16 November 2009

Mosaic in place!

Well, we went to Dora's workshop and you can find photos of the wonderful event here: happy crowd, day-long industry, great food, anxieties about what it would look like before we grouted, the fun of messy grouting after exacting work on the tiles, elation at products. Thank you Dora, Marcus, Thor and Billie, for the privilege and delight.

I have my mosaic element of coffee table in place, glued to the table, the dark grout and the intensity of the colours mean that the painting will have to be strong and dark. I have sketched in something that may work, including with the light from the lighthouse on Point Perpendicular illuminating god. Integral Energy will be chuffed, I am sure.

13 November 2009

can I do this with mosaic?

Helen and I go a mosaicing workshop with Dora http://madcowstudio.com/ tomorrow.

We may do pavers for Helen's garden, but I hanker to do something a bit different. I have another old coffee table to paint and want to try to put mosaic on PART only of the top.

In the charcoal sketch (on cardboard, sitting on the table) of Jervis Bay (see colour photo of actuality) God (female, naked, dark-skinned, recumbent in clouds over Governor Head) is reaching down (over Bowen Island) after the manner of the 'Creation of Adam' Sistine Chapel item.

God is saying to the dolphins "Hey beauties, they may give this place a funny name and argue over how to pronounce it but it really has no name: no labels, no control, just enjoy. As for that species on two legs, I give up on getting them to love each other, but I bet they'll fall in love with you if they can stop admiring their own shadows and look around."

And the dog says "Woof woof" and God says "Oh, someone throw the dog a bone. Yes, Dog, you are loved too."

This is only implausible as the title of a painting if you reject the notions [a] that it is actually a coffee table and [b] that God is a woman.

Please go with my absurdism: two visits to hospital this week, more next week, the absurd seems real.

10 November 2009

location, appropriateness, style

Yesterday while three hours at the hospital in the Accident and Emergency waiting area, a forest of signs.
  • At the admissions clerk's window, almost entirely out of sight, the sign saying "please tell someone if you decide not to wait". Hidden behind many pamphlets. While I was there four people were called and were not present, which did not help me get through much more quickly as the practitioner went away for a long time to ruminate over who to pick next.
  • high on a notice board, almost out of sight, a sign asking that children be supervised if using the play table and chairs.
  • Above the play table and chairs, the sign about the television (above, you can enlarge and give to your mother, she may thank you). The television itself was way out of reach, suspended from the roof on a mounting, tipped towards potential viewers, sun on its screen. It thus breached at least two points in the safety instructions. Surely the safety instructions should have been placed on the device itself. Helen said: "It should say 'In case of earthquake danger, do not stand under the television'."
Somebody has to deal with these things, but the state of the waiting room with 50 notices seemed to reflect the self-absorption of the organisation, rather than presentation to the world. May I please be able to pull my novel together better! :-)

May I praise the doctor I eventually saw: born in Bangladesh, commuted yesterday to work here from Sydney, seven years experience from 1985 in the Hamadan hospital on the Iran side of the Iran-Iraq border, a hospital frequently bombed, two wars, the one with the Americans supporting Saddam, then the other one; his wife also a doctor, his greatest daily fear for his young son then; his gastric practice experience not just from sadly gastric-diseased Bangladesh but also from treating many small children in Iran who unlike their parents did not peel watermelon seeds before eating them. Such a gracious, modest, warm and helpful doctor... may you be granted such a wonderful and experienced person to help when and if you have any digestive problem. Thank you Karim.

09 November 2009

can you hear a photo?

I spent time today drafting some work ideas for Helen, then in attending to emails, somehow looked back to web pages I have designed in the past, with words and pictures.

This one I can hear. Maybe you can't, you were not there? Or maybe it is close enough to your experience to hear it.

This one I can feel. The rip of water around me, as well as the advanced-tinnitus-like constant roar of the sea risen and gone wild in the night, captured on camera, standing in the water's edge at dawn. I've written that scene into the novel, here's a bit, can you feel it, can you feel the shell under your feet, can you hear the roar? Look at that link at the top of this para before reading.

