The recent departure of a friend for one of the far off corners of the earth, somewhere in Russia, brought back for me, once again, the very question of corners. Watching the jet take off in its graceful curve from a corner of the Tullamarine airport into the sky, a place without corners, was an experience of great liberation. Imagine, a place without corners..
There are many kind of corners, but the one created by two straight lines and a right angle is probably the most familiar. The arrogance in the naming of this angle as ‘right’, acts as a warning. This is the kind of angle, which, in its very being, threatens. Threatens the organic structure of our existence. I have a thing with these right angles and, in terms of our architecture, the corners they create. What do we use these corners for anyway? Have you really ever seen a good use for a corner? Any corner?
I remember, and who doesn’t, as a child having to stand in the corner, whether in school or at home. This act, in itself, shows the waste of space the adult world thinks a corner is. The corners they so diligently designed. “The corner is a waste of space, go stand in it, and be punished”. Interesting thing happened though, especially in the corners of the various class rooms where I’ve spend time. It is there that I started to dream. It is there that my creative journey started. Stuck in a corner. A place of solitude and silence. The solitude of the imagination, born in the silence of a still space. A space not used. A wasted space.
My creative journey started with the question; “How do I get out of here.” This questioning carried on into my teenage years when I felt cornered in a job I hated, but had to take as the result of one of those discriminating I.Q. tests. “How do I get out of here” I did and it was the most creative act I have ever executed. Besides the one of taking my first breath.
I do wonder what they are actually designed to do, these corners. Even now when I look around other people’s homes, or the various shops and spaces I visit, I wonder what the corners are used for. In the home one corner became useful in the fifties, when we shoved the telly into it, wonder what that says about the telly, and for that matter about speaker boxes. Or. Maybe that is why we developed quadraphonic sound. During more recent times the corners, which once were the domain of the telly and speakers, now have a more sinister role. Many of these useless ‘public’ corner spaces are being taken up by video cameras. Spy Eyes. Cornered while in the middle of a space…. While in the home, more and more, we view the world from the same corner we were once send into for punishment. Sitting in that same corner hour after hour staring into electronic space through a computer screen. Maybe this is the corner’s most positive use yet. Maybe. Or maybe it’s the loo, a place too small for space, just four corners.
There are, of course other types of corners. The type we drive people into, by which we show once again that the corner is an awkward space, a difficult position. A place from which there is no escape.
Some particular corners I have been looking for all of my life, especially during my travels, are the four corners of the earth. Where do they exist? And if they do, what are they used for.
Closer to home in the garden, it is more interesting; there the corner is a place furthest away. The secluded place where poetry tends to be written. While, in the other extreme, corners are used for resting, especially when you are into a bout of boxing. Two people caught within four empty corners. So much negativity, no wonder they start belting each other. Another sport, which uses corners, in this case to turn a disadvantage into an advantage, are the corners of a soccer field. Once these corners are taken most players seem to use, at least for once, their heads to either make or unmake a goal.
One Sunday at the Daylesford railway station I observed someone trying to corner the market, an activity more and more local people seem to be involved in.
Once we turn the corner inside out we seem to change the negative into the positive. The corner becomes useful. The ‘corner shop’ comes to mind, as does ‘turning the corner’ and ‘just around the corner’. Then there is the ‘poets corner’, ‘the speakers corner’ and ‘corner stone’.
As in most cases though, the artists seem to have a creative answer to the problem of the negative corner. He withdraws into it and comes up with a solution.
Understanding the total negativity of the corner, and also understanding that two negatives make a positive, the artist puts two corners together and creates four. He stretches a canvas and further hides these four corners by disguising them as a landscape, a portrait or anything abstract which takes his, or her, fancy. Next time you view a painting, think of it as just another attempt to hide four totally empty corners.
Remembering my art history lessons I recall something Leonard Da Vinci once said. When painters were faced with nature and lacked inspiration he advised them to: ”Contemplate with a reflective eye the cracks in an old wall.” There is a map of the universe in the lines that time draws on an old wall. The poet also knows this. Like finding something in an empty corner. Not confinement, but the endlessness of space. Creative space. And inspiration.
