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Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

I am reading a book called “The Theory of Clouds” by Stéphane Audeguy. It is, like much of what I like to read, a mix of fact and fiction and focuses on a history of cloud watching.

A section of the book  tells the story of the painter Carmichael (supposedly based on John Constable) and his obsession with capturing clouds in paint. I had always considered Constable a painter of mills and bucolic settings, but you can see from this google search the extent of his cloud paintings, just a few reproduced here.

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The difficulty of capturing the cloud is discussed at length on “A Theory..” however now the camera captures clouds with more ease, which you see everywhere in photography from Aotearoa.

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Laurence Aberhart. Catholic Cross, Puketapu, Hawke’s Bay, June 1982

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Someone once gave me some very sage advice. “The things you have to work hard for are the best“. At the time I wasn’t very impressed with this, but actually it’s true, for me at least. Frequently I have to work hard* to attend things and today I dragged the family out early on a long promised outing, so I could make it home in time to get organised to go to a reading at Dead Soul Books.

These events always remind me how small Dunedin is and how good this can be. I turned up on my own not really expecting to know anyone except Dean Havard:- proprietor of Dead Souls books and also the man behind Kilmog Press. But as people arrived, it seemed like I knew nearly everyone. And the readers: Former Burns fellow, David Eggleton ; current Burns fellow David HowardLynley Edmeades, poet and one of the people behind Deep South. Dunedin is rich in the arts. The event was a launch for Vaughan Rapatahana’s books Toa and China as Kafka (a Kilmog Press book).

The setting was brilliant (Dead Souls is an atmospheric, old world bookshop), and the readings very good. I am sometimes wary of poetry, in fact I told someone at Dead Souls today that poetry makes me feel out of my depth. But I am a reader and consumer of poems. What I like is when a poem speaks to me, whispers in my ear, stays with me long after. Some times they reach out and grabs at me and today’s poems did that; Vaughan’s readings especially so. A poem from China as Kafka ‘At Waikanae’  described asa lovely, lyrical poem reminiscing about the teenaged poet and his cousin mowing the lawns at their urupa, tending the graves of their whanaunga. ” But it spoke to me of living and working on the Kapiti Coast, of the tangi and the urupa I encountered and the sadness. I felt homesick.

Rapatahana also read from his novel Toa “a road trip through the ‘skinny country’ where Mahon, an ex-university philosophy lecturer, and his gun ‘Molly’ blast their way across the country in a black Mark IV.” Now that’s a book you have to read – and I’m looking forward to reading my copy.

I often think of tribes (in a postmodern sense) as I move through life and especially at events like this. I’ve never quite found my tribe. There has always been a disconnect. Occasionally, like today I find myself on the edge of a group and think, “maybe this?” But mainly I think I live at the intersection of many – in that slim crossover area of a Venn diagram; a lost soul perhaps?

But did today’s poetry stay with me? Yes. Humming on the drive home and then while I cleaned out the rabbit hutch and I noticed how sweet the new hay smelled. It followed me to the supermarket and then while I folded the washing. And now while I write this…and that is all good.

Reading
Worst photo ever – David Howard, David Eggleton, Vaughan Rapatahana (and others) today at Dead Souls Bookshop

* It may not sound like work, but for me a trip to the public pools is like entering one of the seven circles of hell.

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I have a new job and a major difference from my old job is the lack of a uniform. This is NOT good. I loved my uniform. Not because of what it stood for but a) I suit navy and b) it meant I didn’t have to think about clothes.

I am not a fashionable girl.

In fact in times past when I haven’t had a uniform, I’ve adopted one. e.g. when I was a Mum at home with three small children – T-shirt and jeans. IT person (and cable fairy) jeans and shirts. So I’ve been pondering what sort of pseudo uniform I could have now and this got me thinking about uniform & designers.

Exhibit one: The Air New Zealand Trelise Cooper Uniform. Its ok. I guess it works. I am not a Trelise fan.  In fact I over heard a funny conversation the other day in an op shop.

Manager “What a hideous blouse”

Assistant “But it’s Trelise!”

Manager “I guess its marvellous then”

Much laughter

So sorry but my uniform won’t be Cooper, my needs are more practical, less flouncy. I guess that means Alexander McQueen is out. Now I have to say I liked Mr McQueen’s designs of old because…well…they were artful..but not really for me. But isn’t this lovely? Owes quite a bit to the photography but still…

But the whole McQueen continuum following his death is creepy and as well a US$300 skull scarf is not me; Kmart has cotton knockoffs for $5 and skulls have been so done …

Robert Mapplethorpe, ‘Self-Portrait’ 1988
Robert Mapplethorpe (1988)

The only thing I have decided I would wear daily, if it was acceptable, is not a sculptural Isabella Blow hat but this:

In fact I am making one.

I think the Amish, Mennonites are on to something. Although plain dress and other garb related to religious observance is often considered restrictive and sometimes a form of control, I personally can see immense freedom in it.

Bring me a uniform (or at the very least a shrubbery).

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Home again

We are going through the house hunting process for the first time. Anyone that has done this will know what a minefield it is. My advice so far – “trust no one”.

I suppose it one of those times where you really begin to understand deeply what you like, and what you can cope with. Compromise, patience and all those things that I am not good at come to the fore along with the differences between  you and any significant other involved.

For us, another complication is the very small catchment we are looking in. I’ve always loved mid century modern but no case book houses here. In fact my favourite New Zealand houses were designed by Ernst Plischke and the number of houses he built/designed in Mosgiel or even Dunedin = 0 (please correct me if I am wrong)

There was one, a late deco beauty but a tad out of our price range and we weren’t quick enough. Can’t find a pic online but the bathroom gives you the idea

bath

So I find I am all about character and gardens…..and that soul-less beige 90s – present day houses terrify me.

Actually this shouldn’t have come as a surprise as my latest online obsession shows. I have become a little addicted to Pinterest which is basically online old fashioned scrapbook (as opposed to craft scrapbooking *shudder*). What my Pinterest shows me over time is a fairly well rounded picture of my tastes. I haven’t included art much but over all I’d say it is very telling. There is probably psychologists analysing people’s profiles now. It might also prove to be a valuable relationship tool (if you both had accounts) instantly showing up ‘chalk and cheese’ situations.

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Random

My 9-year-old’s current favourite phrase is “random”…so here are some random photos from the last few weeks, art related and otherwise

Mao

Oh hai

 

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Playing “where am I?” on twitter while on a mini road trip – this town also served me a long black in a  bowl.

 

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At Queens Park Invercargill. Love how it is labelled like a specimen tree. I also liked it a lot.

 

 

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“art” sale

 

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How random is this? – Jack Kerouac with a cat!

 

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Museum of me

Any questions?

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A while back I posted about the old studio of Doris Lusk (and others) here in Dunedin. I don’t know why, although possibly due to my studio hunting back north, I thought I’d just walk in and the studio would be there, largely unchanged after 70 years. Well it wasn’t – although more intact than it could have been after such a long time.

Let me start at the beginning and clear up a mistake I made in my last post. The building is not an art deco one – the old lady has had a facelift along the way. The building was actually constructed in 1867 replacing a wooden structure that burnt down in a big fire that destroyed most of Princes Street. Tofields jeweller rebuilt a two-storeyed brick and stone building on the corner site. In 1873 Burton Brothers Photographers moved in, adding another storey and extending the building along Moray Place while the jeweller remained in the shop. Burton Brothers were one of the pioneers of photography in New Zealand and their alterations included one of the largest studios of the time[1], lit by huge skylight windows.

