ACT News

Gang-gang. Australia Day – two transparently fine Australians praised

It is Australia Day! And so, without descending to any vulgar oi oi oisms, we celebrate the day and adorn today's column with pictures of two contrastingly endearing Australians.

One picture celebrates the unique loveliness of Australia' flora with a sprig of eucalyptus. It looks familiarly Australian, but wait! It is seen in a way you will never previously have seen such a thing. Dr Dain L. Tasker's Eucalyptus X-ray is an image from an exhibition of his botanical X-ray studies. It has just opened at San Diego's Joseph Bellows Gallery.

Plenty of dash: Daria Gavrilova  vs Carla Suarez Navarro during Day 7 of the Australian Open 2016 women's singles at the ...
Plenty of dash: Daria Gavrilova vs Carla Suarez Navarro during Day 7 of the Australian Open 2016 women's singles at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Sunday.  Photo: Alex Ellinghausen.

More about Dr Tasker and his radiological art in a moment. But while we are on the big subject of endearing Australians and Australian patriotism we've added some dash to today's column with a picture of our Daria "Dash" Gavrilova. In our picture she is in typically helter-skelter action on Sunday at the Australian Open.

Back to the endearing "Dash" in little more time than it takes for a change of ends at the Open.

Dr Dain Tasker's Eucalyptus X-ray.
Dr Dain Tasker's Eucalyptus X-ray.  Photo: Joseph Bellows Gallery.

But first, given our patriotic sprig of eucalyptus, the reflection that Australian patriotism in its worst oi oi oish expressions can be an ugly, mad, jingoist, racist beast.

Given that truism, perhaps love of Australia is best expressed through love of, celebration of (especially through art) and protection of our fauna and flora. Between them (and in partnership with the weird old continent in which they have arisen) they make the largest contribution to whatever is unique about Australia. Human Australians (especially those palefaces that arrived here from 1788 onwards) are much like the Homo sapiens of everywhere else. But some of us, patriots, know that if we were transported in chains to somewhere else to languish for the rest of our natural lives it is natural Australia, the creatures and the flora (the trees!) and the dazzling, illuminating Australian light, that we would pine for.

Advertisement

There on that fatal shore we would hardly give a thought to human Australians' imagined superhuman feats in war and in sport, that we make so much of on flag-wrapped days like today and like Anzac Day. Instead, forlorn at heart, we would recite Dorothea Mackellar's Core of my heart, my country! to ourselves and to our uncomprehending captors.

It is Australia the place that is what's truly loveable about Australia. Australian people, so very average, can be an enormous, daily disappointment.

But loveable, accomplished human Australians do occasionally arise. The Liberal Party never generates any (instead its shifty laboratories incubate Peter Slippers, Bronwyn Bishops and Peter Duttons) but occasionally Australian sport does. And so suddenly we are blessed with Daria Gavrilova.

What proof she is, though, of what a scarily fickle and irrational thing patriotism is. At the Australian Open fans who not even heard her name until earlier this month took to her with a wild fanaticism. Because she was the Australian on the court, fans at her Open match with a Frenchwoman went barmy over everything she (Ms Gavrilova) did but could barely manage a ripple of applause for any French achievement. In my worst nightmares I am on trial (and am innocent) and my jury is made up 12 Australian tennis fans, shallow, whimsy-prone flibbertigibbets.

But some of the masses' enthusiasms for heart-on-her sleeve "Dash" are understandable.

For example with her we at last have an Aussie female tennis player who shrieks and roars while she plays. Fogeys hate this, and Fogeys Corner, (aka the letters pages of this paper), always throbs with disapproval of it. For fogeys who have never thrown their whole souls into anything they do in their tightly-corseted lives can never understand it.

But when "Dash" gives a shriek-roar it is, as the best of women's tennis noises always are, something part war-cry, part shout of exuberance, part gasp of extreme exertion. Good for her. Long may she shriek. A miserabilist's letter (in Monday's paper) saying that players' noises drown out "the atmosphere that goes with the game" misses the point that such war cries, such calls from the jungle of top sport at its most dark and ferocious, are part of the atmosphere that goes with the game.

Oops. Carried away by our "Dash" crush we've hardly left enough room  to go back to Dr Tasker's botanical X-rays.

"When we think of X-rays," the stimulating online arts magazine Hyperallergic explains in the new article in which we have found the X-ray artworks "we generally think of the human body's skeletal structure." http://hyperallergic.com/269028/a-radiologists-x-ray-photographs-of-flowers-from-the-1930s/

"But in the 1930s, one osteopathist turned his attention to the anatomy of plants and used his X-ray machine as what it fundamentally exists as: a camera. Dr. Dain L. Tasker, then head radiologist at Los Angeles's Wilshire Hospital, cultivated a hobby of photographing individual flowers using X-ray film, resulting in beautiful black-and-white prints that highlight the graceful lines of plant forms with incredible detail. What began as a doctor's experiments in marrying science and art yielded a collection of hundreds of striking botanical images.

"The poetry and beauty he saw in botany is evident in his minimal compositions: dark and diaphanous ... His images represent the new intrigue in using technology to examine the structure of matter – not only in the name of science, but in his case, to also find an unexpected beauty in nature."