Friday 29 March 2019
“Important lessons. Look carefully. Record what you see. Find a way to make beauty necessary; find a way to make necessity beautiful.” from 'Fugitive Pieces' by Anne Michaels
Art exist to disturb the sleep of the world.
This is what the artist and poet do.
They awaken in us a sense of wonder, which is the driver of a creative life.
They take us on a journey, a special journey,
in a world where we are perishing for want wonder, not for want of wonders.
I first saw the image of a persimmon painted on a Japanese tea bowl. In a few simple calligraphic brush strokes all the plumpness and desirability of that fruit was most tenderlyå expressed. Keats poem, 'Ode the Autumn', came to mind. And, having read this poem, who can forget its rich remembrance of autumns past when a poet took up his pen and sketched these lines, which became one of the most famous and loved poems: here is a reminder:
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.”
Yesterday when I saw the very same persimmon, hanging from a low branch of a leafless tree. A haiku poem came to mind.
The Colour is Fading at the edge of the autumn landscape. The intensity of the green has been robbed of its brilliance. The green has become impure. The green has become tinged. The green is dissolving. The green has weakened just enough to have lost its dominance as 'the prominent colour' in nature. The overwhelming colours of summer greens are slowly changing.
A little yellow is edging in. Elbowing its ways through the trees. Yellow has seen its chance and made the most of it. Yellow, the vanguard of the autumn incursion, is moving in for the take-over. Although it has only a relatively short time for its period of brilliant dominance, this time will be intense, will glow and will burn bright. The yellows will be closely followed by golds, reds, various rich browns, oranges and all the other warm reflections of the autumn colour collection.
During the following days I noticed a shy slash of scarlet, then a timid blush of copper, followed be a hesitant line of orange and here and there somewhat bashful smudges of gold. But, soon after the whole landscape came alive with a quickly changing colour palette, transforming the lush green into vermillion, saffron, tangerine, crimson, ruby red, lutea yellow, magenta and many more. Mother nature has opened her paintbox and, tentatively, dipped in her brush. A splash here, a dab there, a little run of colour on this and a splatter of hue on that. In time she will become bolder until, in the end, she will blow all caution to the wind. Generously, with abandon, she will throw about all he colours she has at her disposal. In an absolute frenzy she will speed-spray-paint everything which was green.
Here, before our very eyes, colours are indiscriminately mixing and dancing together to provide us with a visual feast which seems to know no bounds. Add to that the fragrances associated with this season and we are in for a feast. A wonderful sensual feast.
On the way to winter, nature leaves a colourful wake.
If this is taken to its natural conclusion we know how this colour celebration will end. All the colour will drain out of the landscape and in the end leaves it pure white after the first flurries of snow. the silent white of snow. The stillness of no colour. Ahhhh.....
autumn delights Always the same. Always different.
Autumns now and remembered from the past. A time once again remembered in the visual splendour of the rich deep red plumpness of a simple persimmon placed on a white ceramic dish.
Tuesday 14 February 2017
Refuse Refuge? Part 1
This is the worst image I saw this year. As you can imagine it was on Television. A vision from Afghanistan. A small girl child, of about five, was lying in bed in a makeshift hospital. She had picked up an un-exploded cluster bomb, a bright yellow plaything compliments of the U.S. While exploring this newfound toy it exploded, removing in one swift and horrible moment her beautiful little hand. The image which is staying with me and which is burned into my brain is that of her mother entering the ward and the confused crying child placing her good arm around her mother’s neck. I am seeing this image from behind. The back of the mother and the small vulnerable arm. This gesture of trust, this hug which places heart to heart, so unnerved me I wept and had to turn off the TV. I felt like turning it off for good. I had seen too much misery for one year. But turning off the TV didn’t mean the image went away.
