Thursday, March 23, 2017


Dear fellow artists and art lovers

Canberra has always been a city that values art and artists, in all they do to enrich the Canberra region and community.

In December 2016 the ACT Government made an un-announced, unprecedented 66% drop in funding to Project Funding in the ACT Arts budget for 2017.   This is deeply worrying to many Canberra artists, and in response to a letter co-signed by over 160 of Canberra’s leading artists, the incoming Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay announced that an additional $230,000 of funding will now be distributed for 2017 Projects.  This was very welcome, however it is still only 65% of previous years' funding.

The Arts sector has come together to form the Canberra Arts Action Group to ensure that this doesn't happen again.  The Group also calls for a need for greater transparency and consultation with the ACT Arts Community for the benefit of all. A five point petition will be put to the Legislative Assembly calling for this change. If you wish to support our local artists, and believe that art should be an important and valued part of our community, please sign it.  The petition can be found at

There will also be a very short media event, in which I will take part, to acknowledge the vibrancy and benefits that art brings to Canberra. It will take place outside the ACT Legislative Assembly on Weds March 29th at 12.30 pm. It would be fantastic if you could be there to add your support.
Please pass this information to any in your circles who are patrons, practitioners or lovers of art. It would be great if we could all stand up to be counted.

This message was received from for  Canberra Artist of the Year, Louise Page, and published for the information of Canberra Critics Circle members by Bill Stephens.  


Margaret Legge Wilkinson, piano
Wednesday Lunchtime Live
Wesley Music Foundation
Wesley Music Centre, Forrest - March 22

Review by Len Power

Presented by the Wesley Music Foundation at the Wesley Music Centre as part of their Wednesday Lunchtime Live concerts, pianist Margaret Legge Wilkinson presented an excellent program of works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Olivier Messaien.

Canberra’s Margaret Legge Wilkinson has received critical acclaim as a virtuoso pianist of contemporary classical music.  As soloist, accompanist and chamber musician, she has performed throughout Australia and in Europe.

‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’ is a collection of two series of Preludes and Fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, composed for solo keyboard by Johann Sebastian Bach.  The first set was compiled in 1722 and the second followed 20 years later.  Margaret Legge Wilkinson commenced the program with three Preludes and Fugues from the second set, numbers 12, 15 and 16 in F minor, G major and G minor respectively.  Her playing of each work was clear and crisp and with a sensitivity and understanding that displayed every dimension of Bach’s distinctive music.

The second half of the program was devoted to Olivier Messaien and five selections from his eight ‘Preludes For Piano’, an early work composed in 1928–1929, when the composer was 20 years old.  Messiaen considered it to be his first work of any value.  Each prelude is accompanied by a description consisting mostly of the associated colours.  For example, the second prelude, ‘Song of ecstasy in a sad landscape’ is given the description, ‘gray, mauve, Prussian blue at the beginning and end; diamond and silver at the middle’.

'Song Of Ecstasy In A Sad Landscape' by Collin Murphy

The music has a haunting quality, at times reminiscent of the music of Debussy.  Each prelude was played beautifully by Margaret Legge Wilkinson, bringing out the full range of colour and emotion.  ‘Moments Past’ and ‘The Impalpable Sounds Of A Dream’ were particularly outstanding.

This was an excellent lunchtime concert of fascinating works by two quite different composers.  The Wednesday Lunchtime Live concerts are held weekly at the Wesley Music Centre at 12.40pm and run for about 50 minutes.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Artcetera’ program (9am Saturdays) and ‘Dress Circle’ (3.30pm Mondays).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Salesman

Review by © Jane Freebury

The films of writer-director Asghar Farhadi are taut, tense, obliquely scripted and immaculately performed. His latest film in similar vein won best foreign film Oscar this year, just five years since the director won the same award for A Separation.

I wouldn’t say that his meticulous work is the most cinematic. There is sparing though powerful use of all the expressive elements of his chosen medium, yet he is still one of the best around. Social constraint and strict censorship in Iran have served him well, too.

The Salesman was screening in Tehran when I was a tourist there last year. Our guide said it was doing well, though she seemed a little puzzled by its success. It may not be the sort of entertainment that the young and unattached would go out of their way to see.

Marriage is a central motif for Farhadi, and in the world that he has created in A Separation, The Past and now The Salesman, it is a difficult and, sorry to say, pretty joyless business. This is a filmmaker with a gift like Ingmar Berman’s for creating immersive experience, pitching his audiences deep into the bracken of complicated, compromised interpersonal relationships. It is up to audiences to make what they will of this microcosm and its wider social significance.

