Saturday 23 August 2014


“Drawing is the honesty of the art. There is no possibility of cheating. It is either good or bad.” - Salvador Dali

For Art Sunday today, I feature Aubrey Beardsley. His full name is Aubrey Vincent Beardsley and he was born August 21, 1872, Brighton, Sussex, England, dying on March 16, 1898, in Menton, France. Beardsley was the leading English illustrator of the 1890s and, after Oscar Wilde, the most outstanding figure in the Aestheticism movement. Drawing was a strong interest from early childhood, and Beardsley practiced it while earning his living as a clerk.

Beardsley’s meeting with the English artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones in 1891 prompted him to attend evening classes at the Westminster School of Art for a few months, his only professional instruction. In 1893 Beardsley was commissioned to illustrate a new edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte D’ Arthur”, and in 1894 he was appointed art editor and illustrator of a new quarterly, “The Yellow Book”.

His daring illustrations (1894) for Oscar Wilde’s play “Salomé” won him widespread notoriety. He was greatly influenced by the elegant, curvilinear style of Art Nouveau and the bold sense of design found in Japanese woodcuts. But what startled his critics and the public alike was the obvious sensuality of the women in his drawings, which usually contained an element of morbid eroticism. This tendency became pronounced in his openly licentious illustrations (1896) for Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata”.

Although Beardsley was not homosexual, he was dismissed from “The Yellow Book” as part of the general revulsion against Aestheticism that followed the scandal surrounding Wilde in 1895. He then became principal illustrator of another new magazine, “The Savoy”, and he illustrated numerous books, including in 1896 Alexander Pope’s “Rape of the Lock”. During this period he also wrote some poems and a prose parody, “Under the Hill” (1903; the original, unexpurgated version, “The Story of Venus and Tannhauser”, appeared in 1907).

Delicate in health from the age of six, when he first contracted tuberculosis, Beardsley again fell victim to the disease when he was 17. From 1896 he was an invalid. In 1897, after being received into the Roman Catholic church, he went to live in France, where he died at the age of 25 years. His work has enjoyed periodic revivals, most notably during the 1960s.

The drawing above from 1896 is a design for the end paper of “Pierrot of the Minute”. This is a work by Ernest Christopher Dowson (2 August 1867 – 23 February 1900), who was an English poet, novelist and short-story writer, often associated with the Decadent movement. It was first published in 1897. A restored edition with Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations has been published by CreateSpace in 2012. 

Friday 22 August 2014


“The sound of the mandolin is a very curious sound because it’s cheerful and melancholy at the same time, and I think it comes from that shadow string, the double strings.” - Rita Dove

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741) was an Italian Baroque composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher and cleric. Born in Venice, he was recognised as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread across Europe. He was aged fifteen and a half when he received the tonsure, and grew up to become the prete rosso (“red priest”) of Venice, so called on account of his red hair. Although he remained a deeply religious man, he stopped saying Mass soon after his ordination; later in life he cited a long-term ailment as the reason for this (probably asthma).

From September 1703 to February 1709 he was violin teacher at the Pio Ospedale della Pietà in Venice (an orphanage for girls which offered musical training). In addition to teaching violin, directing, and composing instrumental works, Vivaldi also taught the viole all' inglese and was responsible for acquiring and maintaining string instruments for the orchestra. By this time he had begun to establish himself as a composer. He was an avid traveller and one of the most prolific composers of his time, having written over 350 concerti, many church compositions and numerous operas.

His popularity in Venice had declined considerably by 1739, and this may have prompted him to travel to Vienna, where he arrived by June 28, 1741. He died there the following month, and was given a pauper’s burial at the Hospital Burial Ground. Vivaldi was most influential as a composer of instrumental music, particularly concertos, in which his regular use of ritornello form in the fast movements and of a three-movement plan were influential. A skilful orchestrator, he favoured effects such as muting and pizzicato. A number of his orchestral works are programmatic, the best-known examples being the concertos ‘Il Gardellino’ (The Goldfinch), ‘La Tempesta di Mare’ (The Tempest at Sea), and Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons) of Opus 8.

After his death, Vivaldi’s music slid into obscurity until a vigorous revival in the 20th century. Today, he ranks among the most popular and widely recorded of Baroque composers, second perhaps only to Johann Sebastian Bach, who himself was deeply influenced by Vivaldi’s work.