What was it about this which grieved me so. Maybe this. I have a small girl child friend of about five. When I visit I always pick her up and experience the unquestioned trust in that small gesture of her placing an arm around my neck. I also often watch her being picked up by her parents and delight in observing the same gesture. The placing of the small arm around the adults neck in Total Trust of the adult world. Or maybe I was upset by the following. Going back for a moment to the image of that useless little dead hand lying somewhere in a small rural Afghanistan village where the people have no history with those who bomb them. Imagine the aftermath of this relevantly small event of which there are so many. (All of these brutalities, for the moment, concentrated in this destroyed small child’s hand). What did this carelessly dropped raw cluster bomb take away. Many possibilities. Many possibilities to make, to draw, to paint, to prepare food, to garden, to sew, many possibilities to touch, many possibilities to caress, many possibilities to wave, many possibilities to gesture. All possibilities to create the most simple experiences of a life. There are thousands of these people for which this constant terror is, and has been, a daily experience for a long time now. Some of these people can’t take anymore and have decided to leave the land of their birth (imagine that) and find a somewhat safer place elsewhere. And in so doing risk everything. We have recently seen some of these displaced people appear on our TV screens. Crammed onto boats. We label these people illegal immigrants. These people whom some politicians label ‘Possible Terrorists’.
When you repeat a lie often enough most people will start to accept it as the truth, especially when the lie is based on common fear. The fear of not knowing. The fear of not understanding. Blind fear.
If what we are now doing with the refugees is right what is there left to be done that is wrong? What can we, sitting here safely, well fed, well clothed, oon fully Christmassed, possibly do about this terrible state of affairs. Turn off the TV when it becomes too much? Why are we, as a nation so afraid of a relative few people who have only misery to carry with them? Why are we as a nation so accepting of those continuous lies, cleverly based on our fears? Do we actually question this, or is it all too difficult.
I heard an interview with a New Zealand commentator who explained that in New Zealand the government gives refugees work visas. It has turned out that most of these people make excellent immigrants. Why? Most probably because they are resourceful and because they share. Abilities we, in the main, seem to have lost in the comfort zone of our wellbeing.
Refuse Refuge? Part 2
I was a refugee once. All non-indigenous people in this country are, or have been, in their histories. We all looked for ‘refuge’ in a new land, for whatever reason. I am a boat person and, like many people, arrived in the late fifties to a land of promise. This land filled with promises was actually pretty empty. The promises only those which we could create for ourselves. Empty, with many possibilities to colour in. To fill with ideas, to fill with creativity, to fill with culture.
But, you’ll say, there was a culture, a rich Aboriginal culture. However, this was almost wiped out by the Anglo culture which preceded us newcomers by a mere couple of centuries. I do not know exactly what this Anglo culture brought to this land but I remember that it felt empty in the fifties when we arrived from many other parts of Europe. Since I arrived with a knowledge of the Patisserie I can only comment on the food aspect of the culture. I most vividly remember the food consciousness at the time. Little pastry boxes filled with questionable meat stuffs. Pasty Pasties. Poor quality white bread. The culinary delight of the Adelaide floater. The refined taste of the vanilla slices. And the endless stream of mono tasting beer. Wine? Wine, I was told at the time, was for poofters.
As a result of the arrival of the post W.W. 2 refugees, then called New Australians, Ities, Wogs and the like, the culture has changed a great deal. Not only the food culture but the culture in general has been enriched as a result of what these refugees brought with them and, additionally, were able to do with their skills in this country. A big large open space ready for a creative approach, some resourcefulness, some daring. Some different ideas. Wine? Our wine is now among the best in the world. This is the result of change. Not the result of the stagnation of a culture in a fortified place.
Has anyone, voting for ‘the fear view of the world of refugee acceptance’, considered for a few moments the possible positive side of the refugee crisis aspect? Considered this as a possible gift? Considered the newness which these people would bring with them? Considered the energy which they would offer us? Consider the gratefulness they would carry in their hearts? Has anyone maybe tried to think where they came from. Tried to think what it took them to get here. They must be incredible human beings. And maybe that’s what makes us so uneasy? Their strength and resourcefulnes.
The government told us there was a crisis. I have always believed that a crisis offers many gifts for learning on a plate. Are we taking note? Or are we allowing this wonderful opportunity to pass us by? The gift for the possibility of endless compassion. The gift for an understanding that to take in a few more people who seek refuge would create the possibility for change, for movement and for a different view. The more points of view we can bring to our world, the larger it becomes. It involves taking a risk. Every step taken outside your comfort zone does. Consider the prize. Ask the many young Australian travellers exploring new lands who, as a result, are learning and enriching themselves. However, on the other hand not taking steps outside your comfort zone would result in an even more scary situation, down the track.
