Friday, February 29, 2008

The Sunny Hawkes Bay

Vineyard view, Millar Road, Hastings, 2007, Ajr.
My cousin says she is moving back to Hawkes Bay. I'm envious. This gorgeous sunny strip of coastline on the North Island's East Coast is a wine and food lover's dream. It's where you'll find well over 40 vineyards - some of them among New Zealand's oldest - and so many boutique food producers you'll need to stay weeks to sample them all. Factor in beautiful beaches, orchards and some of the best boutique accommodation in New Zealand and you'll understand why it's one of my favourite provinces. When I passed through a few months back during my Frommers' research I woke up to this stunning view at Millar Road - a classy two-cottage heaven that overlooks a wide spread of vines and persimmon orchards with the ocean twinkling in the distance. The Collinge family have created something special - accommodation that oozes comfort and good design. Their collection of top contemporary New Zealand art, the exquisite bed linens and accessories from Napier's Esther Diamond designer range and...well, those views, make it one of my favoured choices for an ultimate hideaway. And they have a really groovy website as well -

On Travel

I had an interesting discussion about travel yesterday with an American visitor to New Zealand - why we do it, what we get from it, what challenges us and to what degree in fact, the average traveller even welcomes any degree of challenge. Travel of course, is different things to different people. It can be motivated by anything from pure escapism to self-discovery and education to something that resembles 'another acquisition' - the ability to be able to come home and say you've been to Rome, Paris or London in much the same way you might tick off the purchase of prime real estate, a luxury car or designer labels. I like hearing the stories of travellers who have thrown themselves unwittingly into the unknown; travellers who have extended themselves and who have made their way, surviving on their wits and spontaneous responses to unforeseen circumstances, to the unpredictable and the unplanned. That's the way to do it. Not for me the endless comforts, the group outings, the soft-seated bus tours or the 'safe' restaurants. I want travel to teach me things about myself I didn't know and didn't know I was capable of. I want travel to expand my horizons, to force me to make contact with others who don't speak the same language and I want it to leave me exhausted, over-stimulated and begging for more. Why else would you bother?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Design Spot 1

When my makeshift wardrobe railing collapsed this morning dropping all my clothes in a muddle on the floor, I thought of multi-award winning Christchurch designer, Ingrid Geldof and how appalled she would be by my inattention to important things like function and design. I have come to appreciate that we should all - as much as budget allows - utilise quality design consultants to avoid missing out on valuable knowledge and to get the very best from our homes without compromise. Ingrid's mammoth haul of over 30 New Zealand design awards for kitchen, bathroom, laundry and joinery design makes her an obvious choice when it comes to solving design dilemmas and general household inefficiencies like mine. The thing I particularly like about her approach to function is that she doesn't compromise on aesthetics. Her designs pay particular attention to colour, texture, form and pattern in a way that puts her work in a class above most. Every finish, every surface is part of a well considered whole so that you not only get function, you also get beauty. I can live without the very best in function but I cannot live without beauty.

The Collectors 1

English ceramics, Shands Emporium Antiques, Christchurch, Feb.2008, Ajr
I am a collector - of many things; though it must be said that my interest in any particular collection waxes and wanes over time. My current focus is crucifixes (religious and decorative) - more for the form than any particular religious sentiments - and Buddha figurines and wooden Buddhist prayer beads, which I have gathered during my travels in China, Korea and Japan and do fall in with my interest in Buddhist philosophy. Yesterday I fell upon a gorgeous little wooden decorative crucifix in the store above Shands and, on my 'way back down to earth' I spied this stunning (mostly) English ceramic collection. I don't collect china and/or ceramics myself but I do appreciate them en masse. Such a luscious display of colour, pattern, form and texture.


Rydges, Christchurch, Feb 2008, Ajr
The distinctive curve of Rydges Hotel is an inner city landmark in Christchurch and it has been photographed repeatedly. This is the 'lesser' south side of the hotel, which, etched against one of Canterbury's clear blue skies, is not really 'lesser' at all.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Question - or Two

Why are retail Internet suppliers invariably shut away in dark, seedy, uninviting dens filled with disagreeable, pimply-faced youth? When is someone going to design a light, bright, well-thought-out Internet cafe that actually entices customers in? If such a thing already exists I'd love to hear about it.

