Monday, December 24, 2007

A very merry Christmas to family and friends. We have three days off to gather strength for the inundation of holidaymakers and to enjoy Christmas and egg nog with family.

May the New Year bring you all you desire.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Still struggling to keep up my postings. My day starts around 6am when I make the daily bread and cakes and prep for breakfast and lunch with extras such as opening mussels and filleting fish. Then it's feeding the holidaymakers until 3pm when we close the kitchen but are open for coffee and cake while I prep up for dinner service which lasts until the last person leaves, sometimes 10pm, sometimes 1am.
It's hard yakka at this time of year but most satisfying making people happy. About 80% of our customers are regulars or have been recommended so we know we must be doing something right.
Our long range weather forecast is not good with a humid and wet summer and the possibility of a cyclone or two which usually means people don't come to the beach.
Maybe it will be a quiet one and I'll be able to go skinny dipping at Lonely Bay without scaring anybody!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Pregnant Thought

The winning sculpture 'A Pregnant Thought" by Lauren Kitts which will stay in our permanent collection

'Medusa' by Anna Korver

'Ohinau Sunset' by Donald Buglass
Scene from the balcony with my, as usual,
unfinished wooden sculpture

A few images from the symposium. We are enjoying lovely rain at the moment, washing the dust from the leaves and ripening plums and returning the garden to some semblance of normality

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Unexpected visitor

So we were quietly (well we don't do anything quietly!) cleaning the restaurant when this large road roller skidded out of control down into our front garden, coming to rest on Dr. Margot Symes lovely sculpture 'Four Elements' (stone, water, fire, air) which now can be called 'Five Elements' with the addition of steel! After much discussion with the sheepish driver we decided it (the roller) didn't add much to the ascetics of the place so they towed it away leaving a tiny scratch on said sculpture and a large dent on said drivers ego.
Never a dull moment!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Wow what a week! 17 sculptors with 9 inch grinders competing with graders and rollers fixing the road. We feel like we have been in a quarry and now are praying for rain to wash all the dust away. We've sold six pieces so far, not brilliant but only one behind last year and the quality is better than ever so are confident of more sales. A customer last night asked how much it would be to ship a big head (1200kg!) to California. I shudder to think but it's worth a try. I am in the process of placing them in suitable positions round the garden.
I started a big wooden sculpture but ran out of wood so started on stone but with feeding and looking after a group of tempremental artists didn't get anything finished as per usual. They aren't really difficult. As a group they work hard and get on very well and we had some wonderful nights of music and fun.
Hope to have some images tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Four boats, one beach, 100 kids and lots of wind all add up to thrills and spills and screams and beams.

The Waterwise programme has been around a while teaching kids how to sail and become wise on the water. With our very long coastline, I'm guessing about 4500 kilometres, having fun on the water is a big part of our Kiwi life and the ocean can be very unforgiving as our drowning stastictics show. Our own Hot Water Beach is the second worst in NZ for drowning because inexperienced people become hot in the pools and then rush into the surf and are carried away in the undertow.

So the local Whenuakite School invited donations to buy four boats and Eggsentric is proudly displayed on one sail and I trained to be an instructor. The kids get 90 minutes each time and learn to rig the boat, go through it's safety features and their own such as life vest, sun block, warm clothes etc. and understand a little of how to read the weather such as clouds and wind on the water.

But the real fun and for some the real terror is on the water when they are in control of a bucking little boat with the wind whipping the sails. We teach them to capsize, right the boat again and bail the water out and that usually gives them confidence when they realise nothing bad can happen.

The real joy for me is when they finally get a feel for it and I can take them out into the Bay where the wind is true. A line of little boats with grinning skippers

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lauren Kitts working on her piece that is now a headstone in the local cemetry
The stone delivery - what potential!

Naughty boy, I haven't posted for a week. It's amazing how running a restaurant fills up your days and nights. Plus I had to deliver an address to artists this week about owning a gallery, teach kids from the local school sailing, arrange the rock delivery for the smposium, tutor at the art school and read the paper! Merlot the dog and I are both putting on weight because our walks in the morning are getting shorter and shorter.

It's always an exciting time when the lovely blue/green rock from Maratoto arrives. I choose the pieces in the quarry but it's not until they are here away from the quarry that they really start talking. When the sculptors come and choose a rock they are of two schools. Some have an idea in their mind and choose a rock to suit that idea, others look at a rock and see an idea. The former is perhaps the safest way because it's not easy working under your peers and the publics eyes. You have to have something finished and acceptable at the end of the week. I am one of the latter but I get it easy, if I don't finish it I blame the sculptors for having to look after their every whim and feed them and listen to their stories. My last years effort is still sitting under the trees, I'll have to hide it and pretend it was sold over the summer!

We are not looking forward to the fine talcum powder like dust that spreads through everything because the gardens are looking fantastic at the moment but it's all part of what we do and who we are.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Still have time

Beautiful this morning after three days of rain. The sun has just come up (ie. the earth's gone down) and the tide is full and still and clear. My coffee is hot and long and the list for today is mercifully short.
I'm still finding time for sculpture so have the best of both worlds - able to feed the family and indulge in fantasy at the same time!- hopefully one day the art will do both.
I designed the arches above to sit flush as an entrance to my exhibition but after storing them in the basement staggered I like them much better. They seem to compel you to walk under them, cathedral like.
The other picture is a new design leaving gaps in the timber, feeling much lighter and the shadows make it change as you walk around it. The front figure will be taller when I get my errant nail gun back from the doctor and I will probably add three more figures, two smaller as if children.
The design permutations are endless. Perhaps I can be laid to rest in a box made from little pieces of wood!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Rage against the night

Pictured above are the committee, with my seat vacant of course, testing the wine and the venue for my upcoming 60th on Jan 3rd and the picture of a picture above that is Chookstock 1998.
We were back on the farm when I turned 50 and I built a big stage and organised 5 bands and called it Chookstock! We had a water slide down the hill and a bouncy castle and B-B-Qs and 450 people turned up with their tents and caravans. It was a blast.
Now 10 years later and 3rd Jan is one of the busiest days of our restaurant year with 200 lunches and 100 dinners so the possibility of much organisation is very small. However we are going to close for the day and my fellow musos are going to perform on the outside stage with hopefully Kokomo Blues who played 10 years ago rocking us late into the night.
What more can a man ask for as he 'rages against the night' than friends and relatives and music and madness and mayhem

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sex on the Beach

A beautiful patch of weather has finally arrived chasing away memories of incessant cold winds. Swam yesterday in Flaxmills cool, clear waters, bracing to be sure but so good to be alive. Son Sam got offered a ride on a charter boat today to the Alderman Islands (named by Cook after his local councillors at home) 15 km off shore and after a successful (for him!) debate of school or fishing he said "Man I've got a good life". At 16 we have to be happy with that. He wants to get his first crayfish free diving and of course big snapper and kingfish on his rod.
The first shining cuckoo made his presence felt this week. They winter in the Solomon Islands and after the long flight their distinctive whistle is a sign that summer is on its way. Lots of other pairings on the beach also. The oyster catchers are long time residents, Mr Smith still favouring his gammy leg, hatching a brood every year. The mallard ducks have already hatched, not sure about the paradise ducks, the white headed female and dark male with their alternate hee haw honks are still flying around. Our little rare dotterels are back this week. They are the same colour as sand and shells and it's only when they move that you can see them. It was a real success for us to see them hatch last year. Many other seagulls and terns but they nest elsewhere and use the water and beach as their dinner table.
So the seasons change, as do the tides of life....

