The Monstrous Beauty – Dorian Gray

Meet Dorian Gray. He enjoys just about everything and in copious amounts. Like any quality gothic anti-hero there is a whisper of a family history that involves passion, death, scandal and abuse. Whilst there is an idealised image of the guy there is something more damaged and vulnerable that is ripe for Lord Henry’s exploitation. As a muse for Basil, he has been the source of pure inspiration, but that is about to change.


Text: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, 1890/1891
Does he survive the novel? No


Dorian seems to be motivated by curiosity, vanity and a diabolical indulgent streak. His lack of care for those around him begins with the flippant way he treats Basil’s affections and then plays out in the most devastating fashion in his treatment of Sybil Vane. The capacity for this cruelty was always within Dorian, Basil mentions it in the opening chapter, Lord Henry simply offers new possibilities. Lord Henry is still one of the most terrible and unfortunate influences a young man with Dorian’s particular flaws could come across. Appealing to Dorian’s curiosity and desire he exposes him to the seedy underbelly of London and deploys witty epigrams to stun him into believing that it is all perfectly acceptable. I’m not sure that Dorian is particularly intelligent. He does seem to be easily confused.


Dorian as the Destroyer

The guy seems impervious the damage he is doing. He does not seem to care that, whilst he has been given a free pass by swapping fates with the portrait, none of the people he corrupts or endangers has such a reprieve. He leaves a trail of ruined men and women, some who have become addicted to drugs that he introduced them to, or have a had to turn to sex work because he destroyed their reputations. He is not permitted into high society as he once was, excepting the society of those who tolerate Lord Henry gladly. His destruction and degradation of those around him only begin to gnaw away at him after Basil’s death, and it is largely for selfish reasons. He doesn’t like feeling guilty or being tied to the loathsome visage of the portrait so he tried to follow a path of redemption. When these attempt at redemption don’t yield immediate results he cannot handle it and throws a tantrum, stabbing the picture and bringing about his own demise.

Favourite Quote:

To Lord Henry

“You know how a voice can stir one. Your voice and the voice of Sibyl Vane are two things that I shall never forget. When I close my eyes, I hear them, and each of them says something different. I don’t know which to follow.”

A Quick Word with Mr Wilde


The artist is the creator of beautiful things. 

To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.

The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.

The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.

Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.

They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.

Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.

The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.

No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.

No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable

mannerism of style.

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.

Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.

Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.

From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor’s craft is the type.

All art is at once surface and symbol.

Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.

Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.

It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.

Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.

When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself.

We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.

Oscar Wilde.


Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas
Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas By Apollomelos~commonswiki –, Public Domain,

This gorgeous epigraph at the beginning of The Picture of Dorian Gray might be my favourite part of the whole book. It performs the same function as the modern day disclaimer that we are all so familiar with. This is Wilde getting in the first and hopefully the last word in a hypothetical debate with his contemporary literary critics. Wilde’s work was not by any means universally popular. In fact, there were several critics who took particular delight in eviscerating his works. The mere cheek and eloquence of this epigraph make it one of the most endearing defences of aestheticism in literary history.

Wilde today is acknowledged as being one of the most influential writers of the aestheticism movement that advocated art for art’s sake. Art that does not provide us with commentary or allegory, art that is just beautiful and enjoyable.

This epigraph dares critics to find fault with the narrative that follows, because if they do they will be guilty of the flaws they see in the text.

In summary, fuck you. It’s art and if you don’t like it then that’s your problem.

Calling literary criticism autobiography certainly has its merits for there are as many readings of a text as there a readers. We, as readers, bring the full scope of our life experience along for the ride when we read a book.

A small child can read a Disneyified version of Cinderella in a very different way to an adult.

The small child sees a lady who is sad and lonely, who gets to go to a party, and, through a series of intervening events isn’t lonely or sad anymore.

As we grow up our understanding of the book changes, it becomes more complex and potentially, as in my case, less uplifting and more problematic. And very discriminatory against people with large feet.

So too does our understanding of more complex gothic stories like the tale of Dorian Gray.

There is no one right way to understand The Picture of Dorian Gray.


And now it is confession time…

This is a poorly worded epigraph or preface to a conversation I would like to have in the future, a conversation that Wilde may have hated.

Can The Picture of Dorian Gray be read as an allegorical cautionary tale?

A tale about the hubris of man wanting to interfere with nature?

A story about the creation of a monster?

Can we compare The Picture of Dorian Gray to Frankenstein?



The Picture of Dorian Gray on Project Gutenburg

Paradise Lost in The Poetical Works of John Milton on Project Gutenburg



Call out to clever cloggs

Got an idea you want to chat about?

Obsessed with something niche?

Are people tired of hearing about it?

