I have kept a diary for over 30 years. During my University Studies in Auckland I had majored in Anthropology and have always been an avid observer of life and the lives of people around me and these observations have been very much a part of my many many hand-written diaries.
When I started by diary I wrote on beautiful paper and the diary was leather bound. Problem is that I had to keep sourcing the paper and when you get the itch to write your diary you want to do it now – so I transferred to a simple spirax notebook that I could buy from the supermarket when I purchased my groceries.
I tend to fill one or two of these diaries each month. As these diary pages are quite small I have developed a special tiny writing style that my husband calls ‘spider writing’. This is not that I want to conceal my diaries from him; I often read to him excerpts from both recent and past diaries to share with him.
Amongst the pages of these diaries I staple photographs of day to day happenings of events, people and places. To bring together these happenings and events in a visual form, I also create collages of images taken from the photographs and various clippings, cuttings and editorial comment that tell a story that reflect my thoughts and feelings about the world around me. From time to time I will lay out a collection of diaries spanning several years that allows me to flick through the pages of time in my mind.
These diaries are a very personal place to record and reflect on life’s journey but above all they are very private. Some years ago my film maker friend Tim Burstall wanted to swap diaries as he had done with several other friends. Fortunately I had the good sense to say no.
However with the advent of the internet I am able to share some aspects of these diaries on my blog. I do find writing in a diary clears my mind. As Tolstoy said an individual life is war and peace and certainly my diaries reflect upon the joys and sorrows and vicissitudes of life.
Fools Paradise – A state of happiness based on false hope.
Shakespeare first used the expression “Fools paradise” in his play Romeo and Juliet in 1592. In Japanese artists Shohei Otomo’s works currently showing at Lesley Kehoe Galleries in Melbourne, Shohei has crafted these intricate works with a simple $1 ball point pen in the traditional Japanese art of manga meets the modern world of anime. His title Fools Paradise alludes to the Fukushima catastrophic nuclear reactor disaster and the ‘continuing wake up call that paradise comes at a cost and the technology toll master is unforgiving’. Shohei son of the famous Katshuhiro Otomo the internationally known artist and illustrator takes his father’s legacy into a 21st century realm. His art can be appreciated on several levels.
We take ball point pens so much for granted and yet the ball point pen embodies an amazing piece of creative thought. In 1938 László Bíró saw a ball rolling through a puddle on the street and leaving a watery line behind it. He conceived an idea that would go on to change everyday life forever. Based on what he had seen, the Hungarian journalist along with his brother Georg, began to work on the first commercially successful ballpoint pen. Marcel Bich a French pen manufacturer who had bought the ballpoint pen patent from László Bíró – ironed out the remaining design problems (mainly ink distribution) and began huge, low cost mass productions of the ‘bic crystal’. – The Bic Crystal’s industrial design has been acknowledged by the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of the museum’s permanent collection.
It’s wonderful to think that the creative minds that bring us so much excitement with French fashion have also given us this amazing French technology.
Sibley 1972 – 1976 Kick Gallery Collingwood
This seminal exhibition of works by painter Andrew Sibley from the period 1972-76 are widely regarded as being some of the finest works produced by an Australian artist. Andrew has a most impressive career spanning over 50 years. At the launch of this important Kick Gallery Exhibition, Doug Hall, former Director of the Queensland Art Gallery spoke at length about the contribution Sibley has made to Australian art. Jacob Hoerner, Director of Kick Gallery and curator of the Sibley show went on to talk about the unique and avant-garde nature of Andrew’s innovative multi layered works on Perspex. “This exhibition reaffirms and reasserts Sibley’s pre-eminence as a modern Australian master”.
In 2006 I produced and directed a 45 minute film of Andrew’s artistic life The Man Who Came Through. The film includes some splendid early footage of Andrew Sibley in the 70s from pioneering Australian director Tim Burstall. John Olsen said in the conclusion to my film that “Art for Andrew is everything and I am a collector of Andrews work. Andrew is not a fashion follower and for that we salute you. The thing that counts is to be the real artist and you are one of them”
Breakfast At Sotheby’s
Last Friday began with a chilly early start at the launch of Sotheby’s Important Jewels auction preview in High Street, Armadale. Famous names in the collection included Tiffany & Co, Bulgari, Cartier, Van Cleef & Appels, New York.