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I've always had trouble with childhood memories and reading Janet Frame, one of our best writers, I am amazed how she seemed to have total recall, showing the world through a childs' eyes.
I remember my elder sister and I, we were very young, coming home and into the kitchen where Father was cutting a big loaf of white bread saying your mother wants to see you in the bedroom.
Mother was sitting up straight backed in bed in a blue nightie with a dead baby, our little brother John, in her arms. It was a wasp sting she said perhaps because menengitis was too unpalatable and that day was never mentioned again even though Mother and Father are long gone. It's strange that I can't see the face of John, only the big loaf of bread.
I remember too Father saying no to me using the dinghy and I got up early and dragged the heavy boat inch by inch into the estuary that bordered the farm and tried to row upstream. They found me gone and I couldn't understand the fuss.
And the anger and beating and no dinner when I walked home 7 miles in the dark after rugby practice.
And my younger sister rolling in the surf at Buffalo beach with her eyes closed and thick sand in her hair and Mother running down the beach... running... running.
I understand the anger now of course, coming from the desperation of losing a child, but then it only created a distance of misunderstanding.
Now I see it in other mothers eyes, that quiet, watchful desperation of loss

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Eating and Drinking

The weather has been very cold and windy and traditionally people come down for the long weekend just gone, open up their summer houses, dust off the barby and have the first swim of the season. Yeah right! Just too cold. Didn't stop them coming though with a 7 kilometre wait at the one way Kopu Bridge on the way home. We had a big weekend with a wonderful buzz of conversation and eating reminding me of why we are in the business of providing food and drink for the masses. It's an appreciative business, when you get it right they tell you and come back and they pay before they leave. Also most of them are on holiday away from their busy city lives with no agenda and so are pretty easily pleased.
My menu has been working OK but what seemed a good idea on paper doesn't necessarily work when the pressure is on. I changed the fish dish yesterday to seared bluenose on risotto cake with lemon carrots, wilted spinach and chilli prawns and it sold well. Bluenose is a type of groper and being a big fish has nice thick fillets which I can cook medium rare. Must work on my duck croquettes today they are not selling. Sometimes it only takes a change in the wording and away they will go. The scallop entree is still the most favourite with a lot of people having them as a main.
Well back to the bread dough.....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Wind

The Wind

Thought I would post the above gem of a video after hearing that we are to have one of the largest wind farms in the world built on a remote part of the west coast of the North Island. It still needs some consents but I'm sure the Govt. will make sure it is fast tracked so they can add it to their green image. It will produce enough energy to power 250,000 homes.

I hope little old NZ doesn't take off with all those propellers going round!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Curvachair? Chair Leader? The Sculpture that Dreamed of being a Chair?

Finally back to the desk after a busy weekend. Already it's as if we haven't been closed. So nice to see all the old friends and customers (it's hard to see the difference these days!) dropping in and eating the old favourites and leaving the new alone. I don't know why I worry about making changes. It's probably more about keeping me interested. WWoofer Jana who has been my prep chef is enjoying herself so is staying longer, Aurilie leaves on Wed. to pick strawberries and Chris and Emelie leave next week after being with us for 5 weeks. An artist and musician from Hawaii comes on Thursday. Long Live The WWoofers!

My sculpture chair is aired to the public for the first time on Thursday in the new Whitianga Gallery. I love the packing up of a work that has taken a lot of lonely effort and delivering it to a nice public space. It's almost like taking your new baby out for the first time and everybody goes goo ga ga but you don't really know if they like it because they would say that even if it was as ugly as sin! The gallery owner has asked for a bio which goes something like this

History - Delivered – 1948
Deflowered – too long ago to remember
Enlightened – 1965
Haircut (after hippiedom) – 1978
Corporate – NEVER
Enlightened again – 1979 –83 –87 – 95 etc.

Future - Continuation of enlightment (with dark edges)
Aging rock star
World reknown artist (just in case you are worried about
your investment!!)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Dorothy Waters

The image above is Dorothy Waters with a portrait of her painted by friend and near neighbour Rachel Olsen. Dorothy is a well known NZ artist who painted vibrant, semi abstract canvases but unfortunately now is almost blind and so unable to continue. She is living with her daughter in Napier but used to live here in our little community and when the picture came up for sale we felt it should stay in the area in a public place so bought it and now Dorothy resides on a wall at the Egg meeting and greeting just like she used to. A real character with a mischievious twinkle in her eye she used to wander down to the shops with the 'old school' hat and parasol and we sadly miss her.
You can view Rachels art here and other Coromandel artists here

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Rugby!!!

I can't believe I want to talk about sport on my very cultural blog. Don't get me wrong I've done my bit with rugby, tennis, sailing, squash and surfing with a lot in between but the national obsession with winning or in this case losing to determine whether you get out of bed in the morning has somehow passed me by. However this time it seems different. To be number one in the rugby playing world for four years and go out in the quarter finals is bad enough, but the unfolding of the game itself was somehow tragic and beautiful and at the end numbing (I can't believe I'm saying this!). Strangely I can liken it to 9/11 (of course I do know it's not as important) which although tragic was absolutely beautiful in concept and in the way those massive symbols of power meekly accepted the planes and their own destruction.
Also the American people, confident in their impregnability, for the first time felt what it was like to be vunerable and have lashed out since at anyone and everyone they think is to blame.
So the coach will go and some of the players will go and the management will be shaken up and probably there will be more family violence and two weeks later people will wake up and realise that it really doesn't matter.
But the pyschology of putting your dreams into a national sports team fascinates me. It's almost as if it is fulfilling the old warrior need of vanquishing a foe which is not available anymore. That works of course when you win but then you lose and whamo!
The game was beautiful though with passion and courage, exaltation and heartbreak, and although I felt I had gone through a wringer I feel that I have gained something.
It would make a good abstract collage!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


