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My favourite Australian Architect – Harry Norris

Harry Norris and I have a long history. It began in the Coles cafeteria when I was four and now I am in my forties. I suppose you could call him my other lover, for I have occupied his space and he mine for as long as I can remember. He has been there for me on so many important occasions.

Cathedral Arcade Nicholas Building

Norris was born in 1888, part of the Victorian era. A man of ordinary means who became a prolific interwar architect. One of the first to introduce the Art Deco style to major commercial projects, completing over twenty notable buildings in a career that spanned forty years from 1925 to 1965. These buildings are in Melbourne, my home town. This collision course that Harry and I share began long ago at the G.J. Coles Building in Bourke Street, opened in 1930.

One of my favourite things, other than Harry, is to daydream. Others have always been critical of this past time, but not me. Daydreaming is about details. My vacant brown eyes staring at the ceiling in the Coles Cafeteria on level six. All of those squares, layers and layers of patterns, each sitting inside one another. Fans and scallops and triangles and columns extending down the wall. And so, began my love affair with Harry, comparing him to all others. After our visit we would walk up the hill to get the tram home. I would turn and look back at the façade, something I now know is called faience. It was mauve, the colour of the building, it fascinated me. Norris had learnt about faience in America from the Chicago school. It is a glazed architectural terracotta that can be used as a skin for a building. I came and went from that building for ten years and then it changed, like everything changes. It became David Jones and they hid the ceiling.

Before I knew it, I found myself working full time in town. After some years I ended up in Block Court Arcade. In my early twenties and with my own office. I had arrived. Norris had remodelled this Victorian building in 1930 to insert a shopping arcade connecting Collins Street and Elizabeth Street. It includes entrance signage in Jazz Moderne typography and stylised floral and zig zag motif throughout. A multi-coloured terrazzo arcade floor, ornamental bronzes and copper shop fittings. Divine. Upstairs I had an arched internal window looking down on this scene. More food for my hungry eyes. And then I met ‘the one’, my love.

But you dear Harry are coming with me. It is not the time for divided loyalties. We shall be three”.

It was time for a Wedding. I wanted a ballroom as romance was the only reality I had ever considered. Finally, I found it, the northern extension at The Windsor Hotel designed by Norris in 1961. My lip quivered as I stared at the ceiling, it was a homage to the old, not decorative like the Victorian ceiling of the original hotel but imprinted with the memory of it. A parquetry oval dance floor beneath. And so, me, my betrothed and my other lover had a wonderful Wedding reception. And we danced and danced, it was just as I had imagined it would be. I come and go from that building every year to mark the date. First there were two and then three, four, five and six, each of us participating in this shared experience that is a celebration of our love. The ballroom no longer exists, it became the Hard Rock café and then something else.

“I didn’t like this Harry; but acceptance is something I am good at.

I went on a journey recently to Burnham Beeches in the Sherbrooke Forest, built in 1931. It was a day of surprises. A beautiful streamlined building, reminiscent of an ocean liner, she is listing. But there has been a spotlight placed on her now and I am confident it will be okay. Empire Rone had an amazing art installation there and now Burnham Beeches is to be a five star hotel. It was a lovely excursion to the countryside, a chance for me to think.

I didn’t know she was one of yours Harry, a treasure you left hidden in the forest for me”.

Now it is time to get back to work. My children grown up. All roads seem to be leading to the Nicholas Building, designed in 1925. It is commanding with its large scale classical elements, a grand example of ‘Commercial Palazzo’ style. The lifts the longest running manual lifts in Melbourne. Three times in the past year I have visited; and now this week I see there is a little room to rent for a modest price. My eyes enjoy the kaleidoscope of colour as I walk under the leadlight barrel vaulted ceiling in Cathedral Arcade.

“Is this where I am supposed to be Harry? This was the beginning for you, perhaps this is the end for me. Is it time for us to part? I think this is your masterpiece. Coffee in hand as I walk to the lifts, I look at the others, their eyes are turned down. They do not see you. But then I feel grateful for all of those stolen moments, the times I have got to keep you all for myself”.

Harry Norris died at 78 years of age in 1966, only six months after he retired. To my knowledge he was not awarded during his lifetime. He worked in an era where there was emergent opposition to decoration and ornamentation. Nevertheless, he was a man of strong vision and unwavering in his design ethos. A number of his buildings have been destroyed in recent years. But his work endures in many prominent city locations.

 “I think it would make you sad to see them now Harry, these spaces you created for us. They are in desperate need of rejuvenation, someone to bring back the romance whilst keeping synergy between the old and the new. I have someone in mind. It is hard to be loyal since you have been gone so long but I think he would honour your work. And so, I think it would be a beautiful collision, his name is Robert Simeoni”.

Harry Norris, my all-time favourite Australian architect.

For further information or to do a Harry Norris walking tour http://melbournewalks.com.au/architecture-jazz-age/

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Searching for your soulmate.

I’ve always had a fascination with the idea of a soul mate. The mythical story told at Plato’s Symposium seems so romantic, the thought that one could possibly spend an eternity looking for their other half. Searching for your soulmate; the one who knows what you are thinking, the one who understands you, the one who will desire you forever.

