Stella Pierides has cultivated a terse, idiosyncratic style in her haibun that is instantly recognizable, and as a consequence is one of the shining lights of this burgeoning genre. Of This World certainly is, but it also takes us out of the world at large and into private spaces we feel privileged to witness. A unique and satisfying read.
This is how it’s done! Stella Pierides — in a hushed voice — takes me through what it is to be human — and part of the human history from the roots of Western culture in Diogenes’ tub to the ‘modern’ human — with all the questions and doubts, the uncertainties that come from that.
— Johannes S. H. Bjerg, Writer
Of This World’s marvelous, emotionally resonant haibun are steeped in the grace of the garden, rooted in a physical reality so sensuous that you can smell the fragrance of baking bread, of olives and garlic, of lemon and magnolia blossoms — and yet they also spiral on the updraft of metaphor as poet Stella Pierides ‘put[s] our hearts in the shoes of the hummingbird.’
— Clare MacQueen, Editor-in-Chief, KYSO Flash
A treasure trove of language and image. Pierides walks through dark streets of history, through alleyways of memory – emerging in shiny, unexpected places. Compact, urgent and closely observant, these minute offerings will captivate readers of both poetry and short fiction. An enormously engaging collection.
— Michelle Elvy, Writer and Editor
* Of This World
Size: 6″ x 9″
Binding: perfect softbound
This afternoon, I visited the Pinakothek der Modernein Munich. I went to see an exhibition juxtaposing what had been termed by the National Socialists ‘Degenerate Art” with their own notion of Art. It turned out to be interesting, though small-scale. For me, the best piece was work that would have been considered ‘degenerate’, but that was created later: Bacon’s triptych Crucifixion (1965).
I had seen this before, but never sat long enough in front of it to feel the enormity of its significance for modern art, as well as its power to see through and comment on the violence of totalitarian regimes and the destructive forces of the human psyche. Click here for a photo of this work.
Large pillars of basalt with circular cuts bored into them at one end, filled with smaller conical pieces. A puzzling, powerful piece of art, allowing the viewer to walk around it and explore perspectives. I saw toppled pillars, columns, bones, decay, in the installation. Given the state of the world today, with the violence and destruction reigning in so many war-torn countries, I wonder how Beuys would have depicted the end of the 21st century.
I’ve loved Alfred Wallis’s paintings for a long time, having encountered them only in books and postcards. Now, on Sunday January 11, 2015, I had the good fortune to see a number of them in real life, as part of Jim and Helen Ede’s collection, at Kettle’s Yard House, Cambridge. The compelling immediacy, directness and force of the paintings astonished me, and started me musing about the reasons for this appeal.
Alfred Wallis (1855-1942) was a fisherman from the age of nine, turned painter at nearly seventy. Born in Devonport, Wallis later moved to Penzance and St Ives. He only started painting after his wife died, at the suggestion of his neighbour, a grocer who gave him cardboard from his shop to paint on. Painting was his company, he said.
He was ‘discovered’ by Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood who arranged for his work to be included in London exhibitions and to become known in the art world. Wallis’s career took off, with some critics considering him to be the most original and inspiring British naive painter of the twentieth century. Wallis himself remained the person he’d always been, and kept living the simple life he had always lived by the sea. His work speaks of the sea and the boats, the lighthouses, the marine life he knew and remembered.
Jim Ede, quoted in ‘Kettle’s Yard and Its Artists’ (Kettle’s Yard Publications), noted that about Wallis:
“Though he is always drawing the same ships, the same houses, the same water, each of his paintings is a new experience… He does not set about to enclose his vision, his thought, into some preconceived scheme of colour or design… with Wallis design comes, with its subtly variant lines and spaces, not with experience of drawing or painting, but from closeness, almost identification with the thing he is drawing.”
“paintings were never paintings, but actual events” —
and this it seems is what Wallis himself was attempting to do. He had a directness of approach; he eschewed perspective, and an object’s scale was often based on its relative importance to him in the painting – some of his fish, for instance, are larger than the fishing boats; some birds bigger than the tree branches on which they perch. Houses slide perilously down slopes, ready to fall into each other, and the waves appear the way he might have seen them as a teenager when on board ship to Newfoundland. Wallis’s perspective is emotional, is experiential, certainly not a draughtsman’s perspective.
