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With each passing year, Halloween becomes more and more special for me. Of course, it’s my own personal new year’s eve – my birthday falls tomorrow on November 1 – but as the psyche of the world splits and moves away from organised religion – or collapses back into it again with a warlike vengeance – I mark October 31 in my own mind as a spiritual festival, a global celebration of the release of darkness in preparation for the dawn of a beautiful new light on All Saints Day.
We all have ghouls and ghosts in our pasts. We all have fears and anxieties. But we also have the power to be mindful of the light in our world, to focus on the good in ourselves and in others and to hold that light true in the coming year. The only way to deal with the darkness is to stare deeply into it … and to realise that it can allow us to see stars. I believe human consciousness has the magical ability to change things, to take each test – whether it’s the surreal threat of a global ebola pandemic or the beheading of good men in a desert far from home or the blind folly of Russian tanks trampling the Ukraine – and change the future by imagining a better one with a clear and unblinking eye. As a species, we created this situation … so how are we going to change it? Can we begin to do so in our own tiny corner of the world by being tolerant, compassionate, understanding and gentle – by working to change the imbalances in our relationship with each other and with nature – and then strengthen that light by joining it with the light of like-minded others? Can we pragmatically set out to accept that co-operation and kindness rather than competition and jealousy is the key to the wise use of resources in the future? Can we make a sun of this changed attitude so large that darkness itself begins to lose its very force?
As every terrorist knows, nothing confuses more than fear; nothing creates chaos more quickly than a sense of collective horror. Just the naming of the evil Voldemort in J.K. Rowling’s wonderful Harry Potter books was enough to send otherwise sensible people backsliding into a state of irrational panic. So today, of all days, let’s teach our children not to be afraid of the dark. Don a witch’s hat, smear on some fake blood, cover yourself in cobwebs and team up with a zombie for a fab-filled night of the living dead. Take off on your broomstick! Release your inner funnel web! Be every bit as intense as some black and brooding thing before the dawn. And have a great laugh at the expense of suspicion, fear, paranoia and hatred. In the war against darkness nothing is more powerful than the battle cry of joy 🙂
Celebrate the light:) I know I will.
Susan Muranty, October 31
I love the repetition of this piece of sculpture – it reminds me of music.
Of course, I’ve been fascinated by palaeolithic art all my life – cave paintings, fertility figures, stone circles … even musical instruments carved from animal bones. Imagine playing a song from a flute carved out of a swan’s wing!! There’s something so true and real and lasting about these early pieces of art that blows my mind. They are free of much of the conceptualising that goes on around modern art – they are raw and real and simple – perhaps because they were made in the very childhood of humanity itself.
I created the individual figures for this piece after seeing the Venus of Willendorf in Vienna in 2007. The brazenness of her flowing curves really inspired me. It was the day after I saw Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss for the first time which also gave me the idea for writing Four Hands Around One Heart which features on my new EP Incandescence (https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/incandescence-ep/id912815627) … I knew I had to change my life that weekend and live it more authentically. I’d heard some of the most exquisite music of my life the night before – a young Chinese woman had dragged an upright piano on a flat board with wheels right into the middle of the square and proceeded to play Chopin and Beethoven with such electric passion and abandon that she drew literally hundreds of mesmerised onlookers of every age and possible persuasion. I even saw a tough looking gang of street kids stop and take it all in rather shyly.
Listening to that woman play under the stars of that deep blue spring night changed me forever. I made a promise to myself – and most importantly, to my son – that we would live our lives in whatever way we needed to, in whatever way was true for us, and I’ve been trying to make that happen every second since.
What a destiny-altering weekend! Gustav Klimt showed me what I needed – and that woman with the piano showed me how to get there. And to think that the artist who created the Venus of Willendorf, despite her anonymity, is still influencing people like me 30,000 years down the track!!
What we create has the power to change things in the world, no doubt about it – and maybe even to go on changing it long after we’re gone. I believe in the healing power of beauty … and I believe in its potential to radiate like an unstoppable ripple of good karma across the earth – and far away into history.
Susan Muranty, October 2014
This Thursday, August 28, I’ll be hosting a wonderful event – the launch of INCANDESCENCE, my long-awaited first EP and solo Art Exhibition at Australian Bronze Sculpture House, North Fort Road, North Head Reserve in Manly. The evening starts at 6pm and features a live performance of songs from my EP (with a little help from fantastic guitarist Ian Chambers), including my latest single Amen Amen, which debuted this week on 2UE’s Sunday Night with Sharina.
Tickets to this exciting event are free – and I would love you to join me there for a great night of music, art and celebration! Simply RSVP by email to [email protected]
Sculpture House Gallery, Studios and Foundry is located at North Fort Road, North Head Reserve – just drive through the sandstone archway after Manly Hospital and take the second turn on the left into North Fort Road.
Looking forward to seeing you there!!
Susan Muranty August 24, 2014
It will be something of a Creative Rebirth Party for me: I’m performing songs from the EP, two of which won the Lyrics Only Category of the UK Songwriting Contest in 2012 and 2013, and gathering together paintings, sculptures and drawings from more than 20 years of art practise. I’ll also be singing my latest single Amen Amen (So Be It My Love)** and showcasing the film clip for UnConquered Sun. Rather cheekily though, I’ve taken to calling the exhibition a Retrospective (because I’m not dead yet lol), and smiling at the notion that, in artistic terms at least, I get to attend my own “funeral” … or find out what people really think of my work. And me. Oh dear. But there is a serious side to this too – and one which relates to a particularly brilliant and curious piece of mosaic from my past.
