Explorer Attacked by Parrots, Albert Tucker 1960

Section
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
Chapter
1.7 Paintings
Page
1.7.6

Superficially similar to Drysdale’s crushing surrealism in tone and block-like structure, Albert Tucker’s ‘Explorer Attacked by Parrots’ is more fascinated observation, humourous comment upon a collision: the collision of European myth and civilisation with Australian Nature (representative, as well, of wild Nature more generally).

The dark, monolithic ‘explorer’ has great power and presence, possibly even wisdom and experience, too. He is ancient and craggy, but, I sense, not amused by his meeting with this utterly strange and wild natural world. Those mad, mad parrots are attacking him (the parrots’ riotous wildness is a wonderful representation of untamed Nature and very Australian) and this clash seems most unlikely to lead to a good outcome.

Initially, though, Tucker saw such a collision as hopeful, even essential: “I only wish I could recast all the basic Christian mythologies…and Grecian and Egyptian mythologies, through an Australian vision”1, and that this “Ingrained European mythology was struggling to get out in terms of an Australian experience”1. This was not merely a whim or a wish for Tucker, but vital: “If the world is to survive we will have to renew the archetypal myths which generate the underlying energy that enables civilisation to take place”ibid..

So, he marched his explorer into the Australian wilderness, deliberately ‘smashing atoms’ to try to create something new. His Nature was never going to be allowed to remain aloof, something separate, no matter how wild and untamed it seemed, but had to include the human (“I have to have that human factor, producing humanised totem forms out of the landscape”ibid.) and “without the human factor…there always seems to be something not quite right, something missing”ibid.. And just as the human had to go out into the landscape, or even emerge from it, so, too, did Nature have to enter the human mind, literally portrayed by the parrots scrabbling at the explorer’s eyes, ears and skull.

Unlike François or Wenzel Peter, this amalgam was rough, raw and sometimes brutal, and sadly, at least in the Australian instance according to Tucker, not achieved. This has left a destructive emptiness that I am not sure he saw as solvable, either in Australia, or elsewhere, or in the future, so depleted have society and Nature become.

 

 

1 Mollison, J., Minchin, J. 1990. Albert Tucker – A Retrospective. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

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1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
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