SJ Finn eating one piece of art at a time

Week #48 In Treatment: a TV series



Sometimes art is meant to imitate life. Occasionally, drama requires the kind of forensic eye, certainly after the first wave of emotion has passed, that art demands of us. In Treatment, staring Gabriel Byrne, manages to corner both life and art very well. Like good writing, which it is full of, In Treatment builds emotional scaffolding, constructing a wall of understanding, while producing a great rendition of the spiky, heartfelt process of therapy. Taken from an Israeli series (which is deserving of the lion’s share of accolade) called Be Tipul, or In Therapy, In Treatment, while scripted and condensed, gives a sense of what it’s like to be either client or therapist in any one session of psychotherapy.

Granted, this drama might interest therapists more than others, although I think it would be helpful for anyone wanting to embark on a series of counselling sessions. Certainly, from personal experience (I was a psychotherapist for twenty-five years, twelve of which were carried out in private practice) I recognise many of the scenes, much of the defensive and deflective dialogue, and all of the tiny nuanced queries and curiosities that shape therapy into the trade that it is.

Trust upon trust, In Treatment canvasses a fascinating scope of skills needed for the work: the requirement for an arc in a session, the wending of a client’s background into their actions, preoccupations and predicaments, the talent for listening and empathising and interpretation. Above all, however, In Treatment demonstrates the process of uncovering what lies behind an individual’s motivations. And it’s that that intrigues the viewer, that which makes it drama, that, just like in real life, that makes therapy so thrilling and a most valuable art form.



Week #47 Silence in Synesthesia: a series of photographs

Wenhanglin2 - Copy (2)

Wen Hang Lin has been interested in the effect of overlapping instances for a number of years, and here are some examples of how he has used reflection and image to build moments that make us pause.

We see these images, of course, but it’s also true to say that we are led into them rather than presented with them. Our visual sense is interlocked with our emotional temporal experience, and these shots tell us something, even as we look at them for the first time, about how we absorb poignant and meaningful stimuli. Our perception is always in a state of flux and collision, almost, one could say, of emotional-glitch. We see something, and that vision in turn is entwined with our mood, our sense of place and our circumstance. It has happened to us all: these seconds that layer our reality in narrative rather than the flat plane that we might find ourselves staring at.     

So, these shots, and others of his, remind me of life more than if they had been presented in a 2-dimensional form. Perhaps this kaleidoscope of visual ingredients is closer to how we experience sight when it’s fused with thought. Because somehow his photographs make me think I’m seeing something as if living it rather than looking at it. Wen Hang Lin 4 - Copy (2)wen Hang Lin 5 - Copy (2)Wen Hang Lin 6 - Copy (2)Wen Hang Lin 3 - Copy (2)wen Hang Lin 1

Week #46 Streets of Helsinki: a photography series

Rhawi Dantas 1

Rhawi Dantas, who was originally from Brazil, lives in Helsinki, Finland, where these photos are taken. Honest and straightforward, any distortion only adds to their candour. It might be easy to say he has an eye, but perhaps the truth is closer to saying that he has a rhythm in the shots that tells something of what is behind the capture. Uncanny in his ability to take a slither of life, hard-working certainly, Rhawi Dantas has taken some damn fine photographs. There’s this in the Streets of Hong Kong series, this in the Streets of Korea series, and this in the Streets of Macau series.

Rhawi Dantas 6Rhawi Dantas 5Rhawi Dantas 4Rhawi Dantas 2Rhawi Dantas 7

Week #44 Away: a play

ScreenShot2017-02-24at12.18.24pm[1]I go to the theatre a lot but rarely, since beginning my blog, have I had cause to write about the plays I see. Michael Gow’s play Away, however, is an exception, proving on all counts – script, movement, acting and set, to name a few – to be an exceptionally good creation.

Set in 1968, and written in 1986, Away delivers ‘the ache’ of what was going on in Australian households at the time. Digging at the themes of loss and lack of control over our lives, both politically and emotionally, it provides a picture of what was preoccupying us during a time when conscription to fight in Vietnam was occurring and a secure income was valued over everything else, including enjoyment. We are reminded that, of utmost importance, was the art of ‘getting on with things’ rather than any analysis of our troubles. They are emotional tribulations that, if not still played out today, ring with resonance regardless in our modern lives.

