Asni: Multimedia Art & Design
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- In this newsletter:
- *** Living in the Wairarapa
- *** News and Current Projects
- *** Cool Things Friends Do: Back Home in Wellington ...
- *** Taranaki
Living in the Wairarapa
Now that I have achieved home ownership, life has begun to settle down again. I took a short break the week before my birthday and drove up to Taranaki for a few days (more of this below). It hasn't been much of a summer this summer, and if I thought the weather might be better on the west coast, I was entirely mistaken. I also found out that while my new old quality German tent (which I am very glad to have back) is satisfactorily storm resistant, it is not rain proof. At least not when there is a rain storm lashing down all night! Fortunately, I can always crawl into the back of my car instead. Still, I managed three nights camping this year – one better than the late summer holidays I've attempted to have the previous two years – but I suppose next year, I'll have my holiday earlier – or later in the year. Late February just doesn't seem to be the best time of year to go camping.
I was back in time to do some prodigious cooking and baking and house cleaning for my housewarming-slash-birthday party, and as usual, a good time was had with a few friends – it wasn't exactly the garden party I had planned, but by late afternoon, the sun began to show and one *might* have sat outside.
Work has picked up again – thankfully! – after the big slump in the second half of last year. I'm settling into a nice routine of small design jobs and website updates for my existing clients, with a couple of prospects for new projects, which may or may not eventuate. Online shop sales have quieted down after the holidays, of course, but I still get fairly regular orders for my sheet music in particular.
I am still busily programming away on the updates to my photography gallery, which when done, will hopefully generate a new income stream from online print sales. CD Baby pays me something like US$ 10 a month for my digital downloads with pleasant regularity, I still get offers to put corky links on my old web pages and be paid for it, and last week, someone called me up completely out of the blue about a harp gig. They heard from someone that there is this harpist in Featherston, and would I be available at short notice to play at a wedding down the road? Sure thing.
The gallery opening in Carterton, which I so grandly announced in my last, turned out to be less than a life changing event: Apparently, my offers of live music, and assistance with PR and promotion (all of it offered in the spirit of mutual support, and without asking for pay, mind you) only induced a major case of tall poppy syndrome in the gallery owner – expressed in what appeared to be some rather childish attempts to "put me in my place" – to the point where I've begun to seriously reconsider if I really want someone this unprofessional to represent and sell my artwork. Not to mention that the price tag on the sketches has come down to about a third of what was initially suggested (to where it really isn't so healthy any more), while the commision has gone up proportionally. I guess the latter was intended as a punishment for insisting on a proper contract. :rolls eyes:
In the end, I decided it wasn't even worth bothering to make a fuss, so I left them five out of the ten sketches I had prepared for display (out of the 20 or so the gallery owner couldn't make her mind up about), with a contract until June, at which point I highly doubt I will want to renew it. I certainly didn't insist on the offer to drag my harp over for the opening, which turned out to be a bit of a humdrum affair anyway. Everyone left half an hour before it was supposed to be finished. Even despite the free booze. :shrugs:
I may not be at a stage in my career as a visual artist, where I can be picky about galleries, but I have been around long enough as an artist, to know it just isn't worth it to try and work with types like that. No doubt there will be other opportunities. I surely can do better than this!
New artwork: Social Butterflies :: awkward social situations in the far, far future.
News & Current Projects
Speaking of opportunities: Wai Art Scape is a new initiative for members of the Wai Art Group (such as myself) to get their work "out there": I currently have Song in Green Sharp Major exhibited (and for sale) at the new Carterton Events Centre (where it harmonizes exquisitely with the colours and flowing lines of the interior design, I have been told) – and as soon as I have finished figuring out how to recycle a second hand frame I bought at the used furniture store for $ 20, my Autumn Still Life will follow suit.
Moreover, I have put in a reservation for a solo exhibition in December/January: The plan is to exhibited the Fantastic Journeys (aka Earthsea) series again, with the two new paintings I am still working on – or if I find enough time to paint this year, there might be an entirely new series altogether. It might be just the excuse I need to spend more time in the studio this winter!
My last assignment for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Art course has been featured on the London Art College blog – along with a bunch of the preliminary sketches I based it on.
My latest course work – "invent some Aliens" – turned into what might almost be the start of a picture book. Honestly, all I did was look at some macro photographs of insects and other small critters for inspiration, and somehow it turned quite naturally into a whole little story of social awkwardness in the far, far future. Guess I have a weird brain.
