Saturday, October 31, 2009


for Annette  

This one, carved in graphite
 warms like wax in the hand 
 its perfect tip wants nothing
 more than to draw saltwater
 stars, a comet's flare, scales
 of silver. Flying fish.      

 Quill sculpted by Agelio Batle 

Monday, October 26, 2009

ArtScience, Nature's little masons, inter alia

This coming Wednesday (28th) an ArtScience symposium titled Illustrating the Unseeable - Reconnecting Art and Science is being hosted by the Electronic Arts section of the School of Art, Dunedin. 

Leonardo, Galileo, Einstein, Heron-Allen (I wrote up about the legendary H-A a few months back) and co. would be oh-so-happy to hear this. Contemporary proponents of ArtScience, Lynn Margulis, Sam Bowser, Elinor Mossop, Richard Feynman, Cynthia Pannucci (founder of NY-based Art & Science Collaboration Inc. (ASCI)), Lisa Roberts, Peter Charuk and others will rejoice. 


Perhaps we could make a point of dangling events like these under the noses of our NZ government in a bid to shake up their thinking around our country's education policies? Their latest conclusions reveal such dismal lack of insight. Pull back on funding; increase the systematization of our education environments, saboutage teachers' autonomy and vocational creativity. What can they possibly be thinking? And what of our ripe-for-learning children? Education by nature resists straight-jacketing. It cannot do otherwise. We're obliged to rebel and insist on more, surely? How can a country such as this one, with its abundance and privilege - not embrace and promote education that's integrative, progressive, contemporary, relevant to current global realities and sensibly, necessarily more liberal-arts* oriented? The three Rs are all very solid and fine, but honestly... I shake my head. 

Tune in to the excellent, eloquent Sir Ken Robinson speaking about Creativity in Schools. 


Back to Wednesday... 

The day's gathering will include presentations by:

Dr. KarstenSchneider Animator/Marine biologist, Pixel Dust Studios. Professor Geoff Wyvill Computer Science, University of Otago. Peter Stupples Art Theory,Dunedin School of Art. Associate Professor Mike Paulin Zoology, University of Otago. Nicola Gibbons Artist. Trevor Coleman Composer/Musician. Claire Beynon Artist. Bridie Lonie Art Theory, Dunedin School of Art. Pete Gorman MFA candidate, Dunedin School of Art. Andrew LastJewellery, Dunedin School of Art. Paul Trotman General Medical Practitioner/Filmmaker, Dunedin. Felicity Molloy Massage Therapy, Otago Polytechnic. Peter Batson Marine Biologist/Filmmaker, Deep Sea Productions. Alistair Regan Department of Design, Otago Polytechnic. Amos Mann Museum Educator and musician. Chris Ebbert Product Design, Otago Polytechnic, Marcus Turner Research and Information Coordinator, Natural History New Zealand. Dr. Mark McGuire Design Studies, University of Otago. Stu Smith Animator/Computer Scientist, Animation Research Ltd. Julian Priest Artist and independent researcher.

"The 'infotainment' industry perpetually hungers for innovation in the popular delivery of scientific visualizations. At the same time developments in computer graphic imaging and computer enhanced media offer uncharted potential for illustrating the unseeable. Even so, at present, key expositional elements for feature film and broadcast media are commonly created by commercial animation studios whose graphic designers primarily reference a cache of pre-existing broadcast and feature film work to solve graphic concept puzzles. We think there is scope for a different kind of engagement between art and science. 

In a parallel universe - far flung artists, stimulated by the fecund muse of scientific theory explore 'lateral' ways to illustrate and embody ground-breaking theoretical concepts. Artists are developing new ways to interpret science, creating a rich reservoir of ideas; a vastly extended idiom. 

Nearly 500 years ago, Renaissance artists and scientists illuminated worlds of imagination, theory, function and possibility. With the industrial revolution came the inevitable segregation of art and science toward functional material efficiency driven largely by the trade of the day. But in the twenty-first century, economics have irrevocably expanded. Now abstractions and their symbolic expression are traded with the same currency as more 'tangible' cargo. As surely as industrial fetishism dictates a schism between art and science, network economics enable a reunion. 

We view this an an opportune moment to begin a discussion given Dunedin's rich academic and creative environment. 

With a focus toward bringing arts practice in touch with the popular dissemination of innovative ideas, through a variety of media conduits - from traditional broadcast to cutting edge graphic interfaces in location-based museum installations - Electronic Arts will host a symposium to encourage cross-media and cross-disciplinary connections. 