Legal Art

Waltham Park, Christchurch, 2008. Ajr
I have finally met some of those phantom figures of public scorn and outrage - the graffiti/street artists. After many months of photographing street art all around New Zealand, Adelaide and Melbourne (for an artist book project), I was totally in my element yesterday chatting with some of the competitors in the King of Kings Graffiti Art Competition that was staged at Christchurch's Waltham Park on Sunday (Feb 24).
And here's some radical news folks - they seemed like ordinary creative kids to me - young people delighting in the chance to express their talents; keen to talk about their techniques and what inspires them - just like any other artist. All this thanks to Project Legit ( ), a city council-funded initiative run by Floyds Creative Arts, that aims to reduce grafitti vandalism in Christchurch by promoting legal grafitti murals and displays on sanctioned walls and underpasses. "I've been doing this four years," said one guy,"and it's cool to have legal sites to work on without the cops breathing down your neck." Part of Project Legit's commitment is educating youth on the history, theory, ethical and practical aspects of grafitti art, which seems like a brilliant idea to me.
The public for their part, need to recognise the very real difference between mindless tagging vandalism and good grafitti art because no matter how many times you paint over it, it will reappear. Graffiti art is here to stay - it is an internationally recognised cultural phenomenon, it represents a huge portion of our communities; books have been written on the subject; street art worldwide has been documented and studied; and the sooner we recognise that and find ways to 'cohabitate' the better. Encourage outcomes like the now vibrant, colourful walls of Waltham Park, give the good grafitti artists more space to work on, educate the idiot-taggers before they become a major problem and maybe the problems will diminish. One thing is certain - closed minds will not solve the problem.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Artist Studio 1

Jane Zusters' in studio, Christchurch 2007. AJR
Christchurch artist, Jane Zusters with some of the props she created in her role as Art Director for Waka Reo III in 2006-2007. The Waka Reo (Canoe of Knowledge) series, which follows the hardships and rewards of twelve strangers learning the Maori language on a marae, is now screening on Maori Television. Jane is currently working on a book project which documents her work in the South Island over the last four years.

Shadow Play

Wellington, 2007.Ajr
I love shadows. I often photograph them more than the objects they stride away from. I like the sense of an object's 'other life,' its shadowy other self.
History has plenty of examples of cultural interest in 'shadow play' - in the 'alternate representation' of an object or a person. China for instance, is one of around twenty countries that has honed shadow play into an art form. Pi Ying Xi (using leather puppets) or Zhi Ying Xi (paper puppets), is a form of story-telling and entertainment that uses opaque figures in front of an illuminated backdrop. For me, the flickering shadows cast by any given object are worth as much attention as the solid reality. They create 'another dimension' that feeds my imagination.

Sign Language

Signs - Melbourne & Adelaide, 2007.Ajr

Monday, February 25, 2008

Marketing Madness

Mon Dieu! Whatever next? Now we have Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism promoting Canterbury as "the new Europe!" It's bad enough that Akaroa flaunts itself so brazenly (and misguidedly in my opinion) as being French. Okay, so the French discovered it before Captain Cook but they missed out on claiming it as legitimate French territory so why why why, over 150 years later, does CCT keep making exaggerated claims that it is a French village. As the ever-witty Joe Bennett quips in today's Sunday Star Times: "Le Mini Golf is about as far as it could fire a scatter gun around Akaroa for four days and not find anyone whose French vocabulary was in double figures." I agree wholeheartedly - a French restaurant, a few cafes and a few French street names does not a French village make. And now this latest embarassing claim that Canterbury is "a little slice of Europe." CCT chief executive, Christine Prince may be right in saying that "you have to find ways to cut through and engage people and get them thinking about things differently," but let's keep it in perspective - let's keep it 'in New Zealand' in fact and let's stop making wildly fantastic claims that leave most of us cringing in embarassment.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cafe Graphics

Mondo, High Street, Christchurch. Feb.2008.Ajr
With the multitude of computer design options available to today's graphic designers, it is sometimes nice to know that 'the power of the hand' is still being used to convey meaning and mood - ofen more effectively than elaborate computer fonts, clipart and clever software applications. Factor in glass, mirrors, reflections and food and you get a seductive visual layering that enhances the whole cafe/restaurant experience.

