While a lot of people grew up watching Popeye and Tom & Jerry or had their kids watching it all the time, most likely just a handful knew the genius behind it. Eugene Merril Deitch, most commonly known simply as Gene Deitch, was an American illustrator, animator, comics artist, and film director. He was also known for creating the animated cartoons Munro, Tom Terrific, and Nudnik.
Deitch spent most of his life in Prague, where he relocated back in 1959 when Rembrandt Films promised to fund Munro. He lived there his whole life and sadly passed unexpectedly on April 16, 2020, at the ripe age of 95. Since hearing about his passing, artists from all over the world have flooded the Internet with touching artwork as a tribute to the late illustrator.
During this time of isolation, art lovers around the world have found a way to unite and stay creative: by recreating classic artworks using whatever they can find at home. Several social media ‘challenges’ have gone viral online by institutions like the Getty Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine on Instagram. I’ve compiled…
As one perhaps knows, Monarchy is not an Islamic institution. By the time the Mughals established there hold in India, the Muslim world had reconciled itself with the concept of monarchy. And the monarchy within the within the Islamic framework was being justified by the Muslim jurists by an extended interpretation of the Tradition of […]
For a sector where 53% of business have recently closed their doors, this is catastrophic. The olive in the dog-wee martini is that when the debt for supporting the country through COVID-19 arrives, cultural workers will be expected to pay it off just the same. Some governments subsidise their cultural sectors, and others do not. Only the Coalition, it seems, has found a way of getting its cultural sector to subsidise them.
Stop telling the arts to do better
The response so far to this right-royal example of policy ineptitude has been a predictably economic one. The Australia Institute has put out a report on the economics of the creative arts and called for the sector to be more “confident” in dealing with government on the basis of that data.
Arguments for Australian culture often focus on what it should say to demonstrate its worth. Rarely considered is the government’s capacity to listen, or the extent to which it is able to meaningfully interpret the truckloads of evidence put to it. The sector can present all the data it likes. In the end, the government has to choose which to accept and act on. For this, it needs its own cogent idea of culture.
After Holt was presumed drowned, the contest to replace him lay between Paul Hasluck, a publisher and poet, and John Gorton, founder of the Australian Film School and the Australian Film Development Corporation. If it was Gough Whitlam who brought culture into the Cabinet, it was the Liberal Senator Tony Staley, one of the better arts ministers we have had, who took it to the next level of policy consideration and kept it there.
It is absolutely not true, therefore, that a proper appreciation of arts and culture is to be found only on the Australian political Left. But it begs the question what on earth has happened to create this perception? Why has a deep-rooted and persuasive cultural policy vision by and large vanished from Coalition beliefs and values?
Its absence is good neither for the government, the sector, nor the country. Bipartisan cooperation on matters of national interest – and the fate of Australian culture is surely one of these – is not a matter of pat verbal agreement.
Politics is not a game of ideological Snap. It arises when different parties advance their own interpretations of particular domains, and these are then incorporated into what the sociologist Norbert Elias calls “the social fund of knowledge”. When no such interpretations are advanced, the process of arriving at beneficial policy outcomes breaks down.
It’s not only the hole in the emotional heart of Coalition politicians the cultural sector should be concerned with right now, it is the hole in their corporate memory. However confidently the sector puts forward its numbers to government, the context for turning them into coherent industrial strategy is missing in (in)action.
The way forward for Australian cultural policy lies in the minds of our politicians, not the attitudes of the sector. This does not mean Coalition ministers and their advisers should accept ideas and arguments they do not like or agree with. It means they must come up with ones of their own.
The article was originally published on The Conversation.
Being in isolation might be a great time to try something new. In this series, we get the basics on hobbies and activities to start while you’re spending more time at home.
What can take you somewhere untouched by the clanging outside world? What can help you synthesise your thoughts right now?
Drawing, and our fascination with it, can stimulate your imagination, mindfulness, focus and introspection. Drawing can allow you to enter the flow state: that is, the optimal experience of being so invested in an activity, time passes you by. Drawing can make you feel good.
An act of looking outward and inward simultaneously, drawing can capture thought and insight in a moment.
Since time immemorial, drawing has been a way for humans to process their world – even just a room – and the times they live in (hello COVID-19). It’s our first language.
Renowned artist David Hockney has called for everyone to find something to draw in lockdown: “Question everything and do not think about photography”. Here are your first lessons in learning to draw at home:
1. Stop worrying about mastery
He never finished any of the works he began because, so sublime was his idea of art, he saw faults even in the things that to others seemed miracles.
It’s an activity we can do together. If you remove the fear of the blank white page and the internal voice screaming, “But, I can’t draw!”
Sketch inhibition can be debilitating. But hey, no one has to even see it! Your drawing is yours, unless you post it. Even the most accomplished and beautiful drawings we see today started out with someone doing some rough sketches while they learnt what works.
2. Honour the importance of drawing
Drawing is ancient, yet remains a key 21st century skill, helping to improve visual reasoning, memory, idea generation, lateral thinking and inference. Spontaneous drawing – or doodling – may relieve feelings of stress.