Photo credit Robert Doisneau

It was Aristophanes who told the story at the symposium. He states that humans originally had four arms, four legs and a single head made of two faces. They were very powerful and would cartwheel everywhere; moving very fast. It is said they also had great strength and threatened to conquer the gods. Zeus, King of the Greek gods came up with a creative solution to split them in half as punishment for their pride, doubling the number of humans who would give tribute to the gods and halving their strength. Each one then longed for its other half.

What does all of this mean for us today, in modernity? We’ve all experienced the ‘we just clicked’ or ‘we are on the same wavelength’ feeling. We can all identify that there are people for whom we have a natural affinity. For me, a soulmate also has to be desired. Some people describe they have a soulmate with whom they have a platonic, non-romantic relationship. This is a best friend, not a soulmate. Searching for your soulmate is different. The narrative of the soulmate is seeking the other half from whom you have been severed. It is passionate, romantic and profoundly moving. Aristophanes says his speech explains the source of our desire to love each other.


“Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound of human nature. Each of us, then, is a matching half of a human whole…and each of us is always seeking the half that matches him.”

Aristophanes

So where do we find this someone who can ‘cure the wound of human nature’, the soulmate who will make us complete and restore our joy and optimism. Ancient Christian philosopher Augustine proposed this wound could not be cured. He says we bear a kernel of the infinite within us, thus finite things cannot fulfil us. Our desires can never be satisfied and this is the ultimate flaw of humanity. We always seek more, never satisfied with the beauty and love and riches we already have.

As our search continues some of us have many soulmates; because we no longer believe there is just one. There is one that satisfies our physical desires, the one that meets our emotional needs, the one we cry with, the one we talk with, the one who holds our secrets, the one who shares our joy. We become so fragmented that everything and nothing is meaningful.

How did this happen? When searching for your soulmate you are constantly told one person cannot satisfy our every desire and that we should seek out these deficits of nature in others. What does this do to us? When we have so many encounters with others, does this satiate our souls more thoroughly or just exacerbate the sense of what is missing. Our days are punctuated by moments where our hearts quicken and we feel desire and excitement and passion. But they pass by so fast, these little moments. We can barely remember them months later as they are not part of a meaningful accumulation of a lifetime of memories with one. How can we ever be certain we chose the correct one when the others are so alluring. Each of us deciding whether there is one or many whom will pass through our lives with the honour of having been a soulmate. Each of us settling on a story that is the truth we need to believe at that moment in time.

By proposition the soulmate is someone who makes you whole, someone who can cure the wound of human nature. It is someone who knows what gives your life meaning. It is someone who wants to lie entwined with you every-day. It is someone who hears you when you are silent and laughs with you when you are loud. It is someone we all search for.

For more Robert Doisneau photos http://www.artnet.com/artists/robert-doisneau/

For more Greek Mythology https://www.greekmythology.com/Olympians/Zeus/zeus.html

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Brett Whiteley Studio Sydney

A literary retelling of my visit to Brett Whiteley Studio Sydney
 

Nicole Cullinan

It’s a well worn path, the muse, the artist, the sex, the love, the destruction…The embodiment of a creative existence. A story that continues to captivate us throughout time. Why do we never tire of it? It is desire that holds us all entranced in this doomed narrative.

 As I wander from room to room in Brett Whiteley Studio Sydney my mind is roaming freely. There are quotes on the walls, there is paint everywhere and ‘The Alchemy’ resides here. That is one of his more famous works painted in 1972. It is autobiographical, which is easy to see and understand when one is standing before it. It is like a surreal cacophony of all that was important to him. I remember ‘The Alchemy’ but my imagination is with the bathroom series. My all-time favourite.

The bathroom series was painted in London in 1962, the same year he got married. The subject for this series; his wife Wendy, who remained a muse for him throughout his life. The series to be his first major exploration into figurative art, it was inspired by French painter Bonnard and his bath painting. The bathroom series is seductive, sensual and intimate.


London Studio Apartment 1962- A reimagining by Nicole Cullinan
 
I can hear the water pouring into the bath, a whoosh and a splash for the first few minutes, then it settles to a gentle flowing rhythm, water on water. It takes about 15 minutes to fill a bath. The air is very cold, and the bath is way too hot. I didn’t time my undressing well and now I am cold which makes it even harder to ease into the water. You need at least a hand width of water to get in. I take the plunge and feel hot and cold simultaneously. It’s a very strange sensation. My bottom, calves and feet are pink and searing, knees pulled up to my chest; minimising the surface area burn. I accept it has to be a freezing back bath, just for a few minutes. I lean back into the cool porcelain of the bath, relief. More time passes, all temperatures reach equilibrium and I start to relax.
 
The air is warm and thick with condensation, the door is shut. This tiny bathroom has a dreamscape quality. A gentle mist hangs in the air and softens everything. There is no imperfection, or if it existed it can no longer be seen. There are no broken tiles, or chips in the bath, the light is luminescent. My lazy gaze wandering, the arch of my foot, slim ankles, the length of my calf. My voluptuous hips, little waist and ripe breasts. My head is lolling gently on the ledge of the bath and I’m about to descend into a state of lapsed consciousness. I drop my novel over the edge of the bath, I don’t want to lose another one. Moments later I slide into oblivion.
 
