We made it to St Petersburg and have now sipped pinecone as well as pepper-honey flavored vodka. We have also seen a few locals who have indulged grandly in that famous clear spirit that Russia is famous for but its really beer that the locals seem to love. Some things seem very fluid here and others not as the canals begin to freeze. This is a grand city indeed especially in terms of scale, architecture and history. I walk about feeling the massive weight of the past all around me like a thick fog. My shoulders ache from too much history so perhaps I need a sauna or Banya to ease the stress I have accumulated.
It’s actually not the history that weighs me down as over the past months all these small exhibitions aligned with reunions have made me dizzy and somehow a little anxious but I am sure that I will get over this personal fatigue. Too much has happened over the past months. Too much has also happened here in St Petersburg/Leningrad/Petrograd during the past centuries for me to comprehend and now things happen very fast here just like all over the planet.
The SPAR residency here at Pushkinskaya 10 has great potential and its location is excellent. Having zero Russian language skills makes many things incomprehensible but we get by and slowly find our way about the city without too much trouble. An opening at the Marble palace involved lining up for an hour to shed our jackets then half an hour in another line to crawl up the massive marble staircase to get into a very crowded and popular retrospective of the many artists connected to the art center we stay in. After 30 years of being an underground cultural institution Pushkinskaya 10 has been officially acknowledged. To begin the show there was an interesting outside performance in the snow involving two artists in black costumes, air, earth, water, fire and canvases with painted texts.
Carolina and I also went to the 250th birthday party of The Hermitage Museum – a massive audio-visual outdoor show another snowy evening. This amazing museum with its 150 rooms of art is just too big to explore and then there is the spanking newly renovated General Staff building opposite which houses Kandinsky’s and one black square by Mr Kazimir Malevich. The Russian State Museum was also a treat to explore with a brilliant religious Icon exhibition and many other gems. I particularly enjoyed the Russian Miniature lacquered boxes. There is no shortage of art to look at in this impressive city.
I draw drunken trees, paint miniature nature morte based on a poem from Joseph Brodsky and sew soft diplomatic works. Carolina takes chilly strolls all over the city taking photographs. We presented some work in a small show on 13th December at the 2.04 Gallery in the Pushkinskaya 10 art Centre. A crowd of local artists and art lovers attended and all seemed contented with our presentation and our particular flavor of soft diplomacy.
Now we are in the land of cheese, bicycles and herrings and luckily the November weather has been very kind to us. My exhibition at Suzanne Biederberg gallery was a lovely night of art and old friends with an opening speech by design critic - Jeroen Junte whom has known me for many years as a wandering artist with a love for his home city of Amsterdam and an ongoing confusion about what the concept of home actually is.
Staying above the excellent Café Kobalt in the centre of town has been brilliant. I highly recommend the location, the café and everything about it. (www.cafekobalt.nl) There is a lot art to see here as well as markets, architecture, herring stalls and probably a few dinner parties before Carolina and I head eastwards to Berlin and then further eastwards to the “Venice to the north.”
The fiery hot som tom or green paw paw salad is still my favorite Thai dish as long as it does not cause too much pain to my tongue, nostrils nor overwork my sweat glands. As I partially melted one day on the streets of Silom I watch the cascades of millions of air-con drops hitting the cement ground. I watched the mish-mashed architecture of numerous cultures and designs alongside the random beauty of no-design at all. Where 7-11 shops sit under fake medieval castles dressed in fairy lights and digital screens the size of elephants. Trees with clumps of aerial roots sucked in the humidity while I sucked in tamarind juice and looked for a bit of space. Vehicles of all shapes were on frantic mega city missions and pedestrians zigzagged through the jams, floods and organized chaos. This is nonstop business with horns, music, whistles, chanting, jackhammers, chatter and the never-ending drone of all those air con units battling the fact that we are in the tropics. Bangkok as usual was a great pit stop and my time was well spent with old friends, new friends and art biz. The views above were from level twenty of the Silom area building where I stayed. These images make the city look neat and clean. It is far from neat and clean but hey, 9 million humans do make a big mess when all crammed together. As they do in China…
Hong Kong is my next port of call and here I exhibit with a young artist called Ling Pui Sze or CC at CAP Gallery in Sheung Wan. Below - S.Eastaugh, Tony Scott, Angela Yuen and John Batten. The CC + SE show curated by John Batten presented a mixture of my work from small Antarctic paintings, ink drawings from a 2012 Asialink residency in Beijing and works on paper from Bangkok and Argentina. Seemingly geographically confused but the work in the exhibition has all melded together well thanks to John Batten and Tony Scott.