The Spaces Between 4

Alley, High Street, Christchurch. Feb 2008. Ajr.

A Day on the Plains

Hedges, Canterbury Plains, Feb.2008,Ajr
It's a cliche to liken the huge spread of the Canterbury Plains to a patchwork quilt but that's exactly what they're like. I was reminded of that last week when I flew over the multicoloured landscape on my way home from Invercargill - multiple shades of green, brown, chocolate, yellow, ochre - all hemmed in by a complex grid of deep green hedges. Yesterday I drove out on those long, arrow-straight roads to visit the country garden of New Zealand opera singer, Dame Malvina Major and, having completed the interview, I dawdled home, stopping repeatedly to photograph those big 'blocky' pine and macrocarpa hedges that shelter everything from the plains' howling winds. I find something reassuringly solid about those hedges - and I think I might be the only person in the world who responds to hedges as if they were animate objects.

Barely Believable!

If you don't live in Christchurch, you're clearly missing all the fun.

Well Done Motueka!

For standing up to the might of McDonalds. It's not that I have anything personal against McDonalds, it's fast food chains in general and the insidious globalised approach they have to 'taking over the world.'. The first time I went to Beijing in 2001 I was appalled by the impact of McDonalds. My interpreter, thinking I might not like Chinese food, took me to lunch at McDonalds. The place was packed beyond belief. I found that a little unnerving but what really unhinged me, was the fact that I could not understand a thing. Never in my worst nightmares had I expected to be defeated by a McDonalds’ menu; but there it all was, written in Chinese and totally incomprehensible. I wouldn’t have cared if I had been anywhere else but somehow, being linguistically beaten by greasy fries and hamburgers felt like a very real and unnecessary punishment. When a table became available, a very young mother with her baby boy joined us. The baby, she told us, was just sixty-two days old and she was feeding him McDonald’s hot chocolate, cooled by her caring breath as she siphoned it from her cardboard cup into his baby bottle. He suckled contentedly with a frightening vigour. The first McDonalds opened in Beijing in 1992 and people lined up for hours to try the new ‘American-style’ restaurant. The company has never looked back. They’re virtually a part of Chinese urban life now, along with KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway and all the others. In 2003 there were 560 McDonalds restaurants throughout China and the company was aiming for another 100 in 2004. (KFC had 900 Chinese outlets). In China, Ronald McDonald is known by the cute-sounding name, Mai Dang Lao Shushu. And just for the record, when I visited Beijing in 2001 there were 19 Starbucks outlets. When I returned two years later, there were 40. The Chinese have undergone a major transformation in the way they eat and you don’t have to go far to find articles attesting to new, worrying levels of obesity and the chronic diseases often associated with it. It would be unfair to blame western takeaways entirely. The Chinese diet had also been significantly changed by the introduction of many more meat and dairy products, soft drinks and flavoured milk drinks – despite the fact that China has one of the world’s largest known national prevalences for lactose intolerance.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

That's Life!

Christchurch Billboard Skyline. Dec.2007. Ajr.

My Own Time Zone

After writing this blog page for twelve days, I have finally caught up with the fact that my entries have been automatically listing the wrong day and post time - that is, the day prior. I say 'automatically' as a cunning way of negating personal responsibility. In truth, I had yet to discover the Post Options button, which allows me to actively choose the correct time. This is no real concern to me but when one is reporting on specific events - for example, yesterday's Earth Hour launch - which was on Thursday, not Wednesday as listed - then the correct time becomes more of an issue.

