Arts and Letters Report, January 2019

By Jennifer Ann Davies

NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser

“O tempora! O mores!”               Oh the times! Oh the customs! (Latin)

History opens up like a landscape for us to see through forgotten windows. Musee des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, France.

People, in general, are looking back at different times and different customs! Readers and viewers seek the truths and details of human histories written without the blurred boundaries of a post-truth era.

Many are reading books which have been published for some time, but which posit histories, facts, values and social mores which have not been devoured or compromised by the appetites and nuances of post-modernism.

 Writing is part of the thinking process and at times, a debate with self. It is a gift and a joy to read the work of writers who have engaged in that very debate and evaluated and interpreted research and the world’s human and socio-political histories well and have not just summarised these.

What, then, are Queenslanders reading?

ONE NIGHT IN WINTER, Simon Sebag MONTEFIORE Arrow Books, London, 2014, is a book that is currently circulating in diverse reading circles. The evaluation and interpretation of the world’s history, chaos and human survival informs and is of immense value; particularly for readers who are looking for Truth. Montefiore is the author of several prize-winning history books and his books are published in over forty languages.

A gripping, sobering, darkly enigmatic and enjoyable read, cleverly plotted, set in the heart of a violent society; this novel of passion, fear, bravery, suffering and survival is uniquely terrifying.

Much has been written about the thrill, love, emotions, redemption, passion, hope, heart-ache and romance of this masterly, historically authentic book, but the ‘liberalism’ with which many well-worn terms and clichés are used is quite disturbing, yet never misleading.

Chilling reminders are stark against the landscape of the darkest days of Communist Russia and the power one man can wield over a nation’s lives. You will wipe away tears and not because of the chill of Soviet Winters, but because love and death swirl…centrifugal. Human fragility and passions are still placed under the intimidating shadows of Stalin, Hitler and Lenin. Facing historical realities, instead of whisking them away; exposing genuine dualities and positing an informed evaluation and interpretation of such times, forges an amazing read!

AMANDINE, a novel by Italy’s Marlena de BLASI, is another wonderful book in circulation, with authentic details from human history; the natural world and undiluted socio-political events. Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest NSW 2065, 2010.

The ‘noble’ Czartoryski family – Krakow 1916 – betrayal, murder, chaos, bitterness…a new generation – a baby girl is born – AMANDINE – extravagantly ‘erased’ – removed to a convent in Montpellier!

De Blasi is praised, often, for her expertly wrought historical detail. Intricate, effective, engaging and exquisite, is the tight weave of the world at large; humanity, power and betrayal; love that fuses and forges newness and hope. Beautifully, this woman- author also uses direct parallels with the realities, ripples and rhythmsof the natural world.

“Amandine delights in the outdoors. She wanders about, touching, smelling, inspecting…She scrutinises a swallow’s nest, windblown and landed in the herb beds, and often she gossiped with the birds, standing under some branches where they perch, nodding, chirping. She answers them. They her. In the furrows beneath the vines, violets grow and, one by one, she gathers them – only the darkest blue ones will do. Lining up the gossamer stems in her trembling palm, she ties them with a blade of meadow grass…Her nose yellowed from dipping it into wildflowers, leaves tangled in her sweaty curls, cheeks red from the labours of her forage, she is pleased…” p.67

For Readers – for Women and Girls – for Mothers and Daughters – for all that we represent and all we reject, this is an abundantly rich and unforgettable read! ‘Amandine’ is published in many languages, for readers and speakers of languages other than English.

Email:      ISBN 978 1 74175 7125


What have Audiences in Queensland been viewing?

FILM – History is about to change! – COLETTE – based on a true story of a wonderful female writer, social constraints, the dichotomies of ‘ownership’, and a Woman who made her voice heard, long before others…..After marrying a successful Parisian writer, “Willy”, (Dominic West), Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightly) is transplanted from her childhood home in rural France to the intellectual and artistic splendour of Paris. Willy convinces her to ghost-write for him and Collette pens an autobiographical novel about a witty and brazen country girl named Claudine, sparking a best-seller and a cultural sensation!

Because of its success, Colette and Willy become the talk of Paris but Colette is FORCED to write consecutive novels, for which Willy received acclaim and income. Colette’s fight over creative ownership defies gender roles and drives her to overcome societal constraints, revolutionising literature, fashion and sexual expression. Inspiring – brave – lovely!


SCULPTED SAND WONDERLAND – Jino VAN BRUINESSEN was born in Holland but came to Australia 34 years ago; currently living in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. This artist has worked as a water-colour artist, prop maker, sculptor and scenic artist and has been involved in the Film/Entertainment industries for some decades.

Van Bruinessen has currently been travelling in Queensland and presented a beautiful ‘Dragon Themed Sand Wonderland’ in the Far North, with the stunning sand sculptures representing characters from the children’s film “How To Train Your Dragon: Hidden World”. Members of the public, including the kids, were able to watch this artist and two of his assistants, at work, sculpting the kinetic sand – interesting, beautiful and entertaining.



A NEW BODY OF WORK WAS PRESENTED TO VIEWERS, in 2019, demonstrating the artist’s keen observations and her affection for the familiar things of everyday life. ANDREA HUELIN is a Cairns based artist whose still-life paintings capture, with an incisive clarity and attention to detail, everyday objects that surround us in our daily lives.

In this new exhibition, however, Huelin experiments with new techniques and moves beyond portrayals of objects to capturing people at work and leisure. Her aim is to communicate fleeting moments of ordinary life – maintaining, nevertheless, her recurrent theme.

The artist says that she is “…approaching painting the figures in a similar way to my still life paintings – abbreviating details, yet aiming for a satisfying sharpness and sparkle. Of course, with people comes the challenge of communicating human attitudes, energy and movement, with which I aim to convey simple narratives like teamwork, concentration or boredom.” p.23, Cairns Art Gallery Members Newsletter 75, December 2018 – February 2019.

The opening event for ‘Everyday’ included Emma Fowler-Thomason, Partnerships Manager, Arts Queensland.                                


Having briefly journeyed through history, social mores, customs and change, perhaps this little ‘gem’ may be believable?  “tomorrow: (noun) A magical place where all productivity, achievement and motivation is stored.”



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