The James Gleeson oral history collection

James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists

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Tom Arthur

15 June 1979

James Gleeson: I see. Tom, now could we go on to the two works we have of yours at the moment in the gallery. I suppose the most important one is Goose Bader, but that's not its full name, is it?

Tom Arthur: The full name is Goose Bader pissed on his wing. One of these wings, I went to great pains of trying to stain it with this yellow stain, without making it such an obvious yellow stain. It almost appears as a nicotine stain or something on the wing.

James Gleeson: I first saw this in your studio down in Woolloomooloo. It seemed to fill the whole place. I don't know how you got in and around it to make it.

Tom Arthur: Well, that one was easy, you should have been there when I was doing the plane. We had the wing over our bed, just hanging over the bed, and every time we went to the toilet we had to crawl under the fuselage and that. But this one was mainly stepping over.

James Gleeson: Then I saw it finished at an exhibition you had at the College of (inaudible).

Tom Arthur: At the college right, yes.

James Gleeson: That's when we acquired it from you.

Tom Arthur: That's right. Yes. It's a work which very few people have seen.

James Gleeson: No, of course, because it went straight from there down to us and it hasn't been seen.

Tom Arthur: It hasn't been seen, no.

James Gleeson: Yes, and probably won't until we get into the gallery.

Tom Arthur: Right. I'm still doing the base for it as well. I think Robert Lindsay's going to ask permission to show that in the survey show in August.

James Gleeson: Oh, is he? Well, it will be good to have it up and we should then get it properly photographed from every angle, so that we all know how it should be assembled, you know, to have that record.

Tom Arthur: Right. I think the origins of the work was I acquired this goose. The goose just sat around in the house for a while and then I took it off its base that it came with and just drilled two holes in the floor and it just sat on the floor. The taxidermist that did the job, I mean, he just had no sense of paint. The feet on it and the beak were fluorescent orange and that. Then one day I just couldn't stand it anymore and I just started working on it. Stripped it all back, repainted it. Then I had a whale bone. I went to an auction, it was out in Parramatta, and I was after some primitive artefacts and so on and I ended up spending all my budget on bones. There's some whale bones and a dolphin skull and bits and pieces of things. I had this whalebone. As soon as I walked in the house I just put it on the goose's back and then I just saw that it was beginning to get there, you know–again, this idea of just kind of wait. So I saw the bone as an idea and there's the weight of carrying around an idea. It was a very corny way, the beginnings of it. But then the work just started growing. You know, the glove went on its head and then I had these old machiner's goggles which I used to use when I was doing jewellery and just stripped the wire guards off and put them on. It was really, I suppose, a growth from the Asymmetrical aviator.


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