In the pretty city of Edinburgh we strolled about the Crags overlooking the new parliament building, the old castle and the population preparing for the festive season. We also avoided cold winter rain by popping into a warm cinema.
Then over to Glasgow to visit the eclectic Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where I saw a Spitfire plane dangling over a giraffe, a dodo and an excellent selection of Charles Rennie Mackintosh chairs. We also managed a great scenic drive along Lock Lomond, which framed our very short visit to the land where those little fluffy creatures called Haggis scurry about in the moist bracken and spiky thistles. AAaacchhhh..we also had a wee dram of single malt or two with Johnny, MK, Sharon and Dean then southwards to Morocco.
We landed in a pinky-brown city of apartments, palaces, hovels and mosques not so far from the snow capped Atlas Mountains. The aroma of amber and musk along with a hundred other perfumes wafted from herbal shops across Marrakesh to flavor the arid air.
Men wearing pointy hooded jelaba robes gushed out tourist biz speak in a dozen well-practiced tongues while sipping mint tea under fields of satelite dishes. An onslaught of tiresome banter but the primary income is the Euro/dollar/yen/pound so a great deal of activity necessarily revolves about tourism. This slightly modernized Muslim land struggles along by praying to Allah, praying for rain and praying for a bit more freedom.
Behind the hazy mountains sat 9,000,000 sq. kilometers of Saharan Desert and growing each year but we headed west to the coast. A tip from our host Rachel landed us here -
The port of Essaouira was fishy, historical and now a very Gnaoua inspired musical town loaded with tourists, trinkets and funky riad/hotels. We wandered about amazing maze-like zouks getting very lost and then getting even more lost which was sort of the plan I think. This was a holiday time for us so we attempted to do less than nothing in this UNESCO world heritage listed city.
On the morning of our departure at 5.55 am I awoke to the spooky sound of “Fajr ” or the dawn prayer. Outside the window a sharp full moon and the bright flesh colored wall of the neighboring building. I sat up in bed and prayed that our taxi was on time then began to gather my thoughts and paraphernalia for the southern hemisphere was beckoning.
A month of working in the Icelandic studio is almost at an end. The north Atlantic weather became very northern with horizontal rain, hail and gale winds battering our studio for a week then snow arrived and it looks like settling in for the winter. Inside is really the best place to be and that is where we have been plugging away at new artwork while eating the best thick yogurt in the world or is it really the best very soft cheese in the world? Skyr is one of the many local foods we have tried including puffin, whale and an excellent form of flat bread.
To break up the rather intense studio time we drove up northwest way to the Snaefellsnes peninsula. This is one beautiful region with a lot of striking landscape all spread out for your sensory enjoyment. Our first stop was a very obvious geological fault line called Pingvellir. Here the continental drift between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates is presented in its rocky splendor. This is also a cultural site where the old Vikings and Celts sorted their rustic chaos into order. The early settlers probably traveled by Icelandic ponies from across the island to create a parliament on top of this crest of the mid Atlantic ridge way back in 930.
We drove north to Stykkisholmur visiting Olafvik, Skardsvik beach, Neshraun and Londranger rocks all on the peninsula. Basically we circled about the impressive Snaefellsjokull (1446 m.) and enjoyed a feast of lava/moss fields. For some reason I just can’t get enough of this under-rated form of vegetation! Like a layer of natural shag-pile or soft felt that makes you think about squirming about in all its verdant greenness. Zillions of very tiny trees forming miniscule forests with a dense canopy not higher than 10 cm spread over harsh black lava beds that stretch for miles and miles.
Speaking of miles…we next travel southwards 836 miles or 1,346 km to Scotland where some single malt should to be drunk while we catch up with old friends.
In The Netherlands we stayed in a typical old, central Amsterdam house. Tiny steep stairs led up to the small apartment with a bedroom located in the attic, bulging book shelves lined most walls with authors ranging from Michael Moorcock, Bertrand Russell, Umberto Eco, Georges Bataille and William Borroughs along with plenty of underground films and obscure music on both record and CD. Art covered the walls not concealed by other forms of culture. A few antique wooden TNT detonators or “Blasting machines” sat on the coffee table ready for next new-year’s eve firework celebrations. In the fridge we found champagne, Polish vodka and rich German beer. A small box sat in the butter compartment of the fridge, containing psycho active "Magic-truffles- Psllocybe Mexicana” and when we first arrived the table was littered with hashish and a micro bong from the previous guests bon-voyage party.
