Sunday, August 21, 2011

Alluring Aprons

Dear friends

I'm thinking of taking a break from blogging for a while; I'm not sure for how long - a day, a week, a month or more? Neither do I want to put anything (de)finite around this intention. This past year has been a series of. . . how shall I put this. . . paradoxical, vivid and can-all-this-really-be-happening? experiences. Time has stretched into peculiar shapes calling for daily spontaneity and moment-by-moment responses. I've not been able to write any of it out here.  For all its surreality and heartache, Life has also been miraculous, heart-opening, instructive, fortifying, faith-building and so much more. I appreciate the image of the willow tree standing deeply-anchored with its roots in water while the rest of its body dips and flexes, responsive to any and all elements and weather. Seems we are being given one opportunity after another to practice our moves, to refine our dance with ourselves, each other, life.

I'll be working longish hours in the studio these coming few months, absorbed in a rather different and quietly thrilling project; one that's been incubating for some years and that seems to be gently insisting now is the time. . . I'll document the process, of course, but am reluctant to disclose the finished series until brows have been mopped and crinkles smoothed out (both of which could take a while!). Meantime, I'm looking forward to visiting you and your blogs and anticipate finding my voice again in conversation with you on your sites. 

Thank you for your company out here. I value you all heaps. 

Till soon then. . . Salani kahle; stay well. 

Return - Charcoal & pastel on paper - CB

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Poem - BUTTON SHOP

Via Cappellari, Rome

There is no front door; the way in is through
a gash in the old man's chest. Behind his ribcage
centuries-old buttons regulate the beating
of his heart. His chambers are bordered
by pleated velvet, the arch of his aorta embellished
with medallions carved in ivory and horn.

His ventricles are red-ruched satin, stitched
by hand, reinforced with the bleached baleens
of whales. You have only to press your ears
to the walls of his chest to overhear murmurs
of treason, bear witness to acts of love
and betrayal in the eighteenth-century court

of Versailles. His floating rib transmits
the sound of insects colliding with candle light,
street lamps and crystal chandeliers. Stand close
to detect the whirr of industry - in his blood vessels
the heat and light of theatre sets
and behind-the-scenes machinery.

He is centuries old. His superior vena cava echoes
with the metal of wartime trenches
empty cartridges, abandoned ammunition belts
and lost belt buckles: there, too, the crack
and split of a sailing ship crushed
in the fist of a storm.

There is no front door;
the way in is through the gash
in the old man's chest. His body
is an apology of dull grey scaffolding
but his heart? His heart remains
a patient, all-weather place.

CB 2007

For more Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. This week's editor is Alicia Ponder with the poem Shetland Ponies, Haast Beach by fellow TP poet, Tim Jones

Today's Button Shop is a re-post. This poem was originally published in 2007 in my first collection, Open Book - Poetry & Images. In my last post, I mentioned I'd be away from home for a few days - first for an exhibition opening and then for a retreat on magnificent Banks Peninsula. Our small country has been brought to a virtual standstill after days of (for us) heavy snowfalls. Much of both islands is under a blanket of white - very beautiful, if somewhat disruptive! I was lucky enough to make it over the hills and back to Christchurch before the AA closed the roads. And now that I'm here, I'm fortunate to be able to stay with dear friends in their warm home. We are off into the snow now (going to the gallery space ; )). . . I'll post a few pics of the temple and Christchurch's white environs later today. . . Meantime, this is where I/we were this time last year. . . 

Friday, August 12, 2011

New from the studio

Hi. I'm writing this from Christchurch. I flew up last night in order to attend the opening (at 5.30PM this evening) of En Masse, the first in a series of 'pop-up' exhibitions staged by my long-time dealer gallery The Arthouse. En Masse includes work by sixteen artists and is the first 'in-the-flesh' show Norma and Peter have staged since having to evacuate their beautiful space in the CBD after the February 22 earthquake. 

Below are two works I completed for this exhibition - Murmur and I meant it to be a poem about sparrows and the silence that followed. . .  

Murmur - Charcoal & pastel on paper 2011 

I'm immersed in a sequence of drawings and paintings at the moment that are an attempt to address the profound and progressive wounding we have inflicted - and continue to inflict - on our earth, and to give voice to the urgency of our engagement and of our doing what we can to facilitate her preservation and healing. When it comes to matters of protest, my intention is always to find a way 'through the gaps', to communicate in language that evokes rather than provokes. I want very much to make work that acknowledges current realities in all their darkness and starkness and at the same time focusses in on beauty and wonder, mystery, poetry and lyricism. I hope to pose questions and to peel back the 'layers of the obvious' revealing the subtler notes that suggest there's a 'world of more' breathing below the surface of everything we know and that resides beyond what we can see and/or understand. (This may in part explain the appearance of X-ray-type imagery in this new work?)

There's a synchronistic little story behind the second image I'm posting here. This drawing was already well underway when I came upon The Sparrows, a poem posted by Christchurch-based writer, Helen Lowe. Helen had posted The Sparrows as her Tuesday Poem; this poem is one in a series she refers to as her Earthquake Witness sequence. The opening and closing lines of The Sparrows resonated particularly powerfully for me and seemed to be speaking directly into/out of the drawing I was engaged with. I asked Helen if I could 'borrow' the opening two lines as a title and possibly also include the poem with my finished piece on this exhibition. She generously agreed - and it will be great to see her at the opening a few hours from now. . .  

I meant it to be a poem about sparrows and the silence that followed. . . 
Charcoal, pastel & watercolour pencil on paper - 2011

Following the 22 February earthquake in Christchurch, the birds fled the city, rendering the broken landscape all the starker through the absence of birdsong. . The closing lines of Helen's poem read -
". . . And then, finally, they came / their wings clouding the sun."


