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John engineered our movement out of peopled spaces, now milling toward book signing tables. Safely removed from any further interrogations by officials and book-launch audience members, yet deeper into the Art Centre’s ghostly realms, I am led to the gallery bookshop. There amongst toys, games, calendars and pottery, nestle some figurines made by my sister. John puts his hand on a large blue book and removes it from shelves, Brett Whiteley in gold lettering along the spine, in letters appearing both connected and unrelated to each other.

‘How can you do that?’

‘What?’

‘Walk straight into a book shop and immediately locate the book you want? You didn’t even look for it.’

‘I never thought about it, I suppose, years of doctorate research, a lot of time browsing in book shops or just a way I have… Does it infuriate you?’

‘No, just intrigues me.’

‘Faye hates it.’

Did I glimpse, in his green-grey eyes, frustration at his wife’s foibles?

John flips open a page, showing me human figures in what appear to be an act of copulation. Flicking past scratchy line drawings, black on white, shapes of female buttocks. Bodies have no heads, seem disproportional, random limbs foreshortened. Pages slip by. Splashes of color; not vibrant, all faded, muted tones. Seemingly unconstructed pieces of disjointed subject matter; swirls and distortions parade before me. Nests of eggs, tucked into abstractions – but of what? Landscapes; like they’ve been in the rain: streaked and defused. I find the bright, electric blue almost blinding. His face, jumps out, innocent curls, tear lines and deep shadows. There are pieces of human anatomy, brains, and intestines, splattered into what seems an unstirred witch’s cauldrons. These paintings are madness, a cacophony of madness. Whiteley appears to belong here, mixed with the Arts Centre’s previous inmates, locked in the asylum behind the bars of his substance abuse. Is this the spirit and nature of his LSD hallucinations? I am beginning to get the earlier joke. What I am shown is bewildering, yet I find myself attracted. 

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