This morning the dawn didn't happen as usual instead the whole sky gained an eerie orange red glow. I went downstairs to dump garbage and it looked magnificent so I just pulled the iPhone out and started taking photographs. 173 photos and 2 hours later I am back at the studio needing sleep but also wanting to get a couple of the photographs on the web.
The cause is a dust storm. They are rare in Sydney but apparently high western winds that are starting to hit the city were very strong yesterday out west and we have the result. It is strong in the lungs - I wouldn't want to be an asthmatic out in this but it does make some beautiful visual effects in the city.
I went to the shopping center on Broadway for some RCA plugs and walking back took about 80 shots on the iPhone, mostly of the old brewery site which is in the process of redevelopment and other subjects along Broadway. I love that area for taking photographs but the old brewery half demolished as it is is particularly attractive. I know most people see such industrial urbanscapes as an eyesore but I love it - to me it is like a dystopian monster in a moonscape and I love that sort of thing. To me it is pregnant with the poetry of the city. By being so empty now it is as if it is full of ghosts of stories and speaks more of people now than when it was a busy working factory such a short time ago. I have intended for photography and painting for quite some time.
It is a huge site but now it is largely leveled dirt with the core of the complex and the old chimney eerily alone in the center. It reminds me of Hopper. Hopper never actually painted scenes quite like this - it is a subject more typical of George Bellows, but the feeling of the emptiness in the midst of the city, that is pure Hopper.
The second photo is actually off the brewery site on the other side of Broadway. I loved the scraggly old tree hanging on for life with just a few lonely leaves among the upper branches and twiggy bits. Of course we all know that as new apartments get built that the city council in its infinite aesthetic wisdom will see such a tree as a blight and replace it with something "pretty" and new with lots of leaves - a botanic version of the cult of youth. I must be one of the odd ones because I see such things as this tenacious old tree as pure beauty, but then, I am just an artist - what would I know about beauty?
100,000 fireworks, 20,000 on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a further
80,000 on 6 barges strung along Sydney Harbor, and on city buildings, 1
giant animation 36 meters by 36 meters on the bridge, and 13 minutes of
stunning pyrotechnic display set to music.
Yesterday was wet with strong winds. It was difficult trying to take these photos, keeping steady against the wind on the umbrella while shooting one handed and trying to keep the camera dry. As always I love the rain, it is a visual feast of altered tones and harmonies of Grey, and the reflections are always beautiful. These photographs were taken while going to the supermarket and returning to the studio in William Street.
This first photograph is of the walk up the hill to the supermarket. It is on 2 levels underground beneath the Coca Cola sign. It is about a 3 or 4 minute walk from the studio front door. These views are what I see almost every day, although, of course, with ever changing weather and moods.
I love this time of year just for the Jacarandas. Jacarandas grow well in Sydney and every year there are many streets with the spectacular mauve flowers above and a mauve carpet of fallen flowers below. Jacarandas remind me of my north Queensland home. Ravenshoe and Herberton have so many Jacarandas the shire flag is mauve and green in recognition of these gorgeous trees. Jacarandas and Poincianas are my favorite trees due to their beautiful flowers.
Each year in Sydney there is an exhibition festival called Art And About. I am most familiar with it due to the photography exhibition which happens in Hyde Park and I have to walk past it on my way to the city. The photographs are printed on large (about 2 meters x 3 meters) canvas and then strung beneath the fig trees on the main promenade. It is always engaging. This year my favorite is one called Fly Boys by Quentin Jones of a whole lot of children flying model planes in a swarm, but there are several other images I like a lot. Being outdoors in a public park the exhibition is viewable 24/7. Recommended.
The Chalk The Walk Urban Art Festival is on now. Forty artists are making artworks on Pyrmont Bridge. Rudy told me last night that he was in it. Looking on the website I discovered that a friend of many years, Anton Pulvirenti is also in it. Check out the Chalk The Walk web site here. The site has lots of photos of the marvelous artworks they make. Meanwhile here are two by, first, Rudy and second, Anton:
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.