Welcome Back to the A-Z Challenge, where I am writing Letters to Dead Artists through the month of April. Today’s artist, is Australian expressionist Albert Tucker (1914-1999). He is being accompanied by INXS – The Devil Inside.
While it is difficult for me to work out the exact sequence of events, I saw a Retrospective of Albert Tucker’s works in 1990, and I think it was held at the same time as an exhibition of the German Expressionists, who heavily influenced Albert Tucker’s work. I can’t be sure of the exact sequence of events. HOwever, what I do recall, is what it meant for me as a young university student, to stumble across these vivid, emotionally demonstrative paintings when I felt locked inside an inner labyrinth with so much built up angst I could barely breathe. As an extroverted poet who grew up in Volvoland, I found Albert Tucker’s works so liberating. While I might not have been able to show how I was really feeling, he had done it for me, and I particularly felt drawn towards his with its terrifying image of the speeding tram with its glowing headlight staring straight at you. Indeed, I am very, very careful whenever I go to Melbourne around those trams. It wouldn’t take much for one of them to sneak up behind you and flatten you.
Well, Albert Tucker was almost over by a tram at night, and so you could say his fear and animosity towards trams is well placed.
However, the tram was just one character which appeared in his famous Images of Modern Evil series, painted between 1943 and 1948.
This series offers a probing and powerful insight into the schismatic socio-political climate of World War II and its aftermath. Moreover, it proved formative in Tucker’s practice as a distillation of humanist, psychological and mythological ideas and as a vehicle for specific motifs and narratives that have endured within his art.
The series starts with pictures of predatory and lascivious behaviour in Melbourne’s streets at night that have a gritty, elemental edge. As it progresses there is a greater sense of story-telling, and by the series’ end the influence of the avant-garde art of Pablo Picasso – in both style and subject – is clearly in evidence. Picasso was, however, but one of a variety of literary and artistic sources that Tucker drew on to help shape the Images: others included the poetry of T.S. Eliot; the imaginative creativity of the surrealists; the roughened political sentiments and social commentary of the German expressionists; and, pervasively, Carl Jung’s psychological treatises on irrationality, myths and archetypes, and on the personal and collective unconscious.https://www.heide.com.au/exhibitions/images-modern-evil-albert-tucker
I’m going to come back to this later when I’m more awake.
My Letter to Albert Tucker
My apologies for arriving so late tonight. Indeed, I bet you thought I wasn’t going to show up. Or, that I’d perhaps decided to write to someone else. I suspect you might’ve been the jealous type, what with the way you portrayed Australian women hanging out with US troops during and after WWII…the “Victory Girls”.
Well, as I said. I’m sorry for being so late. However, it’s school holidays here and I haven’t exactly been playing my own tune lately. I seem to be like something of a yoyo dangling from a string. As soon as they need me, they pull the string and expect me to come running. Perhaps, I’m more of a puppet than a yoyo but I did want to convey the idea that I do have my own ideas and I do get out and about, even if it’s only to walk the dog.
However, one of the reasons I’m so late is that I’ve needed a bit of a breather inbetween what has become a rather intense series of letters, and needing to put myself in someone else’s shoes everyday has been heavy going. So, I went off on a bit of a detour, which turned into quite an extended holiday, even if it was condensed into a relatively short period of time.
You see, I could only take so much intense emotion, bright colour and screams literally blaring from the canvas before I needed to chill out in Monet’s Garden and absorb the ripples in the pond. I don’t know about you, but I need the interplay of light and dark these days…just like a piece of musical with its dynamics. It can’t be all forte without any quieter moments. You need to switch down the volume. At least, I do.
However, your series of Modern Evil came out of very turbulent times and you even went to Hiroshima. I can’t begin to imagine what that was like and you can spurt what even you like onto the canvas if it helps you deal with that. You need to let the scream out, not hold it in. That’s what I do all the time, and it eats you from the inside out. What’s more no one around you knows you’re in strife. That you’re way up shit creek without a paddle but hey, you’re still smiling so you don’t even give them a chance to care.
How is it possible to explore the dark side, without falling in? Who do we maintain that balance between darkness and light? So many creatives manipulate and feed this tension to fuel their work and yet we play with such fire, that too many of us burn up like proverbial moths in the flame.
Anyway, that’s enough from me. I’d love to hear from you, especially if you can pick out anything worth comments on out of that jumble of words.
A Letter From Albert Tucker
Perhaps you should start seeing your face as a canvas and liberate yourself from all your inhibitions. A little birdie told me that you have a secret fetish for wearing mauve lipstick and that you finally bought some for yourself, and yet you haven’t used it. What are you afraid of? Why do you keep yourself locked away in a dark cupboard, when you could be flying from the chandelier wearing purple lipstick and carrying a handful of smiling Gerberas? You were never meant to get lost in the crowd. You were never meant to walk quietly. There’s nothing wrong with that. Embrace it. Stand tall and own it. Life is too short to be someone else. To leave your authentic self waiting on the shelf hoping against the odds, that one day you might finally decide to pick it up.
Now, you’d better get some sleep. Tomorrow is another day.