I smell him before I hear him. It’s a woody, musky, earthy scent. A gentle awakening. He’s sitting on the edge of the bath looking at me. I smile. He looks content. He has a polaroid camera in one hand and a spliff in the other. I like him this way. We stay like this for what seems like an eternity. He’s talking and I’m listening, passing the spliff from one to the other. I top up the bath with some more hot water and invite him in. He doesn’t want to join me. He gestures to the polaroid. I’m not sure. He lights up another and we talk some more. I’m making the spliff all wet with my fingers, it is falling apart. He slides further along the edge of the bath, so I don’t need to touch the spliff. He turns it back in towards his hand and it looks like a little lantern, I take a long drag. I’m feeling quite relaxed now. My eyes are closed, my head is tilted, like it would take too much effort to hold it upright. I hear the crackle of the film packet being opened. I focus on the smell. It has a strong, sweet chemical smell. I am still, I am so very still…

At the time Whiteley painted the bathroom series he was concerned that being married would curb his freedom from a creative and wholistic point of view. The balance between security and freedom being something that most married people must contemplate over the course of an enduring relationship. In the end I think we all desire love. Theirs was a love story that had all the elements of a grand tragedy, like they were falling over happy in pain.

There is something for everyone in Brett Whiteley’s work. The integrity of the early works with their connectedness to nature. The bathroom series and its eroticism, or something more abstract and surreal. I can appreciate all the work, the unifying element being his truth at that moment in time. Brett Whitely Studio Sydney exhibits a broad variety of his work and is an engaging place to while away some time. (Brett Whiteley 7 April 1939-15 June 1992)

Brett Whiteley Studio Sydney, 2 Raper Street, Surry Hills, Sydney. Opening Hours- Friday-Sunday 10am-4pm. Free admission is made possible by J.P.Morgan

For more detailed information here is a link https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/brett-whiteley-studio/

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Enduring Love

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On enduring love. Thirty years ago today I met my love. I am in my forties. He calls me ‘Cosi’, although only occasionally now. It was a childhood name. Reserved for grandparents and parents and my love. It’s very affectionate. Everyone else calls me Nicole, this is the way I prefer it, I don’t like nicknames.

I don’t have strong memories of meeting him. I met many people that day. I recall he was shy and had beautiful eyes. At some point I became curious. And so there was the slow revelation of truths over the coming months. There was no internet at that time. Things were different. A stalker was someone who hid in a tree in your garden not a person at home hunting on their computer for pieces of information that would disqualify or promote someone’s worthiness. How different the genesis of love can be today.

As the months passed I would recall my Grandmothers words ‘ Patience is a virtue. Possess it if you can. Found often in a woman and seldom in a man’. We lived in a narrative of binary beliefs with a total lack of awareness. Everything was uncomplicated. Slowly we migrated from friendship to love. There was never a moments doubt for me. I’ve always known what I want. Such burning desire.

First ten years and then twenty. I was engulphed by breathless adoration. Should all loves be so lucky to have twenty years like this. Life was easy and we knew it. We didn’t sweat the small stuff. We never have. The affection and devotion upon which I regarded my love was intoxicating to those around us. I fielded constant inquiry as to what the secret is. I thought I knew. With unrivalled arrogance I would tell others the secret is ‘not to let the sun go down on an argument’. The ability to forgive. A lesson I learnt from my loves Grandmother. She was married for more than fifty years to a man with a similar temperament and the same moniker as my love.

And so we slid confidently into our third decade. The enduring love. Me, my love and our four children. I can hear the children’s laughter, it fills my heart with joy. The days pass with a satisfying exhaustion that comes from giving everything. The bedtime stories. The silence of them sleeping. The time for us. The closed doors, the fire, the heat, the dry skin, the moistness. I remember everything, like it was yesterday. Time and space recorded in little dioramas for my thoughts to browse.

Do you remember my love? The beginning, we had nothing and everything. Materiality was meaningless. I was a well that could not be emptied. I was young.  I don’t want to be patient anymore. I feel a sense of urgency, like time is moving too fast. The world has changed. I have changed. There is only one thing I am certain of, the passion I have for you my love. Tomorrow we begin our fourth decade.

Touch me and you will know what it is to be loved… Just touch me, my love.

For relationship guidance http://www.relationships.org.au

Loving with loss

It has been a season of loss, this winter just gone. Too many have departed. They never die for me, they leave a little imprint on my heart. But my heart is heavy, it beckons the climes of spring and a changing of seasons. I’m a little tired. Three people departed, all within quick succession. And why is it that even when we know it’s coming; and we know it’s inevitable we are still a little shocked. Perhaps it is because we are inherently hopeful, and it is that hope that leads us to acceptance.