Frilly Facades

I don't care what anyone says about the Christchurch Art Gallery being a square box with a frilly facade. I LOVE that frilly facade. Every time I set foot in the place it dishes up a wealth of photographic material - shafts of ever-changing light filtering through apertures, reflections dancing across the wide, undulating glass wall, shadows reaching out across the foyer floor. It's all good news to me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Earth Hour

Prime Minister Helen Clark kicked off Earth Hour at the Christchurch Art Gallery this afternoon.
Christchurch is the first New Zealand city to commit to the global movement that will see 24 cities worldwide turning out their lights for one hour on Saturday, March 29th at 8pm, to show their commitment to fighting climate change.
Earth Hour was pioneered in Sydney in 2007 when 2.2 million Sydney residents and over 1,100 Sydney businesses turned off their lights, plunging iconic buildings and landmarks into darkness.
Due to our position on the globe, Christchurch (along with Suva,Fiji) will be the first of the world's Earth Hour cities to flick off the light switches.
Anyone wanting to support this WWF-New Zealand-led initiative can register online..... see web address on the free t-shirts above.

Buy of the Week.........

......this old, tin National Parks & Reserves sign that I found in a Christchurch secondhand store yesterday. Loved it, had to have it. And, as you'd expect, it's found the perfect home in my kitchen. I was feeling particularly satisfied with my purchase - the ultimate bargain I thought UNTIL I interviewed a person this morning, who showed me their original Salvador Dali artwork - picked up at a US garage sale for a mere US$5!!!!! Now THAT'S the sort of luck I want!

The Spaces Between 3

Aerial scultpure, South of Lichfield (SOL), Christchurch. New Years Eve, 2007,Ajr.
Getting a bird's eye view of Christchurch's enlivened back alleys

Quack, Quack!

What's with all the 'plastic ducks' quacking their way through the nation's design and gift stores? Are we on a new migratory flight path? Will they bring out our inner child? Are they the hip new interior accessory? Should we be worried?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who Knew?

  • Timbromania - an abnormal interest in postage stamps
  • Klazomania - compulsive shouting
  • Pogonophobia - a morbid fear of beards

Wine Design

Amisfield Winery, Lake Hayes, Central Otago, NZ.
It is an understatement to say that wine is now big business in New Zealand.
Vineyards are spreading out from one end of the country to the other like a giant green stain and wine companies are hiring some of the country's top architects to design innovative wineries and restaurants.
I do believe there is room for a whole lot more creativity in wine marketing though - especially in wine label design - but I totally LOVE this advertisment from Amisfield Winery, Lake Hayes, near Queenstown.

Parking Angle

South of Lichfield (SOL), Christchurch. Feb.08
Yes, that is a real car.
Yes, that is a P5 sign (Parking 5 minutes) beside it.
Yes, there is a parking fine ticket on the windscreen.
Three cheers for innovative property developers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Heart Felt

The traditional Maori Hei-tiki, or neck pendant, usually carved in pounamu (greenstone or jade), has made a big comeback as a contemporary cross-cultural accessory and tourist souvenir. For many Maori the Hei-tiki relates to a sense of Maori cultural identity; for other New Zealanders and overseas visitors, the Hei-tiki portrays a more general sense of New Zealand identity. There are plentiful references to the Hei-tiki form in Maori art and in contemporary jewellery. I spotted these great little felt Hei-tiki brooches made by Deborah Walsh, at The Little River Gallery on Banks Peninsula, 40 minutes from Christchurch.

A Celebratory Eruption

Lyttelton's Volcano Cafe has turned twenty and after providing Cantabrians with two decades worth of whacky dining experiences, owners Peter Lewellyn and Lois Ogilvie are moving on. They decided to throw a Monday night party to mark the occasion. Well known New Zealand artist, Bill Hammond - a Volcano regular and Peter and Lois's neighbour - created the invitation (below); the Warratahs provided the music and some of New Zealand's top after dinner speakers - Joe Bennett, Jon Gadsby, Gary McCormick, Jim Hopkins - put in an appearance and were uncharacteristically quiet.

The Volcano is famous for its art-embellished walls. Some of New Zealand's top artists - Gavin Chilcott, Peter Robinson, Seraphine Pick, Tony de Latour, Dean Buchanan, Bill Hammond, Margaret Dawson, Gavin Buxton, Lynda James, Kirsty Grieg, Jason Grieg - have all either painted the walls or hung works in the restaurant. A huge Bill Hammond work - "The Volcano Flag" (below) - painted on half of an old WWI tent (the other half is in Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand), dominates the Lava Bar.

