The truth is that I just wasn't very imaginative. My impression of Australia was formed entirely by being made to read Walkabout (which seemed way too weird for me to be able to relate to it in any way) and from watching Neighbours and Home & Away. And my shortsighted and mistakenly superior self didn't bother researching any further.
Over the years, there have been occasional little prompts. I watch The Thorn Birds with a biannual regularity. It's one of my favourite film sagas of all time, up there with Gone With The Wind, The Jewel in the Crown and Brideshead Revisted. It's got it all: overpowering love, insane ambition, total devastation, Catholic guilt, arguments over wills, illegitimate children and stunning scenery:
And then of course there's Nick Cave, with his incredible haunting lyrics, and his film, The Proposition:
(Australia is pretty much the only thing the two films have in common, incidentally, which you can probably deduce from the images. . . . )
And now the Australia exhibition has arrived at Royal Academy, and oh my God I want to go. I'm even considering a twenty four hour flight in economy with both children, that's how much I want to go. Why, why didn't I feel this way when I was unencumbered by the world's least agreeable travelling companions? Those inhospitable landscapes; take me there!
Sydney Nolan, Ned Kelly - I've always been fascinated by Australia's most infamous outlaw.
Eugene von Guerard, Bush Fire
Shaun Gladwell, Approach to Mundi Mundi. I want to motorbike through sacred Aboriginal landscapes. This is actually a clip from a great video piece. I watched it for ages. And there wasn't even a bench to sit on.
Australia is at the Royal Academy opens on Saturday and is on until the 8th December. Go, go go!