Electronic Arts within the School of Arts is dedicated to critical research practices in digital and electronic media. Being positioned within a School of Art allows us a unique perspective of digital media and technologies. Organized by David Green and Susan Ballard, this symposium will provide a forum for discussions of scientific illustration within our city. A range of invited participants will present short talks addressing scientific illustration as it relates to their research and development focus. Comprised neither of formal papers not trade pitches, this symposium is intended to stimulate a Dunedin nexus between world and local contemporary arts practice and cutting edge science toward media dissemination."


Astrammina triangularis

My short presentation for Wednesday is titled Nature's Little Masons, and yes, I will be talking about foraminifera, sculptors extraordinaire of the microcosmic world. A passion for ArtScience (+ the advocacy thereof) has been in me for some time but as you already know, the fires were really ignited by my Antarctic experiences. 

Fire and ice; an interesting juxtaposition of elements - and not as polar opposite as one might think. Mind you, is anything when we look at it up close?


* The term liberal arts denotes a curriculum that imparts general knowledge and develops the student’s rational thought and intellectual capabilities, unlike the professional,vocational, technical curricula emphasizing specialization. The contemporary liberal arts comprise studying literaturelanguagesphilosophyhistorymathematics, and science.[1] In classical antiquity, the liberal arts denoted the education proper to a free man (Latinliber, “free”), unlike the education proper to a slave. In the 5th Century AD, Martianus Capella academically defined the seven Liberal Arts as: grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Margaret A & oranges

A is for Atwood. (She's currently traveling the world promoting her latest marvel, Year of the Flood.)

Things have been absurdly full-on lately. 

If we were to describe life as a theatre and us as players, well... suffice to say that just about everyone I know is having a challenging time of it right now. It feels as though we're being repeatedly asked to strip ourselves bare, to question our value systems, inspect old adages and safety nets. At times like this, human impulse can lead us to run for the dressing-up box or the attic room. Or perhaps to dig for answers in the garden. (I've done a bit of each lately.) While this description is in no way adequate for what's happening for people on both an intimate and grand scale right now, it's a tiny indication as to where my head and heart have been lately. (And might explain why my blog posting's been a bit thin on the ground...) 

Last night I stayed up later than I should have, re-re-re-reading Eating Fire. (This is one of several volumes of poetry that live beside my bed. I pull 'Margaret' into bed with me often. She inspires me both to want to write more and to stop writing altogether. Both effects are catalyzing.) 

On a prosaic note, last weekend I made Caramelized Oranges for a birthday banquet (recipe follows at end of post) and mid-mouthful, remembered Margaret's poem Against Still Life. Here it is for your pleasure -

Against Still Life

Orange in the middle of a table:

It isn't enough
to walk around it
at a distance, saying
it's an orange:
nothing to do
with us, nothing
else: leave it alone

I want to pick it up
in my hand
I want to peel the
skin off; I want
more to be said to me
than just Orange:
want to be told
everything it has to say

And you, sitting across
the table, at a distance, with
your smile contained, and like the orange
in the sun: silent:

Your silence
isn't enough for me
now, no matter with what
contentment you fold
your hands together; I want
anything you can say
in the sunlight:
stories of your various
childhoods, aimless journeyings,
your loves; your articulate
skeleton; your posturings; your lies.

These orange silences
(sunlight and hidden smile)
make me want to
wrench you into saying;
now I'd crack your skull
like a walnut, split it like a pumpkin
to make you talk, or get
a look inside

But quietly:
if I take the orange
with care enough and hold it

I may find
an egg
a sun
an orange moon
perhaps a skull; center
of all energy 
resting in my hand

can change it to
whatever I desire
it to be

and you, man, orange afternoon
lover, wherever
you sit across from me
(tables, trains, buses)
if I watch 
quietly enough
and long enough
at last, you will say
(maybe without speaking)

(there are mountains
inside your skull
garden and chaos, ocean
and hurricane; certain 
corners of rooms, portraits
of great-grandmothers, curtains
of a particular shade;
your deserts; your private
dinosaurs; the first

all I need to know:
tell me
just as it was
from the beginning.

From Selected Poems I: Poems Selected and New 1965-1975 by Margaret Atwood. Copyright © 1987 by Margaret Atwood. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. 


What can one possibly add to that - except, perhaps, a bowlful of bright, syrupy circles...

Here then is the recipe... these last for days in the fridge and are best accompanied by loved ones, jazz and thick Greek yoghurt.

Caramelized Oranges 

8 medium juicy oranges
225gm castor sugar
2 Tblspns Cointreau (or whisky or brandy - alcohol optional) 

* Thinly pare the rind from half the oranges and cut into very thin julienne strips.  
* Place in a small saucepan and cover with water. 
* Cook till tender (5 mins or so). Drain and rinse under cold water.