A viewer’s dip into the moment as experienced by the painter… a resonance with the thing depicted—which is ‘other’ because we are different, and, at the same time, ‘familiar’ because we are human, sharing the same world, the same reality—a willingness to share the painter’s focus of attention, through which selected objects (fish, birds, houses) are foregrounded and magnified… Are we not getting closer to the experience of haiku? Isn’t this a link to the interplay between Wallis’s style of painting and haiku? Instead of paint as the medium, in haiku, language expresses the experience. Without embellishment, linguistic trickery, and without, or only minimal punctuation, haiku in its brevity sets the stage for an experience by the reader resonating with the moment the writer captures.
Kettle’s Yardin Cambridge has the largest collection of Wallis’s paintings, thanks to Jim and Helen Ede, who over a period of ten years bought Wallis’s work. They donated their collection, together with their wonderful house, to Cambridge University.
You best explore all the works by Alfred Wallis at Kettle’s Yard, in the context of the collections in the house the Ede’s put lovingly together. Alternatively, if you are not able to visit, you can take a look at his work online
Well worth a real or virtual visit. Or both, as I am now doing.
The day before Anselm Kiefer was born, the house next door to his parents’ was completely destroyed. Only a sewing machine had remained intact. This event is linked, in several articles I came across, to his painter’s vision, his choice of subject, painting technique, and use of materials.
It is as if he still breathes the dust he breathed in as a newborn; still lives among the rubble he creates in his painting/sculptures; still looks for the diverse, as if bomb-strewn, materials for the surfaces of his constructions. There is a correspondence, an analogy, an equivalence between his original circumstances and his continued practice and vision in his work. A way of reconstructing memory, making it tangible; of keeping alive an event by reproducing its aftermath, expanding it in time. The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones would agree to this, as in his preview of the Royal Academy exhibition, he describes Kiefer’s show as
“an astonishing look at the awful burden of history”.
From the moment in time to expanding time, Kiefer’s objects do not stop this process of ‘remembering’ even when ‘finished’: the clay he uses shrinks, crumbles, and drops off; dried bits of material disintegrate, fall down, and become litter on the gallery floor to be returned to him. Even when the works don’t disintegrate, Kiefer ‘damages’ them deliberately, as if the state of being damaged, used, wounded, is the reality of painting. Here is where Kader Attia’s concern with re-appropriation of materials comes alive. Making/finding the rubble and turning it into a work of art, then turning this/letting this grow into rubble again, only to use the bits that come off in new work. Like the particles of the cosmos, on a microscopic level, Kiefer’s materials, and creations, belong together, morph, develop, die, and are reborn to a new form.
If this sounds benign, it is because Kiefer’s work reminds us to see it this way; it is a meditation on the ongoing, day to day processes of growth, decay, and regeneration. War, though, a main concern for Kiefer, and our time, is one of the most urgent and sudden, both violently disruptive and accelerative processes there are. When we linger in front of, or indeed around, a Kiefer piece, the terror and horror of the destruction of war; the awe of the immensity of scale come to mind: the holocaust (for Kiefer, perhaps the most personal reference); Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Congo, Gaza, Syria, Hiroshima… The beauty of the arrangements, of the depictions, and the terror of the depicted resonate with Rilke’s terrible angel which seems to be haunting Kiefer’s work.
So, inequality found in the polarities and the equivalences: Heaven and Earth; the moment and eternity; life and death; beauty and terror; growth and decay; memory and catastrophe. Claudia Pritchard, in The Independent, noting polarities in Kiefer’s work, quotes the claim of his being, arguably, ‘our greatest living artist’. Kiefer’s handling of the topic of memory as tangible and ever present will most probably ensure the continuing truth of this statement. Like the sunflower symbol he uses in his work, a head full of blackened seeds and beauty, Kiefer’s work contains the seeds of its own perpetuation. Pritchard quotes the exhibition curator, Kathleen Soriano,
“What I want people to take away from this show is not only the knowledge that he is a great painter, but also that he has great relevance.” Indeed Kiefer, she adds, is looking, like all of us, with great anxiety at today’s turbulent world. “He says you have to remember that history is cyclical.”
Recently, I revisited some of Anselm Kiefer’s work at the “Art Museum Walter” at the “Glass Palace”, an industrial monument in Augsburg: Eleven ‘paintings’ and two sculptures on show. While they are not new — forty per cent of the Royal Academy work is said to have been created for the show — the Walter collection displays excellent work firmly rooted in time and memory, while remaining open to possibilities of interpretation (the photos included here are from the Art Museum Walter) .
