22 December 2010

bedroom mural: "Escape from Jervis Bay"

I wrote on 9 November that I had gone into a bedroom to consider what colour to paint the walls but had strangely carried with me not any colour samples or pots of colour but a piece of charcoal. I had duly reported to Helen abashedly saying here, I did this but I'll paint over it. To which she replied no you will not paint over it you will finish the job.

So I have finished Escape from Jervis Bay in charcoal and 'natural paint'. Taken some courage, actually. The theatre-screen-ish drapes are from a Lebanese home via eBay, the accompanying drop curtains have gone to charity shop. Interesting to find that the heavily-flower-patterned Moygashel Irish linen main curtains work very well with the strength of this painted wall. It's not just been a need for courage to put the figures so boldly onto the wall, but also the challenge of the strength of this paint job relative to the rest of the room. Interestingly with this strong treatment of two walls a large nude photo of Margaret from 1977 looks now very isolated on the opposite wall. Must add to that wall, photos not mural. (I have accumulated dozens of picture frames from charity shops and the A3 colour laser machine is producing lovely images.

17 December 2010

Art by the Sea

I have four paintings and the three panelled screen in the Art by the Sea group show at the Lady Denman Museum in Huskisson, 18 December-16 January. In a note hung with the screen, I said I had put a catalogue of other work at aplaceof.info - So I've done an artist's statement with some works for sale, here.

There is a great variety of work in the exhibition, wonderfully arranged on the walls at the Denman art space by Judy and John Brown. This a smudgy iphone photo from the opening by Helen Nugent.

This photo taken at home shows how the screen is set up in boudoir mode...

01 December 2010

Liz - short work

Click to see at Daily Science Fiction!

Begins thus:

Dear Ms. Moon
Dear Mr. Moon Man or Ms. Moon Lady,
I would like very much for gravity to continue to suck or pull or whatever it does, but if you could do so with just a bit more nuance I would be very grateful. 

Writing - Wikileaks

I was pleased to see the New York Times selected a quick little comment of mine as the highlight among 892 comments first day or so of publication by them of extracts from the Wikileaks revealed US diplomatic cables. 

In case that link goes astray, here is my comment (I have corrected spelling of Harlod to Harold here):

HIGHLIGHT (what's this?)
Dennis Argall
November 29th, 2010
5:31 pm

As a former Australian foreign service officer, accustomed in the past to working closely with US foreign service officers, often sharing each other's cables, I have enjoyed reading cables you released on 28 November. While my government has been doing the obligatory tut-tut, as a private citizen now I believe that the exposure of these texts in this way will redound to US benefit.

It will not hurt those mentioned to hear what is thought of them, especially when State is not guilty of saying it publicly. It will not hurt others to know your officials are hard to fool.
It will be to the general good for the public, including journalists and academics, to see the quality and insight of diplomatic traffic. There is a serious problem in academic as well as media discussion in that so much of it is divined and theorised from inadequate peripheral information. Now it is possible to see how officials build policy and strategy layer by layer, in dialogue with their own government and officials of others.
Do be conscious, in reading it all, though, of the observation of the late Sir Harold Nicholson, doyen of the UK foreign service and writer on diplomacy, that in all the foreign ministry documents in all the world that he had seen, he had never seen a record of conversation in which the person taking the record did not win.
Be open at the Times to fresh perspectives on US power - you suggest the US has lined up Arab states on Iran but it is possible also to see a USA being played like a trout by very powerful and smart Arabs.
If this information elevates debate on the issues, if there is any increased respect for the business of diplomacy, that will be good, for the US and the rest of us. The role of the US in the world is not being 'challenged' so much as being changed and reduced, quite rapidly. More than ever before, it is not possible for the US to say 'this is my role' any more than it is possible to retreat to isolation and indignation. There are real jobs to be done, which cannot be done by people drunk on tea.

22 November 2010

three panel wood screen

I have carved relief images on one side of three panels and fitted the panels together with brass hinges. The other side without images, still rough-sawn with some sanding and polishing. My own sense at this moment is taken up entirely by the difficulty of working the Paulownia, which is a bit like carving the inside of a pineapple skin, with some cheddar on the sides. Sort of, not entirely but... Anyway, not time yet to judge whether the screen is merchantable, it should do for hanging photos at the December-January exhibition at the Denman.

