Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sculpture Trail. -BENCHMARK. 2013.

                                               Simon Pankhurst     'A Seat Somewhere'
                                           reconsidered scrape metal  200cm x 60cm x24cm.

Forty five minutes south of Hobart, a second generation Tasmanian has created an annual sculptural trail on his family's farm. When the idea first took root the annual exhibition was to highlight benches.
As the exhibition is open to anyone naturally the concepts and finished works tend to be uneven depending on who has decided to take part in any given year. A young self taught metal worker Simon Pankhurst has over the years gone from strength to strength as this year's entry above shows. Simon has taken part in most of the past shows and displayed a great sense originality'

In recent years the trail, and it is a trail as the viewers are required walk up through the bush and on up a hill to view all the exhibits, looking at the various entries displayed along the track. Some pieces are retained from previous years and thus enrich the experience. Not all participants necessarily make benches ,often preferring to use all sorts of materials in their statements to create straight forward sculptures.
Jaffa Rascal   'Splash'
50cm x 100cm x 50cm.
ceramic and salvaged timber.
  Total view of 'Splash' below.
Jaffa Rascal work appears to be based on sea crustaceans growing on fallen trees sections.

Sally Brown 'Espalier'
82cm x 60cm x60cm.
This work is best described as a relief rather than a three dimensional sculpture. The artist felt that we view the world from one perspective rather than in the round. I found the above had a lot of affinity with the play of shadows on a wall that offers many possibilities.
I felt that to many of this years exhibits were not fully resolved, and the artists involved have not explored to full possibility of three dimensional space which after all is what sculpture is all about.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Anzac Day Fire, a day to remember.

April 25, Australia's Anzac Day, when the country marches and attends dawn ceremonies to commemorate the fallen in wars past and present.

Later in the morning we decided to clean up around our winter's wood pile down near the shed. A job like many others around the place waiting an opportune moment to move from the bottom of the list. Everything ran smoothly during the morning, logs neatly stacked along the fence line, all the dry leaves raked up into a small heap for burning out in a cleared open site.

Around midday, I told my wife I would go up to the house to make some coffee. We were both quietly sitting around the table when a lot of banging was heard at the front door. It was my neighbour to tell me several trees were on fire and the fire was travelling down a slope of some forty acres of dried bush.

We quickly ran down grabbing shovels and rakes on the way to try to control what could have developed into a serious situation. One look prompted a call to the local Fire Brigade. In the meantime my neighbour, and I scrambled under the fence to try to cut off the fire as it dance down the slope at speed. Luckily shortly after this a fire truck arrived and sprayed all and sundry with their big hoses that put our little backpack sprays to shame. Whole piles of wood were burning fiercely as I watched several tons of winter firewood disappear. Some ten trees were by now also on fire with the flames reaching up into the sky. A second firetruck arrived, and after distributing some fifteen tons of water were able to gain the upper hand and extinguish the fire.

  • Gum trees are such a problem in this country as they are full of oil that almost explores. During our coffee break the wind came up and blew a few sparks over into the bush, which underlines the homely, never leave a fire unattended.The fire show took an good hour or so before order was restored.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Role of Spontaneous Expression and Intuition in Creative Art

'The displaced'  by Peter Kreet  196.7
Acrylic on board  6ft. x  4ft.

Role of Spontaneous Expression.

The role of spontaneous expression and intuition play a central role in creative art. Particularly in the west a strong attitude of revolt is also required. Some of the most exciting work in the modern era embrace the concept of spontaneity. Expressionism is best described as a form of subjective interpretation of someone or something, beyond objective observation. The state of mind of the creator is reflected rather than an image conforming to what we may call the external world. Historically expressionism has been with us in many forms from the very earliest times through tribal cultures. During the Reformation its basic concepts are well expressed in Matthias Grunewald’s  “Crucifixion” c1513.

Expressionism in the modern sense made itself felt in the latter 19th cent to the heady years of early 20th cent art with the strong use of non-natural colour and distorted form. The idea behind this intuitive approach is the attempt to convey an inner feeling about the subject. This spontaneous response often presents itself in an eruption of irrational forces from within. Abstract Expressionism stands as a good example.

