'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Friday, 30 November 2012

A Possum on my Roof

For some time I've been aware that I've had a visitor around the house.  My silverbeet has been demolished for months now, and the giveaway is the munched roses.  Well, that would be the giveaway, if it weren't for an even bigger giveaway - the clomp, clomp, clomp on my studio roof.  He or she has been checking the bowls of pantry-mothed porridge oats I've been putting out for the birds.

Tonight I got some good shots.  This creature can't stay, and I already have a trap set, and a neighbour primed for the dispatching job, but it's a pity these appealing marsupials were ever introduced into New Zealand.  In Australian their enemies are dingoes, the vegetation is far less palatable, and bush fires are a regulator.  Here in New Zealand they have no natural enemies, and they have had a devastating impact on the ecosystems. They do much damage to the bush, not to mention the native bird population (eating both eggs and young). Around my property we have More-pork, silvereyes, fantails, tui, and even the occasional kaka and kereru, quite aside from all the imported finches, blackbirds and thrushes etc.  It has to go.

This one seems remarkably tame, and took very little notice of me getting the outside chair for a good view.
Perhaps it knows my smell and my voice.  In fact that's certain: it sleeps in the ceiling space above my bedroom, returning about 5.30am.  This morning I found myself shouting 'Go to SLEEP why don't you!' as it shuffled and turned and wriggled around finding a comfortable spot amongst the insulation up there.

An Australian brush-tailed possum on my New Zealand studio roof.  

I think these critters are quite rare in Aussie.  I wonder if we could ship a whole lot back to them.  We've got plenty!

Incidentally, the clouds looked wonderful tonight with the moon behind them...  

 And here's the moon rising out of the Bay of Plenty sea on Wednesday night, when a friend and I went down to the beach to eat our fish 'n chips and watch it.

Sorry folks.  Comments for this particular post are closed due to the volume of annoying visits by roofing companies.  But please feel welcome to comment on any other post!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Friday, 23 November 2012

Arthur Boyd - "Bride and Groom by a creek"

Recently I posted some images of the 'pinkish' painting 'Bride and groom by a Creek' by Arthur Boyd.
I've now discovered some background to the work.

Arthur Boyd. Bride and Groom by a Creek. c.1960. Oil on composition board. 106.6 x 137.1cm.

Arthur Boyd was born in 1920 in Murumbeena, now a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.
The name Murumbeena is thought to come from either the aboriginal words 'land of frogs', or possibly 'moss growing on decayed wood'.

His grandfather Arthur Merric Boyd was a well-known New Zealand landscape painter and although our Aurthur never had any formal art qualifications, he learnt from his grandfather.  The whole of Arthur's family were very arty.

By the 1950's he and his brother, a ceramicist, were among the few Australian artists who were actually making a living from their art.  Boyd's work was very popular among adventurous collectors, and he was on a retainer from the Australian Galleries to supply them with his work - especially of the landscapes around Wimmera and Berwick.

He would always grind his own pigments, and, rather than a palette, often used the palm of his hand to mix colours.

Wimmera landscape. 1950-52.

Irrigation Lake, Wimmera.  1950

Many people, including his artist friends were troubled and bewildered when he moved away from this safe, Victorian landscape style and began to create troubling and uncomfortable-looking works.  Although at this time he probably wouldn't have been familiar with the trends overseas, this untutored artist's work are immediately recognisable as expressionism, and he has been compared with Chagall and Norde.  Many of his contemporaries couldn't understand why he would want to leave his previously successful style.

His new paintings revealed a deeply sensitive, emotional man, yet on the surface, says a friend (Barry Humphries), he always seemed happy, almost ingenuous.  He hardly ever got angry, but he used to get very upset if friends sold paintings that he had given to them.  He would rarely speak to them again.

Reflected Bride 1 (Bride Reflected in a Creek) 1958.

In 1960 he moved to England.  (The top pinkish painting Bride and Groom by a Creek... was one of the first he painted in London.)
Now that they were in Europe, he and his lovely, protective wife Yvonne were able to see European art originals, and they also bought a house in Tuscany.

But where did the ideas from these disturbing new paintings come from?   
From the NGV website:
In 1951, Boyd visited Central Australia and witnessed the sad circumstances of the Indigenous people there. He travelled by the old Ghan train to Alice Springs and then by jeep to the former mining community of Arltunga. Before this time, as Grazia Gunn has recorded, he had only seen ‘one Aboriginal, a chap around Melbourne who played a gumleaf’.
Boyd was shocked and depressed to see the plight of Indigenous people. Their situation was not well known and he determined to show Australia that it had a moral responsibility to address such tragic neglect. Boyd was always the conscientious objector, the passionate protestor against inhumane treatment and acts of cruelty. He made many drawings of Indigenous people in his sketchbooks, but it was not until several years later that he began to make paintings based on them.
On the road to Alice Springs, Boyd had witnessed a truck carrying a group of Indigenous brides, whose white wedding finery contrasted sharply with the rudimentary vehicle normally used for transporting cattle. This memory was the origin of the  ‘Love, marriage and death of a halfcaste’ series, better known as the ‘Bride’ series, an elaborate morality tale of an Indigenous trooper, a half-caste, and his half-caste bride. They are haunted by the dreamlike image of a white bride. For Boyd, the half-caste was the neglected outsider, neither black nor white, a nobody. His half-castes suffer the fate of the marginalised, isolated in a world of greed and selfishness. 

