Making Modernism and me

Art has the power to transform, to illuminate, to educate, inspire and motivate. Harvey Fierstein

I have to confess, the majority of my favourite artists are men. Is it because there are fewer female artists or is it, as is the case with sport, that female artist have not enjoyed the same exposure as male artists or is it simply a gross carelessness on my part not to delve deeper and wider? Perhaps a combination of all three. The work of performance artist Marina Abramović, painter Margaret Ollie, sculptor Louise Joséphine Bourgeois move me. I am surrounded by female artists, many colleagues and friends are fine artists, sculptors, glass blowers, performers and I own art work by female artists. Yet, male artists seem to gain much space on gallery walls, in print and media. So I was excited, though unsure of what I would see, when I went along to the most recent exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery. Making Modernism is a combined exhibit of works by three female artists – Margaret Preston, Georgia O’Keeffe and Grace Cossington Smith.

Preston and Cossington Smith are Australian and O’Keeffe, American. The gallery space was intimate yet displayed a generous number of works by each artist making for a unique and pleasing experience.

I felt an immediate affinity with Preston and a familiarity with her work that I realised came from having explored the same places, tended the same flowers and photographed the same bush flora she depicts in her art. I was propelled back to a childhood home that had tongue in groove walls when admiring a still life, I knew the texture of the wild flowers and banksias, and I was surprised to see a painting titled White and Red Hibiscus dated 1925. I recently discovered a white hibiscus plant, a colour so rare, even my grandmother, an avid gardener had never seen.

I felt a comfort in viewing her work.  It is immediately very Australian, not only in the subject matter but the restricted colour palette which closely resembles the colours chosen by indigenous Australian artists. Her woodcuts are absorbing, her still lifes strong and potent.

Moving into the space reserved for Cossington Smith’s work I was taken from a tryst in nature to a celebration of the urban environment. Her work is post impressionistic. Her use of colour is energetic and elicits emotion. On seeing The Curve of the Bridge and The Bridge in Building I recalled Ashley Hay’s The Body in the Clouds, a novel that explores three intertwined stories from different times on the site where the Sydney Harbour Bridge was built.

Standing back and surveying the works there are a strong reflections of Van Gogh and Cezanne in a distinctly Australian setting. The effect was transformative and surreal.

The landscapes of New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona fascinate me. I wish to explore and roam those places. A short time with Georgia O’Keeffe’s work strengthened that desire. I felt a strong connection with her,  not through a familiarity of setting as it was with Preston but sensing a shared love of and affinity with nature. O’Keeffe, like me, was pulled by nature. Her landscapes are expansive, luminous and evocative of place. Her flowers bring us in intimate closeness with nature. Having a habit of narrowing in with the camera I enjoyed Canna Leaves and Corn No 2 for the detail. I responded quite emotionally to many of her works. The flowers were pleasing, Pelvis a stark, compelling portal and Black Place, Grey and Pink caused a fleeting, wrenching despair, I felt drawn into the void.

Three distinctive styles, three incredible women, three strong artists.  This was an enriching exhibition, well worth a visit.

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Coastal walking, it’s gold.

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When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.  Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve been fortunate to visit several places by the sea of late and I’ve taken full advantage of these visits to indulge with morning walks along the shoreline as well as afternoon frolics. I find the energy of the ocean and a sandy beach satisfies the body, soothes the soul and clears the mind.  It’s hard for me to go long periods of time before returning for more.

After a particularly busy few weeks at work and finding myself unaccompanied for the weekend I went in search of a local walk. My objective was to get out into the fresh air, collect some geocaches and walk for hours. So I hopped onto the geocaching website and found a power tail, by the sea.

I should briefly explain what geocaching is and what power trails are. I was introduced to the world of geocaching about five years ago by my son. At first, I didn’t quite understand how it worked but I was soon hooked once I discovered the places it took me, that it involved getting outdoors and there was a little challenge built-in (I’m a sucker for a challenge). It ticked the boxes for a  fun pastime.

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See those little smiley faces? They represent the caches I found on my walk.

I describe geocaching as being like a treasure hunt. More officially, it is an activity or pastime in which an item, or a container holding a number of items, is hidden at a particular location for GPS users to find by means of coordinates posted on the internet. Once you find a cache you sign the logbook inside, get back on the net and log your find. This creates your personal tally. I have, to date, found 771 caches. Caches are hidden all around the world. A power trail is a path with a large number of caches placed within close proximity to each other. Power trails are a fun way to quickly increase your find count.