Do they get that glazed over look in their eyes?

Do they sigh loudly when you mention it?

Do they cross the street when they see you coming?

Do they start screaming when you open your mouth?

Don’t stress we’ve got your back!

Starting this May our podcast gives a voice to the obsessed, the fanatical and the heartbreakingly earnest. We want to hear what you’ve got to say and if you can say it in 2 minutes we can give you the proverbial floor to convince us all that we should care about your thing.

What we need from you:

  • A 2 minute “pitch” for your idea, cause or obsession explaining why we should care about it too.  You can mention a specific project if you like  before your 2 minutes but it isn’t an ad so we can’t really take pitches that are just promotional.
  • 10 minutes of your time
  • A photo of you and/or the thing you care about


If you are a performer you can share a song, poem, play or short story.

So if I can’t promote my stuff what can I talk about?

Well you can expand it to talk more generally. For example, if you have a podcast about true crime you can promote it before your 2 minutes, but in your 2 minutes you might talk about why people should care about wrongful convictions. Or if you have a small business you might want to talk about the importance of shopping local or buying handmade instead of mass produced. We are totally happy to plug your stuff, but the point of the 2 minute pitch is to squash as much information about the stuff you care about into it, your promotional message can be given pride of place before or after it when listeners will have time to process it.

No matter what you love we want to hear from you


Or message this blog!


MAMA Opening; Albury Gets to know it’s Mama

Friday the 2nd of October saw the newly revamped Albury art gallery, known as MAMA throw it’s doors open… at least if you were lucky enough to get tour tickets. But for those of us who missed out there were still plenty of sites to be seen.
Kids on giant pink snails, tentacles bursting out of the post office, the performing arts centre slowly filling up with water and a giant plug were just a few installations being enjoyed by the public.
The Wiradjuri dance display had us spellbound and the live music on the Dean St stage was lively and very fitting.
The cow and butcher puppets were very entertaining, if a little menacing and misjudged considering the amount of small children present, running in fear from the nude puppet in an apron with a knife (I kid you not).
The next day, with a few hungover pink MAMA balloons still hovering about in the trees the Flying Fruit Fly Circus showed off their talents and along with the talents of the Albury Brass Band marched along QEII square.
All in all the parts of the launch that we witnessed seemed to be very successful… I can’t wait to see the actual gallery when things calm down a bit.


Morgan can’t Draw Chairs: But these people can; David Hockney. Visual Arts Research- Introduction to drawing VAR11Ex1

David Hockney

I chose David Hockney as one of my studied artists as a contrast to the work of Safet Zec, among other reasons. Hockney’s use of line is much more minimalist and stripped back than Zec’s, using the simplest possible configuration of lines to create the scene or object that he is trying to depict. I also chose Hockney because chairs, although they are usually occupied feature in much of his work, and whilst most of his prominent work with chairs as the central focus is done in lithograph I have chosen a couple of examples of portraits in which the depiction of chairs demonstrates his overall approach to drawing chairs.

Article about David Hockney:
Yorkshire Spring Drawings – David Hockney 14/apr/18/david-hockney-yorkshire-spring- drawings

Peter,Hotel Regina, Venice Drawing, 1970, 17 x 14 inches
Peter,Hotel Regina, Venice Drawing, 1970, 17 x 14 inches
"Portrait of the Artist's Mother, Mrs Laura Hockney, Bradford" Pen and ink on paper, 1972.
“Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, Mrs Laura Hockney, Bradford” Pen and ink on paper, 1972.

Morgan can’t Draw Chairs: But these people can; Safet Zec. Visual Arts Research- Introduction to drawing VAR11Ex1

Safet Zec

I chose Safet Zec to focus on due to his complex use of line, with his drawings often relying on a technique of building up lines to create density and texture. Even the negative space that others may leave blank is given texture using lines.

Zec’s exposure to atrocities and political instability in his youth is the inspiration for intricate and painstakingly designed line drawings, that a both nostalgic and sorrowful.

Article about Safet Zec:

Haunted by War – Shelton Lindsay a-herzegovina/articles/haunted-by-war- the-art-of-safet-zec/

Safet ZEC, Cucina, 2006, pencil, mm 260 x 310 (paper)
Safet ZEC, Plašči / Coats, 2005 – 2006, etching-drypoint, 1000 x 700 x 10
Safet ZEC, Plašči / Coats, 2005 – 2006, etching-drypoint, 1000 x 700 x 10

Graffiti, Deviance and Public Art

Graffiti exists in a grey area between art and crime, with some forms considered legal and others considered to be illegal and against the best interests of society. But how do we draw the distinction between public art and destructive deviance? Can illegal graffiti play a legitimate role in a functional society or does the mere practice of unsolicited “street art” constitute a threat to social order? This essay will explore the conflicting sociological notion of graffiti as a form of criminal deviance and its role in art, youth subculture and informal communication. Deviance is defined as “…norm or rule-breaking behaviour that is usually subject to negative social sanctions” (Van Krieken 2013), whilst graffiti is defined as “… a form of expression which appears on public or private spaces…” (Arcioni 2003). This definition of graffiti does not place the activity exclusively within the realm of illegal activity, however it can be easily argued that graffiti is a form of social deviance, albeit one that has a limited negative impact on social order.

