Sunday, December 3, 2017

Amedeo Modigliani

Reclining Nude with Necklace

One of the more romantic artists of the School of Paris although it should be known as the School of Montmartre and Montparnasse was Amedeo Modigliani. A group of artists intent on searching for an alternative direction to Cubism and Abstraction  that were  occupying central stage in Paris' artistic direction at the time.
Their life style promoted the idea of an artistic Bohemia on both the right and left banks of the Seine. Modigliani although of modest means presented himself according to Ossip Zadkine as ' a young god masquerading as a workman in his Sunday best'. Charming and generous without fault, but intent on self destruction. A fine draftsman but his lack of money forced him to spend hours sitting in bars and cafes creating portraits in exchange for drinks or a meal.
Like many artists at the time Modigliani was greatly influenced by African sculpture, features he incorporated into his sculptures and painting. Poverty forced him to abandon sculpture in favour of painting as it was always difficulty to move heavy pieces of marble in the middle of the night in order to avoid paying rent.
Since my youth I have always admired his work, due no doubt to my art studies at Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney were an academic approach to art education was the order of the day. Modigliani's paintings  revolve around the human face and female figure were he freely used African artistic features  His search for new ways to portray reality within a traditional format offered both a dramatic and engaging new language to the viewer. As a painter he seems to have discarded much of the subject matter of many artists. There are no landscapes, still-life and little supporting structural interiors.


Madam Pompadour
Lunia Czechoxska

Paintings such as "Antonio" and Madam Pompadour illustrate his desire to incorporate cubist observation of Cezanne as well as expressionistic treatment within a realistic tradition. Both portraits and figure paintings exemplify an almost formulaic treatment of heads and necks that disregard realistic proportions. Not the drawing of noses, eyes and mouths. The elongated necks and simplified almost abstracted backgrounds. There is little attempt to place sitters in any realistic setting. Whether Modigliani if he had lived longer would have arrived at abstraction is debateable.

This approach is carried over into his figure paintings such as "Reclining Nude and "Lunia Czechowska". No use of tone rather space has been created by the juxtaposition of shapes and colour. While his paintings appear realistic they are distortions that border on the expressionistic nudes of Otto Mueller.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Visit to Lone Pine. ANZAC COVE

Hillside of the Dead.

Contemplate the fallen,
resting body spent
night sky drifts across
the sloping hillside of the Dead.

Cast a gaze at tottering stones
darkened by natures' stains.

Mother, the night sky dances
on the sloping hillside of the Dead.
To bruise death's markers
at sleep's yawning birth.

While the lone pine stands
on the sloping hillside of the Dead.
On lookers stare
with clouded eyes upon the fallen.

Is it  a mirage? Is it a mirage?
On the sloping hillside of the Dead.

To perish under a blazing sun
beneath a carpet of golden flowers.
Mother, the mirage is dancing
on the sloping hillside of the Dead.

Yes, children the storming wind
turns the sloping hillside white.
It is the mirage! It is the mirage!
On the sloping hillside of the Dead.

Like an enraged bull.
It is the mirage! It is the mirage!
On the sloping hillside of the Dead.

Yes, the mirage, the mirage
Crown's our grief
as it dances, dance through
the sloping hillside of the Dead.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Australian Heart Foundation

Australian Heart Foundation.


Living in  latitude 43degrees south, you become used to the piecing winds that inhabit this part of the world. Winds that wander around the world due no doubt to the lack of any major landmass to impede their journey. Other than South America it is plain sailing. A fact much appreciated in the age of sail when sailing vessels followed the forties latitude. It is little wonder that this region became known as the roaring forties.

Local walking groups, sponsored the Australian Heart Foundation in Southern Tasmania have in recent years been encouraging people to undertake regular daily exercise in an attempt to enable everyone to seriously take their physical and dietary responsibility to healthy living seriously. The never ending march of inactivity in the modern world needs to be countered. The Kettering Walkers as our local group is called is one such group, ex-heart attack victims among others who confront the roaring forties on their twice weekly walk. Not that the wind presents a daily problem, but on occasions the members have learnt to put their heads down and plod into the occasional wall of hail and rain.