There was nothing like it, the utter fresh after rain, the continued drift of sea air and surf spray; the organic edge from churned sea life. He found his way to the top of the dune in the threads of light from the half obscured three-quarter moon behind his back. It surprised him that the sea seemed now so far away, down the dune and across this beach, when it had seemed to fill his ears and mind when inside the canvas. He set off down the beach towards the water, over sand hammered hard by overnight rain. His step uneven over pockmarks of old footprints rendered unyielding by rain pelt.

The storm continued in the body of the sea. As he approached there was little else but white churn visible in the scant light, way way out in wave after wave, close waves fought up together in the turbulence of the storm. Eddies of froth and wreckage of sea life blew on the beach, lodged in heaps, surged on the front of scarcely visible waves.

He stood still. How far he now was from times past, from masses of people, pedantries of protocol, nuances of speech and inflection, slights and power plays, postures and pretensions, egos on the run, timetables and conferences.

He rolled his track pants up, stepped into the shallow rush of water. Icing his toes, chilling his calves for several minutes before his circulation adjusted and he sensed the warmth of the whole ocean reaching for him. A higher wave caught the edge of his jacket in the gloom, wet the folded bottom of his track suit. He grinned, hoisting his camera high, looked around at this wild nameless company. A worn shell-edge pressed the sole of his foot; he stood still and absorbed all the sensations around him.

Far out there now, an edge of light, of approaching dawn, showed below clouds. He stood still, allowing maximum absorption of this new sense. He had spent the night with the sound of the sea and the slight rocking of his sturdy mini-truck by the storm; the pent of rain now torn inland, to the highlands. At the beginning of the storm, round by the rock pool, sheltering under a ledge, he had seen a woman arrive, tear off her dress then be followed to the pool by a man. He had not stayed, had not sought to invade their privacy, had slipped away, he hoped unnoticed. Nobody could notice anything in such sudden wild storm. Now he watched light increase from near nil.

Now there was light sufficient for him to begin to use the camera. A handful of gulls squalled past, demanding answers of each other, none from him. Even the gulls had company. He had come to this place seeking company but company was eluding him, while life chased others with vigour, or a vigour that gripped them but to him seemed flimsy, slight.

08 November 2009

Aki Kaurismäki

For years I have had stuck in my head the most memorable line in any film (forget the "Play it again Sam" misquote), from Kaurismäki's I Hired a Contract Killer (the film in which there is an assignation at the hamburger stand by Karl Marx's grave in Hampstead Cemetery). The protagonist, a modest and shy man, has decided he must end it all, and seeks advice on where to find a contract killer to kill himself. He is directed to a bar, the camera follow him down smoky stairs, into gloom, the piano stops, men with grim faces swivel and frown. The protagonist speaks: "Where I come from, we eat places like this for breakfast." (For the record, and it's scarcely a spoiler, he hires the killer, tells the killer to surprise him, promptly falls in love and ... (I won't spoil the rest).

This weekend we have also watched Kaurismäki's Mies vailla menneisyyttä [The Man Without a Past], which is sort of Jesus's parable of the Good Samaritan but explores the life after bashing rather more extensively. It is a film about very ordinary very decent people told in a beautifully paced and theatrical manner. It is full of lessons in photography, in precision, in fine detail, wryness, avoidance of the obvious, tight construction and simple complexity. The heart warms. Kathryn Heyman urged me at her master class in May: "the reader must know what the protagonist wants and yearn for its achievement." This film is a master class in that. It won the 2003 Grand Prix at Cannes and was nominated for best foreign film for the Oscars. The director boycotted the latter. In a letter to the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he wrote that the United States was “preparing a crime against humanity for the purpose of shameless economic interests”.

Kaurismäki had been invited to the New York Film Festival in 2002, but stayed away..."in protest of the U.S. failure to grant Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami a visa to attend the festival. A letter to the festival director read, in part:
“Under the circumstances, I, too, am forced to cancel my participation – for if the government of the United States does not want an Iranian, it will hardly have any use for a Finn. We do not even have the oil. But I would like to invite the American secretary of defense [Donald Rumsfeld] to see me in Finland. We could take a walk in the woods and pick mushrooms*. That might calm him down.”
[quoted from first link above]
* There is a mushroom-picking walk in the woods in The Man without a Past

Almodóvar's "Hable con Ella" [Talk to Her]

If you want beautiful deliberate straight-line film, see Bertolucci's work, among which I rate Il Conformista [The Conformist] and Besieged especially highly for their deliberate process combined with mystery... and sheer beauty.

