Stuck on trees: Australian she-oaks (sp. Casuarina)

August 29, 2013

Today’s is a “non-sketch”, so flimsy as to be of no significance at all. Ten minutes’ worth, while waiting for a train.

What is significance is its context. Travelling widely around Sydney this week, the ugly national mood sweeping through Australia at the moment, ahead of Federal elections on Saturday, is very very palpable.

I’ve seen this all before. Thoroughly anticipated, I’m used to it, though It’s just such a very bad feeling when it comes around again. I first experienced this Zeitgeist shift  first-hand in November 1975, when the USA quietly helped organize a coup to bring down the government here. The tide comes in and goes out; the social fabric is mended for a time, then rendered asunder again. A decade or so of benevolent dictatorship takes hold for a decade or so, but then we tire of the cruelty. Thus follows a few short years of democratic socialism (loosely based on Christianity, so Christian Democratic Socialism of a sort). It’s fun re-discovering our humanity again, but that palls after a time so we all swing back to Fascism. But, hey, that’s what being Australian is all about!

So I’m busy reorganizing my life in response: quickly ditching my charity work and volunteering, any activity that is free and unpaid. Everything must have a dollar value attached to it or it’s not worth doing; none of this namby-pamby Helping Others! Altruism and compassion are fast becoming dirty words, being replaced by self-centredness, mutual suspicion and merciless exploitation of others. Inflicting pain on others is something in our collective DNA, reaching back to our convict/penal colony past, and is again to the fore, but not being a naturally cruel person, the next ten years will be hard for me!

With art-as-refuge in mind, I’m momentarily bypassing reality with some Casuarina trees (Australian she-oaks), 10mins, 4B pencil, with today’s soundtrack, Sungha Jung’s cover of “Some Body that I used to know”(

She-oaks never feature in the work of Australian painters, probably because they’re so non-descript and “lifeless” (but perhaps Sydney Long attempted to paint them?). Little wonder Australian artists stick to angophoras. If that great artist Lloyd Rees could spend the Great Depression drawing Moreton Bag figs around Sydney Harbour, then perhaps so should I!

casuarina 1


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