Some found their way into the group from the Royal Hobart Hospital heart rehab programme, where valiant nursing staff attempt to correct a life time of bad habits. Others join simply for the disciplined walking programme that takes them to more distant corners of our island. New comers to the district also have the opportunity to make new friends.

My own introduction occurred after a minor heart attack on a steep local mountain caused by a blocked artery. This required the insert of a u shaped hoop to hopefully hold it open.

I would highly recommend that anyone wishing to join such a group do so, after all we only live once.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Routine and Ritual and a better World.

We have all been exposed to various forms routine or ritual at some point in our lives, and I have often wondered whether such forced discipline hinders creative thinking. At a personal level the outcome only really effects ourselves and our relationship  to the world. But authorities of every hue love discipline whether they be Governments, Religions or Employers. After all it is the bedfellow of control. Conservatives would claim that this is the only way to run the world. But recent political actions around the suggest otherwise. We seem to be living in an age of extreme individualism.
Of course there are circumstances  when such a ritual or routine are desirable, even advantageous. Waiting to catch a bus or to be served in a shop are generally actions that run far more smoothly if some sort of agreed procedure is applied, not to mention the necessity for rules in driving your car. Likewise learning to dance or eating with chopsticks could not satisfactory  be undertaken without a predetermined teaching structure.
In today's world however it often seems everyone  may claim the right to interpret their actions souly in terms of self. They claim that defined action and response to new  ideas and actions by the application rules are undemocratic, anti-free will. Catholicism relies heavily on ritual and discipline, theatrical repetition of religious service is justified on the grounds that all worshipers are able to  understand and engage in religious service no matter where they live. A structure that has stood the test of generations, claiming to have a calming effect on participants.

In contrast thinking independently, exercising free will are activities frowned upon in most controlled societies, the control of daily task and thought are considered essential if anarchy is not to prevail.

In recent years Western societies have moved increasingly towards individualism, life styles that do not necessarily produce the best outcomes for its citizens. Should the desire for complete freedom of action in all aspects of life remain central to harmonious living? I am not suggesting we need a dictatorial form of government, but rather more self-control over our desires and actions, but a better understanding of the resulting consequences. Fundamentalists are trying to impose their will, while libertines are advocating the opposite. I have no idea where the correct balance lies, but excessive ritual and routine or freedom of action both seem detrimental to a peaceful world. .But the continual focus of minority groups on their personal problems and determination to impose them on everyone will not necessarily  create a better world.     

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Long Road Home.

Home is where your heart may be found. A village, some distant valley or enchanting location, this is where past memories abound and as the distance lengthens from then to now soul searching often tarnishes such memories.
Memories of past events take on their own aurora, both good and bad. To examine the past in this way has many positive benefits, no longer are your personal interpretations distorted by outside influences. Such a journey down this road from childhood offers all sorts of possibilities, new interpretations, why such and such happened or didn't. How successfully do you view your life from then to now.
Travelling down this road is not unlike travelling down a long dark tunnel, never knowing what lies around the next corner. The revival of experiences now seen in hindsight and with a clarity of experience accumulated over the years can be refreshing.
Home always has that heart warming love of childhood. Yearly birthdays and the joy and excitement of Christmas with its innocence of true belief. This can never be recreated and for many remains the happiest years of their life.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Memory can have many masters:
As the world moves with ever increasing speed towards a possible abbess, it is time to sharpen our memories of not too distance past. Current political events aboard to day offer little hope that it is possible to restore reason and a sense of duty in  today's world leaders. How can hope exist when the past is so easily forgotten. Hope for a better future requires known or aspired goals. Past memory has such magical powers when recalled, it sits motionless, silent waiting for recall from a disinterested present. Memory is history without which there is nothing, simply a void, a world without any true purpose.

