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Cunningham, Tallulah

The Hunter Rubáiyát: illustrating Edward FitzGerald's Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam in an contemporary Australian setting. Tallulah Cunningham. Newcastle, University of Newcastle, 2015.


Edward FitzGerald’s poem Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám has been illustrated over a hundred and fifty times during the decade and a half since its first publication. These illustrations have depicted exotic, arcadian other-places that ignore the poem’s frequent endorsement to live with immediacy. My Practice-based Creative PhD project has focused on producing a visual interpretation that reflects the immediate landscapes of my own physical situation: modern Australia. I have crafted illustrations that use the current landscapes and biotic content of the Hunter Valley, NSW, to emphasise not only the ongoing relevance of this poem to the brevity of human life but also my interpretations of the poem. To describe the poem’s frequent references to the passage of time I have drawn on my experience as a Natural History Illustrator, integrating the cycle of seasonal climatic events, plant and animal behaviour into my visual interpretation. I have also inverted the existing trend of exotic illustrations in a familiar physical context (that of a book) by presenting my depiction of the familiar, local environments in two exotic formats. These formats are based on Japanese narrative-scrolls and woodblock prints, providing unusual and intentionally tactile creative objects.