If placed as an item for sale, I will put an oval gilt mirror on the centre panel of the blank side (see third photo), also offer a photo shoot and framed photo portrait to decorate it.

Here are two photos of relief-carved side of panels, one of the plain side. Yes, there is a small brassy decoration on that hand, a string of beady things on a top corner. Note that the sides of the heavier, higher central panel have been trimmed straight and vertical, while the side panels (legs on the left, Labrador on right) have not been trimmed at all, the hinges are slightly away from the margin.

the blurry photo

While there is much effort given to the pursuit of the perfect image, there is also much pleasure (even if scary) in the blurry image - here of George, not Jaws, the Labrador, aged 10, taunted by love.

16 November 2010

panels for exhibition

As mentioned earlier I wanted to make wood panels to add space to the Denman exhibition over Christmas.

I may in fact have a screen at marketable quality. From paulownia, which I planted in 1993.

I plan three panels for the screen, in zig-zag, at this stage lesser panels (170cm) on either side, a large 2 metre panel in the middle.

The centre panel's sides have been cut to a straight edge. The side panels retain natural tree trunk edge. Hinges will be fitted to the sides of the centre panel and a couple of inches in from an edge of each of the side panels. Foldable, portable, like this   \/\     but right angles to stand in the room.

While sanding the major central panel I found there were three knots in the wood, immediately suggestive of a form (the third was going to be a navel but an arm got in the way so it appears to be a stigmata). Click on images to enlarge, 'back' to return.

So here is the roughed out panel centre panel and the yet to be thought about properly side panels. The leg form of the side panels was determined by stress cracks in the slabs. As art works will hang on these side panels they will not be ornate, may simply be polished as is.

15 November 2010

other preoccupations

During the last federal election campaign I worked with others to organise and then chaired a community forum on mental health in the electorate of Gilmore. Five speakers from the mental health community spoke, five candidates responded and there was open discussion.

After the elections, I drafted and secured agreement to letters to the successful and unsuccessful candidates, from the Shoalhaven Mental Health Fellowship. Also to the state member for the South Coast Shelley Hancock. And now can report that in addition to a speech in the federal parliament by Joanna Gash MP, Shelley Hancock has used the correspondence as briefing for a major campaign on the issues, including speaking in the parliament.

The central concern as expressed by the community is that while political parties compete to invent new mental health services it is critical that they sustain and enhance existing services. The most serious underlying issue is of staffing: staffing is so thin on the ground (starting at the top, there is no psychiatrist resident on the NSW coast south of the Shellharbour Hospital) that new programs rob old programs of staff and the most important core community programs are seriously stressed.

You may read the correspondence here.


As to something completely different, my strength/s or otherwise at 67 mean I have to let go a rural paradise owned (or which has owned me) for twenty years. To see it, click on the photo I took yesterday, at the entry to our own rainforest (or the rainforest that has owned us).

These years have shown me that the most recent thinking about entropy is right. Regardless of our greater or lesser hand on the tiller (or tractor) nature is imposing its order; our place is inside nature. Read Masanobu Fukuoka, understand that all agriculture (all culture perhaps) is attempt to distort the purpose of nature. Conventional agriculture swipes the plate clean, turns it into a level playing field of sorts, imposes its will and poisons whatever gets in the way. Conventional organic farming swaps the industrial chemicals for 'natural' ones. Fukuoka's mahayana-like farming style works within nature.

It has been a major impact on my brain to spend time in that place, further down the coast, now a bit too far. But even this weekend was so rewarding, entranced inside nature, in the house I built to be beautiful and express personality, to command for a moment some equipment, to revisit the complexity of systems for water and power and growing on a farm. Some nice people came to see; it is really a bit overwhelming, in every sense. There is also the problem that land values have shifted the ownership of such a place from the realm of modest hobby. I may have to offer low price, select on merit, hold an exam!

I brought back more slabs to carve or build with. Pelting rain, no photo now...

