05 Mar Good Weekend – Sydney Morning Herald
Artist Joshua Yeldham’s journey from darkness to light
When Joshua Yeldham was eight, he was sent to board at Sydney’s exclusive Cranbrook School with the big-boned sons of the ruddy-cheeked rich. Yeldham was small and slight – “a sensitive boy”, he says, over and again – and he slept with his Snoopy. But he was trapped in a dormitory with youths who taunted and tormented him. One night while he was asleep, they stole his Snoopy and wiped their bottoms all over it. Yeldham woke up, he says, “covered in shit”.
Yeldham is now 46, sitting on the deck of his beautiful timber home in Bayview, overlooking the Pittwater estuary in Sydney’s north. The artist and film-maker lives with his wife, Jo, and their two children, Indigo, 12, and Jude, 7. He has won a Student Emmy Award, been nominated for a Student Oscar and been a finalist in the Wynne, Sulman and Archibald prizes, but his thoughts still turn back to unanswerable questions from his days with the Cranbrook boys.
“The idea was to punch them in the face with it,” he says, “but they got at me too quickly and I fell down. You know when you relive a scene to examine how you would do it differently? I find it amazing that, just because the bell went, I felt I had to go out and face them. In hindsight, why didn’t I just stay in the library and with the librarian, who I got on with? My concept of that one bell made me go out and get a hiding.”
Yeldham grew up into an appealing-looking man – strong across the chest and shoulders, soft around the lips – and he seems, most of the time, at peace. He cultivates a Zen calm, and uses the vestiges of his childhood fury to help him create art. He is dyslexic, a condition that his teachers seem to have mistaken for everything from ignorance to immaturity.
manual practico de opciones financieras Yeldham reproduces some of their comments from his school reports in his new book, Surrender: A Journal for my Daughter, which was originally written as a keepsake for Indigo and then self-published and sold at an exhibition, but is about to be released nationally by Picador. “Because I was failing,” he says, “I made everyone laugh. I started to draw my teachers as werewolves and do whatever I could to stop being beaten up, and therefore the teachers thought I was a pain in the arse.
video pubblicità bdswiss trading opzioni binarie “One time a teacher made me stand up, and she asked the class to vote on whether I should be asked to leave the class. And I’ll never forget that – waiting to see who put their hands up … and everyone slowly putting their hands up.”
There seemed no real reason for Yeldham to be a boarder at Cranbrook. His family lived in Double Bay, only 10 minutes from the school.
“I was allowed to go home on Friday,” he says, “which I couldn’t wait for. Then I would run into my toilet and shut the door, and I would lift the toilet roll up and I would pretend that was an elevator that would take me down under a sea. I would go up to my room and pretend I was under the sea in this submarine, and I was removed from the whole planet.
“I would be in my own fantasy world and, in that, I started to paint and draw. That was the space where I felt there was something I could do that, when I showed my mum, she would go, ‘Oh wow.’ And, as a young kid, I was searching for the ‘Oh wows’, because everything else was an ‘F’ for ‘fail’. ” Yeldham’s father and mother were 1960s rag-trade pioneers. Tony and Di Yeldham opened the Squire Shops in Double Bay and Toorak, and made a fortune importing fabrics from Paris, Milan and New York. Even before Yeldham went to Cranbrook, he was “the little boy who had to go to the shop to see my dad”.
Tony Yeldham had played under-19s cricket for NSW, and his Double Bay store was popular with visiting international cricketers such as Viv Richards and Joel Garner, as well as rock stars like Elton John and Rod Stewart. Tony was dynamic, energetic, charming and lucky, a stylish smooth-talker in the right place at the right time. “My dad loved women, he loved fashion, he loved cricket,” says Yeldham. “Somehow he tried to marry all three together.” But he was never at home.
“Dad got up at 5am,” says Yeldham, “made me a cup of tea, and the only real thing we did was play cricket in the early morning. Then he would drop me at school really early, so I’d wait for school to start, and he’d go to work. So my whole world was around the shop, like a lot of retail people. If my dad had his way, we would have eaten dinner in the shop, slept in the shop, everything. He’s 76 and he’s still in the shop behind the desk.”
Yeldham has often asked his parents why he had to become a boarder. “The stories are varied,” he says, “but I was in a very strong female house, with my two sisters who were really excelling at school, and Mum wanted me to be among the boys more. And because I had such severe learning difficulties, I had very low self-esteem, hid behind my mum’s legs, and didn’t want to associate with anyone. And when my mum and dad’s relationship started to struggle, I think they thought it might be best if I left the house for a little while. That’s as much of the storyline as I can get.”
But Yeldham has conjured a happy ending. “I was a very sensitive boy,” he repeats, “and you don’t understand how that could be helpful to you until maybe later on in life – hence what I do now.
