Friday, November 25, 2011

Place and Seeing

Above is my favoutite picture in a newly-found book, 'Piper's Places - John Piper in England & Wales,' by Richard Ingrams and John Piper. It is 'Hartwell Church, Buckinghamshire 1939.' I love the white chalkiness coming out from shadow.
I hope there are others who know this artist who "has pursued so many different careers - not only as a painter but as stage designer, potter, designer of stained glass and tapestry..."  I want to find out much more.
It cost me next to nothing because its value wasn't recognised. It's in almost mint condition. More to the point, John Piper ( 13 December 1903 - 28 June 1992 ) had an exceptional sense of structure and colour, which my amateur, evening photos do little justice to.
Above is 'Littlestone-on-Sea, Romney Marsh, Kent 1936.' How many of us can compose so lucidly?
This, above, is the famous 'Stowe, Buckinghamshire, c.1975. The house from the south; the lake; the Temple of Concord.'  He makes it seem as if he didn't strain to produce his work, and yet something tells me considerable effort and talent went into it.
Dramatic, atmospheric, 'Byland Abbey, Yorkshire 1940' is one of many churches John Piper brought out into the light. 
Above is the abstracted 'Barrow on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, c. 1944.' 
It seems like a photo-montage, but it is not. This is 'Scotney: the "old castle,"' from the frontispiece ( no date). 

All images and quotations from the above book, Chatto and Windus, The Hogarth Press, 1983.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giardino di sculture

I don't have a Fiat or a Lamborghini. Heck, I don't even drive. 
That doesn't mean I haven't travelled to Italy using other vehicles.
Is it the flamboyance or the apparent order that makes sculpture so romantic?
There is not necessarily alot of either in sun-drenched Terra Australis Incognita ( 'Cognita'? ).
There are rocks and chains and shackles wherever you are.
An Italian garden may have its grandiose scale or its gaudy flower-pots. Nothing is different here, except time, which may be much older, if less recorded.
This section of a tree has antecedents stretching back far further than known history. The garden has a renaissance every day.
I like to have pieces around the garden that both disturb and complement it.
This is not an early Italian piece of engineering, but an Australian work-bench. 
You have to look out for artefacts: you can never be sure if they've come up out of a volcano or a factory.
Joyously, both Italy and Australia have landscapes and flora that promise renewal ( renascita ) . The sun is strong in both countries. It has highlighted a magnificent civilisation in one, and it has blazed over the raw subtlety of the other.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, Watching a Mouse, Scuttling Free...

Once, the kookaburra sitting in the old gum tree, with the sun shining on him and all he surveyed, spied a mouse way down below. His eyesight was excellent. Before the mouse could say, "Where am I?," Kookaburra was flying down to catch him. 
But the sun was shining brighter than other days, and even with his keen eyes,  Kookaburra didn't see a gum tree branch in front of him. Oh no! He flew straight into the branch and, instead of touching down beside Mouse, he fell into a clumsy heap!
Mouse was getting a better idea where he was by now, and squeaked to Kookaburra, "My friend, can you still fly?" 
Kookaburra was stunned...not only was his wing sore but, for the first time, a mouse had spoken to him. Usually he just swallowed them.
 "My friend," he said in reply, "I can't move my wing. It looks like I've broken it."  
Mouse was a brave mouse and he knew, when he saw the sun shining into his eyes that morning, that something special was going to happen. 
"Fear not," he gamely said to Kookaburra, "although I look like breakfast to you, I am in fact a fully qualified surgeon..." 
"Impossible," said Kookaburra, still somewhat concussed, and not yet ready to deal with baffling conversation, "you don't even look like you could drive an ambulance!"
Mouse took the insult in his stride, being a generally unflappable kind of mouse.
"If you let me fix your wing, Kookaburra," he ventured, "all I ask is for your protection, and that I may never be seen as breakfast again." 
"Deal done," Kookaburra hastily agreed ( his wing was getting rather sore by now ).
And so it was. Mouse fixed Kookaburra's wing so well he was able to fly again. In time, he forgot all about being compared to an ambulance driver. And Kookaburra? In all his subsequent days of flying, he was always watching out for Mouse, his true friend, who lived to be a very old, uneaten mouse. 
For James Golden.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pictures at an Exhibition

