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.

Friday, May 4, 2007

food for the soul

He walks every morning now the restaurant is closed for the winter. The dog is glad to see him and freed, pees on everything upright he can find, once forward then turning around, once again the other way. He stops at the feijoa tree and pockets a couple of the fruit lying on the ground and biting the top off another,
squeezes the sweet/sour flesh into his mouth reminding himself to pick them all up later to freeze. Their season is too short and they usually get wasted.
Crossing the road onto Flaxmill Bay beach the sea is flat calm and the wet sand soft and hard to walk on. No john dory left high and dry but the resident pair of oyster catchers are cracking open pipis left by the overnight tide. The dog leaves them alone, remembering the dive bombing in the summer when they were nesting, but chases the seagulls off the end of the beach barking and plunging.
Climbing the cliff track it's darker and cooler as the bush closes in, a lone fantail chases the disturbed insects while the dog follows rabbit trails and the earthy smell of wet decay takes over the sea scents. It's a stiff climb and he has to stop to rest, not as fit as he would like to be after seven months in the kitchen. At the top where it opens out to a grassy paddock with huge scattered pohutukawa trees, the sun has risen and the view over Mercury Bay and right out to the Mercury Islands amazing.
Again the bush on the track down to Lonely Bay and onto the Democracy Steps designed by Japanese artist Akio Hizume on a musical score so walking them the body gets a rythym and they become easier and more interesting. The artists' three week stay opened up new creative possibilities with his mathematical principles based on the Fibonacci Series found in nature and the Eastern idea of the space being just as important as the object.
Checking his kinetic sculpture (water pouring from a chute into open bamboo on a pivot, when full, dips, empties and comes back with a thud to fill again) in the stream beside the steps he walks out through the flax onto his favourite beach.

Continued soon...