Friday, February 22, 2013


Kingbilly Pine yacht.

Over the last ten years the Hobart Wooden Boat show has grown and grown.
The recent show attracted some 650 wood boats from all over the world and
attracted over a quarter of a million visitors. Anyone interested in boats, particularly
wooden ones this display is not to be missed.

Cluster of wooden yachts.

The display has grown in size year after year to now be the largest exhibition of wooden vessels
in the Southern Hemisphere. To wonder around the Hobart docks on a fine January day is a
delight. Then there is the added bonus to be able to  talk and discuss the methods of construction of these
wonderful vessels with the people who actually built them. Their love and enthusiasm for their
task is there for all to behold.
Hobart has had a long history of boat building which in a sort of way justifies the British settlement of this
part of the world. The British Admiralty became quite excited about the Norfolk pine trees on Norfolk Island
and could see how they maybe able to supply the navy with masts and spares. This of course didn't happen, but what did take place the discovery of Huon Pine, a timber that was nearly rot proof, oily and ideal for boat building. This was the start of Tasmania's love affair with wooden boats, a affair that has lasted to this day. The state has establish a wooden boat school at Franklin were an enthusiast may learn how to do it from experienced shipwrights.


James Craig' steel hulled ship along side the dock.

James Craig.
The James Craig was a steel wreck tied up to the Hobart shoreline when I first came to live here in 1975. How it had survived over the years is any one guess. However a far sighted individual from Sydney purchased the vessel. towed it back home to Sydney Harbour and set about the restoration of this fine example of 19th cent shipbuilding. The result does great credit to the  craftsmen involved as any viewer would testify. She had sailed down to show the flag. During the year the James Craig sails around the Australian coast, and I believe any keen sailor has the opportunity to learn the ropes.

A beautiful boat . 
This a beautiful example of the shipwrights craft.
Tasmania is well blessed with many fine timbers suitable for boat building, Huon pine,
Kingbilly pine and many others. 

                                                                    Eye of the Wind.

One of several sailing vessels who made the trip down to Hobart. There was a grand sail past at the end of the long weekend down the Derwent River. Some of my readers may not realise that the Derwent in a very deep waterway, and the harbour is one of the largest in Australia though now not greatly used thanks to the container age.

                                                                  Hobart steam ferry.

Years ago Hobart had a flourishing ferry service, sadly now not as greatly used as it could be.
However the city still has a number of the old steam ferries operating as tourist vessels.They add a sense of great charm and colour to the dock area and are very popular with visitors. It is possible to catch a ferry up the river to a new Hobart attraction MONA Museum of Old and New art.. The Hobart docks are more or less in the middle of town giving the city a maritime feel.

Looking across the docks at a few of the boats.

Russian visitor. This vessel sailed half way around the world to get here!


Sullivan's Dock with a few of the visitors.

Poop section of the "Notorious"
A replica of the Portuguese 15th cent caravel..
This vessel has been hand built along the traditional construction lines and was open to visitors.
It was built from reclaimed timber by a dedicated couple in Victoria.
Hand built canvas boat with its builder.
Who is only too willing to instruct you in how to build your own..
Note the novel oar shape. This boat has been built along the lines of an Irish corache.
Note the rib construction made of small sapling timber and how the stringers have been tied
to them. As the vessel is covered in canvas and then sealed with bitchmen paint you need to
be careful where you place your feet.

Sail past up the Derwent River on the last day of the show.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Francis Bacon.

"Studies for a human body" Section.
Francis Bacon
Many curators and critics consider Francis Bacon among
the most important artists of the 20th cent. An artist whose
main focus was on the act of painting, the manner of the brushwork, and the physical presence of the paint being the all important quality of his work. Bacon's painting are framed under glass, so when a viewer looks closely at work in the current exhibition at The Art Gallery of New South Wales, they become aware of the need to move around from one foot to another. This need for physical engagement is the only way to really see what is going on, the need to move the reflections on the glass in order to fully view the work. This is a deliberate device to force to enter into and connect with the painting. In other words the viewers subjectivity must over ride other conscious interpretation of the image.

Bacon once pointed out in an interview that "in the end painting is a result of the interaction of those accidents
[chance in the process of applying paint] and the will of
the artist or, if you prefer, the interaction of the uncontentious and the conscious".

Bacon stands alone in 20th cent. art, as realist who is not a realist.He was not an expressionist and rejected strongly any suggestions he was. Nor was he an abstract artist, rather he was a realist who was not interested in literal or illustrative interpretation of the world. He loved the element of chance inherent in his paint application. At times he Incorporated sand, sweeping from the floor in his work. Bacon applied paint not only with a brush and palette knife, but made use of rags, and foreign materials to produce the effects desired. He was always looking for the unexpected result.

