Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Three Women in Red

Three women in red
Oil on canvas
60.9 x 76.2 cm (24" x 30")
Time to leave politics behind (sometimes it overwhelms even art blogs) and show you my Three Women in Red.

The painting is hard to photograph well - the faces are either too colourless or too pink whereas in reality they are flesh coloured. Perhaps that is something to do with all the red in the picture.

I looked at a lot of 18th Century paintings to see how they achieved realistic skin colours and took from them the idea of brown as a background colour. The colouring has given the painting an 18th Century feel to it I think, even though the clothes are obviously modern. The dark brown background has quite a lot of lemon yellow in it, though you would never guess.

The painting is in oil. I paint oils outside which means that all my oils are painted over summer. I chose oil as I wanted the faces to be instantly recognisable and that takes some fiddling. Acrylic paints dry too quickly, especially in summer.

This picture shows the faces as they developed (click on it for a bigger view).

Even without faces the women were recognisable, so perhaps all the fiddling was not really necessary.
Developing painting

Monday, April 27, 2015

What are we fighting for? Flanders Fields reflection

This morning I received an email from my Belgian friend Monika, a woman who has a long history of opposing wars. She has given permission for me to quote her. She wrote:

"Yesterday, I went to visit the Memorial places in Flanders Fields from the first World War ...  It was a very special experience, very moving, one no words can explain. ... we went to visit the gigantic, very impressive Commonwealth cemetery, Tyne Cot, with thousands of soldiers from the first world war.  I went looking for graves of Australian and New Zealand soldiers, and like to send some to you. It was very moving, touching, overwhelming, looking at their names if they had one, and their age. Some of them had written on them ‘Known unto God’, no name, no identity, nothing, for a war which has served whom and for what? I was thinking of you and would have loved you to stand with me at the memorial ceremony that evening in Ypres, with the Last Post.

Flanders Fields. Photo: M. Triest
There were so many Australians and New Zealanders who had come all the way, to present a wreath to show their respect. There were national anthems, songs, there were flowers, and I just stood there, speechless. It’s now exactly 100 years ago, and in Belgium there are an enormous amount of events, films, conferences, books, articles, TV shows on this topic. That’s a good thing, otherwise young people wouldn’t be able to find out what happened and learn some lessons from it....

 As you can tell, it was an emotional day for me. I would like to tell the world Pete Seeger’s words:
What if there were a war and nobody came?’"

I wish I could  reply that I am glad we have learned from that debacle, but unfortunately I cannot. The Anzac celebrations divided Australians this year. Not so long ago we could debate the Anzac Gallipoli landing, its merits and its relative position in our history but in 2015 we seem to have lost our sense of perspective. Yesterday Scott Mcintyre, a young and gifted sports reporter with the Australian multicultural SBS TV channel, posted some anti-war tweets online under his own name. The Federal Government Communications Minister complained about them (dobbed him in to his boss personally, then boasted about it online) and the young man was sacked.

So I am wondering what our soldiers are fighting for now? Not freedom of expression, as we have  lost that, nor the right to talk to each other privately without the government spying on us, as we have lost that as well. Journalists and especially whistle-blowers as well as anyone who talks to them lost protection under the law recently so presumably we are quite happy to put up with rorting, intimidation and wrong-doing in our workplaces. Two women in Australia are being murdered each week by their partners (current total this year is 33) while at the same time resources for women's refuges have been withdrawn (the new policy is called Going home, Staying home) so we are not fighting for safe and fruitful family lives either.

Perhaps now that it has become clear we are not fighting for a way of life after all, men will simply refuse to fight. It was reported today that Australian WWI soldiers frequently went AWOL which infuriated the British who demanded that Australia introduce the death penalty for such cases. The Australian Government resisted but I doubt our current government would be so reluctant. However I wonder if co-oped conscripts would shoot at their supposed enemies or whether they might turn their guns on those who send them to give their lives to protect the resources of the 1%?

