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Picture Puzzles

21 April, 2011

Two bits of news that share a rebus link, those old-school picture puzzles. First, if you see the latest Walkley Magazine, grab a copy. I have a piece arguing the growing importance of puzzles to papers. With news so wall-to-wall, so generic, a crossword (like a column or cartoon) operates on the personal. We turn to The Guardian for Puck or Paul – just as Fairfax readers align weekdays with initials.

Naturally the editor requested a puzzle to accompany the yarn. A chance to try something new, I thought, something visual. The fancy name is Biroglyphs, but really they’re just a modern tweak on ye old rebus formula, enlivened by the pen of Simon Letch. If the diversion becomes a regular, we may yet develop some new ground rules as the idea evolves, but thought you’d appreciate the shout.

Second, I’m off to Sydney next Thursday for the Archibald luncheon. My official title for the event is Amanda’s Sitter, as that’s my role on the post-meal panel. Other painters and their patsies are joining us, each musing on the oddness of capturing another’s soul in oil, gouache or plasticine.

One issue we’re bound to cover is the stuff of totems. What talismans do you place with the portrait’s subject? A butcher’s knife for Mark Moran, say. A sorbet for a gourmand, a barré for a ballerina? To me, the exercise evokes a pharaoh’s burial – or a rebus.

Imagine if painters turned to puzzles as portraits. Instead of an imposing picture of Peter Garrett, we get a rabbit [PETER] in an attic [GARRET].

Or for Cathy Freeman we see a prison escapee [FREE MAN] fleeing a wrecked yacht [CATHY].

Maybe a painting of David Malouf could be the author captured in two contrasting moods: D + AVID + M + ALOOF.

A bit of fun to fill out the week – what living Australian can you eloquently convert into an Archibald rebus? Treat the game like a charade clue, breaking down your subject’s name into smaller pieces, and present the tableau. Such as chef Neil Perry = scrawled LINE on a FERRY, with P on the funnel and an F being jettisoned. Or Anna Bligh = reversed BANANA – A + candle – T

And please, no suggestions for Mel-in-DA-gains-Ford. But why not let your artistic eye play, and fire away? Pick only living Aussies, with the best renditions due to hang in the Archie vault early next week – a bonus Brainstorm if you like. Get musing, Monet.

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