With a sigh of relief we are over our first day. It is always difficult after being closed for 5 months because everything has to be made and ready down to the last little garnish. I worked hard to concoct new recipes for lunch and dinner but again most people opted for the old favourites (sigh again). I don't have a prep chef yet so was teaching wwoofer Jana while cooking and she will probably be moving on in a couple of weeks, it's lucky we are still reasonably quiet at this time of year.
We had a wonderful surprise when our good friends Paul and Mata walked in after driving all the way from Auckland to wish us well and then driving back again so they could open their jewellery shop (Brighouse Design, very innovative - great black pearls) in the morning. You owe me now m'boy, this is beaming out to all of three homes around the world!
The singing voice was pretty damn good, if I say so myself, maybe because it hasn't been used for so long. I'm playing along with 16 other acts in Tairua on Sat. to raise funds for a little girl with cancer and on Sunday we have our open jam session with the Whitianga Music Club.
So now it's consolidating time, tweaking sauces and changing what doesn't work and just enjoying the fact that we get people coming to see us every day looking for fun, food, art and music.
It's got to be good for you!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

New Art School

I spent yesterday tutoring collage at a new art school in Whitianga. Set up by a friend Judy Meehl it includes classes of painting, pottery, doll making, life drawing and of course collage. The method was taught to me by Swiss artist (and dear friend) Felix Obrist who came to NZ to recover from an illness and after numerous black coffees and discussions on art he used my studio and let me into his secrets (which aren't secrets any longer sorry Felix!). It involves constructing by glueing on paper such as pages from magazines ripped or cut and then deconstructing by sanding back and then adding again in many layers. The sanding back blurs images and makes it more like a painting.
Our little town of Whitianga has always been well blessed with galleries and now another friend (yes I have two!) Andrea is setting up a fine art gallery which will replace the Upstairs Gallery which closed last year. Interestingly, Tauranga a city twenty times larger, (I'm guessing) has just got it's first gallery. What comes first the gallery or the artists?
Off to Auckland now to pick up supplies for our opening and to see the grandchildren for their birthdays and then it's nose to the grindstone for seven months. Whoopee

Friday, September 21, 2007

Opening the restaurant

What the restaurant should look like!

The countdown to opening the restaurant again has begun in earnest. It's our 10th year and are by far the longest running establishment in our area which boasts about 20 eateries. It's a cut throat business with the two cafes closest to us each having eight different owners since we started and many other venues failing. Maybe prospective buyers see them in the summer time when it's completely manic and imagine how much money they can make but the reality is less than ten punters in the winter time is the norm and that's only if you are popular. So our decision to close for five months has been a good one economically and it's given us a life outside of the business which is important to our survival.

So it will be good to open again with seasonal products like asparagus and strawberries (not together!). The Coromandel green lipped mussels are fattening after spawning, the scallops from our bay are small but of good colour and a fisherman is now catching paddle crabs which haven't got a lot of meat but are and subtle and sweet. Crayfish are plentiful and have only gone up $2 to $38/kilo for second grade (loss of more than two legs), the first kingfish, my preferred fish to cook, have been sighted and the oysters are fat. Add these to the local fruit, oranges, tangelos, mandarins, tamarillos, avocados, macadamias and free range eggs (from our old business) and organic milk and you have a wonderful canvas to paint a menu.

There has been a big shift away from out of season and/or exotic foods but we have always used as much local as we can get because of isolation and courier charges and it made sense.

So now we're busy changing the restaurant from sculpture studio to eatery and where do we put eight big sculptures!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Clean home fires

News this week of a 14 year old girl in NZ who won a science competition for making a device that takes out the carbon content from wood burning fires. She found that by spraying water inside the chimney it took out the carbon but left a black liquid so she turned that into a briquette to be reburned.
Now it doesn't sound like ground breaking science but it begs the question, has any research been done around the world by big grown up scientists into stopping this pollution at it's source in the chimney? I had just assumed that they had tried and failed. In the city of Christchurch they have estimated that in winter 50% of it's pollution is caused by household fires. Imagine the worth of such a simple device.
I have used a wood stove in my homes a lot, giving me cooking, heating and hot water but have been increasingly concerned about the effects of the smoke if everybody was using them and in fact with the building code now in some areas you aren't allowed an open fire and other fires have to be approved. Bring on something that will allow us to toast our toes in front of the fire again!
Also in the news are engineering students from Waikato University who have designed an electric car with a 150kg battery that will take you 200 kilometres for a $5 charge. The idea is that you will pull into a station and they will replace your depleted battery for a charged one and you are on your way for the next 200k's. It's going to cost $10 million to set them up to be made commercially and could be out in 18 months. I hope the old Subaru is going to last that long. I told it a long time ago that it can retire when I find a green alternative. It's still waiting.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I love my wwoofers. No they are not dogs but 'willing workers on organic farms' a world wide organisation which places travellers on farms to learn about the country and organic principles. We don't have a farm but luckily they have a cultural section and we attract people interested in the arts and music and cooking and maintaning our organic garden. We ask that they do four hours work a day and give them basic food plus $10 and accomodate them in our little house overlooking the sea. That's the view above but we don't provide the gin and tonics! Last season we had 29 through and they provided a lovely international flavour and we made some great friends.
Already we have Chris and Emelie from Germany here preparing the gardens for spring planting and another traveller is coming today so the rather sad looking wet winter garden will be transformed hopefully into a blooming paradise. Sometimes, I have to admit, because a lack of plant knowledge, you see a favourite shrub on the compost heap but it's all part of the fun. Ciro from Argentina painted some murals, Gerben from Holland painted the house, Christian from Germany made art with food and so they all have left little reminders of their time here.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Coal fired smoke screen

With the Apec Conference in Sydney this week the nuclear bogey has raised it's head again. Our Government has been castigated for suggesting that they would try to influence other countries not to use nuclear power stations and with our history of being nuclear free it is an emotive issue here. We don't need nuclear power because we have ample other sources which of course have their down side but we weigh them up and they come out better against the safety and waste from a reactor.
Now China has set up a smoke screen by having a new coal fired power station coming on stream every four days which makes nuclear look positively green. But just by having a better option doesn't make it green and with their record of anti freeze in tooth paste and lead in childrens' toys will that lead to them using the waste to make radioactive electric drills? Which would have an upside in that instead of being good for only two weeks they would last for three thousand years! You don't think they would? Look at the Americans using radioactive bullets in Iraq, perfect scenario, kill the enemy and use up the waste.
The biofuels mess is another case in point. Using up 50% of American corn for a 2% additive to petrol and still controlled by the oil companies. It has pushed up food prices around the world.
What happens is it creates big issues and dilutes the research into renewable resources. If the debate between coal or nuclear is raging and you suggest trying to use 10% less electricity you are treated like environmentalists were five years ago who suggested global warming was happening.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Son Sam

Sam before
And after

Son Sam, at 16, the baby of the family wants to take a week off school to go snowboarding but his results aren't very good and because of his bad hair decisions (above) it's a difficult decision. After being involved with putting children through school for 35 years I don't know if I'm tired of it or my attitude to education has changed. The other four, two in Sydney and two in Auckland, have done us proud but is that degree all that it is cracked up to be? Sure if it fits that's fine but schools have to be fairly rigid because of the numbers they put through and I love the free spirit that Sam is and wouldn't want to change that. Is that a cop out? Am I being a responsible parent? I think the older you get the more relaxed you are and the less you worry about poor academic records being a reflection on you as a parent. At parent/teacher interviews I expected to get castigated for his poor performance but they laughed and joked with him so I think with his people skills he'll get on alright in life.

