Background to the exhibitions

Hingstonbrook H H b b

Thought bubbles and assorted jottings

The Serbian parliament

The national character

In Australia, a myth asserts that the national character was forged in a battle against the Ottoman Turks that was bravely fought but lost.1 In Serbia, a myth asserts that the national character was forged in a battle against the Ottoman Turks that was bravely fought but lost.2 The difference is that the Serbs were defending their country against a foreign invader, whereas we were the foreign invader.

Serbia has suffered hundreds of years of attacks, invasions and occupations, including months of bombing by NATO in 1999; Australia has suffered only one serious foreign attack since European colonisation. I wonder if this has contributed to a certain stoicism among Serbs and an occasional, undignified triumphalism among Australians.


Favourite Painting 2004
Scott Wilmot Bennett My Favourite Painting 2004
Spring Frost 1919
Eloith Gruner Spring Frost 1919

As painters in Australia celebrate sunlight,
so painters in the Balkans celebrate shadows.

Lake Skadar 1949
Petar Lubarda Sa Pavlove strane 1949
Lake Skadar 2007
Skadarsko jezero 2007
Lake Skadar 1976
Aleksandar Aco Prijić Praskozorje na jezeru 1976
Lake Skadar 2007
Skadarsko jezero 2007

A connection

Canberra’s population has a greater proportion of people from the countries of the former Yugoslavia than any other Australian city. For many decades they have asserted an enormous influence on Canberra’s culture, but their contribution has remained almost completely unacknowledged. (A 2008 article in the Canberra Times alluded to the fact, but it went almost completely unnoticed.)


Serbian farmers
Porodin farmers 2018

Balkan hospitality is legendary. We've made friends with people in Montenegro and Serbia who became wonderfully generous hosts. Even complete strangers can be unexpectedly welcoming. A farmer in South of Serbia invited us into his home simply because we were walking past his front gate. And it's not the only time that's happened.

Crafts and Art

Traditional embroidery
Traditional embroidery samples

Unlike Australia, the visual arts are valued in Serbia, in spite of difficult economic times. Artists are respected. Their art schools foster both innovative contemporary art and traditional skills. Some traditional crafts have struggled to survive but craft works are still being produced in the distinctive style of each region, with a remarkable level of skill.

The air

Atmospheric pollution is common in major cities, it was even severe in Canberra during the 2019–20 bushfire season. According to news reports, older diesel cars, domestic heaters, factories and nearby open-cut coal mines contribute to a smog that sometimes envelops Belgrade. According to Ruth, it’s probably millions of cigarettes filling the air with tobacco smoke.