May 28, 2011

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky
I heard a voice within the Tavern cry,
"Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry."

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted -- "Open then the Door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more."

(Fitzgerald Translation)                  

Did I ever tell you about my friends Bob and Siggy? I had the honour of having Bob as my painting teacher at college for four years.

Bob and Siggy are artists.

Artists in that they are both amazing painters. Siggy has just been in shows in New York and Tuscany. She starts painting in her studio at 8 am and finishes at 2 am. Every day. She paints large paintings that seeth with her own personal iconography. Her icons, mysterious and animalistic, are to her paintings like the aphabet is to a writer.

Bob on the other hand is a draughtsman like no other. His pen and ink work is wonderous, his water colours are .... are ... ahh how do you describe a watercolour that in one passage has all the resilient glow and beauty of the best  of traditional water colour then suddenly slides off the paper into an abstract swirl of Turneresque etherealness....  Think Modigliani meets the fauvista Andre Deran. But better. 

It's silly trying to describe paintings eh? Maybe I should just say that the Queen of England has the good taste to have one of Bob's paintings in one of her palaces.

So what's this have to with the Rubaiyat?

Driving along the beach drive, on the way to dinner the other night, my friend Bob looks up at the night sky and sprouts the first verse of the Rubaiyat. Well how beautiful are those words eh? And I had never heard them spoken aloud. I, supposedly an educated man! Obviously I am not.

I was astounded. Speak that first verse aloud the next time you see the first star in the twilight sky and you'll see what I mean.

Though I did not deserve the honour, I'm proud to say that I was in a show with Bob and Siggy a few years ago. You can see some of my paintings from the show here  if you ever wondered what my traditional landscapes look like. There's some reviews at the bottom of this post.

I don't get a chance to brag much :) But as the next stanza suggests, life's short. Thank you for reading!

Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.

May 26, 2011

Soaking off Grim Island

Caption: Top image: 'final image', second image 'halfway through post work', bottom image: 'pure render image w ithout post work'

Okay, sorry to be away so long: Ugh.

Without further ado I'd like to state that my real reason for being away from my blog is:

a) I fell overboard (port side)  from my yacht 'Reginaldus Rogerina.III" and was eaten by a baby Blue Ringed Humpback whale who mistook me for a giant cooked prawn (I was sunburnt). I was only released after eight non stop hours of  singing Barry Manilow songs at the top of my voice.

b) I've been holding my breath taking part in the World Breath Holding Championships off Tahiti and came second with a time of eight hours, seven minutes and twelve point 2 seconds. Part of my prize was to act as a human bean bag at the following week's Sudoku wrestling championships.

c) I had my finger stuck in the tap and couldn't get it out till the local green grocer got in a supply of Aldo Moro Cold Pressed First Virgin Olive Oil from Mt Ararat..

d) I was kidnapped by some sardine eating Tasmanian terrorists wearing black pantyhose on their heads (the kind with the sexy zipper seam at the back of the leg). 

e) I have been making a book that I actually finished.

f) I was mistaken for Barak Obama and locked away on a desert island by a bunch of  deprived and depraved echidnas looking for a fun time and the answer to the riddle of the Spinx: ("What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?")

g) I was arrested for misspelling both 'handkerchief and 'miscellaneous'  in one sentence. (The old fat man sat on the small thin boy to make sure that he couldn't escape with the pale green handkerchief and the other miscellaneous frippery.)

h) all of the above.

Sorry, that's enough miscellaneous frippery for one post.....

 To be honest I was lucky enough to be included in an Artists's Book Exhibition which opens on 11th June here in Newcastle. You can see part of my work here. It's about Fairy Tales in the modern world with specific emphasis on feminine stuff that I don't understand ....

