News & views
CHRISTOPHER Allen is suffering from the very short-sightedness and lack of focal depth that he sees as perhaps ‘‘the origin of certain national characteristics’’. In his assessment of Philip Wolfhagen’s recent work (‘‘Distant vistas’’, July 20-21), Allen describes the artist’s love of the far horizon, with its accompanying sensation of ‘‘stillness and silence’’. For him then to to write that ‘‘this is not an experience commonly encountered in Australia’’ makes my blood boil: this is the place of silence, the great stillness, once felt never forgotten. Fred Williams knew how to change the face of Australian landscape painting by using that wonderful flattening effect, showing us the silence and the stillness. Sid Nolan knew how to break with Western traditions and throw the horizon up like a stage curtain. Today, painters such as Idris Murphy, Elisabeth Cummings and Sally Gabori can stitch together this colour, this light, this silence and stillness to bring their experience of country back to us, the viewer. It is in the return of these values that this place can teach us something — how to ‘‘see’’. Catherine Cassidy Cronulla, NSW
CIVILITY is the social contract we have with the wider world. Richard King reiterated its utility in his review of John Hall’s The Importance of Being Civil: The
Struggle for Political Decency (‘‘Let’s agree to differ, civilly’’, July 20-21). Relationships are geographic, shaped by their own features, contours and boundaries; they flow from the family, to friends and on to strangers and are thus moderated by differing behavioural responses. Nicole Billante and Peter Saunders have argued an Australian case (‘‘Why Civility Matters’’, in Policy). Civic virtue is the social capital that replenishes our lives. Mike Fogarty Weston, ACT To be considered for publication, letters must contain an address and telephone number for verification. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.