Drawing can be incorporated into education in many ways, including visual mapping, reflective thinking, or presenting ideas. Drawing an effective tool in developing an aesthetic navigation of the world. Remote learning might be a way to explore and enhance visual communication skills.
Now hardly a day passes that I do not make something. As practice makes perfect, I cannot but make progress; each drawing one makes, each study one paints, is a step forward.
You can’t become a good athlete without practice. Nor can I become a good drawer without the 10,000 hours of practice that Malcolm Gladwell notes as critical to performance in his book Outliers: The Story of Success.
Though Gladwell’s 10,000 figure has its critics, there is no doubt learning takes time and practice done without the pressure to make everything look photo-realistic.
4. Observe and allow infinite possibilities
Drawing is the perfect way to challenge yourself at a time where you only have objects and family members around you.
Observation is key. We often overlook the objects we see daily. The power of the familiar means even an old Luxo lamp can become the symbol of PIXAR – originally drawn with pastel on paper as an idea, then used for the opening sequence of Luxo Jr (1986).
There are things you haven’t discovered in your home – or that you could see anew from a different angle or viewpoint.
In recent years the orthodoxy that Shakespeare can only be truly appreciated on stage has become widespread. But, as with many of our habits and assumptions, lockdown gives us a chance to think differently. Now could be the time to dust off the old collected works, and read some Shakespeare, just as people have been doing for more than 400 years.
Many people have said they find reading Shakespeare a bit daunting, so here are five tips for how to make it simpler and more pleasurable.
1. Ignore the footnotes
If your edition has footnotes, pay no attention to them. They distract you from your reading and de-skill you, so that you begin to check everything even when you actually know what it means.
It’s useful to remember that nobody ever understood all this stuff – have a look at Macbeth’s knotty “If it were done when ‘tis done” speech in Act 1 Scene 7 for an example (and nobody ever spoke in these long, fancy speeches either – Macbeth’s speech is again a case in point). Footnotes are just the editor’s attempt to deny this.
Try to keep going and get the gist – and remember, when Shakespeare uses very long or esoteric words, or highly involved sentences, it’s often a deliberate sign that the character is trying to deceive himself or others (the psychotic jealousy of Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, for instance, expresses itself in unusual vocabulary and contorted syntax).
2. Pay attention to the shape of the lines
The layout of speeches on the page is like a kind of musical notation or choreography. Long speeches slow things down – and, if all the speeches end at the end of a complete line, that gives proceedings a stately, hierarchical feel – as if the characters are all giving speeches rather than interacting.
Short speeches quicken the pace and enmesh characters in relationships, particularly when they start to share lines (you can see this when one line is indented so it completes the half line above), a sign of real intimacy in Shakespeare’s soundscape.
Blank verse, the unrhymed ten-beat iambic pentamenter structure of the Shakespearean line, varies across his career. Early plays – the histories and comedies – tend to end each line with a piece of punctuation, so that the shape of the verse is audible. John of Gaunt’s famous speech from Richard II is a good example.
This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars.
Later plays – the tragedies and the romances – tend towards a more flexible form of blank verse, with the sense of the phrase often running over the line break. What tends to be significant is contrast, between and within the speech rhythms of scenes or characters (have a look at Henry IV Part 1 and you’ll see what I mean).
3. Read small sections
Shakespeare’s plays aren’t novels and – let’s face it – we’re not usually in much doubt about how things will work out. Reading for the plot, or reading from start to finish, isn’t necessarily the way to get the most out of the experience. Theatre performances are linear and in real time, but reading allows you the freedom to pace yourself, to flick back and forwards, to give some passages more attention and some less.
Shakespeare’s first readers probably did exactly this, zeroing in on the bits they liked best, or reading selectively for the passages that caught their eye or that they remembered from performance, and we should do the same. Look up where a famous quotation comes: “All the world’s a stage”, “To be or not to be”, “I was adored once too” – and read either side of that. Read the ending, look at one long speech or at a piece of dialogue – cherry pick.
One great liberation of reading Shakespeare for fun is just that: skip the bits that don’t work, or move on to another play. Nobody is going to set you an exam.
4. Think like a director
On the other hand, thinking about how these plays might work on stage can be engaging and creative for some readers. Shakespeare’s plays tended to have minimal stage directions, so most indications of action in modern editions of the plays have been added in by editors.
Most directors begin work on the play by throwing all these instructions away and working them out afresh by asking questions about what’s happening and why. Stage directions – whether original or editorial – are rarely descriptive, so adding in your chosen adverbs or adjectives to flesh out what’s happening on your paper stage can help clarify your interpretations of character and action.
One good tip is to try to remember characters who are not speaking. What’s happening on the faces of the other characters while Katherine delivers her long, controversial speech of apparent wifely subjugation at the end of The Taming of the Shrew?
5. Don’t worry
The biggest obstacle to enjoying Shakespeare is that niggling sense that understanding the works is a kind of literary IQ test. But understanding Shakespeare means accepting his open-endedness and ambiguity. It’s not that there’s a right meaning hidden away as a reward for intelligence or tenacity – these plays prompt questions rather than supplying answers.
