The Weekend Australian - Review - - Profile - Tim Dou­glas

“The world is a con­fus­ing place, but there’s noth­ing con­fus­ing about the tran­scen­den­tal power of art,” Bill Leak wrote in Re­view in 2015. “You never hear two peo­ple ar­gu­ing about whether the sun­set they’re look­ing at is beau­ti­ful; sim­i­larly, you never hear two peo­ple look­ing up at Michelan­gelo’s ceil­ing of the Sis­tine Chapel and ar­gu­ing about whether that’s beau­ti­ful. Like the glimpse of the uni­verse you get when you look at the sun­set, the Sis­tine Chapel ceil­ing has the ca­pac­ity to take your breath away.” Bill’s car­toons for this news­pa­per had the ca­pac­ity to take peo­ple’s breath away, var­i­ously with laugh­ter, poignance and out­rage. But there was no equiv­o­ca­tion when it came to his por­trai­ture: it was pos­i­tively swoon-wor­thy. See the rev­er­ence in his glo­ri­ous like­ness of the age­ing Sir Don­ald Brad­man at the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery; bathe in the light­ness of his Sir Les Pat­ter­son or bear wit­ness to his Gough Whit­lam. When it came to the Archibald Prize, Bill reck­oned he was “best known for hav­ing lost it, lots of times”; he pre­ferred that de­scrip­tion to the ti­tle of “great­est pain­ter never to win an Archie”. What Leak was, how­ever, was the real deal. A true artist. Bill was farewelled at a me­mo­rial ser­vice in Syd­ney yesterday. He was a gen­er­ous man of peer­less tal­ent, tow­er­ing in­tel­lect and fierce con­vic­tion, and the Aus­tralian arts and jour­nal­is­tic com­mu­ni­ties are poorer for his loss. Vale. What a pleas­ant sur­prise to see ABC TV’s stan­dard Mon­day evening fare — the so­porific po­lit­i­cal ping-pong that is Q&A — in­ter­rupted by a spe­cial cul­tural edi­tion fea­tur­ing real-life artists with real-life opin­ions. Panel­lists singer Martha Wain­wright, ac­tress Ur­sula Yovich, di­rec­tor Neil Arm­field, au­thor Mem Fox and com­poser-clar­inet­tist (and some­time CEO) Kim Wil­liams waxed cul­tural with stand-in host Tom Bal­lard on the pro­gram, filmed live in Adelaide. Bal­lard had the mi­cro­phone but the show be­longed to Arm­field. The co-artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Adelaide In­ter­na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val is no stranger to de­fend­ing the arts, but pre­sum­ably he has never be­fore been ac­cused of help­ing to bring down an en­tire in­dus­try. Not even his trade­mark beard could hide his be­muse­ment as a ques­tioner pon­dered the value of fund­ing arts events in the face of South Aus­tralia’s car man­u­fac­tur­ing de­cline. Arm­field needed a mo­ment. “If you want to mea­sure it in purely eco­nomic terms,” he be­gan, reel­ing off a fact­sand-fig­ures de­fence of the arts. Arm­field then of­fered what was less an an­swer and more a Dalai Lama-grade in­vi­ta­tion for cul­tural awak­en­ing. “The arts,” he urged, “ac­tu­ally is what makes life worth liv­ing.” I’m not sure about the Q, but there’s an A I’d tune in for ev­ery week. Adelaide’s fes­ti­val ends to­mor­row. If you’re nearby, buy a ticket, live a lit­tle.

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