touching a flaming comet

The disordering of the senses. A somewhat romantic and irrational project it was, to glorify the romantic’s seemingly narcissistic obsession with the process of creativity, an earnest concern to find the secret of creativity, like a holy grail, or a youth elixir and thereby guarantee creativity. The influence of Arthur Rimbaud on Sidney Nolan was overwhelming. To be the mad artist. The poet shocked by modernism, one traumatized by everyday social reality. To feel compelled to disown and empty the contents of their psyche warts and all as though it were impersonal, replaceable and universal and not the personal and private neuroses it usually was.

---Artist Sidney Nolan Title Riverbend II Medium Oil on Canvas Size 60 x 48 in. / 152.4 x 121.9 cm. Year 1966 - Read More:

The re-ordering of the senses jutting into the avant-garde and the concept of prolonged adolescence. The adolescence as concept and theme in itself. That was the sharp edge of Rimbaud for to be on the cutting edge, the avant-garde means to live as an unpredictable and anxious adolescent. To impose adolescent terror and deviance. For the artist, adolescent revolt becomes an aesthetic way of remaining eternally youthful, at least in spirit. That is, as long as one continues to rebel, one could never change and become old.

…It is a difficult task charting a course through an output as wide-ranging and notoriously prolific as Nolan’s. “At the end of his life, he calculated that he might have done 35,000 paintings,” Pearce says. “How many were any good? I’d be fairly generous in saying one in every hundred. He painted a lot of very bad pictures.”…

---Sleeping Beggar. 1963. ---Then one of his fellow students, Howard Matthews, heard Nolan saying he wanted to go to Paris, to escape his working-class life. "Matthews said, 'You'd like Rimbaud'," Pearce says. "So Nolan started reading Rimbaud, the model of the bad boy. And Rimbaud was very bad. He was dangerous, incandescent. He turned the whole poetic tradition upside down. Torched everyone. Indulged in drugs and alcohol in a very strategic way to discover an alternative world, this mystical state. "Nolan adored this. It was a model of how he could break away from the suffocating life he thought he had." It wasn't just Rimbaud's poems that appealed to the young artist but the poet's deliberately provocative and anarchic personal life. Read More: image:

“Nolan identified with the French poet Arthur Rimbaud as another artist who strove to be remarkable. As both a man and poet, the wild Frenchman Arthur Rimbaud, appealed to non-conformist Nolan. In fact some critics have described his interest in Rimbaud as an obsession. Rimbaud was a Symbolist poet and wrote all his works before he turned twenty. Symbolist poetry was based upon spirituality, imagination and dreams and Rimbaud’s poetry clearly links the visual and the verbal. Read More:

---Sidney Nolan. Boy and the moon, c. 1939–1940. Oil on canvas on composition board, 73.3 x 88.2 cm. Collection National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. © The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust--- Read More:

Nolan followed the Rimbaud thesis, described as ” a long prodigious and reasoned disordering of all the senses.” A high romantic poetry taking place between truth and meaning; a greatness found in the negations and a redemption through sin; a hell filtered through with glimpses, fragments of divinity where in the delirium of descent bot God and the Devil are names for the same entity, the same spirit of inertia and lassitude capturing and incarnating all the disorders of the romantic vision. A gospel of adolescence, Rimbaud necessarily becomes and remains the epitomy of the mythical institution of the modern poet, the artist as genuine image of alienation even if the myth tends to obscure a deeper traditionalism.

---Sidney Nolan 1917-1992 RAM CAUGHT IN FLOOD 1955 oil and enamel paint on composition board signed and dated 'N 55;' lower centre dated and inscribed 'RAM CAUGHT / IN FLOOD / 20 / 3 / 55' on verso--- Read More:

…Nolan’s passions have been much explored. His love life reads like an airport novel. The deserted first wife and child. The strange and enduring cuckolding affair with Sunday Reed, frustrated wife of his patron. The marriage to Cynthia, which ended in her suicide and enduring bitterness over his artistic legacy. Peace at last with Mary, sister of Arthur and David Boyd.

But, until now, no one has really explored Nolan’s French connection: his fascin

n with a flaming comet who burnt himself out by the age of 20 in a creative orgy of absinthe, hashish and scandal, never to write poetry again….Read More:

Sidney Nolan, Little Dog Mine.---The importance of Abandoned Mine is that it was seen by Sir Kenneth Clark, the famous British art historian, when it was on show at the Art Gallery of NSW for the Wynne Landscape Exhibition in January 1949. Clark was so impressed he arranged to see Nolan at Wahroonga the following afternoon. When he arrived he was even more dazzled, for Nolan showed him the Queensland outback paintings he would eventually exhibit at the David Jones Art Gallery, in March, to rapturous reviews. Pearce says: "Clark saw all this work, paced the floor and said, 'This is it! I've found the genius of our time.' " Clark was so convinced of Nolan's talent that he encouraged Nolan and Cynthia to move to Europe, which they did in 1950. Clark also wanted to buy Abandoned Mine. But it was already sold, so he bought Little Dog Mine, a work Pearce describes as "very similar and an equally fine painting". Little Dog Mine, in turn, found its way back to Australia when it was bought by the late Robert Holmes a Court.---- Read More: image:


…According to Pearce, Nolan’s enchantment with the life and works of Rimbaud was immediate and enduring. He and Matthews began play-acting, with Nolan cast as Rimbaud and Matthews as Verlaine. They were so eager to escape to Paris that they stowed away on a ship, though they were discovered and put ashore. “They had this manic, desperate need to find this parallel universe, an alternative to the life they had in Melbourne,” Pearce says….

…”She sat him down at the kitchen table and read Rimbaud to him in French. Nolan couldn’t understand the words but listened to the mood. Sunday was looking for a Rimbaud protege and Nolan was perfect. [After the recitation] Nolan was expected to either paint or write down in English what he felt. After several weeks of this, there was no question that he was going to be a painter.

“But he never gave up poetry and he carried the bruise of the relationship with Sunday Reed all his life. Nolan wanted her to leave her husband. Eventually he woke up to the fact that [their relationship] was about her being stimulated by a love affair. He bitterly realised she wanted to possess him in a different way. The shock of that deeply wounded him.”… Read More:
Ten years before Arthur met Verlaine in Paris, Arthur had talked about this quest with Georges Izambard in a letter from May of 1871 saying, he “was busy ‘wallowing in vice’ with the goal of being a poet and a ‘seer’: ‘It’s a matter of arriving Paul Verlaine at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses’” . Rimbaud felt that pain helped one gain experience and enlightenment. He often would not wash his clothes or cut his hair. Rimbaud engaged in S&M practices with Paul Verlaine in which he would cut Verlaine across the chest, leaving visible lacerations. Drinking absinthe and smoking hashish to gain an altered state of consciousness were also part of Rimbaud and Verlaine’s repertoire to disorder the senses. In the movie “Total Eclipse,” Verlaine refers to absinthe as “the poet’s third eye,” possibly alluding to the idea that an altered state of consciousness sparks creativity.

Rimbaud took a copy of the most recent poem he had written, “The Drunken Boat,” to Paris with him to show it to Verlaine. Considered one of Rimbaud’s masterpieces, “The Drunken Boat” used revolutionary imagery and symbolism.

The following lines from the “Drunken Boat” give interesting visual imagery:

Now I drift through the Poem of the Sea;

This gruel of stars mirrors the milky sky,

Devours green azures; ecstatic flotsam,

Drowned men, pale and thoughtful, sometimes drift by. (Rimbaud 120) Read More:

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