My uncle on the right

I’m from a small family. I grew up with one sister, two parents, four grandparents, three great grandparents, one uncle, one aunt and three cousins. We are a very tight knit bunch. Sixteen in total, now there are eight. Does that mean I only have half of what I had before, half of the laughter, half of the love, half of the heroes?

Four weeks ago my Uncle left us. Most people will remember him for his stellar career but that is not how I will remember him. I remember his laugh and his love for my aunt. Theirs was one of life’s great love affairs, tumultuous, passionate and enduring. I told him that was how I would remember him. I had a chance to say goodbye, a couple of weeks before. I haven’t had that before, but it still felt hollow. He was worried that day, I tried to reassure him. As I left he still had strength for a genuine squeeze and I whispered something in his ear from my childhood, it was a very happy thought and we tipped in slightly closer and laughed. That was the last time I saw him. It was not the time for me any longer. It was the time for his wife and children; and my Dad; his only brother.

Waiting. This was the easy bit and the hard bit. It was easy for me because I feel most  relaxed when I am being useful towards others. My sister came to stay a few times over those weeks and it was lovely to have her sleeping in my house, just like when we were kids, under the same roof. It was easy because there was lots of cooking and cleaning and listening and sharing. My parents ate many meals at my house over this time and I enjoyed being helpful. It was easy because I got to place my emotions in a little compartment for a while; as others needed me. But sometimes when you are this person you are misunderstood because you don’t cry readily.

Each of  us coping with a departure differently. I notice that some become acutely aware of their own morbidity when they are grieving others. And some are sorry for all that the departed will miss out on, others are sorry for themselves and what they will miss out on. And some feel a combination of all of these emotions, each of them relevant. For there are no rules for grieving. And then finally there is silence. All the crying and laughing and stories and sadness passes. My Dad seems to be doing okay, my sister has returned home. It’s been four weeks. It is my time again.

I go to bed feeling weary. My mind is busy and I want it to be quiet. I lie on my back and I listen to the wind. It is very loud tonight. The window is open an inch and the wind lifts the blind and then taps it back on the ledge. A rhythmic click every few seconds as it is blustering outside, just like my thoughts, busily clacking around my head. I think of my sister, how I could hear her crying in the night when she stayed. Sometimes I wish I could express my own emotions with such freedom. And then the wind begins to subside, it becomes gentler, and the tapping on the window ledge softens. I think of my Uncle. The wind, it is his breath, it is becoming lighter and the gaps longer. The breath, it is barely audible, there is no clacking, it has subsided. I look at my love, he is fast asleep, next to me.
I hear my breath, it is ragged. And then two little tears escape the corners of my eyes and then a very long sigh absconds. It is hard to swallow, I am sighing, and breathing and snivelling and trying to be quiet. My pillowcase is soaking. I get up and put fresh linen on my pillow and turn my pillow over. I slip into a sanguine sleep.

So, we each grieve differently, giving tribute in our own way. I think of my family living this shared experience. My sister, three cousins and I have added to the original sixteen…four spouses, twelve children. We have another sixteen. The cycle of life and loss continues. Double the laughter, double the love and double the heroes.

A romantic life

When you woke me up with your prying kiss I thought about it all day. I smiled in the shower and then I sang in the car. I wished you could have stayed but you had a 7am meeting. The anticipation consumed me. I smirked at the coffee shop, they asked what I was thinking about. I didn’t say. It was only 9am, a long day awaited.

I returned home to my study, in a state of distraction. And then I saw it. The little gift you had left for me. A neon light box with the words “Mark loves Cosi”. This involved effort. How very romantic. Anticipation and effort are two of the things I associate with romance.

But what does romance mean to others? For some it is traditional, bound in the history of the word. Originally of Latin origin, ‘romanicus’. It was often associated with chivalry. Chivalry had its origins in Knighthood and was a social code for how to behave. It was not to do with love. The modern day version of chivalry would be to hold a door open for someone. Recently a man did this for me. I said thank-you. It was in a highly political work environment. He then looked at me and apologised. I know you can open your own door he says. I respond with mmm…as I’m not sure what to say. I don’t know him well. He then tells me he’s old fashioned and he doesn’t know what to call himself anymore. He suggests he’s a ‘doorman’. It makes me laugh. He looks embarrassed. I shouldn’t have laughed. So, we live in confusing times. Chivalry still exists today but the narrative around romance has largely moved away from it.

After chivalry romance developed other meanings. During the nineteenth century the Spanish and Italians defined it as passionate and adventurous. And then came the rise of the romance novel. This led to where we are today. Where some people see romance as a narrative for their lives. I am one of those people. It is not that I believe in idealism, this is naïve and old fashioned. I believe in possibility. And this story, it is different for each of us.

Romance can also be symbolic, this is both historical and modern. The Roman myth of Vertumnus and Belides has us associate daisies with romance. Vertumnus, god of seasons pursued nymph Belides continuously, so enamoured was he. To escape his affections, she turned herself into a daisy. Forever immortalised as a symbol of romance. And then today, we too have our own symbols. Things that we consider significant.

A romantic recollection

Many years ago, whilst on holiday we visited an art show with our four children. Part of the show was interactive, and children could complete a piece of pottery. Whilst I was supervising our children my love made me a little clay heart, about one inch in diameter. It was a very happy time in our lives. I carried the heart in my purse for many years. I loved seeing it. Life became difficult, but each time I pulled out my purse I would see the heart and it would sustain me. And then, at the worst possible time; for no apparent reason the heart split in two. I was very upset. I held the two pieces out on my hand for my love to inspect when he got home from work that night. And I just stared at him, my heart was broken. He didn’t say anything, for there were no words. And then I put half of the heart in my dresser and I left the other half in my purse. After a few months it didn’t look so much like half a heart anymore, this worried me. It was getting smaller and had a little chip. So, I placed it in the dresser too. Both pieces in a special box with daisies on top. I felt sad at that time. My sadness passed as everything passes, except love, that is a veil cast on eternity. I look in the box periodically to make sure both halves are in there; united. The crumbling clay…we are fragmented together. The romance.

Some of my friends associate romance with chores. Things like getting cups of tea or doing housework. I would describe this as an ‘act of service’ and in many modern households today it is an expectation. For me, this is not romance. Romance is passionate and thoughtful, it requires effort and can lead to a wonderful feeling of anticipation. Romance can also be a grand gesture but not everything of meaning is a grand gesture. Romance is free and can be completely disconnected from materiality. It could be a flower on a desk, a note in a lunchbox, a promising kiss, or a memory to treasure when you need to be tenacious. I couldn’t exist in a reality without romance.

My mind returns to that prying kiss, I think of the little light box on my desk. The effort and anticipation leading to desire, a beautiful state of being. Wanting the end of the day to arrive. Hearing the roller door out back. He’s home. It’s that hectic hour of everyday, there is stuff everywhere. Food, plates, pots, pans, sports gear, art supplies, washing, ironing and then there is you. Our eyes smile across the room…everything quickens.

Robin Boyd Walsh Street House

I can’t make up my mind if it would be a curse or a compliment to be born into an artistic succession. That is how it was for Robin Boyd, born in 1919 into a family that already had a reputation for painting, sculpture, pottery and ceramics, and his generation would further enhance the family’s creative clout. Robin chose architecture, a career that would see him heavily awarded and recognised for both his residential architecture and his social commentary on Australian identity.

Recently I went to visit the Boyd family home in South Yarra. A house he designed in 1957 and moved into the following year with his wife and children. The house is designed in a modernist style with functionalism at its heart. He wanted a home to share with his wife that had separate quarters for his children.

He designed two pavilions built around a central courtyard. One finds the eye drawn to the central courtyard constantly as though it is difficult to ignore. This outdoor space unifies the home. The side boundaries have glazed glass walls that connect the two pavilions. They are very eye catching and the stippled glass provides a sense of whimsy as one looks through to the sky beyond. A gentle curved covered way following the glass overhead, almost playful. One could imagine a scene from Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree happening in situ. Time could be suspended in this little private oasis of a courtyard. It feels quite secluded from the outside world. But Robin Boyd Walsh Street house is not a place for hiding and I find myself thinking about privacy a lot during my visit. Boyd ensured the outside world remained at large although those that were inhabitants here would have had very visible lives.

There is a large amount of transparent glass throughout. As one enters into the first floor from the street there is a bathroom on the left and then you are straight into a mezzanine space that was used as both the main bedroom and entertaining area. Rumour has it many cocktail parties took place here and I could easily imagine this would be a cool space for a sixties soiree. I am perplexed as to how this doubled as a bedroom. It is a very open space visible from the second pavilion, the ground floor and the entrance hall. But nevertheless, it is an insanely wonderful example of Robin’s modernist point of view.

Robin was part of an elite club and knew everyone who was anyone. He is spoken of as being sociable, kind, charismatic and in possession of unfailing good manners. There are reports he never lost his sense of modesty. He wrote nine books and completed more than 200 homes. He worked in the post war boomtime era when we were passing through a period of great change in Australian society.

Robin held polemic opinions about Australian suburbia and chastised the locals for their ‘mindless emulation’ of America, coining the term “Austerica”. The belief that everything desirable, luxurious and enviable of the twentieth century is American. A number of his books contain derisive comments on society and the way in which people lived. A social commentator for his time and of his time. Much of his literature utilises the hermeneutics of suspicion to convey an unsophisticated people. He describes a mishmash of architectural styles co existing in any given suburb. He also coined the term ‘featurism’ a practise he sights as the thoughtless ornamentation of buildings. A derogatory word used to malign his peers Art Deco aesthetic, something he considered to be very outdated and an unimaginative import from America. These ideas may be somewhat truthful but as we regard the world through a different lens today we can truly appreciate that this was not the whole story. With suburbs like Beaumaris providing a wonderful example of modernist style on mass and Art Deco Buildings finding a new appreciation for their distinct decoration.

The Robin Boyd Walsh Street house received the Australian Institute of Architects 25 year architecture award in both the Victorian and National chapters during 2006. It has featured in many international publications beginning with Japan International design in 1962. It is an excellent example of modernist architecture and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Should you ever have a chance to see the Featherston House in Ivanhoe it is unmissable. It was designed for Grant and Mary Featherston in 1968. A home built around a garden. It won the RAIA Gold Medal in 1969. This home is still inhabited by Mary, but she occasionally allows for visitors.

