Thursday, June 7, 2012


Art in Australia spans from pre-historical times to today. Aboriginal art is primarily rock art and can be found all over the island, each area having its distinct varieties, but many of the more preserved areas are located at Uluru and in the Kakadu National Park. There is a movement surrounding the preservation of many of these rock sites and the cataloging of these sites. It’s considered to be some of the oldest art in the world. 

Some of the first European-transplanted artists were mainly painters, mostly with the intention of capturing the landscape and scenery but also many of the plants and animals that were indigenous to the area. When they took their art back to Europe, they were met with uncertainty and disbelief of the legitimacy of what they were seeing. In fact, they thought some of the animals, like the platypus, were a joke. Later during the mid-1800s, people started to establish art exhibitions, the first ones being in Melbourne. They were flops in the beginning, but later became quite successful. Art museums started popping up, not only collecting notable works from Europe but also from Australian artists as well.

Modern art in Australia has been influenced by several different European styles. One of those was Impressionism.  Other influences can be seen in cubism and surrealism. You’ll also find a lot of sculpture and photography art as well.

Australian literature spans all literary genres, from poetry to children’s literature to epic novels. And this also includes Aboriginal Literature as well. There is no written language to many of the Aboriginal languages, so until the Europeans came, none of their stories were ever written down.

The highest-selling book in Australia was The Thorn Birds (1977) by Colleen McCullough. It was later remade into a TV mini-series starring a slew of famous actors and actresses. Other works that turned to film were Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark, which was the basis and inspiration of Schindler’s List.

I started reading a sample of the book True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey.  I think I may have to buy it so that I can finish it. However, it’s actually fiction. But that’s ok. Maybe that might make it better knowing it was just fiction.

Another writer that I had no idea was Australian is James Clavell. As a student of the Japanese language for the past almost 20 years, I finally read Shogun several years ago. It took me a long time to read it, and it was epically long. But it was a really good book. It’s actually part of the Asian Saga, a set of six books that are epic novels taking place various areas in Asia. There was also a really long mini-series for Shogun as well. The ironic part? Richard Chamberlain starred in the mini-series for both The Thorn Birds and Shogun.

Since I’m such a fan of the Six Degrees of Separation, I realized I can be tied to James Clavell. It’s like this: James Clavell was one of the screenwriters for one of my favorite movies The Great Escape. That movie starred Steve McQueen, one of the coolest guys ever. (Ever!) Steve McQueen was born in Beech Grove, Indiana (a suburb of Indianapolis), which is only a few miles from where I live.

Australian art and literature has been highlighted, inspired, influenced, and generally spread across the world, and especially in the English-literature world. I did come across a website that highlights the 50 Must Read writers/novels in the world of Australian literature. Although it was from a few years ago, it looks like a good place to start if you’re looking for something new to read. You can check it out here.

Up next: Music and Dance

Wikipedia: “Australian art” “The Thorn Birds” “True History of the Kelly Gang” “James Clavell” “Shogun” "Australian literature"

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