There’s a certain nastiness about a certain cadre of Australian expats. The big four are Germaine Greer, Barry Humphries, Clive James and Robert Hughes. They didn’t like the Australia of the fifties and early sixties, and a lot of them think we’re still the same. This was the generation that railed against a ‘cultural cringe’ as if it had been a permanent feature of the landscape. It was in many ways quite recent and that’s one of the things this article argues.
What causes the expatriate Australian artist to deny the cultural worth of his country of origin? Why does hatred predominate in the love/hate feelings for the land of birth, upbringing and early nurturing?
One possible explanation is that most of these creative people were products of culturally deprived families. In their view, all Australians are uncouth, nugatory and barbarian. Barry Humphries, Sidney Nolan, Peter Conrad, Germaine Greer and Clive James come into this category.
I’d rate the article a must read – though it begins rather lamely – and indeed I almost didnt read on as it seemed to have a peculiarly Melbourne chip on its shoulder. It is amongst other things, a musing on the so called ‘cultural cringe’, a hatchet job on Barry Humphries (or rather an attack on his having airbrushed Australian collaborators out of his version of the past) and a marvellous catelogue of the creative achievement of Melbourne in those supposedly lean years of the 1950s and 60s. It’s an interesting subject. Like AD Hope said, “from the desert prophets come”. (Then again, as they say in the restuarant trade “from the dessert, profits come”.)