A privately and expertly run gallery, Kunstmuseum Walter, is housed in the Glass Palace — a monument to the past of the textile industry — which aims to show history being alive in the present,
“[involving] a continual confrontation with the present. The concept of a living museum is an essential part of the TIM [Textile Industry Museum] programme. In the textile machine section, former textile workers demonstrate the machines with an authenticity not to be found elsewhere.”
Here too is an equivalence: the metaphor of the sewing machine from Anselm Kiefer’s past finds an echo in Germany’s textile industry surviving destruction. Interesting to note that, in this context, some have referred to Augsburg as the ‘Manchester of Germany’, echoing the transition from a crafts-/guild-based industry to one of machine-based mass production, including the exploitation, poverty, and social upheaval this involved. In this juxtaposition, Kiefer’s work, in bringing together the themes of inequality and memory, continues to weave anew the fabric of history.
If you are not in Augsburg, or London, you need not worry. In Kent, there is an exhibition to console your artistic longings: my daughter Maria Pierides’ solo show at Creek Creative Studios in Faversham. 23 — 28 September 2014. Rush there, the Studios are open only till 4 pm on Sunday the 28th!
This post is part of a series of articles on the theme of Inequality, written for Blog Action Day 2014:
Recently I visited the Frank Auerbach display of 15 paintings and 29 drawings at the Tate Britain, selected by his fellow painter and friend, Lucian Freud. The collection was offered by the Lucian Freud estate, and accepted by the British Government, in lieu of inheritance tax.
The group of paintings is of international artistic importance and a good ’teaser,’ anticipating a major Tate retrospective planned for 2015.
A fine group of works, including one of my favorites, Rebuilding the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square, 1962.
What a fantastic, bold show of both, imagination and brushwork, deep feeling and insightful depiction of psychologically layered scenes. The same subjects — Julia, his wife; Estella, his mistress; Jake, his son; Mornington Crescent — visited again and again, let the viewer get intimately acquainted with, as well as intrigued by them. Born in 1931 in Berlin, Auerbach came to England in 1939 and has lived and painted in London since. A London painter, and a painter of London, Auerbach has gone under the skin of the capital, making it the prime set of his work. If not Auerbach, then who else captures the energy and multifarious burdens carried by London’s inhabitants so realistically?
In an interview by Hannah Rothschild, Auerbach, from what has been his tiny home and studio since 1954, opens up about his work and life. Surprisingly, a sparse and spare studio and frugal life are juxtaposed to and contrasted with his many-layered, rich encrustations of paint in his work. The charcoal paintings are also ‘rich’ in depth and insight that feels both, inquiring and haunting. I left the room intrigued by his work, troubled, and at the same time, strangely satisfied by his profound achievement. Reading Rothschild’s interview later, I found this which rang true:
“So why does Auerbach paint the same face, the same view over and over again? Wouldn’t it be interesting to try a new landscape or a different nose? Auerbach shakes his head. ‘The closer one is to something, the more likely it is to be beautiful,’ he says. ‘The whole business of painting is very much to do with forgetting oneself and being able to act instinctively. I find myself simply more engaged when I know the people. They get older and change; there is something touching about that, about recording something that’s getting on.’ Amid the frenzy of paint and energy it can be hard to spot the person in an Auerbach portrait. ‘Likeness is a very complicated business indeed,’ he says. ‘If something looks like a painting it does not look like an experience; if something looks like a portrait it doesn’t really look like a person’.”
From the judges’ commentary in Frogpond, the journal of the Haiku Society of America:
“A charming collection… This intersection of the past and present is within all of us, and Pierides mines it well. A very satisfying read” (Vol. 37:1, p. 170).
In the Garden of Absence takes you on a journey echoing the author’s childhood. Yet it does so in the context of adult concerns, uncertainties, and anxieties—as well as pleasures. This book explores the existential fear of loneliness, the many facets of absence, and glimpses a path towards bearing absence and being creatively alone.From the back cover:
“Readers of any book of poetry can assume that each poem has substantial personal meaning for the writer. The poems in this collection go one step further, offering personal meaning to the reader. Stella Pierides pays attention in simple ways (and sometimes vast ways) to her surrounding world, noticing the warmth of a hen’s eggs on Mother’s Day, that only a dog makes eye contact on a crowded train, or in observing the tiny dark holes in a pin cushion as she extracts its pins.”