Back to my amazing discovery. I located a power trail of about 24 caches along the coast, an hour’s drive from home. Perfect! I packed a small backpack with hat, water, phone (to use the GPS system), pen to log caches, camera to snap the view and sunscreen. Then I was on my way.

The walk I completed is part of a longer walk referred to as the Oceanway which consists of 36 kilometres of walking trails and tracks developed by the Gold Coast City Council. These paths meander along the coast, the ocean is not always in sight but you can always hear the crashing of waves and smell the sea spray. I was delighted with this walk and would rate it as one of the best short walks I’ve done.  The walking path led me across sand dunes, through Casuarina scrub and along beachside board walks. Parts of the walk were quite isolated with little foot traffic, only the occasional bike rider and the beautiful melody of birds. It’s an easy walk along graded tracks and trails, perfect for families to bike ride along. I revelled in the variety, the seclusion to hunt for my caches and the space to clear my head without sharing the path with hoards of people. Though it was surreal at times to step out of scrub onto well maintained pathways fronting luxury accommodation and popular beaches. Despite the small sections of peopled track I was able to power along relatively unimpeded.

I am keen to return and complete the full length of the coastal walk to begin at the spit/ seaway and continue across the state border into New South Wales. It’s not a challenging walk in terms of gradient but it does satisfy my hunger to cover distance. I’ve long had my heart set on returning to Scotland and Cornwall to walk the wild and windswept coastlines. In the meantime, I can satisfy my heart’s desire to meander along the coast with this and a few other coastal walks I’ve discovered at home.

I thrive in the world’s wilderness areas and along her coastlines, the lure is almost primordial. Is there a place that calls to you?

 

 

 

Skylarking: a slow sweet Sunday

 

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I went to the bank and asked to borrow a cup of money. They said, “What for?”
I said, “I’m going to buy some sugar.” — Steven Wright

Last weekend I went on a sweet journey to sugar heaven.

It all began with my beloved bemoaning that the lolly shop, at the nearby shopping centre, no longer stocked a particular type of lolly. He calls them ‘talkies’. I know them as ‘conversations’. Do you know the ones? They are usually shaped like hearts, come in a variety of pastel colours. They’re a hard chalky lolly with little messages written on them. Sweet little messages like “I love you”, “You’re cute”, ” Be mine”.

Remembering a small advertisement I’d seen recently I suggested he try one of the confectionary warehouses.  A quick google search revealed that the one I had in mind did indeed stock these conversation candies, in varying weights from 300g to a kilo, all at very reasonable prices.  That little tidbit of information was filed away with only  a modicum of interest by my sweet toothed beloved.

Sunday morning unfolded in a relaxed manner with breakfast on the deck and reading the papers before I was very romantically invited to join said beloved on a trip to the hardware store; a date I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Having sated ourselves with our browsing of timber fence palings, posts and rails and with few other plans for the day,  I suggested we check out the candy warehouse.  There was some hesitation from my partner in crime as it required a jaunt across our fair city. Several moments later however we ventured out in search of (one of) his favourite childhood sweets.

The drab old warehouse gave nothing away as to the delights within. It’s exterior was dull compared to the bright and colourful interior. On entering the we were greeted by an enchanting bouquet that was akin to the joy of waking, as a child, on Christmas morning and seeing a well stocked Santa bag at the foot of the bed. It was heavenly.

We scampered about, aisle after aisle, oohing and ahhing and exclaiming “remember these”, “look at this”. We were surprised by the massive sizes of some packages and the wide variety of chocolates, lollies, nuts, and other products. Needless to say my offer to grab a basket upon entry, that was initially ignored, was soon accepted. My husband was like, well, a kid in a candy store.

As the basket quickly  filled  I heard cries of needing to rationalise the quantity of the selections already made. Before approaching the register, one lone kilo packet of jelly beans was left behind and we scarpered out the door with a year’s supply of  swagger.

As a non sugar eater myself, though I do confess to regularly having sweet cravings, I marvel that I  enjoy browsing lolly shops and bakeries without salivating. I did, however, make two small purchases; there was something for everyone. The  deal on cacao nibs drew my attention and I was overjoyed at finding my favourite decaf black tea, currently difficult to find elsewhere. We both left skipping with the joy of a fun purchase.

Hold the bells, I’m not advocating a diet high in processed sugar. Everything in moderation should always be the mantra, though I can’t say just how long this stash will last given the ‘healthy’ appetite for junk food my darling possesses.

Sometimes it’s the little things; like spending time together, making new discoveries and releasing your inner child that are the sweetest treats in life. How sweet does your weekend look?