Just kidding. To quote from the official site: 
An exhibition of artists’ books at the John Paynter Gallery, Friday 10th – Sunday 26th June 2011, and Artspace Mackay, Friday 22nd July- Friday 28th October 2011, curated by Caelli Jo Booker and Helen Hopcroft.
The exhibition is conceived as an interdisciplinary collaboration between artists, writers and craftspeople invited to work together to create handmade books which explore female narratives within the fairytale genre.
While the classic fairytale ending ‘happily ever after’ envisages a single, finite destiny, the contemporary feminine experience encompasses a multiplicity of roles, expectations, endings, beginnings and relationships. Thus the exhibition theme is probably best conceptualised as a celebration of diversity within destiny, with the fairytale genre used as the narrative vehicle to explore this idea. 
I started work on the book two months ago. It's an accordion folding book. And it's now longer than my living room (about twenty metres plus). I've also adapted it for the Blurb format  and it's come out at 74 pages...... I never know when to stop.

But one of the items in the show is to illustrate a specific scene in a book named Cape Grimm.
So the top image illustrates a moment where the "Holocaust Preacher is Taken by Giant Squid."
I made it this morning in between scrubbing the kitchen and ironing my shirt for work - so it needs some fine tuning especially round the thighs/legs where they are vanishing into the darkness.

The other scattered images are part of the finished work. With thanks to some of my friends. You know who you are! :)

Thanks again for looking at my work and your patience with me.

May 1, 2011

Cinquième leçon: Où est le cochon?

When I was a kid at school, for some unearthly reason, I signed up to study French for four years.

For Australian school boys with strong Ocker accents in the 70's, studying French was an 'interesting' experience - to say the least.

Without French movies available on television, and having no 'real' French people to emulate,  none of us had any idea what a French person was supposed to sound like - and so, instead of practicing rolling our 'r's we spent most of our French class time drawing surfboards - de planches de surf.

Consequently, at the end of four years study, we weren't exactly fluent. I guess the best way to sum up our 'intimidating' grasp of  French is to describe our French teacher's face as he listened to our final Oral exams.

Our French teacher's name was Mr Pierre d'Gorgonzola. He was a Francophile genetically and emotionally. He believed in whistling La Marseillaise while walking both up an down the school corriodors, while doing playground duties and, I have heard from a good source, while visting the rest room with a certain Miss Gerdenhymen.

Apart from his musical tastes and a box shaped head of  Asterxyian red hair, Mr d'Gorgonzola possessed a robust French nose.

And what a nose! Even to an Anglophile like myself, it was a magnificent nose (un nez magnifique!).  It was a nose that had all the jutting pride of the Eiffel Tower, the phallic elegance of the Concorde jet, and the curves of a Renoir nude - curved as it was in the exact contour of the interior of a glass of  Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Shat-toe-newf-de pahp -  go on, say it.)

Even with that Nez Magnifique decorating his la tête en forme de boîte, to recall his facial expressions as he listened to our final examinations, causes me shame even now.

The day of our oral French exams was a lovely spring day. They were held at exactly two in the afternoon; the wind was blowing westerly giving us a clear blue sky. The soft sunlight came through the big bank of windows on the Eastern wall of the classroom and lit up fairy rings of chalk dust that climbed the light shafts.

There were 36 boys in my class.

In alphabetical order, starting with Alan Appleby, (who had a small tic in his right eye when he was nervous) we each stood and read our chosen passage en français..

Even with his tic, Appelby wasn't too bad. But Appleby's accent wasn't quite right, and as he listened, d'Gorgonzola stuck his chin firmly against his bright pink Paisley tie - as if he were trying not to burst out laughing. When Appelby was finished d'Gorgonzola blew a raspberry of relief through his rubbery lips and said:

 'Pas mal. Qui est le prochain? Faites vite!"

The next boy was  Brian Atticuscolarus - a fat Greek kid with a lisp. We called Brian, 'Brain' - because he wasn't. 'Brain', as expected, waded through his French passage with all the grace of a deaf, one legged man with Parkinson's disease doing a three quarter waltz.

I think with 'Brain', Mr d'Gorgonzola, began to show the first signs of strain.

To give him credit, d'Gorgonzola twisted his chin toward his shoulder, and attempted to leave it there. But was ultimately unsuccesful, and a small giggle escaped his lips, and he had to cover his mouth with his hand.

With each boy, the readings grew worse, and d'Gorgonzola lost his giggle and started to gnaw on the end of his Bic biro (le Bic). With some readings a few students laughed aloud.