One of the key driving forces of graffiti is cited as being a sense of alienation and dissociation from the environment and community. As Bandaranaike 2003 found in the demographic study of areas that experience high levels of graffiti, the incidents of tagging and graffiti were more prevalent in areas with high youth populations nearby and low home ownership rates. There is also a strong emphasis on communication and sending a message through graffiti as part of a subculture; “…Kids (and others) employ particular forms of graffiti as a means of resisting particular constellations of legal, political, and religious authority.” (Ferrell 1995). Whilst the hip-hop subculture is not the only one that is associated with graffiti, it is the subculture with the most obvious a frequent links to the use of graffiti as a form of communication. The appeal of graffiti for many young people and those in other age demographics who may feel ignored or marginalized, Graffiti is an easily accessible subversive communication method that bypasses social controls. Due to the huge variety of materials that can be used in graffiti and the potentially prominent and visible locations that the graffiti can be created in, the appeal of graffiti as a means for sending a message of anger or disconnect to the rest of society is consistent and easy to fathom. If the graffiti ‘artist’ does not feel a sense of connection or ownership to their local urban environment and those who may own the property or control it’s use then graffiti is a powerful tool in expressing this disillusionment and disconnect. This is perhaps why those who feel that they have no control over the social environment and community that they exist within, such as the youth of an area, may be irresistibly drawn to graffiti as a mode of expression.

With the current data available in Australia with a focus on Townsville the more likely perpetrators of graffiti are cited to be males aged 12-18 years from one parent families who live in rented dwellings (Bandaranaike 2003). This demographic trend is largely agreed upon by national and international studies. Comparing the prevalence of graffiti in an area with other demographic factors can tell us a lot about what kind of urban landscape graffiti can occur in. Common factors for graffiti prone areas include a higher dropout rate of youth from schools, high rate of youth unemployment, and the availability of parental guidance and supervision (Bandaranaike 2003). These factors are also common to areas where parents may have to work longer to make ends meet and were poverty, or lower socio-economic standards prevail. This goes some way to explaining why graffiti seems to be more common in poor urban areas. The limited mobility of the youth population also correlates to the proximity of graffiti to youth areas like skate parks, public transportation locales such as train stations and bus stops and locations near schools and other areas of high youth traffic.

Though one of the main criticisms of graffiti is that it is antisocial behaviour this is not widely agreed upon. In fact Ferrell 1995 asserts the exact opposite; “The writing of graffiti is an inherently collective activity. Although writers tag and piece against the controls of the city, they also tag and piece for one another, and in so doing build alternative structures of meaning and status. Tagging goes on as a collective conversation among writers, a process of symbolic interaction by which writers challenge, cajole, and surprise one another.” This social interaction usually exists outside the greater societal norms of the local community with taboos and segregation often being broken within these subculture groups; “Significantly, the alternative communities that writers create often violate the city’s everyday ethnic segregation by incorporating kids of various ethnic backgrounds” (Ferrell 1995). Could it be that the groups that practice graffiti have a much more cohesive and inclusive group social structure? This seems to be entirely possible in some cases, whilst not universal or true of all groups, it is certainly not accurate to dismiss these groups as wholly antisocial.

When defining graffiti as a criminal act or public artwork it is often questioned as to whether the graffiti is seen to be of value. Social evaluation of public artwork takes into account factors that include determining if; “the artwork relates to the community, its demographic, cultural aspirations and identity, the artwork relates to the history and heritage of the local area, the artwork helps build community capacity or what has been termed social capital, the work is valued by the local community and visiting communities.”. Some of the illegal graffiti we can find in most urban environments meets much of this criteria, however local governments still spend millions of dollars in graffiti clean ups rather than retaining graffiti that conforms to the public arts evaluation framework outlined in Frost 2003; “The framework evaluates public art from the four key areas of 1. Social, 2. Environmental, 3. Economic, 4. Aesthetic values”. At the risk of constricting the graffiti artist right to freedom of speech, the legal system actively prosecutes offenders and protects property owners. Damage to property is a legitimate concern but legal action is often pursued against these often nonviolent offenders can result in creating a further disconnect between them and the wider community; “The prevalence of graffiti hotspots in our urban landscape clearly denotes there is a ‘message’ to the rest of society, irrespective of its mode of articulation. Youth need to express themselves as much as any other member in our society. Stifling their activity without providing an alternative will lead to dissention and more aggressive behaviour” (Bandaranaike, 2003)