“But back then it was a curse to be sensitive. I wanted to be like the big boys. I wanted to be tough. I wanted to know how to play football. I had to be hammered like that, because I was building up a fighter in me, to stick with what I eventually believed in. I placed myself, partly, as the victim. And at some point I realised I’m not going to be a victim. I’m going to maintain my independence and my uniqueness – such as my sensitivity – but I’m not going to get beaten up anymore.”
JOSHUA YELDHAM’S CHANCE to reinvent himself came when his parents divorced and his mother moved to Europe. He was 14 when his mother placed him in Switzerland’s Aiglon College, one of the world’s most expensive schools. “I went, ‘I’m changing my personality,’ ” he says. ” ‘How do I do that?’ ” Yeldham chose his persona from the new men around him. Every term at Aiglon, the pupils must all prepare for and complete an expedition into the Swiss Alps. The school is co-educational and many of the teachers were mountain men, of a type Yeldham had not met before. They were “strong men but they weren’t aggressive”, he says. “Internally strong – versus outwardly arses.” Every weekend, Yeldham volunteered for additional mountaineering exercises.
The discipline at Aiglon was strict. Students had to rise each day at 5am and run 1.5 kilometres in their pyjamas. During the winter term, they ran through snow. “But the great thing was,” says Yeldham, “you were running with the girls. I had crushes, and I couldn’t wait to see the girl in her nightie.”
Yeldham was introduced to skiing, navigation, mountain climbing and caving. He learned to paraglide. “By the time I was 16,” he says, “I was climbing mountains and flying off … It was extraordinary.”
He always had great art teachers, even at Cranbrook, and his talent was apparent. When he left Aiglon, he went to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in the US. At RISD, he became a film-maker, and in 1993 Frailejon, the 65-minute movie he produced for his course, won a Student Emmy for Best Student Film and a Student Oscar nomination for Best Dramatic Student Film.
Yeldham returned to Australia, and won grants to make a second feature. He purchased a Kombi and drove into the desert to develop a screenplay, but the movie was never made. He bought 100 sheets of art paper and filled them with desert paintings, the works that filled his first exhibition at his sister Ali Yeldham’s Arthouse Gallery in Sydney in 1996, the year he met his wife-to-be Jo. He first spoke to Jo at another artist’s opening at the same gallery, and he immediately asked her to come to the desert with him. She said she had to work, so he went back alone but called her three weeks later. This time she agreed.
He sped to the city to collect her and returned to the desert. “We didn’t really know each other,” he says. “She had a guard up until we got over the Blue Mountains. It was amazing. And ever since we’ve travelled everywhere together.”
The Yeldham family has suffered two great and public tragedies. In 1996, Joshua’s father’s cousin, retired judge David Yeldham, committed suicide after having revealed to investigators that he had secretly been a customer of male prostitutes. In 2002, Joshua’s cousin, Matthew Wales, murdered his parents, Joshua’s aunt and uncle. “It was a very traumatic time for my family,” says Yeldham, “and I’m grateful that such a devastating thing was handled with so much love by all parts of my family, to try to heal it. We all have deep sorrow experiences and we all have to learn to carry sorrow.”
http://theharrisongroup.com/services/carrier/aig.htm YELDHAM’S ART IS CHISELLED AND CARVED and sanded, torn and ground and tattooed. It borrows from Chinese watercolours and calligraphy, and cultures of Africa and Papua New Guinea, to produce something that looks a little like romantic figurative Aboriginal desert painting. It includes a large number of pictures and carvings of owls, a bird adopted by Yeldham as a fertility totem when he discovered he was infertile. Both of his children were born via IVF. This process, too, is documented in Surrender, a book edited by Jo and Yeldham’s great friend, the actor Richard Roxburgh. “They just took out so many pages – ‘Candid, candid … full of yourself, full of yourself … over-spiritual, over-spiritual’ – and I just trusted them,” he says, “and we cut it back.”
The result is a work of dreamy, almost hallucinatory beauty: a fractured, lyrical memoir whose fragments are overlaid on Yeldham’s paintings and Jo’s photography. It presents a landscape of both Yeldham’s country and his mind. The pictures are often wonderful and the prose, like the painting, is torn from the heart. However, it probably tries to do one thing too many, and the digressions into verse – the curse of any notebook – do not add much to the package.
But Indigo loves it, and the book was made for her. The next will be for Jude.
Yeldham works from a studio at the back of his house. “It’s a homely life,” he says. “Which is quite opposite to my dad. He came home and fell asleep.” Yeldham strives to give Indigo and Jude a different kind of father. “I want to be active,” he says. “I want to be around them. They live in here. They paint. They do homework on the floor. I’ve learnt to paint around them.”
And both children attend local schools, and come home every day, when the school bell rings.
Surrender by Joshua Yeldham (Picador Australia) is out 22 March and available for pre-order now