Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The SKYCITY Hotel and the SKYCITY Grand are two of my favourite Auckland hotels. For one thing, they're located just a sneeze away from Queen Street and Viaduct Harbour. They also have great views over the inner city - and I'm always a sucker for an aerial view of architectural rooflines and on top of that, every room displays New Zealand original art. I like that SKYCITY have amassed a stunning art collection and that they entrust parts of it to their guests. When you stay in hotels frequently, it's very easy to become jaded of the whole business; but for me at least, the SKYCITY hotels have that little extra visual interest (not to mention rooms of a generous size), that get a big tick from me. www.skycity.co.nz www.skycitygrand.co.nz
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Another set of photos from Christchurch Art Gallery - looking up from Alchemy (the cafe) to the towering rooflines to capture shadows and reflections. There have been occasions when I have found the actual gallery structure more enticing than the works on show within the galleries. I get endless visual pleasure from chasing reflections around the glass facade. Perhaps I ought to find something more productive to do with my time? www.christchurchartgallery.org.nz
Monday, September 28, 2009
When you think of well known 19th century Canterbury architect, Benjamin W Mountfort, you’re most likely going to think of Christchurch Cathedral, Canterbury Museum and the very beautiful Canterbury Provincial Council Chambers as highlights of his architectural legacy. It is unlikely that you’ll be thinking about prisons and cell blocks. But the old Addington Prison is yet another fine example of Mountford’s Gothic Revival architecture.
The Mountfort Cell Block was built in 1874 – constructed in 60cm thick concrete, which at the time was a relatively new material. When it opened it housed both sentenced and remand prisoners and later, it also served as a woman’s prison and then a military camp. The prison was finally closed in 1999 and it stood empty until 2006 when the building was purchased by an enthusiastic couple, who have since renovated the protected building and converted it into backpacker accommodation. I was out walking with a friend the weekend before last – exploring the backstreets of Addington – and when we came upon the old gaol, we took it upon ourselves to go in and get a feel for the place. The people in charge of the backpacker operation were more than happy to show us through – turns out they get plenty of curious passers-by keen to look inside. From the huge original gates that have been incorporated into the external landscape, to the protected drawings on cell walls created by former prisoners, it’s a real treat. Another friend talked about feelings of ‘bad karma’ but I never took that from the building at all. Rather, to me, it has an almost cathedral-like feel to it – not surprising I suppose when you consider than Mountfort did in fact design Christchurch Cathedral. I found the interior beautifully proportioned and with its all-white paintwork, its splendid timber staircase and its beautiful ceiling and stained glass features, it’s hard to even imagine it as a prison - more of a monastery to me. That said, as a paying backpacker guest, I would want to make sure that the thick steel cell doors definitely had a key on the inside! One quirky additional fact that amused me: The prison’s first gaoler was one Edward Seagar, who was also Canterbury’s first police sergeant and Sunnyside Mental Hospital’s first warden. Clearly he was a man who liked to be in charge of the keys! Anyway, if you feel like a night in lock-up, check out www.jail.co.nz
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I took it when I was out walking last weekend with a friend. We wove our way in and out of the back streets of Addington, here in Christchurch and that's where we came upon St Mary's Anglican Church. But rather than taking the conventional shot of church door, stained glass windows, a steeple perhaps, I was completely captivated by this startling late afternoon tree shadow creeping up the rear wall of the church, arching over the park seat. To me, there's almost an animate quality about it. I took several photos of it but I like this one the best.
