Tom Carment: people, paddocks, coastlines

Hawkesbury Regional Gallery invites you to

Tom Carment

people, paddocks, coastlines

Please join us for the opening at 6pm Friday 4 April, 2008 by artist Euan Macleod

In conjunction with

The Alan Cleary Collection

5 April – 4 May 2008


Deerubbin Centre (1st Floor), 300 George St (PO BOX 146) WINDSOR 2756

T: 02 4560 4441 gallery@hawkesbury.nsw.gov.au
Weekdays 10am – 4pm (closed Tuesdays & public holidays) Weekends 10am – 3pm

Redgate Beach
watercolour & gouache on arches paper 11 X 15 cms. 2007

(this is not the image that's being used to advertise the show, and the work may not even be in it; but I think I remember Tom telling me it was bought by someone who lives, not just in Summer Hill, but further up this actual street; so even though it's of a beach in WA, it's also local)


Can we fix it? / Yes we can!

I'm like everybody else - fragments of songs, words and tunes, pass continually through my mind. Sometimes I recognise them, sometimes not. Perhaps they are very old, as old as the species; perhaps not. It's hard to say. They might be from some kid's show I used to see when my boys were little and I still lived with them. If they become too insistent, and if I can find the song among the cds, I'll play it as a way of laying the ghost. Or not - given air, it may persist past distraction. There's a bird on the witch's spike at the top of the spire: like a bird on a wire ... under louring skies. Should that be lowering. Flying the black flag of himself. In the grey light of dawn, when the frogs are just quieting and the koels, the currawongs or some other corvid begin to make their exploratory morning calls, I'm liable to host lines of verse, not random, not unknown: Desolate is the crow's puckered cry, I'll think. As an old woman's mouth / When the eyelids have finished / And the hills continue ... Lines can come unbidden at any hour; or are they bidden, or biddable? Why am I subject to these invasions? A lifetime of listening, yes, of reading; but still. As the dull gunshot and its after-râle / Among conifers, in rainy twilight. Since I have been reading Colin Tudge's The Secret Life of Trees, they, the trees, look different to me. Look differently at me. Xylem and phloem, I say to myself, when I see their beautiful variety growing around the oval of the local park. Chlorophyll. Stomata. What is the music of trees? Sentient, surely; but not. Or are they? Silent? No. Unless the wind is. He speaks of meeting trees. Sometimes, not often, he gets their names wrong: I only know this when he's writing about the Aotearoans. This afternoon, at NV, lunching with a friend, I had the rare luxury of saying out loud the words in my head: To want nothing is / The only possible freedom ... And then the next bit, that reduces me almost to tears, which I don't shed, but tears anyway: But I prefer to think of / An afternoon spent drinking rum and cloves / In a little bar, just after the rain had started, in another time / Before we began to die ... It doesn't matter, but those lines always return me to the Queens Ferry in Vulcan Lane, Auckland, which I think they are about. And that in turn sends me back to when I was so much younger, younger than today, and I might or might not have drunk, not rum and cloves, but beer, in the same pub. Or the one next door, whose name I can't now remember: ... the taste of boredom on the tongue / Easily dissolving, and the lights coming on - / With what company? I forget ... And so it goes, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, a song in the head, a fragment of a poem always at the lip of speech. This Buick's a Century, '73 like you / Some strange religion ... Or: The voice I hear this passing night was heard / In ancient days by emperor and clown ... Or: Where is there an end of it, the soundless wailing ... And:


The art really is in isolating yourself and letting as few things into your head as possible. To only admit those things into your head that come from a direction where no one else ever looks. That is the difficult thing.



the world before & after the flood

Hieronymus Bosch, The World before and after the Flood, ca. 1514

The top two panels are the inner sides of the wing panels of the Flood triptych; the bottom two, the reverse sides of those above. The central panel is lost.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam


Last night, out with friends, I remembered something I haven't thought of in years. It came back to mind like a dream, although I know it is something that really happened. Summer of 1980/81, in Auckland, not long before I came over here for the first time. I'd been crewing on a feature film that was made by a group of Americans, South Africans, Australians and, in the lower echelons of the hierarchy, New Zealanders. Started out as Third Assistant to the Director, ended up in the Art Department. One of the crew, a fellow by the name of Jonno, perhaps a props buyer or something similar, called me up one day after the shoot was over and asked if I'd like to go with him up north to the Hokianga to pick up - what? Feel like saying it was a piano but likely some other piece of more utilitarian furniture. I didn't know Jonno very well and I've never seen him again. He was tanned and easy, with a wide white smile and an insouciant air. Some kind of truck. We drove up to Helensville, skirted the Kaipara, went through Dargaville and the Waipoua forest, then crossed at Rawene by ferry to Kohukohu? Or did we drive around the top of the harbour? The place where we were going was on the north side, we went out along a bad road until we found the turn off then took a long twisting track down through thick bush to the water's edge. The house was a grand old two storey mansion built above a quiet bay. It was empty and deserted. Dust along the wooden floors. The furniture all gone. Whatever we had come for wasn't there anymore. Its history was fragmentary, perhaps fictional. The owner and builder had made a lot of money, in timber or kauri gum or land sales - or all three. He had gone to Europe to look for a wife and in Paris wooed and won a Frenchwoman, said to have been a dancer. This was probably between the wars but may have been earlier. He had built this house for her and they had lived there together in loneliness and strife. The track down was new, in the old days the only way in and out was by boat to and from the cove below. What had she done? There were no children. There was perhaps no love either. Had she left, or died? Had he blown his brains out with a shotgun at the boat landing? Or was the denouement more prosaic but no less heartbreaking? It was one of the most desolate and beautiful places I have been. Afterwards, empty, we bumped back up the track to the road and, with white dust pluming from our wheels, went back the way we had come. I recall trying to write something, a film script, about this place but nothing came of it, I was many years away from being able to make sense of an event this resonant, this compelling, in words. It seemed that a forlorn music rose from among the dust along the splintery wooden floors. Made of ennui, of longing, of misplaced hopes and impossible dreams. Perhaps she went back to Paris and resumed whatever life she had before or could find again in Europe after the rain. Et la maison? Is it still there? The memory I have of it is so delusive I do not think I could ever find that place again; and, if I did, that it would not in the least resemble what I have made of it. New Zealand is a young country, full of premature disappointments such as this one is or might have been; but the north is old, sandy and old and more like an island of the Pacific than anywhere else in Aotearoa. It whispers to you, sotto voce, and the stories it tells are never more than fragmentary, always just below sense, replete with meaning that you cannot quite retrieve. I hear it now, subliminally talking: C'est aussi simple qu'une phrase musicale.