We were greeted with a glass of fine champagne. It was certainly a great way to start the day and was followed with some delicious breakfast offerings including, a truly creative egg nog and other sumptuous delicacies. We caught up with the ever engaging and ebullient General Manager of Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto, Joerg Boeckeler. His hotel and Sotheby’s Australia have recently partnered to offer Sotheby’s Australia clients exclusive accommodation benefits at InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto.
The jewellery collection was modeled by a statuesque dark haired beauty wearing an elegant and simple black dress from John Cavell of South Yarra. I could not resist the opportunity to try on a superb 1990s 18 ct gold necklace designed as a series of brick links and the matching earrings. I will have to encourage my husband to attend the auction.
This provided a splendid opportunity for me to speak of my passion for the art of millinery. Among the guests were the wonderfully colourful Peter Jago, Paris Klein, Maria Bright, Estelle Annabel, and Anne Peacock. Deputy Lord Mayor, Susan Riley, another of the Precinct hat display judges, spoke of the high standard and creativity of the milliners taking part in this spring fashion event – yet another splendid fashion event in ever exciting marvelous Melbourne.
I was delighted to present the winner of the judge’s award to milliner Louise MacDonald from the Nicholas Building. The Peoples Choice Award went to milliner Karin Goodman. My view is that it needs a good craftsman or woman to make a good hat and an artist to complete it. The placing of the simplest trimming needs discernment and a sure eye. A Hat always adds to a woman’s charm. A woman is sure to find what she’s looking for in life if she chooses the right hat – courage, hope, assurance or new confidence in herself. The charming Anne Peacock announced the winner of the best dressed with matching hat award on the day.
I was half expecting to see famous Australian Artist, Charles Blackman known for his Alice In Wonderland series of paintings, ambling down the block arcade wearing his signature beret and holding a white rabbit.
Di Bresciani book Launch
Di’s elegant house in Toorak was bursting at the seams with 170 invited guests for her latest book launch. Di Bresciani is known in Australia and overseas as an artist, musician and educator. Internationally famous pianist Piers Lane AO launched Di Bresciani’s book Compositions in Colour published by Macmillian Art Publishing and designed and editted by the remarkable Jenny Zimmer. The book explores colour and perception in music and art.
Di spoke about her childhood as a young girl growing up in the Mallee and her love of art at school. Di would rescue the last pieces of chalk from the school incinerator the result was jar after jar of chalk dust filled with the colours of the rainbow. Clearly Di has brought this passion to life in her recent book. In a light moment of reflection she spoke of life on the farm and her encounter with a recalcitrant ram. As with many aspects to Di’s life she leapt on its back and subdued this very very startled creature. Di is no stranger to challenge.
Piers who has written a forward in the book spoke of Di’s paintings as “making colours sing”.Well known Australian playwright David Williamson wrote in the introduction about Di’s continuing ‘search for the sublime’. Di’s previous exhibition of her art work in Toorak Rhythms of Light was almost a complete sell out and the book includes a complete photographic catalogue of 50 paintings exhibitied at the Perc Tucker State Regional Gallery in Queensland, with a foreward by the inimitable and inspiring Gallery Director Frances Thompson.
Bowie takes centre stage at Mossgreen
Paul Sumner, Managing Director of Mossgreen Galleries, a self confessed Bowie Tragic could not resist the opportunity to bring to Melbourne the evocative works of Japanese photographer Masayoshi Sukita who has been photographing Bowie since 1972. Paul saw the show in London and immediately knew he wanted to bring it to Melbourne. This Melbourne show will be something of a precursor to what is in store for Bowie fans when Bowies entire costume collection is on display next year at the V and A in London.