This brings me to the second worst thing I saw ever. Again on Television. People jumping from the ‘perceived’ comfort zone of the World Trade Towers. Everything is connected. That little hand blown off was the indirect result of that event. But what brought that event about in the first place? Where did this event have its roots? People who have dared to speculate have been labelled un-American and most probably un-Australian as well. Think about it. In the end the ultimate result was a child’s little hand dead to many of the possibilities a life offers. The least we could do is offer a little more generous point of view. Happy christmas!
Friday 23 September 2016
the spirit of the broken bowl, restored into a new life
A challenging art project
At the start of this project, I am guided by Ann Michaels, who wrote in her book 'fugitive pieces': "Important lessons. Look carefully. Record what you see. Find a way to make beauty necessary; find a way to make necessity beautiful."
Being an artist, my life ticks along in a wonderful way from one creative project to another, be it a commission, an exhibition or a piece of writing. Each project presents a challenge to make it worthwhile, because without a challenge it would not provide any learning.
None of my projects have been as challenging, however, as my most recent one. This project announced itself, to my surprise, with the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease eight years ago. I knew instinctively that I was up for the major challenge of my life. Medication has kept the disease at bay for much of those years but more recently that has changed.
After some time of contemplation, to come to grips with this news, I decided to treat this as just another art project. Getting involved. I also decided to change the name from Parkinson’s disease to Parkinson’s gift, which has already changed my attitude in a more positive direction. Up till now I have kept my Parkinson’s quiet but having become more obvious, I have decided to make it more public.
During a recent words in winter event I started this with the reading:
“When you are a maker, listen to your hands”. To which we can add, ‘because the head sometimes gets in the way’. This is a saying which has always worked for me. That is until recently when the Parkinson’s I was diagnosed with some years ago, but which was kept under control by medication, is now snapping at my heels. This means that my head and hands go into different directions and have a totally different relationship than I am used to.
“When you are given lined paper, write the other way”, has been creative advice I have always followed, but now this is getting too real, my hands are writing every which way, none of which I want them to.
My gait has changed, so if you see me in the street and I walk a bit differently I am not under the influence of alcohol or dope, but that of my Parkinson’s, who insists on walking with me everywhere I go, and wherever possible trip me up.
My memory is affected to the point where, at times, I cannot remember the names of people I have known for years.
The worst of it is that my ceramic making seems to be almost at an end, because the fine motor skills I need to employ are the most affected. However such is my life and I will keep the creative spirit going in one way or another. Because it is, and has always been, the meaning of my life.
I am not giving in, I will use the same approach as when I was diagnosed with cancer, the treatment of which I aided by making it into an art project, which helped me to cope”.
Although with all my previous art projects I have been in charge, this newest one has taken charge of me. I have very little say in it. In fact, I know little about it and found out soon enough that this project, of which I am the subject, is directed mostly by doctors.
In order to get some sort of handle on this new development of my life, I decided, as part of the gift, to document the process. And now, looking at the diagnosis of my Parkinson’s in a different way, there waits the possibility for these coming experiences to be interpreted through art.
The Parkinson’s diagnosis, like any challenging art project, has knocked me out of my comfort zone, this one more so than any.
I am like a small boat on a rough sea. I do have a paddle and am able to give it some direction, some meaning. I intend to employ my imagination and by turning the event into a work of art I, at least, have that control. And since this is the only control I have, I'll take it.
Learning is the best healer.
Monday 20 June 2016
In defence of public sculpture
Whenever a writer, an artist, an architect or any practitioner of the arts places his or her work in the public domain there will always be those who like it and those who don’t. This can result in controversy. If artists were to respond to every criticism they would never create anything.
In all fields of life there is so much more beyond our own experience. It is the artist’s job to show the way by courageously exploring the new. In my view, liking an artwork is not really what matters. It’s more a question of how art challenges us or finds a way to speak to us, to open up a new awareness.