Forty odd years ago when I started in the workforce you could pick and choose which job you wanted and after a long period of high unemployment where jobs were scarce and qualifications more important it has come round again with unemployment only at 2-3% and businesses crying out for labour. We have great difficulty in attracting chefs and that's why untrained yours truly has the job!

I say, love em, keep em happy and occupied and let the rest take care of itself. Yeah you're right it's a cop out!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sculptures finished

Finished the shipwrecked boat and it's OK. I might lay some small pieces of driftwood on the water in the reservoir to make it more natural as you can see the pump underneath. I have left one side of the boat rough, one side polished, the topsides slightly polished and the inside highly polished.
The other piece which is finished too, looks to me like a speed skater. The stone I polished I found on the beach and haven't a clue to its origins. It's reddish with white flecks and I started with the intention of making it round but liked the little nuances the shadows were throwing so left it more natural. I like the combination of wood and stone.
I have started a new chair design and a sculpture like a perpetual running man and have the next stone design in my mind so life won't be quiet. We open the restaurant again in 4 weeks and I haven't done the new menu yet so the family will be eating well while I experiment with textures and flavours. They will probably be hanging out for meat and three veg by the end of the month. Anybody out there want to be experimented on!
Spring has sprung and I got seeds and potting mix for fathers day. The little babies are already in the hatchery to burst forth in a few days to herald a new season

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Roadside marble
Sunset with gin and tonic at "balancing rock' Chilligo

We've made it back to the land of green after a speedy camper van trip from Cairns up through Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation, inland through the Tablelands to Chilligo, down to Townsville and back again to Cairns. Interesting country from rain forest to dry to sugar cane to coast and from cassowarys to crocodiles to termite mounds to bronzed, retired Aussies with large caravans and larger four wheel drives who sit around in the camp sites all day and regard anybody with a house and a job as insane. I might like that lifestyle for a while but would probably go mad for want of something to do.

Cairns seems a fun, laid back little city, Port Douglas too touristy and Cape Trib a good destination. We had a great meal at a new restaurant called Whet and caught up with friends who are living up there and involved in the tourist industry. Chilligo has marble!!! Big blocks in pink and white and grey just lying beside the road. I tried to fit a one tonne block in the back of the camper but 'her indoors' limited me to a piece 30cm square and then she filled the suitcase with shopping and there was no room to bring it home. Strange priorities!

All in all a good trip but our cassowary sightings diminished a bit when we got home and talked to our neighbour Sue who had just got home from a month in Borneo. Aside from the leeches and mosquitoes she saw some wonderful birds and animals. Ah well maybe next time.

Monday, August 20, 2007

City Art Gallery Brisbane
'We walk' one panel of 'We walk, we eat, we sleep' - Modern Art Gallery

'Dying elephant' - Modern Art Gallery

Brisbane was a nice surprise. I don't know if I was expecting a cultural wilderness because of the 'banana benders' tag the Sydneysiders give their northern cousins, but the short time I was in the city along the Brisbane River at South Bank beats anything Auckland has to offer. No cars, an interesting array of buildings, little eating places, sculptures and walks lead you along to the City Art Gallery and the Modern Art Gallery. I don't know if those names are right and I'm travelling and don't have those home reference sources but anyway the former is one of the nicest spaces to view art that I have been to ( the best would have to be the Krueller Mueller Museum in the Netherlands). The entrance full of glass and light leads you into some large Brett Whitely works and from there each area folds seamlessly into the next with a large shallow pool and walkway adding a peaceful ambience.
The Modern Art Gallery in comparison feels disjointed with office areas and wrong turnings disrupting continuous viewing. Some great works though, including 'we walk, we eat, we sleep' by an Indian artist (I didn't write down the name again!) three large canvases which reminded me of a photograph taken high up of displaced flood victims in a gym in China looking almost like calligraphy, delicate birds nests made of shredded US one dollar bills, a large dying elephant.... Katharina Grosses' big installation held no surprises as I had seen it in Auckland. Does an artistget tired of doing the same old thing around the world? I know she spray paints everything so it is a little different but the idea is the same.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bob (Who?)

Well Bob you came and you conquered and you didn't wave to me and you didn't once pander to my nostalgic yearnings for an acoustic guitar, harmonica and melodies that I remember which I knew you wouldn't! Because I couldn't hear some lyrics I didn't even know you were singing Tangled Up in Blue until you sang 'tangled up in blue'. I know you are performing as you are now but part of who you are is your history and it would have been nice to have had the whole retrospective.

I also know you don't take kindly to criticism, especially from such a poor, insignificant correspondent, so if you are reading this blog please disregard it as from someone living in the past with no insight into contemporary music. However even though you didn't sing any of my songs I will continue to sing yours but with the old melodies to keep alive the raw power and poetry that changed my life.

I wish you well in your retirement behind a white picket fence(yeah right!)


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Like a Rolling Stone

Off to Brisbane Australia today to catch up with Bob Dylan along with 20,000 other fans and then flying up to Cairns for 10 days R&R in the sun in preparation for a new season of food, music and art. The old energy is coming back and I'm getting excited about food combinations and chasing up local food producers. We now have a farmers market where the rules state you must produce the product yourself and within a certain radius of where it is held to keep out large commercial ventures and encourage local growers. It's very small at the moment but hopefully will grow into something worth while. It's always difficult to source top quality ingredients when we live in such an isolated place.
I will miss the sculpture work which has become a bit of an obsession but have packed a sketch pad with my swimming togs and I'll see what artists I can hunt down on my travels.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fickle ideas man

So the water is running over and going back up thanks to a little French pump which I have 30 from a former venture making indoor portable fountains of which I sold zilch so I have the means to make many more water based sculptures! Now I have to change it from a fountain to a sculpture, a much more difficult task. I have made the one oar from recycled rimu which I thought was kauri until I started working on it and my mate Ronny who is demolishing an old house which it came from told me it was and I believed him as you do and now I know he talks a lot of shite. But I believe him when he tells me how much rum he drinks! I might also fashion a mast (from aforementioned rimu/kauri) and break it to add to the shipwreckedness and of course the frayed rope and maybe a body or two... I digress

The other image shows I have some timber to work with when it's too cold and wet outside (most of the time). It's a different size (the timber) so have had to shelve the 3 sculptures I had underway and start some new ones. I love starting new ones but have trouble finishing the old. Sign of a fickle ideas man whose next idea is much better than the one he is working on. It (the sculpture) is just two simple curves but it reminds me of a speed skater so I might fashion a polished stone head to sit in the apex......