We can only hope the new owners of The Volcano will continue its wonderful tradition of 'theatrical' dining and a healthy patronage of the arts.

Geeks Fight Back

I can no longer deny the truth - I am NOT technologically gifted. Today my computer died on me - well, actually, I probably killed it...temporarily at least. It seems to be a very particular talent I have. So... just when there is lots of work to be done, I have to unplug the tangle of mysterious cords feeding in to the back of the hard drive - making detailed drawings of which plug goes where so I can put it together again - and deliver it to the friendly team of experts at The Computer Centre. Coincidentally - and rather strangely - within an hour, I receive an unrelated exhibition invitation - to "A Geekosystem" by Adam Hyde and Julian Priest, at The Physics Room in Christchurch. In the lead up to the show, the two artists are running free walk-in workshops. You're invited to take in your old gadgets and electronics for recycling (my computer springs instantly to mind) and learn how to make dinky new gadgets - "a long distance internet wireless network using tin cans" perhaps; or your own solar panel or tv transmitter. The resulting accumulation of recycled gadgets - "A Geekosystem" - opens Friday, February 22nd, The Rewi PC may yet make a guest appearance!

Monday, February 18, 2008

China Blue

Posted by Picasa Shenling, Redgate Gallery, Beijing, 2003
I have just visited a Christchurch home where the owner has a passion for blue and white china from around the world. It brought to mind a rather stunning ceramic sculpture I saw in the Redgate Gallery in Beijing in 2003 - a statue of Mao embellished with the traditional blue and white patterns of Ming Dynasty China.
Chinese contemporary art is some of the most exciting in the world. Chinese performance art particularly is pushing boundaries - and has been for a number of years. Shanghai's ‘Fuck Off Show’ for instance, which presented images of decapitated bodies and dead stillborn human babies. Not surprisingly the Ministry of Culture put out a circular after that stating that such shows could no longer be held in public places. That put a dampener on things and according to Brian Wallace of Redgate Gallery, the performance art scene has never returned to that ‘high point.’
When I visited Beijing in 2001, I was lucky enough to be able to interview leading Beijing artist, Sheng Qi, one of the early forces in Chinese performance art in the 1980s and co-founder of the performance group Concept 21. It took me some time to notice that he was missing his smallest finger on his left hand. That was because he had chopped it off with a cleaver after the Tiananmen Square Incident on June 4, 1989.
Liberal thought in China suffered seriously from the social and political changes after Tiananmen Square and Shenq Qi, “in an act of despair and agony, cut off the small finger of his left hand and buried it in a flowerpot before leaving Beijing for Rome.” He stayed in Europe for eight years and his mutilated hand later figured in many of his photographic works.
He returned to Beijing in 1999 and in his first performance he wore the upper part of a military uniform with a small red AIDS ribbon attached to the jacket, while his head was covered with red cloth. The lower part of his body was naked, with his genitals wrapped in gauze and tethered to a parrot. And I’m not saying anything more about the fact that he went on to create performance works that involved small transparent balls, closed eyes, toy soldiers, his hand down his own underpants and urinating, naked, on decapitated chickens. But I am prompted to ask – and I don’t why I never did when I had the chance – if he ever unearthed his little finger from the flowerpot; and if he did, what he subsequently did with it?
All that is nothing compared to Zhang Huan, who dabbed his penis in black ink and slapped it between the pages of Encyclopaedia Britannica for a time. (He’s fortunate my mother never found that out. She always put great store in Encyclopaedia Britannica and she would have been scandalised by his actions. I’m sure she would have hunted him down and put his penis under a large pile of bricks until he had come to his senses).
In a rather more attention-grabbing moment, Zhang also chained himself to the roof beams of a barn in eastern Beijing and let blood drip from a tube bored into his neck, down onto roasting trays below where, much to the concern of the audience, it bubbled and evaporated with rather a nasty stench. Then there was Wu Gaozhong, who curled up inside the freshly-slaughtered buffalo carcass; others with live chickens in their mouths; others getting branded; others buried to their neck in stones; and my favourite: the quirky fellow who dragged a cabbage through the streets on a chain. Naturally this work was called Pet No.2.

