Launch of Jewels of Earth, Sea and Sky
The Launch of Jewels of Earth, Sea and Sky was in the clear and uncluttered atmosphere of White Rhino Artspace was packed with people, buzz and ideas.
The name of the show reflects my inspiration to pin down precious forces through an art medium that is itself a force. I wanted to enter into an eerie collaboration with the beauty of nature through wax as a medium, drawing out the beautiful and also the damaged elements of our world. When I create an encaustic art work I feel caught in a creative spell which calls for engagement with energies outside my limited imagination – energies of beauty and power embedded in the natural world and its precious environment.
Beyond the art pieces, Catherine du Peloux Menagé - Artistic Director of the Sydney Crime Writers Festival and a literary interviewer and facilitator - asked some pertinent questions about Incinerate as you can read.
Lawyers are of course creative in their own field but not necessarily in the artistic sphere. What has taken you from a legal career to plunging into artistic creativity in not one but two fields? Was this always a part of you which has now been given permission to blossom?
The question why anyone would expose their imaginative wanderings and creations to the critique of others can only be answered by pointing to subconscious urges to enter into abstraction, imagination and expression. I believe in the mantra “less is more” in terms of conscious effort which can block authentic expression. I learnt that by riding horses and seeking to engage with their power. I suppose that is why Incinerate allows the barely conscious motivations and reactions of its characters to emerge and my art allows the wax to have a voice in the final creation.
The preface tells us you ‘were compelled to dive into the complex and shifting world of young people’. Tell us about this compulsion.
The world is a demanding and unforgiving space for young people with political correctness and unforgiving criticism in some cases stifling the urge to live a complex, free and fulfilling life. I wanted to explore that quandary mainly from a young man’s point of view. In my experience young men think in a precious and open way that sometimes is undervalued.
Writers sometimes talk of the moment when the idea for the story came to them. Is this what happened for you? Did the story come first or the characters?
I think the pivotal push to write Incinerate came from reading about a supposedly rational suggestion to ban men from sitting next to children on aircrafts. Some of those children would be male so what conclusion should they draw from that as to their own worth? But the book has no barrow to push, it is after all, just a novel about young people and in its own way trying to free them of the fear of experience and outcomes.
The characters are not so much cynical as in lacking in trust of others or lacking in hope. The message of the book is one of hope doused with reality.
The reality is that their fellow travellers on the planet are flawed, not always to be trusted, unpredictable, caught in their own personalities and ambitions but take a break, keep moving and keep accepting the risk of relationships. As a writer, I bear in mind Plato’s remarks in the Republic, bad characters are volatile and interesting, whereas good characters are dull and always the same.
Is this a morality play? Are you looking at the contemporary values here?
Iris Murdoch in an interview said a novelist is bound to express values and they should be conscious of that fact. The question for the novelist is the extent to which they aim to reflect on those values. Incinerate is only a morality play in its reflections on circumstance, motivation and outcome. It is up to the reader to decide if the characters are making the right decisions in persisting in their relationships with each other. That of course is what we all do every day in our choice of friends and partners. I guess I am perhaps urging readers to take a chill pill on life and enjoy aspects of people and situations in every dimension particularly in their contrast to yourself. I find the judgmental nature of social media and the daggers at dawn response to some actions and events disturbing and damaging to us all.
There is a lot of humour in the book – sometimes implicit and sometimes totally explicit. The dog hospice had me laughing out loud – shades of Evelyn Waugh’s Happier Hunting Ground in The Loved One.
Could you read that part – p 38-39
“Dog hospices. A novel idea. I had to admit it had some legs, excuse the pun. Not exactly the business I would have expected to come out of his mouth. But then again he looked like a conman who could sucker up a rich clientele who’s got cash lay around to lavish on their pampered pooches. I decided to play along.
“So, what’s your business model? How does it work and how are you planning to expand into Australia?” I asked.
Luke goes on, “Well man the way it works is that I identify high net worth individuals who love their dogs and as you know time passes, dogs age, and as they age let’s face it they become less attractive. A dying dog, man, often has a problem with excretions from both ends. There is a pretty foul smell that goes with that. The loving owner can’t go for walks with their cute dog pooing excessively. They start to feel guilty that they basically hate cleaning up after a dog entering decay. The vets are cashing in performing life extending surgery on these animals. I offer an alternative and obvious solution – an owner can salve all feelings of guilt by spending mega bucks putting the dog in a hospice to end its days in dignity, pain-free and from the owner’s point of view, seemingly smell-free. And I have not forgotten the delicate grieving process of the owner – my hospice offers counselling to prepare them for the dog’s inevitable demise plus (for no extra fee) I offer a pet selection process if they want to replace the loved pooch. My hospice can get you virtually a replica dog. It’s just a variation on the theme of replacing the old wife with the young one. I have dog crematoria, or if you prefer, a graveyard. We do headstones. It’s a package deal.”
Why the initials rather than your full name? And what does L stand for?
I wanted the reader to read the book through a non-gender specific framework – not to second guess the writer’s agenda and so on. L is for Louise.
Finding out the books that writers read always gives a useful insight. Who are some of your favourite writers and favourite books? You’ve mentioned Iris Murdoch to me.
I read Henry Handel Richardson’s novel, Maurice Guest, in my teenage years. Oddly enough apparently she was related to Iris Murdoch. Maurice Guest is a story of obsession, drama and tragedy. Perhaps not the best choice for a girl with an over active imagination. At some point I rejected the notion that dramatic suffering gave the world a more poignant meaning and moved on to the pursuit of happiness. That is what I seek for my characters in Incinerate. I like books that throw you into an unexperienced zone, like Ian McEwans recent novel, Machines Like me, which raises questions about ethics and predicaments relevant to robots and artificial intelligence. I liked Less by Andrew Sean Greer which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 because it gave the main character room to breathe and be a little crazy in his role as a forlorn man stumbling through one ridiculous encounter after another, as the Washington Post put it.
I started by saying that a lot of people feel they have one book in them – is this the start for you? Are you currently working on anything else?
I have started a book called Product Triple AAA – partly because of my work in safety and artificial intelligence and partly because we are already enmeshed in AI in our decision processes and responses, I am fascinated by how the human condition will evolve and retain its intrinsic imperfection. It is not science fiction, more a story of human predicament in an evolving social value structure.
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