Words and Pictures Reviewed by Renee Hills

Review of June Perkins’s Words and Pictures Tour (Queensland Art Gallery, Sept-November 2018)

French artist Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) famously said ‘Art is not what you see, but what you make others see’.

This was truly my experience when I joined June Perkins’s tour of Words & Pictures. June’s interactive journey through the Australian Collection features poetry and micro stories inspired by 12 different artworks. Her responses are written for visitors of all ages, with particular appeal to children and families; a delightful glimpse of art through the eyes of a poet and children’s author.

Words & Pictures is part of an ongoing project to increase engagement with artworks in QAG. Local artists and writers are invited to respond to artworks in the Australia Collection. June was thrilled to be commissioned to do this work. ‘This was one of the best emails in relation to my work I’ve ever received,’ she said.

June had complete freedom over her choice of artworks. Each response was limited to a maximum of 80 words and everything had to be completed in three weeks with a couple more weeks for editing! She spent a lot of time in the gallery, finding works that appealed to her, thinking of a child’s perspective (choosing works above and below their eye level and in a variety of media) and developing a concept for her poetic responses. The result is engaging, inspiring and easily accessible to children and adults.

June’s poetry appears in a display adjacent to author information beside each artwork. Each poem carries a delicate feather motif. This is a reference to an imaginary character that June created – Perceval’s Angel, inspired by John Perceval’s Herald Angel, a richly glazed sculpture.

John Perceval, Herald Angel, Queensland Art Gallery

June imagined the tour like a giant picture book with Perceval’s Angel guiding viewers through the pages. June was delighted to tell John Perceval’s grandson, a friend from her university days, that she was using the angel in her creative pieces for the gallery. Some of her poetry pieces begin with a quote from Perceval’s Angel who speaks directly to the viewers, guiding them to the next artwork or helping them interact with it.

‘Hop on board’ the angel invites viewers of Yvonne Koolmatrie’s Hot Air Balloon, and June adds:
‘Take yourself to the balloon’s edge,
Feel the breezes, through the sedge’

Yvonne Koolmatrie, Hot Air Balloon, Queensland Art Gallery

This is an enticing invitation to adventure and travel,  and lets the imagination ride free in this sedge grass, coil woven work suspended in space.​

On a time travel wall displaying different artists’ approaches to the Australian landscape, the angel says:
‘Listen to the music of landscapes
through the portal of Australia’s artists’

One of June’s choices on this wall is Rosalie Gascoigne’s Lamp Lit, a large work made up of letters and shapes from cut up road signs. June’s response draws on the personal experience of destruction and loss wrought by Cyclone Yasi in 2011 when a road sign ended up in her front yard; or as angel says: ‘But the real question is what will you design in response to loss?’ ​

Rosalie Gascoigne’s, Lamp Lit

And so, the adventure in art continues, stopping by at Ian Fairweather’s Epiphany, Sydney Long’s romantic and ethereally beautiful Spirit of the Plains, Sonya Carmichael’s colourful Baskets of Culture, Fred William’s vivid Echuca Landscape, Irene Chou’s suggestive Universe within Our Hearts, William Delafield Cook’s amazingly detailed and skilfully toned A Haystack, and Ray Crooke’s Woman with blossoms, reminiscent of Gauguin. June said she saw her identity in this particular work.


Woman with Blossoms, Ray Crooke, Queensland Art Gallery

Our tour ended as it had begun with an invitation to travel on in the imagination, this time on a representation of Ian Fairweather’s ramshackle craft; the one he used at the age of 60 to make a potentially suicidal 16 day crossing of the Timor Sea from Darwin to a remote coral island west of Timor in 1952.


The gift (from ‘Argonauts of the Timor Sea’), Michael Stevenson, Queensland Art Gallery
Kudusur, Alick Tipolti, Queensland Art Gallery

June’s verse reads:
‘You can do anything, be anything
travel anywhere…’


​The child in her poem makes the sacrifice necessary to travel to Kudusur – a reference to the dramatic mural visible through the hole in the craft’s sail. Painted by Torres Strait islander Alick Tipoti, it references paddling a canoe, seasons, ocean currents, journeying between islands and spiritual ancestors – the universal journey through life.

Don’t miss this Words and Pictures journey. Grab a child or find your inner child; help yourself to the drawing board, paper and pencils, and create your own responses.

You can take yourself on a tour anytime between 10 am to 5 pm, until the end of November.

June’s final in person tour will be on November 17th 2 pm (contact gumbootspearlz@gmail.com for more information).

You won’t regret it. All those attending on 17th Nov are invited to sponsor Magic Fish Dreaming books to go to PNG.

Pdfs of POEMS UNTIL END OF NOVEMBER

Renee Hills 2018-11-06

June with a tour group

Dr June Perkins is a Brisbane-based poet, blogger and children’s author, of Indigenous Papua New Guinean and Australian background, raised in Tasmania by Baha’i parents. She utilizes multiarts and multicultural stories to inspire an enriched sense of belonging and compassion in those who encounter her work. She was recently invited to share Magic Fish Dreaming at the Asia Pacific Triennial, Summer Program 2019 and became a member of Mana Pasifika research Institute. She maintains an interest and dedication to promoting diversity in the Australian literary landscape. Her first children’s book was the award-winning poetry collection, Magic Fish Dreaming (2016) illustrated by Helene Magisson.

