Archive for June, 2008

This thing in the mirror

I have been thinking today about self-portraits – mainly because I was trying to take a photograph of myself for a bio which was rather unsuccessful. I don’t think I’d like what I saw no matter what and the camera shows all those little things that the eye/brain connection can blank out. I think when you look at yourself intently it also can bring around the clash of the inner and outer worlds. Personally in my head I will forever look 20, but the truth is, that page has long since been turned. It is indeed a case of “This Thing in the Mirror

Also I got news of someone flying up from Christchurch to see the Rita Angus exhibiton that opens at Te Papa this coming weekend (now that is an opening I’d love the opportunity to go to). Rita of course was a master self-portraitess and I think we get a glimmer of her inner world in these works.

Oddly the self-portraits I love are of/by women – Frida Khalo, A Lois White, Jacquey Fahey for example. Perhaps women are overly judgemental of themselves? I like to think of it as a form of self analysis which makes the pictures all the more intriguing.


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A Poem

I was rummaging though my things looking for something today and in side an old choclate box (how clichéd!) I came upon a yellowed bit of note paper with a poem on it given to me by an American friend probably 15 years ago. I did not find what I set out to, but I found what I was looking for.

Like You

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.

I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.

Roque Dalton

El Salvadoran poet, murdered 1975

I believe this is a photograph of Neruda and Dalton (correct me if I am wrong)

EDIT: This is not Neruda, but Miguel Angel Asturias, guatemalan writer and Nobel Prize winner.

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The Audubon Notebook

Let me tell you a story. In October last year I ventured out to the Annual Lions booksale in my area. I had a $10 budget and I think I did really well. I am always on the lookout for…the quirky. In my browsings I picked up “The Audubon Notebook: An Illustrated Journal with Space for Notes” that was filled with handwritten ‘poetry’ scribed in fountain pen. I could not resist. It also had a pink flamingo on the cover which I have a special penchant for. I had a quick flick through and then put it on my bookshelf where it remained until a few weeks ago.

So recently I got the book out and unstuck the first couple of pages and I found the following inscription “The Way of Life, according to LaoTze. Translated by Walter Bynner. Lyrebird Press” – well doh! and wow!. It appeared just at the right time as well.

I have a liking for botanical/natural images although I squirm a bit at Audubon (maybe because they are so widely reproduced). However it all came together in this little book. The final page reads “To love a person is to/ let them Be and and allow/ the Tao to take care of/ them. Non interference”.


“existence is beyond the power of words”

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It really has been an odd few weeks (months?) and to have sudden realisation and clarity can be a bit of a shock to the system. Wake up call even…

Today I have been on the receiving end of “a bad review”. I have been doing a writing course to fill in some time and the marker on my latest efforts has bought me back to earth with a bit of a crash. Not a bad crash, but a great lesson on reviewing and being reviewed and thankfully not cutting in a CK Stead kind of way. However I shall in future try not to be so flippant in my opinions here now that I partially understand the effect!

Also another sharp reminder of how small NZ is generally and hence the art world village here came today when in my internet art searches I came across a ‘new’ artist doing interesting stuff and then found they had a very personal (if once removed) connection to me. It was quite startling and because of the connection I can’t quite bring myself to “showcase” the work here. Life is so complex! It reminds me of a hospital administrator who once said “it would all run so much smoother if there were no patients”.

Enough of my day of personal revelations. How about “we need more happy art” as a discussion topic? Don’t you find a lot of art is very serious, stark and angst ridden? Full of deep half-hidden meanings and symbolism and dark thoughts and concepts? Then when something with a bit of humour arises, it’s dismissed as flippant or lightweight? So what about this then (from an artist)

Art that makes you HAPPY. Not just art with deep meaning. If it brings you joy when you walk in the door, brings you a smile when you’re down, I’ve made something so much more meaningful. I’ve given you something to bring you life! We can’t be serious all the time. We cannot bear the weight of the world on our shoulders 24/7.”

Lastly this art (design/fashion statement) should NOT make me happy – but it does…

Who Killed Bambi?”

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For the first time I am tempted to use my blog in the cuttingly efficient (and amusing) way that Cactus Kate does. However I won’t, mainly because the person in question probably doesn’t even read this. Good things come from bad though including discovering a lovely poem that sums it up called “Waiting“. A friend once told me that everything has already been said in a song lyric – I add to that “or a poem”.

I have decided that changing my reading may help navigate a way through my current personal morass so I took all my books back to the library this morning, incuding the masses of unfinished ones, and got some fiction out. I am not a big fiction reader but maybe something a bit lighter is in order. Its like needing to watch (a good British) comedy after a long meal of documentaries. My fiction list is embarrassing though so don’t expect to see it here.

On a more artistic front I have been asked to comment on A. Lois White and Ralph Hotere. I am no art historian but in my internet wanderings I found these two items which probably capture some essence of the artists.

I do love his stuff – espcially the corrugated iron work (it resonates!). However Over the Net today mentioned “The elephant in the room” in Alan Smith’s words on Song of Solomon and the absence of reference to McCahon – maybe it was assumed? Anyway in other works not so obviously paying homage there is a kinship which I like.

Song of Solomon

A. Lois White
White’s work is generally a little too ‘graphic’ in style for me but I love stories (and storytellers) and this one struck me.

“In 1975 the Wellington dealer Peter McLeavey called at the Blockhouse Bay house White shared with her sister. He was greeted by an artist who thought of herself as ‘old fashioned’. Many of her early compositions were stacked in her studio and garage. In 1977 McLeavey organised White’s first solo exhibition and brought her work to the attention of the galleries and collectors. She was 74 years old.”

Nude at Easel – Self Portrait (circa 1935)

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Solution to the quiz

I forgot to post the answer to my little photo quiz. The prize was to have been a real crystal set

Crystal radio kitset.

But the answer was…The site of Rita Angus’s parent’s home at Waikanae.  Angus completed several major works here including “Rutu” (which was begun much earlier though). Many beautiful  and detailed botanical watercolours came from her time here. A major Angus exhibition opens at Te Papa July 5th and runs through until October and shows over 200 works.

EDIT: I have to confess the location in the aforementioned photo is incorrect and NOT the site fo the Angus home in Waikanae

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At a distance

In grey winter days – what art is there unless you seek it out? It is times of “art is where you find it” but sometimes you need to dig deep. A friend describes hanging his surfboard on the wall as art, I find favourite paintings on book covers ( including Agnes Wood’s “The Committee”) and beauty in nappies flapping on the line. Other friends use the weather to stay inside and craft and make art industriously. The children make play dough art which I then have to dig out of the carpet….

In the big world, grumbling continues about the NZ Venice Biennale presence and CNZ, and the Montana books which all seems so distant while I struggle to write or finish anything I start to read (the library fines are building up). So this is writers block huh…?

Winter maybe is a time for quiet contemplation, but I can do without the existential angst!. So something to contemplate.

Rain – Hone Tuwhare

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