Once there was a time when you could almost guarantee that every church door in the country was open twenty-four hours a day, every day. Not these days. Vandals, thieves and trouble-makers have put paid to that and, if this sign I photographed last weekend is anything to go by, it now seems churches have to 'advertise' the fact that their doors are open. I'm not a religious person but I do think this is a sorry state of affairs. I love photographing church architecture and I'm often frustrated when I can't get inside a beautiful church. I did however, love this little sign in its own right - and let's not forget the handsome, blocky little shadow it's casting across the church forecourt.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Today marks the start of the 2009 Body Festival, which is being staged here in Christchurch. Unfortunately the weather is foul – wet and freezing cold – so everyone will be hoping it clears in time for tonight’s launch in Victoria Square, which kicks off with a world record attempt at the largest-ever line dance. Beyond that, the festival programme includes everything from contemporary dance to ballet, Indian classical dance, speed dancing, flamenco, jazz, salsa, tap and a whole host of dance classes that include everything from the Charleston to Maori poi dancing. One of the highlights will be the debut season of the new Christchurch-based contemporary dance company, Southern Lights (pictured), who will perform three new works. www.thebody.co.nz
I like the three-way intersection of Lichfield, Manchester and High Streets here in Christchurch. There's always something happening there - both visually and physically - and I often sit there waiting for people and photographs. It's also a great corner for changing billboards and poster hoardings; and it's home to Phil Price's kinetic sculpture that provides ever-changing opportunities for a snap. It's here that you'll also find the Physics Room Kiosk that I wrote about earlier this week.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I photograph them frequently
Always looking for the quirky or the well-designed
The unusual or the misspelled.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I'm very much liking the new range of New Zealand Kiwiana stamps featuring all those quirky things we know and love so well - the summer caravan, sausages, old push lawn mowers, fish and chips, kiwifruit, cricket on the beach and State Highway 1. As a keen letter-writer from way back, I always choose my stamps with care and I always ask for specific stamps to put on my letters. These ones will be top of my list.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I’ve lived in Christchurch for the last twenty years (almost) and in that time, I’ve never found it to be a particularly progressive city when it comes to contemporary architecture – especially in the commercial arena. Perhaps it is too hung-up on its clichéd ‘English’ image. That said, it does boast some of the finest Victorian Gothic architecture in the country; and some of the finest large Edwardian and Victorian homes. Many of its best commercial buildings are also from the Victorian and Edwardian period, although some would say that the 1960s and 70s also produced a reasonable tally of excellent Modernist buildings. I’m not arguing.
I have a habit of roaming about the city with my camera and I’m always photographing buildings and architectural details – little slithers of buildings, a column here, a set of windows there, a façade over there, a roofline beyond. I love the negative spaces between buildings and the way one high-rise might reflect against another. I love the shadows some structures cast; and the way others ‘interact’ with surrounding trees. The two images I’ve featured here are two examples that I snapped last weekend – a modern building in central city that I photographed from a distance, capturing just the upper section of it poking above a host of other buildings (not shown) in the foreground; and the wonderful brick building on Oxford Terrace that is now home to Otautahi-Our Place. I was particularly drawn to the way it rose up proudly amid a tangle of shadows cast by the neighbouring trees.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I'm featuring these two terrific photographs - supplied by inform contemporary jewellery, Christchurch - not just because they feature Sharon Fitness's fun, funky silicon jewellery that's currently showing at the gallery; but also for the photographs in their own right - quirky, fun, imaginative images taken by Sharon herself, that perfectly convey the spirit of her jewellery pieces. These two glow-in-the-dark brooches, photographed amid frosted winter grass, are in stark contrast to the summery pieces I featured here last week - images (also by Sharon) that turn the brooches into 'wild flowers' poking out between blades of grass. Sharon's exhibition at form - Jiggle, Wiggle, Wobble, Bounce - continues until October 3. www.informjewellery.co.nz
I'm not entirely sure what I feel about this latest work on display in The Physics Room Kiosk on High Street - if I feel anything at all in fact. It's entitled "Blade in Phone" and has been created by one Eddie Clemens. It's on show until September 24 if you want to amble along and scratch your own head. www.physicsroom.org.nz
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
It's no exaggeration to say that 95% of my wardrobe is black - mostly because I live in the delusional world where people believe black is slimming. That said, I also love black for its solid ability to make every other colour so much more alive. Given that I also love words, typography, signs and the colour hot pink (which I NEVER wear), this image was always going nto be a winner for me. It's part of the sign for high fashion store Victoria Black in Christchurch, which I have of course 'fiddled about with' on Photoshop. It's just one of the things I do when I should be doing more productive things.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Internationally acclaimed New Zealand designer, David Trubridge needs no introduction - certainly not on this blog! I have after all, featured his immensely popular lighting design 'Coral/Floral' (and a close 'cousin') more often than is probably decent, in all manner of locations. This is one I snapped when I was out and about walking around the city about ten days ago - the en masse department store approach. www.davidtrubridge.com
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I photographed this little shed on the construction site of the new council buildings in Christchurch, just across the road from Christchurch Art Gallery, in Worcester Street. It's a classic example of one of those unexpected and arresting compositions of colour and form that most people walk past every day and never see. I am always excited by construction sites - there's so much happening, such a tangle of machinery and materials, shadows and reflections. I was drawn to this simple, 'blocky' little building by its unassuming proportions and the striking blue-orange contrast of paint and sky. And of course.....the crane ...below.....
