Leith Johanson was to have her 29th birthday and her sister Tonnia phoned me to see if they could have an arty party here. I loved the idea of a party for a Johanson. I loved their company, and I think that they loved being here just as much.
Is it possible to see terror in something beautiful and retain that first excitement of love and appreciation? Take this sunset tonight as glimpsed between city buildings. Gorgeous! was my first reaction and it filled me with thoughts of beautiful things, those special moments that make life feel alive. That was a sunset that could put youth into the old, make the poor wealthy, and bring poetry from stones.
Look at it. Mauves and oranges. It is like the cloud caught fire and is smoldering in the sky. The mauvey greys are like smoke, the cloud made of coals as big as the horizon. It is such an exquisite sight and doubly wonderful for being a snippet of a view.
I stood there in the middle of the street, the cars all around me, and took a photo. They always think I am mad when I take a photo from that little domain I claim on the white line. The cars that is. The pedestrians don't notice. I was transfixed by the beauty of the sky and the office workers streaming past in a river of hurry to get home never noticed that the sun had painted another picture just for them. This was an exhibition for the few, right in the middle of the many. So it goes
That's what Vonnegut says. So it goes. I am reading Slaughterhouse Five yet again. Well, listening to it on my iPod. It is my private homage to his life, since he died just a few weeks ago. In the book he tells the story of Billy Pilgrim. It is meant to be about the fire bombing of Dresden in World War Two. He was there, Vonnegut that is, a prisoner of war, in a slaughterhouse called Dresden. But he says that he cannot think what else to say about the firebombing. I think he thinks that the incendiary bombs said all that needs to be said all on their own. So he talks about Billy who also fought in the war and then goes home and becomes wealthy and it is not until 1967 that anyone realizes that all the way back then, the trauma had made him go quietly mad.
That is until 1967 when he decided to tell a radio station that he has become unstuck from time and that one night in a microsecond before his daughters wedding he spent several years with aliens in a zoo and being mated with a porno movie star called Montana Wildhack. So it goes.
His daughter Barbara was aghast. Aghast not that her father had gone mad, or that he had had to endure the horrors of war, but that he was embarrassing her. So it goes.
I read quite a bit of the book as I went about my business purchasing supplies for tomorrows workshop. I discovered a lot of things. I have read Slaughterhouse Five before. Everybody has, it is one of those books that is respected and so everyone claims to have read it, but Slaughterhouse Five is also a powerful and interesting book, so not only do people say they have read it, they usually have. Me, I read it about three times.
I was much younger then. It seems I was probably quite a bit stupider too. Because (as is often the case when I reread things at this age) I am discovering depths and subtleties that I never noticed the other times. Maybe I did notice, but didn't think it was important so I forgot them straight away.
That's the problem with extreme youth, the extremely youthful are in such a hurry they don't pause to notice so many little things. Like sunsets down a street. Or nuances in the way a character says something, or is introduced. Or why they are there in the first place.
Now I am still a youth, but a little less extremely youthful than before, and discovering that a book that I should know very well is able to surprise me yet again. Or maybe, it's just that it is a good book, and that is why I can rediscover afresh within its pages another aspect that I hadn't considered before. And so it goes.
Tonight I could relate to Billy Pilgrim. I think at times like sunsets or other things of great beauty I too can feel a little unstuck from time. Of course unlike Billy I don't think I have been carried off to Tralfamidor by beings who hold their eyes in their hands. At least I don't think I have been.
But there is something that Billy does that I do do. Cry every so often, usually with dry tears. I get it in artworks, especially books or movies or television. I got it tonight. On an episode of Startrek: Enterprise one of the officers is trying to compose a letter to the parents of a crew member who has just died. The portrayal was very powerful and went through stages of denial and anger and rejection and acceptance, and when he came to terms with it, and started to really write as from his heart what he felt about this person I felt the tears welling up and the sensation was of the tears flooding my eyes, but really there was not that much water there, just the sensation. Big boys don't cry after all.
I wondered how I would deal with a real life situation of being in a place like Dresden in the war, and maybe having to tell someone about their somebody and share their last moments because it needed to be done.
I think I might become really unstuck in time too, and maybe even go to Tralfamidor and be in a zoo.
Everything would be different from then on, even sunsets. Later when I was downloading the photographs I was struck by how the colors in the cloud looked like they could be reflecting the fires of a burning Dresden. Even the mauvey greys looked like smoke rising from the city. Yes the cloud was still gorgeous, but somehow Vonnegut had managed to paint a few extra layers in there that I didn't notice the first time. So it goes.
A little after midnight I was walking through Hyde Park. I had been buying supplies at Woolworths at Town Hall. I saw a possum on the grass. It was just watching me a short distance away, so I put my groceries down to try and get a photograph. The possum immediately went over to my bags. It had evidently smelled the pears and apples in my groceries. I said, as gently as I could "no, no." and got a pear out and put it on the ground. The possum came over and started to eat the pear while I watched.
Just 220 years ago this was a swamp where we were. Brushtail possums were plentiful. Now the swamp is Hyde Park, named by settlers homesick for a small island half a world away. There are buildings up to 80 stories high now just metres away from the park. Thousands of people are living in apartment blocks that reach into the sky. More than four and a half million people live in the suburbs beyond.
Yet here in the very center of this great city, the possums thrive. Whenever I walk through Hyde Park late at night they are there in the trees, or on the grass. I always speak softly to them and try to honor their ability to adapt. It is not often that I have food suitable for them to eat. Tonight, the juicy pear seemed to be appreciated, and I could spare it. Some animals eat just a few bites from fruit and then go on to find another. This little possum, once he had it in his paws, ate it all with dainty little bites, and with each bite would look up at me while it chewed.
