Mem­o­ries of Ern Mal­ley

The Saturday Paper - - Letters & Editorial - – Peter van Som­mers, Gladesville, NSW

My half-sis­ter Tess van Som­mers was a co-con­spir­a­tor in the Ern Mal­ley scam of 1943. I found my­self won­der­ing whether the re­view of Tony Tuck­son’s works on pa­per (Pa­trick Har­ti­gan, “Prov­ing re­al­ity”, Au­gust 19-25) was it­self an Ern Mal­ley item or per­haps a re­sponse to a set of Ern Mal­ley art­works. What con­vinced me that nei­ther were put-ons was the qual­ity of the re­pro­duced works. I don’t mean that they were too good, but on ac­count of how solidly empty they ap­pear. In the Ern Mal­ley fol­low-up and for many years there­after, both the work and its “au­thor” were de­fended by many on the grounds that the po­ems ac­tu­ally had sub­stan­tial lit­er­ary merit that arose out of the sup­posed in­abil­ity of their au­thors to pro­duce fair-dinkum junk. What makes me sure that the im­ages re­pro­duced in your pe­ri­od­i­cal are not “Ern Mal­ley” fab­ri­ca­tions is be­cause as vis­ual art they ap­pear so hon­estly vac­u­ous. If Tess, the daugh­ter of our artist fa­ther Jack Som­mers, had been given the job of cre­at­ing Ern Mal­ley vis­ual art, I’m sure she would have syn­the­sised items with just enough ac­ci­den­tal com­po­si­tional struc­ture or emo­tional mean­ing to make them look kosher.

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