Here are some works for Mandolin and Lute, performed by L’Arte dell’Arco, with Federico Guglielmo [violin I/concert master]; Mauro Squillante [mandolin RV 532/II, RV 425]; Davide Rebuffa [mandolin RV 532/I]; Diego Cantalupi [archlute RV 85/93/82]; Pietro Prosser [baroque lute RV 540]; Mario Paladin [viola d’amore RV 540]; Nicola Reniero [harpsichord RV 425].


“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” - Hal Borland

We’ve had the first truly Spring day in Melbourne today and the weather was truly glorious. Unfortunately, I was unable to fully enjoy it as I have come down with a very annoying head cold – such is Spring! The asparagus are coming into season at the moment and the following dish is a delicious and light vegetarian meal.

Asparagus Cream Pasta
1 bunch asparagus (about 30 spears, prefer the more slender ones)
150 mL double cream
2 garlic cloves, peeled, but left whole
50g grated parmesan
250g pasta
White pepper, ground

To prepare the asparagus, cut off and discard the woody ends, then neatly cut the tips away from the stalks. Keep the tips and stalks separate. In a small saucepan bring the cream and garlic to the boil. Take off the heat, remove the garlic, then set the pan aside.
Cook the stalks in boiling salted water for about 5-6 minutes until tender, drain, then tip into the cream with the grated parmesan. Blitz with a hand blender until smooth.
Cook the pasta according to pack instructions (although I allow more time, as I like the pasta softer than the al dente recommendation!), then throw in the tips 2-3 minutes before the end of cooking time. Gently reheat the cream, drain pasta, then tip into a bowl with the cream. Toss, divide into pasta bowls, top with parmesan and serve.

Please leave your own recipe ideas on Mr Linky below:

Wednesday 20 August 2014


“You can be a victim of cancer, or a survivor of cancer. It’s a mindset.” - Dave Pelzer

Tomorrow, Friday August 22 is Daffodil Day in Australia. This corresponds with Southern Hemisphere Spring and when these beautiful bulbs flower in southern Australia. They have long been held to be a symbol of hope of the Spring that follows Winter, and thus they have been adopted as a powerful symbol of hope for cancer patients. Daffodil Day is one of Australia’s best-known and most popular charity events devoted to fundraising for research into cancer.

Cancer is one of the major killers in Australian society. Each day more than 100 Australians will die of cancer. Daffodil Day raises funds for the Cancer Council to continue its work in cancer research, providing patient support programs and cancer prevention programs available to all Australians. Daffodil Day helps grow hope for better treatments, hope for more survivors, hope for a cure for all cancers.

To the Cancer Council, the daffodil represents hope for a cancer-free future. Everyone can help in the fight against cancer by participating in Daffodil Day. Daffodil Day merchandise is on sale throughout August, and people can donate to Daffodil Day at any time.

I hope that I see a day where cancer is no longer a death sentence for many people, where treatments are effective and relatively free of side-effects, where people can take an active role in effectively preventing cancer. Worldwide research to which Australia is contributing significantly makes this hope a realisable one.

More about cancer here.

Tuesday 19 August 2014


“Understand that the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. Use it. Dwell in possibility.” - Oprah Winfrey

Poetry Jam this week has the theme of “Path” as its stimulus for all contributors who choose to respond to this creative writing challenge. While lots of ideas came into my mind when considering the topic, the most obvious is what generated the poem you see below as my contribution (with obvious inspiration from Robert Frost):

The Path not Chosen

And I wonder what would have happened
Had I taken that other path?
A life lived differently, is another life,
Another's life, after all.

Would all have been better, brighter,

And the other me, happier?
My memories different, memories strange
A stranger's memories, after all.

Would I still be living or now dead,

Had I trodden a different path?
My choices disparate, a wealth of options unexplored,
Someone else's selections, after all.

And yet the path I follow,

Has given joys, as well as sorrows;
I've stepped on roses, not only thorns,
I've heard sweet songs, not just dirges,
After all, my path has been eventful.

The path not chosen, may have promised much,

But life is a great leveller,
And mixes dark and light, honey and poison;
It's up to us to make of our path a smooth one,
After all, I am grateful for my choice.