Humphries, who used to visit him a lot, said in his biography of Boyd that 'he always had a more 'traditional' style landscape on his canvas', as a release from the increasingly powerful and allegorical expressionist works he was compelled to paint.

His full name was Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd and he died in 1999.  He is survived by his wife and children Polly, Lucy and Jamie. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Tongaririo Erupts again - November.

The following video and two images will soon be very famous, if they are not already.
About 90 Napier (Tamatea Intermediate) school children were on Mt Tongariro within 100 metres of the site near the Ketetahi Springs when it began to erupt again today (they all got down and back to their buses in the carpark safely).
Their teacher was able to video the ash cloud as it ascended.  It was only a five minute blow, but there was no warning seismic activity (which there was last time), so the geophysicists are concerned they are not able to rely on that as a prediction any more.

Last week there were thoughts that nearby Mt Ruapaehu might do something, as the temperature under it has risen significantly.  However, because the crater lake temperature had not gone up, it was assumed the vent was blocked, and that this might mean a more explosive event...
No-one seems to know if the heat under Ruapaehu and this five minute ash puff on Tongariro are linked.
All very exciting!

Te Maari crater blows again.  Stuff


Video Footage shot by Tamatea Intermediate school teacher Lomi Schaumkel.

NGV Pinkish Painting

In the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) in Melbourne, there is a pinkish painting - medium sized (106 cm x 137 cm / 3'6" x  4'6").
It seems to be sunset (or sunrise) in an area of spiky scrubby trees, bushes and dead branches.
Also there are a number of odd dark birds with long pointed beaks, standing around as if they are watching or waiting for something.
And there's a blue face, and a red uniform, a white face and white dress with a veil... a delicate white ankle and some bare blue toes in a little stream.

What do you think about all this?  Does it make you feel anything?  What?

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Big Tidy-Up Continues

For some years now, I have been throwing stuff out.  I have too many clothes, too much stuff of a generalised, not-essential-but may-be-useful-one-day kind of nature.  Too much furniture.  And too many books and CDs and movies.

In the past, things that have left the house have after a while, been insidiously replaced by other stuff of the same nature.  It is of course, all my own doing, like cheating on a diet, or other examples of self-indulgence, self-trickery and lack of discipline.

I dream of clean, sparse, Japanese-style homes, where the bed slides into the wall and the polished furniture is never dusty and the floors are always clean.

Then I look at pictures in waiting-room magazines of cosy, inviting, softly-furnished and warmly-lit English homes, and I think, 'actually, that's what I really like'.

And I get all confused and add another armchair to the already-overcrowded lounge.

But recently, it appears I'm winning.  I bought a big glass jar (of the type that contains floating pickled zoological specimens), and loaded it up with my emu eggs and shell collection.  Now, that's a whole lot of things that I can still enjoy seeing out but that doesn't need dusting.

I've bought a 100 year old Chinese picnic basket and it now contains nick-nacks and candles, ceramic frogs, flint from a burial site in France and stones from Irish beaches - things I can't throw away.  And it also doubles as a little side-table.  So that's all good too.

The kids bought me a Kindle for Christmas, and I've now given away about 40 books that I intend to eventually have on it.

We have about half the DVD's on a hard drive now, and all the CD's can go on another too.

I've been knitting madly in the evenings this last winter because I have so much wool to use up.  I may take a deep breath and offer some to two friends who knit blankets for charity.

All my clothes are now in one wardrobe arranged by colour, and I'm thinking of rearranging the books in colour order on the shelves, as I've done before.

I do so love getting organised and tidy!  It's like a good dose of senna pod tea.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The NGV - Ian Potter Centre.

Of course it was a given that we'd both want to visit the city's art gallery while we were in Melbourne.  Although we thought we were going to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), we actually went to only the Australian art part of it - the Ian Potter Centre.  It is located on Federation Square and is covered by the amazing (and, at the time it was built, controversial) 'fractal' façade.

The NGV complex, Federation Square, Melbourne.

Going up to the front entrance.  Exciting!

The triangular 'fractal' facade over the Ian Potter Centre.

