Sunday, January 31, 2010

Temporarily disheveled

My feathers have been in disarray these past few weeks. (Actually, the ones I'm showing here belonged to Murray, plucky bird that he was; no doubt, still a zealous preener.) 

In time, I might find language to write about aspects of my recent 'in-house' process, but for now, suffice to say most of the changes taking place involve 're-' words... recognizing, reconfiguring, recycling, re-booting, remembering, redistributing, recharging, releasing - and ultimately, the realization that I feel a sense of gratitude and relief at finally reaching a place of relative respite and reasonable resolution.  

There's a way to go yet (isn't there always?) but let me risk saying this; while so much depends on the angle and way we look at things, the straggly bits really do have a habit of finding their place. Which is pretty remarkable, don't you reckon? 

There are times when - no matter how squiff & skew we let our tail feathers get - grace abounds. 


Miriam Levine's poetry collection The Dark Opens has kept me company during these 'off the wire' days. 

Thank you, Mim. Your writing is tough and delicate; striking and wise. The dark does indeed open and when it does, light is already there, eager to come skipping on in...

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Ten out of Ten is a group exhibition celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Diversion Gallery at Grove Mill Winery, Marlborough. It opens at 2.00PM today. 

Images aren't up on the gallery website yet, but should be soon.  

Meet Murray

This is him as an adolescent, hard at his English lessons. 

I miss this bird. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dangerous spontaneity

Hmmm. Well, nothing may come of this morning's unanticipated madness, but I seized the moment and submitted abstracts to two conferences - the first goes under the heading Antarctic Visions: Cultural Perspectives on the Southern Continent and takes place in Tasmania at the end of June. The second (this is the one that's really taken me by surprise) is Oslo's International Polar Year (IPY) Science Conference (from what I can see, the design of the host building is based on the anatomy of icebergs and is quite beautiful).  

The submission date for Oslo was 20 January (yesterday's date) and - as seems so often to happen with me - I only found out about it at 10.00 this morning. 

The fact the globe is round is incredibly helpful at times like these. In this instance, it meant that 10.00AM on 21st in NZ was still hours before midnight the day before in Norway. It's all quite weird, really. Anyway, I rolled up my sleeves and pulled out the stops and when I finally pushed the Send key on my lapdog*, it was 12.20AM in Oslo (twenty minutes post-deadline). I was pleasantly surprised when the forgiving conference computer responded within seconds with a very polite Thank You for your submission followed by an email with the reassurance, Your abstract is in our system. Whew. I might just have made it...  

Being 'in the system' doesn't necessarily mean anything in terms of whether or not you actually end up going, of course. I'm not attached to any particular outcome but will admit that my fingers and toes are loosely crossed. Programme headings for both conferences are enticing and there are many reasons why I'd really love to participate.  

Invest wholeheartedly. Detach fully. This seems to be the only way to approach things these days. 

As a poet friend once suggested 'it's not difficult but it's not easy either.'   

*Thanks for the pet name, Pen

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ascend - descend - transcend

CB - from Hidden Depths series - Oil & liquin on paper, 2010  (detail)

The drawings and paintings I'm working on at the moment are explorations of perception and memory; contemplations on the ephemeral-yet-enduring nature of it all. Do we need to descend in order to ascend and - ultimately - transcend? 


"Men are admitted into Heaven not because they have curbed or governed their passions, or have no passions, but because they have cultivated their understandings" wrote William Blake 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Washed up

yelp |yelp|
a short sharp cry, esp. of pain or alarm she uttered a yelp as she bumped into a table.*

kelp |kelp|
a large brown seaweed that typically has a long, tough stalk with a broad frond divided into strips. Some kinds grow to a very large size and form underwater “forests” that support a large population of animals. 

* I've been 'bumping into tables' lately. 
Ouch. Sometimes it helps to stand on the sand and yelp to kelp.   

Monday, January 11, 2010

It depends how you look at it

Inside the stone the world is round.  A woman wears jeans and a clean white T-shirt.  There’s a canvas hammock in the garden, strung between the magnolia and a flaming red maple.  Her family’s washing hangs on the line, snapping its way towards freshness. A taste of summer.


Inside the stone the world is beige.  Flat. Bland. Pale.  The sun’s light is tepid, the sea runs a pale wet tongue across the beach leaving behind a faint tea stain.  The sand is a crushed malt biscuit.

Inside the stone the world is an apricot.  Wind loosens the ripe scent of sex and soft fruit, of wet and round and orange.  Men and women peel off their clothes, step out of their shoes.  They stride past work on cool, bare feet.


