Posts Tagged ‘Dante’

The scroll of etchings and all things nude and nature.

July 7, 2020

We all know the healing effects of nature and that being away from nature can be very damaging. But, how damaged can we get being away from art? Of course, almost everything that give one a feeling of wonderment or surprises, delights or gives us new insight probably can be accepted as art. The dictionary describes art as the creation of works of beauty but then also adds making works of great or special significance. Perhaps things that are frightening or cruel can also include as being art. Dante’s inferno or some images of Botticelli can be very confronting even though we know him more as the creator of beauty and goddesses of love seated on giant sea shells. He also painted some rather gruesome scenes of murder and incitements to wars.

After moving to the new place I discovered a forgotten large roll of butcher paper that has moved a few times without getting a look at. This time my daughter unrolled some of it and it turned out to be a large roll of etchings that I did sometime during the 1990 when I did a certificate course in printmaking. Of course, I have many etchings and I often invite friends to come over and look at my etchings.
During those 1990’s I had set up an etching press in our garage in Balmain and I loved making etchings. The copper plates on which I did the engravings and the use of acid in the baths in which to dip the plates were all part of the Technical college equipment. All I did was to actually print at home the etchings from the finished plates on my own printing press, which was a converted mangle use for mangling clothes… It was simple but not perfect but good enough for my etchings. The works I did were not to achieve technical excellence in printmaking but more as a way in expressing, rather impatiently, images in a more spontaneous way using copper. The fertile mind seemed to express mainly nude women and flowers, but that’s a different story better told at some next time. There is a lot here!
After rediscovering this roll I decided to hang it on my stairs which has a wall with at least a few metres of space to suspend it from. The first thing to do was to get a ladder onto the stairs.
After getting the ladder in an upright position I had to get my legs onto the rungs and somehow with hammer, nails and the scroll of butchers paper all under one arm with the other arm holding onto the rungs of the ladder while climbing right to the top. Not such an easy task. Mind you, I did work for some time hanging outside multi story building swinging from bosun’s chairs. I do not fear ladders or heights. The next photo shows my legs (both of them) getting ready to ascend the ladder.
Legs, both of them.
At some stage after having climbed past the widow and as high as possible with my head against the stair’s ceiling I had to let go of the ladder’s rungs in order to place the scroll of etchings against the wall suspended by a bamboo rod (all in keeping with the oriental meme of the scroll). It is impossible to screw something single handed. One can imagine doing all this on my own. However, the results speak for themselves. A wonderful position to, after all those decades, have found a way to show this forgotten scroll of etchings.
The scroll of etchings
In order to try and restore this butcher’s paper scroll of thirty years of age I had to somehow fix the paper’s fragile condition with a good preservative and restore its strength. I gave it about ten coats of varnish, hence the sheen on the surface.
The only problem still to solve is that the scroll now overhangs the entrance to the stairs whereby anyone going up or down has to duck past this scroll. The scroll is longer than the wall.
overhanging scroll
Nothing is easy but I am overjoyed that my etchings are hanging so nicely.

It is Rack of Lamb time, with baby beetroots.

March 2, 2016
Table setting. Hand coloured etching.

Table setting. Hand coloured etching.

These times are a changing. As the years go by with reasonable health still following, caution gets thrown to the wind. They say carpe diem, don’t they? So, after the week before last having enjoyed a great rack of lamb, the temptation for a repeat has surfaced again. Out of nowhere too.

Lamb chops used to be cheap as chips. I remember the half cooked mutton chops at Scheyville migrant camp. The bluish stamp of the abattoir still visible on its skin,  skirmishing neck on neck with keen maggots. It was during a very hot summer in 1956.

Actually, mutton is very nice in an Indian Raan dish and preferable to young sheep. You have to let the mutton age in a mixture of spices, yoghurt and lemon juice. It was my dish at Christmas time. The grandkids used to dip their bread in the mixture before it was even cooked. Look up Raan on Julie Sahni excellent recipe book about Classical Indian cooking.

Right now and it is only 3.30 pm I will start up the Webber. The Webber is a round US invented barbeque device that needs charcoal or coal briquettes to fire up. We had it since our own kids were still all around. And that is forty years ago. It is enamelled  brown and as sturdy as an outside dunnee during a sand storm. The trick is not to put the rack of lamb on before the temperature is hot enough. Lamb mustn’t be overcooked. It is a matter of timing and getting experience.

During our morning’s walk I had picked up a handful of rosemary. The soft kind of rosemary. Our own has become very woody. Now we just steal it elsewhere. I more or less wrapped the lamb in it, together with lots of garlic and lemon juice.

