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HomeVolume 28Inspiration from another time, and another land

Inspiration from another time, and another land


Xavier Neal and his wife Petrina Johnson were about my age. We spent a lot of time together, often when one or both were inebriated. I’d internalised concerns about their drinking until a reproduction of Gericault’s 1819 magnum opus, The Raft of the Medusa, suggested a metaphor for their grog sickness.

I was surprised and delighted at their ready assent to adopt Gericault’s central Pieta image and led me to the house he’d just built south of the main camp.

Melita Johnson wondered what we were doing. When I showed her the reproduction she wanted to participate and stands behind her partner, Marcus Driffen. He, in turn, mimics the African who points to the rescue ship, The Argus.

I elevated the horizon following Gericault’s mode of tipping the figures into the viewer’s space. Essential poses are quoted. Xavier doubled as the guy slipping from the frame. The humpy substituted for the raft. Land mass equals sea, both suggesting an inescapable expanse.

Though Xavier and Petrina liked the result and said it reminded them of their drinking, they, like other drinkers at Whitegate, only abstained when staying on her distant homelands at Ulurwelkwe far from a supply chain.

PAINTING: Raft, 1990.


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