Why I could never agree with John Berger

Image courtesy of Verso Books


Berger’s ground breaking Ways of Seeing was a cultural tour de force. It remains highly relevant today. But I have never been able to agree with most of what he said.

Growing up in an outer Melbourne suburb, I was blissfully unaware of Berger whose book was published when I was about 11. What I was aware of was the painful ugliness of miles of new suburban housing and the almost visceral reaction I had to the destruction of bush, re-routing of creeks and bulldozing of apple orchards in our neighbourhood.  This left me with a life-long appreciation of beauty, and a consequent resistance to any philosophy that told me I couldn’t have it, or it didn’t exist. I had seen it, and I had seen it destroyed.

So Berger and I were never going to get along, as for him, concepts like beauty are merely conditioned responses, built into us through culture by the powerful for the purpose of control.

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Sargent, Sisley and painting in the snow


Alexandra Sasse painting at Falls Creek 2016
Alexandra Sasse painting at Falls Creek 2016

Painting in the snow; what is the colour of white?


I am painting in oil, a great medium for the brilliance of the colours of the snow and sky, although John Singer Sargent made watercolour look like the only way to approach it. This is Mountain Fire,  (1903, John Singer Sargent, Brooklyn Museum)

'Mountain Fire' John Singer Sargent. Brooklyn Museum
‘Mountain Fire’ John Singer Sargent. 1903 Brooklyn Museum

Sargent’s fluid, semi abstract approach almost suggests automatism – that kind of painting that celebrates the subconscious mind and which was popular after Freud and Jung’s theories became widely known. But leveraging the unconscious mastery of a medium

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Where Did All The Realist Art Go?

Contemporary realism is rarely exhibited on these shores.

The perfect storm of the amateur embracing realism and the contemporary art establishment shunning it has resulted in a dearth of serious figurative painting exhibitions. But it’s big news in Spain with the Madrid Realists exhibition at the Thyssen Bornemisza museum. And these are real paintings, not that nonsense that passes for paintings, those made by projecting digital images on to a canvas and colouring in with paint. Not sure of the difference? You wouldn’t be alone in that.

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