Sadly, Robin Boyd died in 1971 at fifty-two years of age, this cut short what had been a very interesting and prolific career. Robin Boyd was a great Australian architect. The Boyd family synonymous with painting, sculpture, pottery, ceramics, music, literature, poetry and architecture.

If you would like to learn more or do a tour here is the link to The Boyd foundation https://robinboyd.org.au

If you would like to learn more about Beaumaris Modern then here is a link https://beaumarismodern.com.au

How to sabre a bottle of champagne…

It has been said that when a bottle of champagne is sabred correctly it sounds like the sigh of a content woman. Let me show you how to sabre a bottle of champagne. It begins with peeling off the layer of gold foil, slowly and purposefully; for it is delicate. Then releasing the cage around the cork so that the pressure can escape. Carefully untwisting the wire to prevent the cork releasing ahead of time. Running my fingers along the seam on the neck of the bottle. Being confident; placing the sabre on the seam, careful to apply the right amount of pressure and then swiftly sliding along the neck. I don’t want the cork to be unyielding. An inexorable sigh escaping with a sudden burst of satisfaction. The trick is not to be strong and hard but sure and intentional. Go all the way, it is a clean movement.

The history of sabrage is surrounded by myth and mystery. It goes back to the French Revolution of 1789  when Napoleon Bonaparte would sabre champagne using his sword. It is said that he and his soldiers; Hussars, would drink it in both defeat and exaltation. They were able to sabre a bottle with their brass hilted swords whilst on horseback.

Legend has it that they would visit Veuve Clicquot in Reims and be entertained by the widow Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, dining at her vineyard. Madame Clicquot took over the champagne business after her husband died in 1805, when she was twenty-seven years old. The bottle is still representative of her today, veuve being the French word for widow. She was a woman of contradictions, described as a formidable business woman and an entertainer of great frivolity. Historians still claim that because of her “no business in the world has been as much influenced by the female sex as that of champagne”. As the soldiers would depart her vineyard she would gift them a bottle of champagne that they would sabre as they rode off to their next battle.

Champagne sabrage has been kept alive in modernity by companies such as Mumm who have made it a feature of their brand to keep this practise relevant. I was trained by a Mumm representative some years ago now. It is possible for inexperienced hands to cause injury to themselves and others but as you can see when done well it is a seamless performance and makes a welcome addition to any dinner party.

How could anyone say no to a satisfied sigh…

To purchase a sabre https://www.georgjensen.com/en-au/bar-and-wine/bar-accessories/indulgence-champagne-sabre—stainless-steel/3586672.html

A love letter from Paris

Rue Vauquelin, Paris…a little piece of paradise…I never walk past here. I don’t want to ruin the memory.

A love letter from Paris. I know he remembers her…I wouldn’t leave my love home alone with her because she was all raspberries and cherries and only twenty-three. She was from the Louvre, a student there, the school of love; she says. I’m nodding, he’s panting. It’s agreed; she can stay. We’ve employed her as the au pair. She is to teach the children French. We are all learning French. The four children, my love and me. The year is 2006.

The park in between. We would meet there with the four children every afternoon and swap them. The gap in our classes a perfect window for a picnic in the park. My time 9-1 and then my loves 2-6. We had homework…my love always better at rote than me. I would copy his homework every night whilst he started that second bottle of wine. “Did you know I did that?” I learnt by osmosis, he by hard work. I spoke first but he knew better. My grammar so poor, his confidence so low. It was a race, everything was a race. I think he won, I stopped running. “Did you notice?” I had to race with four children on my back. They were heavy and each year they became heavier. Filling me with love, until I could wish for no more. Now I become light, they are running. I watch them with envy and admiration. It is their time now.

Jardin du Luxembourg…the park in between…the children and their boat

They are running so fast, much faster than we did. I want to run again. “Will you race me, my love?” But we need to change the rules, because the world has changed; and I have changed. I have the fondest memories for all of our shared experiences with the children that year in Paris. The first time I dined in a fancy restaurant, with my love and the four children. I remember what the children ate. I remember helping them with the shells. I remember the smells, the butter and garlic, the white wine emulsion, the moules. But I have no idea what I ate. Why can’t I remember? I know I was happy. It all seems to be slipping away. And now I look to the photos, they keep the memories alive.

Our children were aged 3,5,7 and 9 at this time. The older kids rode 42km…insanely impressed.

Each year when we return to Paris we create new memories, new moments that will become the old ones in the future. And Paris, she is always the same but different, that is what I love about her. She is both new and old at the same time, a little bit like us.

I remember the bike riding in high heels, of course, always in high heels. I remember the kayaking. I remember our Vespa. I remember the metro. I remember the pain au chocolat. The day I ate three of them in an attempt to be cured. It didn’t work, I could have eaten more. Always with the four children. Now they are living their own lives. I don’t want to burden them with the expectation to be around; but I do miss them. I miss you too. Can you send me a love letter from Paris?

