Artists versus Sport on the Moscow-StPetersburg express.

It is one thing to see sports players going overseas but worse still would be losing artists to greener pastures.

I am reminded somewhat by the reverence shown to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died recently. Thousands filed past his open casket. Television showed metre long roses placed there by Putin and Gorbachev. I wonder whether we would revere our writers and artists the same.

I can’t remember when I have last seen a PM opening a book show or being photographed at an art gallery, or even commenting on the importance of art. On the contrary, the Bill Henson affair brought out suspicion, disregard and ignorance from those that ought to know better.

Why is it that sport is the Holy Grail above everything else?

Years ago I took the overnight train from Moscow to St Petersburg (Leningrad) in midsummer and shared the sleeper with a couple and an ample-bosomed and beautiful Russian woman by the name of Lilly.

Most of the sleeper cabins behind me had groups of American choir singers, both boys and girls of around 20-30 years of age. They had performed in Moscow and were booked to sing in St Petersburg. Being midsummer, and so far north, the days lasted forever. It had also been very hot with thunderstorms in the late afternoon. The Americans were pleased to meet someone from Australia and, as proof of it, I was asked to give an impromptu impersonation of Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan and say “goodiaye and hozygoin” over and over again.

This was nothing compared with what would follow next. The beautiful Lilly in my cabin spoke some German and so did I. The train was air conditioned but it was stifling hot and, as Lilly and I got acquainted, she, now and then, modestly dabbed her bosom with an Eau de Cologne sprinkled silken and embroidered handkerchief. She kindly asked what I did when I was not travelling and I told her I painted pictures. Ach nein, du bist ein Artiest? Wie ist das möglich? (An artist, how is that possible?) The hanky started working overtime.

The secret was out and went like wildfire through the whole train. The next thing, passengers were lining up to meet me, vodka was offered and Lilly unpacked some ‘kuchen’ with cubed sugar soaked in almond essence. (I remember it well.) I was almost carried around on shoulders and tears were flowing. I was feted like an emperor.

Some hours later, when darkness finally announced itself – and consider Russian sleeper trains are not gender separated, and the vodka had settled – the four of us, including the beautiful Lilly, calmly undressed. I hopped in the top bunk and she underneath. I slept on a cloud of Eau the Cologne and almond essence.

Next morning, breakfast was served in those ornate silver plated urns and glassware. The Americans behind us, thankfully, had had enough of Aussie imitations.

Getting back to the reverence shown to artists, dead or alive, in countries elsewhere, it seems doubly annoying to hear in all details the latest exploits of an AFL player who went to play in France for more money. Why is that of such enormous importance?

What I am trying to get at is that if I would have gone around the Goulburn-City Rail Link announcing I painted pictures, the best I could hope for would be the question “Do you sell them, and how much?”

How many more years will be wasted in giving so much credit to sport and so little to art?

When will we finally start recognising that art is important because it lasts and also defines us as a nation that always strives above the mundane.

12 Responses to “Artists versus Sport on the Moscow-StPetersburg express.”

  1. freefall852 Says:

    Any amateurs who attempt art (of any genre) in Australia are most likely condemned to die in anonymous indignity….their works held up as example of a steady decline into senility…and the best one can hope for is that their efforts, rather than be mocked, die in obscurity with their name.


  2. freefall852 Says:

    ” The remnants of obscurity all to be found when the estate gets cleared out at the bottom of a drawer or in the garage.”

    Don’t count on it!….Here…:

    Ziedel’s secret carby’.

    Was asking for a bit of background knowledge on a long deceased relative of mine from the local aged mechanic…Peter Pohl…He and his offsider ; Vern, run the only workshop in the district..have done for near on fifty or sixty years!…I don’t know…neither does anyone else…not even them!

    “Name doesn’t ring any bells..” Peter frowned

    “He was a very inventive sort of the line of mechanical things” ..I assisted.

    “Ooo, there were a lot of them about in them days” Peter opined “A lot of them…There was Pastor Ziedel, for instance…Why..HE was a sort of genius…Do you know, he invented a carburetor that could halve petrol consumption in a motor..but the thing was, he was dammed clever how he done it.” and here Peter tapped the side of his nose.

    “How so?” I asked.

    “Well, you know he didn’t want anybody to find out how he done it, so he got those little jets and needles and seats and whatnot made in different places by different chaps so no-one person could put them all together…Ooo..he was cunning alright”

    “So did you get to see how it looked?” I pushed on. Peter stopped, pulled up and looked at me in wide-eyed wonder.

    “No!..of course not, it was a secret!…hell, he wouldn’t let anyone see how he done it…why, if he went to any motor event, he’d take that carburetor off and put the old one on so nobody could pinch his design..Ooo, he was cunning , ; old Pastor Ziedel.”

    “But if no one saw it, how do you know it worked?”

    There was a pause in the response, which told me that this cynical line of reasoning had never before been broached…then ;…

    “Whhyy…of course it worked…you ask anybody who knew of it…he had it on his old Holden for years…of course it worked…and dammed good too!”

    “Well, I imagine some one saw it after he passed away…was it in his estate when they went through his effects?”

    “No..not that I ever heard..I suppose his son threw it out with a lot of other stuff.”

    “What!” I exclaimed “I would have thought it would be a very valuable item.”

    “Maybe…but because the old man was so secretive about it, I don’t suppose the sons would have know what it was if’n they came across it.”