(www.chinaartprojects.com) Landing in the midst of thick puce coloured smog and thick protests was not the best time to arrive into this hyper active city but I do like its buzz and its creative use of umbrellas. My taxi driver from the airport to Mong Kok shows just how busy the locals are with his six tiny digital screens splattered over his dashboard and “no time for protest as I have a job to do with my taxi..”
Outside and inside all over Hong Kong protests change the landscape while I prepare to move to the landscape of the Netherlands.
My time in Australia ran away like a runaway bullet train in a hurry but I managed to see many people and expose my art a little whilst there. It was great to see family and many old friends who have supported me in many ways during the past three decades of my erratic, logistically complicated, art driven worldwide tour. I thank you all. The mini pop-up show titled DPL in Melbourne went swimmingly, lubricated by a selection of small works from Iceland, South Korea and Argentina as well as Russian vodka and good people. A stubborn cold made my last week in Australia a bit difficult but I weathered the cough and goo and now I find myself in a very different climate with my drawing show - SPIRITSCAPES. (www.thavibu.com) A massive Hindu festival was outside the gallery on the opening night adding to the evenings madness. 10,000 people and no shortage of colour with too many gods to pray to. I tried to take photos but my camera went crazy with the sensory overload.
Bangkok is as splendid, as sticky and as smoggy as ever with that amazing double extra spicy food on every corner and that special everyday charm exuding from most locals. It is a mega-city that I have frequented since 1984 and I have managed to exhibit here half a dozen times so I easily jump back into BKK-mode. Seeing a new yellow Lamborghini next to a smelly clogged canal where an ancient old man sat selling insense sticks, his wife with tri-colour dyed hair cooking noodle and beef offal soup under a wild tropical storm reminded me how complicated Bangkok is and how amazing it is that this city actually works.
In an attempt to cool down and avoid another storm I ducked into a café and watched the S.E Asian foot-volley ball game on TV. I have seen this game many times but it is one impressive sport to watch. Called Sepak takraw which combines Malay and Thai words for kick and woven ball. It made me dizzy watching these guys twirl their bodies through the air while continually slamming the tiny ball over the net. I was finding it tricky enough navigating across main Bangkok roads as I stared at gaudy temples adorned in electrical wires and coated in the cacophony of traffic.
After dining on a classic Peruvian dish of raw fish in a Japanese restaurant run by Brazilians in Argentina it was time to fly but before I flew out of Argentina a strong Zonda wind blew down from the high Andes and shook the house about. Dust everywhere and tumbleweed plants madly rolled across the property. The metal weather vane on our roof was pulled out of its cement footing, leaving one very ruffled, bent and bewildered metal rooster on our roof and me without my spinning wind compass. The next week another wind took me across the ocean to Melbourne where I rushed about like one of those windswept tumbleweeds.
To get to Australia involved jumping on a few planes and navigating a few airports. I lined up at Mendoza airport to check in, lined up to get through the security desk, then another line was at the immigration desk, next a line appeared to board the plane. Off I flew across the Andes. Once in Santiago I diligently lined up to get on another plane then another line appeared to check all hand luggage before boarding the plane. At Auckland airport I found a lovely line upon landing where all our baggage was scanned. I did have time for a kiwi fruit juice before the next line that enabled me to board the plane to Melbourne. I recall that being a lovely neat and fast moving line. In Melbourne I found myself in a huge line at immigration with over 1000 other folk all waiting to be permitted entry into Australia. The customs line after the immigration line also had hundreds of people snaking around the arrivals terminal. This line was very long indeed but surprisingly moved pretty fast and then I was finally back in my home city waiting in a line of 70 people all waiting to locate a taxi. The line fever one gets with air travel these days seems to be far worse than the jet lag but it is the price you pay for fast transport across the globe.
Melbourne is a thirsty city as the inhabitants drink huge amounts of coffee, beer, wine, fruit juices, tea, and one evening I found myself sipping on excellent Pinot Noir then Absinthe at a few funky alleyway establishments. There is no shortage of great venues in Melbourne to guzzle or sip whatever it is you desire to guzzle or sip.
Then I was in the cute town of Thirroul for a small and enjoyable exhibition and onto the big smoke of Sydney where I ate dumplings and Vietnamese soups, looked at art from France and China, met a man who wanted to sell me a rat, watched new architecture pop up across the city and caught up with friends. Returning to Melbourne I made a short pit stop in Mangalore which was relaxing due to the company of Mr Dog, Di, two dogs and friendly wild kangaroos.
People forcibly moved away from their homeland due to instability or wars are called “Displaced People” or DP. To be displaced is certainly not desired. Nor is it desired to be an IDP (Internally Displaced Person: one who does not cross an international border but is still fleeing from some horror.) DP and IDP (economic, environmental or political) describe movement not made by choice. I can barely grasp the upheaval and sorrow felt by the millions of folk labeled with these acronyms.