When I was a young traveller writing a music column for an Australian magazine in London, I crossed paths with INXS frontman Michael Hutchence. I interviewed him for the mag and we hit it off instantly. Of course, Michael never met a woman he didn’t get along with I’m sure lol – he was a truly gorgeous man with a genuine heart and amazing charisma – but we bonded over a longing for Sydney beaches, a good dose of homesickness and a sense of what it meant to be creative and share that with other people. And he really loved art. I wrote to him shortly afterward and asked if he would sit for me for the Archibald Prize (for Portaiture) and he agreed straight away. I was delighted. His management lined up some concert dates for me to go to – I went along as an “official artist” and sketched Michael while he performed. And then … Kick took off. Of course, the global phenomenon that was the INXS success story launched like a rocket around the world and scheduling sittings for paintings became a nightmare. We made many attempts to make the portrait idea work, but life took us in opposite directions. Later on, I investigated entering a posthumous painting of him, but the rules of the Prize didn’t allow for that kind of lag between a live sitting and a showing of the finished work.
I have some beautiful sketches of Michael from that time and I’m including one in the exhibition … but the really strange thing is that he is no longer here to see them. So much living has passed since his death – a whole creative and personal era for me, not to mention the birth of my child – but that compelling moment of our first meeting lives on. The thing is, art transcends time – its job is to capture the brilliance of a fleeting experience and make it eternal so that it can be seen in any future. I love that. And I’m sure Michael would too. His own art – his music – is still bringing joy to millions. And it’s just so lovely that his light has become part of my own Incandescence – shining through a fragment of the stained glass window that is the multi-coloured and complicated pattern of my artistic past. It reminds me that even after our own experiences are long gone, their beauty lingers on in the way we have touched and inspired other people.
For years, I was rather sorry I didn’t get to paint that rather grand lost painting of Michael; but when I started putting my “retrospective” together, I changed my mind. The funny thing is, Michael Hutchence helped me learn what it is to create a portrait. I didn’t need the Archibald Prize for that 🙂
* The launch party for Susan Muranty’s Incandescence EP and Art Exhibition (featuring the pastel portrait of Michael) will be held on Thursday Night August 28 at 6pm at Australian Bronze Sculpture House, North Head Reserve, Manly. RSVP to [email protected]
**Amen Amen (So Be It My Love) is available at https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/amen-amen/id904277641?i=904277644 You can catch Susan’s videos on Youtube at youtu.be/kRAaueAwQW0?a
Silver Storm was the first of my songs to win a lyric-writing award – at the 2009 Australian Songwriters’s Association (ASA) conference in Ettalong NSW.
I was so thrilled!!!
No Oscar-winning moment could ever equal the feeling of standing on the podium that day in the distinguished company of so many great songwriters – from Jason Blume and Gary Pinto to Ray Burton (who wrote I Am Woman for Helen Reddy ). It was such a precious moment and I’ll never forget it. But even more precious was the meaning behind these lyrics and the defiant mood in which they were written at the height of the US involvement in the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I could not believe how soldiers – both men and women – were being sent back for recurrent tours of duty by a relentless US Army who ignored not only the toll on their physical and mental health but the insidious destruction of their family lives. It seemed utterly inhumane to me. And one of the great, stupid ironies of war.
I grew up with war as an ever-present entity in my family so it’s a subject I know something about. My own grandfather was tortured and shot by the Gestapo in Poland in 1939 (two months after the Second World War broke out). He was a Polish Army Intelligence Officer and a veteran of the Battle of the Black Madonna (or Miracle of the Vistula), an infamous showdown between Poland and Russia that turned the tide against the Communist advance across Europe in 1920. I have a photo of him in his uniform, an imposing man carrying a sabre at his belt on the lost streets of the old city of Warsaw during the 1930s. My grandfather had long been an outspoken opponent against Hitler, so he was already a marked man – but he was also a father and a husband. My own father – his only son – was just 12 years old and bound for a labour camp when he was asked to take care of his mother and sisters by the man who loved them more than anything else in the world.
I often think about my Polish grandmother, whom I never met. My grandfather was her great love and she was only in her thirties when he was murdered. Of course, she never married again. And my father, who was just a boy lucky to escape with his life when war ended, could not return to a Poland where the Iron Curtain had fallen with such a shocking and impenetrable thud. Having lived through the horrors of war – and there were many too unspeakable to write about – she never saw her only son or felt the touch of her husband again. This song is for her – and for anyone missing someone they love at Christmas. It’s a song about a woman who longs for her family to be reunited, for her true love to be safe in her arms at this special time of the year. It’s a song about the “silver storm” of longing – a longing for something that should never have to be yearned for in that way. A longing for something precious and beautiful, a longing created by the great and terrible injustice of war.
It seems insensitive and incongruous to say it now, but it was tremendous fun shooting the video for this song. We were like a troop of children let loose in the forest in the middle of the night – and just about as sensible. But I like to think that’s what my grandfather died for – so that his children and their children could be freer than free, innocent and unthinking in their joy, ludicrously and exuberantly childlike about all the things that make them happy and forgetful of the hardships he endured.
It is my duty to create – it is my birthright, won for me by a grandfather who played for it with nothing less than his death. Every breath of creative fire I breathe is for him. For any artist, it’s a no-brainer. In the face of destruction, the only true choice … is to do the opposite.
I carry that sabre with me wherever I go.
This is a special blog to mark the release of Silver Storm this week, now available on iTunes at https://itun.es/i6Fw8MM
Catch the video clip at http://youtu.be/TwKTJzBKV-Y
Photo: Co-writers (and actors!) Sven Tydeman and Susan Muranty in a shot from the film clip for Silver Storm