Whilst the permission of the property owner is also a major factor in the legality of street art it is important to note that the actual damage to property is not cited as the only concern for the wider community. Perceived damage to the community is the belief in the wider community “that the mere existence of the graffiti increases the level of crime in the area and makes the area less safe.” (Arcioni 2003). These perceptions have real and lasting consequences with actual losses being incurred by the inhabitants of the local area   including a “…fall in the desirability of the area as a place within which to live or conduct business and therefore a fall in property prices, despite a lack of empirical evidence to support those views.” (Arcioni 2003). If graffiti is a permanent and somewhat essential part of the urban landscape as stipulated in Bandaranaike, 2003 then it is in the best interests of the community and the greater social order to find an acceptable arena or medium for this communication to take place. This should not just require compromise on the part of the graffiti artists themselves but it should also be an opportunity for the greater community to be informed and educated on the origins of street art and how it relates to contemporary society.

Whilst there is a heavy emphasis on the reduction and regulation of graffiti across the urban landscape many sources do not link graffiti to an increased level of criminal activity in an area: “Graffiti does not necessarily, nor logically, nor automatically, equate with criminality” (White 2001). In fact there is a push to outline and define the very clear differences between graffiti and violent crime. From a Marxist perspective the limitation of graffiti or uncommissioned street art could be seen as the bourgeoisie attempting exercise social control and censorship to protect their own interests and property against the ideas of the proletariat or working classes. While it has been asserted that graffiti can be undertaken by people from any socio economic group the high rate of incidents within young people who often have very little power, money or control over their situation would suggest that graffiti as a crime is one committed by the poor against the rich. From this perspective graffiti can be seen as essential part of class struggle, with elaborate political and socially significant murals and graffiti forms having a high prevalence in areas of extreme poverty, subjugation or political strife. The high rate of graffiti in places of violence and civil unrest seems to be a subculture response to what they see around them, a form of social commentary, trying to analyse and communicate a message with the only medium and methods available to them. This follows that rather than treating graffiti as the cause or root of the problems of an area that needs to be eliminated or covered up, perhaps we should be viewing graffiti as a symptom of a greater problem that exists or is brewing in the area. For instance if, in an area of housing crisis and high levels of homelessness, the government housing offices, or nearby more privileged areas may be targets for graffiti as a way for the perpetrators to express frustration and powerlessness to do anything to effectively improve their situation, or create change through official means.

Graffiti by nature will never truly conform to the societal norms but the negative social connotations can be managed. Whilst there is so many issues of social order, social control and deviance to at play when it comes to graffiti, and the topic is deserving of a more thorough investigation the research I have cited shows that the value of Graffiti as part of the diagnosis of social problems should not be undervalued. Graffiti, while it is definitely a form of deviance is an important means of communication for many who do not agree with the current social order and who wish to send a message to the greater community via a method that bypasses the normal social controls and censorship. This subversive communication practice and form of non-administered public art may not be legal in many cases and is condemned by greater society as it challenges the current social order by defying the regulation of the urban landscape, a factor that in my opinion does not lessen, but in fact increases its value to the community, providing the voiceless with a voice.



  • Arcioni, Elisa, GRAFFITI, REGULATION, FREEDOM, Graffiti and Disorder Conference, Australian Institute of Criminology, Australian Local Government Association, Brisbane, 18-19 August 2003
  • Bandaranaike, Suniti, GRAFFITI HOTSPOTS : PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT OR HUMAN DIMENSION?, Graffiti and Disorder Conference, Australian Institute of Criminology, Australian Local Government Association, Brisbane, 18-19 August 2003
  • Ferrell, Jeff. “Urban Graffiti Crime, Control, and Resistance.” Youth & Society 27, no. 1 (1995): 73-92.
  • Frost, Ashley, GRAFFITI AND PUBLIC ART, Graffiti and Disorder Conference, Australian Institute of Criminology, Australian Local Government Association, Brisbane, 18-19 August 2003
  • Marshall, Sophie, Beyond the Paint: Graffiti’s Value in Contemporary Society, Santa Sabina College (2010)
  • Payne, Malcolm, 1991, Radical and Marxist Approaches in Modern Social Work Theory: A Critical Introduction, pp. 201-223, London: MacMillan
  • Van Krieken, Robert et al, Sociology, 5th edition, Pearson Australia (2013)
  • White, R. (2001) Graffiti, Crime Prevention and Cultural Space. Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 12(3): 253-268


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