This piece comes from an exhibition of the work of celebrated Australian artist and sculptor Brett Whiteley. Parts of his enormous masterwork "Alchemy" can be found on the cover artwork of Dire Straits' album of the same name. A long-term drug user, he died in 1992 from a heroin overdose.
A metaphor for clear technique,
the Gallery (patrolled, secure,
hides Brett in thrall -
displayed for all, beyond critique;
hung out to dry, remaining wet,
crucified on temple walls
with narrow, appraiseful eyes
looking for arch, hi-tech Art
to spout at lovers barely met.
His Tunis eyes are gates of fire
or maybe just the heroin
that made him crazy or kept him sane
enough to leave this life
before it left him for a liar.
And harsh, irrelevant crowds slide by,
juxtaposing, inclining the head,
shuffling through, blocking the view;
being Gallery People of purpose and hue
enough alike to question why
he fashioned, created, sculpted, bled
in chiaroscuro, beyond the grab
of sleeve-pullers; the risks
of obsequious ignorance
when half are living, and half are dead.
And you are, too (aren't you?)
a styx pole-vaulter with clear technique
to spear a squirmer with the deftest flick
of Titanium White or Vincent's yellow,
in liquid depths of Harbour blue.
Dissolve to canvas, wood,
light-flashes, glass eyes, careful twigs,
a laugh, a swig of very good wine
(you to yours, I drank what I could) ...
of the needle of life, the birth of pleasure
which burns like honesty in gates of fire,
make love of Art imperfect shrine.