I sat down and flicked through a book titled – Sex and Rockets, played a few tracks from an album called Singing in the bathtub by R. Crumb and the cheap suit serenades then made some coffee. A marvelous place to stay and many, many thanks to our host! Wisely over the few weeks we stayed there I ate one herring each day to keep healthy and nourished.
A number of times I also nipped into my favorite bar called Wynard Fockink, that has been making and serving Dutch Gin or Genever in many forms since 1679. One evening there, a fellow drinker told me that 1679 is the year 2223 in the Buddhist calendar, which made this year actually 2555. This all confused me a little as I sniffed and sipped more distilled juniper berries. I reasoned that the bar had opened quite a few summers ago then I ordered an unusual Bergamot flavored spirit as I looked for a reliable calendar and map. I really needed to check both when I was and where I was before I left the bar and fell into another.
Planted - Suzanne Biederberg Gallery. 29th October - 3rd December.
There’s a fair amount of the color green in the current exhibition even though much of the work was spawned in Antarctica. ‘Green-out’ is an Antarctic term used to describe the intense sensory surprise some expeditioneers feel when they return from Antarctica. The smell of earth, trees, shrubs and grass can be accentuated due to the total lack of such strong sensory inputs for long periods of time. Astronauts have similar experiences after months and months without greenery and nothing to smell but metal, sweaty socks, electronic perfume and body odor. It seems I still have a bout of this green-out observed in the work I now exhibit at Suzanne Biederberg Gallery here in Amsterdam.
I got cactus, A lady tree, Boab toy, and Dog topiary are paintings in the show that in a way pay homage to vegetation in all its weird and wonderful forms. Forms that I almost forgot about during that long dark Antarctic winter.
The concept of planting oneself and staying still is another aspect of plant-life that interests me as sinking roots into the soil to make a home or even simply becoming stationary are rather alien concepts to me. Perhaps I need to take notes from plants to see how on earth I can plant myself and stay put for longer than my usual few month in any location…. Whoops now we are in a plane heading north to a place with few plants.
Twenty-eight years ago I was in Iceland and now Carolina and I settle into a studio at The Hafnarfjördur Centre of Culture and Fine Art. Time for us to do some work! (www.hafnarborg.is) This harbor town is just south of the capital city Reykjavik and sits on a massive lava field inhabited by humans and apparently “Huldufolk” or hidden people. The lava arrived about 7300 years ago when Mt. Búrfell erupted so there are interesting rock formations here and there in-between the buildings. We have yet to meet any elves but I presume they are in hidden somewhere in the numerous black volcanic rock grottos covered in lush moss. The clean smell of geothermal sulphur drifts out of all hot water pipes, black singed sheep heads are found in the supermarket and Reykjavik seems as funky as ever especially considering it’s tiny population and sub Arctic climate. We intend to explore the west coast of the island but first I want to buy a bottle of the local booze called Brennivin (Burning-wine) or “Black Death” to lubricate our journey.
Settling into the House by the Pond just off Sukhumvit road took just a few short hours after-which we were happily planted in central Bangkok. This accommodation has a pretty good location and I recommend the place to anyone who wants to spend a chunk of time in this hot and sticky city that can easily excite anyone’s taste-buds, nostrils or eyeballs. (www.housebythepond.com) As we strolled about the city we inhaled sewerage and frangipani aromas all at once. It’s a city of extremes where floating fifty levels above us were luxurious penthouses while back on ground level we ate at marvelous street stalls where pawpaw salad is less than 1$ a plate. Insanely hot chilli or as they say “spicy” food can turn a delicate diner into a river of sweat and snot but the flavors and presentation of Thai cuisine is truly superb. Definitely a place for food-lovers. Our Bangkok view from the rooftop was pretty dam spicy as well.