My variety of displacement is self-imposed. I could call myself a - Self Displaced Person- or SDP. I actively pursue displacement. Similar to expats chasing work, tourist on holidays or travellers exploring; all decide to be away from home. Willing to not understand all the language and to be unfamiliar with the landscape, the customs, habits and gestures of the society they place themselves in. Besides the obvious satisfactions there are also feelings of slight bewilderment and maybe melancholia as the SDP is not in familiar terrain but this is not homesickness or fear. The feeling is akin to minor fragility or slight tension due to an instinctual wariness. Surveying the scene is required in a different manner compared to when you are comfortably planted in your homeland where all is mostly automatic. In an alien environment you are surrounded by the new and the strange. It is much more difficult to predict what will happen so risk and excitement are sensed.
These Displaced Personal Landscapes or DPL’s were created with these thoughts in mind. Sites that look foreign or outlandish but also have a potential to be cozy. I have had plenty of practice being a SDP and I wanted to translate these remotely close feelings into landscapes. Due to my ongoing wanderlust I often confuse foreign with familiar and sometimes even the familiar with foreign so I try to embed this personal tussle into these miniature dis-places.
I explore landscapes from here but also not from here, from underwater, from outer space or perhaps from dreamland. Personal views and memories of everywhere and nowhere combined to make somewhere. Somewhere called art. Shapes, colors and textures that have not lived together are now neighbors in each framed space. These views are literally sewn and painted together to unearth tiny new pictorial terrains. Folk art stitching, gaudy colors, murky zones and the cute size of these DPL’s all try to fuse the far with near. (Mystery with reality) It just takes time for the foreign to become familiar. (Mystery to become reality) The reverse is trickier or how does one turn the domestic into the exotic? (Reality into the mystery) Art is one devise that can sometimes help us to see reality as the mystery that it really is.
Art functions in Melbourne and general busy business were on my agenda for all September. I moved artwork from one place to another, showed work in a few places, packed up work, sent work ahead of me, sold work and thought about making new work. That will not happen until I find some time and space in Bangkok. If anyone is in Thailand please do come to my drawing show and indulge in a Mekong with ice in steaming chaotic Bangkok. See you in the soup.
THAVIBU GALLERY - The Silom Galleria Building, 4th Fl. - Suite 433, 919/1 Silom Rd. - Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Dates:4 October– 16 October 2014.
Vernissage: Saturday 4 OCTOBER 2014 at 5 pm
Besides drawing experiments and chopping wood for the open fire in our house not much else has occurred in the little village of La Consulta for me. It is wintertime so things naturally slow down. Our two dogs did manage to catch and kill a fox a few weeks ago and the dogs v/s guinea pig war continues with surprisingly zero casualties on either side. I hear there is a world cup on somewhere but I am not sure who is winning or losing. I am sure that someone will win and some other team will loose and that seems to be the idea of most forms of sport. Am I a winner or a loser? Today I feel like a winner as I have just completed a large group of Mountain inspired drawings and I am alive.. Also we have homemade pizza for dinner! Makes most people quite happy I believe.
I soon pack for another trip over the Pacific Ocean. Heading to Melbourne for the usual reasons of family, friends and art functions also the odd fondue party if I am lucky. Then after a stint in Australia I stuff the passport back into my pocket then into the rucksack I stuff a few extra clothes and some art to continue my roaming about like a lost puppy on a global scale.
I am still in Argentina and often wondering why I am here. Perhaps it’s the great wine and superb steak or the impressive landscapes… not to mention my wife but for the rest, well not much for me to gush about. While scuffling away in the studio on my new work I flicked through the atlas looking for a stable place somewhere for us to relocate. I sadly could not seem to find anywhere on the planet that's stable and offers both icebergs and Papaya trees in the same neighborhood. I may have to be more flexible.
In April I presented some of my Antarctic art via a dual exhibition in Beijing and I now begin planning a project in Russia. An art residency at the Pushkinskaya-10 Art Centre in St. Petersburg. This one month long residency will occur at the end of this year but much has to happen before we launch ourselves into the start of a Russian winter. There are also plans for solo exhibitions in Melbourne, NSW, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Amsterdam all of which are simmering in very different ways.
Image - Zhong Shan Chinese Antarctic station.
April at Guan Zhi Art Space saw a selection of my small Antarctic works from Mawson, Davis and Zhong Shan stations in east Antarctica as well as works from the Antarctic Peninsula. These Antarctic works were shown alongside the wonderful ink drawings of Shi Yin.