Friday, August 3, 2007

Things are like Things

Fallen man with flowers after Rick Visser after Giacometti
Man with flowers after Rick Visser

I've been enjoying the art and comment on Rick Vissers' site and the photographs showing how things are related on Happy Lols' site so I took my camera out on the beach during my morning walk the dog and walk the fat man thin odyssey (a hopeless task!) to see what I could find

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Stone carving

I have been forced through lack of timber to leave my warmish studio and head out to the cold and wet stone yard (or is that graveyard!) where various unfinished works lie waiting for inspiration or summer whichever comes first. The stone is an andersite, named because it was first discovered in the Andes, and the quarry is only an hour away so is reasonably local. It is very hard so diamond tools make life easier, a lovely blue-green colour and polishes well up to 3000 grit but it's downfall is that it is blasted in the quarry so tends to have fractures just where you don't want them.

I hope to have some Coromandel granite for our next symposium in November. This is found north of Colville on the Peninsula near Fantail Bay and has been quarried and used for some of our Parliament buildings. Softer than marble and very consistent it has a lovely fleck and can be picked up as boulders in farmers fields.

I'm working on a shipwrecked boat in two pieces, the lower piece supporting the boat and having a reservoir so I can pump water up through the boat to cascade over the side and back down to go up again. In theory it sounds good but I'm having trouble making it look natural as if the boat has been cast upon the rocks and abandoned. I want to craft an oar out of a piece of recycled kauri to make it look more authentic and maybe and old frayed rope from a bollard on the front.

Cutting stone with power tools at this time of year can be a bitch, by the time you assemble all the tools, supply the power, put on the overalls, the face mask, the ear muffs, turn the stone over and imagine what you are going to do, it's time for a cup of coffee!! Don't tell me I don't need my coffee! After watching a DVD of Australian artist Brett Whitely my addiction pales into insignificance.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Time to reflect

I have reread Peter Hoegs' excellent book 'The Borderliners' where he examines in depth the concept of time. I'm fascinated that it is a constant but goes faster and slower depending on what you are doing. If you have your hand in the fire it goes very slow but if you are making passionate love it goes very fast and is it constant when scientists can't invent a clock that stays accurate!
We think of time as linear, that is going in a straight line, with events happening that haven't happened before but we need to measure the passage of time against something as we do when we judge the speed of a car coming towards us against the constant background or the hands of a clock against it's face. But sometimes events do repeat themselves so maybe there are two times, one linear, and one cyclic which stays the same or repeats itself. Imagine if linear time is moving constantly right (why does it seem natural to me to be heading right?) and we are measuring against cyclic time which is on the bottom half of a circle moving left so it appears that linear time is moving faster and conversely when it is on the top half of the circle it would appear to move slower.
OK now all we have to do is control it consciously. When we are enjoying ourselves we make time move slow and when life's a bitch it's a rollercoaster!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Succulent Sallops

Our scallop season has opened and I watch

the pug-nosed old sea dogs
slinking home with bellies full of contraband
after a night spent
scrounging amongst the seaweed

We have extensive beds in our Bay which, like a lot of NZ fisheries, were raped and plundered almost to extinction when first discovered but now with the season only from July to February and a quota limit set they are producing as well as ever. In places they are 6 metres down so, as a recreational fisherman with a good set of lungs, you can get your limit of 20 in good time.
Here's how I like to prepare them :
Fresh Macadamia Crumbed Mercury Bay Scallops on Corn Hotcake with a Pernod Cream Sauce
Mix Together
2 eggs beaten / 400gm can cream corn
3/4 cup plain flour / tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sour cream / dash of tabasco sauce
tbs sweet Thai chilli sauce / 1/2 small onion chopped fine
clove garlic chopped fine / 2 tbs chopped coriander
salt and fresh pepper

I lightly crumb mine in a mix of macadamia nut and chilli kelp I get from my local macadamia orchard
but you can do them plain.
Have a pan with a little oil searing hot and add scallops, cook 30 seconds, flip over and , add a knob of butter, a little lemon juice and a good splash of pernod. Flame the alcohol (the exciting part) then add 60mls of cream. Cook a minute, remove the scallops, season the sauce with salt and freshly ground pepper and reduce down to a nice consistency. While cooking the scallops cook the hotcakes in 7cm rounds in another hot pan with oil to golden brown.
To serve: place two hotcakes in the centre of the plate, put 6 scallops on top and pour over sauce. Garnish with a nasturtium flower and a sprig of coriander.

The ingredients are deliberately a little loose. Remember to taste, taste, taste as you are cooking to understand what works!
Photo coming when we finish the wild pig our neighbour dropped into us. I can see another recipe coming on: medallions of wild pork fillet with seared scallops on.......

Friday, July 20, 2007

Live music

Wow we're half way through our winter break of 5 months. The lady chasing us to buy the restaurant offered us next to nothing so we will be back with a vengeance come October. Already my mind has shifted towards new menus, new art attacks and I have started booking musicians. I am amazed at the explosion of music venues, apart from bands in pubs, since we started nine years ago. It's great for the musicians to have so many to choose from but I am concerned that there just aren't enough punters to go around and we are adamant that we won't book gigs that are playing in other local venues.
It's not easy hosting live music. At first people would walk away rather than pay a $5 cover charge although they would come in and buy a beer for that. We lost money on every gig for the first couple of years so it took a greater vision of helping struggling musicians, educating people about the value of performance and building ourselves into a serious music venue. We still have trouble with some agents in the industry who think that because we are small (110 max.) we don't qualify for the big names but we have done the hard yards and their 'big names' had to start somewhere. The musicians once they have played here love to come back because of the intimate atmosphere where they can get a rapport going with the audience.
So now most people recognise the value of paying musicians well (the movies cost $15!!) and are willing to pay $5 up to $30 depending on the artist.
They probably recognise also that by supporting other musicians coming into the area it keeps me off the stage! I'm learning new songs I promise!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Eco Artists

I am involved with a new brand launch called Eco Artists New Zealand which will focus on art and artists concerned about the environment and raise money through commissions for environmental projects. Started by the excellent Lochmara Lodge it is hoped artists and galleries in all regions will hold exhibitions to promote the brand.
Because of New Zealands' unusual evolutionary past, we hold stock to one of the worlds most unique collection of plants and birds but unfortunately we have lost proportionally more of its species than most other countries. One in two of our endemic birds and one in ten of our native plants are currently under threat of extinction and a variety of endemic reptiles, amphibians, invertabrates and fish species are gravely endangered.
We are organising an exhibition here at Eggsentric to open on the last day of our annual sculpture symposium Sunday 2nd Dec. and run for two weeks. The artists themselves set the % of commission they want to donate to the organisation which takes the pressure off those that are poor (probably all of them!)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Air Car

