Claudio Polles di Eric Hiller

I first became aware of Claudio Polles in Burnie in 1981. Through a series of events I came to know Claudio and had the opportunity to watch him work, write about his painting and become acquainted with his poetry, about which he appeared passionate but uncertain. Claudio Polles is an intense parcel of contradictions, difficult and impossible to ignore if you are within his immediate vicinity. His output, enthusiasm and his vulnerability cause people to take notice of this artist, poet and business entrepreneur. Because of the circumstances of childhood Claudio has been in constant motion travelling between Australia and Italy. Both Tasmania and the area of his birth just north of Venice have important associations which inspire his peripatetic and almost frantic travel. "I get cramps in the brain when I am away from Tasmania or Italy too long. Tasmania is like heaven. Beautiful landscape. Quiet. No people." Claudio came to Tasmania with his mother and father when he was one year old. They returned to Italy when Claudio was four, then came back to Tasmania a few years later. His father died tragically in a mining accident a Rossarden when Claudio was eleven. Suddenly, with two younger brothers he was the oldest male in his family and there were expectations placed upon him. He had difficulty coping with the death. The family returned to Italy yet again. At school Claudio was good at art. "Art became a necessity. I also began to write. God helped me, possibly saved me, God looks after me." "The Pope looks after me, too," he declares. "We're good friends." The Pope has, in the bowels of the Vatican, one Claudio's paintings presented to him from the Italian Consulate in Hobart on his last visit to Tasmania. In 1973 he made his way back to Tasmania. Recently Claudio has been organising and hosting gourmet and art tours between Australia and Italy. His knowledge of food, wine and art coupled with his infectious humour and audacious story telling have made them extremely popular with a wide range of people - especially older professionals - who delight in his stories, expert knowledge and provocative manners. He realised, over a period of time, that organising tours allowed him to indulge his dream of visiting his favourite places, telling others about them, indulging his undoubted gourmet skills and interest in art. "I like to share what I do". "As you get older you begin to find things out about yourself. You need to test them. I do this through my poetry and my painting." He does it also by talking a lot. Claudio Polles was born under a chestnut tree surrounded by wild mushrooms with sixteen angels attending his birth and cyclamens bursting into flower in pure delight on the hilly region north of Venice or so he says in one of the many versions of his entry into the world. Claudio (like many of us) is prone to exaggeration. "I do things in my own strange way." His exuberance seems to be constant but of course there must be the corresponding lows. Some of these poems chart this vacillation. He retreats to his painting studio, either in Queensland, Tasmania or in Conegliano, Italy, to express in concrete terms his despair, exultation or just to quietly contemplate life with paints in his hands. Pressures build up and he needs to paint. In moments of solitude or despair, it is the home of his maternal grandparents in the hilly region north of Venice or the Tasmanian vistas from Table Cape, the road between Penguin and Ulverstone overlooking Bass Strait and the back country roads behind Wynyard that provide him with a feeling of wonder and vision of his earthly Paradise. Claudio's flamboyance is best observed when he is telling stories over a bottle of wine. Brendan Behan and Dylan Thomas were said to be unequalled when in full flow in congenial company, much better than in print. The artist and his artwork should never be separated - they complement each other to make the most satisfactory whole. Topics that keep coming to the surface in Claudio's work are love and sex with a heavy dose of Catholicism. A particularly strong influence in Claudio's work are love and sex with a heavy dose of ground Californian poet and novelist Charles Bukowski who combined a highly strung sensitivity with an erotic rawness and humour. A man who lived and wrote not far from the gutter of life. Claudio admits hesitatingly: "I think I have finally learnt how to do it - that is write poetry. Sometimes I write at night time after a few drinks. I'm more sensitive to the mood of things these days. The ammunition I use is best captured at the moment it first comes into my head. I write when alone, when down, at airports. I write in English (some of the earliest poems were written in Italian), usually on scraps of available paper. If you leave it… the idea or the thought… to later, you lose the substance and the guts of it." Claudio Polles, like most of us, is riddled with insecurity mixed with moments of pomposity and regret. At other times he is most insightful and philosophical. Using humour and exaggeration he exposes himself in a way that places us as voyeurs. We watch or read about his relationships with women, with his wife, with his God, with himself and we smile. We can't help smiling. It's imperative. "I'm free to write and paint. I don't have to compromise to expose myself". "Every poem is me," says Claudio throwing his arms into the air in an Italian sort of way. And thy are. Eric Hiller