Would Macbeth have killed the king without the witches’ prophecy? Exactly – that’s the question the play wants us to debate, and it gives us evidence to argue on both sides. Was it right for the conspirators to assassinate Julius Caesar? Good question, the play says: I’ve been wondering that myself.
Returning to Shakespeare outside the dutiful contexts of the classroom and the theatre can liberate something you might not immediately associate with his works: pleasure.
GROWN-UP ELEPHANTS CAN EAT MORE than 300 pounds of food—mostly grass, twigs, foliage, and tree bark—in a single day. In the same period, they may defecate 16 to 18 times, producing over 200 pounds of dung. In Randeniya, a small village in the lower wetlands of Sri Lanka, elephant poop is a renewable resource. The sun-dried, deep-brown dung piles up like haystacks in a painting by Claude Monet.
Visitors could be forgiven for thinking that the poop is useless. But at Eco Maximus, a manufacturer in Randeniya, it takes on a second life. More than 20 years ago, a man named Thusita Ranasinghe saw some dung and had an idea. “He thought he could make paper from it,” says the company’s brand designer, Susantha Karunarathne, with a smile. At his office inside the company factory, Karunarathne wears a green t-shirt which says #elephantdungpaper and shows off some of his recent journal designs.
On a table nearby, several women carefully design covers for multi-sized notebooks. On another, the finished product is packed and ready to be shipped. Today, Maximus creates a range of stationery and souvenirs, which are sold in the local market and in 30 other countries around the globe.
Eco Maximus was an early producer of elephant dung paper and the first in Sri Lanka, and refining the manufacturing process involved a lot of trial and error. Elephant dung is brought in by nearby rescue centres, Karunarathne says during a tour of the factory. Fresh elephant dung, semi-solid and green in colour, smell. But after it dries under the hot tropical sun, the smell disappears. Collectors gather the deep-brown, fibre-rich piles in a piping-hot steam boiler. “We boil for one hour, to ensure that the dung is germ-free,” says Vibhatha Wijeratne, the factory manager, wearing a pair of yellow gloves as he shows me a pile of boiled dung.
In one corner of the factory, bundles of paper with crumpled edges are stacked upon each other. There are different colours—earthy tones, blues, tropical greens, and deep reds. Thousands of years ago, much of the writing in Sri Lanka was inscribed on stones. Later, the islanders wrote on leaves, such as the fronds of the palmyra palm, locally known as the tal. “Palmyrah leaves were boiled and sun-dried for writing, which was called pus kola (old leaves),” says bright-eyed Randika Jayasinghe, who teaches biosystems technology at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
Banksy, whose only official social media outlet is Instagram, recently revealed that he’s in isolation like the rest of us. In true Banksy-fashion, he communicated this through his art and dry sense of humour, simply adding: “My wife hates it when I work from home.” [via Banksy on Instagram] …
Because he was one of the greatest geniuses in the history of art, naturally many other aspects of Rembrandt’s life leading up to his burial in an unmarked grave have somewhat remain undiscussed. In the 1650s, with tragedies of his personal life behind him, Rembrandt started to acquire art from all over the world. This rare collection of Old Masters Paintings, prints, and antiquities included busts of the Roman Emperors, suits of Japanese armour among many objects from Asia, as well as we as collections of natural history and minerals. This collection of ‘drawings and prints from the master of the world,’ once bailed him out of bankruptcy in 1656 but eventually was not worth enough leading Rembrandt to sell his house and printing press. What has often remained undiscussed is, however, despite his descent into extreme poverty, this collection presented him as a connoisseur in cross-culture art exchange in the world and also allowed him to indulge in the arts of the other side of the worlds without moving an inch.
Four Orientals seated under a tree, Rembrandt, circa 1656-1661. Photo credit: British Museum.
The inventory list from the sale of his collection survived and as it turns out, there were many items in the inventory that were stated as East Indian or Indian. They included East Indian, cup, boxes, basket, and fans as well as sixty Indian hand weapons, including arrow, shafts, javelin, and bows, and a pair of costume for an Indian man and woman. One of the items, listed in this inventory as item 203 was described as ‘a book of curious drawing in miniature as well as woodcuts and engraving on copper and various costume,’ Examples of miniatures painting found in Mughal Era can be seen below.
It has been debated, but never specifically proved, that these curious items could have been the miniature paintings from the Mughal court in India that inspired this great master to produce a collection of 23 etchings that were unlike anything he had done before. Drawn in the last years of his life and on expensive Japanese paper, they were copies of the speculated Mughal miniature collection he had but nonetheless stands out for its detailing and richness. As said, there are no specific records of Mughal Miniatures sourced from India in Rembrandt’s inventory but to put the history of Dutch occupation in India in perspective it hardly comes as a surprise. It, in fact, comes at the intersection of the vast trade practices of Dutch East India Company or Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie VOC as it was called and the importance of art practices in India during the Mughal era.