Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mr. Speaker! - Danny Bhoy Sydney Opera House

Utube is a great source for sampling some very funny comedians. Some like Danny Bhoy are outstanding. If you live in a country which operates on the Westminster Parliamentary system and you have listened to parliamentary sessions on the radio or watched them on television I am sure you will find this very funny indeed.

Works of Art

Queencyl Rabang Age 9

This is the picture for April, in a Calendar for 2012. Each month has a picture created by a young New Zealander. Queencyl Rabang is a student at Bairds Mainfreight Primary School in Auckland New Zealand.

There is a spontaneity that is both naive and endearing about children's artworks. Here we have a mermaid floating in a bubble, a very cool sun either seeing the world through rose tinted glasses or shielding its eyes from the sunlight; party hat girl elevated above shark fin grass on gossamer wings; a fairy executing a flashy pirouette on the head of a flower (pah! you can keep your angels dancing on the head of a pin) and a unicorn who is either paradoxically looking as if he is a long, long, long way away, despite the fact that he is in the foreground - or is returning from a meeting of the Miniature Unicorn Society. The sky is high summer blue and the clouds poetically float as lonely as a cloud.

The detail in this picture is interesting. The mermaid is wearing a bikini top to defend her modesty and she has what looks like starfish earrings and maybe a starfish in her hair. The sun has a particularly distinct wry smile of its own amongst a number of smiles with the smile motif repeating in some of the pictures patterning if you look carefully. The unicorn has a headscarf held on by a large maroon coloured bow, which is colour coordinated with the unicorns horn and hooves. For balance and to accent the panache that fashion conscious unicorns are bound to have there is a scarf tied to his tail. The artists palette is restricted to six colours only, with the pinks and maroons crisscrossing in a subtle tension that ties this masterly executed picture together.

When I look at this picture I don't ask myself, what does it mean? I am more taken with the way it makes me feel. I feel happy and it makes me smile.

As a teacher I have viewed 4 decades of children's art. A large proportion of what I have seen deserves more respect and place of prominence than to be just held temporarily on a fridge door with little magnets. The cream of the crop deserves to be framed and displayed with the prominence and reverence that our culture gives to the cream of its adult works of art.

Pablo Picasso said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child ............ Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

There Is No Correct Answer

I found this picture on the Internet and have found it strangely compelling. I have looked at it long and hard trying to figure out what that compulsion is.

I think it goes like this. One way (some would say the only authentic way) to look at art is to come shedding yourself of all preconceived notions, ideas and associations - put aside your 'self ' and let the painting unveil its meaning - allow the artist to communicate his / her ideas.

Of course this becomes complicated with abstract paintings because human beings are always searching for meaning. We seem hard wired for meaning and when confronted with abstraction, I think one of two things happen. Either we consciously impose a meaning on the abstraction, or we wait and allow the subconscious to suggest a meaning. In the latter case the painting is acting as a kind of psychological Rorschach 'Inkblot' test - the painting elicits associations within the subconscious mind which are bought to consciousness.

The conundrum I find with this genre of paintings is that they are a paradoxical mix of realism and abstraction in terms of 'meaning'. Its immediately obvious what the content of the painting is about, but the meaning of the content has been abstracted away somewhat by its unlikely happening in the "real" world.

So, ponder the painting dear reader, repose comfortably on said couch and tell me if you please......there are no 'right' answers - and it might be very helpful to me :>)


Monday, December 5, 2011

The Philosophy of Sailing

The good ship 'Mariner' with a bone in her teeth - That's sailors talk for 'going fast'.

Last Sunday my good friend David and I raced in the Whangarei Cruising Clubs two handed race. David is a very keen sailor and a very good crew. He rings me up and encourages me to keep our date with the clubs racing programme, whatever the weather.

The weather on Sunday was blustery and rainy, with the rain building over the day to a constant deluge - It was the sort of rain that thinks its having an annual job appraisal and wants to show how efficient it can be by finding its way through every microscopic pore of the very sophisticated well sewn wet weather gear worn by the crew.

We got the worst start out of the fleet. We hit the mud at one point. We were last across the line at the finish. We were out sailed and outclassed by a lot of fast flash Harrys in lighter boats with vast arrays of triple nipple back shackles and titainium impregnated gossamer winged trianglulated sails and foodle rigged bifercated zelda masts (none of which actually exists, I just made it all up, but there you are, a skipper needs a scapegoat when part of his ego has been keel hauled).

......... and all the while, down came the rain which led to an after race lunch of warm beer and sodden sandwiches in wet, cold, (did I mention the rain?) wet weather gear (that's us in the wet weather gear, not the sandwiches) as we made our way back up the harbour to the mooring.