I was hoping to be able to include the next assignment I am working on in this newsletter, but have come to the conclusion that if I wrap up and send out this newsletter tonight, then I'll have ALL DAY TOMORROW to work on the assignment, which seems like an altogether better plan. My mom bought me a new (larger, and much improved) Wacom tablet for my birthday, and I can't wait to have a proper go with it. There is always next month's newsletter!
The study unit I am doing at the moment is "perspective" (dreaded, dreaded perspective!), and part of the task for the assignment was to make some sketches of houses, with proper regard to said perspective. After all the architecture sketching I did in Europe, I figured it might be time to pay some attention to what New Zealand might have to offer in terms of sketchable buildings. I also found out that yes, I do find proper technical perspective a bit boring. Much more interesting to pay attention to the intersecting and overlapping geometrical shapes of, say, a bunch of weatherboard villas in Seatoun! Less hyperrealism, more Paul Klee.
If this looks like a meager outcome for a whole month, I beg to be excused. I also wrote a song – or most of one, anyhow. It's a pretty groovy song, too (if I say so myself), though it still lacks some lyrics. I have a feeling that the next album is already well under way (I don't think I really get much of a say in this). I have a title for it already – and a prospective release date: sometime early 2018. That should give me a bit of time!
With a view to the vexed question of song lyrics, I have been working on my poetry skills. Here's my latest addition to the treasury of the English language:
Hair Cutting Blues
Woke up this morning, wanted to cut my hair.
Couldn't find my scissors, they just weren't there!
Looked for them in the office, looked for them in the kitchen --
now I have to spend another day with the hair all long and itchin'.
And yes, it is based on a real event! – Maybe there is a blues album in there? That would have to be the one after the next. :D
Now that my place is properly mine, the first thing I did was dig up some more of that lawn, and turn it into food production zone. The day of the settlement, I planted a couple of blueberries out in front of the house to celebrate the occasion, and followed up by transplanting the rather grumpy looking raspberry and red currant bushes I had previously hid away in an unobtrusive corner, to where they will receive more light, water, care, and much more attention.
The hazel I had for my Christmas tree the year before last, has now adapted itself to the windy conditions and has done a huge amount of growing and thickening this year. The companion plant I bought this Christmas, is still in a state of "being under the weather", but I have high hopes that it will pick up just as nicely next year. Remind me that I really need to construct some proper wind screens before the spring storms set in! Well – I got me a book on basket making from the library reject bin, and all the raw materials I need are the by-product of pruning my trees and hedges, and there is a long winter ahead to learn a new skill.
Part of this year's batch of homemade sauerkraut is home grown, and I've finally managed to grow a couple of cauliflowers that were big enough to be worth cooking. The broccoli and brussels sprouts have been suffering much from an invasion of caterpillars: next year I need to remember to put butterfly nets over them in good time!
The green beans caught rust and the crop was a bit disappointing, compared to last year, but I have definitely been able to increase the variety of my vegetable menu: peas and broad beans earlier in the year, a steady supply of leeks and some *very* tasty Lebanese zucchini, and carrots! I never knew what a carrot was supposed to taste like, until I pulled the first of my own out of the ground and took a bite. They've never been a favourite vegetable, but it looks like that might change! Then again, I never thought I would ever grow cabbage and make sauerkraut, out of my own free will.
The tomatoes have been very slow to ripen, what with all the rain, but are now coming into season. I am glad some of last year's "Russian Reds" decided to propagate themselves, though, because the "Moneymaker" seedling I bought this year (only because they didn't have another variety, the day I decided to buy my tomato plants) appear to be of the variety of the infamous Dutch tomato – no amount of loving organic home growing is going to grow taste into those buggers. Still, one can always cook them into pasta sauce.
The apple tree has decided to take a break this year, but instead, I'm harvesting a second crop of strawberries! New Zealand appears to have two official growing seasons, one in spring, one in autumn. I've noticed that before, but never as much as this year. Now if I can get all those red and black currant bushes to grow some berries next year, plus the new blueberry bushes, there will be one happy girl eating Rote Grütze.
My friend and fellow ex-Natcoll student Neerachar Sophol recently did a cover illustration for an issue of Massive, the Massey University student magazine. The issue contains an article by Jamie Christian Desplaces: Fracking: The Deeper You Dig, The Darker It Gets – which is a shining example of what journalism SHOULD be: namely, asking the right people the right questions, and not giving up until you got answers of some kind. And not shying away from publishing your findings, even if they do not cast a flattering light on the state of things in this great and bountiful nation. Even if they point out, in no uncertain terms, the dangerous incompetence and highly inappropriate "She'll be right" attitude of those New Zealand institutions whose job it should be to protect the interests of the wider public, not that of the international corporations with the deep pockets.