I can't look at a lot of works in a gallery.  I get too tired and forget what I've seen.  I've rather do a few well, than zoom around fast and look at a lot for a short time.  I think art works reveal themselves slowly and need time.

So I chose to focus on only 5.  This one is the first I thought might stand some investigation.

I looked at this painting for about 20 minutes.

My thought process is below, but please feel free to look at it first and see what you think.
I took a couple of close-up side-ways shots so I'd remember the texture.  It was very shiny!

This seemed at first to be a smiling clown face, with big eyes and grin.

Then I began to suspect it was not that at all, but I couldn't work out what it was, so I just let my eye drift over the patterns and colours.

I was drawn initially to the vibrant colors and 'clockwork' design. I thought I could make out cogs and traffic lights and perhaps that was a motorbike with broken spokes on the ground.  I liked that there were only a few colors and I counted how many.  I realised that for each color in the top half, there was an equivalent 'toned down' one in the bottom half.

 The overall feeling was one of happiness at first.  Then I thought I could see a figure and I thought it looked a little like the playing-card soldiers in the Disney film of Alice in Wonderland.

I loved the clean blocks of shape and color, the strong design element, and the carefully considered composition.
There seemed an engineered, mechanical feel in the limited number of angles, curves and shapes.  Repetition of geometric shapes ties the composition together.  Ambiguity, and variety of tone and color keeps it interesting, and one's eye roving to make sense of it all. There is flattened perspective and almost two-dimensional sheets that have been sliced, drilled or peirced. There are elements of Cubist ambiguous space in the background shadows; holes-that-aren't quite holes, light that behaves wrongly, an encroachment of the background into the foreground and vice-versa.

After 15 minutes I read the blurb ticket about when it was painted and so on, and suddenly I saw the significance - the spots of blood and the meaning of the tonal variation - the top-down over all light: an almost unbearable bleached brightness from the top contrasting with the dark, fallen, crumpled figure below.   

Here's what the accompanying information said:

Leonard French. Born Australia 1928
Death and Transfiguration
1958-59 Melbourne
enamel paint on composition board
The Joseph Brown Collection
Presented through the NGW Foundation by Dr Joseph Brown AO, OBE, Honorary Life Benefactor, 2004.

Leonard French worked at sign writing to support his studio art. When he received the commission in 1963 to make the stained glass ceiling for the new National Gallery of Victoria designed by Roy Grounds, he became one of the best-known artists in the country.  Death and transfiguration, with its theme from the Gospels, is an early example of his exploration of materials and form.  This painting has two figures - Christ lying with head to the left, then rising, with arms outstretched, through the top of the canvas.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Friendly Melbourne

Melbourne is a friendly city.  I found the people approachable and relaxed.  Unlike every city I've visited (except London), people in the street would meet my eye.  Smiling was commonplace.  It felt somewhat like New Zealand in the sixties. By that I mean genuine, intimate and on friendly terms.*

I was struck by how confident the contemporary inner-city architecture was too.  Risky colours, interesting shapes, and wonderful juxtapositions.

RMIT University building,
Swanston Street.

There's a 'brain' on the roof.
... and inside it's wonderful too.
Here's a strange and wondrous building that has a hole in it...

Here is an image I found on the internet that shows the cone that was erected over a shot tower, now a feature of a shopping mall and railway station.
(Shot towers were very important in colonial times.  Molten lead dripped from very high up meant that the shot balls were almost nicely spherical and solidified by the time they reached the bottom.)

Inside it looks like this.
Shot tower, Central Mall.
It's a huge mall, but on the hour, tourists stand around in one particular area and out come the cameras for the musical clock.
A charming reminder of a bygone age.
It's really lame.

The Melbourne musical clock:  The bottom slides out and the imps
 and birds wriggle and bob backwards and forwards
 while 'Waltzing Matilda' plays.

Of course there are plenty of lovely old buildings too. This is St Paul's Cathedral on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets.

St Paul's Cathedral.
Melbourne Town Hall on the left.
I rather liked the tiers of pansies outside the town hall.

Flowers outside the Town Hall.

Of course no self-respecting city is complete without at least one, preferably many, bird-annointed statues of famous people.

Statue of Matthew Finders outside St Paul's.
I was struck by the startling mustard-coloured stone of the famous and oft-photographed landmark that is the Flinders Railway Station building.

Flinders Railways Station. 
It goes on forever down the street there.
 This is what it looks like from just inside that arched entrance.

Rush hour crowds and St Paul's Cathedral from Flinders Station main entrance

"I'll have one of those pink roses right at the top there, thank you."

Flower stall,  Flinders Station.
Next time:  The amazing NGV (National Gallery of Victoria).

* not - as New Zealand in the sixties also was - naive, parochial and culturally insecure.