— “In Pierides’s meditations, imagination takes center stage, as do imaginary gardens, real toads, and their negative space… The result is a welcome debut in which the reader will find much to admire.”
In Briefly Reviewed, Frogpond, 36-1, Spring 2013 (Click here, please scroll down).
— “This is an engaging collection…”
Modern Haiku 44.2, 2013 (in the “Briefly Noted” section).
— “A Poetic Gem… In the Garden of Absence is a lovely little book that sparkles with a quiet brilliance – every word shines.”
— “In the Garden of Absence is a stunning book. From homely to somewhat obscure, Pierides touches a chord. Her poetry is the essence of haiku and an inspiration for many of us. In the Garden of Absence A must-read book of poetry.”
–“… everything, from cover to cover, the cover image, the design, the graphical presentation, the empty space around the haiku, also the introduction… all very aesthetically (one more Greek word) appealing and pleasing! Thank you for taking me on this Magical Journey!”
Freddy Ben-Arroyo, Haifa, Israel*
–“… I really enjoy reading it, and already have some favorites…”
Annie Juhl, Svendborg, Denmark.
–“I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your book this afternoon while sipping on a chai latte. A few that I particularly like are: “between my ego and yours”, “the horses neighing”, “your vacant stare”, “moment of stillness” and “shooting stars”. The whole book is really lovely… the beautiful cover, the feel of the paper and the afterword by Michael Dylan Welch. Thank you for sharing your beautiful poems with me!”
Lauren Mayhew, Boston, USA
–“Stella Pierides pays attention in simple ways (and sometimes vast ways) to her surrounding world, noticing the warmth of a hen’s eggs on Mother’s Day, that only a dog makes eye contact on a crowded train, or in observing the tiny dark holes in a pin cushion as she extracts its pins.”
–“I cannot recommend ‘In the Garden of Absence‘ by Stella Pierides highly enough. A great Afterword too by Michael Dylan Welch. … The book is entrancing.”
Sheila Windsor, Worcester, UK
An informative, literary, and well-written essay, “Presence in Absence” by Michael Dylan Welch, first written in October 2012 and included in In the Garden of Absence as an afterword, can be read at Graceguts, by clicking here
Feeding the Doves
31 Short and Very Short Stories, and Haibun
Greece has been in the headlines for a very long time. Since ancient times, her philosophers, historians, mathematicians, shipbuilders, traders, and artisans have been making the news – and, indeed, history. So, amidst the country’s most difficult years in recent times, many people believe that they know Greece and the Greeks.
Against this backdrop, the stories – short and very short – collected in “Feeding the Doves” explore recurrent elements of the Greek psyche, tracing them back to challenges posed by the country’s history and environment. The widow, the old loner, the refugee, the immigrant, the writer, the expatriate tell us their stories, touching upon themes at the heart of Greek being, as well as our common humanity: love and l loss, war, civil war, immigration and diaspora, emigration, poverty, religion, history, and above all, the will to survive.
Fruit Dove Press
[The title story “Feeding the Doves” and the cover image were inspired by a photo taken by Robert Geiss, titled “Feeding Doves” and posted on his (sadly, no longer active) blog “Daily Athens Photo.”]
I am taking part in the Project 100 Days of Summer 2012. In the words of the organizers:
“100 Days of Summer provides its members with the opportunity to share their creative work within the intense framework of providing one artistic submission per day for 100 days. Officially, we are beginning on July 5th and expect the program to run through October 15th or so.”
Steve Veilleux provides the prompts using “cards from a game called ‘The Origin of Expressions’. ” He encourages us to use the information in any way we like, “borrow ideas from other postings, or create literal or abstract interpretation of the expression”.
Expression #1 follows (week of July 1-7):
“Paint the town red”
Meaning: Spend a wild night out
Expression #2 (week of Jul 1-7)
“out like a light”
Meaning: Fast asleep
So, here we go! We Paint the Town Red! I will be posting mainly haiku/senryu and micropoems with the occasional photo haiku and photographs.
