Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jackie Orszaczky remembered

Jackie Orszaczky,
Watercolour on Arches paper, 76 x 56 cm
Today I found Jackie Orszaczky on YouTube. I have been playing the clips and remembering Tuesday nights at the Rose of Australia in Erskineville in 1984. I was there most Tuesdays listening to him and sketching. As well as being a wonderful musician and very cool dude, Jackie was a really nice man. When I looked for sponsors for a show of my sketches I searched to see who sponsored Jackie and discovered that instead of being sponsored he was himself a sponsor of Matthew Talbot society for homeless men.

When I entered this portrait in a competition and had to get him to sign a form saying he had actually sat for me, he read the form in amongst the beer decals at the pub and said 'But I have been sitting for you all year!' (as recounted in Blue Tulips). I am not in the video below but I was probably there watching and painting. In his native Hungary he got audiences of thirty thousand people.

Jackie died in 2008 aged 59.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Watery sparkly Rheinmaidens

Rheinmaidens in costume (Picture from Opera Australia)
When the Ring Cycle was performed in Adelaide the Valkyries were bar-girls and sat at the Wunder Bar.

In the Melbourne Ring Cycle the Rheinmaidens are show girls. Costume designer Alice Babidge explains that her costumes, although theatrical, always reflect real life rather than fantasy. I think it is a brilliant idea to dress these flirtatious and thoughtless girls in show girl costumes and what lovely costumes they are, all watery and sparkly. Clever Alice Babidge.

I hope Melbourne warms up or they'll catch their death in that river.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Steven Isserlis and the ACO

Steven Isserlis's cello runs away with itself
(12 x 17 cm)
The virtuosic cello player Steven Isserlis is one with his instrument and the way he plays it makes you feel as if you are an extension of it as well. So yesterday when my watercolour cello ran away with itself, I let it go.

I was listening to Isserlis and an augmented Australian Chamber Orchestra with over 40 musicians play Antonín Dvořák's Cello Concerto in B minor. They were wonderful. The ACO are always exceptional and we are so lucky to have such an orchestra call Australia home.

Concerts are not usually the place where people discuss politics, especially not in Australia, but yesterday I ended up in political discussions with both the retired couple I met in the coffee queue beforehand and the people seated next to me at the concert. There seems to be an increasing awareness of the infiltration of our political system by big business and people want to talk about it.  Perhaps the recent pronouncements by our environment minister has tipped the balance?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Concentrating when it matters

What a charming fellow, explaining why you should turn your mobile phone off in concerts.

Friday, October 25, 2013

You have to go alone

'You have to go alone'
A Dunedin Art School graduating student in 2008 had some books on a table which he was asking visitors to open on a certain random page. You had to read the xth line to him. He then typed it up on a card and presented it to the participant.

I still have mine on my pin-wall and I just noticed that the Emil Nolde postcard pinned under it seems to illustrate the text. (The postcard is one of Emile Nolde's 'unpainted paintings', some of my favorite work of all time.)

This is a piece of conceptual art that seems to have a life of its own. Interesting isn't it!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A horse for our (Ring Cycle) times

Grane, dashing through the musical flames
As I look at my previous posts I can't help but think my images for the Melbourne Ring Exhibition are prescient. Grane gallops through the flames as NSW burns.

As I write the air is full of smoke and we are told the weather may be even worse than forecast for tomorrow, the day the fire-fighters have said will be the worst day of the week.

I read that Neil Armfield, Director of the Melbourne Ring Cycle, refers to the environmental catastrophe on our doorstep in his version of the Ring. I hope that it speaks to opera patrons who are in positions of power and inspires them to devote their energies to saving the planet for their grandchildren. Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NSW fires worsen

Firefront map
Over two hundred homes have already been lost in NSW and we are in for a scary week. Hoped for rain now looks unlikely, the fires burning in the Blue Mountains are massive and very hot temperatures and northerly winds are forecast. A few minutes ago the rural fire service published this map. The bright orange is where the fiercest fires are. My thoughts are with the residents of the Blue Mountains as all settlements are now under threat.

Greens MP Adam Bandt was criticised for tweeting that this type of ferocious fire is climate change related but today Peter FitzSimons wrote that that the Greens have been warning us all about this for decades, so why shouldn't they keep warning us?  Hear hear! We thought we could do what we wanted to the environment, but nature is proving us wrong.

At the same time as we have this massive firestorm the new Government is trying to dismantle policies that have been successful in cutting CO2 emissions and today we learn that the Government is probably going to cut clean technology grants. Makes you wonder if we deserve to survive.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Brünnhilde's horse Grane

Brünnhilde's horse Grane. Collage of Intaglio etchings
Wagner's Ring Cycle will be performed in Melbourne in November and all sorts of Ring related activities are planned. I have just finished a series of collages featuring Brünnhilde's horse Grane which will be exhibited in the  WagnerLicht Exhibition at the Melbourne Arts Centre, opening 15 November. Toi Toi Toi to Opera Australia for their first Ring Cycle.

