Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A bouquet, thinking of family tradition and New Year wishes


For the first time in more than 40 years of marriage, there was no time this year for us to find and decorate a Christmas tree. We were so recently returned from our long trip to Australia and New Zealand and then so quickly away for Christmas with our son and his family that this tradition had to be abandoned.

Like so many, I'm sure, our boxes of decorations contain many items of memory and family significance. There is the wired bundle of tiny kindling - winter fuel - given to us by a family member who died young. There are decorations made or chosen by our children, a few given to me by children when I was teaching, and there are even one or two pieces, now rather tired, from our own childhood.

I really missed the ceremony of buying and decorating and the chance to think on these memories. A stand-in had to be found. My solution was a visit to our nearest supermarket to buy this bouquet - a poor substitute with no scope for decorations - but, together with Christmas cards, it has lent a suggestion of festivity to our home. I placed it in one of the stoneware vases I threw in pottery classes about 25 years ago for a small hint of our past in the Hertfordshire house where we bought up our children.

It comes today to say thank you for visiting my blog over the past year, even when I don't post very often. Sharing work, thoughts and experiences with you all is one of the pleasures of the internet for me and I send a special thank you to those of you who commented and provided useful advice. I will visit all your blogs with my usual enthusiasm in the year to come.

Happy New Year to you all. May 2016 bring you happy memories and a fulfilling time artistically.


Saturday, 19 December 2015

Final Roy G Biv

This is the final month of the Roy rainbow colour posts and time for a big thank you to Julie and Jennifer who have organised it all. Good it has been to join in each time and fascinating to see all the photos and the thoughts put up by all the other bloggers.

Christmas has already started for us so we're away staying with our daughter and her family for the weekend, having Christmas five days early and building a trampoline in the rain! Photos for this post are therefore limited but here is one that seems to feature all the colours we've included over the years - an extraordinary light show on a mesmerising black and white ground by Brook Andrew seen in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia. 

        

Called Loop: A model of how the World Operates, it was completed in 2009 and occupied two complete walls of a gallery. I found it utterly mesmerising and it has stayed with me, coming regularly to mind at unexpected moments when I have little else to think about.

Brook Andrew is of the Wiradjuri nation and now lives and works in Melbourne. Quick research tells me that he uses graphic black and white in much of his work. Perhaps that is why it appealed to me so much. The explanation beside the piece described his work as (I paraphrase) a fascinating marriage of contemporary art practice and Wiradjuri language and the actions of memory and history that are so much a part of aboriginal culture. It was indeed extraordinary.

If I don't have time for another post before Christmas, this also comes with good wishes for a happy holiday to those who celebrate it and thanks to all for reading and commenting on my many posts over the year.





Thursday, 10 December 2015

On making art with my camera

When I'm on a long trip, I take a huge number of photos. This time in Australia and New Zealand, I amassed over 4,000 in five weeks. I thank heavens for digital cameras and, although a big culling process will now be needed, the taking of these photos is a very important part of the experience for me. I look at everything I see in a different way when armed with my camera and notice shape and colour and graphic possibilities constantly. Without a good camera, where this is possible, my experience would be lessened.

So what photos do I take? Of course, many are a straight forward record of memories of people and places visited. However, if I learnt one thing while I was away this time, it was just how much I feel as if I'm 'making art' when I look through the view finder and take a photo. It seems to have become an essential part of my art practice and gives me great pleasure.

This time, I was especially taken with the huge variety of trees I saw, from the robust tropical species in Singapore and Northern Queensland to the conifers and small thorn bushes on the alpine mountains in New Zealand. They came alive and dead, in rows round fields (lots of them), in small random groups, singly, and of course in vast, uncountable numbers on the mountains and hills everywhere. Here are samples, now in black and white since that seemed the best way to exploit their potential and anyway I just couldn't resist the temptation.

In the photo above, taken at Hokitika on South Island, it was the outline shape and the spiky, ragged, 'bad-hair-day' nature of the palm fronds that amused me as it was silhouetted against a light sky.

With this small group taken near Uluru, it was the contrast between the strong trees and the fine, whispy grasses that carpeted the earth around them that caught my eye.


In this one in central South Island, I was fascinated by the line of trees with its delicate shapes made by the spindly trunks topped with a crown of leaves. 


In this one, it was the negative shapes confused by the fence posts that interested. 


On this trip, I took my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 bridge camera with which I have been delighted since I bought it last year for a previous trip. I know I've posted about it before but it continues to be extraordinarily versatile with its excellent in-built wide angle and zoom lens. I like the fact that, although smaller than a standard DSLR camera, it has both a view finder and a closeable small screen for reviewing photos on the back. Especially important on a long trip like this, it is very light in weight and compact and fits into a small canvas shoulder bag along with other basic essentials when I want to hide the fact that I'm a tourist.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Travelling and visual delight

Now home at last from our recent trip, I'm beginning to digest everything I saw and experienced.  It was all so fascinating and there was such a variety of visual delight everywhere we went. I have much to think about and it will take time to work out where the new experiences will lead.

