GRAPHIC at the Opera House

On Saturday 5th November was the GRAPHIC festival held inside the national sails of the Sydney Opera House. And where there is Graphics there is – Experimentum. In the morning, Rosie and I attended the talk by Michael Leunig, and as we were extremely enthusiastic fans of the now grey-haired national treasure, we were there an hour early. Michael was just fixing up his microphone, making some starry doodles and conversing with the organiser Jordan Verzar (Head of Contemporary Music at the Sydney Opera House). The seats were obviously happily glistening under the sun showing a glee of availability, we picked two seats in the front centre row (as we did not like sitting on the steps) and it became far too obvious to Michael that we were eager about the talk. Michael then left the scene, leaving us…and the stage empty to prepare for the talk within an hour… so we simply just waited..and waited…

The conversation between Jordan and Michael was quite an experience, Jordan as a musician was intrigued in the lyrical and musical aspects to Leunig’s visual dialogues and cartoons, whilst Michael spoke of various stories and encounters he had came across throughout his artistic career. Some of which I recall was about: teapots on heads, a nun from the outback turning up at his studio all sweaty, Michael used to live on the same street as a bullet factory, and how he was sued…quite a few times too. Amongst the funny narrations was some insightful comments to being an artist, an artist that explores the world in ‘matured innocence’ through child-like creativity, whilst adding a strike of ‘inappropriateness’, to communicate the ‘impulse of love’ that exists within all of us. Leunig’s cartoons creates visions which we either cannot see, or avoid to see or even neglect throughout the mundane life of stress and perhaps depression. In Leunig’s works, I see the fragility of life, the sensitivity of the soul, and the hidden joy and sadnesses of every individual. We are not all here to become superheroes, or to become ‘excellent’ and collect ‘awards’ as Leunig speaks, we are all here to share our love, experiences and knowledge about where we are as humans, and the ‘artist’s motive is to express what is repressed’.

Michael then moved on to create some live drawings of his signature characters: the dopey man, the duck, the teapot, the moon, and the angry man. He explained on how characters’ actions are counter intuitive, as the duck relates to the hope of the dopey man. Symbolism exists widely across Leunig’s work, and it was only 20 years later, that he saw the symbolism himself, prior to this revelation it was all natural and intuitive. As much as the sun bothered the audience (as if we were all under a tanning machine), everyone listened so attentively and shared a connection with the artist. At this moment, I felt a tingling sensation where my intuition telling me to start drawing, ‘don’t think, just draw’, I have clearly been inspired by this amazing talent, where it was an encouragement to grow our innocence throughout our practice.

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