A car that not only has zero emissions but also cleans polluted air as you drive it? French man Guy Negre has developed an engine using compressed air which stores energy via air compressed into carbon fibre tanks and does away with the heavy, costly and environmentally unfriendly batteries of the electric car. He has teamed up with a company here in NZ which has developed the technology of replacing the 22 kg wiring system of a car with a single wire and operating it with radio signals. Sure it does need electricity to run the compressor but we are lucky in NZ that because of our hydro lakes we have virtually pollution free generation and of course compressed air is already available in all our service stations. The company has already signed up Tata motors, a large car and bus manufacturer in India, and is looking for other countries to come aboard. Love to have one here but my meagre savings won't run to a manufacturing plant!
Just had the mother of all storms with 200km winds and 6 metre swells. Our power was down for two days but we got off lightly compared to some with severe flooding and roofs missing. It reminded me of the time when the kids were young and we had no power and relied on the woodstove and read and played games by the light of the gently hissing kerosene lanterns. Them were the days!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Mutton birds

Enjoyed the German film 'The Lives of Others' portraying the before and after of the fall of the Berlin Wall in East Germany. Totalatarian governments are right to target the intellectuals because that is where the dissent is born and spreads to the will of the people. The film shows that those against the regime knew they had no chance of a revolution through force and yet little by little (74 years!) they changed the peoples' will and the Soviet Union dissolved away with virtually no blood spilt.
On a personal level it's hard to not feel powerless in the overwhelming world but it's amazing what drip feed can do. Look at the environmental movement. Seen as lunatics when they first started protesting they have now become so mainstream through the constant media attention of climate change that they are directly shifting government policy. You can make a difference!!
I enjoyed my first mutton bird for a long time. These are the young of our common seabird the sooty shearwater (of the petrel family) which fly to Stewart Island on the 13th September (yes like clockwork) and lay one egg in a burrow mostly on the 25th November which is incubated by both parents and hatches on Christmas Day. The Titi (Maori name) need to eat their weight of food each day and become little balls of fat which the Maori people harvest around the middle of March. The plucked birds are preserved by salting heavily and require boiling in several changes of water then crisped under the grill usually out the back in the shed because the smell is.....distinctive. The flavour is at once salty and gamey and I'm going to design a dish around it for the restaurant. Maybe a mutton bird and possum terrine.....

Monday, July 2, 2007

Sculpture chair

The weather has turned colder and wetter which means Sam has had a couple of days snow boarding on Mt.Ruapehu and I always take the cliff track to Shakespeare in the early morning to get warm and forage for dead manuka (ti tree, pronounced tee because the Maori vowel i is sounded as ee) to keep the home fires burning. Today the tide has swept a lot more sand up to the high tide mark almost covering the black iron sand that appeared a few weeks ago and a flotilla of brown foam whipped by the nor'wester is sailing up the little stream at the end of the beach. Far out a circle of gannets are diving deep for their breakfast, white scraps against a grey oncoming shower.
I finished my chair last night. Two weeks from conception, design and completion, not too bad. Half way through I decided I didn't like the loop under the feet so cut it off and am better pleased with the balance. Today it's back to my arches and maybe the start of a new design which I have been playing with. I'm almost ready to invite a gallery to view the finished pieces in the hope of an exhibition which is never easy, I'm not good with rejection. Toughen up. Who cares!!

Monday, June 25, 2007

I am reading 'The Unconquerable World' ('why peaceful protest is stronger than war') by Jonathan Schell. I say reading because I am only half way through and already he has struck a chord and I need to put the ideas down to get them straight in my mind.
The biggest revelation is the simple statement that after violent action the conqueror must have the vanquished do his bidding and unless that happens he has lost the war. In earlier history 'military victory made rule possible by turning bold, angry enemies into frightened obedient subjects' but in recent history with the advent of 'peoples war' usually linked with independence or self determination this has changed as the British found in India, the French in Algiers, the Japanese in China, the Americans in Vietnam etc. This is also being played out in Iraq where the invading forces thought the people would welcome them with open arms to be freed from their dictator but the opposite happened and the country with the biggest military arsenal in the world is again heading for an inevitable defeat, not only because of the will of the Iraq people but also through the (non violent) will of the American people who have gone against the war.
But the premise that we can live without war is even more surprising. The super powers do it between themselves now because of their nuclear arms deterrent, if you get me I'll get you! Schell shows that even revolutions are relatively bloodless, it is their foundation that becomes bloody. The will of the people can endure without violent action and of course Gandhi was the foremost practitioner of this with his withdrawing of cooperation with the invaders. But strangely even he preferred violence to impotence. He said that non violence requires more action than violence and I think pacifism is linked to passivity and is doomed if it is.
Growing up in the sixties where as hippies we honestly believed love could change the world was mostly passive and therefore doomed but maybe there is another way!
The book is highly recommended by this old but not disallusioned hippy!

Monday, June 18, 2007

The big C word

The big C word has been cropping up everywhere around the world and now little old N.Z. is leading the race to become the first country to sign a free trade agreement with them. Of course I'm referring to China, what did you think I meant? This gives us the opportunity to trade our wonderful home grown produce for the worst made goods in the history of mankind (which quickly find their way into our landfills) and with a country with a terrible human rights history as millions of dead Tibetians could testify if they were alive. The Dalai Lama is visiting our country at the moment and China has threatened our trade agreement if our Prime Minister meets him formally. What price do we put on our independence! Initially our free trade is only going to bring in $37 million which is a drop in the bucket.
It's difficult when our country is so dependent on trade and a lot of other countries have human rights abuses. We can't be black and white ( we aren't lily white ourselves) but we must make a stand as far as our economy can take it against anyone who is not even trying or is denying that abuses are taking place.
Remember our borders are open. We have no protectionism. Our farmers get no subsidies, they must stand on their own two feet in the world markets, so when we ask for a free trade agreement we are only asking for equality. The US won't give us one because of our no nuclear policy so I don't have to take a stand about the killing of innocent people in Iraq but Britain is a traditional and one of our largest trading partners and is just as culpable.
We are only a small country and don't make much difference in world affairs but it is important that we can live with ourselves. That if we treat people fairly in our own lives then it should spill over into our foreign affairs.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What makes an artist