Meanwhile, as I download my photographs, I've been having fun sifting and sorting. As I travel around with my camera, I'm always on the look out for examples of the quirky, the bizarre, the unnerving and the unusual. A few favourites have so far surfaced from the myriad of photos from the holiday.

I start with a pair of quirky animal sculptures seen as we waited to go on a crocodile spotting river cruise down the Daintree River in Northern Queensland. These two were made from recycled metal cans painted in primary colours and were most appealing. I'm afraid I can't attribute them accurately but couldn't resist including them.



My favourite bit of fun was found in a shopping mall in Alice Springs - Santa's sleigh being pulled by six leaping white kangaroos and if you look closely, you will notice that the reindeer on the front left has a red nose (of course, he's called Rudolph!).


Now to things more serious. We really enjoyed the many bronze sculptures placed all around Singapore, some by familiar names such as Henry Moore and others by local artists which often depict the early life of the city. As we explored, we saw several in quiet corners including these two in Telok Ayer. Both were by local artist and sculptor, Lim Leong Seng. The first, Telok Ayer's Beginnings, commemorates the members of the Malay fishing community who lived in kalongs (wooden huts on stilts over water).


... and the second, called Chinese Processions, records the importance of festivals to the Chinese community both now and in the past.


Then from a harbour cruise boat, we spied this, First Generation, Fullerton Hotel 2000, by Chong Fah Cheong, showing how boys in the early days of Singapore used to enjoy jumping naked into the polluted river waters below. More details of all the sculptures can be found here.


Last of all, I include La Famille de Voyageurs, a bronze work by French sculptor Bruno Catalano, which we saw in Gardens By the Bay. It was a gift from Singapore Changi Airport to the Gardens. Although slightly unnerving, I found this work most compelling and spent much time enjoying it and returned to look again before I left the garden.



As the notice beside the work said, 'His works, with their dashed bodies and the deliberate lack of volume, invite you to mentally reconstruct the possibility of the human potential.' This piece explores the universal theme of travel and depicts a family heading for the airport on their way home after a visit to the gardens. They take with them their memories, and leave a part of themselves behind.

Isn't this so true of all successful travel?

Monday, 30 November 2015

Christchurch post earthquake

After all the perfection, peace and beauty of the last two weeks, we felt that before we went home we had to go and visit South Island's main city of Christchurch to understand the other side of things. The centre of the city and the eastern suburbs were badly affected by an earthquake in February 2011. 185 people were killed, making it New Zealand's second most destructive disaster.  It was one of several quakes experienced in the city both before and after that date.

Visiting the area today was a shocking reminder of the fragility of life - and how long it takes to rebuild after destruction. The most famous building, the city's Victorian Cathedral, remains fenced off amid discussions about its future and the damage is clear. Indeed, it's hard to think how it can be saved.


In the four streets in the centre of the town, almost half the buildings were badly damaged and have since been demolished or are condemned. Everywhere we looked as we walked around, there were scars where buildings had once stood and others were being carefully demolished. The noise of cranes and machinery was constant.

                                   
      

But amidst all the destruction, there were heartening signs of the rebuild. An art project funded by the City Council has encouraged many New Zealand artists to create pieces of street art especially for exhibition in the area around the cathedral.
          
             Installations and a mural  on boarding around the cathedral

'Planted Whare' an installation by Chris Heaphy, who is of Ngai Tahu Maori and European ancestry, was constructed in steel girders and covered in baskets planted with flowers. It was my favourite for its colour and its feelings of optimism and protection. Walking inside, it offered a cocoon of much needed safety.

          Call Me Snake by Judy Miller, one of New Zealand's foremost painters.

Each of the works - and there were several more that I've not shown - were a powerful expression of a positive future amongst the rubble, but the whole was most sobering, nonetheless. It is hard to see how the government's target of a complete rebuild by 2018 can possibly be met.


Sunday, 29 November 2015

Chasing Mount Cook

Just when we think our trip to New Zealand can't get any better, this beautiful country surprises us all over again.

We have been chasing the elusive Mount Cook for much of our stay here. It is frequently shrouded in cloud and very difficult to see.

Last night though, we found ourselves staying in a bed and breakfast home stay at the foot of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in Fox Glacier township, on the west coast of South Island. Called Reflections, even on our arrival in the rain yesterday evening, the property lived up to its name. It had a lovely garden with an ornamental pond which reflected everything around it.

Then the pleasure was complete when we woke up this morning to gloriously clear weather and those two mountains complete and visible and perfectly reflected in bright sunlight in our host's pond.


                                    

We moved further up the coast to Hokitika during the day and then this evening, on the beach at sunset we saw them again, gentle silhouettes against an orange sky.

