There will always be those who view fashion, fiction and other arts as mere indulgences. And I will always disagree with them. Because without wonder, beauty and joy, what is left? I’d say the arts in their many guises have never been more important than they are right now, as they can help us process change and understand the world we live in. And so this edition of T Australia — our Artistry issue — is dedicated to all those whose creative mastery gives the rest of us hope and a sense of what could be.
My two boys have started playing instruments: the piano and violin. As I’ve watched them pick up the basics, I’ve found myself drawn back to the music of the greats: Beethoven, Janacek, Rachmaninov et al. In my early career, I was destined to be a classical concert pianist, not a magazine publisher. I have no such ambitions anymore, but listening to symphonies provides no greater escape. To spend a Saturday morning with Bruckner is to be immersed in something truly extraordinary.
In her column for this issue, the activist Bri Lee muses on the value of the arts, writing that while journalism keeps us informed about the war in Ukraine, it’s poets and composers who can help us to understand it. “Art about humans,”she writes, “helps me make sense of the selfishness and devastating greed.” Even so, Bri admits to feeling self-indulgent as she completes her first novel — a romance far removed from the “real and terrible fabric of the world”. She puts it down to the cultural cringe.
There’s no doubt that we Australians can be tough on our artists — few bear the brunt more than those who dare to create public works, as Kate Hennessy uncovers in her feature “Ways of Seeing”. Perhaps that’s why we tend to punch above our weight overseas, as Grace O’Neill reports in “Golden Ticket”. It’s a fascinating piece about designers who have made it big abroad, from the well-known, such as Kym Ellery, Dion Lee and Christopher Esber, to recent graduates who are climbing the ranks at major overseas fashion houses.
If there’s a common thread that weaves together each of the creators profiled in this issue, it’s conviction: it takes nerves of steel to encourage others to see the world as you see it. It’s true of our cover star, Emma Balfour, who’s been a fixture of the international runways for almost 30 years. In her own quiet way, Emma has redefined what it is to be beautiful (she’s also the face of T Australia’s first fashion cover — tell me what you think at @tmagazineau). There’s also the ceramist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, profiled by Jordan Turner. Combining clay with smoke machines and dystopian soundscapes, Nithiyendran is asserting his place in the contemporary art scene. Not everyone isa fan — and that’s probably a good thing.
If you’re in Sydney, be sure to see Nithiyendran’s Vivid installation at Darling Point Reserve. As part of the festival’s Ideas series, I’ll be talking to the artist about the stories that define him (along with Stephen Page, the outgoing artistic director of Bangarra Dance Theatre, and Sara Mansour, a co-founder of Bankstown Poetry Slam). I’d love to see you there.
On that note, a big thank you to everyone who reached out with kind words as we celebrated T Australia’s first birthday. Having survived our launch year (in the midst of a global pandemic, no less), my goal is to amp up our support ofl ocal makers. To kick things off, T Australia has been collaborating with industry bodies to host RawAssembly, a sustainable textiles event featuring a public exhibition. I’d love to see lots of T Australia totes in the crowd.
In the meantime, I hope you find all kinds of inspiration and hope in the pages that follow