It is hard to tell what it might have been thinking. I had the feeling, however, that it had the sure and confident thoughts of a being who was the true ruler of the land, who was patiently allowing us to collaborate in inhabiting it. We, after all, have our uses, we eliminated the dingos from the area, and some of us bring the occasional pear, or apple, or orange. I feel it is like paying a little rent for being here to the true landlord.
My love affair with the effects of light in the sky continues, but not too secretly. I cannot help it, the sublime beauty is something I can never ignore, my soul is tuned to appreciate the very special magic that inhabits my universe. Love is blind, they say, yet I cannot stop myself from opening my eyes, and every time I look, I fall in love just that little bit more. To live is to love. Here is my lover, the skies of Kings Cross that caress me with different colors every day.
It started at 10 oclock this morning, Vesna was the first to arrive to start working through her ideas. She sorted ideas with words, pages of words, and then started putting yellow paint on, two figures started to emerge. Iain struggled wit a portrait but gradually refined the shapes until he was more pleased. He returned in the evening to draw the model. George was the picture of intensity, the Greek warrior doing battle with the enemies of perfection. Linda's passion filled the room yet again, her hand moving rapidly, getting a lot down in a short time. Her images are gentle and sensuous.
When you see the passion in the eyes of those behind the easels it is a wonderful sight. When the model is posing they get an intense look and let themselves go to the music and the beauty of the models pose. Linda we welcomed back tonight after a long absence. She has eyes the color of far away skies and the studio feels just right when she is working. Mel moves like a cat stalking the perfect artwork, intent on the capture above all else. Andrew inspires us all with his infectious celebration of having discovered a passion that takes him on unexpected journeys. Ashley has fire in her soul and draws like each drawing is a lover she is caressing. Pablo is full of brooding artistry and hidden depths. Ingrid draws like Beethoven writing music, sensitive and powerful in her vision, quick to feel things. These are the artist's behind the easels, and this is their work.
In Forbes Street SCEGGS (which is a private girls school) has a new arts/music building next to old St Peters Church. Sometimes when I walk by I see the girls through the window, instuments in hand hard at work making music. Little do they know that on that very spot many years ago a mad artist made music in a very unusual way. His name was Peter and I often wonder what he is doing these days and where he went.
Back in the 1970's a little old brick terrace house stood where the SCEGGS music room is now, and it was in a state of continual re-invention by Peter. He had removed the floors so that walking in off the street it was a cavernous 2 story space with just the outside walls left and from the street one had to step down to the bedrock which once was under the house, but, by then, was his floor.
Leaning against the wall to the left as you entered there was the steel strings from the interior of a piano. These Peter would play with the back of a spoon. I still remember the sound that made. It felt like being in a magic garden full of wondous things to be at his place.
The exterior of the house was Peter's artwork. He continually painted it. One day it would be spaceships in the sky, then a forest would appear. All the windows had been removed and replaced with objects like a car windscreen. It was colorful and marvellous and I loved seeing it, but now it only exists as fragments in my memory.
So whenever I walk past that part of the street and see the girls making their music in their brand new building with their well dressed teacher I cannot help but contrast the sight with that zany music I heard all those years ago and the mad artist who was making it, and wonder, whatever happened to Peter?
As day turns to night the transitions of color are fleeting but wondrous to follow. As touches of yellow and mauve and dusky rose move with the clouds it is necessary to move from street to street, and like a Chinese garden, every place reveals a new paradise for the eyes.
Dawn brings its own joy of changing light, but it is the transition into night rather than the new day that really excites me. Perhaps it is just that I am so much a creature of the night and love the lights of the new evening so much that this is my favorite time. Perhaps it is just that the richness of color is so entertaining in the new surprises it has each day. Always different, so often sensational.
If, as an artist, my only purpose lay in recording this extraordinary poetry of the sky in the evening, then I would have a full and wonderful career to enjoy. There is so much inspiration in the changes of light to inspire the soul forever more.
These few photos chart the changes from the first fire spreading through the clouds to that dark green curtain that, like Indigo, is not really a color, but is a transition between colors right at the moment when it is neither one nor the other. And Then the street lights and the moon take the stage. This, then, is an evening in Darlinghurst.
I had to go to Kinko's to pick up some paper tonight. On the way back I took photos of flowers in Hyde Park and Sandringham Gardens. There is something extra special about the flowers that choose to bloom in the harshness of winter air. The air is so cold that it feels like we are in a giant refrigerator. It has been snowing in the high country and although the harbor keeps Kings Cross and the city itself frost free, further away parts have felt frost and the air here feels not far from freezing. Yet despite this, There are garden beds with masses of yellow Marigolds, and violet and white Pansy's both big and small.
There is a corner of Hyde Park with a circular fountain and surrounding formal gardens in circular terraces and beds laid with geometric beds separated by little formal box rows. It is called Sandringham Gardens and was made in 1954 to commemorate the two Georges - King George V and King George VI, both well loved according to the plaque by the beautiful ceremonial gates. It is a peaceful place for contemplation and continual beauty as the seasons bring new flowers all year round.
The day started with painting and then in the evening the model arrived for life drawing class and sketch club. Being the first day of a new term we started by talking about aspirations for this term. Then it was time for the model to pose, the paper fresh on the easels, the passion thick within the room. Then there were the first marks, the first lines, the first patches of tone and within seconds the hands were dancing on the paper, the eye quick from model to drawing, and the piles of new drawings started to grow. The artists were back at work.