Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Objects with stories

Jugs and glass:
from the objects with stories series
I once read about a newly-retired couple who disposed of everything they owned when they moved into a brand new apartment. The pictured apartment was one of those slick minimalist ones where anything 'old' might well have looked out of place, not that there was anywhere you could put objects anyway, even if you'd had them.

The article has stuck in my memory because it seemed as if they had disposed of their memories and I wondered if they (or one of them) might regret their decision. Then again, I have friends who lead minimalist lifestyles with no discernible negative effect.

I have never collected ornaments (too much dusting) but despite myself I have many memory laden objects. I didn't really notice until I moved to my new home three years ago and realised that the things that came with me all had stories. Objects without stories had been jettisoned along the way.

After my Mothers death in October 2013 I painted a colourful cup and saucer and a glass squirrel from her home. I think it was my way of dealing with the bereavement.  This 'objects with stories' series then extended itself to other things and yesterday I put some of the paintings from this series  online, together with the stories of the objects in the paintings.

Perhaps that couple I read about did store some precious pieces in one of the cupboards in their flash new apartment in case they ever wanted to take a peek into their own history. I hope so as I know how much I appreciate using things that remind me of their givers or of their previous owners.

Monday, July 20, 2015

MCA through new eyes

MCA 4th Floor Cafe
The Museum of Contemporary Art on Circular Quay in Sydney has hit a sweet spot. Since they abolished entry fees they have gone from strength to strength, adding a whole new wing in recent years.

I drop in often but until last week I had never ventured into their 4th floor cafe.

I was astonished at the view - it has to be one of the best public viewing platforms in Sydney, looking out over the opera house and harbour.

A statue of a child with ancient fish head sits overlooking the harbour. It is a definite 'must visit' on a trip to Sydney.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ravel, Ravel

I discovered on Friday at the ACO concert that Ravel's music puts me to sleep.  The concert was well played and well sung but pre-interval was all Ravel and I had difficulty suppressing yawns. I usually sit with baited breath in classical concerts and leave on a high that takes hours to recede, so it was a novel experience to hear classical music through other ears. 'This', I thought, 'must be what classical music sounds like for those who say they don't like it.'

After the interval Susan Graham sang Respighi and I am very glad she did as it was more dramatic and suddenly I was awake and listening properly to her beautiful voice. I would have like to have  heard more, but it was not to be, as a Piano Quintet by César Franck followed (which I also enjoyed).
Maurice Ravel

Ottorino Respighi
César Franck

I was a bit dumbfounded by my reaction to Ravel's music so I did a bit of research to see if it is a musical period that fails to inspire me. Ravel wrote in what is now called the Impressionistic period (late 19th, early 20th century) but Debussy is also an impressionistic composer and I like his piano tinklings.

Although I don't dislike Debussy's music I don't play it when I paint. Bach, Beethoven, Wagner or Britten's music are conducive to painting for me. There is something in the structure of the music that seems to help the painting process. I find Vivaldi and Handel neutral but I cannot paint to Mozart or Debussy. (Mozart's Idomeneo is the exception - I love the music and would happily paint while it is playing.)

There is a lot written about colour and what it does to our psyche; perhaps we need some scholarly articles about music and it's effect on our emotional balance as well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Yuja Wang in Sydney

Yuja Wang plays, Sydney Sept 2015
The pianist Yuja Wang is a phenomenon. I don't really know how else to describe her. 

The packed audience waiting in Sydney's Angel Place concert hall gave an astonished gasp as she appeared through the stage door. Out walked a beautiful young Chinese woman in a dress as slinky as I have ever seen on stage and very high platform shoes. Can this extraordinary person really play the piano? 

She gave a quick bow, sat down at the piano and from the moment she touched the keyboard we were in her hands. There was no question she could play, the only question was whether we had ever heard anything like her.

She played Scriabin and Chopin, then after the interval (in a different and equally stunning dress and ultra-high shoes) more Chopin and more Scriabin. She finished with Balakirev's Islamey, a piece which has the reputation of being the most difficult piece of piano music yet written. My seat neighbour told me that for this reason you often hear it at piano competitions. 

Wang played each piece as if the composers had written them just for her most amazingly competent hands. She confounded our expectations at every turn. The thing that made this performance even more exceptional was Wang's diffidence on stage. With her bobbed hair and open face she looked and acted like the teenage girl next door, bowing quickly and without artifice.

The audience was enthralled. After an extraordinary one and a half hours of playing she answered the applause with multiple encores. Not little short easy pieces but substantial works, mostly with a fun element, a bit of jazz or musical humour. 

We the audience were exhausted by the brilliance of the star. I must say that after this marathon performance she looked tired too .... although as soon as she sat for an encore the tiredness seemed to evaporate. As I left the hall I walked past the queue of people waiting for a signed CD. It stretched right along the entrance hall and into the street behind. People in the queue were telling each other that, yes, they might have to wait and hour but it was worth it. They wanted a physical memento of this extraordinary evening.