What makes an artist? Is it a need to express inner feelings? But anger is an inner feeling that can be expressed in a destructive way. So is it creativity or the pursuit of beauty that is the definition? But an angry artist can express himself beautifully (although more likely with ugliness). So is it what a person produces that make them an artist or who they are? What comes first the chicken or the egg? In my experience, of the artists I know, they tend to be nice people ( although as Milan Kundera says 'Franz's weakness is called goodness') who care about the environment and people, who wouldn't go to war and are concerned about a better society. So do people with those tendencies become artists or does becoming an artist make them like that.
Talent obviously helps. If you can draw at an early age you will be interested in the arts. I was behind the door when 'he upstairs' gave out talent. He gave me a head full of ideas and no means to put them down so it took me 50 years of hard work to get a somewhat passable artwork!
I started with collage, the putting on and sanding off of paper (construction and deconstruction), taught to me by my good friend Felix, then painting (again on and off), followed by stone sculpture (deconstruction) and now I am working with wood sculpture (construction again). Each piece takes a long time but I find it very satisfying, as if it is fulfilling a basic need most of us have of building something.
Spent last night designing a chair. Looks OK on paper but haven't a clue whether it will work in practice.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Books and Memory

Books have been part of my life for as long as I can remember and of course age changes the remembering. When I was 30 I could remember what I had for lunch at my Grandmothers when I was 7, at 40 pre teen years were gone and of the teenage years only the catastrophic remained, Elizabeth Mason, pimples, The Graduate, Bob Dylan, Elizabeth Mason (and it wasn't the girl anymore only the memory that it mattered!).. Now yesterdays lunch is a problem! My father wasn't a great talker but he was a great reader and I tried hard to read his Great Books but Plato and Euclid and Kant were couched in this old fashioned difficult language and it wasn't until I met the philosophers through Bertrand Russels' History of Western Philosophy that I realised I needed an interpreter who understood the big ideas and could couch them in laymans terms. Like Henry Miller, a bit of philosophy, a lot of sex, a bit of philosophy etc. much more palatable.
At first I could remember everything, title, author, publisher, colour of the jacket and even cheap thrillers I only had to read the first page to know I had read it before. Now I'm almost finished before I realise it is familiar!
However there are advantages. I am visiting my old books and I know I have read them and remember how they affected me but not why. So the words are new but the ideas aren't and in 40 years I've changed so I view the ideas differently. I'm excited. My dear mother in her late Altzeimer years would visit with a book and every hour or so would pick it up and read the same page. Imagine that. What you could do is find the most provoking, life changing page in your reading history and put it aside to enjoy again and again.
What am I reading? 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter', Bruce Chatwins 'In Patagonia', E.E. Schumachers 'Small is Beautiful', 'Catch 22' and poetry by Gerald Manley Hopkins and our own James K Baxter.
Five shelves to go, by the time I'm finished the memory will be diminished further and I'll be able to start again. What a saving!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Nuclear free NZ

Wow, twenty years have gone by since we became a nuclear free country by legislation. The Labour Party in opposition during the early 80's promised it to the NZ people if they were elected to govern which happened in 1986 and it became law in 1987, the first country in the world to do so. By refusing the American Navy entry to our ports because of their policy not to divulge whether the ships were nuclear armed or not we earned their wrath and they pulled out of Anzus (a treaty between NZ, Australia and the US) and threatened trade sanctions which is still in force with Australia getting a free trade agreement recently and not us.
How relavent is it today? Probably not very with the Berlin Wall down, tactical nuclear weapons off American ships and the vessels wouldn't fit in our ports anyway. However when the National Party made noises about watering the policy down, opinion polls showed a large proportion of people want it to stay in place
It's not about nuclear anymore it's about the fact that a little country at the end of the world had the guts to stand on it's own two feet and give a big fat finger to a superpower and we may have been snubbed but we haven't nuked or sunk and we hopefully continue on our way with respect.
Winter has a few problems, the worst being the layering on of chubbiness at my age! So I have started my usual mandarin diet which means nothing but coffee and mandarins (homegrown of course) until dinner when I eat whatever I want. Probably not recommended but it works for me and the hunger pains are a gentle reminder of all those hungry mouths out there.
Hi to Petra and Rainer from Berlin, we are looking after Flaxmill Bay until your return and the stocks of lamb and mussels are finally starting to recover!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Snapper recipe

Ex chef Ronny with a fine snapper
Grilled snapper on spinach and potato rosti with a red wine reduction sauce

I love to fish. It's doing something when not doing something. Sitting quietly with anticipation, watching my line and dreaming. I have this Western problem of the need of filling up spaces in time and fishing does this without the feeling of being busy. And of course I walk in the door with food for the family and it feeds the primeval hunter/gatherer in me.
We have a good quota sytem in NZ to retain fish stocks, where only so much fish is allocated to fishermen and once they have caught that they can't catch any more. We also have many marine reserves where no fishing is allowed so fish stocks can build up unhindered. One of the largest is just two kilometres from our home so it is rare to come back with no fish. Our boat, called 'The Beast', is small and rough, is fast and we can go far but we catch most 200 metres from the beach so we just get up speed then it's time to stop and anchor. Snapper is our predominant fish with a sweet, white flesh and because of the export price costs close to $30 a kilo in the shops.
Son Sam and I caught some nice fat fish yesterday and this is how I cooked them.

Grilled Snapper on Spinach and Potato Rosti with a Red Wine Reduction Sauce
For the sauce - put 1 1/4 cups of red wine and 1/4 cup good red wine vinegar in a saucepan and add 1 peeled carrot, 1 clove peeled garlic, 1/2 onion thinly sliced, 1/2 teaspoon pepercorns, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds and over a medium heat reduce by half, about 25 minutes. Meanwhle put a cup of port wine in another saucepan and reduce by half about 15 minutes. Strain first reduction into the second and set aside.
For the potato rosti - grate 4 medium potatoes, 1 carrot and 1/2 an onion in a bowl add 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, salt and freshly ground pepper and deep fry big spoonfulls in a pan until golden brown.
The snapper - generously season both sides with salt and pepper and cook in a little light oil over a high heat approx. 4 minutes each side until just cooked (depends a lot on thickness of fillet)
To assemble - put 2 rosti in the centre of the plate, add some lightly steamed spinach and the fish. Finish the sauce - bring to the boil then off the heat add 4 tablespoons butter and swirl until the butter is dissolved and the sauce becomes shiny. Pour around the food and garnish with chopped parsley.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Nice to be home

John Dory - the fish with a design fault!
Nice to be home to cool mornings and cloudless days, my own bed and john dory on the beach.
Just a last look at the differences between us and our Australian cousins. Reading their newspapers there is less international news and comment than ours and is this because they don't bother or that the country is much larger and with the newspapers being the same size as ours there is enough Australian news to fill them. This is fine because they are well informed about their own country but don't seem so well informed about others. Is this true of other large countries? In America a lot of people don't know where NZ is!
I am so very proud of my fiercely independent little country ( is it so little? If laid on Europe it would stretch from Denmark to the heel of Italy) I know isolation helps with threats a long way away but trade is very important to us and can be used against us if we don't align with larger powers' foreign policies
John dory on the beach? These ugly but beautiful eating fish have a design fault which makes them fall over in shallow water while chasing small fish and become stranded as the tide goes out so I can pick them up off the beach. It only happens in autumn when the early mornings are cold and at a certain tide. If you see them in the water you can also chase them ashore. Last year the count was around 40 so we don't want for fresh fish!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Last day in Sydney