Carolina and I presented our Ant(arctic)a exhibition at Lalanta Gallery which took up a little time as did catching up with friends there. Our little Icy show in that hot and humid mega-city opened on October 4th. James Wise, Ambassador of Australia to Thailand and Anna Maria Romirez, the Ambassador of Argentina to Thailand presided over the opening together. (www.lalanta.com) To keep the ambassadors company five other diplomats from Cuba, Mexico, Israel, Brazil, and Greece also attended the opening function so it turned out to be a busy night. Carolina and I along with a few friends ended up at a neon nightclub featuring impressive “katoey” musical performances fuelled by whiskey soda, feathers and glamour. Over that evening we managed to successfully navigate through suits, shimmering sequined frocks, Sai Krog Naem Muu Isaan (fermented sour pork sausages), and Bangkok traffic without any collisions or mishaps at all. We love Bangkok and the Thai King as well!
Next was a pit stop in Singapore where many things happened in four days. None of which I will be telling you as it is all very secretive. Actually the primary reason to visit this hot and spotless city was to begin talks and preparations for an exhibition I hope to have there in 2012. Stay tuned.
Amsterdam is now once again on my geography menu. My 5th show at Suzanne Beiderberg Gallery in the Jordaan brings me here as my Planted show opens at the end of October so here I be stretching the artworks and watching the Euro winter arrive. Herrings, cheese, beer and genever (Dutch Gin) are on my other menu, all far removed in flavors from our recent Thai diet but still very tasty or should I say. Lekker!!
For those that missed this documentary from 2010 here is a short ABC TV profile from the Art Nation program -
Looks like I am now in my hometown of Melbourne as I can smell the Australian football fever tainted with beer, eucalyptus and an assortment of Asian gastronomic delights. There are plenty of family and friends for me to catch up with also a whole mess of art business to sort out. First up is a small drawing show to do and preparations for further art activity in 2012. Carolina is lost in Patagonia on a vino-biz trip but we do team up again in Bangkok in a few weeks.
Bye Melbourne…Sydney was a blur of funky pubs, a lovely dinner party with oysters, a bloody Mary or two, catching up with assorted friends and then time for more airports, buses, trams, trains and taxis. The frequent flier or should that be frequent flee-er hits the road again. I flee from staying still and really cant get out of this habit. Not having a job that is grounded to a particular location makes the concept of creating a stable home just not there for me. Am I just a camper in this life that I lead? No place is The place for me it seems so what I am left with is many places and the network of lines constructed by pit-stops, couches, transport hubs and all those seats in motion that take me away.
Hong Kong and straight into to a small gallery called Experimenta (www.experimenta.hk/blog/) where I screened a number of Antarctic films but before that event I presented my Antarctic documentary Winterover at the Foreign Correspondence club of Hong Kong. This formal dinner function saw me chatting about my experiences at Mawson station and afterwards having a quiet drink at Club 71 just off Hollywood road Central.
Experimenta was a great chance to get immediate feedback about my film work from a broad range of people on the opening night. Chinese, Irish, French, Canadian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, New Zealand, British, Swiss, and Australian accents floated along the alleyway leading to the gallery. A very cosmopolitan crowd turned up to my film screening and all seemed pleased by the visual and audio adventures spread around the small gallery. I could not have done this without the help of Gina Wong and John Batten so Big thanks! Now I really need to eat alot ot dumplings to cure that after opening party fuzziness.
The constant drone of air-con, traffic, people, more people and then some more all crammed onto a small island is intense. The noise level of consuming food, liquid, smoke, smog and the cacophony of visual overload are all Hi-Rise. Neon noise is all about me with a buzz of activity that delights and burns, as well as burns-out the odd glutton. More is ok it seems but actually it is not. Hong Kong is a place with lots of more. I buy bright pink dragon fruit and more iced coffee as the jack-hammers hammer, drills scream into cement and metal beams are pounded into earth. I watch thousands by the minute flow up the silver escalator and just as many slide down this metallic waterfall into the mouth of the dragon. Where is everyone going I wonder? Perhaps to the Fire Dragon Dance in Pokfulam Village which takes place on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival of every lunar year. Spectators insert the incense sticks on the dragon for luck and that’s exactly what I did just before I left Hong Kong.
The link to the FCCHK guest speaker.
Firstly a few exhibition dates and data.
Opening 8th July and runs until 21st August 2011.
@ Broken Hill Regional Gallery. NSW.
Three of my Antarctic short films will be screened.
Winterover, Dumbshow + Forward in all directions.