Speaking of winter, well that has arrived here as we had first snow on 22nd May. Also at the end of May we took a short trip to Montevideo to see how similar and more importantly how different Uruguay is as a nation compared to Argentina. We found a tiny country squashed between the two big boys of South America but Uruguay shows no inferiority complex just plenty of rustic charm. Uruguay has the make-up of Argentina due to a similar history but it has somehow managed to kill a great deal of corruption found elsewhere over S. America. There are many positive things about this small country in terms of security, economy, pollution, water, politics, social justice and cost. It seems also very relaxed, has a humid sub tropical climate with no freezing long winter nor long steaming hot summers. History is there in the architecture, steaks are grilled, an active but tiny art scene exists, markets are aplenty and much fun can be had at a bar called Fun Fun that's over 100 years old.
Sitting in the shadow of its huge neighbours it sits quietly doing its own thing, which is all about cooking cows, drinking yerba mate tea, trade and a fair society. Montevideo is 1.3 million in population, easy to stroll about and basically a cute city. We walked for a week just around the capital so have no idea about the other parts of the country but we liked what we saw. Now it is time to fly out of the sprawling monster of Buenos Aires and back to La Consulta.
We grow some basil in a pot on the verandah so I harvest this marvelous herb then I collect pine kernel/nuts from all the falling pine cones to make more jars of homemade pesto. It seems that my domestic skills are alive and well even if I do have a nasty never-ending bout of travel sickness. I still find it very frustrating to stay in one location longer that a few months and I must somehow stifle my wandering desires each week. Making pesto helps to ease the sting of stability.
A friend working in Antarctica this summer called, fittingly Snowy sent me images of the sculpture garden I erected at Davis station a few years ago. Seems like the tiny group of works in my Everysomewherever Sculpture Garden are all still somehow standing and surviving the blizzards. HEADHOME – DONGA is below.
This southern summer season or this year of the Horse has seen me so far primarily working on paper in the studio. SPIRITSCAPES, GHOST SHIPS, MOUNTAINS and LIFERAFTS;All new series created with watercolors, wax pencils and highly textured paper. These drawings I hope to show this year but not in Argentina. These works will head to other exhibitions in other places I now scheme how to get to. I have also been secretly making lists of what to pack on this years travels in order to restrain my itchy feet. I will begin to move again in mid-year if all goes to plan as I bash together routes, shows, transport, rendezvous, beds and all the other complicated logistic bits of long haul travel on a tight budget.
Things here in Argentina are at a stand still in many ways as the economy and politics have some kind of disease. Some people expect a huge financial mess in the form of hyper-inflation, others are fearful and hide $$$ under their beds, others have a moronic faith in the government, others plan to emigrate as soon as possible, some avoid thinking about it at all and some just pray to baby Jesus and the Argentine pope. I personally draw pictures of life rafts!
Drawing, painting, watching impressive mountain clouds above and wild guinea pigs below, fernet branca/cola sipping, and the odd mid life crisis have all been performed over the past summer weeks. There was also a very impressive blood red rising moon and many thoughts on film making on the peripheral.
I am in the studio which is actually an entire room designed to be an indoor BBQ room. The “Asador” has been used as a BBQ place on a few occasions when the weather turned a bit wet or wild outside. It’s a very Argentinean space and operates well as a studio even if it is a little small. I work with the aroma of smoke and cooked meat on a large series of drawings dealing with landscape and Thai spirit houses (San phra phum). These works on paper I hope to exhibit in Bangkok in October. Simultaneously I explore a body of peculiar and gaudy small paintings that may head to Amsterdam at the end of the year. Looks like I need to acquire another plane ticket or two or a ship berth or I may have to begin swimming soon.
A cheers to 2014 !!!
As I wandered about the garden in December I saw on two separate evenings a sprinkle of the Geminid meteor shower. Or did I see two UFO’s rocketing across the night sky in search of a friendly planet? Best if they scanned another solar system I think as we humans are far from house trained yet so not really capable to act as proper hosts to any weary intergalactic travellers.
Over the summer I have also been observing a few families of guinea pigs that run wild around our garden who do a fabulous job of cutting the grass in some areas but they need more guidance and training as their landscaping work certainly wont get our garden into any fancy House and Garden magazine.
Last month some other wild creatures were rioting and looting in some Argentinean cities as the police went on strike for more pay so the obvious thing to do for some folk when that happens is to smash windows, steal beds, sporting clothes, audio visual units and other goods. We wonder if those events are signs of much more social unrest heading this way. I would not be surprised. Anyway back to the festive bits.
Another festive summer season is upon us. Most years we frolic about and revel in the garden over the death of a year and the birth of a new one. We dodge the unpredictable mountain electrical storms and the foolish political system here as much as possible then somehow celebrate survival and time. Our garden parties are constructed with a rustic BBQ, food, wine, music, people and a few pretty lights. That menu seems to usually do the trick.