First Dog on the Moon comments on anti-Anzac ...

Addendum: Online petition for Scott McIntyre to be reinstated

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Honouring all

(Gallipoli Art Exhibition, Sydney, 2006)
This year at the remembrance ceremony at the war memorial in Canberra the didgeridoo was included in the for the first time, joining the trumpet and the bagpipes. Ninety nine years of not including our most recognisably Australian musical instrument is a very long time. (The ceremony was broadcast on ABC, but the ceremony that followed it honouring Aboriginal soldiers was not.)

At the remembrance ceremony in Sydney this morning one speaker noted the fact that new Australians had not been brought up on the Anzac myth and publicly wondered how this new generation could be motivated to take part. Including our first peoples in more than a token gesture would be a good way to start. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Anzac Anzac - where are the historians?

I wonder how this young man will fare, returning from a war with experiences his people at home wont be able to understand.  Is he traumatised? Will he still be alive in five  years?  Are there sufficient support systems for him or is the government mouthing support while cutting his benefits? (Australia: 2015) What are his chances of happiness?

As another Anzac day rolls around I feel as I do after long election campaigns: I am totally over it! Earlier in the year I saw two Gallipoli-inspired concerts (one by the ACO and the other a sung tribute) which were tributes to the humanity of the soldiers, but the feelings they inspired have since been contaminated by the posturings of the politicians and commercial sector. 

Woolworths pulled their 'Fresh in our memories' marketing campaign after it bombed on social media but they were too late - their attempt to use the Anzac spirit to sell groceries pushed me right over the edge. I no longer like Woollies and I am sick of nationalistic, jingoistic politicians. Birth of Australia indeed - go and read your history books!

One thing I do find interesting is the juxtaposition of the 100 year "celebration" of the failed Anzac landing and the rise of a new Islamic Caliphate. In a fascinating radio interview last night historian Malise Ruthven said that the Anzacs might have failed in 1915 but the Turks were eventually defeated and the result was the dismantling of the Caliphate ruled by the Ottomans. If Bush, Blair and Howard had read their history books they might have reconsidered their decision to invade Irak, but I bet they didn't know what a caliphate was. (Ruthven is a writer, journalist and historian and wrote Islam in the World, Fundamentalism: the Search for Meaning, and A Historical Atlas of the Islamic World.) It is a pity we don't hear more from historians instead of politicians on these occasions, which brings me back to why I am so over Anzac 'stuff' right now.

Link to a thoughtful article about present day Australia

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The wind is the scary thing

When a storm hits with cyclonic winds and heavy rain it is the wind that is frightening. It is so loud. I have read about wind noise but this latest storm was the first time I had experienced such strong winds.

Debris on the front lawn from the big gum tree..
 Finally the rain has stopped and we have been able to get outside to clear up some of the debris.The storm clouds still hover but the worst seems to be over.

The Hunter Valley just north west of here is flooded. Here is a link to a video taken by the Rescue Helicopter over the Hunter Valley .

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Subtropical temperate cyclone

Is this the new norm in our climate-changed world? Ferocious winds and driving rain, that's the NSW Central Coast right now. Trees being blown over or ripped apart, a hundred thousand without power, trains not running and people being asked to stay home if they don't have to be at work. This morning I had to mop up water driven in through closed windows, well around closed windows more accurately, by the gale force winds.
Add caption
The big gum tree on the street in front of the house has had several branches blown off. Falling branches make a sickening thud and I am almost afraid to look out the window to see if there is other damage when I hear one fall.

But I am counting my blessings as I still have power and the house is standing. The damage is very extensive right across Sydney and surrounds, with fallen trees damaging cars and homes, boats smashed against seawalls and, further north, homes swept away in floods.

I never discarded my yellow bike gear used in Hamburg and on days like this I am happy I still have it.  I used it to keep dry as I rescued the rubbish bins that had been blown over. The lids had been blown off them and clear across the street.The weather is still so bad I don't dare stay out for fear of more falling branches.