I remember a public sculpture by Ron Robertson Swan designed for the Town Square in central Melbourne. The sculpture, accepted by the Council, was vilified by then City of Melbourne Mayor who, using art as a political football, renamed it the ‘yellow peril’ from ‘the vault’. This new ‘title’ stuck and shaped the general public’s response to the art work. Is there, I wonder, a role for our leaders to guide citizens into an understanding of new artworks?
All this says less about the quality of art and more about people who stoke the flames of artificially created controversies. They have not done the work, have not taken the risks, their lives and livelihood are not bound up at every moment with what they are making, who have given thought to the medium or the method. Artists take risks by exposing their ideas in the public realm. At every moment their lives are bound up with whatever they are making, with exploring new boundaries.
Many years ago I designed a work for Swanston Street Melbourne- a shard of architecture emerging out of the pavement- may hated the idea, thought it was inappropriate and expressed these sentiments even before the work was installed. However, I persevered and the council saw its merit even if not many amongst the populace did. In time, the work was installed and has since grown to become one of Melbourne’s icons plus a well loved sculpture.
Over the years the sculpture has gained popularity and received awards locally and internationally: a Melbourne newspaper poll voted it the most popular sculpture in town. Recently it was included in an internet survey of the top 25 creative sculptures around the world. The prestigious magazine ‘Architectural Digest’ included ‘Architectural Fragment’ as one amongst eleven of the most fascinating sculptures in the world.
I remember the hullabaloo created by citizens of Melbourne when plans for that huge sculpture, which is Federation Square, were made public. Since then it has become one of the most loved and popular meeting places in the land. The new and change are always challenging. But without change and the new we would still be in the dark ages.
There were similar controversies surrounding the Sydney opera house, another iconic blend of architecture and sculpture that now, along with Uluru, is the image representing Australia to many around world.
Arts advisory panels exist all around the world promoting creative endeavours within their communities, connecting past, present and future, opening our eyes to things we may not see, unlocking rooms that may be closed within us, helping to make meaning of our lives and, in the words of Anne Michaels ‘to find a way to make beauty necessary and a way to make necessity beautiful’.
I will leave you with the following thought. During the Second World War, Winston Churchill’s finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort. Churchill’s response: “Then what are we fighting for?”
Sunday 19 June 2016
a beautiful visual moment to savor
thoughts on an introspective winter’s day
It is interesting that it takes the experience of the start of the ‘forever sleep’ of one person to awaken another. Following one such event, this question arrived for me. Am I using the days I have left well? Like today for instance. A normal everyday day, but with a difference. It is one of those glorious early winter days. A fresh clear morning followed by a warm sunny day. How do I spend such a day well. Enjoy it? Realising that it is happening? Acknowledging it? I decided to take notice of the seasons and start this exercise by giving these moments of wonder some attention.
The Rain has washed the trees dustless, creating in the green a vibrancy which can be felt. The type of vibrant green just before autumn turns it golden. The sun shines gently warm and the blue of the sky has a soft edge. A seemingly perfect background for the grey thrush, with a song so clear, with a sound so clean, with a melody so charming, with a resonance so wide and overwhelming as to fill up, to the point of the divine, the whole of the moment. A moment of wonder. Drink this moment, hold it close to your heart.
Light and death
Each day contains some magic, all we need to do is open our eyes to it and jump aboard while it passes by. How could we not take notice, How could we deny this. Why else are we here. Ride the beauty of the moment so that, when just before being placed in our own box, we will not feel any ‘regret’. (Regret is and has always been an absolute waste of time. There are so many better ways of using the moment.)
As the other evening a little before sunset. I watched at the edge of a foreign lake while an empty old wooden boat, on fire, floated slowly on the still water mirror. A fisherman cremating his past. A moment filled brimful with poetic content. A sight where, for the moment, nothing else was needed. I hold this moment close to my heart.
Life and dark
As the other morning, the sky the colour of slate, clouds so low the tops of the trees in the forest were invisible. As if the trees were suspended from the clouds. From this grey space huge colourful flowers dropped onto the ground, only to rise again a little later to re-enter that same space of nothingness. Fluttering feeding Rosellas. I held this moment in both hands.
