“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.