Where Street Art is Celebrated

Hosier Lane (off Flinders Lane), Melbourne. 2007.
Some of the most interesting parts of Melbourne are found in its old back lanes, many of which are now home to designer stores, restaurants and cafes. Hosier Lane was once the 'capital' of the rag trade and is now home to major fashion labels like Zambesi, which sits on the corner of Flinders & Hosier Lanes amid some of the best street art I've seen enmasse. Rather than being painted out by over-zealous city officials, it's part of a recognised tourist beat and attracts masses of photographers.

The Spaces Between 2

Filling in the gaps.
Eureka Tower.
View from Flinders Lane, Melbourne.

The Simple Solution...... often the best.
If I had drawn up a list of
'Fifty Things To Do With A Brown Paper Bag' I'm not sure 'MENU' would have been on my list. I spied this delightful solution to table menus at Cliffy's Restaurant in Daylesford, an hour north of Melbourne in Australia last November - hooked over a wooden peg beside the table.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

B is for Bar

Queenstown Bar Signs, Ajr, 2007
I love typography almost as much as I love words - which is just as well, given that one leads to the other. There is something 'plump and reassuring' about the type faces I love that stirs my creative thoughts. But don't ask me their names. I wish I knew them all by heart but my flirtation with type is a superficial affair - an untutored dipping in and out of my PC typography 'library' choosing on the basis of curls, embellishments and other distinguishing aesthetic features. I collect old wooden type - just the letters I especially like - I play with colours and forms; and I take a special pleasure in signs and the way others apply their creative talents to typography. In Queenstown it seems, bar owners have yet to get passed the letter B.

Please Ban.....

The over-worked words and phrases I hate:

  • Clean lines - thashed to death in the architectural sense. Please explain what you mean fully - if you can.
  • Creatives - as used by the PR and advertising industry to mean 'creative people' - I presume. Slightly self-indulgent not to mention grammatically incorrect.
  • Indoor-outdoor flow - if I hear it one more time I'll scream!
  • Luxury - inappropriately used in the New Zealand accommodation sector to the point of embarassment. There are probably no more than a dozen true luxury properties in NZ that would rate on an international scale.
  • You're so lucky - It's generally about hard work not luck!
  • Chur, Tru Bro - NZ slang that annoys the hell out of me. If you're going to speak English do it properly.

Doodle 1

Doodle, AJR - Sept.2007.

Words in the Wild

Sometimes words escape the page and gallop off into the wild, attaching themselves to a grander a canvas - a building, a wall, a billboard - and they take on a new identity. I like that. I like the way they expand, even small words; how they take on a new power and confidence, a more statuesque form and how their meanings can bloat out with broader suggestions. Sometimes, given their location, they become comedians and masters of the obvious: the word BENT on an Adelaide city building - one of numerous references to the word 'bent' I saw that day; the word JETTY on Adelaide's Fleurieu Peninsular on a blue building butting up to the blue ocean - one endless vista of gorgeous blue; and the word LIFEBUOY on...well....a lifebuoy shed (I presume) at Port Lyttelton, over the hills from Christchurch.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Accidental Art

Red Paint Spill
Papanui backstreet

A Question

Who gives a fig about your GREEN, environmentally-friendly sustainability policies if the rest of your product isn't up to scratch?

Please Give Them A Design Injection!