It is a highly recommended read! My only question is: why is this article published in a student magazine – not in the New Zealand Herald or the the Dominion Post? It puts most anything that passes for "professional journalism" in this country to shame.
I was in Taranaki recently. Funny thing is, I found myself hesitating to drink from the mountain streams up on Mt Taranaki, for fear I might catch some bacteria. Yet I trusted the tap water down at the camp site, just past the Shell processing unit near New Plymouth, which sticks out like a sore thumb in a country which otherwise has little heavy industry – and not far from what I now learn must have been one of the fracking sites. So much for "100% pure" New Zealand! Yeah, right.
Fellow Wellington artist Gary Peters, whom I have mentioned here a couple of times, recently completed his Master's degree at Massey University. I didn't make it into town to see his final exhibition, but fortunately he had another one coming up soon after at Enjoy Gallery on Cuba Street, so I went to the opening of that instead.
aaaGiLNrsty, as the name implies, is a joint exhibition put together by Gary, Nat(alie Ellen-Eliza), and Lisa (Martin). I hadn't met either of the other two, but I got to talk to Lisa at the opening and told her my interpretation of what I saw, at which point she got all enthusiastic and told me I should write that down. So I do. :)
I've been following Gary's work a bit, and I do read his newsletter, most of the time – so I knew that he has gone from painting on small pieces of canvas – which can be sold and shipped and exhibited and generally treated like one is used to treat a "work of art" – to painting directly on the wall of whatever space he has been exhibiting in. This, in effect, turns his work into a kind of "performance art": the work is only there for the duration of the show, afterwards it is ruthlessly painted over white, and all that remains are photos, and memories. As a performing artist, that's an approach I can absolutely relate to! His work thus becomes just about as ephemeral as a musical performance, which only exists in the moment of its happening. Or used to, before they invented sound recording!
Turns out the other two artists share that ephemeral approach. Walking into the gallery on the day of the opening (having been provided with a glass of water and a smaller glass of Scotch by the young lady at the drinks table, which, I soon realized, was surely an essential part of the experience) – the first thing I thought (and I am sure I was not alone) was: Where is the artwork? For I was looking at what seemed to be a room with empty white walls.
Gary's mural was snuck away high up in a corner, in the space where wall joins ceiling. You had to look around for it, rather than having your nose pushed into it, as one would in a traditional art gallery setup. Nat's was equally modestly placed close to the floor: an installation of six black and white sketches, each taking up a small fraction of an A4 sheet of paper, of what looked like bits of topography, or perhaps they were dry leaves, or feathers. They might blow away any instant.
Lisa's work I had been walking across ever since I ascended the stairs up to the first floor, where the gallery is located, without even noticing it: it was just an ominous line of silver foil on the floor, the kind of line you see in museums, where it marks the minimum distance you are expected to keep from the precious works of art, so as not to set off an alarm. Or it might have been a guide to find the way down the stairs in poor sight conditions, in case of emergency. It didn't just divide the floor space of the main gallery into two uneven parts, it sprawled merrily up the stairs, and out the window on the other side, creating some sort of psychological guide or warning sign or barrier, which people might choose to interact with, or not.
It seemed to me that the people at the opening, with their glasses of booze and their gallery opening talk, where an absolutely essential part of what was going on. I have never really been "into" the highly conceptual side of art, but I could dig out some analogies with certain types of 20th century "serious" music, where the audience, and the process of presentation, become an integral part of the performance. Not something I necessarily expected to encounter in a gallery off Cuba Street, I might add! It almost made me a bit homesick, for my early student years in the mid-1980's (before I got involved with the early music stuff), when I was trying very hard to develop a taste for these things. Very 60's, I thought. Quite nice someone is still doing that – or doing it again.
I chanced to talk to Lisa, just because I happened to sit next to her on the windowsill, and she told me that the line on the gallery floor was not dangerous, but the lines extending out the window and down the fire escape, definitely signified "danger zone". I told her about the other thing it reminded me of: It made me think of the unobtrusive line of cobblestones in the street asphalt near Brandenburg Gate, which marks the place where the Berlin Wall used to stand. It seemed to chime with Gary's work, which might evoke a city skyline: Surely the painting went on behind that white gallery wall, and what you saw were just the top bits peeking out. "There you go, I interpreted your whole show for you" I said, apologetically, but she told me I should definitely write that down. So I do. I guess this is now also part of their happening. :D
I hadn't been to Taranaki for the last five years or so – not since the last time I was at the Parihaka Peace Festival, in 2007. I did get the Mountain tattooed on my shoulder, at the first Parihaka festival, so I thought it was about high time to pay it another visit! It seemed like a good destination to spend a short break in late summer: not too much of a drive, and beaches and mountain walks both to be had.
