Friday, August 06, 2010

Lemon Meringue Phi, blistered toes & the ocean

Life continues to lay it on thick... it seems lots of us are feeling buffeted and blown these days? While I don't want to sound like a grumbling little minion - all things are relative - fact is I've been up on my toes and in a state of high(-ish) alert for toooo many months. If life's a dance, then this year has been one long, rigorous rehearsal. Everything will find its place in time, but today the bones in my feet ache; there's a blister on every toe and no more plasters in the drawers. I'd like to step 'off point' for a while and to cool my feet on dew-covered grass.

Some time soon this extended crazy period will reach a place of pause, but my hunch is 'not yet'. According to my dear friend and mentor LB, tomorrow - 7 August - is going to be one of my year's "energetic epicentres." Oh-oh. My seatbelt's been fastened for a while already - I'm not sure there are any spare notches, buckles or straps left to tighten. I suspect it may pay not to stray too far from home and to make sure my high-pitched yellow whistle still works?

When in doubt, work, walk or sleep? Each of these three have similar effects; they both refresh and energize. And... when you can't sleep, it's helpful to do something impractical or indulgent to distract yourself, right? Right. Well, baking probably doesn't exactly fit this description (?!) but last night I made a lemon meringue pie for my two hungry sons and me. It was seriously scrummy. If you like lemon meringue (do you pronounce it mah-ring-goo, too?) this is probably a recipe you'll want to try. This piffle-y little corner wedge is all that's left of it!


180g plain biscuits, crushed
90g butter, melted

1 x 400g tin condensed milk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tspns cornflour
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup castor sugar
(oh, and if you like soft, chewy mah-ring-goo - as opposed to crisp and crumbly - sprinkle in a small teaspoon of cornflour when you add the castor sugar to the stiffly beaten egg whites)

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.

To make the crust, combine the first two ingredients, press into a pie dish and refrigerate.
Warm the condensed milk with the lemon juice and cornflour, stirring till the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and whisk in the beaten egg yolks. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 1o minutes.
Meantime, beat the egg whites till stiff then add the castor sugar and beat till shiny. Spoon the meringue on top of the lemon filling and return to the oven for another 15 mins or so.


While the pie's cooling, unpack a cupboard, fold some laundry or get on with your painting...

The pic below shows the ground I've been laying for the first of my new 'maps' series. You can tell there's a way to go yet, but a fair bit has arrived on the page during the space of the last five days. While I was cleaning my brushes and getting my work bench organized for an early start tomorrow morning, I was suddenly struck by the way mathematics finds its way into my paintings. I don't plan it this way; it simply happens.

This might sound a little off-beat but Phi is my studio muse for now. What an accommodating and challenging studio companion! Phi's here and not here, intangible and an experience at one and the same time. Phi inspires; it coaxes calm out of chaos, introduces harmony and lyricism to dissonance and disorder. Phi is discreet and dependable; it does not violate my space or intrude in my thought processes. Phi facilitates the creative process, respects my need for quiet and does not presume it has a right to clamber into my head to see - or seize - what's in there. Phi does not rifle through my papers or attempt to take over my world. What more could a person ask for from a muse?

When I stepped back to take an end-of-day look at this painting - Waters I have known - it dawned on me that it has sixteen 'windows into weather'. As it happens, I immigrated to New Zealand sixteen years ago. There's an underlying grid of 7 x 7 'pages' = 49. I am 49 for another fifteen days. There are a number of other mathematical 'coincidences.'

It occurs to me that I'm painting a 49-year chapter to a close. Of course, there's a new chapter on the other side of the membrane; a whole new volume about to come into being. Perhaps it'll tell a story of joyful emancipation? I hope so. Meantime, I'm standing on the threshold - a liminal space that feels every bit as poignant and perplexing as it is potent.

Waters I Have Known (process - detail) CB August 2010


  1. You're an artist, a writer and a mathematician on the cusp of fifty years. How exciting. Change is in the air.

    Sixteen windows onto weather and water, wonderful.

    And my mouth is salivating at the thought of all those lemons in the pie. The mention of the word lemon and I salivate.

    Thanks, Claire.

  2. there's something so enticing about these small windows into another world, especially worlds of water, which for me resonates hugely. as a child, i loved advent calendars at Christmas--do you have those in your part of the world? where you get to open a little window each day of advent, ending on Christmas Eve. that's what this wonderful art made me think of... lovely, claire!

