Please Consider Australian Shinto

Robert Hughes
Reflecting on this tendentious juxtaposition, Hughes worked
his voice up into a patrician concern about the postmodern theatre
of national identities. Does not this reduction in national
identity leave us in the position of impecunious aristocrats
selling tours of their family mansions to the hoi polloi? With
an almost Bruce Ruxton anxiety about the yellow peril, Hughes
warns his audience to resist cutting the cloth of Australian
identity to suit our diminutive neighbours.

Please Consider
(Mitsubishi Ad)

Harold Stewart
With exacting detail and rhyming metre, the works written
in Japan paid homage to the sacred land of Buddhism. His strongest
ally at home was A.D. Hope, who according to legend described
Stewart’s major work, By the Old Walls of Kyoto, as ‘the
best long poem in the English language’. Stewart kept
up correspondence with a select group back in Australia, including
James McAuley and the ceramicist Milton Moon, but he was a dogged
exile. Until his deathbed, he did not show an interest in returning
to Australia, which he referred to as the ‘land of was’.

Barry Leckenby
If you search on the Internet today, you will find more material
on Stewart’s religious philosophy than his poetry. The
Mugeko site provides
a focus for Shin Buddhism in the west. One of the contributors,
Barry Leckenby, described Stewart’s belief in Shin Buddhism
as ‘the quest to find a less prescriptive spirituality
that exiled nobody from the paradisiacal afterlife’. Though
it is possible see this as reflecting his attack of pretension
during the Ern Malley hoax, it still doesn’t account for
Stewart’s exotic conversion.

Jane Sawyer
What Sawyer gained from her experience in Japan is an appreciation
of skill. For her, skill is a means to obtain freshness in the
work. ‘The more skilled you are at something, the easier
it becomes and the fresher it is born. It grants you a certain
level of spontaneity and playfulness, of being able to let go.’
For the Japanese, the main path towards spontaneity is repetition—making
the same object over and over until the conscious mind lets
go. ‘For me to sit down on a wheel and play with a lump
of clay is the opposite of that.’

Susan Cohn

Cohn has been able to find a place in the Japanese market
for one kind of work: her square mourning rings made from aluminium
anodised in black. With use, the black surface suffers scratches
and thus wears in a way that reflects the grieving process.
These rings are popular at home as well, where they provide
Australians with a device for experiencing a passage of time
that might otherwise go unmarked.

Her Arnott’s biscuit tins (1994) delve into the sentimental
heart of local material culture. Their distressed surface attempts
to reflect the trials that a treasured object undergoes in retaining
its contents—an expression of the Japanese wabi aesthetic
of worn surfaces on a lost Australian icon. More recently, she
has distressed tins of MSG to mark the loss of a particular
kind of twentieth century condiment.

Les Murray
"Christianity can co-exist with a good deal of Shinto,
particularly perhaps a Shinto tempered by humour, because the
two are about different spiritual concerns. The sort of Shinto
that I am talking about is almost obsessed by style, by manners,
but it has nothing to say about Last Things. On the other hand,
it does fit in, in a way which ought to interest Christians,
with the oldest spiritual traditions existing in Australia in
its celebration, now formal, now casually familiar of special
sites and objects and particularised animals held in emblematic,
partially mythologised poses of contemplation,"

Peter Sculthorpe
"Sitting there, in bright sunlight, I felt very complete
in myself. The shining world of Naiku had affected me in a profound
way. Somehow, too, I’d come to feel like the kind of Australian
that could be called Australian Asian."
Rather than travel the path to authenticity, by stripping away
Western culture and embracing the self-denial of Zen discipline,
Sculthorpe finds a point of inauthenticity on which to attach
Despite appreciating their work, Kawanabe felt that Mono-Ha had no place
for a woman like her. The only path was to join a group. ‘I
had a physical reaction to that kind of society’ she says,
‘I wanted to let things out, not contain them.’
Europe offered a way out. In Munich, she was surprised to find
a Japanese jeweller who prefaced her sentences with the words
‘I think …’—no woman in Japan would
speak for herself like this. Back in Japan, this licence for
self-expression was extended by a visiting teacher from Sydney
College of the Arts (Mary Rose Sinn) who offered Kawanabe a
means of visiting Australia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *