From the last post
a) Lauris Edmond
b) Rita Angus
c) Janet Frame
Today I had cause (or perhaps just the time) to consider the difficulties of being mother while retaining some space for myself to pursue my interests. It has struck me that perhaps I need to scale back what I want to do and accept that my world is smaller just now. After all – I chose to have the kids.
Things that make this difficult are the awesome women I know and read about who have or are combining motherhood with creativity. Some stories make me intensely annoyed as their reflections simply don’t ring true to the realities of being at home with little children. Others are more inspirational such as Rachel Power’s (I don’t think it’s that one) book , The Divided Heart, and remembering that Patti Smith was Trisha for a time.
Sometimes I think I should can this blog and the ‘net in general and stick to my knitting (or sewing in my case) but I don’t want to put it all on hold while my family grows up. So I keep studying and writing and looking and noticing and making plans.
On the art front today I popped in to De Novo Gallery to see the Ivan Hill exhibition although I knew it probably wouldn’t be my thing. I found it disconcerting seeing Ralph and Jeffery with the mermaids too (Ralph Hotere as a pirate, Jeffery Harris, as his first mate). A review can be read here. However, later it did spark an intersting discussion about the two sides to the mermaid myth. One a male fantasy of the woman who can’t walk away and the other, the siren, the unobtainable woman, the woman’s woman.
I have also been thinking more about the Arts and Literature Heritage Festival. Although rich and full of great events I do wonder about those absent in a literary sense. What of Baxter and Frame for example?
Basil Dowling, James K. Baxter, Charles Brasch. c.1966-67 (Hocken collections)
Woohoo – we have broadband. It only took 19 DAYS!!!!
Anyway – dialup has been keeping me off line and I’ve also been doing a lot of exploring of our new area with the kids and filling in the school holidays. A reader sent me a link to a survey that rates Dunedin as the best city to live in, in NZ – based on some different variables than usual (thanks Giovanni). I have to say I am falling for the city, every time I venture in there is something interesting, surprising and quirky to see. The survey says “The arts made a strong contribution to community strength and identity with Dunedin’s culturally rich and diverse arts scene.” and so far I’d agree.
Mosgiel is a different kettle of fish. However I’m not going to knock it even if the street we are in could well be Kowhai Street from “The Carpathians”, in fact there are a lot of parallels between Mosgiel and Levin. I did choose a house in a 1940s/50s brick and roughcast era and many of the homes have original features such as windmills, wishing wells and house butterflies. I don’t mean in a cool retro chic kind of way either. We are talking older owners with gardens full of roses and dahlias. I actually quite like it though – especially now that I have located good coffee in the town.
What do you think though – do we need a butterfly?
And yes it is possibly unwise posting a pic of your house on the net.
EDIT: Please note I did NOT take this photo – its from Google Street View
My dear friend Helen came around today to help me separate emotion from inanimate objects. It was very ‘cleansing’ and we managed to get rid of heaps of stuff*. However at one point, looking out my front window onto the 1970s beige neighbourhood, she said something like “you really are deep in suburbia here…”
I have just re-read Janet Frames “The Carpathians” and have decided it captures suburban gothic very well. This is also funny because of Helen’s recent birthday trip to Levin where the book is unmistakeably set. Frame’s snapshot of Kowhai Street is so real that the unusual events don’t seem so unusual, and knowing Levin well myself, quite believable.
So it was serendipitous that the book Gothic NZ arrived from the library today. A great essay by Mischa Kavka “Out of the Kitchen Sink” completely encapsulated the feeling of darkness hidden behind closed doors. The book as a whole is pretty good but certain parts really capture the curious suburban gothic that I keep running into and also how gothic tendrils extend out into the countryside. There were also various examples of NZ art with a similar tone including Yvonne Todd’s photos, working “a fine tension between the conventional and the creepy“. Maybe I am reading it wrong, but I’d put a great deal of Ronnie van Hout’s work in this category as well.
Of course our film-makers do a good line in gothic too. A funny moment this morning was when going through my old my tramping gear, Helen and I both exclaimed “Vigil!” as I pulled out a large green woolen balaclava.
Still from Vincent Ward’s film “Vigil”
*However it has left me very tired and probably not making a lot of sense
There has been a lot of talk on blogging lately in literature. It was a big topic in the Q&A part of Martin Edmond’s reading I attended at Massey and it was also the subject of one of the sessions at the recent Christchurch Writers Festival. So I was thinking of the writers I’d love to read if they had a blog – a bit like those “ultimate dinner party guest” questions. Almost instantly I thought of Gregory O’Brien and David Eggleton.
And then today I found (again via Graham Beattie’s blog) Greg O’Brien’s reflections on New Zealand arts and letters from this year’s Janet Frame Memorial Lecture. It is a wonderful piece of writing (read it!!) and there are so many bits I could quote but one section talked of the reasons that perhaps I thought of the two writers above “For better or worse, I have spent most of the last twenty years happily sitting on the fence between visual arts and writing, trying to keep up with the traffic both ways. ” – a mirror of my own interests.
Another thing which I found interesting and inspiring was “Ezra Pound once said to the young critic Hugh Kenner, ‘You have an obligation to visit the great men [and women] of your own time.’ “ and O’Brien’s talk of visiting with some “big names” but he “never thought of those authors as the Establishment—they were living ingredients that Literature had passed down to my generation“. So I’ve been thinking it would be good to talk to artists some more. After all, I’ve found my discussions with writers to be ‘soul food’. and as O’Brien writes “Literature is a life lived”
And now of course I am musing about the ultimate New Zealand Arts and Literature dinner party (limit 8 guests). Suggestions of past or present participants in the comments would be great fun.
With all the news about the government buying back the trains it has brought back a lot of memories of my train hopping days including middle of the night awakenings on a freezing train at National Park as passengers boarded. But its made me think how quickly things have changed. Its within my memory that long journeys were undertaken by train rather than plane or car. I am all for the government buy-back, except the food on the ferries did improve with the company in private hands.
So it brought me to two paintings of train stations. I have no doubt there is more and probably quite well known rail associated art but these two leap to mind. Firstly, of course Angus’ Cass. There are several interesting points about this, one being that it has been reinterpreted or re-viewed by several other NZ artists including Dane Mitchell (a rubbing of the sign?) and in photography by Peter Peryer. Here is another example.
Cass8/10 (1986) Julian Dashper
Also some time back it was voted New Zealand’s Greatest Painting. I don’t agree, however I wouldn’t know even where to start with what is the greatest.
The other painting is very similar in that it depicts a small rural station. It also brings to mind my Grandfathers’ Tokanui run and the Frames at Glenham. The railway is obviously entwined with our literature as well. In fact last year I visited the lonely little station at Seacliff so poignantly described in many books by Janet Frame. Anyway back to the painting – Wedderburn by Grahame Sydney. This is a photo of the building which has been put back (re-relocated?) where it used to be on the (now) Central Otago rail trail.
All the political angst (including the trains) because its election year is getting to me. I am watching the Charles Bukowski documentary just now “Born Into This” and I found this from “Dinosauria, We”. Kinda says it all… (Bukowski was a postman for a while too by the way)
Born like this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes”
I’ve been reading “Towards Another Summer” by Janet Frame (posthumously published) and I am surprisedly impressed. It is easier reading than some of her other novels and is an intriguing ‘alternate reality’ of material found in her autobiographical works. I keep finding phrases and paragraphs I want to write out and keep. For example (and particularly relevant to my situation):
“Ah, if only she lived for ever in a world of correspondence, writing (she thought) daring, imaginative, witty letters that revealed nothing of her social stupidity!”
Any one who has actually met me in person would probably confirm that :-) Maybe its a little true of some other bloggers..?
The posthumous thing concerns me. All the material that comes out after someone has died. Well I guess it doesn’t worry them any more but there could be many reasons why people don’t put everything out into the public eye – especially if it just wasn’t good enough. Don’t know too much about this where artists are concerned, apart from stories of the reverse where major works have gone missing, but I am certain it has happened. All those studies and trial pieces (and shopping lists) out there being displayed and/or auctioned off.
EDIT: Here’s an example. Dmitri Nabokov, son of Vladimir, has decided to publish The Original of Laura, the novel his dying father commanded be destroyed.
Actually the shopping list thing could be very funny/revealing. I was standing in line at the supermarket the other night with some ‘out of place’ stylish looking people in front of me and I started comparing the contents of our trolleys. I won’t bore you with the details (although I didn’t have any Whitestone brie in mine, mores the pity) but I am sure it could be configured into a semi-reliable form of social identification. These people looked more ‘buyers’ really, as there are some who imply that the shopping trolley of a true artist would contain only bread and water (or maybe cheap red plonk). Of course this could all be judgemental crap from a bored housewife.
And so, true to form I bring you ‘Supermarket art’
Sainsbury’s and Arts Council England have teamed up to produce limited edition re-usable shopping bags designed by well-known artists. The three new reusable shopping bags feature specially commissioned work by artists Michael Craig-Martin, Anya Gallaccio and Paul Morrison.
Richard Lea writes “But maybe it’s something about the way the project is literally cheapening art. Maybe it’s the prospect of self-satisfied shoppers loading up their Chelsea tractors with a bunch of original Craig-Martin’s, consciences duly salved. …How about a Warhol-esque portrait of French anti-globalisation protester José Bové instead? Or deserted high streets in the manner of Dorothea Lange? Or a Goya-style watercolour of workers at a Kenyan bean-trimming plant? “
And just on the shopping theme I am considering buying a light wedge. Any one got any comments on these?