Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hobart, Tasmania. a personal memory.

Hunter River Steamship Company's "Karuah".


Hobart, Tasmania.

Sailing into any large beautiful harbour is always a wonderful experience, Hobart did not disappoint. I was a young ordinary seaman at the time, the early 1950s, on a Hunter River Steamship Company that made a regular weekly voyage there to load potatoes and apple, I was entranced. In those days Hobart was a very busy port,  dozens of ships  at their births or out at anchor in on the Derwent waiting to come alongside.


Alfred Holts’ Blue Funnel Line from Liverpool,  rubbed  shoulders with the Red Star vessels and a large assortment of ships from all over the world. Rationing was still rife in post-war Europe, and Australia was doing a roaring trade in chilled beef, tined fruit and vegetables, jams etc. Salamanca wharf was a working dock full of trucks, lorries, and wharf labourers pushing trollies in every direction. Often the various crew s from Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool or Amsterdam would fall out with each other, generally over pretty girls or vast amounts of alcohol, the waterfront hotels could be pretty rough. Much of Australia was still in the grip of Victorian moral values, and it was considered sinful to drink alcohol after 6pm. I believe this was a wartime measure to ensure everyone was home and tucked up in bed with the lights out for fear of Japanese bombing. Tasmania being much further south than N.S.W. escaped this regulation that made their ports much more attractive to seaman sailing around the Australian coast.


There was no Tasmanian Bridge and the only way across the river was by a floating bridge. Its construction consisted of joined barge like pontoons that bounced around a lot as you drove over them, not to mention the excitement when crossing in bad weather. Not that there was a lot houses on the eastern shore judging by the night time lights. Hobart was very much a provisional town, horse watering trough in Murray Street, and old country style wrought iron lace on many shop awnings. Traffic was minimal and everyone moved around by tram. This has always been a great way to travel as you were able to jump on and off when the fancy took you When I am in a city that still uses trams I will always do so. The journey is slow and you are able to take in the view. Once  in Hobart  I took the tram out to New Town and that felt like a trip into the country.


In those days there were many cinemas and dance halls. One I particularly acquired a fondness for was the Sapphire Ball Room in Liverpool Street, this establishment held dances nearly every  night . As I remember the place was always packed with pretty girls who were very friendly to foreign sailors. At times, I felt many were anxious to flee the island for the wide exotic world beyond. Hobart in those days still enjoyed a wonderful harmony in its, early colonial, Victorian, Art Deco, a style not fully respected by many current residents. Many Georgian sandstone buildings lined the main streets, of which a lot have sadly disappeared in the name of progress. Where the AMP building now stands and opposite on the site of the ANZ Bank in the Mall stood very fine sandstone buildings sadly gone forever. Still Hobart has much to offer even today architecturally when compared to Sydney, that to my mind has been reduced to ugliness, by what can only be described as greed.


I had intended telling you a little about the” Karuah”, she was one of the last old style steam ships plying Australian waters. Built in the early part of the 20th century, she only displaced 533 tons, and could be a little uncomfortable in heavy weather. Being a steam ship we still carried trimmers and stockers to shovel in the coal to the boiler fire. Being an old ship  she  had an open forecastle accommodation, this was the type of cabins portrayed in films concerning sailing ships, eight to ten to a cabin. Being such a small vessel the crew was very much like a family, and many had been sailing on her for several years. At times I feel this contentment with by life at the time influenced my desire to return one day.


Hobart in many ways has not changed that much and when I returned here in the 1970s  I was surprised. The people are still those friendly being, the town has new attraction, and being promoted as one of the place to visit in our over crowed world I am glad I returned.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Goya: Horrors of War.

The Third Of May, 1808. Goya.
Museo Nacional del Prado.

Horrors of War.

I first viewed Francisco Goya’s Horrors of War during  Saloniki year as Cultural Capital of Europe. At the time it  struck me that Goya was one of the first pictorial war journalist. His images are quite graphic in their detail and are presented in a very matter of fact way .This stems from his disciplined approach to tell the truth at all cost. This attitude makes his imagery so powerful, the viewer is forced to respond in some way to the pictorial result of warfare and evaluate a personal response to the effects of war, not only on ourselves but on humanity in general.

Goya identified with the ordinary people, this is not to suggest that he was not ambitious, and strove to reach the top of Spanish society, simply that he wished to present his world in an individual way. He allowed his  citizens to stand or fall by their own personality. Goya, to my knowledge was one of the first artists to present a true vision of the efficiency of a war machine.

"The Same" etching& aquatint.

His imagery of the horrors of war, reminded me of the constant front page reportage of the Vietnam War during the 1960’s. The total disregard for human life, as though the people portrayed are not human beings .To some extent this attitude continues in Syria and Iraq.  In the case of Vietnam this continual impersonal reportage of the “T.V.War”  , resulted in the end in a general popular demand that hostilities be brought to an end.  Public opinion was such that Governments have restricted access to the front line in recent conflicts.

When Goya was busy producing these works, Europe was still in the grip of the Inquisition, Napoleonic Wars, and general internal strife within Spain, between conservatives and liberals. No matter what your own personal view about Goya images. Most of us are left with a sense of pity for the victims, and the feeling of terror these people must have felt. The painting “The Third of May” express these sentiments .admirably

"Great Feat! With dead men" 1863.
Etching & Aquantint.
War time jurnalism, 19th cent.
"This is worse".
Etching & aquantint.
A good example of  war time journalism.
                     "The Mad House" Accademia de Bellas Artes de San Ferando, Madrid.
                                                        Image of scial conditions in Spain.
The images suggest a total breakdown of basic humanity. A world were the rabble or their military counterpart have taken charge. Not that this blood lust  is only a particularly Spanish  quality. Unfortunately is raises its head everywhere. But, Spanish culture historically does not seem to the outsider very compassionate, we only have to recall the Civil War, the Inquisition and the continual blood lust of the bull ring. No matter how much bull fighting may be justified by Spaniards as a mark of valour, such medieval actives seem out of date in the 21st cent.. No matter what our personal opinions on these matters, and Goya’s political and social views, there is no denying the power of his social commentary over a very large range of subject matter.

                                                        "Nor Those", Etching & Aquatint.
                                                             Rape and slaughter of women.