I've photographed more cranes than I care to admit to. It's a weakness. I love their towering forms etched against the sky. Come to that, I love everything they stand for - building, architecture, development, future, progress...... I was admiring glassware in Form at Christchurch Art Gallery last weekend, when I happened to catch a glimpse of this crane across the street on the council construction site - reflected in the glass exhibition shelf. Far too interesting to pass up.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I love it when you think you know even just a tiny bit about someone and then you are surprised to discover a whole other side to them that you never knew existed. That happened to me last week when I visited my friends, Rudolf and Robyne at PUG Design Store here in Christchurch and came face-to-face with a cabinet full of exquisitely-crafted works by Jennifer Hay, who I have always known to be an arts curator and writer, not an actual maker-of-things herself.
Jennifer calls herself a textile crafter rather than an artist but to me, her miniature stitched treasures have all the attention to detail, all the deft craftsmanship, all the beauty and originality of any ‘artwork’ I’ve seen lately. The cabinet installation is called Quacksalver and the tiny embroidered and beaded purses, bags, brooches and pendants are all made of silk printed with Victorian anatomical drawings sourced from Gray’s and Quain’s Anatomy text books. A Quacksalver explains Jennifer, is a charlatan, someone who invents medicines and cures and boasts about their efficacy. She’s chosen both anatomical drawings and Victorian advertisements for medicines and cure-alls as the starting point for her works; and she’s then meticulously stitched, embroidered and beaded the finishing touches. Her interest in anatomy started when she came across an old medical book in a second-hand shop. “I was fascinated by the shapes and colours and the intimacy of the human body reflected in the illustrations,” she said. “It wasn’t until I was some way into the work that I remembered my brother actually has a PhD in anatomy.”
Jennifer has been working with textiles for the last two years, predominantly silk but she’s now exploring other fabrics too – and the three dimensional possibilities and the creative manipulation of fabric to create a wider range of work. “Dr Tibbald’s Collar” (green folds; above) and “Mrs Tibbald’s Collar” (cream and white folds) hint strongly at new directions influenced by Jennifer’s current interest in the Japanese aesthetic principle of wabi-sabi – often described as “a beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, incomplete.” Like many things Japanese, wabi-sabi is an enigmatic concept but for a simple understanding think asymmetry, modesty, imperfection, simplicity and natural processes and you might get half way to understanding what it means. In the meantime, if you haven’t been along to PUG to see Jennifer’s ‘small perfections,’ I suggest you get there before the end of October. It's a visual pleasure. www.pugdesign.co.nz
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Another in the Series Meet the People – Ordinary and Extraordinary New Zealanders Doing Interesting Things – Craig Douglas freely admits that he “didn’t know one end of a bull or a horse from the other” before he started Christchurch’s International Rodeo. But he does know excitement and drama. He does know how to put on a show. He does know how to think big and make dreams realities. Craig, 38, is the man behind Douglas Webber Group, the event management team who created what is now New Zealand’s biggest indoor rodeo, which will run for its third year in November, in conjunction with New Zealand Cup and Show Week. Craig came to rodeo after a spontaneous visit to the Waimate Rodeo. Until then he had been staging major motocross events. He had been racing in motocross events himself from the age of 12 and when he saw freestyle motocross on television in USA, he decided he had to bring it to New Zealand. The rest, as they say, is history. The Crusty Demons of Dirt arrived in 2003 and since then Craig’s event management career has “taken off in all directions.”