We both sat outside watching the rosellas and pink galahs feasting on the special birdseed-mix that we leave out. Even that required a special way. The seeds just left in a terra cotta dish were discovered by a smart rat. He told his mates. The droppings left made us suspicious. Surely, the bird’s poop is not that big? We were told to put the dish with the seeds on top of an upside-down turned terra cotta bowl. The rats can’t overcome crawling on an upside down space like the gecko can. In Bali I noticed large geckos crawling upside down on smooth surfaces as well as bamboo or rattan type ceilings.

Scientists have for years wondered about the ability of creatures to move about upside down. It has to do with millions of tiny hairs able to cling to surfaces. A gecko can hang upside down and carry their full weight from just a single toe.

This really floored me.

This from Wiki; “Geckos use something called the Van der Waals force to cling to smooth surfaces. The Van der Waals force is a weak electrodynamic attraction that occurs over extremely small distances, but works with virtually any substance. The geckos’ toes carry millions of microscopic hairs at their tips; scientists call these hairs setae. These allow the creature to stick to a branch, rock or — as the researchers discovered — surfaces such as polished glass.” It would not surprise me that geckos know about fonts too. Perhaps they use the Dante type. Who knows?

It was around 5.15 when the coal in the Webber was deemed at maximum temperature for the rack of lamb to get done. It took about 20 minutes. It was lovely. One of the best. Helvi had made an even better side dish. Beetroot babies. They were cooked with garlic, some sour crème and our home grown herbs.

There is just nothing like sitting in the garden, knowing the birds safe from rats and H and I babbling away about nothing much, waiting for a simple glorious meal.

It is the only way.


The running of Christmas shoppers.

November 30, 2014

images Christmas shoppers

It has started early this year. The first case of a frozen Christmas turkey being fought over by two middle aged women. One wore a floral outfit, the other just jeans with a mixed coloured top that showed straining black bra straps of an estimated 20D size. The floral lady was wearing bright pink rubber moulded floppy sandals and the other normal strap-on sandals. Both were stout and somewhat formidable in appearance. I would not like to be smacked by either of them. That’s why I kept a distance and decided to observe rather than counsel them or mediate. I have yet to experience being hit by a frozen turkey!

Why they were in such a state while there were other turkeys available is just typical of this period of ‘peace on earth’ and sharing of ‘good will’. No period is more susceptible to shopper violence and fisty- cuffs than the few weeks leading up to Christmas. Just ask the police. Paddy wagons drive a steady trade of enraged shoppers and other merrymakers up and down to the glossy green painted cells of reflection and introspection. Why does it get to this? Is it pent-up expectations of unrealisable ambitions or a search for unobtainable happiness sadly lacking during non-Christmas months? It is normal, it is normal! If only we knew this.

Around and before Christmas nothing is further from normal. As the date of the 25th of December gets closer a maelstrom of shoppers will be seen swirling clock-wise around those meccas of consuming, the holy shopping malls. The heat is usually relentless and often 36C in the car park alone, where the two fingers up your bum has already greeted many fighting for a parking spot. ‘Holy night-silent night’ is now filtering through all speakers strung around everywhere. Bing Crosby is earning billions for Westfield and other conglomerates of consuming empires. The credit card bloat is showing up in peoples’ purple faces with all caution now thrown to the wind. An elderly man might be seen squatting outside in the shade of rows of entangled shopping trolleys being licked back to consciousness and revived by a friendly Jack Russell.

The food Court hallowed halls are packed with bodies regurgitating, grazing from polystyrene boxes. Huge jaws silently moving up down and sideways, chewing their cud. ‘Silent night- holy night’ ringing in their ears. Upwards and downwards escalators, huge shopping bags sliding over marbled floors. Puddles of yoghurt or pourable vanilla exploded on crazed floors fenced off by yellow posts and stripy ribbons. Still, someone slipped, broke a leg and is contemplating suing. An Ambulance is waiting outside now. Some shoppers have fainted and are being cooled down in special first aid rooms at the ready in anticipation of shopper fatigue and dehydration.

And yet, the best (or worst) is yet to come. That is the afternoon of the 24th of December. Hysteria has now taken over. A kind of high pitched Credit card swishing den has overtaken Silent night-Holy Night. A pandemonium stage has been reached. A flood of double packed trolleys, dripping with the most unlikable consumables, are being pushed and now descending upon pale looking cashiers. A mixture of Armageddon and Dante's inferno with a touch of Norwegian Scream on the Bridge has been reached. Children are being smacked senseless by overwrought,enraged parents at the end of their tether in need of a solid dose of Panadeine Forte. Howling babies with dummies strewn about like so much sparkle and glassy glitz. Things at around late night shopping at 9pm at the Holy Malls are best described as being in a state of the masses running amok or berserk. A solitary lonely gent, quietly sobbing in his folded hands is still being licked by his dog. Man's best friend in time of need.

