Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wagner Event in Aldeburgh

My exhibition in Aldeburgh was held at the same time as a 3 day event organised by the London Wagner Society which I also attended. We saw film excerpts of Wagner opera, interviews with people associated with performances of Wagner's operas, a Masterclass and a concert, between which I dashed back to the gallery to make sure it was open in all the intervals.

While I was sitting and listening though, I painted. Below is Maestro Antonio Pappano, music director at the Royal Opera House, painted during the Masterclass. I have just put this and other paintings up on my website.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Metro

In Hamburg And in London


I flew with RyanAir to the UK. They offer cheap flights that are not so cheap once you pay all the handling fees, baggage fees, booking fees and check-in fees (My 0 Euro fare was actually 103 Euro (NZD 230) with fees.) Extra kgs are very expensive and judging by the number of people in my queue who had to make extra payments a lot of people are caught out by the 15kg luggage limit.

In Lubeck the Airport is a tent. That must be a saving in light bulbs during the day, but what they save on lighting they must spend on heating in the winter. The walls are blue tarpaulin with RyanAir advertising.

The planes are just like other planes ... with wings that turn up at the end. Apparently this upturned wing saves a great deal on length and has caused airports to have to re-design.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Blue bottles and yellow fields

I didn't have much time to paint in England, but couldn't resist Ann's blue bottles which were all lined up on a shelf in my hosts conservatory.

In contrast to the blue bottles, the fields were a mass of yellow flowering rapeseed. I painted this from the car on the way to London, about 15 minutes before the storm on the horizon overtook the car. It was a Sydney type storm, with water bucketing down.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Exhibition invitation

'Wagner Inspired' Exhibition in Aldeburgh

I have just spent a week in the UK, a flying visit to put on an exhibition in Aldeburgh in conjunction with a 3 day event that was being held by the London Wagner Society. Aldeburgh (pronounced Awl-bro and not, as I had assumed, All-de-berg) is a picturesque town on the Suffolk coast about 2 hours north east of London.

I arrived late on Thursday to drop my pictures at the gallery. The town lights were on and Aldeburgh looked very pretty.
The Met Bureau had forecast heavy rain and 12C for the weekend but in the morning the sun was shining.
I had spent a lot of time preparing the exhibition before arriving and my work paid off as the hanging was trouble free and relatively quick.
An opening was scheduled for 3pm so there was no time to waste but we were ready in plenty of time and the etchings/paintings looked great - a good size for the room really.

But ... where were the guests?

I found out later that the bus bringing participants from London had broken on the motorway. So instead of coming to an art exhibition guests were treated to a 3 hour display of engineering ingenuity as the mechanic built a replacement rod for the bus's gear box. Non-bus participants received their tickets (and the invitation to the exhibition) only when they arrived in town, too late for the opening.

So we packed away the glasses and just hoped that people would find time between the many activities during the event (movies/interviews/masterclasses/singing) to drop in. The movies were held in the Aldeburgh Cinema which was housed in the same quaint half timbered building as the Cinema Art Gallery so people did drop in. However, if I undertook such an exhibition again I would make sure the organisers of the event planned some exhibition-viewing time.

It was great showing the work to people with a similar Wagner addiction to my own. Wagner Society members didn't need the symbolism in my work explained to them, they understood it immediately and recognised the pieces of Wagner's librettos woven into the images. I was fascinated to see them inch their way around the room, examining each image and nodding their heads. Only two of the works sold over the weekend, but in the current financial climate that is probably a good result. I was told I should exhibit the work to a wider audience so I will think about that for the future. Perhaps there may be an opportunity in Hamburg as Wagner's Ring Cycle is being prepared in Hamburg by Australian born conductor Simone Young.

On Monday I woke at six and went for a walk along the beach. It is a windswept place and barren looking. Aldeburgh was Benjamin Britten's birthplace and all his music has a local flavour, including his opera Peter Grimes which is about a fisherman who is 'different' and who is hounded to his eventual death by the town gossips.
I had the great good fortune of seeing the opera Peter Grimes on Monday evening.

Walking along along the Aldeburgh beach on Monday morning, then hearing Peter Grimes at the Coliseum in London in the evening was the highlight of the weekend for me.
The Coliseum is a stark contrast to the beach in Aldeburgh and to Peter Grimes.
The young Australian singer Stuart Skelton sang the role of Peter Grimes and he was fantastic. I had seen him singing in Sydney at an informal Wagner Society function, as the NSW Wagner Society sponsored German lessons (I think) for him during his studies. He got rave reviews for his portrayal of Peter Grimes and they were well deserved.

On the Wednesday late flight back from Stanstedt I flew over English countryside yellow with Rapeseed flowers to what the ElCheapo airline RyanAir calls Hamburg-Luebeck but which is actually Luebeck. The connecting bus to Hamburg takes an hour, then onto the the almost-last train home. My wheelie bag sounded very loud as I tramped home through dark and silent streets.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blankenese bike ride

It is so nice being in a city where bike riding is the norm. Most footpaths are divided into bike and foot paths and cars watch out for bicyclists.

Today I rode down to the Elbe river the along to Blankenese. The sun was shining and it was very picturesque. I painted the hillside of houses while I drank my coffee at the Ahrsburg Cafe on the banks of the Elbe.
Then I pushed my bike up the narrow streets to Blankenese village and had a cup of tea while admiring the houses across the road.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Chimney sweep for luck

Seeing a chimney sweep is good luck in Germany and I saw one on the train. He was wearing traditional garb, black flared trouser, black top hat and with all the relevant equipment on his back. My impromptu photos missed the flares! This sweep had a mop of tangled hair and a little beard ... made me think of Mary Poppins.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Back to normal

Well we are back to normal, the Hamburg I remember. Overcast/wet and 12C.


A neighbour's gate ... cat watching squirrel. (I think these pictures can be viewed larger if you click on them.)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Warmest April on record.

You might think my eulogies to spring have been a bit overdone - but here is the confirmation that this April has been extraordinary. Official records show that April 2009 in Hamburg has been the warmest and driest April since records began.
The photo above (taken by Marcelo Hernendez) published in the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper was taken in Hamburg last Friday. Is this not what you think Hamburg looks like? Well, but it is Hamburg.

The photo was taken at the Beach-Club StrandPauli, which is an artificial 'beach' near the center of Hamburg built on the banks of the Elbe River. In the background you see the ships in the Port of Hamburg. All you need is a bit of sand, some palms in pots and a DJ playing you summer music and you can imagine yourself in the south of Spain.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Chestnut trees

Chestnut trees are particularly amazing in spring.
One week these huge trees are bare and gray; the next week they are a mass of foliage. Their large floppy leaves are topped by equally large and intricate flowers.

What a change!

The hedgerow today looks very different compared to a month ago.

The view from the office window has changed as well. When I arrived it was different but equally lovely.


This table decoration was so pretty last weekend that I took a picture of it. It is so warm we eat outside. (Hamburg? April?) It was also my birthday ... I made a stew from a Jamie Oliver book which was just as delicious as he said it would be and it looked just as good as well.