Having driven 180km home late yesterday through storm, I collapsed as one does before a screen. Some time later, raising my hand with the remote control in it, there on my top knuckle was the tiniest sweetest leech, about 25mm x 1 to 2mm, waving at me. Were I a more patient soul, less given to impulse, I would not have done what I did before taking a photo: alas you have only my word that it was there. Today I have the notion of a tick here, a leech there, but they are fantasy itches, fortunately.

Anyway, click on the photo to see beauty (and buy it, do you dare buy beauty? Perhaps it would be placing yourself in a position to be possessed by, to support, rather than prostitution...)

09 November 2010

Mural: Escape from Jervis Bay

I had over several weeks painted two bedrooms in the house using natural paints, achieving pleasing textures.

I then wandered into the front bedroom to consider what colour it should be. I said to Helen later, "Look, I was carrying a charcoal with me when I went to think about painting that room." She told me I would have to proceed with the mural and forget about a pretty coloured wall. Which led me to pondering the complexity and difficulty of painting it and perhaps using mosaic tiles, etc.

I have not shown it to all, but visitors from Canberra liked it last week, and Amanda, coming to do her usual fortnightly organisational support work (as she prefers I speak of cleaning), said: "I like the charcoal, charcoal's great, it's great, leave it like that."

So I spent several more hours finishing the charcoal. I find I am a bit startled with myself... this kind of work just flows. Here's a photo, of wall area approx 2.1 x 2.1 metres. Click to enlarge, 'back' to return.

06 November 2010

photos, wood panels

I asked Jervis Bay and Basin Arts if I could submit a bunch of photos for December-January exhibition and they said thanks for checking early, we can't accommodate that many. So I said what if I provided a wood panel to put them on in the middle of the gallery. And we have agreed on some such ... So gosh I have to work on a screen of three panels, zigzag form such as famous theatrical beauties used to change behind in their dressing rooms before people began undressing in front of the camera.

No photos of the photos in question, nor the beauties mentioned, nor photos of the wood panels, but they will be from 20mm x 1700mm x 4-500mm slices of Paulownia, as in photo.

23 October 2010

Brain calibration

I have been very busy discovering the powers of my new (used, from eBay) HP 5500DN A3 colour laser printer. I had been told its capability with photos would be modest, but I am finding it is extraordinary, when I re-calibrate my brain to understand its capabilities. My new printer seems to spend half its life calibrating itself, so should I!

First, though, I had to get this printer to connect to my computers. It had a network plug and professed networkability in its control panel but could not be found. I got a serial to USB connector and it connected fine - BUT. The but was that it could not be driven by the laptop running Mac OSX 10.6. Nor did it run on the PowerMac G4 1.25 dual running OSX 10.5. So back to eBay, I got a PowerMac G4 733mhz with OSX 10.4 installed. The printer like a breeze attached to that computer and also accepts print jobs from the G4 with 10.5 via network cable to the 10.4 machine. The 733 machine cost $30, a 15 inch Apple Studio display cost $30; the latter has no back leg so I have mounted it on a corner of the architect's drawing board. Where it can be used for drawing-painting from photos/drawings.

It is also a duplexing printer, so, going to Melbourne last week for Nick's birthday/engagement, I took a draft of his novel, sent several months ago, formatted it for 6 inch x 9 inch paperback, printed it and perfect-bound it with a cover made using a photo of a graffito in Melbourne taken last year. The perfect binding machine worked well. First big use too for super-guillotine, trimmed the book edges very sharply, no problem with 100 pages.

I have not yet figured out how to bring back to the computer the almost watercolour beauty of some of the images I am getting from the printer. Pictures below to make a different point, not printed files.

I have also begun painting the interior of the house and some furniture items using Bio Paints natural wall paint and adding pigments myself. Also getting interesting effects by not mixing the pigments evenly. These paints produce colours with texture much as you see on walls in Rome, Soriano, and other towns in Lazio, with the sense of colour and abandon, the eye for naturalness and alteration. I mean like these in photo taken in February, extracted from our travel blog unmese.blogspot.com.

And that painting is coming back into the framing of photos. I have managed over time to accumulate a number of frames in various conditions and am enjoying using the Bio Paint and acrylics to refurbish frames and make interesting mats.

I now have a mat cutter, to make those 45 degree cuts on the edge of mats around pictures. The hunt for good things to use as mats is on!

Lots of new things for the brain to adapt to!

