Works in the Herald 1933
Beating the Sur-Realists!

I notice that a well-known Australian artist, recently returned from abroad, has a depreciatory word to say about the sur-realist and other modern art movements that are sounding the loud timbrel -- or is it cymbal? -- over Europe's dark scene.

My artist friend seems to hint at some concern lest these sur-schools may extend their influence to this fair land. At the time of writing, I have, in my spare moments, been arranging for their extinction; though not, perhaps, quite in the manner that my friend will most heartily welcome.

I am, in fact, on the point of founding an entirely new school; for I have recently discovered, much to my own amazement, that I am a sur-sur-realist. Yes, sir.

As soon as I have ten minutes to spare I intend to execute and exhibit a few examples of the new art; but I have not the remotest intention in the world of returning to the obvious, not to say childish, technique of out-moded men like the fellow Rembrandt or Velasquez or Franz Hals. Who wants to wander back when such a glorious (and easy) path lies ahead?

Beyond inventing a few new ones, I am not much concerned with mediums. Paints, chalk, charcoal are clearly out of the question; but I find that used sump oil from highly carbonised motor engines, mixed with the yokes of certain eggs and a little tan boot polish, makes a delightfully sympathetic medium of morose hue and pungent odor that cannot fail to annoy effete critics.

Pigs' blood and ground paving stone is another discovery of mine; also melted chocolate creams, sulphuric acid and canned lobster shredded finely. You will understand, I aim to be original, above all things.

A profound ignorance of draughtsmanship, perspective, balance, planes and pattern, will, of course, be a great assistance.

So far as the actual painting is concerned, the basic idea is, of course, everything: mere execution and craftmanship is just archaic idiocy.

So far, in seeking ideas, I have quarried far beyond the sub-conscious and deeply into the sub-sub-conscious; and with mental windlass and rope, I am at present dredging red raw iideas out of the very boots of my astral being. You ought to see some of them.

I am quite convinced -- happily convinced -- that no one, now or later, will ever comprehend my works, and few will be able to look at them without becoming slightly insane.

But mere painting is the least important factor in the new movement. Cheap child-labor can attent to that.

But listen to my greatest discovery. Even the most ultra of present modernists still cling to the ancient idea that picture frames must consist of four straight lines -- two vertical and two horizontal -- hung plum and level in a maddeningly symmetrical manner that fairly get a neo-Georgian's eternal goat.

Straight lines! Right angles! Heavens! Have they never read their Einstein?

What's the matter with a triangle with a pronounced goitre? A rhomboid with rheumatoid arthritis? A parallelogram with paralysis? A drunken duplicate polygon? The possibilities are endless.

When my movement is launched I look for much violent opposition, for much embittered comment and ignorant criticism.

But there is still one born every minute; and I look also for fame and fortune.

I trust I have made myself plain.

Herald, 21 December 1933, p6

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003-05