​June Perkins’s Website
Ripple Poetry Blog

Renee Hills has always loved words and writing. A founding member of Write Links, she writes picture books (Turtle Love was published in 2017); flash fiction (Proof was published in Short and Twisted,Celapene Press 2017); and a short fantasy is to be included in the Rainforest Writing Retreat Anthology 2018.

Renee Hill’s Webpage

This review originally appeared on the Write Links Blog as curated by Lucy McGinley

(Photo credits: June Perkins, Renee Hills, Rebecca Sheraton and Maria Parenti-Baldey)





A Quest of the Most Wondrous Kind

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Magic Fish Dreaming is a quest of the most wondrous kind, entreating young readers and old alike to venture forth into nature and their imaginations. It is an invitation to spend time with the ancients and experience a taste of our country through poem and illustration.

As readers journey through the collection, they unearth secrets and encounter magic. The tropical heart of far north Queensland pulses resolutely throughout this medley of verse and art yet the stories it recites have far-reaching appeal. Odes to the wildlife whose habitats we explore; to those who attempt to make their livelihoods on the same lands and to Mother Nature herself, beat with sublime sincerity.

Look beneath the beautiful camouflage of words and watercolours and you will find an evocative sense of spirit and place, and a plea to respect that from where we came and those that we live amongst.

The lilting rhythms of June’s verse and the creatures and curiosities that swirl throughout each of Helene’s illustrations will entrance and delight children for generations.

Dimity Powell, Children’s Author & Book Reviewer

A Poet’s Review of Magic Fish Dreaming

 

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In secret spots, hidden pools, fields of sugar cane and tangled rainforests, June Perkins and Helene Magisson’s enchantingly illustrated poetic adventure, Magic Fish Dreaming, delves into the delights of the Wet Tropics, where poems are waiting to be caught by children curious enough to notice and question.

Beginning with a hunt for a giggle poem, the sounds and sight of the seashore are collected in a net. As the materials are gathered up we are invited to look, wonder and explore with the senses of a naturalist, reveling in the fun of learning about the world and the spell of pouring it into words.

This effervescent collection of poems is perfect for adults and children to share, in the spirit of its community of people, plants, animals and places. With their insightful stories and dialogues, June’s poems are perfect for reading aloud or performing together.

It is also a book to be relished alone, quietly absorbing the reflective verses that celebrate the wonder in looking into the waters or up to the stars in stillness and silence. Magic Fish Dreaming should be out, open and working its magic in every kindergarten, primary classroom and home—it will certainly stay with me as I set off on my next poetic expedition.

Helen Ramoutsaki, poet, lyricist, performer and educator  

What people are saying about After Yasi

After Yasi

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I took the time to read your book. I’m so impressed by the photographs you took. Most have smiling faces amidst the ruins of the cyclone. It’s so sad to think that a tragedy reminds us what is important. Family, community, music, smiles, and pictures. Many people who lose their homes lose their family photos, and that too is a tragedy. Thank you for sharing. The words and poems were so touching and as I said the pictures were awesome, from the beautiful flowers, to the devastation and destruction of homes and nature. It’s a beautiful book, well done. You captured the moments.

L&K Helene, Story Cartel Critique group

I have just had a very quick look but what an amazing book. You should be very proud. I would love to have a copy here for our resources.
A Queensland Arts Organisation

A stunningly illustrated book compiled by June Perkins…

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The Light and Shade of Life in Who Shaped Me

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June Perkins

The light and shade of life is reflected in many of the current ABC Open Who Shaped Me contributions.

Not everyone is happy with the person who shaped them.  They have moulded themselves into an opposite.

For instance read Just Jane’s initially bleak Driving Away from Darkness , a damning portrait of a relative which has me thinking of Patrick White’s bleak characters or Denis Murphy’s ambiguous take on his father’s good and challenging qualities Beware the 17th of March

There are a number of pieces exploring the ambiguous relationship many have with the church and these pieces see a character shaped by rebelling against dangerous authority.

Janet Cameron’s Thou Shalt Not Be Free
Emma Brook Mahr’s Thanks Be to Nuns
Denis Murphy’s A Strange Gratitude

There are a number of more celebratory pieces exploring the role of religion/philosophy and spirituality in moving people into positive learning spaces.  Buddhism, Christianity, and philosophers and self- help artists make it in here.

Petrus Spronk’s The Real Stuff
Janet Hoppe’s The Prophet

Kit Rowley’s I am Someone
Jacqueline Jaffrey’s The Face of Hell
Denis Phale’s My Mate Col 

And we meet the philosophy of Frank Robinson in Kate Campbell Lloyd’s The Aquarian Age.

Somewhat related to this explorations of philosophy is a piece where patriarchy is unpacked in:

The Double Whammy

Then there are pieces where grief for those lost is central and it has different outcomes for those shaped, both negative as in: Vaidhi Kahout’s Father

And positive as in: Tiger Greentongue’s Live Forever and Angelfires’s Just Like Mother

For others it is partly a person that shaped them but also a place and object:

University in Storytellers of My Life  (Liz Martin)

The Railways in A Model Life   (CK)

And for a few distant heroes have shaped them for the better: Anna Macgowan’s The Man in the Moon

Meeow Girl’s Love of a Child Star Role Model 

Every now and then are distinctly country themes like in Erica Stewart’s ‘The Naturally Resourceful Women who Shaped Me.’  and Ann Green’s ‘Old Bob’

So why not head over and read some of the above posts and leave your responses to the stories for the many contributors to Who Shaped Me.

Next Month’s Theme, Family Rituals is just around the corner.