Cut away pith from the oranges, slice into thin rounds and arrange in a serving dish (reserve any juice). 
* Place sugar and 300ml water in a heavy-based saucepan. Heat gently till the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil till caramel-coloured. (Watch it carefully at this stage as the syrup can change from caramelized to burnt very quickly)

* Remove the pan from the heat, add 3 Tblspns water (there will be much joyous  sputtering). 

* Scatter rind over the oranges and drizzle the caramel syrup into the dish. 

* Chill overnight, or at least for a few hours. 


For those wondering why I've not been corresponding at my usual rate or via my usual media... All is well; I'll be back in that particular saddle soon. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

There is a place

There is a place 
between uphill
and down, on the edge 
of dread
and dance. 

Don't be fooled. 

There are many ways 
to make things 
and people appear
and disappear
truths we cannot know
of the curious shape 
of hills, the fading 
yellow light.

There is, it seems
an uncertain time 
of day when the sea 
is in the sky
and the moon 
can be heard listening 
in the belly
of the local stone. 

CB 2007

The Muse (Re)turns - charcoal & conte on paper, CB 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Samoa - collection point in Dunedin

Here’s a small way in which we can help.  A group of  Samoan students at Otago Uni have offered their flat as a collection point for goods to be sent to Samoa. Light clothing (for hot temps), sheets, towels, pots, utensils, plates, etc... would be much appreciated. 

Pacific Blue is flying whatever is given to Samoa free of charge; once in Samoa, it will be distributed by the Red Cross. 
If you have anything that you are able to pass on to this community, please drop it off at 33 Hyde St, Dunedin - the earlier, the better as the plane is scheduled to fly at the end of this week (16th). 

Thanks +++. 

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Conference for Humanity


Christchurch Arts Centre, Worcester Road, Chch. 
Christ College School of Trans-Himalayan Wisdom
Long Bay Road, Banks Peninsula. 

Friday 9 - Monday 12 October 2009

Meditation temple - Christ College for Trans-Himalayan Wisdom, Banks Peninsula
Photograph: Lawson Bracewell 2009

Topics for discussion include:  

Harmlessness: A Social Organization Principle (Dr. Dorothy Riddle)
A Working Model for Public Health (Dr. Ruth Richard)
The Soul as Magician (Lawson Bracewell)
How Maori Wisdom Shapes the Future (Rev. Maurice Gray)
Co-operative Business Models (Margo Lips-Wiersma)
Questions of Balance (Claire Beynon)

 A L L    W E L C O M E

Monday, October 05, 2009


I'm contemplating a major change in lifestyle for 2010. Everything seems to be pointing towards this, confirming the thought at least as a sensible one. On some level, there's a note of urgency about this, while on another, it feels like a straightforward and inevitable thing, a simple matter of seeing and accepting certain realities as they are. Change comes when and because it must. Meantime, I'm doing what I can to hold life and its infinite possibilities in light hands. One thing is certain - the signposts for simpler, quieter living have been there for quite some time. I can no longer ignore them or walk on past. 

My three offspring are sources of inspiration to me at the moment - each one for quite different reasons. There are definitely times when our children are our best teachers.  

My middle son is traveling solo through India at the moment and last week crossed the Rohtang Pass on the back of an old motorbike - an Enfield classic. He sent me this stunning photograph last night along with a description of the distinctive textures and characteristics of rain and thunder in India. 'It's just started raining as it can only do in India! Very dramatic. Huge, hot drops. I'll have to wait for it to stop before catching a rickshaw into town to use the ATM. We get some pretty epic thunder here; because of the mountains, it reverberates up to eight times, back and forth... I love it. Immensely.' 

Nubra Valley -  Daniel van Ammers 2009

I, too, love thunder. It reminds me of my childhood in Africa, conjures images of jacarandas and jackals, scorched veld and indigo skies, tok-tokkie beetles and flying ants. The slightest rumble always leaves me hungry for more. 

Daniel said the forms and tonalities of the Nubra Valley remind him of some of my earlier land-based paintings. I was touched that he should make the association and even more so by the fact he apparently carries an archive of my images in his head. His photograph sent me rummaging through my NZ and Antarctica folders to find a pair of pics I thought would resonate with his (it occurs to me as I write this that it's just short of a year since my last trip to the ice - it was the 2008 season that prompted me to take up blog-writing and here I am, 111 blog posts later. What a multi-stranded year this has been). 

Explorers Cove, Antarctica 2008

These landscapes could hardly be further apart, neither could they be more different in terms of temperature, temperament and timbre. And yet, how kindred they are, too - each one carrying a familiar handprint.

The Maniototo Range - Central Otago, NZ 2008

Ice(cream) sandwich, New Harbor, Antarctica 2008