Monday 18 August 2014


“Some say you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” - C.S.Lewis

When I was a little boy I often spent the Summer holidays at my grandparents’ house. This was something that will stay with me as a treasured memory as I loved them both very much and there were always special treats – trips, wonderful food, summertime friendships and of course lots of fairy tales. My grandfather especially used to make up many tales for me (insatiable as I was for the stories he told me) and in these tales he wove myth, fable, folk tradition, and fairy tale elements he could remember from his own youth. Later of course, I read all of the classics: Andersen’s fairy tales, the Grimms’ fairy tales, Perrault’s, Wilde’s etc, etc. My love of fairy tales has stayed with me to this day and this blog post today is devoted to that special branch of literature: Fairy Tales.

Many psychologists and psychiatrists have analysed the function of the fairy tale in society. Freud, Jung, and Bettelheim, have all seen many features of the fairy tale as manifestations of universal fears and desires of human beings. Bettelheim especially, maintains that the violent and apparently arbitrary nature of many folk fairy stories is an instructive reflection of the child's natural and necessary “killing off” of successive phases of development and initiation.

Fairy tales often have as a theme times of extreme social conflict: Transformation of adolescents into adults, family continuity, rites of succession of leadership, movement into marriage (and many of its uncertainties and fears, as well as its potential creativity and power) and traditionally, birth or barrenness. These rites of passage have been fertile ground for authors, artists and performers and fairy tales have found them a useful source of emotionally charged and interesting stories to the communities that created them and retold them. Fairy tales also give children messages of hope, because even if the hero of the story finds himself in incredibly difficult situations, he always manages to get out of them successfully.

Another function of the fairy tale is that of pure escapism. Nature is given a prime role in many tales and communicating with it is often presented in a way that only poetry can do it. The frequent metamorphoses described in tales are a link to the mineral and the animal world. Fairy tales are a way to escape from the real and neurotic world (with its tiny, unhealthy, overcrowded towns) into the great healthy open spaces (untouched woods, never ending valleys, crystal-clear rivers, magical and enchanted castles, sleeping princesses, etc).

Grimms’ Fairy Tales is my featured book for this literary Tuesday. The Brothers Grimm (Jacob and Wilhelm) published their Kinder und Hausmärchen (Children’s and House Tales) between 1812 and 1815 in Germany. They had as their ideal the exact recording of tales as heard from oral tellers, though it is clear that many stories in their famous work are not folk literature at all, but polished and edited literary pieces inspired by the folk tales, which at the same time retained their folkloric heritage.

Grimms’ fairy tales are of universal appeal and have been translated into over 70 languages around the world. Many well-loved tales that children love to hear are from their collection: The Frog Prince, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Tom Thumb, Rumpelstitskin, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Rose Red, The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, etc. My personal favourite fairy tale in the Grimms’ collection is Jorinda and Jorindel.

What is your favourite fairy tale?

Sunday 17 August 2014


“If growing up is the process of creating ideas and dreams about what life should be, then maturity is letting go again.” – Mary Beth Danielson

Imagine you’re an adolescent. Living in the sticks, with a normal family, the usual assortment of relatives, having simple interests and having been raised in a protected environment. Suddenly your world changes. You have to move to the big city, change schools, leave behind all of your friends and have to cope with an environment, which is as different from what you have been used to as you can imagine. What would it be like?

This is the question that Italian moviemaker Paolo Virzì asks in his 2003 film “Caterina va in Città” (Caterina Goes to the City; US: “Caterina in the Big City”). We watched this movie yesterday and enjoyed it greatly. It is a coming of age film with a difference, as it put a seemingly ordinary story in the backdrop of the perennially volatile political situation in Italy.

When Caterina goes to her school in Rome, she is the innocent hillbilly amongst the hip, worldly, politicised, fashionable crowd of her classroom. She becomes trapped in the midst of two cliques, representing the two extremes of Italian politics: Margherita, the grungy rebel with left wing intellectual parents, and Daniela, the chic, but shallow girl, with the ultra-right wing (fascist?) parents.

The politics do play an important role in the movie, and a considerable part of the storyline develops the idea of “who are these people that govern us?”. Despite this sounding very daunting and not particularly interesting to non-Italians who do not want to know about Italian politics, the film is fascinating as the politics only set the stage and the real interest of the viewer is held by Caterina in her lonely journey of self-discovery with the first awakenings of adult thought.