Almodóvar's films have often been straight-line, but last night we watched something else: his extraordinary Hable Con Ella [Talk to Her]. I know I saw it once before, in a film festival, but privately on wide screen at home it was easier to absorb properly. And as I am in the midst of endeavour to weave the novel backwards and forwards in time, and deal sensitively with and present complex issues clearly but not smugly or obviously, on the evidence and not in judgemental terms, the majesty of the achievement of this film sets it apart as an example of how one might hope one day to be able to present a story thus. Oh, bloody hell, don't ask me to tell the story, just please watch it. And don't read any blurbs before you watch it, please.

John Banville

John Banville's prose was a considerable influence early this year, in its intensity. Beginning with Eclipse and The Sea, then reading into The Revolutions Trilogy, books on Copernicus, Kepler and Newton. I confess I have not yet finished Doctor Copernicus, but it has had especial influence. It shares with other Banville work his 'literariness'; his visual, visceral, emotional tugging; the precision, clarity and obscurity:

Waterborne he comes, at dead of night, sliding sleek on the river's gleaming back, snout lifted, sniffing, under the drawbridge, the portcullis, past the drowsing sentry. Brief scrabble of claws on the slimed steps below the wall, brief glint of a bared tooth. In the darkness for an instant an intimation of agony and anguish, and the night flinches. Now he scales the wall, creeps under the window, grinning. In the shadow of the tower he squats, wrapped in a black cloak, waiting for dawn. Comes the knocking, the pinched voice, the sly step on the stair, and how is it that I alone can hear the water dripping at his heels?

One that would speak with you, Canon.

No, no keep him hence...

John Banville, Doctor Copernicus, in The Revolutions Trilogy, Picador Edition 2001, page 107
Welcome to the fever-wracked world of Canon Koppernigk in the misery of the Baltic states 500 years ago.

These points:
  • if you don't love language, read someone else
  • if you need to understand everything or think you do or should, or expect a story unravelling in chronological order, then what kind of reality do you live in? Give me mystery or give me death :-)
  • key things in Doctor Copernicus for me were:
  1. the portrayal of the pain and conflict of genius and the possession of new ideas
  2. the presentation of a reality in which the genius with the new ideas has to do a whole lot of other things, like, in this case, governing and doctoring and churching and being mortal and physical variously
  3. the beauty of story driving itself along in its own smoking rhythm
  4. oh yeah, ok, ok, also its complexity, I do love the complexity, though it makes it hard to finish when you are reading half a dozen books at a time, or part-time.

07 November 2009

Jervis Bay Arts Silent Auction

Woo hoo, someone has bid already on my entry in the Silent Auction, see Loose Woman.

It looks pretty good in the gallery under a spectacular photo by Richard Morecroft (click on the image of Fire Trail to get a better glimpse.)

Bidding continues till 28 November. You can bid online.

01 November 2009

Joni Mitchell

I caught part of this lovely program with and about Joni Mitchell, inspiration, in my mind, of much of what is poetry and clarity in modern music.

Three things to note:
  1. JM spoke of the demands on the performing artist, versus the painter. Nobody, she said, ever called out to van Gogh, "hey Vincent, do x again for us!" True. But then the painter in general suffers a different angst (I have begun to understand in recent times), that of creating children who then are sold to strangers, or at the least to people who do not really understand their birth. With one painting away to the slave market... I only just know this directly. When does one pass to factory mode of thinking? Perhaps the writer has it easiest, of not needing to let go...
  2. JM spoke of how she resisted demands of the industry to stay within genre, stay with her fans, not develop what she wanted to say. So important, if you want to be other than a factory;
  3. JM spoke of her concept of 'crop rotation' - of her need to move between painting and poetry and back again, for her brain's sake. This I understand very well, and I alsoinclude the permaculture garden in the backyard in the rotation in my head, a garden in which profuse nature is allowed a fairly free rein, providing many lessons and opportunities for observation, discovery; gasping with delight and amusement.
view from my studio workspace, into very young garden, including Helen's chocolate labrador, George, dozing in parsley sunshine