Opening Thursday. August 11th 6 - 8 pm.
+ Friday and Saturday 11 am - 3 pm.
@ SweetCreative Design
212 St Kilda Road. Melbourne.
Suitcase is a three day only work on paper exhibition literally straight from my suitcase and up onto the wall so if you are in Melbourne please come to this small wanderlust-full opening.
Now back to Argentina where tumbleweed bushes roll about the farm and occasionally land at our front door. I usually greet them politely but I don’t ask them into the house. I can certainly relate to this form of vegetation that rolls about in the wind, wondering where to plant its self. “I hope you find your place in the world,” a friend writes to me, which makes me consider if I have actually done such a thing and if I will live in Argentina the rest of my life or if my place in the world is really a long list of places.
How much depth and time does one need to be located or at home or comfortable in any particular place? Yi Fu Tuan informs me that in order to turn a new space into a known place that time and familiarity are required. Exactly how much time and how much familiarity are necessary I ask? Or do I wish to just wallow in a great expanse of space and forget any intimate familiarizing process that limits me to one specific zone?
I do know that communication technology has really shrunk the planet for many folk. Today I wrote emails to people I know in New York, Mendoza, Hong Kong, Perth, Berlin, Casablanca, and Casey station. That covers all continents but sadly I wont physically see many of these people for months or years or perhaps never again.
Speaking of location and now onto the topic of the permission to be in a location, we now fall into the wonderful world of nations, borders and laws. The basics of being able to stay in one nation or another revolve around the two B words. Birth or Blood you could add another B word; Bucks but then the law gets messy. You are born someplace and that’s your right to be there or you marry someone and you can also be there legally. I have just gone through the Argentinean process of obtaining Permanent Foreigner Visa status. As I have been married to Carolina for 4 years and a great many bits of paper were collected, translated, signed, read and whatnot I now have this right, which I am very thankful for. The process took five months, many visits to a confusing and confused immigration office and some Kafkaesque-like activity that is too ridiculous to mention. Carolina now battles the Australian version of this process with a hope that we can be together wherever we are.
A week long family/biz trip to Patagonia saw us strolling about General Roca, eating fabulous seafood in Comodoro Rivadavia, watching whales in the exceptionally clean tourist town of Puerto Madryn and staying in the charming historical Hotel Touring Club in Trelew where Butch Cassidy and associates stayed. That was back in the good old days when the gang attempted to be cattle ranchers but still executed few bold bank robberies in Patagonia.
Our trip down south involved no illegal activities except if you include over eating and drinking as illegal but it certainly was good to be on the move. Why do I feel so drawn to travel? The simple answer is that I am some kind of lucky down-to-earth person who acknowledges that nobody lives a long time and that the world really is quite large and extremely interesting. Therefore while I exist, I wish to see as much as possible of where I exist… so once again I pack my bag.
I begin to get itchy feet now. Actually I always have itchy feet but sometimes it is more intense than at other times. It has now been over 6 months that I have been in Argentina without moving from La Consulta! The mountains are still majestic, the meat and wine are still excellent and the house we live in is very cosy but I keep thinking about movement not because I am unhappy, lonely or because I am feeling constricted. It is just habitual, an addictive desire of mine to move and then move again and to keep moving. I quip that it is more difficult to hit a moving target so best to keep moving. A similar gypsy bug has also bitten Carolina so I am not alone in my restfulness although I doubt if she feels the constant fidgety wanderlust that streams through my blood like a designer drug manufactured to keep people jolly and continually on the move. “Movement is good, stillness is bad, movement is good, stillness is bad, look deep into my eyes and repeat these words.” I have managed quite successfully to hypnotize myself with such a chant for many kilometres over a long period of time.
We did have a plan some weeks back to travel to Paraguay for a brief holiday but this was aborted due to work and various deadlines so now out the window I watch the arrival of winter to La Consulta, slowly but surely the leaves change colour and drop, frost arrives some morning and the world spins.
In the studio I am working on a whole batch of small drawings. Watercolour, acrylic paint and wax pencil on damaged paper are the tools I use while the topic is surprisingly domestic - Houses and Gardens. Yes my drawings are just like those images found in shiny magazines scattered on millions of coffee tables around the world. Actually I lie, as they are nothing like those magazine images but the topics are exactly the same - vegetation and shelter. I also cultivate some work dealing with weeds for future exhibitions. So I am busy planting a few ideas and germinating feelings to see what sprouts up.