According to scientists, we humans have receptors for between nine and twenty one senses available to us. Imagine! Up to twenty one points of entry to the world! I say imagine, because we do not appear to be aware of most of those senses. Beyond the five well-known ones, who thinks of their sense of equilibrioception (the sense of balance) or proprioception (the sense of the body’s position in space) – unless they go wrong, of course. What is more interesting is the use we make of these ‘inputs’! The emotional, geographical, cultural, historical worlds we build around them.
In this issue, twenty one contributors explore the senses – the primary but also some of the secondary ones – and the ways these interact to create a sense of place, rootedness, memory, history, and cultural identity. Using the taste and feel of words, the images captured on camera and in paint, their own individual experiences and associations, the artists reflect on the senses in diverse, entertaining, fascinating, remarkable ways and create the world of the senses anew for us to savour and celebrate. It has been a pleasure to host their contributions to the theme of edition #14: Locating the Senses in Language/Place!
Alegria Imperial, originally from the Philippines, now writing from Vancouver (Canada), explores in her haibun, “the tiresome coldness of winter, the longing for spring and its blossoms to spark again, a self-consoling reflection on what eventually awaits yet for now ‘this longing/at moonrise/the only star’”. See here
Elizabeth Kate Switaj, writing from Ireland, in her ‘Memories of Place: Fruit’ considers the way the taste and sight of two different kinds of fruit, persimmons and mangoes, can bring back memories of place. A slight difference in the variety of fruit means a different experience of memory entirely… here
Kristina shares with us a walk among the ruins of Paestum, an incredibly peaceful place, and draws our attention to the neighboring museum and the ways it imbues the ruins with a sense of place and time. And after the sights and the history, pizza with mozzarella and courgette flowers! What a treat! Here
Penn Kemp, writing from London (Canada) says, the “two poems in ‘A Carnival of Senses’ celebrate the senses, celebrate language, celebrate place, in this case my bedroom”. Here
Brigita Orel writes: “Senses are the inciting sparks of stories and poems and the places and times at which I became aware of them shape how I use them, maybe even how I interpret them.” In her essay, she reflects on the difficulties and challenges of writing in a foreign language rather than her mother tongue, and what it means to think, feel, or sense in a language other than your own. Seehere
Maria Pierides, Kent (UK), explores her sense of landscape using a non-verbal medium, painting. In her blog, she speaks in the language of color, image, movement, shape, density, contrast… In Gallery 3, Time and Tide, she explores the seascapes and landscapes of Kent and their relationship to time, culture, and history. Here
Martin Willitts Jr, writing from upstate New York (USA), in his poem ‘Dear Diary’ interprets the story of Hansel and Gretel; and he knows a trap when he smells one! Here
Jean Morris (UK), in her haiku/haiga reflects on her experience: it “has been lingering as a taste and texture of
icy cold in my mouth since the moment I saw/wrote it, last month before the weather changed.” Here
Steve Wing, a visual artist and writer living in Florida (USA), in his work reflects his appreciation for the extraordinary in ordinary days and places. In this contribution, he writes about the unique cultural texture that some fragrances like copal acquire. Here
Abha Iyengar, writing from New Delhi (India), in ‘The Senses: Diverse Renderings’ immerses herself in sensations – she has jasmine under her pillow – in poetry written for this theme. Here
Fiona Robyn, from the UK, whose ‘mission is to help people connect with the world through writing’ writes: “To prepare yourself for nourishment, you need to allow your eyes, ears, nose, fingers, mouth, head & heart to open.” A true feast in ‘Feed your Head’ Here
Jim Martin, writing from Munich (Germany), in his ‘The Visitors’ takes us on a fascinating and mysterious journey, beginning and ending in a Tuscan farmhouse. Here
Cathy Douglas, writing from the US, says: “In my adopted home state of Wisconsin, winter is a big part of our image. As the snow melts and the lakes thaw, we experience a brief, muddy identity crisis known as March”. Here
Karyn Eisler, Vancouver (Canada), in her blog ‘Living ?s’ reconnects with her senses in Heviz. Where is Heviz? More important: what is Heviz for Karyn? Read Karyn’s post and see! Here
Michelle Elvy, writing from New Zealand, in ‘Close your Eyes’ explores the body and its history as a landscape, or rather an open book… Here
Dora, of ‘turns of endearment’, finds sanctuary in immersing herself in the experience of color… “an almost religious, aesthetic experience”. Here
Sherry O’Keeffe writes: “The Shoshoni Indians had made the river valley their home long before I showed up on the gravel bars, looking for the sound of a crow. I learn from their language to see the world as never belonging to any one, not even to the crows”. Here
Nine’s memoir piece is filled with emotion, color, images. Looking back, now in New Zealand, she tells us how she said goodbye to Berlin. Even now, she says, “it’s still largely what I think of when I think about Berlin” in a blog entry, which “I wrote almost about year and a half ago” Here
Siddartha Beth Pierce contributes 6 poems, each covering sensitively and thoughtfully one of the six senses… “making angels on the ground”. Enjoy here
Steve Wing and Dorothee Lang, in an e-logue that moves back 35.000 years in time, reflect on neolithic art and modern works that reach back in time to capture the past in film, in image, and in story: “A sense of place in time” Here
Stella Pierides, writing from Germany and UK, in her haibun ‘Other Worlds’ explores the sometimes hallucinatory qualities of the senses. Here
A huge thank you to everyone who contributed to this edition. I enjoyed reading your entries and getting to know your blogs – do let me know of any mistakes in your entries and I will try to correct them. I am going to be a more regular reader and contributor from now on! A huge thanks you to Dorothee Lang, too, the founder of this blog carnival, and the ever-present support and inspiration to the changing guest editors.