None of this needs any economic rationale or development to be appreciated, rather, it needs a tiny shift in attitude, or a smack in the head such as the death of a dear one, when all of a sudden a few things become clear. As clear as a drop of dew mirroring our dreams, and the immense size of the world filled with moments of wonder. A world so much bigger than our concerns.
Light and death
I take notes from one of my teachers. A big fat white goose, who lives on the pond at the bottom of the garden. After all, when all is said and done, she finishes up in the same place as we all do. How does she spend her day. She floats upon the water with the grace of a galleon. Then banks and performs the most exquisite ballet-like yoga exercises/stretches. While engaged in this, her shape becomes a living kinetic sculpture. She preens endlessly, then tucks her head under her wing, pulls one leg up under her feather skirt and snoozes her inner landscapes into reality. What is its purpose? What is its meaning?
I also take notice from another one of my teachers. I remember four year old Lutea, my creative guardian, in my garden, who, after having struggled to open a long dark dried bean pod, stands there momentarily wondering unbelievingly at the beauty of a set of six polished purple and black beans lined up inside. Surprise. I try to keep my heart open for moments such as these.
Life and dark
I wish not ever to say: “I wish I had…….”.
Wednesday 13 April 2016
a p.s. to my last blog
with an apology to those
who find it hard to read the red font
just another thought about the work of the panel
and those in creswick who are busy
trying to undermine that work
allow me to comfort you dear creswick citizens
with the thought that when i was in the same position
designing the 'architectural fragment'
many hated the idea of a piece of broken architecture
in the main street of melbourne,
but i persevered and won the council over
although not many of the populace
however, in time, the work got installed
and has grown into one of melbourne's icons
and a very well loved sculpture
which over the years has received a few awards
of being the most popular sculpture in town
and recently was included in
the top 25 creative sculptures in the world.
and more recently the prestigious magazine
surveyed 11 of the world's most fascinating
sculptures and the fragment was one of them
and more recently the prestigious magazine
surveyed 11 of the world's most fascinating
sculptures and the fragment was one of them
so, dear citizens of creswick
please hang in there
don't take any notice of those undermining the work
you'll be surprised what will eventuate
when the work is in place and people,
especially through the eyes of their kids,
will start to enjoy it
and it will be a much visited and photographed work
when the work is in place and people,
especially through the eyes of their kids,
will start to enjoy it
and it will be a much visited and photographed work
just like my fragment
petrus april 2016
Monday 4 April 2016
A few thoughts about art and the ignorant
Whenever writer or an artist or an architect, or any practitioner of the arts makes his or her work public there will always be those that like it and those that do not. This will usually result in some sort of a controversy. Therefore if you are engaged in one of those cultural fields you better have a thick skin. Because if you take any notice of these criticisms from the ill informed, you will never create anything.
A case in point is the proposal for the public sculpture for Creswick‘s Calembeen park. With which councillor Henderson is playing childish games, especially since he sat in when the arts panel was deliberating and had a chance to make remarks, and the remarks he made during that meeting where encouraging. Then in last week’s paper the same councillor Henderson who seemed to agree to the choice of the arts panel, since there was no protest from him, when they met to deliberate, is now appearing in the local paper with another sculptor and his lump of cement parading as an alternative sculpture, stating that the locals were unhappy with ‘dearest’, with the ‘local campaigner’ (and what does that exactly mean) Kronenberg, getting in his few bob’s worth by starting the rumour to call the sculpture the wrecking ball and thus undermining the work.
All this says nothing about the art, but plenty about the people stoking the flames of this artificially created controversy. The ignorant, the lazy, the plain confused and ill informed have not done the work, have not taken the risks, whose live and livelihood are not bound up at every moment with what they are making, who have given no thought to the medium or the method but will momentarily glance up from their latte or beer and make their lukewarm statements as if they know about art.
They show the Creswick audience that they can absorb in a few moments, and without any effort the sum total of the artist and his art.
How do you think the artist feels when he, in good faith, puts his idea forward to the arts panel whom, in good faith, deliberated and came to their conclusion, which they then presented to the council. They are only advising and the council makes the final and in this case, the right decision.
I stated before that as an artist you need a thick skin, it seems that in Creswick as an artist you need an extra thick skin.
Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage and to be an artist you have to be courageous
Petrus spronk. artist