Thankfully d'Gorgonzola had his eyes squeezed shut when we got to the 'F's. So when it came to my turn I didn't get to see his look of disbelief.

Now let me say, as an aside, that most of the boys in my class were, err..... slightly 'abnormal'. Looking back on my school days I think I can sat that with all honesty.

Abnormal, that is, apart from myself  of course.

Yet it was still with some trepidation that I stood and grasped my foolscap sized morceau de papier. In fact I didn't do too badlly for the first few sentences - which were about the rabid mating habits of  the southern albino wombat (vombatus ursinis albinonus fornicatus).

But then I felt a slight weight on my right cheek and realised that my ocular prosthesis had started to droop a little. I began to worry it might fall on the desk and roll under Applethwait's chair - as it had the previous summer. It always happened when I held my head at an angle, and I should have known better. Of course I'd like to blame Oscar, my prosthetist, but he had warned me not to overdo it. 

Be that as it may, I  had to stop reading for a moment to poke the thing back into its socket. And as I did, d'Gorgonzola's own eyes sprang open. He took one look at what I was doing, his face paled so that he looked as though me might faire de grande vomit and he said:  Oh asseyez-vous Finnie!

And so I did, vowing to wear an eye patch with a picture of the Queen stuck on it if I ever managed to sit another French oral exam.

Things grew worse before they grew better. At boy number 19, Beaux Bingstorphett, whose entire front row of teeth had been knocked out in a fight the week before, d'Gorgonzola's nose begain to quiver, and his pained eyes dropped to the long list of students on the table before him.

But relief was a long way away, and as we approached the last ten students of the class - coincidently those with the most horrible French accents-  d'Gorgonzolas eyes grew wider and wider, till they were those of a man being forced to listen to a  a cat's entrails being turned into violin strings - while they were still attached to the original cat.

And, without one word of a lie, that face is the d'Gorgonzola face  that has stuck with me to this very day. 

Okay, okay, well that's my confession for the day. But to be utterly truthful, I must say that French, in some ways, has stood me in good stead over my adult life.

When, for example, I am visiting my beloved dentist, I often mentally block the view up his gros nez by reciteing simple French. It's a type of meditation without having to say 'ohhmmmm' - that being impossible with another mans fist and forearm shoved all the way down your throat.

My meditative recitals go something like this:

Où sont les livres de l'enfant?
Les livres de l'enfant sont sur ​​la table.

Where are the books of the boy?
The books of the boy are on the table.

Où est la fille de l'actrice?
Elle est derrière l'église avec les trois fils du boulanger.

Where is the daughter of the actrice?
She is behind the church with the three sons of the baker.

Les cinq vaches noires sont dans la chambre à coucher avec la femme du dentiste.
Mais où est M le dentiste?
Le dentiste est écrit au tableau au cours des près de la fenêtre près du livre de l'enfant sous la table.

The five black cows are in the bedroom with the wife of the dentist.
But where is the dentist?
The dentist is writing on the blackboard over the near the window near the book of the boy under the table.

Je voudrais une table pour deux s'il vous plaît. Avec une salle de bain privée.
Combien de présidents souhaitez-vous dans votre salle de bain privée?
Trois s'il vous plaît.

I would like a table for two please. With a private bathroom.
How many presidents do you want in your bathroom?
Three please.

Oh, about the images?

Ahh you see, once upon a time there were three adventurers - all childhood freinds. The names of the adventurers were Hansel and Gretel and Brian.

One day they came to a huge old gate, with fancy  gold lettering on the gate posts that said "Enter at Your Own Risk."

Brian, being brave, yet stupid, didn't take any notice of the signs. 

When Hansel and Gretel had caught up (they had had a restroom stop) it was too late. For poor Brian had opened the gate and been immediately turned into a pig.

He is a pig, even to this day. He is very popular for doing talking pig commercials on daytime television.

 I guess there is a lesson there.

Thank you for looking. The French is courtesy of google gahgah. So don't blame me if you go to France and ask for a bathroom with three Presidents in it and they give you a bathroom with only one.  :)