees who was a well known and respected artist. To paint full time and also make a living to keep family in food, pay mortgage and run a car etc. seemed only possible for a very few that were well known. My previous art course at The Mary White School of Art at Double Bay during 1961 or 62 had known artist as teachers and they were well on the way to the top. John Olson, Robert Klippel and Colin Lanceley had made some name even then. In 1972 our third child was born, a boy. Just perfect. We had not planned a third baby and decided to try and prevent a fourth child from happening. I would go for a vasectomy. I was examined by a woman doctor and a date was set for the operation. It was performed by two lady doctors and the snip took 15 minutes. My brother did the same thing and for some reason or other we were invited on channel 9 TV to be asked about our experiences. I suppose the vasectomy was still in its infancy and had some curiosity value. The next day after the programme was shown, all sorts of people including the local butcher made the kind of remarks you would expect.
Did you get it cut off, seemed to be the main one?