“Anything I’ve ever done has been at the absolute edge of possibility,” he says. “I thrive on a challenge and dumping 45,000 tonnes of dirt inside Christchurch’s $40-million Westpac Stadium was just the sort of challenge I love. I could see instantly that an indoor rodeo would be the perfect finale to the biggest agricultural event in the New Zealand.” And finale it is – with all the elements of an 8-hour outdoor rodeo condensed into two action-packed indoor hours featuring speed, big screen television, LPG-propelled fire jets and flame throwers, 144 head of stock, 32 daredevil cowboys from four countries and a whole ton of pre-show organisation. “We build a satellite city for 144 animals, a whole arena and everything that goes with it between 6am Friday and opening time 6pm Saturday. It’s fast-paced action from start to finish,” says Craig. Photo Courtesy Christchurch City Council, NZ Cup and Show Week The rodeo features four disciplines – saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc, barrel racing (female only) and bullriding. And it’s a terrifying thrill a minute when you pitch a 70kg man against a 1,000kg bucking bull. The crowd loves it and the 8,000 tickets sell fast. For Craig, the whole rodeo business has been a huge learning curve but he’s proud of the fact that his event is endorsed by the RSPCA and that people just keep coming. He also enjoys the people he works with. “The first thing I noticed about the cowboys was how well-presented and how down-to-earth and honest they are. They’re all incredibly professional. They’re people of the land and a great bunch to work with.” www.rodeogp.co.nz www.nzcupandshow.co.nz
Monday, September 14, 2009
So you thought jewellery was all about gold, silver and gemstones? Well, think again because Sharon Fitness is just one jeweller exploring a plethora of new materials that bring a whole new meaning to contemporary jewellery. I think these three photographs – courtesy of inform jewellery in Christchurch, where Sharon has her latest exhibition – say it all. Colourful, tactile, original and fun.
Sharon, who graduated from Auckland University’s Manukau School of Visual Arts with a Bachelor of Visual Arts majoring in contemporary jewellery in 2007, has already had a number of successful exhibitions in high profile galleries like Masterworks, Objectspace and Fingers Contemporary Jewellery. I’m not surprised. Her work is distinctly different. It’s new, fresh and fun and people are invariably drawn to it – whether it’s in a gallery display case or on someone’s garment. What’s it made of? Can I touch it? What does it feel like? All common questions when you wear a piece of Sharon’s vibrant silicon jewellery. “I create silicon jewels that are fun by design; encouraging the wearer to interact with the object, negotiating how it is worn and how it appears to the outside world. This in turn encourages play and interaction between wearer and observer. These floppy, changeable objects offer new possibilities for adorning and viewing jewellery, creating temporal art experiences for random audiences,” says Sharon. They’re definitely conversation starters and for Sharon, the pieces have a life of their own. “My practice revolves around play, fun and random happenings. I work with silicon because it offers the flexibility, changeability and tactility I need to produce playful wobbly wearable beings. I like that they have a life of their own, that they prompt the wearer to jiggle wiggle wobble and bounce along with them.” www.informjewellery.co.nz
One More work by our leading New Zealand printmaker as we edge closer and closer to the big 100! To see others in this terrific series (exclusive to this blog), click on Cleavin in the label line below this post.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I never tire of Rotorua's Polynesian Spa - that luxurious, steaming retreat on the edge of Lake Rotorua where I have enjoyed numerous soothing soaks to ease weary muscles. The complex now has 27 pools, including 13 delicious private pools, several of which open directly onto the lakefront, so you can lie back and watch the natural geothermal steam rising off the opposite lake edge. The pools, especially the Priest Spa shown in the bottom image, are famous for their curative effects for ailments like arthritis and rheumatism - or just your plain old sore muscles from too much sightseeing or exercise. www.polynesianspa.co.nz
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Last weekend I roamed around central Christchurch with a friend for about four hours. It's something we do often, taking in the big and small changes in the cityscape, looking at window dressing design, checking out new products, laughing at billboards and advertising spaces, watching people, looking at artwork, visiting galleries and pausing here and there for coffee and snacks. All this, ostensibly, in the name of exercise. It's a ton of fun and, more often than not, a real education. I don't think nearly enough people roam about their own towns or cities - not with open eyes at least. The multiple layers of visual imagery, the architecture, the quirky surprises that come with people and places - all too often taken for granted and overlooked. I love that 'shining the light in dark corners.' It's how I come to know a place when I travel but just as much, it is how I come to know my own place. Oh....and this cafe? The Contemporary Lounge, upstairs in Ballantynes, where they really do know how to 'shine the light.'