Bowie a 70s 80s rock superstar was at the forefront of avant garde fashion recreating his own image with the aid of cutting-edge designers including Kansai Yamamoto and he wears some of Yamamoto more tame fashion in the photographs at Mossgreen. One of my most prized vintage pieces is a full length black Yamamoto coat that is so unmistakably styled and cut with the eye of the Japanese master. But is it art or just cultural celebrity? Certainly this show ticks both boxes. Bowie ticks the celebrity box and Masayoshi Sukita’s photos give us a glimpse of fashion as art.
Melbourne – A Love Affair
There is no greater lover of Melbourne than our ebullient Lord mayor Robert Doyle. Last week Doyle was eloquent in his delivery on the delights of Melbourne in his opening speech for the launch of Matt Irwin’s books of photographic images gathered from 2001 -2012 Melbourne – A Love Affair at the Intercontinental Melbourne the Rialto. Academy Award winning Animator Adam Elliot at the launch said of Matt “He is one of Melbourne’s creative individuals and a proud one at that; a black sheep with a camera and love for a city that is a many varied thing. Irwin is one of the few photographers that has consistently captured the essence of Melbourne on camera”. Irwin has been taking photos since he was 16 he has gone on to make photography his life’s work with a very clear focus in the imagery of the wide boulevards and nooks and grannies of Melbourne’s laneways. These photographs capture the spirit of Melbourne like no other and makes one identify with the words of Barry Humphries: “I am not an Australian, I am a Melbournian.”
Melbourne Lavazza Italian Film Festival
Melbourne Lavazza Italian Film Festival is on in Melbourne at Palace cinemas 19 SEPT – 9 OCT The Festival encapsulate the spirit of Italian culture with an exciting program of over 30 award-winning, critically acclaimed features. This year’s Italian Film Festival even manages to claim Woody Allen’s latest –To Rome With Love starring Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis and Roberto Benigni. We went to the festival media launch and saw the film Magnificent Prescence about a gay baker who gets entangled with a group of thespian ghosts. I am not overly fond of ghost stories but this was an endearing film.
This year 2012 commemorates the bicentenary of Russia’s 1812 defeat of Napoleon. The Russians avoided a battle and retreated leaving only scorched earth behind them. The Russians eventually beat Napoleon by waiting for the freezing cold Russian winter. They then attacked and cut down the weakened and starved French army with their Cossack horsemen.
One of the highlights of the Melbourne Sept 5-Sept 18 Russian Film Festival will be the marathon 7 hour, 1969, Oscar winning film of Tolstoy’s famous novel War and Peace by Russian Director Sergei Bondarchuk’s. I remember reading Tolstoy’s diaries where he suggested that historical events reflected personal lives -all lives have moments of war and peace.
There are two main story-lines in the book War and Peace and the film by all accounts follows them faithfully. One is the love story of young Countess Natasha Rostova and Count Pierre Bezukhov, who is unhappy in his marriage. Another is the “Great Patriotic War” of 1812 against Napoleon’s invading Armies. All classes of Russians united against the invading French. The 500,000 strong Napoleon’s army moved through Russia causing much destruction culminating in the Battle of Borodino. The Russian army was forced to retreat and the French occupied Moscow looting and burning the city. But soon Napoleon lost control and had to retreat. Both sides suffered tremendous losses in the war, and Russian society was changed forever.
In the famous Battle of Borodino where Napoleon defeats the Russians in the 1969 film of War and Peace, more than 120,000 real Soviet soldiers were used as extras and 800 horses in the 40 minute re-enactment of this battle. The real historic Battle of Borodino was the largest and bloodiest single-day action of the Napoleonic Wars; it involved more than 250,000 soldiers and resulted in at least 70,000 casualties. It was a decisive part of the campaign, the French may have captured the battlefield and Moscow, but they failed to destroy the Russian army. Moreover, the French could not re supply their troops whereas the Russians could replenish their supplies and troops.
For this seven hour epic could I suggest you dress Russian, take with you a Russian picnic, a traditional Russian salad of potatoes, ham, gherkins, carrot, hard boiled egg & peas with garlic mayonnaise, beautiful Russian rye bread, Borsch Soup made of beef, beetroot, cabbage & potato in a thermos served with a dollop of sour cream .Vareniki potato & fried onion dumplings tossed in a creamy tomato & garlic sauce and to wash it all down with lots of vodka.