Bacon was a realist painter in a very loose way, but had the ability for a viewer to recognise the image.He shun ed any idea of story telling and rarely included more than one figure in a painting. These figures were in turn often enclosed in suggestive boxes or rooms that contained them but not completely. He did not what the viewer to be tempted to relate one figure to another. The figures as you can see are in varying degrees distorted, but still recognisable. One is tempted to view his work as violent, but the scenes are not violent so as to force the viewer to experience a raw aspect of reality. To unlock their conscious attempt to interpret the image in some conventional way.

Bacon wanted to counter any tendency to define meaning in his paintings. His aim was to create a new aesthetic through the physical presence of paint. Abstraction for him was a dead end. His art was an attempt to create a
                                                                      new way to lock reality into something arbitrary.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage.


When you ask most people what they are, they generally reply that they are generically what the country of their birth happens to be. Given this type of answer, I have often wondered in this multi-cultural world what exactly such a response means. How do we define who we are? To what degree does an individual’s  cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds play in defining who they are. This may seem to be a rather academic question, but with the  greatest historic migration of people all over the world taking place the question needs to be asked.

Australia has developed a fairly successful multi-cultural society over the last fifty years. There have been hiccups, but by most standards we have developed for the most part a tolerant society. Anyone living in the country for the required number of years is entitled to apply for citizenship. You may think this is normal, but there are European counties were new comers who have lived for several generations are denied such a privilege, the Turkish population in Germany comes to mind.

In this country there are people from every corner of the world who have lived in Australia for one to two hundred years, many decedents of Chinese miners from the 19th cent .are still referred to as Chinese by some Australians. Afghan camel drivers from the last century are another case in point, but are these people still Chinese or Afghans, I think not, they would describe themselves as Australians.

What we need to look at is not physical appearances, or religion or what  other gauge we like to use, but rather how they see themselves as a part of this country. There is no doubt that various nationalities look back to their cultural roots and background to define who they are. This presupposes that people don’t evolve into something else when resettling into a new environment. Is a Malay Indian, Indian or Malay? At what point does a person stop belonging to one ethnic group and takes on the ethnicity of another. In reality every national group is a mixture of different cultures created over thousands of years.

In the end it is cultural practice that determines one’s ethnicity, how you see yourself. The original indigenous inhabitants of Australia are a good example, the vast majority are of mixed blood, some no more than one quarter indigenous, yet many disregard such genic material. This would suggest that majority genic background as far as they are concerned does not play a defining role. Religion can likewise be dismisses as most religions are all embracing no matter what your origins. Countries that like to see themselves  “racially pure” are no more than the result of migrations over the millennium. People who still like to think in such fixed terms need to take a cold shower. We should all be alarmed at the rise of groups who for whatever reason view multi-culturalism as something to be abandoned and distained. All societies are multi-cultural whether we like it or not. The formation in Australia of a political party recently advocating assimilation and the abandonment of the multi-cultural nature of the country need a serious rethink. Everyone has the right to see themselves in their own terms, and providing they live by the countries laws no harm is done. Eventually all will all become one.

Saturday, February 9, 2013



In this day of e-Books and other forms of electronic information there is a danger of the book launch being consigned to history. However, the other day I had the pleasure of attending the book launch of a local author at the Hobart Book Shop. The mere fact that an eighty year old could find the energy and dedication to write a first time novel at that age was a marvel in itself.


The author Paddy Burges Watson, has set down a wonderful tale of a young poor Irish girl from Connemara, who through misfortune finds herself transported to Van Diemen’s Land. The tale embraces years of social observation about the emotional and physical reactions of our human kind. Set in the 1820’s it offers an insight into the early years of Hobart from a humble perspective.


Sitting in the bookshop listening to various speakers endorse Paddy’s tale, my eye wondered around the shelves alighting on volumes of diverse subjects. Books on the romance of travel, how to cook exotic dishes, latest novels , philosophy and on. Some occupying their allotted space, while others had managed to arrange themselves randomly on top of shelves or on the floor. What a great loss to mankind would result from the disappearance of that physical entity called a book and the bookshop itself. Feeling their weight, the smell of printed paper as you turn the pages with a real expectation of what is to follow.


Watching the crowd eagerly line up to have their new found friend endorsed by its author, sitting patiently at his table. That sense of comradely life  as they joke and laugh among themselves. These experiences cannot be replicated in a computer world, and our world would be a poorer place. As for the book’s title “Moving On”, This reminds me of anough friend who claimed ther was no need to worry about the world as eventually we simply move on.