A number of years ago I painted a series of works based on a response to the Vietnam War. At the time I was living in Sydney and with the introduction of conscription the Australian population was divided. The exhibition at the time was closed down, but the real subject really dealt with the futile nature of war. I have posted a painting from the series so you can understand what I personally mean by expressionism.


                                                             ' Grim Reaper'  by Peter Kreet. 1967.
                                                               Acrylic on board  6ft. x 4ft.

It is reasonable to claim that often the idea expressed deals with an emotional turbulence within without conventional logic. Van Gogh an early exponent of expressionism underlines this abandonment of conventional logic, but this quality reinforces the power of expressionism to create meaning. Munch’s “Cry” with its use of violent colour and lineal distortion truly expresses the elemental emotion of fear, love and hate.

Northern Europe has long been the home of this type of expression, over the centuries the contrast between Italian and German art bears witness to these different approaches, were restraint was thrown to the wind.  Whether this is due to the long winters is hard to say, but I do believe our environment and personal circumstances play a part in artistic output. Most of us would accept that colour directly or indirectly reproduces personal responses.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Napoleon Bonaparte and Margret Thatcher.


With the recent death of  Margret Thatcher, Britain's Iron Lady, I can not help but compare her to that other giant of European history Napoleon Bonaparte. Both steered their countries out of chaos during their respective time in the limelight. Napoleon rescued France from the grip of the Revolution, While Thatcher preformed the same feat in therms of trade union power in Britain. Both seemed determined to make their countries "Great", what ever that means.

However there their programmes differ. Napoleon had a vision of a united Europe, based arguably on a people free from centuries of domination by the monarchies. Thatcher by contrast critical of European Union, a view she express very strongly she seemed to have little time for outsiders. No doubt she felt that her policies would liberate the people from hidden control depending on which side of the fence you stand. There are those who feel that her economic policies eventually lead to the economic break down recently experience, while other will see them as liberation from regulation as a God send. There is no question that she restored the country's prosperity.

British historians generally have an unfavourable opinion of Napoleon, a view I gathered from many lectures on Napoleon during my histories studies. Whether this was simply because he was French, or whether it was some usual neighbourly dislike of countries whose past has always been entwined. It remains to be seen whether statues of Margret Thatcher, like Napoleon's will still be selling two hundred years from now. Both leaders were very headstrong who demanded loyalty  with little time for dissenters in their ranks, a quality that lead to the down fall of both.
Still no one can deny Napoleon left huge foot print on Europe, one that will be hard to duplicate. He created to a great extent the Paris landmarks we have come to love, the Arc de Triomphe, the column at the center of the Place Vendome, the Eglise de la Madeleine as a temple to his Grande Armee. Undertook  a program to modernize Paris, several ambitious construction projects such as the elegant arcades along the rue de Rivoli. Instituted practical urban improvements to the sewers and road network.

But most probably his greatest achievement was the restructure of the education system, Napoleon broadened its reach, centralized control, and created a systematized curriculum. "Of all our institutions, public education is the most important" he said. Last, but not least  introducion of the Napoleonic law Code, many laws of which are still in place to-day. Unfortunately, unlike Margret Thatcher he did not receive the grand farewell to be given to Margret Thatcher next week. But then again he wasn't British.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Love Affair with Autumn Colours



There is something magical about the colours of autumn, a sense of wellbeing, crops safely harvested, evenings sitting in front of an open fire. No doubt a lot of this sense of contentment is due to my outlook across the open countryside to the sea. I’m very fortunate to have a vine covered terrace to look at from every corner of the house.  The early morning are best, mist drifting through the trees, rain drops sparkle among the dark foliage of the every green trees, while the early birds break into their morning song.

Best of all is to view this scene bordered by the “Glory Vine”. I have no  idea what the correct name may be, but glory vine seems good enough for me. I believe the vine's true home is the north-east corner of the United States, and it made it’s way to Europe in the 19th cent to help fight phylloxera a plant louse that was devastating the vineyards of France. American vines are resistant due to their heavier root system.  Whether this variety was used  for this purpose or not I don’t know, but there is no denying its attractiveness.