Edition #14, this edition, was put together by Stella Pierides. She is a poet and writer and blogs here. She tweets @stellapierides. She also has a facebook page and would like more friends! Apart from that, she looks forward to the next edition #15.
Edition #15 will be hosted by writer and poet Abha Iyengar, who lives in New Delhi (India) and blogs at abhaencounter.blogspot.in and tweets at @abhaiyengar. The feature theme of Abha’s edition is “Encountering the Other in Language/Place“. Contributions are invited from writers, poets, and anyone with an interest in this topic. As always, we welcome a wide variety of posts. Guidelines here
I wrote this haiku responding to two prompts: the NaHaiWriMo extension prompt, “ mirror,” set by Susan Delphine Delaney; and the call for submissions by Walter Bjorkman. Susan is setting the prompts for July for the wonderful facebook community of haiku poets, NaHaiWriMo. Walter is hosting the blog carnival Language/Place, on the theme of “Poetry of Place.” Submissions of links to Walter on this theme are open till the 20th of July.
The photograph of the lake Ammersee was taken one evening this summer.
Today I read a post about appreciating and writing tanka in Red Dragonfly’s blog. It should have carried a health warning, something like, Read it at your peril: you will be tempted to write tanka for the rest of your day(s); or, Read and risk tanka obsession! Something like that to warn its readers of adverse effects. My own first reaction was to write my daily haiku – which I write participating in the Facebook community’s NaHaiWriMo project extension – as my first ever tanka! The day’s prompt had been ‘flags.’ I got carried away, you see. Tongue in cheek, I posted it in the NaHaiWriMo facebook site for the good folks there to see! I only hope Melissa doesn’t see my first attempt!
If you like living dangerously though, do read the post about tanka. It is a tanka beginners’ dream: informative and with a number of good links. So, tanka? I’ll try to do that!
While working on my second novel, When the Colours Sing, I have been thinking about colour in painting and especially the use of colour by the Blue Rider painters. So it is with a lot of interest and pride that I visited my own daughter’s exhibition in the Deaf Cat Gallery in Rochester, Kent, and had the opportunity to start reflecting on her work.
Painting mainly abstract landscapes, Maria Pierides (http://www.mariapierides.co.uk) makes her paintings sing. They also draw the eye to areas, washes and masses of colour that suggest landscapes emerging from history, from maps, from physical and emotional references to the world.
Using “mixed media, building up and scraping back areas of paint to capture the atmosphere, mass, and light of the landscapes,” she is creating landscapes of the mind. Exploring aspects of the search for “home,” for “rootedness” in the moment, she works on the most basic and important areas of being.
Drawing on Kavafis’ poem ‘Ithaca,’ Maria investigates her own versions of Ithaca. If you can visit this exhibition do; let yourself experience her paintings by allowing the levels of beauty, meaning and lyricism in the pictures emerge in yourself. Don’t take my word for it: see for yourself!
The Deaf Cat is a spacious, warm and trendy exhibition space, with an excellent atmosphere, providing a much needed meeting platform for Kent artists and those interested in their work.
