Interview (cont.)Question:Can you describe what happens to you when you start drawing … how do you manage to get through to the final result?I’m not the master of the painting, the painting is the master of me. It dictates the terms. So I don’t know what I’m going to do when I pick up the pen, because from then on I’m but the servant of the painting. There is one particular drawing here in the exhibition that everyone who gets to see it thinks is magnificent – it has a very special quality to it and seems to draw heavily on your Aboriginality in terms of its feeling. Would you say so too?The only thing I can say about that is that when I was doing it, I had all my grandkids around me and … I was happy.So now that your first exhibition is happening, does it seem more likely that in future you will concentrate more on the art and less on writing?Yes, but I would use the painting as the main thing, and use the writing to get away from the painting. See, I’m an Aboriginal who needs balance as all Aboriginals do. If you haven’t got that balance, nothing turns out right. But the writing will then take second place to my paintings. … If I had the money I’d like to go into a full scale material design thing. Set up a workshop situation and be able to supply all the necessary art production materials. And what I would do is look for the young people of Aboriginal descent coming out of the high schools … who showed an aptitude towards the arts … and apprentice them.Oodgeroo on Aboriginal art and creativityI gather that Pablo Picasso once had something to say about Aboriginal art?Well the story went out that Picasso, when he saw the full blooded Aboriginal peoples’ work, his statement was these people have succeeded in doing what I have been trying to do for 30 years and failed to do … The Aboriginal people have such tremendous art. Up until now we have just put before the public of Australia the traditional art which is really top rate and marvelous - and Picasso would be the first to agree with me on this - but now we’re into the Twentieth Century and now is the time for opening doors for a new form of art for the urban Aborigines. And there are a lot of artists in the field who are just drawing their art in the sands and brushing it out. What we want to do is encourage these people and let them know there is a market for their arts and their dancing … all of their creative work … and Aborigines are very creative people.Finally have you got any feelings about white peoples’ efforts to paint an Aboriginal country like this … the gum trees and more? Well I like gum trees. You mean like Hans Heysen for instance?Yes, what do you feel about their efforts? For example, their interpretations of gum trees and landscapes?Well Australian whites, if I can be so bold as to say so, are still using the European, the English mind. They’re still very English in their minds, they’re yet to be true Australians. They’re just interlopers into this country and they haven’t become Australians yet. But they will one day, they’ll become Australians.A lot of them actually talk about having got away from the English outlook.No, the only one who has is Pro Hart. Pro Hart has made it. It’s a fact, yet people think he’s crazy … and he’s pure Australian! … That’s why Pro Hart’s stuff is so exciting. He isn’t in the European mould.Are there any other artists that you think have managed that?He’s the only one. … We haven’t yet got a true Australian artist … other than in my opinion, Pro Hart. I don’t think a lot of people understand him. But Pro Hart excites me. Even if I don’t like what I see in his stuff, I think at least he’s painting as a painter should without getting any feelings about so and so did it this way, so and so did it that way. Pro Hart did it that way, finished, that’s it!There is also Sawrey. Hugh Sawrey paints the outback, have you seen his works? Huh! His pallet is just so outback! Moving beyond Australian artists, have any European artists ever appealed to you?In terms of being exposed to other artist’s work … my favourite painter is Rembrandt, thank you very much. But … I wouldn’t want to paint like Rembrandt. I’m not his style! (Laughing.)Bruce Dicksonis a journalist/writer and past friend of Oodgeroo Noonuccal. At the time of the interview he was also the Brisbane Community Arts Centre’s Director (now known as Metro Arts). He can be contacted at email@example.comRecommended reading: "Oodgeroo: A Tribute", University of Queensland Press (UQP), a special issue of 'Australian Literary Studies', Volume 16 No 4, 1994. ISBN 0 7022 2800 1. Reference Resource: Major collection on Oodgeroo Noonuccal's work and life held at the Fryer Libary, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland.See also: Aboriginal humour - the true origins of the famous dry/laconic Australian wit?Page 4 of 41I 2 I 3 I 4
"I'm not the master of the painting, the painting is the master of me. It dictates the terms."
"The Aboriginal people have such tremendous art ... and now is the time for opening up a new form of art for the urban Aborigines."
"Well the story went out that Picasso said ... those people have succeeded in doing what I have been trying to do for thirty years ..."
Legacy of a True National Treasure of Australia: Interview, Page 4