22 September 2010

Sutra: Shaolin Monks

As a remarkable counterpoint to the Southside Festival on 18 September, on Sunday 19th we went at the encouragement of Patrick Pang, the Australian director of the Shaolin Temple to the Opera House in Sydney to see Sutra, about which I later wrote to Liz to say:
See in the short clip below that the Belgian-Moroccan choreographer is 'choreographing' or conducting the swordsman while the boy watches. The choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui spent three months with the Shaolin three years ago, has developed this project with them since. He remarked on how with a Belgian Flemish mother and Moroccan father he was always aware of being an individual, observing people 'living in their boxes', unaware. He had found that the Shaolin were, monks in a communist country, so much more open to new ideas and with a sense of freedom than many affluent, 'free', isolated, unhappy people in Europe. When the impresarios came and asked him "was this checked out by the government in China" he would answer "What is it that you think you are doing?" You see the use of boxes (by a sculptor) on the stage, for stunning effects as well as the sense in the choreographer's thoughts on life. The string group is behind the diaphanous backdrop. Wonderful music, the whole thing hypnotic, for about 70 minutes. Endorsement also of a life doing many things not in boxes  ... :-)

21 September 2010

Christine Anu at the Southside Festival

The Southside Festival on 18 September (see preceding post) concluded with a wonderful concert by Christine Anu. Click down below the photo to watch the movie! Please remember that it's bootleg recorded/photographed with available (negligible to glaring) light, with my iPhone only. And [oops] I missed the first several bars, my finger, chilled by a softdrink bottle, making no impression on the heat-sensitive record button. Oh yes, and next time I'll stand further away from the speakers to record!

20 September 2010

The Southside Festival at Coomaditchie Aboriginal community

The Southside Festival brings together the southern suburbs of Wollongong. Coomaditchie is an Aboriginal community, with also a cultural centre, in a place hitherto a bottom swamp land to which Aboriginal people in the region were shoved by white settlers.

The Festival on 18 September was a wonderfully warm and happy event, with two major events - a drama with circus elements and a concert by Christine Anu. Christine Anu's description of the event is here - copied below:

On Saturday 18th September 2010 from 5pm to 9pm  the Cowper street side of Coomaditchie lagoon will become an open air theatre to a spectacular event. Local artists and performers will tell an ancient dreaming story through a combination of narration, song, large scale puppetry, live percussion, stilt walking, fire sculpture, dance, screen projections and aerial performance.
Cumbangi– The Queen of the Reeds who featured in the 2007 Southside Festival  will be returning to Coomaditchie to check on the health of the lagoon.  While she is there she will tell the story of how the black swans got their feathers.  As is traditional at the Southside Festival the Wadi Wadi Mixed Tribe dancers will dance on specially prepared sand stage.
The theme of  year’s festival is ‘home’ . So in addition to the Black Swan dreaming story – we will all focus on the value of home. Many of the local community members have been working for the last few years to clean up Coomadichie Lagoon so that the black swans (and other species) can return home.  An integral part of the performance will be a giant nest – to represent home. Audience members will have had the opportunity to write and draw thoughts and messages of home onto calico banners in the weeks prior to and also on the day of the event and as part of the performance they will be called upon to “help build the nest”.
After the performance by local artists widely acclaimed singer songwriter Christine Anu, will be performing.
The Southside Festival is a FREE event with entertainment for the whole family. The festival celebrates culture and place.  “We focus on the richness of cultural diversity and the beauty of the local environment. “ says  Sue Leppan one of the festival organisers. The festival has been hosted at Coomaditchie Lagoon by local community organisations every second year since 2003.

Here are photos of the site, the Cumbangi play, and the concert. Also an MP3 recording of last two songs, regrettably the first song has the beginning chopped off!

The photos are with iPhone in the natural and eventually negligible light
– enjoy the impressions!

first a view down over the entertainment space, down to the lagoon

Helen with Sue, MC on the night and an organiser

The apparatus for trapeze artist later 

performers prepare

Here is the full meaning of multiculturalism 
NRMA sponsorship, Salvation Army organised, 
absolutely straight dinki-di Halal sausage sandwich coming up

and the show begins

concert in next post!