        

        

Following advice, in the twilight, we walked over the road to see gloworms in a dark rocky dell surrounded by trees. They increased in number and brightness as the light levels fell until there were hundreds of them all around us, fine points of blueish light in the gloom.

Surely tomorrow really can't get any better?
   

  

Friday, 27 November 2015

Fences, sheep and rusty huts

I have a weakness for dilapidated machinery and abandoned buildings. Here in New Zealand where there seem to be few old stone structures, most of the old farm buildings appear to be made of corrugated iron. They rust most artistically and I've had a lot of amusement photographing them and their contents, together with some made of wood - and of course, I've photographed sheep. This post then is a right old miscellany.

A tin store just ready to fall down somewhere in central New Zealand 

       

Sheep outside our window at Omaha Downs sheep station near Twizel and a glimpse of Mount Cook through the clouds in the distance.

       

and a rusty old tractor on the same farm.

       

A fence whose location I can't now remember.

       

A boat store near the lake at Queenstown 
   
      

Tonight's offering just down the road in Fox Glacier on the west coast after a wonderful long drive over the Haast pass ... a rusty building and sheep...

      

    


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Coast, animals and thoughts of distance

Now we are down on the south coast of South Island New Zealand where it's wonderfully quiet and unspoilt - one of the almost forgotten parts of the world - and beautiful. There are lengths of wonderful sandy beaches and it's warm (we've been extraordinarily lucky). In Europe that would spell major holiday resort. Here there is no one about, almost no traffic on the roads and a deep sense of tranquility.

        

Last evening we went to a tiny cove at Nugget Point to look for the rare yellow eyed penguins which come ashore around twilight after a day's fishing out at sea. This species of small penguin is the most endangered in the world with only around 160 pairs in total. We saw four individuals swimming through the surf and preening themselves on the beach. My photo was taken on maximum zoom, in wind and in the half light, so I make no apologies for its quality.

       

This morning, we walked out to the lighthouse on the same headland, a beautiful walk all along the cliffs on a warm sunny day. We saw spoonbills nesting on a rock ...

        

And, greatest pleasure of all, twenty or so seals playing in the waves and sunbathing on the beach far below us ...

        

Further along the coast, we stopped for lunch and came upon a large bull sea lion (he was not a pretty sight) sleeping right across our path to the sands.

        

Standing watching the penguins coming out of the surf last night, we were suddenly so conscious of our distance from home. We were just as far away as it's possible to be and still stand on dry land. Looking south as we were doing, it would be next stop Antarctica, across the Southern Ocean, a vast area of deserted sea, without shipping and with so many storms.

        
    
Distances seem enormous here ...
 
    

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Lakes and shades of blue

Near Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain yesterday The lakes are beautiful and extraordinary shades of blue fed by the glacial streams which carry fine silt.

First of Lake Tepako and wild lupins ...


Then a small lake fed by a glacier and chalky white, hardly blue at all.


Those boats were waiting to take us up to the base of the glacier ... and more photos, many more.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Travelling in the pink

For this Roy post, I've collected together pink images from my travel photos. Some are subtle, some are strong in colour ... and one is unbelievable, but I haven't faked it - truly ...

First of all, many different pinks spotted in Singapore (much bright oriental colour) ... in Chinatown 

                                    

Shops in the old part of the city ...

      

   A poster advertising the company our host works for...
        
                                    

  And gentle pink chrysanthemums in the Gardens by the Bay ...

  

Then in Australia, on Sydney's Darling quay ...

    

The Sydney skyline at sunset ...

    

... and last of all, this extraordinary view of Uluru (Ayers Rock) near sunset. The sun's rays were filtered through fine cloud, apparently quite a common occurrence ... and it really was this colour!

     

We are very sad to be leaving this beautiful country tomorrow, but the delights of South Island New Zealand await us. As we are meeting up with American friends, there may be less time to post.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Travelling amusements and illusions shattered ... and restored

Lots of things have amused me in the rush and bustle of Sydney. I have just a few to share here.

As we walk around, we are inevitably passed by young (mostly) joggers with fitness on their minds and timing devices strapped to their arms to prove it. In the Botanical Gardens we came to a steep set of stairs up which they ran - fast. We climbed slowly at walking pace and paused regularly to draw breath as they overtook us. Where have the years gone?

                                     

There are exercise stations in all the areas of open space and beside the beaches. This young man demonstrated his fitness at one on a rainy Bondi Beach (illusions shattered - it does rain here) with impressive handstands which he repeated so I could take a photograph.

                                     

This little boy chased a white ibis along the quay (not a wise idea with that beak) till his mother warned him of dire consequences.
       

Amid the showers two days ago, I spied graffiti on Bondi Beach (wishful thinking on that day) ...

                              

    ... and round the corner, something different ... Both entertaining but neither would challenge the skill of Banksy ...
     

Then today, we returned to walk the coastal path from Bondi to Coogee, a distance of 5 km. This time, it was warm, the sun shone and the beautiful people and skilful surfers were out. Illusions were restored!