Finding and losing Eden

Featured in

  • Published 20061205
  • ISBN: 9780733319396
  • Extent: 266 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

IN THE LATE 1960s, the peripatetic and mercurial Australian artist Donald Friend found something of the happiness he had long been seeking. By then in his fifties, he had been preoccupied since adolescence by often unrealisable ideas about beauty and the exotic, haunted for more than a decade by ageing and the prospect of death, and many times disappointed in love. It happened almost accidentally, at a time when – once again – he had decided to escape Australia. He had resided previously in Africa, the Torres Strait, Europe and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and now, for nearly twelve years, would live like a lord in Bali while regularly undertaking various excursions elsewhere, before the island became the popular tourist destination it is today.

Friend became an international celebrity artist, relishing the role of charmed outsider in an exotic Asian culture. He collected Balinese artefacts, jewels and antiquities, some of which he shipped to Australia, and generally indulged himself as thoroughly as he knew how. At the same time, he became – somewhat haphazardly – a champion of Balinese culture as he understood it. Balinese iconography populated his paintings, and he wrote manuscripts and books about Balinese life and culture, including The Cosmic Turtle, drawing on his fascination with the island’s ritual life and history. He adopted Balinese modes of dress; the Balinese love of elaboration and decoration infiltrated his aesthetic judgements.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

About the author

Paul Hetherington

Paul Hetherington was educated at the University of Western Australia, completing a PhD on Emily Dickinson.Before moving to Canberra in 1990, to take up...

More from this edition

The age of horrorism

EssayIT WAS MID-OCTOBER 2001, and night was closing in on the border city of Peshawar, in Pakistan, as my friend – a reporter and...

The sublime nature of politics

GR OnlineKARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN, THE controversial German composer, once described the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 as "the greatest work of art ever". Notoriously shocking...

The hanging garden

MemoirNOT SO LONG ago, I lived in paradise. A luxury apartment on the Gold Coast. I still remember waking up every morning to the...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.