And then, just as if nothing has happened, real peace and quiet has descended upon stretched-out sleepy Australian suburbia. Suddenly, like a cooling southerly blown on-shore from Antarctica, the Christmas has passed. Blessed relief. It is over for another year.

Silent night- holy night.

How do we feel?

March 13, 2012

How does it feel?

We all know that how we feel depends on many factors. One of those factors is how we react to the visual things that surround us. It would be an extremely dour person if not uplifted by a walk up the steps of our Opera House. On the other hand, walking past some of Sydney’s ugly roads would surely try even the sanest of us. Where to find the courage to go on? Kilometer after kilometer are those yawning car yards waving those sad little flags. Dante’s inferno couldn’t be worse and we worry about tourism being slack!

Why is that so?

Why can the visual be so important in shaping our moods? Does it matter how things look? Perhaps much of our way of reacting is that genetically we are disposed to feeling happy or not depending on how we have surrounded ourselves by the man made visual world. I am speaking of the world of how we have shaped things, how we have designed the visual and how we have given form to the everyday object, experienced and absorbed through our eyes. It is surely much better to look at something that is pleasing to the eyes than to view ugliness.

The world of pure nature cannot be blamed for any of the ugliness because in nature there simply isn’t any. (Ugliness) If nature deals us a rainy day or a drought, it generously and without fail, makes up for it in sunshine or abundant rains later on. If nature is ugly, it is because we made it so.  Therefore, if all ugliness is man-made it makes sense to learn not to make things ugly by better and more beautiful design.

I often wonder why in some countries good design comes almost naturally and yet in other countries one searches with great difficulty and often in vain to find beauty in the everyday man-made world. I wonder why good design is not taught at all levels in our education system. Design in education? Well, many schools spent time teaching sport so why not design? Are we going through life without eyes?

I don’t want to bang on about the advantages of the Scandinavian world and in particular about Finland but it seems hard to avoid those Nordic countries and not be impressed by good design. Was our own Opera House not designed by one of them?

Good design might well come from good problem solving. Design on the run or ad hoc never results in good outcomes. Is this why the way we house ourselves is often mediocre if not outright depressing?  I am not even talking about the architecture of our houses.

Why does it take driving large cars to take kids to schools or to go shopping? Why are our lives so tied up in isolation away from social infrastructures? How come we do not walk to work or catch the local transport? Could it be a result of bad problem solving and hence, bad design? Inexhorably our lives are tied to having to drive a car. We live in order to please the car. The car doesn’t please us.

How solid is good design embedded in our lives? Design in our lives is everywhere from paper clip to airplane. It’s found, in our education, public services, transportation, arts and culture, in sport and policymaking. It’s there even if we don’t always see it. Good design equals innovation in good problem solving which in turn can create happiness.

Does Australia have good designers? I am sure there are some but can we name just one that is truly outstanding? Ask a Finn and he will mention Alvar Aalto, Aino Aalto, Maija Isola, Tapio Wirkkala, Eero Aarnio, just to mention a few. They are all household names around the global design community. Good design in Finland is simply a way of life that kids appreciate from birth and carry with them for the rest of their lives. Good design is the driver behind all cultural, social and economic development of a country.

Is that our way as well?

Going back to how we house ourselves. Is it not just a matter of divvying up parcels of land in an ever increasing circle, devouring farm land put in a sewer and a nice asphalt ribbon and then build houses on it? Housing is a huge part of our economy and it is very often part of animated social conversation we have. Prices are keenly watched and newspapers come out with the latest suburbs that are ‘in and up’ and those that are ‘dropping and down’. We thrive on their monetary value but don’t give it much thought on how we can improve housing to fulfill social needs rather than just worry about the stats on rising or dropping values. How do we feel walking through our front door?

Coming to the aesthetics and workability of our cities, especially our far flung suburbs, and at best we might get polite murmurs of ‘lovely harbour’ and ‘nice views’ from any overseas visiting city planner or design architect.

How embedded is our concept of design to our goods and services, finding solutions to people’s needs through innovation and user-driven perspective? Of course, the best of design is also joined to sustainability, re-usability, desirability and its greenness.

It’s hard to see how our present laissez faire attitude to design and planning is making for the ‘best’. How are we shaping lives in our cities for our children, our grandchildren and their grandchildren?