  3. I think you're doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. You have already lead yourself there, unknowingly and now knowing and seeing will make the transition and the change that much more awesome - emphasis on the awe.

  4. Claire, your apparent energy leaves me gasping at times -- no wonder your toes are blistered!

    I've been contemplating taking up oil painting, something I've never EVER considered before I began using water-mixable oils on glass at my job. What kind of paint do you use?

    Your work is an inspiration!

  5. Dear Elisabeth - change is definitely in the air, yes. Despite its haranguing, it is exciting and will (we trust) be ultimately empowering.

    I suppose it's not entirely surprising that things should choose 'now' to come so thick and fast. What was your 'on the cusp of fifty' year like, Elisabeth? We are all so different and yet so very like each other...

    You are someone who understands change, I think - the disruption it can cause and the necessity for it. Paradox. Paradox. Always paradox?!

    The word lemon gets me salivating, too. There's just about nothing a lemon can't add life to.

    Thank you, Elisabeth. L, C

  6. Dear Susan - hello! Yes, we have Advent calendars here, too. I also loved them as a child for all the reasons you did. They taught us children great patience, I think! How hard it was not to peel back those unopened windows to take a peek! And how could you could possibly resist the chocolate once you'd broken through the perforated seal, opened the window that was supposed to bar entry till such-and-such-a date?! I loved the game of it. The sense of mystery. The idea of exercising control, indulgence and restraint all at the same time!

    Thank you for your generous comments re; the new painting. And for making these associations. L, C

  7. Ah, Rachel... you know this path where nothing is incidental and we are constantly making choices. How odd it is that we still find ourselves startled by the unsurprising surprise of it all, the way we stumble blinking into sunlight. It's so very good to know you're out there, Rachel. Thanks for the poetry of your words and for the way you've focused in on 'awe'. L, C

  8. Dear T. I always see you as an artist, someone who's been engaged in the process of image-making your whole life. How exciting that you're contemplating taking up painting classes... yes, yes, yes!

    I'm using oils at the moment - Senelier, fast-drying oils, often combined with Liquin (a delicious, viscous medium that extends the oils, enabling one to achieve layers of transparent colour.). Your experience with water-based oils on glass is bound to enhance anything new you take on. Best of luck - and shout out any time you'd like to know about materials, etc... I will happily pass on whatever I know (although what I know is mostly like my cooking - a case of intuitive, hit & miss!)

    Have a great weekend -

  9. How apt dear cb that the skies have opened and rain has been unceasing, seemingly for days, as you explore and give shape to 'waters you have known'. I'm intrigued by the small windows - those with images that are already sounding, as well as those that are not yet filled. Like eyes that are yet to open and reveal their way of seeing.
    Today I am making LMPhi.

  10. Dear Map. I love your way of seeing things; what's there and what's not yet there. The weather's been apt, yes, for where I'm going in this work, but it's been testing too. Dear old no. 22 does not do well when it rains for days... I've had to call both an electrician and a builder up here to check the wiring and roofing... Seems there's a fault along the roofline, damp in the ceiling space above my bed. Ah me. It hasn't been altogether comforting rain, I must admit. But everything will be rinsed clean come Tuesday.

    I'm happy to think you'll be enjoying the LMPhi today! L, C x

  11. oh, Claire,
    this is a wonderful posting...
    the painting, pie, the buckles and straps and seat belt tightening...
    happy 50...

  12. Hello Melissa

    I've been like a bag of Liquorice Allsorts lately - here, there and everywhere. (Do have Liquorice Allsorts in the US? They are black & brightly coloured stripe-y, dotty, solid, stretchy liquorice sweets? They come in all shapes and sizes and you don't how much you like them until you pop the first one into your mouth and then you can't stop eating them till the whole bag's gone?) Life's been like this... all or nothing. Coming and Going . Arthur and Martha. Child and old woman. . Anyway, thank you for saying you enjoyed this post. I've worried in case I'm coming across as a bit of a fruit loop these days, or like someone who's losing her marbles. Then again, we all lose our marbles from time to time, don't we? And then we get it all together again, yes?

    I wish I could invite you over to paint a poem on my wall on my 50th birthday!

    Be well.
    Love to you