The Salesman opens at the theatre where Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and his wife Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are the lead actors in an amateur production of Death of a Salesman. Garish neon signs and an unmade double bed turn out to be theatre props. If there is some resonance between the disillusionment and betrayal of dreams in Arthur Miller’s iconic study of the mid-20th century US and the present-day in Iran, it is obliquely stated, but damn intriguing all the same.

All of a sudden, a life change for the couple. Deep cracks appear in the walls and windows of their apartment and they are forced to move out and into another apartment. It doesn’t have a bulldozer digging next door, but turns out to be a lot less secure. The previous tenant has not fully vacated, and has left a bedroom locked, filled with her belongings. A visitor who calls is expecting that she will still be there.

Meanwhile, in the scenes of Emad and the teenage boys in his literature class we are on reassuring solid ground. This interlude is a welcome window on his character outside the home. At school, he is genial and kind, an effective and popular teacher who can be a buddy to his students but knows where to draw the line. It is a significant insight into his character that we don’t get for Rana.

The former tenant in Emad and Rana's new home ‘lived a wild life’ - code for prostitute. Emad realises that the couple has been betrayed through information withheld, but it is already too late. Without any knowledge of previous comings and goings, Rana has no need for caution, and she lets in an unidentified person who she believes to be her husband, then proceeds to the bathroom for a shower.

Rana is assaulted by this stranger, an attack that is neither seen, heard nor explicitly defined. How could it be otherwise? We only see she is severely traumatised.

Unwilling to allow the details of the assault to become public, she refuses Emad’s request they go to the police. The rift that opens between them only widens with Rana in retreat and Emad tracking down the assailant, impatient for justice. Rana even accuses him of seeking revenge. Complication and compromise follow when the attacker turns out to be someone with vulnerabilities of his own.

If the difficulties this couple face cannot be fully appreciated outside Iran, The Salesman explores territory that can, while rape is one of the least reported crimes. With handheld camera, a modest set, excellent actors and a sensitive and intelligent screenplay, Farhadi has covered some very difficult territory and got us all thinking.

4 Stars

Also published at Jane's blog

Rose Paterson brought to life in new book

Looking for Rose Paterson: How Family Life Nurtured Banjo the Poet
By Jennifer Gall
National Library of Australia Publishing, 2017

Reviewed by Graham McDonald

The Australian poet and writer Banjo Paterson spent much of his childhood living on Illalong Station, near Binalong, north of Canberra. Banjo’s father Andrew had owned the farm (along with two others) with his brother until a combination of factors meant the properties had to be sold and Andrew ended up as the manager of Illalong under new ownership. The family, Andrew, his wife Rose and several children lived in the manager’s cottage, made from timber slabs with a bark roof and stretched calico for ceilings.

Rose was an educated, middle class woman, whose family had emigrated in 1840 and, like the Patersons, had taken up farming properties. While managing Illalong paid reasonably well, the family’s physical surrounds were primitive. With Andrew often away on farming business, Rose was left to manage an ever growing household with the only the semi-skilled assistance of a local girl as a servant. For 15 years, from 1873 until 1888 she wrote regularly to her sister Nora, who lived a much more materially comfortable life in Queensland. These lettershave  ended up in the National Library and provide a fascinating glimpse into rural life in Australia of that period from a woman’s perspective. Jennifer Gall has woven the raw material of the letters into a wide ranging view of late-nineteenth century rural life.

The fact that it is Banjo Paterson’s mother writing the letters means we know a lot of the ‘back story’ of where the family fits into the society of the period, due to the several bjographies of Banjo. We would not have that back ground with more anonymous. For all that, Banjo is little more than a vague figure in the background of this book. It is about Rose and more broadly the hard life of women living in the isolation of rural communities.

Gall uses the letters as the starting point of explorations of various facets of bush life: pregnancy, childrearing, medical and health issues, domestic management and education. There is little of the heroics of Clancy or the Man from Snowy River, this is a grim picture of a hard life. Yet through all of this, there is a sharp intelligence and a wonderful sense of humour in Rose’s letters to Nora.

Rose was dead by the time she was 50, simply worn out, one can imagine, by living the life she did. Her letters and Gall’s detailed work in placing them in the wider social context of the period have ensured that she will be remembered as more than simply Banjo’s mother.