We went to the media preview of August 8 part of the Russian Film festival This is an incredibly successful combination of traditional Russian film making and robotic metaphor combined with ear splitting sound track evoking “sound images” of the horrors of violent conflict. On Aug. 8, 2008, a conflict that has since become known as the Five–Day War or the Russo-Georgian War broke out in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. The Russian film director Fayziev based his film on a real story from this war. He chose to give it a science-fiction twist, visually reinforced with sophisticated morphing robotics. The film revolves around a beautiful single mother named Xenia searching for her missing five year old son around the town of Tskhinvali in South Ossetia – a breakaway region of Georgia – after both unwittingly stray into the war zone.
“We tried to make our film as humane as possible. This film is not about politics. The war is a natural calamity that serves as a background for the main theme of the film – love and friendship.”
Ironically in the real war it was through mediation by the French, who at that time held the presidency of the European Union, the parties reached a preliminary ceasefire agreement, signed by Georgia in Tbilisi on Aug. 15 and by Russia in Moscow on Aug. 16. After the conflict, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and a second breakaway republic, Abkhazia. However to this day the situation in the region remains tense.
Russian Film Festival: www.russianresurrection.com
While I was away in Townsville luxuriating in my delightful 19th century room in a classic Federation Queenslander ( Classique B and B ) when I was not attending the many many superb concerts on the Australian Festival of Chamber Music program, I spent my time luxuriating in the pages of The Bolter by Frances Osborne, a biography of the famous Bolter, Lady Idina Sackville ‘the authors extremely wicked great-grandmother’. The author Frances Osborne, a lawyer and merchant banker, is the daughter of Lord Howell of Guildford, a former Conservative cabinet minister,and the wife of the ex Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.
Frivolous, wealthy, sexy and up to the minute fashionable Idina was cousin to the writer and poet, Vita Sackville-West and scion of a noble family. She was very much part of upper class life in London during and after WW1 and the delinquent Happy Valley set in Kenya in the 20s. She became famous for bolting from marriages and man hunting, a not uncommon characteristic of certain women in our contemporary society.
Osborne has left a sympathetic treatment of Idina having to abandon her two young boys after her womanizing first husband, Euan Wallace, got serious about a young girl called Barbie who he later married. Wallace was heir to one of Scotland’s richest families. Idina was madly in love with him – I think he broke her heart and we learn that she was more a boltee that a bolter. Being unfaithful was common in their milieu; however leaving the marriage was quite another matter. The biography includes a photograph of her two forlorn little boys Gerard and David, 3 and 4 years old, that she was forced to leave behind. It took a lot of courage to defy society as Idina did. Edwardian society was cruelly oppressive to divorced women.
Twice divorced before she was 30, Idina fled to Kenya, the “spiritual home of the damned and the beautiful”. After WW1 there was a curious period of transition between the old world, with all its certainties and the new so called ‘Jazz Age’- the roaring 20s. “The worse a woman behaves, the better she needs to look” was Idina’s adage. She always dressed glamorously from the leading couturiers, and was a muse for the famous couturier Molyneux in Paris. Even out in the African bush she always looked immaculate. She drove her exotic Hispano-Suiza for dashing trysts at the Muthinga Club just out of Nairobi.
Idina became the focus of the Happy Valley set, in a dissolute spiral of house parties, alcoholic excess, drugs (the notion was morphine kept you slim) and long weekends of sexual misbehavior. The notorious stage and screen star Tallulah Bankhead, taught her how to bathe in champagne. (“Just open a case and pour”.) Idina was a character in the frivolous excesses described by James Fox in his book White Mischief.
Uninhibited Idina welcomed her party guests naked in a green onyx bath and encouraged the kind of heartless frivolousness of the privileged set. Unlike many of her wild friends she was a woman full of contractions. We learn that Idina showed amazing kindness particularly to her third husband’s children and she loved animals. She also worked hard on the farm, and the design of her famously beautiful garden and house “Clouds” in the highlands of Kenya. In the end, it was the sheer beauty of her surroundings that gave Idina the only true pleasure and fulfillment she would ever know.