With both a real as well as a virtual space for local artists and art lovers to meet, it is fast becoming the place to be in Rochester and Kent.
The Deaf Cat was the winner in the category of Best Newcomer in the culture and Design Awards 2010, and received nominations in three other categories.
Maria’s work can be viewed in the The Deaf Cat daily, Monday to Sunday from 9.30 am to 5 pm.
Some of her work can also be viewed on her website here
In the years after World War II, a Civil War raged in Greece until 1949 which proved to be one of the worst disasters that befell Greece. Greek against Greek, the Right fought with the Left a war of the utmost cruelty.
This war left many wounds in Greek society. Memories of it still scar the Greek psyche, even across several generations, influencing the current social and political climate.
An important aspect of this war, and the horrendous atrocities inflicted during it, often by members of the same family fighting each other, has been the silence it generated. The trauma robbed people of the words to describe what happened to them, or what they did to others. Whole families stopped communicating; individuals refrained from speaking about the period of the war; history books omitted important events that took place as if they never had happened.
Over the years, the situation slowly changed, especially after the fall of the military Junta and the opening up of the political system in Greece – though even now sections of Greek society insist that there are still many unspoken matters that need to be talked about and worked through.
In my story Postcards, I allude to the period of the Greek Civil War, and to this silence, symbolized by the fighter/husband: he stops using words/language when writing to his wife and instead communicates through drawings in his postcards.
This month’s theme of the Festival of the Trees is “The Magic of Faerie Trees.” Hosted by Salix of Windy Willow, it is an interesting if bewitching topic. If you are into magic and fairies, fine. If you are not, what can you say about mystery or magic in a tree?
On the other hand, how is it that the olive tree is capable of living thousands of years? Is there magic involved? With its strong roots surviving underground, even when the trunk looks dead, the olive tree can make a claim to magic – though less so to mystery, if the strong roots explain its longevity! Then there is its outstanding beauty: its silvery foliage, almost like a whispering cloud, fused with its ragged, gnarled, twisted trunk, providing a unique image. This tree has so many associations for me that I decided to find a space for it in my second novel, When the Colours Sing. An olive tree in pre-alpine Bavaria! We’ll see how this strand is going to develop. But first things first.
There is the lemon tree (for which I made space in my first novel, Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree) to talk about. Glossy foliage, waxy, white-purple flowers, divine fragrance, fruit to grace any table, book or poem!
Lemon trees are said to have originated in Asia and spread in the Mediterranean regions after Alexander the Great’s soldiers brought them back from India. They are treasured trees in the Mediterranean lands. They are as important as olive trees and vines. They are vital to the health and well-being of the people living in those lands, as they have numerous medicinal, hygienic, cooking and culinary uses. From the abundant vitamin C, to the taste-enhancing addition to salads, soups, and various dishes, to decorative and aesthetic uses, to the perfume industry, lemons are most versatile.
In Northern Europe and America, there are additional associations which emphasize the lemon’s bitter taste, as in the expression “when life gives you lemons,” or the “lemon car,” referring to a defective, multi-flaw car. In a painting by Paolo Morando, The Virgin and Child, Saint John the Baptists and an Angel, Christ as a child is being offered a lemon, an act frequently associated with learning a variety of tastes and therefore being weaned off baby food.
In this sense, the lemon bridges opposites in taste (bitter-sweet), between cultural perceptions, and generations (weaning the baby off baby food). Is that a clue for interpreting the Italian, unknown artist’s painting Man and Wife, in the National Gallery of London, which has a lemon tree as a background?
Readers’ Digest lists 34 uses for the lemon. In Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree, there is a whole number of other uses – some surprising ones – for the lemon. But please note: try them at your own risk!
Following the enormous disappointment at the Tate’s stopping the public from walking on Ai Weiwei’s seed landscape, Tate Modern had a better idea: for all those wishing to at least touch the seeds, there is now a narrow corridor to the side of the sunflower seed installation. Now, we can walk on the edge, and we can touch.
Thank you Tate!
Guardian article about the Tate rethink (and the guards offering seeds in mugs for people to feel!),here
A few days ago I visited Bremen, Northern Germany, and was fascinated by the
number of statues, photographs, and references to the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale The Bremen Town Musicians.
In this tale, four animals: a donkey, a dog, a cat and a cock, having worked hard for their human owners, but getting on in years, are facing redundancy, abandonment, abuse, and slaughter. This unsavoury predicament brings them together and they decide to set off for the town of Bremen to find work as official musicians there.