It was an unusually beautiful morning, the ground wet and cool, the sun shining. My neice is going overseas, and today my family had a lunch to launch her. On my way to my sister's inner-city warehouse space, I decided to stop and wander in the grounds of the Royal Exhibition Building and its surrounding Carlton Gardens. Above, the building's wonderful cupola.
"Completed in 1880 for Melbourne's first international exhibition", this impressively massive building was the first in Australia to achieve world heritage listing. Above, some of its very green and leafy grounds. 
Adjacent to the Central Business District, these broad, orderly and geometrically-alligned gardens have a typically Victorian sense of scale.
Nonetheless, a new branch of the Melbourne Museum has been constructed in its grounds. Above, see part of its wonderfully eye-catching, out of kilter annexe, seeming to sink, as it does, into the ground.
Designed by the multi-award-winning Denton Corker Marshall, like many 21st century buildings, it is striking, and relies for its impact on the conservative or natural background in which it resides.  
Much of the planting around the original building is in the traditional Victorian 'bedding out' style. I'm not normally fond of it, but I tip-toed my way through, and understand how easily such a format or approach lends the viewer a sense of propriety, a sense of surveyance.
There are several fountains on site, including this, above, 'The Exhibition Fountain', designed by Josef Hochgurtel in 1880.
Papyrus, of course, were a Victorian favourite...and water, so rewarding.
The scale is monumental, but Melbourne then was the richest city in the world.
The image above gives you a sense of scale.
It was through these doors that I went for  my final school examinations...impending doom or great promise?
Fortunately, and despite the very Englishness of it all, a number of magnificent native Eucalypts thrive, more ancient than the theatre imposed around them.
See our strong light and the clarity of our blue, blue skies.
One of many fine views, above, on the corner of Rathdowne and Pelham Streets, is this, the Corpus Christi College.
And here, above, the resident gardener's cottage, on the corner of Rathdowne and Carlton Streets. Melbourne's history, however knocked about or dismantled it may have been, is its linchpin.
We do not though, stop, it seems, here, in the Southern Hemisphere. See another section of the new Melbourne Museum, above, bold and brave, with its delectably crooked windows..
My favourite human intervention is this, this statue commemorating the reign if Queen Victoria, with its pair of blonde kangaroos.
Beneath the pair, above, this wonderful plaque of an emu, an exception, surely,  to Victorian discipline, yet a prime example of all the Victorians sought to discover.
The day has been so glorious. I was lucky to have had plenty of time to wander through the gardens, and to make my way to my sister's. 
Her home has this unconventional rooftop sitting space, with views across to all sorts of semi-industrial, reclaimed architecture, bits of roof, stretches of sky.
Here she is, Belinda, on the left, having given us a wonderful lunch of all sorts, with kipfler potatoes and shallots, chicken, broad-beans with leeks, pizza, a most glamorous profiterole thing, and Brillat Savarin and blue Saint Agur cheeses, with an amazing hand-made Limoncello from Adelaide, among other things. My gorgeous neice, Georgia, is in the middle, and my lovely mother is on the right. My brother-in-law, Steve, was off on the side, keeping us entertained.
And that's not all. Here, above, is my gentleman nephew, Lachlan, a most charming and good-natured man.
Good, eh? How often do you get to have a day to explore an inspirational garden and connect with family, and be treated with kid gloves?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Desperado - Gardening Somewhere

It's night. It's Friday. I know tomorrow, when I want to go out and direct the making of a sequence of divinely-inspired garden images, I'm going to be lugging an unwieldy wheelbarrow, staggering on my arthritic knees and ripping out metres of couch grass instead.
So I've run around like a mad peacock - not that I'd think such a ridiculously extravagant bird would have anything to do with me ordinarily - and caught some interior images, just before they flew away..
There IS vegetation here, sort of...the point I may want to make is that plants occupy places in our lives left, right and centre, and the notion of being a gardener, to me, is not simply something I do OUTSIDE, but something I take with me, wherever I go... 
Do other gardeners have to feel. or DO feel, that their gardening takes place around them, in other ways? As a concept, 'gardening', to me, is a state of nurturing, involving my relationship with the organic, natural world, even when I'm not outside in what may be recognised as a garden.

Around me I have built, all my life, bowers. I am wondering if some part of me has wings, and is waiting for a moment, whether it be in the garden proper, or in my constructed interior garden, when 'garden' is no longer a matter of being inside or outside. I will fly everywhere, and there will be no fences. Is this a dream of Eden?