The Reading

Before I Forget by Jacqueline Fahey

10:45am Monday 25 to Friday 29 May 2015

Before I Forget is the second volume of memoirs by well-known painter, feminist and writer Jacqueline Fahey.

Before I Forget kicks off after her marriage to the celebrated psychiatrist Fraser McDonald and recounts Fahey's battles against conventional society to shape a life as an artist and writer as well as a wife and mother.

She describes life in New Zealand mental hospitals and art schools; friendships with Rita Angus and other NZ artists of the period.

There’s also an account of the art scene in New York in 1980. Hilarious, opinionated, fiery, the book is held together by Fahey's inimitable voice as a fiercely original and non-conformist storyteller.

Read by Denise O'Connell

Produced by Duncan Smith and Jason Te Kare and engineered by Phil Benge.

Not all audio is available due to copyright restrictions.

Before I Forget by Jacqueline Fahey - Part 1

10:45 Jacqueline recalls her friendship with Rita Angus and an exhibition they organised in Wellington in 1964.

Before I Forget by Jacqueline Fahey - Part 2

10:45 Jacqueline and Fraser move to Auckland where he takes on the position of superintendent at Kingseat Hospital and she becomes involved with helping some of the patients.

Before I Forget by Jacqueline Fahey - Part 3

10:45 In 1980 a grant from the QE II Arts Council sees Jacqueline in New York where, inspired by Dylan Thomas, she stays at The Chelsea.

Before I Forget by Jacqueline Fahey - Part 4

10:45 While in New York Jacqueline is confronted with the entrenched notion that oil painting is a male pursuit and returns home with a new sense of purpose.

Before I Forget by Jacqueline Fahey - Part 5

10:45 Fraser has his first coronary and Jacqueline becomes a tutor at Elam Art School.


Jacqueline Fahey - artist and writer

Kathryn Ryan talks to Jacqueline Fahey's about her memoir, Before I Forget, which delves into her life after her marriage to psychiatrist Fraser McDonald and becoming an artist and name in her own right.

In Memoriam, 1969. Mum and myself at the time of my father’s death. The wintery feel to this painting, the bleak landscape outside and the unmade bed all add to the sense of grief.

Georgie Pies, 1973/77. There are good portraits here of Augusta, Nick Town (the photographer who took the photos of me in the living room) and Alex. My new diet choice is bacon and eggs. Fraser in in the background is watering the garden. The yellow hose integrates the background and the foreground – and those colourful Georgie Pie packets are so reminiscent of late 1970s and 1980s New Zealand.

Fraser Analyses My Words, 1977 (Collection of University of Auckland Medical School). It can be hazardous for couples to have a drink together before dinner. Here I depict myself suffering the illusion that my words are momentarily transformed, by booze, into jewel-like, iridescent little creatures. Fraser selects one for scrutiny; but he is also preoccupied with his own balancing act at the hospital and hoping for soothing moments of release, not stimulating discourse. The roses and the bottle on the table recall the days of wine and roses; the large dragonfly perched on the rim of the cocktail glass suggests the dangers inherent in alcohol. The card on the mantelshelf, sent from Rome by my friend Eric McCormick, is of a proud matron of ancient Rome. She is my alter ego – but I often fail to reach her standards.

Me Teaching, 1992. Clytemnestra, assisted by her black nurse, murders Agamemnon in the bath. As an indicator I have a lot to say here, backing up what I raved on about in the life class about the very ancient history of women’s struggle for recognition.

Effervescence, 2009. In the face of the romantic bilge fed to young women, I here suggest that passion is an irrational delirium visited on humans to keep the race going. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream gloriously illustrates this point. The hydrangea bushes are emblematic of mental hospitals, indicating where I am coming from. ‘I can hardly remember what I was on about,’ I proclaim. Also written into the painting are the words of a song I used to sing while bicycling through Cathedral Square on the back of Bruce Rennie’s bike – ‘Just One of Those Things’. In some ways we never change.

Work by artist and writer Jacqueline Fahey

From Nine To Noon on 01 Aug 2012