  • NZ shop window dressers
  • NZ restaurants, bars & cafes
  • NZ's small tourism operators and their brochures
  • NZ large-size clothing designers
  • NZ hotels and motels

Pet Words

PleasurejourneyKISSliveEloquentREDdreamMomentsopulencepagesquestionZEN goldexoticTEMPLEtattooLustthinkultimatePassionvelvetvoyageWINabundance ADVENTUREgoldlooklistenlearnGREENLOVEinspirationimagineINDULGE woodideasimpulseLUSTmemoriesopportunityobsessionPLEASUREpinkREFLECTIONS seduceSECRETTHINKunexpecteduncoveredVISIONvarietyWHITEYES wildZestsucculentevocativeattitudebookbambooBLACK

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hedging Your Bets

When a hedge is more than just a hedge, she says, barely disguising her closet passion for hedges. I photographed these beauties in Australia, bringing the car to a sudden halt with a squeal of tyres and a scream of delight. Mooltan sheltered a B&B in the little village of Hepburn, near Daylesford in Victoria; and Beltunga was an unexpected surprise on a dusty, gum-lined back road near McLaren Vale on the Fleurieu Peninsula, an hour from Adelaide.

Why Didn't My Mother Warn Me?

Are they all out to get me?
[Adelaide Central Market, South Australia]

Put Down That Spray Can!

Where does street art begin and grafitti finish?

Should all street art be banned?

Is it any less legitimate as an expressive form than anything else?

Is it always vandalism?

What of the witty works, the works that make you smile, laugh, think and wonder?
What of the works that revive an otherwise bleak and neglected environment?
Top Image: Christchurch Railway Bottom: Dunedin street art

Word Wall

Newspaper office, Adelaide, 2007.
My kind of building - one covered in words!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

On Language

Sometimes you don't need language. You especially don't need it when it's no longer reliable, no longer controllable, no longer easy and when it's very very likely to reduce you to a simpering fool. That said, there is mystery in an inability to communicate with others via our usual means; an allure in someone else's unknowable knowledge; a challenge in trying to tap into it, somehow, without words.
Without language there can be an adrenalin rush in negotiating ordinary routines. There can be excitement in guessing at the meaning of unknown words, at the truth of the meaning that lies in strange sounding sentences. There can be joy in listening for linguistic hints, for familiar-sounding tones; in watching for familiar body movements and expressions that might suggest 'mother,' 'son,' 'daughter,' 'husband' - something you can relate to and draw out into meaningful exchange.
Sometimes, the silent spaces between words and gestures is enough. And sometimes they can be just as eloquent as the words themselves - in any language. From 'Travel in Beijing'; a manuscript by ajr

Paid To Eat

People are envious when I tell them that I review restaurants, that I am often 'paid to eat.' But it's not as glamorous as it sounds. Trust me! When you're on the road for months on end writing a travel guide, it takes a certain mental instability to put yourself through the rigours of eating breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper in restaurants and cafes every day. I've usually had enough after the first week. From then on I apply a particular kind of deranged discipline to the task.
At home in Christchurch, a one-off lunch review is much less arduous - a joy almost - and so it was today, as I settled in to savour the creative plates served with good humour, charm and French accents at High Street Bistro. And what girl isn't a sucker for a French accent at the best of times, much less on Valentine's Day! I'm human after all (despite having to endure super-human gastronomic feats). Having worked our way through grilled French goats' cheese on salad with walnut dressing (I'll spare you the French terminology); quail terrine with onion marmalade (the shared entrees); grilled salmon aioli Provencal and steak tartare (the mains); it seemed picky and rude to ignore the offer of creme brulee with Cognac-laced truffles and espresso. And the corny but winning touch, a red chocolate heart "for Valentine's Day."

The Spaces Between

Adelaide, 2007.

Between words, between objects, between buildings - those 'negative' spaces I love. For me they are filled with positives. Long, thin, dark alleys filled with intrigue and unanswered questions. Long pauses between words filled with the unspoken - often more eloquent than the words themselves. Odd negative shapes between objects that make room for quirky, Escher-like forms that you have to gaze at before you really see them.

Woof, Woof!

Here's something to think about.

Going Green

Bean sketches: A.J.Rewi, 1984-85. Beans centre: Just picked.

I am considering a new book - "One Hundred and One Things To Do With Green Beans." It's desperation kicking in as my vegetable garden over-provides. The scarlet runner beans have gone beserk and every day I wonder about some new inventive way to tackle the problem. It's come to this, drawing them, photographing them, wrapping them (one hundred and one ways) and giving them away in 'appetising' bundles.


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