    And THAT is the wonderful way local history is created!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, that carburettor was little known at the time. No wonder he died unknown. He could have entered it in a motor show by pinching the old ones and have them replaced with his own invention.
      Pastor Ziedel should have been more business savvy. Was he a Lutheran pastor? If so, that explains it. They are rather modest folk and generally end up being very good and kind, but…in secret


  3. Dorothy Says:

    Das you know dear gerard, Europe has hundreds of years of culture as opposed to Australia’s two hundred years. It’s in their DNA whereas in Australia’s “salad” of humanity, and because of our climate a sporting life is easy to revere. Thank goodness we do have access to cultureif we take advantage of it.
    In Russia when I went, after you did, it was normal for the ordinary working class to go to the theatre, ballet, etc. the cost was very affordable, and I think encouraged. Remember they don’t live on big blocks of land like some of us do here.
    But I agree 100% with you about the lack of appreciation of culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      That article is almost ten years old, Dorothy. I must have written it after Alexander Solzhenitsyn died (3 august 2008). It was dug up when I noticed it had no replies or even ‘likes.’
      I thought it still apt today and put it on ‘Facebook’ where you must have seen it.

      Many will argue that sport is part of culture as well. I mean the Olympics originated in Greece. Even sport might be seen as an art-form.

      I just think when sport occupies half the news it might be over-doing it. When does one ever see a Prime minister holding a book or visit an art gallery? Instead we are treated to Ministers rolling around with a ball or eating onions. I reckon most of them are culture haters.

      No doubt the next few weeks we will be drowning in cricket matches and footballers denying they have sexually assaulted wives or girlfriends. At least cricketers do it with bits of sandpaper in their pants.


  4. freefall852 Says:

    Hello Gerard…I am posting on here a response I wrote on The AIMN in reply to some criticism I got in an earlier post.

    I put up a short story and a reader mocked me with saying : “Henry Lawson you are not. . .” and went on to make fun of my story and writing style…to which I replied with a touch of satire and finished with telling him to “now fuck off”….a gentle touch, I thought..considering..

    And then I gave it some thought on the subject and came up with this..and i am wondering if you have similar experience and opinion in your journey toward your artistic endeavours…just curious..Joe.

    ” Thanks for the support all, but I can tell you honestly, it is not so much the insults that seem to bother people as my replies to those insultees !…Rest assured..I can look after myself quite sufficiently…I use people like the above “Noel” as a snot-rag…and I also would never think of myself as a writer first rather than a carpenter that scribbles some tales..My world as a builder is one of weights and measures…it is just that I have met , heard and seen so many and varied people-stories over the years that some of them just needed to be got down in writing…Like the above little episode…so I am not insulted by Noel’s, attempted a matter of fact, the aligning of myself alongside Henry Lawson via Noel’s own subconscious comparison equal, I consider a compliment..after all, he could have said : “A Barbara Cartland you are not!”….so let us be thankful for small mercies!

    Which brings me onto the subject of delivering such tales and yarns to the table…As I said, I am a carpenter first and I write stories in my retirement…so I have come to this ephemeral world of “art” by an accidental route..I have had no schooled instruction on how to frame rythmn or syntax in a paragraph or page..and my grammar is shithouse (thank you spell-check!) but I have learned a thing or two about delivering a story-line from the oral tradition (like, say in the front bar raconteur) to the read word…

    There was a yarn spinner I met up in the Flinders Rangers many, many years ago while I worked in a Barytes mine up above Quorn…he was the cook there in the camp…he was a shithouse cook, but he made up for it with riotous story-telling….Kevin Cotton was his name and by Christ he was good..and he’d accompany his tales with foot-stamping and arm-waving at the appropriate moments so that the oral tale became alive with the telling.

    But the secret, of course, in delivering “art” to either a viewer, listener or reader…is that the art of the story, music, picture is NOT in the artist’s work so much as already living and breathing within the body and mind of the passive audience…if there is no dormant emotion within the person, then there is no art that can awaken the “music” in that person…”the art is in the heart”..if I can put it like that…and that is why those old folk would buy those penny-dreadfuls or those Mills and Boons…and why that nun stole those pulp-fiction romances…they had the feelings locked away inside themselves and the reading triggered the release of those emotions.

    And I learned in my dealings with so many clients and the language we use in negotiation or conversation that most language is spoken using familiar cliches and throw-away lines…and the art in the rhetoric is not in creating a new form, but in laying at the feet to be easily “picked up”, the familiar and comfortable phrases..

    The skill of the artist is to deliver that “package” so the audience feels like THEY each are seeing it in their own personal way for the first time.”


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I went through the same for a long time till I learnt not to give those trolls the oxygen they so badly craved. It drove me to fantasies of garrotting and quartering by draught horses. The worst was a woman who must have had access to all sorts of different pseudos and e-mail addresses. She was/is relentless and I suspect she is on Aim now as well.

      Not replying is the best one can do.

      Your creative quality writing is a breath of fresh air, and says it all, and more.

      I think you know who this woman is.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. freefall852 Says: I said..I can handle the flies…but they can’t handle my responses top them…but getting back to the art thingo…I suspect this idea I wrote of “the art is in the heart” and the lack of the connecting emotions could explain why it is so difficult for many “Aussies” to come to grips with an artistic it audio, visual or litterate…and perhaps that explains the attraction of those MacMansions and jet-skis and holidays in those pastiche “Idylls by the sea” places…There is no more room for the emotions… is something too difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

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