Burton Brothers were taken over by business partners Muir and Moodie in 1896 and the building became ‘The Great Postcard Emporium’ (see image below). The skylights and windows can be seen in this picture as well as the Victorian detailing of the building. Over time the postcard craze waned and the United Friendly Society Dispensary took over the shop on the corner while the studio remained active upstairs. The books Dunedin Then and Burton Brothers: Photographers by photographer and historian Hardwicke Knight have a great series of photos showing the evolution of the building to this point and details on the use of the building by Burton, Muir and Moodie – including the north facing roof being used for racks of printing frames.


Taken from Dunedin Then and Now by Harwicke Knight. Plate 19. (click for larger versions of all images)

Various photographers used the studio after Muir and Moodie. In 1937 the Stone’s Directory lists Crown Photographers occupying the studio floor[2] and in 1938 (in a lovely twist of history) the occupant is listed as Hamish Keith Photographer[3] – that would be Hamish Keith Senior.

During 1938 the studio was taken over by artist Max Walker and then Doris Lusk, Anne Hamblett (later McCahon) Dick Seelye, Mollie Lawn and Morris Kershaw. Curator and local historian, Peter Entwisle’s interviews with these key figures and others suggest that Rodney Kennedy, Patrick Hayman and Colin McCahon were frequent visitors to the studio[4]. During this period Lusk painted a portrait of Colin McCahon, seated at the windows and with the City Hotel in the background (no longer there) and apparently wearing Rodney Kennedy’s father’s waistcoat.

McCahon writes: “Doris Lusk. Portrait of C. McC. oil Unsigned & untitled. Late 30s in her Dunedin studio.Above U.F.S. Dispensary opposit City Hotel. c. 17 x 14 Blue Harris tweed coat by H.B. @ £3.3 (with pants)- waistcoat of R.E. Kennedy, Father- with turquoise blue spots”

The photo of Lusk in the studio under the ‘south lights’ was taken around 1940 when she held her first solo show in that studio[5]. The show was reviewed in the December 1940 issue of Art in New Zealand [6]. This group of artists seems to have moved out and dispersed after Lusk’s 1940s show and at the same time the building underwent some major changes.

There is some debate about when the building had its facelift, but in the Hocken Collections I found the Miller & White Architects’ drawings regarding the work dated 1940. Here is a before and after elevation showing replacement of the Victorian details with 1940 deco plaster work including the U.F.S. logo.

More plans dated 1945 show the removal of the skylights and windows, replaced with a new façade and windows to match the rest of the building and a change in roofline. The floor plans show the former studio area now converted to a storeroom with doors and walls re-arranged and that is how it has remained.

BUIDLING PLAN IMAGE REMOVED
(Hoping to get a much clearer image with permission from the Hocken Collections)

I took these next photos of the exterior building as it is now and the interior shot after the current occupant kindly showed me around. The wooden floor is original and two large skylights installed with the 1945 change in roof elevation remain. There are many details intact indicating former floor plans and Victorian ceilings and old fireplaces in some parts. The smell of incense has replaced any traces of turpentine or photography chemicals, and I found no paint splashes (as there are in Phillip Clairmont’s former Waikanae studio/garage) but the bones are there and the beautiful light makes it easy to imagine the former occupants…

My camera refused to take a decent picture inside the studio – ironic considering its former use.

A huge thanks to all who helped me along the way with this detective work (research) especially Peter Entwisle, Elizabeth Kerr, David Murray from the Hocken Collections and the staff at the McNab room of the Dunedin Central Library – and my Twitter followers.


[1] Hardwicke Knight Burton Brothers Photographers, John McIndoe ltd, 1980, pg 53
[2] Stones Directory 1937, Pg 99
[3] Stones Directory 1938, Pg 910
[4] Peter Entwisle Artists in Dunedin. Memorializing Places Associated with Artists in Dunedin for The Dunedin Amenities Society Inc. August 2005 (unpublished document)
[5] Lisa Beaven and Grant Banbury Landmarks: The Landscape paintings of Doris Lusk. Robert McDougall Art Gallery/ Hazard Press. 1996
[6] Art Notes Art in New Zealand. December 1940, vol xii, no 2 Pages 106-107

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