Inside the stone the world is a puzzle, a thousand pieces strewn across a landscape. A man is gathering them up, constructing a scene from the inside out.  They remain out of focus until he picks them up, transforming at once from flat and grey, to monumental, three-dimensional structures; his dream of a different life keeps him captive.


Inside the stone puddles are pewter ovals, sleeping.


Inside the stone is a black world, a place with neither windows nor doors. The woman searches for a trapdoor, any means by which she might escape the darkness.  But there are only concrete walls and wooden floorboards that threaten to split.  She can smell the sticky stench of bitumen, the singe of a hot, high fire.


Inside the stone is a soft wax world.  Children know the silent slide of honey.  They walk with candles; lights tilted to flatter the forest, they highlight moss and lichen, outline fallen pine needles with a subtle edge of gold. 


Inside the stone the world is populated by flocks of primordial birds.  They burrow their way out of the dark soil in our gardens and look us straight in the eye.  Their skin is damp and pink as a Desiree potato.  They carry the dirt of the world on their backs, feed on mass nouns and ripe plums.


Inside the stone the world is a bulletin board. Sharp corners stab and cut. People and events are paper cut-outs, underlined, trimmed, pinned to its surface with cold stainless steel pins.  Disturb the layers to see what lies behind or beneath and everything will turn to dust. Take heed. The printers’ pigments will leave telltale stains on your fingers.


Inside the stone is a trapped storm.


Inside the stone a spill of full-cream milk spreads across a linoleum kitchen floor, splashes down the back doorstep and out into the garden.  It flows down the slope, past the exuberant yellow peonies and flowering cherries, gathering speed and doubling in volume as it travels. By the time it has crossed the neighbourhood boundaries, it is a wide white river; the children and untethered lambs of the suburbs run along its banks sploshing, stretching and bending, drinking their fill.


Inside the stone a miniature narcissus threatens to pull up its roots.  It shakes its head, catapults its scent across the sprawling grey of the city.  Perfume drizzles down street lamps, drips onto sidewalks, sticks to the dusty flanks of buildings.  Industry blushes and for a moment steps out of the shadows.


There is a universe inside a stone.

CB 2007 

Saturday, January 02, 2010

2010 & an old mud house looking to take on something new

Naseby is a tiny historic gold-mining village that grew up in the 1860s during NZ's gold-rush days. It's about an hour and forty minutes North West of Dunedin, in the Maniototo region of Central Otago - a landscape of dramatic temperament, few people and high, wide skies. 

I've just spent a night up there, seeing friends and checking up on the old mud house. I had big dreams for this place when we first met. It looked its age - how could it not after a hundred and forty seven years - but stood its ground with spark and attitude. Fixing it up would require a lot of hours and elbow grease, but none of it felt un-doable. There'd be something thrilling about bringing the old place back to life. (And the shabby, dilapidated courtyard was calling out for clematis and grape vines, espaliered pear and olive trees, a great big banquet table, benches, lanterns, a brazier - company...) 
The mud house was the town's apothecary in its early days and has since played the role of draper's store, stationery shop and South Island farmer's holiday home. I was reminded again this visit of my first-love intention to set it up as a creative exchange space; a retreat where I and others could meet away from our usual pulls, for the purpose of writing, painting, talking, brainstorming, or being silent. I still visualize it serving the wider community as a kind of atelier or meeting place, whose primary purpose would be to foster interdisciplinary, inter-continental collaboration, research, discovery, conversation. 

I've drawn these ideas up and spoken of them before, but not here... The concept is both embryonic and pretty much fully-formed. I wonder - does this come across as audacious or fanciful? It might. But is that a reason not to speak? 

Is persistent, heartfelt intention enough of a foundation to build on? What responsibilities would a communal space like this bring with it? What challenges? What far-reaching connections and joys? (If you'd like to have a wander through the mud house, you can visit it here. I'd be really keen to dialogue about this potential, should the concept of such a space resonate with others out there?) 

Interestingly, during this brief overnight visit, I was reading through the Guest Book and came across an entry from a recent visitor. She'd written 'Great place! Ever thought of turning it into an artists' retreat?' 

The world works in mysterious ways. 


Here's to a year that's '2000ft above worry level.' 

If and when worries come along (as they are wont to do), may you find all the tent pegs, can openers, mosquito screens, books, antihistamines, Russian fudge, picnic cutlery, fishing rods, swimming togs, friends, flags, golf balls and starched white bowling outfits you need to navigate your way through.