The glory vine is not hard to grow, simply take a cutting about 18ins long in the autumn from hardened wood, about the thickness of your finger , push it about two thirds into the ground and it should shoot in the spring. Make sure you plant your cutting the right way up. Water during the first summer and by the next autumn your vine should be ready to plant out.  As you can see from my vine [ they are growing in mud stone] the glory vine is very tough. In very good soil they could present serious competition to Jack’s bean stalk. When you first plant them out only leave the two strongest shoots and then reduce this to one shoot later in the summer when established in their new home. This will help in the development of a strong trunk.

The glory vine does not bear fruit, so you do not need to contend with bird droppings during fruiting season. The vigour of the vine creates a wonderful shaded area for hot summer days. Then there is always somewhere to set up a table for those long summer lunches, and finally the pleasure of marvellous autumn colours. Throughout winter the vine throws ever changing patterns on the wall , another delight. So if you have a spot to plant some glory vines, don’t hesitate do it now and enjoy the pleasure for the next forty years.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lifes voyage through stormy seas.

Setting out on life's journey
Painting by Peter Kreet.
Acrylic on board $600

Over the past few months, I have been searching for a visual icon to express the journey of life and the human ageing process. I have wanted to find an image that had weathered a long journey, through storm and calm. Finally, I settled on ships at sea that seemed to hold all the ingredients, long journeys through troubled waters often with unknown outcomes. My images would have to express vessels in distress where the final outcome could be in doubt. My first painting “Homeward Bound” portrayed a container vessel about to founder, losing all of life’s accumulative wealth. The question of survival or otherwise of the doomed ship could represent the optimist or pessimist viewpoint depending on your nature.

As the meridian age of our western population continues to advance ever upwards, the question as to how we cope with these extra year in terms of contentment. Several years ago I discovered that the island of Crete has produced a disproportionate number of long livers. I believe they share this honour with a number of regions in Japan. Often such longevity is put down to diet, or healthy climate. Many elderly Cretan natives I observed seemed to chain smoke, eat whatever they liked without any apparent ill effects. This was confirmed when I walked through various grave yards, so I can vouch for their long life spans. What was highly noticeable was the way they spent their days quietly chatting in taverns and cafe, simply passing the day in undemanding company, playing cards or backgammon in the company of friends.

It was not a look in the mirror that prompted this enquiry, rather an attempt to understand the true meaning of happiness throughout life, particularly as our ship starts on the final leg to its home port. The answer obviously will depend on who you ask, but strangely it is not wealth. In the west we are addicted to cosmetic surgery, jogging, and even youth enhancing hormone treatment. What Epicurus had in mind in Ancient Greece, when discussing life was happiness, this would give you the best possible life. He did not believe in an afterlife, so every decision
you made was critical. He wrote, “It is not the young who should be considered fortunate, but the old who have lived well, because the young in their prime wander much by chance, vacillating in their belief. While the old have docked in the harbour, having safely guarded their true happiness”.

These were the ideas running through my mind when I embarked on this series of paintings. Firstly there would have to be ships in serious distress as they came upon the hazards of life, were it could be touch and go whether one would survive, would you reach a safe harbour. The sea like life can be very unpredictable. The seaman needs to be free of vacillating beliefs to survive. A Chinese friend of mine suggested that the emptiness of striving was what Epicurus had in mind, much as a Buddhist strives for in meditation.  Many of us in later life became anxious about what we have not achieved, the unfulfilled dreams of youth, or we believe happiness is bound up in owning stuff the commercial world tells us we really need, sometimes both.

When we free ourselves from these obligations we gain freedom, and like my Cretan friends can sit for hours with friends in a tavern or whatever passing the time of day. There is no schedule at this end of life’s span. Just the great pleasure of shared conversation, laughter, and the shared communal silence. There is no need to impress, these are hallmarks of friendship. Strangely with age it becomes easier to start conservations with strangers particularly with women. I suppose  you no longer present any threat, other than perhaps being boring. One final remark from Epicurus "If Death is nothing there can be no fear of it, any more than the fear of nothingness in our pre-birth years".
                                       " Setting out on life's journey". by Peter Kreet
                                               Acrylic on board 600 x 520   $600.

"Youthfully encounters"  by Peter Kreet
Acrylic on board  600 x 520  $600.

"Mid-life crises"  by Peter Kreet
Acrylic on board  1000 x 600  $1200.