Yellow plastic rain gear
The weather bureau says we are in for another wild night. I am crossing my fingers that the big gum tree that has had several branches blown off stays standing.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Australia Piano Quartet pop-up concert

Thomas Rann plays Cello
Beethoven and Shostakovich string quartets played with such verve and aplomb that you really sit up in your seat. That is what the Australia Piano Quartet served up to their audience on Thursday evening's pop-up concert at the UTS Art Gallery.

The APQ are Ensemble in Residence at the University Technology Sydney and on Thursday they played with guest violinist Andrew Haveron who is concertmaster of the SSO and was previously with the Brodsky Quartet. I was one of the lucky 20 people to score a ticket and am enamoured with this group's passionate playing.

Andrew Haveron plays violin
They play a series of concerts at the Utzon Room of the Sydney Opera house and their next concert on May 10th.

See them if you can!

APQ Utzon Room concert, December2014

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Louis Lortie in Sydney

Louis Lortie plays preludes
If you had told me I would be listening to 57 preludes one after the other,  I would have thought you were joking, but yesterday evening that is exactly what happened.

The virtuosic French-Canadian pianist Louis Lortie played 9 preludes by Fauré, 24 by by Scriabin and then, after an interval, Chopin's series of 24 preludes including the well known Raindrop Prelude D flat major. Lortie was wonderful as you can hear in this sample  and I came away with a whole new feeling for preludes.

Lortie played for nearly two hours, often looking towards the ceiling as he concentrated on his inner music. As he stood to take his bows he looked rather shattered, as if he was still in the grip of the music. I thought it very gracious of him to sign CDs with such good humour before he had really had time to recover.

Watch Louis Lortie play Chopin Etudes (below):

Friday, April 10, 2015

Concert to commemorate the centenary of Gallipoli

Last night a concert of new works by Australian, Turkish and New Zealand composers was presented in the Paddington Church by soprano AyşeGöknur Shanal.

Ayşe won the Australian Singing Competition in 1998 and has won many national and international awards since. She is a passionate advocate of 21st Century music and this year she commissioned work by six composers which were presented for the first time last night.  Ayşe was accompanied by pianist Patrick Keith, himself an award winning accompanist. 
Composers Ross Fiddes, Diana Blom, Sylvia Rice and  John Wayne Dixon with
pianist Patrick Keith and Soprano Ayşe Göknur Shanal

It was fascinating having the composers on hand to explain their music, at least all but one, Erberk Erylimaz, who is currently in America but who wrote a stunning piece called Songs Against War that included voice sung into the piano which was quite extraordinary - you have to see it performed to appreciate it.

Below is a video in which Ayşe explains how she discovered her love of opera singing.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Rain rain rain

The rain just about washed away Easter on the Central Coast and I imagine many campers left early. The rose didn't seem to mind though. This is the little valentine's rose I rescued from Aldi in February when it was on its last legs. I re-potted it and it was so grateful it burst into mass of healthy foliage and produced 10 flower buds. Sydney is usually too hot and humid for roses but this one is doing fine.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Gallipoli: a homecoming

Oil on Canvas
51 x 76 cm
There has been a lot of talk about the Gallipoli campaign this year which is not surprising I suppose, since April 2015 is the 100 year anniversary.

When I began this painting I had not intended for it to be anything to do with war but the First World War took it over. I was unaware that I had been influenced by the general chatter about Gallipoli until it appeared in my work. It showed me just how influenced we are by our environment, even when we don't particularly take notice of it.

So I dedicate this painting to my grandfather Philip who fought with NZ troops against the Germans in WWI. He died of his war wounds sixteen years after the war ended and featured in my childhood as the father my mother spoke of who had died when she was fourteen.

The young man in the picture, a German citizen, is grandfather Philip's namesake and direct descendant.
NZ WWI  troops including grandfather Philip (top right)