"The thing is about these sorts of days" said David, as he bit into the end of a sodden ham roll that drooped like a banana in his hand, "Is that all this makes you appreciate warm clothes, a nice roaring fire and a dry place to sit." ---- "Yes" I replied, ( making a quick mental note to promote him to ships philosopher) "Indeed" I said ..... and feeling uplifted by the compelling nuance of my crews, to date, unrevealed sage like qualities I replied in my very best Socratic voice, " Some observers have said that owning and sailing a boat is a bit like standing in a very cold shower while tearing up $50 notes."
I said this as all the while looking at the fragments of hard boiled egg that had fallen from my limp sandwich into the scuppers sway fore and aft with the motion of the boat ..... "We must do this again.... soon," I said .........

........ and we will .... its the Sail Rock Race next Saturday ..... we'll be there, we'll pray for sunshine and a warm fair wind, but take whatever old Huey throws at us, on the chin (old Huey is sailors talk for the one who controls the weather) ....... its the contrasts that make it all worth while - just ask David, my good mate and philosopher......

.... and if you do ask him he will tell you something else he said on Sunday ...... he said .... " When I come out here and sail ... no matter what the bloody weathers like, I really know and feel I am f..king alive" ...... I couldn't agree more and in fact I think he should be promoted to Ships Poet as well.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Joshua Slocum, Carpet Tacks and 'Just So'

I was first alerted to the existence of Joshua Slocum when I read a story about his voyage (which was the first single handed circumnavigation of the world) in a New Zealand Primary Schools "School Journal" a much underestimated and unsung state funded reading resource still being produced for New Zealand Primary Schools. I still remember the drawings of Slocum's converted oyster mans boat named "Spray" which showed a couple of wooden water barrels fitted carefully on deck. I thought those barrels were very shipshape indeed and a romantic hint of long distance provisioning and far off places - provisioning that was a far cry from the plastic bread bag of sandwiches and a water bottle that I would stow for a cruise on my 7 foot P Class. I was perhaps 12 years old at the time. The "Spray" was a real little ship with big wide decks, a yawl rig and had the uncanny ability to steer herself on any point of sailing. Over the years this boat has been romanticised and many have thought her the perfect world voyager. She is in fact far from being that ....... but talk of what constitutes a perfect dream ship.... is another story.

When I came home from school and told my father what I had seen he steered me to Joshua Slocum's book "Sailing Alone Around the World."
Needless to say I devoured that book not once, but twice. It was books about single handed circumnavigations from my dads vast nautical library that became my very own vicarious 'Boys Own' experiences - all my heroes had salt water in their veins and felt compelled to commune with the wind to a far horizon.

This painting that I came upon in the latest edition of Wooden Boat magazine is a painting by John Stobart of a particular well known incident on Slocum's voyage.
Slocums passage took him through the winding Straits of Magellan at the tip of South America. Inhabited by the fierce, nomadic Yaghan people, the area became known as Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) from their practice of burning small fires for warmth, even in their canoes. In this particular anchorage Slocum was worried about the Yaghan who were close by and observing him. During the day he had fended off attempts to board with a rifle but he was worried about what to do at night. At anchor, to give the impression that there was more than one person on board he kept coming and going on deck dressed in different sets of cloths and hats and at night he covered the deck with carpet tacks to discourage any boarding party. An attempt was made at night and apparently the carpet tacks worked very well, alerting Slocum and repelling the boarders.

Apart from the memories of Joshua Slocum that this painting invoke, I am attracted to the way John Stobart has painted her at anchor. This is exactly how a yacht sits at anchor in these conditions, as a slight cold breeze off the mountains ruffles the water - the boats sits, 'Just So,' and it is a testament to the painter that this authenticity of ambiance has been captured. The Spray will tug gently at her anchor. Slocum will wander the solid wooden deck of his little boat, pulling up the collar of his coat against the chill and have his eureka carpet tack moment. He has already traveled from the east coast of the United States down through the South Atlantic to Tierra de Fuego, he is far from home and he has a long way to go. (double click the painting to get an enlargement).

We all have our heroes as we grow up. Mine were always circumnavigators of the world in small yachts - Joshua Slocum, Harry Pidgeon, Alain Gerbault, Vito Dumas, Marcel Bardiaux, Jean Gau, John Guzzwell, Bernard Moitessier...... the list goes on and on - this was the psychological milieu that I was bought up in - perhaps that's why often I feel so restless. Hmmmmm.