Several subplots make the movie even more interesting and there are intriguing glimpses into  the lives of some people that surround Caterina, but we are not allowed to gain insight into their universe, as this is after all Caterina’s story. One of the most fascinating characters I found was Caterina’s mother, played very well by Margherita Buy. She plays the scatty-brained mother well, but one scene towards the end of the film where she reaches breaking point is quite amazing. Sergio Castellito plays Caterina’s father with gusto and he is a character that is in counterpoint with Caterina’s on many levels, but at the end of the film father and daughter diverge in an amazingly poignant manner. The real acting honours go to Alice Teghil who plays Caterina wonderfully well.

If you haven’t seen this film, it’s well worth a look at. It is widely available on DVD.


“When one dreams alone, it’s just a dream. When many dream together, it’s the beginning of a new reality” – F. Hundertwasser

Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) is our artist for Art Sunday. He was an Austrian-born painter, decorative artist, architect and spiritual ecologist (real name Friedrich Stowasser) consistently worked with spiral motifs, primitive forms, spectral colours, and repetitive patterns. Although influenced by other Viennese artists (Klimt immediately springs to mind), Hundertwasser’s individualistic work was never associated with any formal school of painting.

Hundertwasser was born to a Jewish mother and a Christian father. He was baptised in 1937 and supposedly joined the Hitler Youth Corps in 1941. In 1943 About 70 of his maternal relatives were deported and killed in Nazi concentration camps. During the war and the Russian occupation Hundertwasser lived in a Viennese cellar with his mother. Hundertwasser married in 1958, while in Gibraltar, and was subsequently divorced in 1960. In 1962, after spending a year in Japan, he married Juuko Ikewada in Venice. They were divorced four years later.

Hundertwasser is viewed as an international, very unconventional and independent artist. He travelled, lived, and worked in various locations throughout Europe, the East, North Africa, New Zealand, and Australia and was never formally affiliated with any “-ism” of painting. In 1949 he selected and assumed the name Hundertwasser (Hundred-Water), and in 1969 Friedensreich (Kingdom-of-Peace), often adding Regenstag (Rainy Day), a name that he originally invented for the converted sailing ship upon which he sometimes lived.

From 1936 to 1937 Hundertwasser attended Montessori School in Vienna, a learning experience to which he would later credit the choice of colour in his paintings. His formal art training included three months at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1948 and a day at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1950. As a mature artist he professed an intense dislike for all art theory, including colour theory. Hundertwasser believed that painting is a religious experience. Opting always for spiritualism over rationalism, he preferred to be viewed as a “magician of vegetation”. In 1954 the artist developed a quasi-mystical philosophy of artistic creation and perception called “Transautomatism” which he later developed into a “Grammar of Vision”.

Hundertwasser's early paintings were heavily influenced by the Vienna Secession tradition of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. His works from 1949 through 1953 also display close affinity with well-known paintings by Paul Klee. In 1953 the spiral motif first appeared in his work and became the most consistent formal element of his mature style. The artist, who first recognised the spiral while viewing a film called “Imagery of the Insane”, defined the motif as a “biological spiral” and “a symbol of life”. Throughout his career Hundertwasser used the six spectral colours almost exclusively. His later work combined these with metallic colours such as gold, silver, bronze, or aluminium. His forms are archaic and primitive and his picture surfaces are often covered by repetitive patterns.

A diverse artist, Hundertwasser also designed a church in 1987 and a day-care centre in Frankfurt, Germany (1987). He created postage stamp designs for Austria, Senegal, and the Cape Verde Islands. He also designed relief medallions for the Austrian Mint, environmental posters donated to various environmental groups, and various architectural models. Hundertwasser had numerous personal exhibitions of his work around the world, received many awards, including the Austrian State Award for Arts in 1980 and the Austrian Protection of Nature Award in 1981. He resided in Vienna for most of his life.

The painting above is a personal favourite of mine and is from 1966, called “The End of Night”. There is a blending of the abstract with the representational, reality with dream, symbolism with transcendentalism. There is enough mystery and riotous colour in the painting to engage and haunt one. It was the artist’s intention to offer his viewers a glimpse of Paradise, constructed while the creator is in a dream state. The work is rarely disturbing and almost always highly decorative. Hundertwasser made no attempt to identify universals with his primitivised forms, and as a result his language remains relatively private. The audience is given only limited access to the painter's fantasy experiences. Hundertwasser’s dreams were more than a little repetitive, but usually pleasant.