Posts Tagged ‘Sydney Opera House’

Australia’s Timeless Art and Blue Mosque of Istanbul

January 7, 2014

untitledblue mosque

And where are our monuments of tolerance of faith, acceptance of all? I suppose the few Mosques scattered around our cities would have to bear some witness to this. But the fanatical opposition to be seen to care about boat people’s arrivals, a miniscule problem amidst the murder of thousands in where they come from, somehow negates and demolishes our image of tolerance and acceptance.

The Christmas Islands, Manus and now the towing back of boats, demolishes any attempt of our bridging between the home brew of local Presbeterion Christianity and our understanding of mainly tolerant Islam.

Our temples still are the Workers Clubs with crossed hammer and plumbers wrench in Revesby, the RSL’s with their gaming machines and foaming Coopers brew, the cricket and footie stadiums still remain our pastiches of blue Mosques. Not Istanbul but in Parramatta and St Kilda. The Alhambra might well be seen in Canberra’s lake Griffin with a bike track for politicians in shorts and wearing pointy helmets. Who knows?

Our lasting temple wedded down as proof of eternity and timeless beauty is seen in the sails of our Opera House, but it was Danish design, somehow a smudge on our own creative genuineness.
No, the real temples of spiritual continuity giving us an anchor for Australia to cling to are these.

They are as timeless as Chartres, St Peters, or Istanbul’s blue mosque. We still have to credit and acknowledge the real Australian indigenous more solidly. It is underway, a work in progress.

Scott Morrison is at it again.

October 20, 2013

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has instructed departmental and detention centre staff to publicly refer to asylum seekers as ‘‘illegal’’ arrivals and as ‘‘detainees’’, rather than as clients.

The directive has been criticised as a ‘‘profound’’ shift by a leading asylum seeker agency, which says the new terminology is designed to dehumanise people.

In an email to detention centre staff, obtained by Fairfax Media, a department official writes: ‘‘The department has received correspondence from the minister clarifying his expectations about the department’s use of terminology. Accordingly we as [sic] that our service providers also adhere to the below instructions.’’

Read more:

One wonders what ingrained G-gnome is at play here? Having watched the excellent program on Sydney’s Opera House history and the absurd philistine antics of Davis Hughes at the time and the display of similar sentiments by Scott Morrison today towards all that is ‘foreign and out of the norm’, I remain unconvinced that much progress has been made since the sixties and seventies. Are we to remain forever stuck in an old 78 LP record groove? .
With the building of the Opera House and the ultimate sacking of the architect Utzon, a rift existed between the European, specifically Scandinavian craft approach to architecture that Utzon so utterly embodied, and the less individualistic approach of the Anglo-Saxon model of construction widely adopted in Australia. Pragmatism always reigning above the creative.

It seems Australia remains struggling with the concept of accepting differences.


September 23, 2012



There can never be the act of ‘creating’ when it has already been pre-conceived, totally digested and worked out. This is the problem faced to those that want to have a go at anything original or creative. I don’t pretend to know much about the act of creating but have given it some thought and reflection after some of my own efforts in doing something ‘new’.

Many years ago, and in the middle of unprecedented spending on art, artists and all things ‘creative’ in The Netherlands during the seventies, I was given the task of running the art section of a school loftily titled “ Creative Development for Adults”. It was supposed to install or perhaps re-install the ‘creative’ instinct into those adults that were brave enough to enroll.  Dutch society would be the better for it and a new ‘Golden Age’ would inevitably rise up again.

After a well appointed art section was built, from the smallest brush to huge kilns, drums of clay, shelves full of art material, etching presses, copper plates and lithograph stones weighing tons, I was introduced to a class of adults, mainly females. My skills in teaching were mainly in the area of being somewhat vague and unsure of how ‘art’ could be taught at all. Of course, skills and technique can; but Art?  Fortunately, I had enjoyed a few art courses years before by artists who generally let you muddle along while they went to the pub.  This stood me in good stead . I have yet to meet children that are not creative but the tragedy is that so many loose that when growing up into ‘responsible adults’. Go to an exhibition of pre-school or first few years of primary school kids’ drawings and it is always so surprising to see all that talent pinned up to the wall. See the kids at 12 or 13 and already there is a change into conformity and expectations for others, a keenness to be the same as others, be approved off and become accepted. The creative part seems to be dripping away. Why is that?

My part in teaching those adults was trying to get them back to the stage they were in as young kids. The most common few words that most of them uttered were: “I can’t do that”. I used to challenge them and say, “How do you know”.  “Most of you would be fighting to do a painting or drawing when you were four or five; what has changed?” You don’t know till you try. There were adults that could not bring themselves to physically put a piece of charcoal to paper. Let yourself go, was the answer. Don’t be afraid. Go on strike a crooked line; don’t wait for the paper to come to you. Just do it!

Finally most of them just loved doing the course and after many years I still have contact with one of them who has become an accomplished painter with many exhibitions both in The Netherlands and other European countries. Just have a look at her work:

Many years ago, art was a very strict discipline. The Julian Ashton in Sydney school still teaches art as a strict discipline. One will spend months on getting a mere hint of a shadow right or years perfecting the painting of a single petunia. The results, in my opinion, are that students become so disciplined their work loses all creativity and the work becomes boring and repetitive. The need for accurate reproduction can now be done perfectly with a good camera. So… why not just paint, sculpt, potter, write, photograph or do anything,…. create by letting go of all pre-conceived ideas and just do it….Create something new….

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?