First, however, I headed up Route 52 again, and just like two years before, by nightfall I'd got as far as Porangahau, a small place on the coast about halfway between Masterton and Napier. At least, this time I knew where the campsite was! – The next day dawned bright and sunny, but this being the first day of my break, I slept in, then lazed around until well past noon. By the time I got down to the beach, the weather was starting to cloud over. I had a brief splash in the waves – it was entirely too wild for a proper swim – and then decided to head up further north in search of better weather, and a more suitable swimming beach.
I didn't find the better weather, so I reverted to plan A and took the small road from Napier across to Taihape, put in a long drive, and pulled up at the roadside campsite in Hawera at about a quarter to midnight. I'd set my sights on spending a couple of nights at Opunake, easily the best swimming beach that side of the mountain. It's less than an hour's drive from Hawera, but when I got there just before noon, the camp warden told me I was too early to book myself in! This has got to be a first. Instead of insisting on staying at their overpriced campsite run by a bunch of completely anal people, I just went for a swim instead – parking and changing facilities are all available for free. Then I drove inland, to spend the afternoon walking on the mountain.
The shortish hike I set out for turned into a rather lengthy one: the walk I chose followed the tree line, more or less, and provided views of the mountain top, without ever really leaving the shelter of the bush. Before I knew it, I found that I had hiked round the mountain top all the way to the head of the next access road! It was cloudy, but beautiful walking weather, and there just isn't anything quite like the bush up on the slopes of Mt Taranaki. On the way back, I rested at a place where there is a mountain stream coming down from the top, forking into several branches, and filling the forest with water sounds. I could have stayed there for days.
By the time I got back to the car, it was only an hour or so until sundown, so I thought I'd better find myself a place to stay the night! It was just enough time to drive up to the coast north of New Plymouth, where I remembered a rather scenic campsite at Urenui Beach. After sleeping the previous two nights in the back of my car (in perfect comfort, I might add), this time I decided to pitch my tent ... bad choice. By the time I had set myself up, and eaten my dinner, the wind was coming up and a rain was coming down, and it got worse all night. I didn't get a lot of sleep, what with the wind shaking my tent, and sometime in the wee hours I realized that I was lying in a good sized puddle. I would have been perfectly dry and comfortable in the back of the car ... next morning, I found out that my clothing bag had also been sitting in the puddle of water all night. Ah, the joys of camping.
O well, I thought, I've had my swim, and I've had my mountain hike, so what else is there to do in Taranaki? Might as well be on my way back, then – and sleep in a dry bed tonight!
There were a couple more things I did want to do, though: One reason I had decided to drive up as far as Urenui, was that the area around New Plymouth had been used for filming The Last Samurai, and I wanted to get some photos to put on my website, along with the Lord of the Rings filming locations. And I wanted to do a sketch of one of the beautiful Art Nouveau houses I had seen in Manaia, where I had stopped for lunch on the way up. But I could easily do those things, and still sleep in a dry bed in Featherston that night! Driving back via Wanganui and Palmerston North, rather than the long way I had come, would still give me the whole day to hang around in Taranaki.
My search for any identifiable filming locations wasn't successful (this may be partly because I have seen the film in question only once, and have hazy memories), but instead of driving back on the Surf Highway along the coast, I took the small inland road west of the mountain, which is not only a much more beautiful drive, but also considerably shorter. I soon forgot about filming locations – I got lost in taking photos of that fairytale green rolling hillside country entirely for its own sake. There are plenty of traces of old settlements and terraced fields there, and I drove past Parihaka, nestled somewhere close by in those pretty green hills.
I even had time for another swim at Opunake, before I stopped by in Manaia again, ordered some fish and chips, and photographed the whole town in the time it took to cook my dinner – then I settled down for my sketch.
Tiny as it is, Manaia has an imposing Art Nouveau post office, a "world famous in New Zealand" bread manufacture, and a local hero: George the dachshund, who "gave his life protecting children from two savage dogs", as it says on his monument on town square. That's a form of hero worship I can relate to! :)
The sketch accomplished, I headed back south. If I had any thoughts of camping out another night, a short detour to Patea Beach, where I could hardly step out of the car because of the strong wind that was blowing in from the sea, convinced me that if I wanted storm, I could have that back in Featherston, too.
Arohanui, from Asni