It has also been a month of Australian visitors to La Consulta. Sudha, Kate, Ben, Dave and my half sister Claire who now lives below a large sign that says Hollywood in the northern bit of America. Therefore a great many drinks have been drunk during long asado-bbq afternoons the past weeks. Lets call it wine tasting. I was fortunately able to continue working in the studio while playing the role of the lazy host but now I must adapt to my new role as fire-wood chopper as most nights now drop to around zero Celsius and our open fire is looking more and more hungry.
To appease my travel bug but more to give Carolina a much-needed break from Bodega work we went to the capital for 4 days. A restaurant or two, an art fair (just like all those other art fairs across the globe), friends to catch up with and strolls about the impressive but somewhat messy “Paris of the south.”
On the final night we strolled about San Telmo and heard a great Uruguayan street percussion band in a small park. This music was more to my taste than the modern tango to be found in Buenos Aires. I currently listen to Mongolian punk music and dance like an ancient and tipsy Indonesian grandmother so best not to take too much notice of my musical critiques.
I continue to work on my book and prepare for a number of exhibitions later in the year. This could see Carolina and I pass through towns a little larger than La Consulta. If all goes as planned Melbourne, Sydney, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Amsterdam, Paris, Glasgow and Reykjavik will be found on my flight itinerary. These are the possible pit stops on yet another circumnavigation of Earth. I wonder how many laps I have done now and how much fossil fuelled mess I have added to the world?
Art activity during this year of the bunny rabbit is slowly slotting into place. Here are a few possible opening exhibition dates for your diary. More concrete details will follow in future intransits –
9th September HONG KONG.
1st October BANGKOK.
29th October AMSTERDAM.
If anyone happens to be in Darwin please visit the excellent 24 HRArt. www.24hrart.org.au
The NT centre for Contemporary Art will be screening two of my Antarctic films.
WINTEROVER - 11-02-11 to 19-03-11
DUMBSHOW - 25-03-11 to 30-04-11
Before landing in those faraway cities we must devour plenty more fresh fruit plucked from the trees and shrubs grown in the earth surrounding our house. Apricots, peaches, melons, figs, pears, apples and plums have all been eaten, preserved and liquefied over summer. Sadly I did not try the black and white fruit from a cactus growing in our garden. It looked edible as the flesh was not unlike the Vietnamese cactus fruit known as “dragon fruit” but it was a little too alien to bite into and sadly the local ants beat me to this possible delicacy.
Wild electrical storms have made evening sky viewings rather intense and I have even attempted to film some of these impressive light shows. What to do with such footage is another question. Carolina is in busy harvest mode as it is now time to pluck grapes and to slowly transform the juice to wine. A hectic time is ahead for the coming weeks.
I continue to be hectic with paint, words and images. These are just other forms of juices that I mix and ferment which I hope to turn into a stronger drop called art. Will this 2011 vintage of my creativity be tasty, strong, toxic or a blend of all? I shall wait until it congeals and then let you know or if possible you could drop into one of my upcoming shows and have a close look yourself.
It’s a very hot and dry day today so I think back to my time at Mawson station when it was so easy to cool off by a dip into the refreshing lumpy water.
There was plenty of barbequed chicken, zuccinni and drinks galore, apricots to eat, guests arriving and shopping to do, there was a hangover or two and a brilliant rainbow, figs to pluck from the tree, the dogs to feed then a little rest in the hammock, then fireworks to watch over the cute town of La Consulta, more shopping and lighting the barbeque again, chopping the octopus and lemon rind then the invention of an Argentinean/Thai salad, fresh guests landed, then storms appeared on the horizon, cooking, drinking, Indonesian clove cigarettes, an armadillo snack, Aconquija rose wine, tender grilled steak, garlic in honey, roast potato, then horizontal lightening bolts ripped across the sky then music and a short drive and more drinks and then a bottle of Zeer Oude Genever or Dutch old gin appeared then Senor Coyote arrived with his guitar and a bottle of Fernet Branca then there was a fair lump of madness then the Coyote and Dani show began and then it was suddenly 2011!