September 2007

Arts & Letters

‘Linda Marrinon: Let Her Try’ by Chris McAuliffe

By Justin Clemens

Chris McAuliffe’s governing image for Linda Marrinon’s career is that of Voltaire’s Candide, tending carefully to the garden despite the vicissitudes of the world. Beginning in the early 1980s with hilariously understated anti-aesthetic canvases such as Sorry! and I Sailed to Tahiti with an All-Girl Crew, Marrinon has - like so many contemporary artists - studiously avoided anything approaching a signature style, instead switching media, materials and techniques from show to show. The cartoonishly simple Linda’s World (1982) depicts a dark bottle pouring out an ever-swelling, impossibly large pyramid of brown muck, which has a predictable label written in large, clumsy capitals; Rock with Underpants (1992) is a lump of bluestone sporting red-and-white underpants; Boxer (2006) is a whimsically elegant figure made of bronze, plaster and muslin. Then there are the landscapes of the mid-’90s, bearing such amusing titles as Golf Course at Seddon and Oil Slick at Sorrento, which are pretty analyses of the limits of the picturesque tradition.

McAuliffe’s prose is punchy and unpretentious, retaining focus and clarity whether the topic is the late-’80s inner-Melbourne avant-garde, high-end theoretical concepts or simply the works themselves. Without unduly harping on profits and losses, McAuliffe delineates the changing institutions of Australian art over the past 25 years, from its old-school quasi-amateurish networks to the hyper-organised corporate machine of today. Whoever studies, makes, sees, shows, sells and buys art now doesn’t do so under the same conditions as in the ‘80s; and because McAuliffe, like Marrinon, grew up during this epochal shift in the milieu and the market, he’s well placed to document some of its peculiarities.

By far the best-edited book in Craftsman House’s New Art Series, Linda Marrinon: Let Her Try can still irritate the reader with such discrepancies as different spellings of the same word on the same page. But that’s a minor quibble in the circumstances, for the selection of images and the design are as illuminating as the text.

Justin Clemens

Justin Clemens writes about contemporary Australian art and poetry. He teaches at the University of Melbourne.

There is nowhere quite like The Monthly. We are told that we live in a time of diminished attention spans; a time where the 24-hour-news-cycle has produced a collective desire for hot takes and brief summaries of the news and ideas that effect us. But we don’t believe it. The need for considered, reflective, long-form journalism has never been greater, and for almost 20 years, that’s what The Monthly has offered, from some of our finest writers.

That kind of quality writing costs money, and requires the support of our readers. Your subscription to The Monthly allows us to be the home for the best, most considered, most substantial perspectives on the state of the world. It’s Australia’s only current affairs magazine, an indispensable home for cultural commentary, criticism and reviews, and home to personal and reflective essays that celebrate and elevate our humanity.

The Monthly doesn’t just comment on our culture, our society and our politics: it shapes it. And your subscription makes you part of that.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

From the front page

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Letter from Dunkley

As a byelection draws the nation’s focus to the scrappy suburb of the author’s childhood, a visit reveals the damage wrought by the housing crisis

Kim Williams seen through window with arms half-raised

The interesting Mr Williams

At a time when the ABC faces more pressure than ever before, is its new chair the right person for the job?

Andrew Tate in dark sunglasses flanked by two men, attending his trial in Bucharest, Romania, July 2023

The Tate race

Online misogyny touted by the likes of Andrew Tate (awaiting trial for human trafficking and rape) is radicalising Australian schoolboys

Exterior of the Department of Treasury, Canberra

Tax to grind

Tax reform should not be centred on what we want, but on who we want to be

In This Issue

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Ticked off

Image of The Saints’ Chris Bailey at the Pig City show, Brisbane, July 2007. © Marc Grimwade

Tales from pig city

The Saints

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Comment

Let a thousand weeds bloom

Andrew Keen’s ‘The Cult of the Amateur’

More in Arts & Letters

David Malouf, March 2015 in Sydney

An imagined life: David Malouf

Celebrating the literary great’s 90th birthday with a visit to his incongruous home of Surfers Paradise to discuss a life in letters

Tony McNamara in New York City, January 2024

Pure things: Tony McNamara

How the Australian screenwriter of ‘Poor Things’, who cut his teeth on shows such as ‘The Secret Life of Us’, earnt his second Oscar nomination

Jeffrey Wright in ‘American Fiction’

The dread of the author: ‘American Fiction’ and ‘Argylle’

Cord Jefferson’s satire about Black artists fighting white perceptions of their work runs out of ideas, while Matthew Vaughn’s spy movie parody has no ideas of its own

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Pictures of you

The award-winning author kicks off our new fiction series with a story of coming to terms with a troubled father’s obsessions


More in Noted

Cover of Lauren Oyler’s ‘No Judgement: On Being Critical’

Lauren Oyler’s ‘No Judgement’

The American author and critic’s essay collection moves from her gripes with contemporary cultural criticism to personal reflection

Cover of Sheila Heti’s ‘Alphabetical Diaries’

Sheila Heti’s ‘Alphabetical Diaries’

The Canadian writer’s presentation of sentence-long entries from her diaries, organised alphabetically, delivers a playful and unpredictable self-examination

Cover of ‘Kids Run the Show’

Delphine de Vigan’s ‘Kids Run the Show’

The French author’s fragmentary novel employs the horror genre to explore anxieties about intimacy, celebrity and our infatuation with life on screens

Still from ‘Boy Swallows Universe’

‘Boy Swallows Universe’

The magical realism in Netflix’s adaptation of Trent Dalton’s bestselling novel derails its tender portrayal of family drama in 1980s Brisbane’s suburban fringe


Online latest

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

International Film Festival Rotterdam highlights

Films from Iran, Ukraine and Bundaberg were deserving winners at this year’s festival

Two women on a train smile and shake hands

‘Expats’ drills down on Hong Kong’s class divide

Plus, Netflix swallows Trent Dalton, Deborah Mailman remains in ‘Total Control’ and ‘Vanderpump Rules’ returns for another season

Image of a man playing music using electronics and the kora (West African harp)

Three overlooked albums of spiritual jazz from 2023

Recent releases by kora player John Haycock, trumpeter Matthew Halsall and 14-piece jazz ensemble Ancient Infinity Orchestra feel like a refuge from reality