To what extent does memory play in current events? Is it simply a collection of past experiences without any relevance to the present or a  reminder of possible outcomes. Unfortunately its value depends on how long personal memory spans. This varies from individual to individual, from country to country, the shorter the span the less useful. There are events in  all lives that are fixed in the past because they are markers of important experience in our lives.

The greatest value memory should play in life, if it is not to continually repeat itself with similar satisfactions, disasters, would be greater examination of the detail as to how decisions were made at the time. The reasons whether personal, political and social are the key. It seems little thought is being excised by our leaders in decision making. True universal aspirations are required.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Great Wall

Every visitor to the Middle Kingdom visits the Great Wall and it seemed appropriate that after a morning offering sacrifices to the Gods at the Temple of Heaven that a visit to the Great Wall would be timely. Firstly a word about the temple complex, it is one of the best examples of Ming Dynasty architecture in Beijing covering several acres. Temples to past Chinese Emperors with their ornate decorative interiors were visitors may leave offerings abound. Still a active monastery the monks sell ink paintings to raise funds for the upkeep. At one point we were ushered into a large studio with a large selection of images of historic deities. The monks and other devotees paint here. The standard of the art work was of a very high standard depicting Chinese landscapes, along with the Gods and more modern images.

Then we drove about a half hour or so to the Great Wall that naturally has been developed into a major tourists destination. The wall itself was a surprise, clinging as it does to the edge of ravines and across steep gullies. The wall runs up hills and across the mountain tops. From our car park it ran in two directions, one a fairly modest clime while the other more or less ran straight up the mountain ,naturally the direction I took. Built of bricks and stone, each step  a different height  that makes the clime very taxing. Every fifty metres or so there is a fort [very breezy with no enclosed windows] were the troops lived and slept while on duty. I was told that soldiers lived here for months or even years on end.

As I'm only one month away from my 80th birthday I decided to see how fit I was and qualify for the title of  Chinese Hero for climbing the wall. After an hour of climbing I reached Fort 12 that required a lot of pulling myself up by the handrail with frequent stops. Still I'm pleased to say I succeed and felt that the evening massage was a just reward.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Haircut by any other name.

.Arriving in Suzhen on a hot June day I decided to try to find a barber for a haircut. On receiving  instructions from the hotel porter I  turned off right instead of left as instructed, but could  see no barber in sight. Not being sure how Barbers advertised themselves in China I undertook several enactments of a person receiving a haircut. Eventually after a few false starts I arrived at what looked like a cross between a lady's hairdresser and a barber. After being waved inside I was firmly conducted towards a barber's chair were I was presented with a sheet of Chinese writing. The gentleman standing over me seemed to indicate that I should point at whatever performance took my fancy. Not having my glasses didn't help and the page appeared as a big blur. He naturally spoke no English and my Chinese to say the least was non-existent, so anything was possible.

After several minutes I trust a finger at what appeared to be an attractive character. He immediately attacked me with mechanical clippers removing most of one side of my beard along with what little hair I had, just one or two remained on my head. By now I was rather anxious about the likely outcome, but as the barber's chair had been laid right back there appeared to be little I could do. Then the cut throat razor came out as face, eye brows and the top of head were examined for any likely hair in need of removal. While this was going on another assistant started to rub some sort of lotion into the top of my head. This in turn was followed by a conditioner and heaven's know what else. Then came the shampoo, not that the last time I looked there was a lot of hair to wash, certainly after the clippers had done their duty.

So there I was , razor man on one side and another with a hose washing down the shampoo on the other. Then the messages started. Firstly, ears and eyes, followed by head, nose and cheeks. The massage continued down my back, across my  shoulders, arms and a final hard pull on each finger. After the final workout my head was dosed in hair cream, the reason for which still escapes me as I'm pretty bald, then the job was finally finished. I suggested that the bill when it arrived must be a mistake, after all I only wanted a haircut. But no $72 was the correct amount. Long negotiations then took place. I would write one amount on a piece of paper, the barber another. This continued for some time and I was at loss as to know what to do  At last I comprised and paid him $50 that was still the most expensive hair cut in my life. Such are haircuts in China.