Saturday, 17 March 2012

Everybody Loves Weyman, or, The Horror of Long Haul Bus Rides

You know how when you talk a lot about football you end up talking almost as much about life, because the two so regularly intersect? Well, it was only a matter of time before the intersection between football and the visual arts demanded attention. Read on, culture vultures!

A fabulous life-sized bronze statue of Dragons behemoth Michael Weyman has been fashioned by a local artist in his hometown of Moruya and installed it in the park by the river. I can think of several hundred NRL players I would prefer to see immortalised in bronze ahead of Weyman (the visually splendid Carney astride the Big Merino, for one) but, still. From what I saw the artist appeared to have captured something of Weyman’s essential blue-collar, battle-axe spirit, as well as that look of piercing, squinting, enraged-bull stoicism he wears a while running at and/or over the top of opponents. (“Get Out of my Weyman”- humourous Red V sign)

I used to ride the Pioneer bus up and down that coast constantly from Bega to Nowra between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. Months of my life were spent on that bus, nauseously watching landscape flash past though dirty windows. Moruya was the scheduled stop for the meal break*. It was a faded, seedy town in a state of nonchalant, not altogether offensive disrepair back then. Still, that river mouth or estuary thing lent the place a certain air of raffish elegance in a Mark Twain kind of a way. Towns with a river passing through them somehow always appear more interesting than towns without, even if they are filled with poor-looking people and mean-looking dogs and signs pocked with shotgun blasts. Perhaps the Weyman statue has added a new, more sophisticated dimension to the character of the place. I hope so. I hope the artist hasn’t misread his market. The Laurie Daly statue certainly lifts the tone of Bruce Stadium, but Laurie Daly is a very charming man so it almost goes without saying that his bronze rendering exudes characteristic charisma and charm.  So. Michelangelo’s David, Laurie Daly, and MICHAEL WEYMAN.
In any case, if you haven’t experienced a long distance coach ride you really haven’t lived. To ride on a cross country coach is to engage with a sordid underside of sad and awful lives.  You only really go on a long distance bus because you can’t afford to fly, you can’t afford a car, or you are a delinquent who has been forbidden from driving, and possibly from living within three hundred meters of schools and daycare centres as well.  As a result, most of the people on long distance buses are one of the following: actively schizoid, armed and dangerous, in a drugged stupor, or just released from prison.  
In the same way that you do not buy a meat pie for the meat, you do not expect to meet the finest and best of mankind on long distance buses. I mean, you wouldn’t expect to slip into an empty seat beside the corduroy-wearing Stephen Fry, would you? Hardly. The whole experience is infected with an inexpressible melancholy, punctuated by occasional eruptions of violence as passengers lapse into psychotic episodes and are abruptly ejected from the bus. Additionally, there is the smell. It is a heady bouquet of stale, BO-steeped upholstery and grim, unspecified despair, and it increases in intensity the further back into the bowels of the bus you go. Apparently the Pioneer bus company has become the Premier bus company and has drastically cut back on trips and drastically jacked up their prices.  I wonder where this has left the dangerously disordered and the chronically down and out who genuinely need the bus service to travel up and down the coast? When is the world going to be arranged to benefit the people who need small mercies such as these?  
In other NRL art news (not a sentence I ever expected to write, but something I feel we could all do with more of in our lives), a portrait of Ryan Tandy has been entered in the Archibald competition. It’s a full frontal nude and he is depicted, just as nature intended, with a blue pig lying by his side. It took me aback when I saw it. I stared in a kind of frozen astonishment. The last I saw of Tandy he was being unceremoniously evicted from his apartment, hauling boxes and sweating profusely. He was locked into the slow, untidy spiral of decline that had seen him charged with match fixing and fired from the Bulldogs amid accusations of a gambling problem and substantial debts.

Clearly his personal decision making processes leave something to be desired, but, still, moments of mental collapse happen to the both the best and worst of us, and, if they didn’t our lives wouldn’t be enriched by wonderful moments such as Mel Gibson being caught driving with an open bottle of tequila clenched between his thighs and calling a cop “sugar-tits”. Mad respect to anyone who brings the term sugar-tits back to public prominence.
Really wakes up your interest in the visual arts, all this, doesn’t it?

*Me- “Was that takeaway in Moruya called the Red Rose CafĂ©?”
-Brother- “Yeah. Wasn’t that where we used to buy footy cards too?”

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