Before reaching the town, however, they come across a house in the forest, as one does in fairy tales, and agree to try to scare away a gang of robbers feasting inside it. The dog stands on top of the donkey, the cat on top of the dog, the rooster on top of the cat, and each making its own, unique cry – their concerted braying, barking, meowing, and crowing – they crash through the window inside the house and scare the robbers off. In this remarkable way of co-operation, the four animals repel an attack by the robbers during the subsequent night, and settle to live there for the rest of their lives.
(I took a picture of this sculpture from the street; it is made of papier mache by Gaby Bertram ofscrap-pap.de)
I wonder why this fairy tale has become so important to the city. Might it have to do with a wish for all kinds of people, of all backgrounds, ages, ethnic origins to live together happily, like those seemingly incompatible animals did in the story? I hope so anyway.
Readers of this blog will know about my novel Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree, and my interest in the ways people (in this novel, mainly Greeks and Turks) come together – or not. It seems that having a sense of shared humanity and a common purpose, and project helps: this Grimm tale shows us how.
In any case, I had fun walking around and finding depictions of the animals to photograph.
I just read that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was shown to apply to altitude differences as small as 33 centimeters. Scientists at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, using the latest and most accurate atomic clocks, found that the higher you are above sea level, the faster time runs for you.
In addition, as Einstein had also suggested, the scientists found that travel through space influences clock speed. A stationary clock ticks slower than a moving one. So, if your clock is moving rather than stationary and, in addition, you live high up, then you might start thinking about botox, moving to sea-level, or buying a bungalow! x
The time differences at these small distances are minuscule, but now measurable. x
This demonstration of time dilation leads me on to another, though I believe related, track. Einstein conceived of his Relativity Theory more than one hundred years ago, and yet we are only now able to confirm its predictions on our, human level! Atomic theory, stating that matter is composed of discrete units called atoms, according to Wikipedia, “began as a philosophical concept in ancient Greece and India” and only entered scientific thinking in the early nineteenth century. Thus, “time” is also relative, depending on the prevailing culture, socio-political conditions, etc., when it comes to the interval between ideas being born and their progressing to proof and acceptance. Just think of the effect of certain periods of the Middle Ages on the progression of ideas! x
Moving on to a more experiential level: In my forthcoming novel Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree, a little girl is obsessed with time. She fears changes of plan, the adults changing their mind, things happening unexpectedly – “Can you do that?” she wants to know. If you change your plans, then time becomes unpredictable. She keeps comparing the time on her watch with that of other family members, to reassure herself of the stability of her world. Like most of us, she confuses the subjective timeline of our lives, and its curves, ambits, u-turns and roundabouts, with the instrument of its measurement, her watch. x
On the other hand, shrinking or speeding up time, for instance through time-lapse photography, can provide us with a new, marvelous perspective on the world. The BBC has a great video on this, “Timelapse: Speeding up life” Watch it; I added it to my previous post. x
For musings and poetry on Time, read AsianCha’s Random musings on Time: “Pray, my dear, quoth my mother, have you not forgot to wind up the clock?” They claim their clock does not tick. Not even tock? x
Perhaps this, the dilation of time, the arrhythmia of time, where the interval between “tick” and “tock” is unpredictable, or different to what our current understanding would lead us to expect, is a major, crucial point where the arts and the sciences intersect – where the subjective and objective meet. Let us stay with this thought for a minute. Stop all the clocks!
While working on my novel When the Colors Sing, about The Blue Rider (Der blaue Reiter) movement, especially Kandinsky, Münter and Marc, I came across the work of Emil Nolde and his struggles with the development of his art. Readers of this blog will know I recently visited his house – now a museum – in Seebüll, North Frisia, to get a better feeling of his surroundings and the areas where he liked to work.
Having dipped a bit deeper in Nolde’s bio, I came back with more questions than I went with; which is something I appreciate. For instance, I kept thinking, how did Emil Nolde hold the tension between his art and his craft; between his personal, conservative philosophy and his experimental and liberating work; between his roots in the farming community and artistically, in a German tradition of painting, and freedom of expression in his own artistic explorations of landscape, nature and humans. In other words, how did Nolde carry his own, individual cross to produce such work of great depth, intensity, and appeal?