I remember we had only one date night that year and I ruined it. “Remember?” It was the first cold snap and I wanted to drop a blanket by to a local man but in the rush to please everyone I didn’t get to him. I had fed the children, bathed them and had them in bed when the au pair arrived but I hadn’t dropped off the blanket. I was so distracted. The colder the night became the more I worried about this man. We had to abandon the date to go and deliver him a blanket. My love so kind. We missed our dinner booking and we couldn’t get in anywhere and it ended up being a horrible night but he was so indulgent of me being happy. I remember his patience and my apology. Checks and balances…

Our forties seem to be lasting forever. Such hard work, ensuring the children are ok. Reflecting on my goals, they are so specific, all about the children. “I’m sorry if you missed out”. I want the children to contribute to society and to be happy. Two things, be happy, contribute to society, I want them so badly. I have repeated that on so many occasions, a well worn phrase.

We are in interesting times, the new and the old. “Have I enticed you, my love? Will you race me?” I promise to speak French forever, since you cannot. Maybe I will learn Italian too, we both know it lives inside me. “Can you handle the heat?” I want to feel jealous again, like I did in Paris. I would never have left you alone with her…

A love letter from Paris.

For relationship advice http://www.relationships.org.au

Winter is the season for lovers

Winter is the season for lovers. Being cold and hot, prudish and passionate. It’s the season of secrets and revelations. Big coats, warm boots and cosy gloves, the glimpse of a collarbone, the line of the neck, the little hollow that begs to be touched. Less is revealed, and more is desired. The short days and dark nights, the moodiness.

Hellebores or winter rose. One of my favourite winter flowers.

The polarity between indoors and outdoors. The comfort of home and then the need to leave when it’s been too long. The fire, it is mesmerising, wanting more, adding another log. Not knowing when it is enough or recognising that it is too much. An inability to be measured. Having to open the window to let the freezing air in, peeling off the layers of clothing. Where is the point of divergence and the space in which we join? Winter is the season of contrasts.

The clothes. The time it takes to dress properly. The extra garments, the pantyhose, the camisole, the little items that determine whether my day will be cold or comfortable. Remembering the scarf and umbrella. The time it takes to undress. Everything is slow, a forced patience.

Dry skin, dry hair, wet clothes, wet walls, condensation, warm breath. Writing on the glass, the shower, the back door, the car windows, no surface is forbidden. The messages, they are obvious, funny and omnipresent. They make me laugh.

The disparate flowers of winter. The heady fragrance of daphne. The fragile dogwood and happy daffodils. The time spent outdoors, the wet knees, easy digging, soft earth and abundant weeds. The genial winter sun reassuring on my back, contentment. All the things that make my winter garden unique.

The early hours of the winter evening; they are suited to seeing the milky way. There is less humidity, clear skies, you can pinpoint the stars. It is a time for observing after the exertion of planting and pruning and picking. The last few minutes before it gets really cold. It is silent, there are no birds chirping at this hour of this season.

Winter is the season for dinner parties, entertaining, red wine, gooey cheese and friends. Hot ovens, warm scones, sticky jam and clotted cream. It is the time for flushed cheeks, cold hands, brisk walks and impassioned embraces, relieving one another of the cold.

The hot baths without haste. Cool sheets, warm bodies, crisp air. The leisurely lie Ins, the long mornings and lazy weekends. Winter is the season for lovers, both new and old.

It is the season we welcome upon its arrival and then we are desperate for it to end.

If you feel inspired to do some gardening https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/

Beyond the limits of beauty


When blurry lines of beauty speak.
Our souls do sing as pleasure peaks
 
And if we should avert our eyes
Doth beauty form a new disguise
 
She hunts us down as truth doth seek
Her gentle caress upon our cheek
 
And when we attempt to turn away
Her fairness doth command we stay
 
For in our hearts lives true desire
That justice loves and cannot mire
 
And so we seek a shroud that may
Cloak us in the auspice of the day.
 

Nicole Cullinan
Things of beauty…music, flowers, books, and art by Sophie Grace. Photo credit Nicole Cullinan.

Beyond the limits of beauty. Last week I announced the next post would be on beauty, but I couldn’t write it. I am a seeker of beauty and all that it be. I have traversed the history of beauty so many times over the years and it is a complex topic with much emotion. At the beginning of time beauty was just about form and objectivity. Beauty was included amongst the ultimate traditional values of goodness, truth and justice. Over the centuries it came to be understood that beauty is also subjective, it is in the eye of the beholder and prone to the opines of the day. Once it became historically accepted that beauty is both objective and subjective it was largely removed from discussion in the arts and no longer grouped with the virtues of goodness, truth and justice. Because if everything can be beautiful then it is meaningless. Beauty is meaningless…

I feel overwhelmed by all my thoughts regarding beauty and I wonder if my opinion is irrelevant and that I will be misunderstood. My mind wanders beyond the limits of beauty. I woke weary on the Sunday morning after what had been a tiring weekend, a weekend of objectivity, subjectivity, goodness, truth and justice. But also, a weekend of beauty. I sat in my garden and wrote a poem about beauty. And at this point in time that is all I have got…the simple understanding that beauty is complicated.