"Loss of Possessions" by Peter Kreet
Acrylic on board  $600.
"Journey's end"  by Peter Kreet
Acrylic on board 1000 x 600   $1500
"Possible surviver?" by Peter Kreet.
Acrylic on board.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Wine making, Vintage 2013. What a great year.

Looks like being a great year for wine here in Tasmania, ripe fruit, high sugar, even bunches along the vine canes. The year has been very dry, in fact all of Australia has had a strange summer, floods in the north, but hot and dry here in Tassi. We have just finished picking the crop, pressed it, and now have it bubbling away in the fermenting jars. Whether our good crop has anything to do with being a dry vineyard [non irrigated] I have no idea, but I have always believed in the French saying the poor vine makes the best wine. I think that the vine roots have travelled deep into the soil due to the lack of water over the last 25 years. Our vineyard now is mainly medicinal, just enough to ensure good health.

Part of the grape crop awaiting pressing.
When we picked the sugar reading was just over 24 degrees sugar, so the wine could be a big one.
After picking we always de-stork the bunches, the reason for this is that over the years we have found that de-storking reduces off flavours in the wine. Often a lot more tannin is extracted from the stork if the berries remain in contact with them for any length of time, such flavours can be quite off putting.

After de-storking we tip the grapes into a crusher, a very simple machine not unlike an old cloths wringer as used on wash days years ago. This crushes the grape lightly, and allows a free run off of juice.
We then use a very old method pressing by foot before they go into the press, soft touch is required here. Years ago I saw a group of Portugese women, arms around each other danceing up and down a large though press port grapes, music playing in the background curtisy of the local musicians.
The crushed grapes are then placed into our old wine press, that no doubt every one has seen as decor in various wine shops around the world. This is when we extract most of the juice. This press is a very old design that has an interlocking system that slowly applies pressure. It would surprise many people how much resistance an unbroken berry has when it comes into contact with slow pressure. This is why we always use the crusher first, and also we want close contact between skin and juice for colour.
After pressing, we are left with a compact pile of grape skins, in some countries this is distilled for Sprint, In France I believe people spread it on their bread for breakfast, after all it is still very sweet with grape suga, personally I have not tried it..
This year we used a special recipe to convert this must into a grape cordial that the children seem to love. This seems to be a better use than sending it all to the compost pile.
The grape juice is then transferred to our fermenting tank where fermenion starts. It is possible to use the natural yeast on the grape skin, however this can yield unknown results. Most people introduce a wine yeast after neutralising the natural grape yeast. After four days in the large fermenting vat, we rack the juice into smaller glass containing jars until the fermentation stops. The juice is only left on the skins in the large vat for those four days to extract colour. A wine maker could stop contact between juice and skins anytime, depending on the colour of wine they wish to make. Rose wine may not have much contact at all. It is possible to make a white wine from red grapes if you wish. But most of the health benefits of wine drinking are found in red wine, ie from the skin of the red grape.
Once fermentation is complete the wine is racked several times to clarify the liquid. It is possible to clarify by the ancient method of using egg white, that some how carries any skin or small fruit samples to the bottom. Finally the new vintage is bottled and ready to drink as new seasons wine which may be very strong. Personally I have found that if you have sufficient stock it is best to age for the next few year. The wine will take on greater character and nobality, no doubt like people. Whether wine making is an art like cooking I have no idea, but it is a great way to spend a pleasant day out of doors with friends. After all they are the most precious thing we have in order to enjoy a pleasurable life.
Finally I use Pinot Noir grapes grown here on our property. The pinot is one of the great wine grapes of the world, difficult to grow but worth the task. It is the foundation grape for French Burgundy, where families pass on small acreage from generation to generation, sometimes only a few rows. Why are the vineyards so small? Well blame Napoleon who in his time broke up the large estates to give to his troops and the poor peasants. There you are a perfect peoples drink.
I will leave you with one final truth from our old friend Xenophanes 560-470BC
"But as for certain truth ,no man has known it,
Nor will he know it; neither of the Gods,
Nor yet of all the things of which I speak,
and even if by chancehe were to utter
The final truth, he would himself not know it;
For all is but a woven web of guesses.