Spent my last day in the land of Oz visiting the cluster of private art galleries off Oxford Road in Paddington. Set in little side streets among old terraced houses they are hard to find but the act of discovery makes them good fun. Some wonderful digital prints (I must remember to take down artists names!) from a distance looking a little like wallpaper but on close inspection little pictorial stories leading to other stories so you find yourself following along almost like a film reel. A lot of aboriginal art with some exciting crossovers from traditional to contemporary, sculptures made from alumimium fly screen, bent and coloured, simple but effective, bronze figures of little short people, naive but provoking, the new, the old, the boring, the exciting, I love the journey that artists take in their quest to express themselves.
Out to Oxford Road to do some shopping and found more artworks. The shoes and the dresses and the mens cardigans! Yes it seems the humble cardy is making a fashion comeback so don't throw it out. I abhor shopping centres where everything is dumbed down and the same and love little shops where the owners are trying to be different.
Dinner was at the Pier in Rose Bay, the Doyle familys' finest restaurant, which started off badly with a glass of champagne offered at the bar, before we had seen the winelist, costing $25 for 1/2 a flute but a corner table with great views over the water brought us round. The service was professional without being stuffy and the ambience relaxed. I had the entree of blue swimmer crab in gaspacho, which was a nice contrast of sweet and sour, and the main of crispy skinned salmon was delicious. It is expensive with entrees upwards of $20 and mains upwards of $40 and I applaud the chefs maxim of not playing around to much with the fish to retain it's delicate flavour but at that price I want the dish to wow me and felt he could have been braver with his flavours.
It's hard being in the business, youbecome very critical.
Looking forward to quiet home to put some of this vibrant city energy to good use

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Australian Kulture?

Sydney sits on the harbour like a large mouth with the North Shore ferries being extracted and replaced like bottom teeth and sporting an extravagent headdress of tall buildings above it. The arcs of the Opera House turn away from it as if ashamed of the money merry go round but there is no contest about the winner between culture and cash. It's an executive city with 'suits' and cellphones occupying the footpath cafes but it doesn't take long to walk out to the botanical gardens and up to the impressive NSW Gallery where they are preparing for a Anselm Kiefer exhibition dominated by a large dead phoenix palm. Drawings by the greats such as Picasso, Matisse, Lucian Freud, etc are being aired and I get the feeling of being close to their hands which I don't get from a picture book. Brett Whitelys' very large and complex mural of his life is up and although I enjoy small parts of it, it's hard to understand in one gulp and that reminds me how hard it is to view so much art in one day especially the cerebral stuff! Perhaps he should have written a book.
The Contemporary Museum on Circular Quay also has its disappointments with Stephen Birchs' installations having no good ideas and no sense of entering and a newly donated collection of a Melbourne couple failing to inspire. What does a museum do when they are offered a large collection gathered by an individuals' criteria? Do they accept it all because it is free even though some of the works aren't very good?
Enjoyed a video installation of five screens with the centre one occupied by a mothers hands while she relates stories of her family whose faces occupy the other four screens and the change in their facial expressions fill in between the line stories and gradually build up an emotional family history.
Back to Greys Point where my daughter lives a little inland from the Cronulla coast. A community of large houses with too much room for the people but not enough room for their three expensive cars and flash boat and they are all pursuing the Australian dream of owning a large mortgage! Apart from my daughter and hubby of course who I dearly love and can do no wrong!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Spent yesterday walking the inner city streets of Auckland. It's a lovely city if you haven't an agenda and don't need to get anywhere fast on the roads. The heart you can walk round in about an hour and it's great the way it spills down to the harbour. The main drag, Queen St, is a bit mainstream but the little streets surrounding it have quirky little cafes, bookshops and galleries. Saw a marvellous video installation at the New Gallery as part of the 'Turbulence' exhibition by, I'm sorry I can't remember the name of the artist. It showed a close up of a stream of large ants travelling right to left and carrying pieces of bright green leaf. Then minature flags of the world started appearing interspersed with peace signs which the artist had painted and left for the ants to pick up. It had become a minature protest rally for world peace. Ideas in art can give you a jolt out of your normal thinking and become all the more poignant.
Not a lot else sung to me. Peter Wallers' realist landscapes at the Soca Gallery were far too tight, like looking at scenes frozen in time with no past or future. What do we look for in art? Lucian Freud demands it to " astonish, disturb, seduce and convince" but I think you have to live with a piece for it to do all those things. It becomes difficult in a limited time frame to see so many images because the good ones tend to take time to reveal themselves and you notice the ones where the artist has shown everything but they won't stand the test of time.
In Sydney now amongst gum trees overlooking the water where possums are a protected beast, we should send them some of the 60 million of ours that are chewing through our native forest!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Off to Sydney today for my daughters' 40th and to see my son and grandchildren. I enjoy the energy of cities after peaceful Flaxmill Bay and wander the streets watching people. We have a similar history to Australia yet every time I go there I'm struck by how different we are. I think it's the landscape with theirs being large, hot and open like their character and here wherever you look apart from the ocean horizon there are mountains and their attendant clouds leading to our more introspective nature. They tend to treat us as the poorer cousin because of our size but small is beautiful, making us light on our feet and more adaptable to change.
The art scene always seems vibrant with lots of sold stickers on artworks in the inner city but overall I think we have more interest in the arts just not the population base to support it.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Lonely Bay is framed at both ends by soaring sandstone cliffs soft in some places and hard in others so weathering has left wonderful curves with sharp edges. Accidental sculptures or part of a greater plan? Does it matter? Pohutukawa trees, saviours of the NZ coastline with their gnarled roots holding back erosion by the sea, hang low over the sand and the tidal drift leaves banks of shells of all descriptions but in particular circular ones which you can put on your finger as a ring or use as he does in tree sculptures.
Every year he organises an 'Andy Goldsworthy Day'. Andy, an English sculptor, goes into the environment and builts sculptures from found objects, records them on camera and video then lets nature reclaim the materials. Suits Lonely Bay because it's untamed and has no visible evidence of man apart from footprints in the sand and after a few days there is nothing left.
At the far end of the beach he sheds his clothes. The sea is clear green, blue and the lazy swell is regurgitating sand and foam on the shore. The dog is swimming far out chasing a stick, almost invisible in the reflected sun. It's bloody cold! But it's bloody freedom.