For more poetry on beauty https://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poems/best/beauty

Blue Poles by Pollock

The psychology of abstraction. Blue Poles by Pollock

Jackson Pollock Blue Poles

American abstract artist Jackson Pollock doesn’t tell us what to think, he compels us to think. When Blue Poles arrived in Australia in 1974 everybody thought something. It was a seminal acquisition for the Australian people and established a new frontier for the Australian art scene. Animated discussion took place in every lounge room across Australia and opinions varied widely from it being a complete waste of government money to a sign of a politically progressive modernist viewpoint. But one thing was undisputed, no one truly understood what it meant, this abstract expressionist art. It was the beginning of something for Australians as a collective and most importantly as individuals.

The Whitlam government paid $1.3 million in 1973 for Blue Poles by Pollock, an abstract expressionist piece of art. It was a world record for a contemporary American painting and debate raged over the value of abstract art at this time. Blue Poles was painted in 1952 and measures just over two by five meters. Painted in a style termed drip painting on Belgian linen that was stretched out on the floor.


“On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting”
 

Jackson Pollock 1912 -1956

Pollock used sticks and syringes to flick and drip paint over the dark undercoated canvas. He would squirt the paint with incredible precision and control. He could quicken the line by thinning it or slow it by flooding it. The creation of this artwork a purposeful act for him, externalising his troubled internal state.

Abstract art defies conventional explanation and can be described as a conceptual notion of society at a moment in time. At that time, we witnessed the rise of the individual in society and abstract art can be seen as a reflection of this. Pollock was trained in conventional painting but chose to do work that was very personal to him. This then gives rise to us, the people of the collective conscious; having our own rights to an opinion. We no longer have to believe what we are told or taught. This piece of art allows each of us to think freely.

Blue Poles did a tour of Australia upon its arrival in 1974. I was a small child when I met Blue Poles. It was my first trip to an art gallery and it has informed my love of art. My family missed seeing it in Melbourne and decided a road trip to Adelaide would be a good idea.

Mid 70s – a recollection of the road trip.
 
We were buckled into the powder blue HK Kingswood with the retro fitted seatbelts at some iniquitous hour of the day, my sister and me. Wearing our pyjamas for the first part of the journey; we were expected to be silent and sleep. My Mum was very organised with the map and a thermos. My Dad was the sole driver, he was always the sole driver. It was my Mum’s job to give directions and keep a look out for police wanting to book my Dad for speeding.
 
On this particular trip we picked up Nana; as she wanted to see Blue Poles too. My memories suspended as I faded in and out of sleep during the journey, feeling really content to see Nana in the middle of the bench seat in the front. She sat much taller than Mum and Dad, she was a statuesque good looking woman.
 
We stopped for breakfast at the Golden Fleece Petrol station with the yellow sheep sign, this happened on every road trip. Dad would have a big fry up, he seemed to enjoy this cooked breakfast. I couldn’t understand why. I have strong memories of cold toast in a cane basket that looked dirty and felt greasy. I can still recall the dry toast in my mouth. It was horrible.
 
Back on the road again and we were over half way when the radiator blew. It gave everyone a fright. The bonnet of the car flung open with a big bang and cracked the windscreen. Dad managed to shut the bonnet and we limped to a petrol station. I can remember Mum repeatedly asking Dad about the temperature. “You should have noticed the temperature. You knew the radiator had a leak before we left.” The accusations were running thick and fast. I perceive my Mum as being right but feel sorry for my Dad all the same. She is the careful one, telling him to slow down and when to turn and what to do. She gives the go ahead to pass the trucks. It’s a real team thing, except when it’s not and Dad has done something wrong.
 
Finally, we made it to Adelaide. We all head to bed a little weary, it had been a long day. I was tired but super happy to share a bedroom with my Nana. The next day there was a big fuss about how lucky we are to go on holidays and how privileged we are to be seeing this painting and that we need to behave. Something we rarely did. We were outrageously naughty children. I don’t recall feeling lucky. I just remember standing before this huge canvas and my Dad saying, “I could’ve done that”. That is all I remember. I was little, very little.

After its tour of Australia Blue Poles went into storage until the National Gallery of Australia building was completed in 1981. It has resided at the NGA in Canberra since then. There was another road trip not long after the opening of the NGA. The year was 1984 and we drove to Canberra to see the ‘Impressionist’ exhibition. Whilst we were there Dad took us along to revisit Blue Poles, I was fourteen years old. I reminded Dad of what he had said some years earlier, the vernacular exactly the same. He was true to his word and time had not softened his stance on this particular piece of abstract art. And so, we truly see the rise of an egalitarian; individual point of view, on this occasion from a man who didn’t finish school yet speaks six languages. My Dad. Everyone had an opinion and to each their own. A new era in art and individuality had begun in Australia, the masses had been engaged.

Blue Poles by Pollock is on permanent display in Canberra at the National Gallery

For visitor information follow the link https://nga.gov.au