It would be wonderful to see Christchurch blogging friends at the opening. . . This is late notice, I know, but please do come if you can? Activities get under way at 5.30PM this evening. Where? Upstairs in the NZ Health Food Co. building, 215 Wooldridge Road, HarewoodFor friends further afield, I invite you to browse the work online by visiting Norma & Peter's virtual gallery (web technology is amazing, really - you can 'walk' around the space, zoom into images and see the mark-making with absolute clarity, swirl, twirl and whirl. . .)

Sending best thoughts to you all. 

PS. I forgot to mention I'm going to be away - on retreat - out on the magnificent Banks Peninsula for a few days following this exhibition opening. . . Back home mid-next week (weather permitting - heavy snow is forecast this weekend ; )).

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda


Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let's not speak any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn't be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren't unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I'll go.

Ode to Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda
-from Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon 
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

for more Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. 
This week's editor is Robert Sullivan with Envelope by Anna Jackson

Saturday, August 06, 2011

When fire = poetry

Seattle-based Japanese artist Etsuko Ichikawa writes, "My work is a continuing investigation of what lies between the ephemeral and the eternal.

Moment and memory, absorption and evaporation, light and shadow are some of the triggers that inspire me and relate to my work. My “glass pyrographs” are made by drawing hot molten glass, which is one way to capture and eternalize the immediacy of a moment, while my hanging and floating installations are about ever-changing states of mind. . . " 

"The yin to Etsuko Ichikawa's soft-spoken, intro-spective yang is fiery, molten glass. Handling while aglow at 2100 degrees F, she loops, stretches and presses the smoking mass of lava atop paper to create abstract drawings known as pyrographs. Filmmaker Alistair Banks Griffin captures the dramatic choreography of Ichikawa's art in this short film for The Anthropologist*. . ." 

For more vids of the artist at work, visit this page on Etsuko Ichikawa's website -

Thanks +++ to RachvB for introducing us to the meditative, alchemical work of this remarkable artist. 

* rich pickings await you at The Anthropologist

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Did you know?

                                for Norma & Peter (N&P@HQ)

                                Did you know
                                spiders do their housework
                                on Tuesdays in Canterbury?
                                They hang their silk on particles
                                of dust, a low-slung cloud,
                                any available hook
                                of air or charged electron.
                                Threads are pinned to telephone wires,
                                shredded vestments shaken out
                                and strewn to lie across the tops
                                of orange poplars. By five, the sun
                                is loosely tacked behind
                                a thousand spiders'
                                webs. It's quite a sight
                                when they turn the night-light on
                                inside the mountains.


Did you know? was the first poem I posted on this blog as part of our Tuesday Poem series - the date was 30 March 2010. I'm posting it again today because Christchurch and our friends in the Canterbury region continue to be very much in heart and mind. As part of this, I'm working on a series of small drawings/paintings for a group show that opens in Christchurch next Friday, 12 August. One of the images incorporates this poem. I want to offer something hopeful, a kind of beacon to the people and to our land's inherent beauty and strength. I also want to say something about to our capacity to endure and to heal, despite external and internal shaking, and despite damage incurred to infrastructures.

For the past decade I have shown my work in Christchurch at The Arthouse - a stunning, cathedral-like gallery with an open heart and calm, deeply-centered energy located in Gloucester Street on the edge of the city's CBD. I have been blessed to work - and walk - closely with Norma and Peter, the directors of The Arthouse, ever since my first show with them ten years ago. Their gallery (new, custom-designed and built to highest earthquake codes) stood up well to the September earthquake but was irreparably damaged in the February quake; months of ongoing aftershocks have weakened even the noblest of buildings' resolve. 

A few weeks ago, the gallery was officially declared unstable and given 'the red sticker'; it is one of an ever-growing company of buildings scheduled to be demolished in the near future. 

Mysterious processes are always at work, even when we do not fully understand what these might mean, or what they will ultimately reveal to us. Norma and Peter have remained faithful to this ethos throughout these past months of change and uncertainty. I bow to my dear friends in their strength during these vulnerable times. They continue to keep a strong presence via their website and have hosted a series of online exhibitions. For their forthcoming show, En Masse - the first 'in the flesh' since February - a Christchurch business with premises in a steadier part of town are making a space available to The  Arthouse for a 'pop-up' show - a generous endorsement of Norma and Peter's wish to gather with their artists and the community for a show of optimism, good faith and solidarity. Yes

I've needed to make a work - or works - about 'all this'; work that speaks to Now. The following drawing - Murmur - is one I completed over the weekend. 

Murmur          Charcoal & pastel on paper - CB 2011

As so often happens, I begin with an idea, thinking I'll have some say in the matter, but it quickly becomes clear that  drawings have their own intentions. I often don't know what'll appear on the page. It's a mysterious process, one that never ceases to fascinate and fortify. Murmur feels a little strange to me, like a landscape I need to spend more time with - even so, something's opening up, I think. . . Why, just days ago, I wrote of my concern that after too many months of fractured time in the studio, I would not be able to make anything at all happen. I had looked at my frustrated hands one close-of-day and thought 'you're not going to betray me, are you? Not after all these years?'  Melissa Green sent loving encouragements, reminding me that our hands do not 'betray' us, though they do sometimes need to 'sleep'.  

I'm getting side-tracked, though. It's Tuesday and I'm supposed to be posting a poem. Going back to where I started, which was to do with the fact that today's poem Did You Know? was the first I posted as part of the TP series, I wanted to mention that the comments thread accompanying that earlier post contains the stirrings of today's TP community. The conversation's about whether and how we might be able to make Tuesday poems a regular, co-ordinated 'happening' - a treat to be reminded of its origins. . . Mary McCallum was - is - the helmsman of our TP boat. She's a treasure.