17 September 2010

sunset road photos

I cursed myself Wednesday, travelling to Wollongong, for once in the passenger seat, that I was passing amazing sunset scenes and had again left the camera at home. Then - doh - I remembered the trusty iPhone, which with its simple small lens and slow exposures does some marvellous things in moments like this. Click photos to enlarge, use back button to return.

Photos of Helen

We went on Wednesday to a dinner for Jennie George, retiring from parliament. Before we left, I had a moment to take photos of Helen with the iPhone. Pleased with results.

This second photo is with a painting Helen bought at the NAIDOC week exhibition in Nowra, 
painting by Aboriginal elder Auntie Marie Stewart, entitled Doonooch - local Aboriginal name for owl 
— the owl having also for Aborigines the reputation of wisdom

19 August 2010

wood carving

I have become aware of some excellent items around the house where I can built experience with wood carving.

Two years ago I had a large cypress cut down in the front yard. There is a big stump still out there for me to carve when a little more experienced (entirely in the public eye). There is, from the same tree, a post in ground in the back yard, which I put there with a view to carving one day. And there are two benches, sliced halves of that cypress, in the back garden. Today, brain fagged with a virus and restless, I was able to go and work on one of those logs, part done a figurative carving, practice for the big vertical items.  Here below is a progress report in photos. As I worked I was thinking of the Etruscan woman whose tomb we saw in Viterbo, photo here. The tools I am using are the Pro-4 Woodcarver and the Mini Grinder from Arbortec. The burn marks, which I may leave for effect (ears, eyes, hair, breast), are caused by using the Mini Grinder with the cutter getting blunt.

Enough done for today, nice to be able to go look and think about where to go next. Already been interesting, you shape it then you realise as a novice that it still looks like a block of wood more than anything else, and cut more and more and more. I came to the view that for the artistic form the minimum amount of remaining wood is probably the ideal and also most real or moving... but that is to be balanced with the practical need to sit on her...

Bottom and legs not yet begun. Some detail and refinement in the upper body needed. Having worked from above, seeking satisfaction looking at it from above or obliquely close up, when I walked to the house and turned around to look from a distance, she looks a bit dim and half faced. I will have to lie down to complete shaping the face, including the lower side.

08 August 2010

wood carving

I have been carving a burl cut from this great log

and realised just now, in the evening, talking to a friend and trying to describe it, that I have been so preoccupied with the carving that I have failed to photograph it. As burls go it is very big, about 50cm x 80cm, and 25cm deep. Old, complex, dark swirls from fire and - in the swirls - traps of black amber, surely the product of the baking of sap in bushfires. I am endeavouring not to carve out a bowl form but a landcape. The tree washed into our place by violent flood. The burl reveals now, as I carve, shapes which evince the rugged landscape where the tree grew. So I am calling it Forest Escarpment. The form evolves, not defined in advance, shaped by its own natural swirls.

This is a primitive flash photo, I need to use daylight to effect to show the carving, which is up to 10cm deep now, in basins and ravines. This is a pretty poor way to display this, I will do better next day or so.

... and as to quality in the carving of burls, here is some extraordinary work, albeit with very different wood from the type and character of the wood I am working on... it encourages me to seek refinement...

04 August 2010

nude while listening to Liberal candidate

Title sounds a bit exciting...

I had been listening to local ABC radio, waiting to hear if they gave time to Matt Sproule, talking about our community forum on mental health, tomorrow, with election candidates

... instead of Matt, I listened to Joanna Gash, seeking reelection to parliament,

... and and and, I just kept working with charcoals on this figure, 120 x 75cm , charcoal pencils on black gesso on masonite. I think she looks better on the board than on the screen, but the harsh impact of the photo is educational for reviewing where to go next with the drawing. And of course, with nudes or whatever, the biggest question is knowing when to stop...

don't forget that to see the rest of the blog, 
you click on the blog title at the top

Family photo - Cat

I just discovered on the iPhone this photo of Cat serving crepes with strawberry sauce last month. Tasted as good as looks. "You brought us up as food snobs Dad," she said many years ago.

02 August 2010

Strange photos

I had been concentrating on design of The Back House Press and then suddenly, or eventually, there arose the opportunity to take these photos...

I will reveal what they are in a few days.

Guesses welcome - use comment box!