Gee her oldest son was posted to Mombassa in Kenya during WW11. Idina had not seen him since he was a toddler. They were to meet at the Muthaiga Club . Gee asked a senior officerif he knew Lady Idina. “Everyone knows her, she has a dreadful reputation, it would not be wise to be seen with her”. Gee, a warmhearted, bear of a man found Idina later at the club and they danced with intimacy and affection. . The next day Gee was hauled up in front of the senior officer. “I warned you about Lady Idina, she’s old enough to be your mother”. His reply must have flawed him “She is my mother”
Idina Sackville inspired the fictional character of Iris Storm, the tragic heroine of the Armenian writer Michael Arlen’s bestseller The Green Hat. This was a role that would be played by Greta Garbo in the film version, A Woman of Affairs. ‘There is some taste in us that is unsatisfied,’ says Iris Storm. ‘Life’s best gift is the ability to dream of a better life.’
By the time war broke out again, in 1939, Idina was on to her fifth husband and still living the high life in the heady highlands of Kenya. As the author said in this riveting biography “Idina was a desperate romantic. Anyone who marries five times has to be an optimist. She believed in finding a love that would be all-consuming.”
But Idina was not well suited to a life of austerity and was fast running out of money. She always lived life to the full but fate intervened and she was dead at the age of 62 in 1955 from cancer. “She left behind half-a-dozen hairbrushes, several pots of cold cream, scent bottles with silver trimmings, nail files, a glove-stretcher, a cocktail dress and a large, black taffeta bow. After her death, a tender portrait of her first husband was found by her bedside”
As her great granddaughter wrote “I found, then, that I could not condemn Idina. Instead, she stood before me as a compelling combination of the glamour a woman yearns for, and the mistakes she fears: the actions, opportunities and errors that, in the end, are what make us human”.
What a delicious time I have had, eight days at the Australian Chamber Music Festival in Townsville on a rich diet of classical music and sun, sun, sun, although the mornings and nights were cool it was on average 21 -24 degrees. I was lucky enough to find a charming B and B Classique Bed and Breakfast an 1890s classic Queenslander, with lofty ceilings and just three guest suites all decorated in Federation style. My hosts Iva and Russell could not have been more helpful or nurturing. Russell a chef by training, cooked me morning and afternoon tea cakes that were irresistible.
The Australian Festival of Chamber Music is a serious focused festival of 12 days duration with some of the best international talent thanks to the connections of Piers Lane the Director of the Festival. To me it is the jewel in the crown of all Queensland’s Arts Festivals. What makes it so special is its camaraderie and its dynamic charming director, Australian’s most well known internationally renowned pianist Piers Lane and his supportive team headed by Sue Hackett. This festival was an exciting one with a wonderful variety of programs and events including a trip to Orpheus Island, sunset concert.
Piers, like God, seemed to be everywhere at once. If he wasn’t playing on stage with the remarkable Kathryn Stott who plays with Yo-Yo Ma, he was chatting on stage to a panel of musicians in 10am Conversations where we heard some wonderful colourful anecdotes and through Piers probing questions, we understood more of the musicians personalities. There Piers was again before and during intermission and after concerts chatting personally to audience members with his indefatigable energy and enthusiasm and his engaging youthful smile. His signature socks were as always colourful, they seem to be fluorescent particularly on stage, stripes one night, harlequins the next. At a musical charity function in New Zealand recently a pair of Piers socks sold for $4000.
This festival took you through a leisurely stroll of the past few hundred years of traditional classical music repertoire, performed alongside 20th- and 21-century works. Most of the visiting artists stayed the week playing in various combinations during the three a day concerts. In this varied festival of music there was not a weak spot.
Why do we like the things we like in music? I sat next to ABC Limelight critic Clive Paget during Nigel Westlake’s composition String Quartet No 2 in Four Movements. Nigel Westlake was Composer in Residence to the Festival. I found the composition discordant and jarring, Clive liked its complexity. I found some of Nigel Westlake’s other compositions moving and imaginative especially Piano Trio in Three Movements played by the Storioni trio. I liked the Australian composer Peggy Glanville Hicks Harp Sonata in Three Movements with Melbourne born international harpist Marshall McGuire. Hicks apparently wrote an opera Sappho for Maria Callas which was never performed but Clive Paget tells me we will soon see it in production.
