A Literary Vignette of an Australian artist-poet ...
Rob Harle does not belong to this mundane world. He belongs to the Renaissance and since Renaissance is over and best forgotten by mass society, logically, he does not belong.
Yet Rob is a transcendental being. All great artists are.
Here is the enigma: An author who is neither wholly present in the present nor lives in the past.
He disrupts the temporal sequence.
Can you belong to past? Live retrospectively?
In fact, determining his material and mental spatio-temporal locations is as difficult as figuring out the truth-validity of the astral-travelling claims or unraveling the mystery of the brain of Einstein.
If a person does not belong here or there, then where does he fit in?
Fact is: Rob Harle does not belong to any particular age. He lives many ages — or artists like him navigate many time-spheres.
Or, more audaciously, the 65-year-old Nimbin Valley Australian artist lives outside the pale of time. He resides neither here, the present, nor, in the there, the past that has elapsed. The sturdy poet-painter-reviewer-philosopher inhabits a dimension that cannot be defined by the scrupulous time-keepers of the world.
Rob Harle is a mystic. And mystics defy time and space barriers and can exist simultaneously both here and there, in this moment and the moment gone by. In their mind’s eye, they can — poets as mystics with an exalted visual/aural sense — flit across such conventional world, barriers, the phenomenal universe, and transcend their historicity, their immediate location/s and connect with a higher realm that is glimpsed but rarely these days…by visual artists only, alienated from mainstream and largely ignored by it.
Rob Harle — my long-distance friend and adopted elder brother — his words — amply possesses this faculty. He belongs to Dreamtime — a way of living described by early wanderers of the earth we prefer to dub now in our arrogance as Aborigines, nomads, savages or tribals across the world, depending on our level of contempt and intellectual sophistication of civilization. If you feel superior to these poor starved people — marginals like impoverished poets — just spend a night alone on the terrace of your apartment-building on the Fifth Avenue, NYC or Malabar Hill in Mumbai and try to talk to the shining stars and the rabbit in the moon and if they talk back, feel re-assured you still carry some old DNA of our earlier ancestors. If, on the other hand, you feel frightened by the shadows cast by a passing cloud and hear phantom steps on the bare roof or see around 2AM, an assassin sent to kill you by your rival corporation or the ghosts of the people used and discarded in tough turf war and self-promotion, you sure belong to this age of cut-throat competition and wars. Rob Harle has no problem in listening to the songs of the wind or the stars or the river, despite being rooted in the immediacy of his instant. He can write about supermarket-driven cultures and still draw book covers for Indian poets — two different planets, despite superficial resemblances provided by the malls, Big Macs and MNCs retail chains. He finds satisfaction in making covers gratis because covers are seen by thousands and paintings, by hundreds in arts’ circuses that go by the name of exhibitions! The poor fellow does not know — or ignores — that standardized middle-class professionals do not want to read…unless it is tabloid news with lot of skin-show or light crime fiction or soft porn that Henry Miller wrote and got away with!
Now, tell me, the one who wants to do covers and reviews free and not paintings or digital art he once did and that fetched money also, how can such a balding guy with goggles belong to a culture where every emotion from love-making, dining, shitting, romancing, dating, to Valentine’s Day has been extremely commodified and advertised and monetized? You want to express love to your spouse, well, first buy a diamond set as a gift according to ad gurus, only then your love is true! If you compose a poem as a literary gift, you are fit to be thrown into the New-Age Gulags or declared unstable and perfect case for Ward No. 6 of the world. Ward No 6 is, by the way, a story by Chekov.
Rob Harle cannot do that.
He moved into the Nimbin Valley — to avoid rat-trap of metros. He converses with nature and produces an art that calms a fevered urban mind. He paints bubbles, seas, flight of sea gulls, rising suns, stars and the blue skies — infinities that can be cognized by inner eye only and not comprehended by the jet-set smart city-slickers.
And since his language, idiom and syntax look foreign to them, he appears threatening, an outsider, a challenger, a dissident who consciously rejects the power and enticements of money, positions and awards.
He subverts the system.
He rips off the veil and shows the ugly side of the painted face!
Such a guy is a saboteur, a dangerous figure out to challenge.
Right from Plato to our tin-pot dictators, every madcap hates him as an oppositional figure out to undermine their narratives of legitimacy and authority.
Rob Harle is a perpetual outsider, a wanderer, a time-traveller.
Renaissance beckons him — an age dies physically but its fertilizing, ripe ideas continue to irrigate our souls in succeeding time sequences and timelines — as starry nights beckon artists like van Gogh or Gauguin in every age.
The age is preserved in ideas, not in its material textures. By an act of empathy, we can easily enter and exit such glorious ages that produce Bacon, Goethe, Shakespeare, Cervantes and Tolstoy, among others.
Rob does that.
He critiques our deadening commercialization, deadening of souls, our mechanization and ultimate commodification.
Rob Harle is a poet, a mystic and although not many might have heard about him, he is unique, despite his relative obscurity — artists, not every artist, can be British Royalty or rock stars that you must religiously follow on twitter. He shows us realms unknown and opens up inner vistas that you will not find in the Booker-awarded long- or short- lists. The system does not give a Nobel for a Gandhi or a Tolstoy.
Rob Harle grows on you, despite long distances. He grew on me.
From a request to a face on FB to daily communes through e-mails, I found him. He slowly started morphing into a figure, a human being, a warm and loving friend, and, finally, family! We have never met and perhaps, will never meet. Still he is family.
Family: Because Rob Harle does not belong to this mundane world. He belongs to the Renaissance and the finest values represented by that revolutionary age and its principles. As we enter a work of the master, say, Leonardo, we as viewers, enter that value-system, reference-frame, hallowed orientation…and the age that produces such an inspiring and happy belief- system.
When you read an artist, you live two eras simultaneously, two time-space segments bi-laterally. You are here and there.
An artist talks…via his works and provides succor to readers that choose to invest on them, not some pop artists or pulp-fictionists.
Artists provide healing therapies for readers who are also dissidents like them…perpetual outsiders, standing outside a banal system of money-generating clones.
Such artists provide exits from a frightening world of consumption and commodities.
They provide intimacy, love, understanding, sympathy to those who could not survive the rat-race and opted to drop out and decided to curb multiplying desires.
They, mystic-artists, create loving environment and do soul-to-soul communion…the way, on solitary nights, a wandering moon and twinkling stars do by talking to little orphans!
Vision, almost divine.
Messages hidden in texts.
Artists have various modes of calling on you.
This way, they act as your guides.
They give love and a moral compass — like Dickens.
You find yourself reflected in them.
They are your mirror-image.
They are your immediate kin.
So remote, yet so near. Absent, yet present.
In this sense, I claim ownership of Rob, the artist. He responds by claiming me as family. Bonding takes place.
We commune…a relationship gets consecrated and…canonized.
The relationship between reader/writer; text/decipherer; signified/signifier.
Rob Harle is literarture, an idea, an image that we construct and re-construct, as we flow.
Rob Harle lives, dies, gets resurrected in us…the reading community. He is unaffected by time and space, yet grounded in that.
By becoming art, artist becomes Immortal!
Ladies and Gentlemen: Here is the famous Rob Harle, the Unseen by the conventional others!