Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jip’s secret obsession


I follow Jip up the creaking staircase of his old highset 'Queenslander'. A lifetime's multi-coloured coatings of paint are peeling off the rickety trellis gate above. The steps are confettied with it. A heavy chain hangs to the side. Jip will use it to lock up the house at night. I have a feeling of nervous anticipation. One hears strange stories about this place.

"Come on in! Come on.!" he says loudly. IMG_3640
From the ceiling above the gate there hangs a small portable laundry carousel. Instead of the socks or handkerchiefs one would expect to see hung on such an object, the pegs have been used to attach flowers transforming the carousel into a colourful floral chandelier.
Nervously I enter the dark enclosed veranda. I am not sure what to expect. There are several more of the floral chandeliers hanging here. There are flowers and pots and floral sticks everywhere. I watch my step. A fat ginger cat is following me.
Entering Jip's home is a bit like entering the Sistine chapel. But where there is an air about the Sistine chapel, air of familiarity, of past read books and pictures studied...of stories told and repeated through time immemorial,....entering Jip's house is stepping through an invisible portal towards an unknown future. Uncertainty is your companion, where one had hoped for Virgil.
I enter the first of two chambers that once had served the purpose of living and dining rooms for ordinary folk.
Now they are comprehensively covered with images roughly stuck. A transformation is taking place. The two inner chambers are almost completely collaged with a multitude of printed images covering most of the subjects known to man.
It is quite breathtaking to see.
Whereas the Sistine chapel is covered with biblical characters and scenes, Jip's cathedral is pasted from floor to ceiling with all manner of pictures from magazines, cards, photos and so on. He likes to group them here and there....a wall of cars, a wall of kittens, native animals, children. There is a memorial wall dedicated to his passed friends and relatives.
Up high on some of the walls are shelves like lofty altars where old framed photos of his relatives jockey for space. A photo of his beloved mother in her wedding dress appears- a vision like that of Beatrice in the Empyrean. She is bought down gently, dusted off , and, presented tenderly to the observer.
IMG_3407 (2) IMG_3412
The fat ginger cat annoys my leg with its furry feline advances, breaking the spell I am under.
'Be careful or she might scratch you!' interrupts Jip, slapping me vigorously on the arm.
IMG_3646 I am released at once from my lofty thoughts by the almost tangible energy of this man. He loves to show visitors his home.
He is excited. He jokes and teases. He talks fast.
He is nowhere near finished he says.
"I will keep going until I drop!"
"Channel seven came here once!" he says with pride.
Then... "Where do you want me?"



Photographing Jip is not an easy task, as he talks all the time. Or pulls strange faces.
I have him stand, sit, point. Look this way....NO!..THIS way! Now look that way. Chin up, chin down, on a chair, by a window. In front of the fridge.
Give me a smile....'Cheese" he says with a smile to match. "Now look serious!" That is harder.
I find myself laughing, enjoying this banter.
Jp tells me that he started this project three years ago. (I think it may have been longer than that.)
He's not sure why he started the project. He is not sure why he continues with it. He just knows he is going to have to keep on with it it until it is finished.
"I think you are an artist." He nods but offers no opinion.
"I don't know how I am going to get up to those ceilings." he says


There is a real sense of the sacred inside these walls. A feeling of timelessness.
It is time to leave.
I have come to feel a strong sense of kinship with Jyp who often finds himself misunderstood.
His acting out of faith and conviction witnessed here, in this special place, is deeply moving.

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