Some of the highlights for me were the Dutch Storioni Trio minus Wouter Vossen the violinist who broke his shoulder and was replaced by the very capable, attractive Adelaide violinist Natsuko Yoshimoto who wore exquisitely elegant stiletto heeled shoes. Who could not help fall in love with the soulful cellist Marc Vossen from this delightful youthful trio. The very personable and talented Canadian violinist Barry Shiffman who let me share his cab car after I had missed the festival morning bus, Caroline Almonte’s Golderg Variations were as magical to me as always. Camerata of St John – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra were a revelation particularly the frenetic rhythms and sensuous harmonies of the Bartok Divertimento for Strings BB118. The international Canadian flautist Lorna McGhee- her Syrinx by Claude Debussy was a complete joy and an appropriate celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Debussy’s birth.
The absolute standout for me was the engaging, and amusing, Norwegian violinist Atle Sponberg who studied in Buenos Aires with the legendary violinist Soares Paz. He played a spirited and steamy Piazzolla expertly leading Camerata of St John’s and Kathyrn Stott (piano) and giving us a quirky commentary – a funny, cabaret-style history of the tango. Sponberg also played Variations on a Theme by Corelli in the style of Tartini by Fritz Kreisler with pianist Kathryn Stott. The festival celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Kreislers death. My only regret is missing William Barton Australia’s most notable didgeridoo player who played at Marianne Baillieu’s funeral here in Melbourne a few months ago. (see Post)
In Townsville despite the sun there was a cold wind and I could not keep a hat on with out a hat pin. Airline security does not let me travel with hat pins, I investigated antique shops in Townsville and ended up buying two vintage hat pins and a further four vintage hats plus the three I had brought with me.
I found two exquisite hats that had been stored away for over 30 years with Joelle Fleming who is the French owner of The Speckled Hen Antiques shop and she gave me a fascinating account of the provenance of these hats that made me love them even more. (You will read about it in my upcoming hat book) I did find a lovely old Royal Stetson at the Townsville Restoration Lighting shop. I redesigned the stetson by adding a black veil that I wore to the concert that night.
On Tuesday I went to Magnetic Island to meet Mary Clark and Liz. I was fortunate enough to be invited to lunch by long term Magnetic Island resident Liz. Sitting out on the terrace I kept hearing a mobile phone. Liz explained it was a phone bird. Apparently her neighbour has a very clever eclectic parrot that mimics a mobile phone as he has observed that his owner only pays attention to the sound of his mobile phone. Liz took us to some of the stunning isolated beaches with the sculptural natural stone formations that are so characteristic of the island’s coastline.
A day before I went to Magnetic Island Nicholas the son of a friend Julie Osborne had a close encounter with a sea turtle. “I noticed this two foot sea turtle stranded on the reef out of the water. He must have become stuck there when the tide had gone out (pretty big tides on Magnetic Island). The tide had been out for a couple of hours and he looked very dry and worn out. I was about 500 metres from anyone else on the beach and the little guy was about 100 meters from the water so I decided to tie the cord of my camera onto the wax comb cord on the back of my board shorts and carry him back over the reef to the water. I managed to take this photo of him and then splash some water over him and stop him from dehydrating in the sun. It was about 25 degrees and quite warm.
My only concern about picking him up and carrying him was that he might bite me. Turned out he just looked at me with one eye and didn’t really even move. I carried him back over the reef (which had been mostly destroyed from last year’s cyclone Yasi) in my thongs and took him back to the water. As we got to the water he started to flap his arms! I continued to carry him until it was deep enough for him to swim. I then bent down and placed him gently into the water. He took a big gasp and a breath of air and then turned to look at me before going under the water and swimming off! I thought ‘you little beauty’ and went to take a photo of him swimming to safety. It was then that I realized my camera had submerged in the water! So this was the last photo I ever took on that camera. Well worth it though to see the little guy swim to safety!”