Part of what makes this a theatrical experience worth seeing is that there is no other medium that could portray this piece as well. In other words, you know why you’re sitting watching theatre. And it’s all about the script. The meshing of words, not so much through dialogue but by layered repetition, builds the play into a palpably-emotional testimony of each character. It combines humour and rancour, pathos and pity to create heartfelt anguish in the viewer. Even ‘the movement’ in the play – the dancing and choreographed progressions – adds to the emotional drama, the enthralling content.

Both The Malthouse (where I saw the production) and Michael Gow are to be congratulated. This is a play that should and hopefully will, be resurrected again and again, and since it’s already a pingback from the 80s, I’m presuming it will be.


Week #43 Australian Scape: a series of photographs

Trent Parke, the Minutes to Midnight series

Trent Parke has been taking photographs of Australia, our land and experience of life, for a long time. We see through his lens something quintessentially recognisable about the place. I have posted his photographs of the countryside here, but I would encourage you to look at his other series: The Christmas Tree Bucket List, Welcome to Nowhere, Minutes to Midnight, Dream/Life & Beyond. The only Australian to be included as a member of the prestigious Magnum Photography Group, he’s taken some exceptional images that reflect ourselves back to us.

Trent Parke The Nullabour, Sought AustraliaTrent Parke - Stuart Highway, South Australia, 2009Trent Parke Adele Grove outback QLD 2011Trent Parke - Ghost Crabs, Quobba Beach, 2011Trent Parke - Butterfly Springs, Savannah Way, NT, 2008


Week #42 Ngak Ngak and the ruined city: a painting

The first time I saw a painting by Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, I laughed out loud. I wasn’t laughing at the painting, which was of a football match (Aussie Rules style) but laughing, joyously, with it, if you get my drift. I’d never laughed from seeing a painting before, and haven’t since. Perhaps that’s why I’ll never forget it.

All Ginger’s paintings have a shameless sense of playfulness, even mischievousness about them. This doesn’t mean that the work lacks seriousness. On the contrary, many of the images contain messages about country and creation. The totemic white-breasted sea-eagle, Ngak Ngak, for instance, is often depicted looking down over the land and its inhabitants in the role of guardian.

Ginger is most famous for painting his mother’s country, the Limmen Bight and the Limmen Bight River in the Northern Territory of Australia. Using luminous colours along with opaque flattened forms, the representation of heavy rain-filled clouds or fine rain and bright sunlight form part of his creation story.

Here, like all his work, nothing is wasted or done frivolously. But, alongside this, all of his paintings fill the heart and the mind with a colourful warmth that brings the world closer.

Week #40 Expert: a poem

Ellen van Neervan has written Expert with all the right ingredients: patience, surprise, indignation and inevitability, to give the reader a view of a current state of play. She takes the reader into an immediate situation, giving us the triggers that tell a story, read a mood, instruct us about the narrowness of perception. Simplicity and rhythm give the poem emotional depth. We become an insider to a raw and interpretable moment. This is poetry at its most touchable.



Poor me

don’t know how it happened

think I got

a non-Indigenous girlfriend

who thinks she’s an expert

don’t know how she’s got her expertise

think I’m the first one she’s met


she tells me I’m closed to other sides of the debate

that she has the answers just because she saw a television ad

for Reconciliation

and though most of the Indigenous Australians are opposed

she says it’s for our good

talks about drunks and sexual abuse ‘up north’

devalues my own knowledge (too urban)

and anything I get from black media

(not the whole truth

I wouldn’t trust it)

she likes to argue when she’s had a few

13 times more

her voice loud

(87%) of intimate partner homicides

fresh tears on my face

involving Indigenous people, are alcohol related

she’s drunk, I tell the booliman

still shaking. Sitting on the steps.

no, I haven’t had any

won’t let her forget this statistic

tonight it’s her

in the paddy wagon