ACT News


Bearded visage a slap in the face for smooth types

WARNING. Narcissistic men with immaculate, metrosexual beards may take great offence at this item.

This column's unhealthy and regrettable obsession with sex (Tuesday's column discussed Frank Bongiorno's new book The Sex Lives Of Australians) continues because we went on Wednesday to the latest presentation in the ANU School of Art's Art and Sex series. Our dear city continues to be a place fizzing with stimulating events.

Wednesday's presenter was the enthrallingly accomplished Melbourne artist Celeste Chandler and one work dwelled upon by her was this recently completed portrait I Know How You Feel 3 projected for us on to a large screen. If you feel a little confronted by it (and even a little sexually nudged by it) here on the small page or small screen before you, imagine being face to face with it in a gallery.

''It's quite big,'' Chandler explained, ''about six feet high. ''So when you're standing in front of it your eyes are level with the nose, or just above the thick lips. So the idea is that when you stand up close to it your peripheral vision is almost taken up by this face … I was trying to convey the eroticism, the slightly disconcerting thing that happens with a man with a really hairy beard, and quite full lips, the sensual mouth, the contrast between this really sensual mouth and the confronting, hairy, masculine texture.

''And it also came out of my while interest in the metrosexual beard that's around at the moment. My life span [she was born in the '70s] bridges the old beard period to the new beard period. My dad had an Amish beard when I was little, and then men had no beards at all for a very long time and now all of a sudden every man's got a beard. This is my partner Andrew. He grew the most enormous beard in the winter. It wasn't an immaculate beard the way lots of beards are at the moment.''

Here she said some quite scathing things about about immaculate, metrosexual beards, which made me thankful that I was sporting a beard always so unkempt that in spring small birds attempt to nest in it.


''But Andrew's beard was enormous,'' she continued.

''It was the beard other men admired. It was beard that had men coming up to him and saying [in awed admiration and envy], 'My wife would never let me grow a beard like that!' So it changed him and changed the way people reacted to him, and so that fascinated me, particularly because he's also got these quite full lips. So the intention of this picture was to stick that [Andrew's face with its beard and lips] right in your face!''

Alas, the full explanation for Andrew's face and head being partially masked is too complex and too cerebral (and Chandler is an intense painter and a cerebral speaker) for us to have room to do it justice here. But you see this intriguing masking again and again in her very humane, empathetic, thought-goading works. Just feed Google her name and it will bring you a whole gallery of her works, some of them too blush-making to be shown in this family column.

''What a stimulating city this is!'' the columnist rejoiced after the talk and going to the car, the breeze rustling the hairy, masculine texture of his unkempt beard.

Nobs and snobs, sign of the times

Lord Bong-Bong, the Earl of Swampandflat, Lord Murrumbidgee, Lady Cockatoo, the Earl of Yass? Who are these people? Read on, and all will be revealed.

Some of those appalled (they include this columnist) by the Prime Minister's resurrection of knights and dames accuse him of returning us to the '50s. They (the appalled) mean the 1950s but history-conscious Australians will be reminded, too, of the 1850s and of William Charles Wentworth's snobbish attempts in 1853 to create an Australian aristocracy and hereditary peerage. Critics scoffed that this would be ''a bunyip aristocracy''.

Chris Vening has stumbled across local versemonger Harry Dashboard's satirical attack on the proposal, published in the Goulburn Herald in October 1853. Lord Bongbong and the others are all characters in Dashboard's rollicking, 50-verse A Fun-O-Scopic View Of Our Peerage. Dashboard's composition, taking on an eerie currency now that we suddenly have a Dame Quentin and a Sir Peter, is especially parochially endearing for us because so many of his queer peers have (like Lord Murrumbidgee and Lord Wombat) titles of local places and local fauna. We have no room to do the epic proper justice but here is a taste of it.

''Twixt Nobs and Snobs where lie the odds

In flesh, or bone, or blood?

Descent be damned! By all the gods,

There goes Lord Neddy Flood.

Last Friday noon, at Gundagai,

A desperate row occurred -

I'll just relate the tale as I

Was told it, word for word:

The doughty Earls of Wollongong

And Tumut came to blows,

And fiery Viscount Jugiong

Broke young Lord Dapto's nose.''

If we don't laugh about the Prime Minister's Anglophile absurdity we will weep over it and using the miracle of Trove (just enter A Fun-O-Scopic View Of Our Peerage) all Abbott-appalled readers can have a good sanity-saving laugh with all 50 of Dashboard's verses.