The Visionary Imagination, as expressed in the work of William Blake, Patrick White and Brett Whiteley has given me a new way of seeing and understanding the world.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of William Blake. I just did not realise it. One of my all-time favourite quotes has always been;
While researching Blake during the semester I also discovered that one of my favourite contemporary novels, The Poison Tree, takes its title from a Blake poem. Like many artists that have come before, Blake was never fully appreciated in his lifetime. Rejected by 18th Century society, Blake is now championed for his innovative and imaginative contributions to literature. His work continues to influence many artists from the 20th and 21st Centuries such as The Doors, American singer, songwriter, poet, and visual artist Patti Smith and beatniks poet, Alan Ginsberg.
It is hard to categorise Blake, as he does not fall into one particular genre as such. Much of his work centres on themes such as heaven and hell, innocence and experience and the fight between good and evil. This is very much in evidence in the poem The Argument which we studied in class. After giving the poem some thought, I began to see the character of Rintrah (Blake’s alter ego?) as a representation of disillusionment, foreshadowing what the world may become in the future. Blake emulates Biblical prophecies in this poem in order to comment on the progression of humanity and where we are headed. Blake is encouraging a change in the way we think and look at the world. Concepts such as good and evil, body and soul, energy and reason and heaven and hell are not opposites, fighting each other. As an alternative, Blake is suggesting that these opposites need each other and that they are mutually dependent. These are themes that have been addressed by writers and artists before Blake, however, he approached these subjects in his own unique mixture of imagination, passion and mysticism.
As always, one of my favourite components of the course is attending art galleries to connect the work we are reading with other artists and art forms. Attending the Brett Whiteley studio provided further insight into the influence of Blake, inspiring other artists to express their inner contemplations of life and the world. Whiteley’s work Alchemy has references to Blake and Australian author Patrick White in its 18 panels of sexual landscapes and mindscapes. While wandering around in the upstairs, I was pleased to discover a number of Patti Smith albums in Whiteley’s music collection, cementing the connection of Blake and the influence artists have on each other.
The character of Alf Dubbo in Patrick White’s Riders in the Chariot is a man that has been damaged and discarded. Dubbo has a need to express his artistic vision, without ever fully understanding this need to create. It is something that is embedded in him. It is something he needs to do. Through his art, and the actual practice of painting, getting it out of his system, Dubbo eventually comes to understand the possibility of redemption.
A constant theme in the works we examined this semester is the connection to the Divine. While I left the teaching and practice of the church and the bible a long time ago, I still have the desire and need to connect spiritually to the Divine or God. I call this connection `The Universe’. I find my religion in nature and the world around me. It is artists such as Blake, White, Whiteley and Ginsberg that present the alternative approach to the Divine and how other roads can lead to revelation and salvation.