1955-65 Days of Innocence and Ignorance from an Emerging Chronicle

How far does one go back in a personal chronicle? I was born to Jack and Mary in late December as World War II raged. I came out of hospital on Christmas day in 1942.

The 50’s were decidedly different from the radical decade that followed it.

We all enter the human comedy from some oblique angle. It’s so enigmatic to glance back at photos of oneself in early youth, so ill prepared for the ‘trip of a lifetime’. Vulnerable to all the arrows and slings within a tough society, as I was living in the tough Western suburbs of Sydney. One became street wise very, very quickly. To establish a place in the pecking order, I had to fight with my fists, or anything else that I laid hands on. In this world I learned to run very fast.

Representational art works from the Period of the 50’s.
 

Background Sketches.

Australia like other unstable, pioneering and experimental Settler Societies has changed absolutely since the 1940’s, when I could recall the times when the steam trains puffed in and out of Central and Strathfield stations in Sydney, a time when the magnificent teams and rows of finely bedecked Clydesdale horses puffed their misty nostrils in winter morning effusions as they dragged and pulled the wagons of wooden beer barrels along Parramatta road into the city centre for the hotels of inner Sydney. A time when Sydney traffic moved to their distinctive heavy click, slip and clatter with the green and cream trams in fine and wet weather. Dank and dark toned, sooty Sydney, under rainy weather in those days was a very moody place, indeed.

There was a child who went forth
Everything that he saw, he became… Walt Whitman

With the help of my parents, I often retreated to the country for schooling and holidays. Then later in life I could leave from places like Balmain and Paddington to the country for sanctuary during many of vicious cultural wars of the times..These were hard-hitting for anyone with a sensitive nature, who asked essential questions and who could only survive some of the ideological wars by living outside on the periphery of urbane centres with its ideological control by avante guard, Post Modernist and other movements from the 1970s onward.

Growing up in Auburn and later going to Granville Technical School, I also became talented at art and a champion athlete and soccer player. I even playing striker representing the under 14 Sydney team in the mid fifties, when I was thirteen years of age. This made me very fit and gave have me a lot of confidence. It’s all important stuff as one looks back.

My artistic work and other creative projects have echoed a fascination from the age of twelve and thirteen years with the possibilities of Modernism when I was a student at Grannie Tech in Sydney’s West. I was assisted by enthusiastic art teachers such as Keith Mould and Ken Reinhardt, who were skilful and important modernist art educators in that conservative and xenophobic time in the Menzies era. A period I recall of innocence and brutality, but also of extensive ignorance when the rest of the world seemed so far away.

In my emerging Cornish Chronicle, I see a young teenager with ruffled blond hair who used to sell newspapers to Premier Jack Lang in Auburn outside the railway station in the fifties. I later painted a portrait of ‘The Big Fella’ in 1975 (see Portraits fig 3;).

My father fought in the Australian army against the Japanese in New Guinea and Borneo in World War II and looked like the actor Errol Flynn. He was a handsome, thin, dashing soldier in a great army coat in those days of the 40’s.

Back to the 40’s and it was another world. Even the colloquial language used was different. ?”

It was a world where time took so long to pass. From the age of ten, eleven, twelve years of age seasons slowed down to a snails pace. From the arbitrary division in those days of roughly between the right to wearing short trousers to that of long trousers. In a conformist society everything was regulated.

A different time but a world of tough, raw and resilient people.

Changi Prisoner of War - 1955

Changi Prisoner of War - 1955

Photo of Richard aged about 12-13 years

Photo of Richard aged about 12-13 years

Sydney Suburban Kitchen - 1955

Sydney Suburban Kitchen - 1955

Variation on a Music Motif - 1955

Variation on a Music Motif - 1955