Books

21 December 2014

Hughes by Andrew Riemer


This amazing book about the art critic Robert Hughes (photo on the right from The Guardian), written by a friend of his from university days, is well worth reading. It is beautifully written and gives an extremely perceptive picture of both the man and the critic. 

Riemer (on the left - photo from auslit.com) sees the education Hughes received at the hands of the Jesuits in Sydney as the creative force behind Hughes's international success not only as a critic but also as a person who deeply and accurately understood art and its place in society. Hughes himself outwardly rejected Catholicism, but it was actually the discipline of that religion that gave him the insights and the understandings that eventually propelled him into the limelight. 

His accumulated knowledge and power of analysis allowed him to see what others around him failed to grasp, be it the death of modernism in America or Australia's cultural emptiness. As Riemer writes: Though it is never stated explicitly, the prevailing impression left behind by Hughes's record of his return to Australia is of a cultural and social emptiness, akin to the emptiness of the great open spaces, but without their spiritual consolation.

Hughes may have rejected conventional, traditional religion but he was very aware, no doubt because of those early years with the Jesuits that, in the end, '... art and religion are the same thing.'.