The Grane series is online here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

NSW Fires

NSW is experiencing a most dreadful fire day. It is very hot and the wind is so strong it is frightening. Wind gusts of 90kph are ripping at the trees. The wind is fanning fires that are springing up all over the place. As I write people are calling the local radio station reporting what is happening in their area. Some are stuck in their cars between road blocks caused by fires, some are inquiring about schools that are being or have been evacuated. Many fires are burning out of control. The Blue Mountains is the worst at the moment with people told not to go home and not to try to get to their kids in schools as they are safe and the roads are closed anyway. A swimmer in Bondi rang to say there are embers dropping in the water there. Bondi is 80 km from the fires but that is a measure of the wind velocity.  They say if only 100 houses are lost we'll be lucky.

Global warming has produced a whole new environment, one in which past fire fighting rules no longer apply. Searing temperatures and strong winds create conditions in which even the best prepared can't hope to save their homes. And yet our Prime Minister is planning to remove the carbon tax with no alternative plan for lowering CO2 emissions. There is a national day of action planned for 17 November to tell Prime Minister Tony Abbott that we do want action on climate change. Has people power got a hope against big business power?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A slightly shorter life

Bravo to the organisers and participants who meet at cafes to discuss how to die well. The conversation is overdue. I suppose it is understandable that people would rather focus on cures and life-extending procedures, but actually, when you know what some of those entail, you might find yourself choosing a slightly shorter life lived well.

Read more here.

Eleanor Catton wins Man Booker

Eleanor Catton accepting award

Congratulations to young New Zealander Eleanor Catton on winning the Man Booker prize for her book The Luminaries. She is the youngest recipient to date ... and a charming person as you can see from this video.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Felicity Smith

Felicity Smith, mezzo soprano from New Zealand, died last month from a pulmonary embolism at only 32. A tragedy for her family, her friends and also for the opera world. So terribly sad. Listen to her sing Elgar's Sea Pictures. Would that I could have heard her live.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Verdi Flashmob

I wish this flashmob would appear in my town.... How better to celebrate Verdi's 200th birthday?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A painted selfie

Acrylic on Canvas 50 x 75cm
Painting a selfie is not so easy because you think you know your own face so well, but perhaps you don't.

I had several tries for this one. I painted the first one in dim light using a tiny mirror. It was very gray and  I didn't like it much so I painted over it in green.

Six months later I found the canvas and started again, this time from a photo. It morphed, then morphed again.

Now it looks like me. Well I thought that before too, so maybe it will morph again. Or I could scrape it back to an earlier version. No, maybe not.
 Paintings from a mirror are what I see, which is the mirror image of what everyone else sees.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Andreas Scholl and the ACO

Helene, Rebecca, Timo-Veikko and Christopher play Pärt
Sometimes you hear a concert and you say to yourself:  'That was just perfection'. Last week's  Andreas Scholl sings Vivaldi, in Sydney was one of those.

The concert was much more than just Vivaldi. Works by Arvo Pärt and Schnittke were a perfect lead in, played by an ACO quintet: Helena Rathbone/ Rebecca Chan (violin) Christopher Moore (viola), Timo-Veikko Valve (cello) and Maxime Bibeau on his new (very old) bass. The quintet were joined by Tommie Andersson (Theorbo) and Neal Peres da Costa (Chamber Organ) to accompany Scholl.
Andreas Scholl sings

Andreas Scholl has an amazing and an amazingly controlled voice. He sings countertenor and I read that he says you have to have a strong sense of gender identity as a male to sing with a high voice. After all, in the past men with high voices were castrati.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Fjäll Räven Trousers

Back seam
I am enamoured with the Swedish travel-trousers  maker Fjäll Räven. They make the back trouser seam extra wide so you can easily alter the size. Trust the Swedes to make clothing that lives and grows with you.

I took my trousers out before going to NZ but made them so loose they almost fell off. Luckily I had a belt with me.
Little fox is their logo

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Two girls on a sofa

Amy and Ruby (Acrylic on Canvas)
Amy and Ruby
Fourteen, going on fifteen

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Window ceramics

When I was in Dunedin I took a ceramics class and to my surprise I learned to love clay. Beginner students often experiment to see how thin they can make clay and I was no exception. These pots were made by rolling the clay with a rolling pin and imprinting them with figures.

The paper protrusions were inspired by my teacher Jim Cooper's work. Now the pots  are sitting on my bathroom window sill. The curtain is a piece I crocheted in Germany during a crochet splurge many years ago. However did I find the time for that?