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Desert Life, the art of Central Australia, review of new exhibition

SarahTreeWalking into Desert Life, an exhibition by Sarah Brown which opened yesterday at the M16Artspace in Canberra is like being transported to Alice Springs. Except perhaps that the carefully-controlled temperature in the gallery is more moderate.

It is a strange language that is often used to describe the Red Centre. People talk of the dead heart of Australia.  Of arid wasteland. Of a vast nothingness. As anyone who has lived there will attest, and as Sarah’s work shows, nothing is further from the truth. Her paintings portray not only the unique colours and shapes and space of Central Australia, although that alone is an extraordinary feat. But also the rich abundance of life there is, if only we choose to see it.

To look at her paintings is to feel the sting of the spinifex spike if spinafexyou accidentally brush bare skin against it, to see the history of the earth in the walls of the MacDonnell Ranges. It is to need your sunglasses to look at the startling whiteness of the towering ghost gums against the bluest of blue skies. It is definitely not empty. Or dead. It is mysterious and magical and unique. And Sarah’s paintings convey that truth.

I first met Sarah when I went to interview her for a newspaper feature article.  We met at her home which is as charming, colourful and unorthodox as she is. Quite apart from the very large dog which spent most of the interview on my lap, it has a labyrinth-like layout including a secret cellar. Scattered almost carelessly around the home were beautiful paintings of land that was a mirror of the country I had walked through that

On the road: Barrow Creek, Northern Territory, Australia

Barrow Creek Roadhouse

IT’S just gone 10 in the morning and Les Pilton, owner of the Barrow Creek Roadhouse, is serving pies rather than pints. In fact, the only one in the bar, or on the bar to be exact, is Tiger. And he’s flat out asleep. Just as he has been most of the morning.
Most times Les passes by as he serves customers he gives Tiger an affectionate tickle. It’s no more than Tiger expects. That’s his spot, says Les indulgently. It’s clear who is top dog. And it’s not the two canines Ed and Sophie.  
Every inch of the bar and the walls of the Roadhouse is scrawled with signatures or festooned with photographs. They are a permanent testimony to the hundreds

How many books is too many?

TassieLibraryphotoCan you ever read too many books? Author and Poet Michael Bourne raised the question this week writing in The Millions when he revealed he had read 56 books in 2012, slightly down from the average of 60 books per year he had set himself when he entered a new millenium. To achieve his target he had to read five books a month or just over one book per week. 
 
“For years now, reading has been something like training for a marathon,” he writes.  “I keep mental tallies of how many pages I’ve read per night, and how many more pages I need to read in the next few days to keep to my average. In 2011, after years of hovering in the mid-50s, when my annual average hit precisely 60 — that is, 720 books read over 12 years — I did a private victory lap.”
 
Bourne keeps track of  his reading habits by listing every book he has read dating back over the past 12 years so he can quickly tell how he is tracking, month by month,  to ensure that he fulfills his target. Unfortunately the result wasn’t just  a considerable amount of  great reading but also a compulsion to stick to his timetable and achieve his quota and that took over from pure reading pleasure as motivation.  No More.
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