An Education

5:39 PM

Philip Clairmont, Fireplace, 1970.
The Fletcher Trust Collection

Since I've arrived back home in New Zealand, and supposedly for 'good', I'm attempting to educate myself on our arts and literature culture, I am embarrassed to say I know next to nothing of it, a few Katherine Mansfield books from school, a couple of well known artists  and several photographers. But I am pretty much starting from scratch. It's like Educating Rita but without a besotted tutor to help.

I've just finished Martin Edmond's 'The Resurrection of Philip Clairmont' which is part straight biography (the second half of the book) and part personal documentary on the researching of the book. It must be difficult to write an intimate biography and still keep a respectful distance, to the subject and to the interviewees. It must be harder still when the book is about a man who took his own life. Edmond is a sensitive researcher and he reveals the often awkward, worrying, meaningful and lonely moments he spends on the road, interviewing and tracking down Clairmont's family and contemporaries. The biography part introduced me to a New Zealand I didn't know about, the beginnings of the dealer art galleries in NZ, the posse of artists in the late 60's, some of them heavily into experimenting with drugs, the art schools but most of all it has made me desperate to see some of Clairmont's work, they are apparently difficult, beautiful, vivid, mysterious, nightmarish.

"Clairmont, having relayed his essence as a series of images into the mirror world of painting, from where they look back at us in their multifarious attitudes, exciting pity and terror, had, finally, to go himself into eternity, the actual psyche, the real body, had no alternative but to follow where the mind had already gone...into the painting". Martin Edmond 'The Resurrection of Philip Clairmont'.

I am now reading 'Wrestling with the Angel; a life of Janet Frame' by Michael King and loving it. On the reading list, 'The Skinny Louie Book' by Fiona Farrell, James K. Baxter Poems, 'The End of the Golden Weather' by Bruce Mason, 'Where Your Left Hand Rest' by Fiona Kidman, 'The Goose Bath' by Janet Frame. Further suggestions welcomed.

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