Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Nora Heysen at The Ervin

Yesterday I read a small paragraph in the paper that the S.H. Ervin Gallery was presenting a retrospective of the works of Nora Heysen. Even though I was tired from an early start and a rushed and stressful morning Speech Day performance I made a point of stopping in.

"Born in Hahndorf, South Australia, 1911, Nora Heysen was an artist of extraordinary ability and tenacity and is best known through her exquisite still life paintings and absorbing portraits. Nora was the fourth of celebrated artist, Hans Heysen's eight children. As the first female artist to be awarded the Archibald Prize in 1938 her skill as a portraitist also paved the way for her appointment as the first Australian woman to be appointed an official war artist in 1943. Until her death in 2003, at age 92, the artist lived and worked in her Sydney home, 'The Chalet', in Hunters Hill, where she painted and drew with boundless energy and an amazing vitality of colour."

The Ervin is one of my favourite galleries because it tends to show a lot of Artists that don't quite make it to Blockbuster status. Many of these artists are, of course, women.
"The exclusiveness of the gallery lays in the fact that it showcases works from Australian women artists and thus provides a pedestal to many talents who might otherwise have gone unnoticed."

I first saw Nora Heysen back in 2001 in the "Modern Australian Women" Exhibition touring through the Ervin. Like many women artist of the time there are many obligatory still life with flowers but it's her portraits that capture my attention.

The painting of Florence Miles, a transport driver during the war, wasn't included in this exhibition, which is a shame. I think it has far more relevance and meaning than the posed images of the higher ranking female officers she was required to produce as part of her appointment as official war artist.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Captain Blondebeard

Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of Apple and Blackcurrent juice. Here be a pirate from the end-of-year school performance. A fine display of youngsters performing for the entertainment of parents and carers. We watched from the audience and tried not to focus on the wonderful antics on stage and not notice the lighting or sound. It was a marvelous effort from all concerned.

The next 'big do' for the local community is a repeat of the hugely successful Brook Community Theatre Radio Plays at the Faulconbridge Community Hall on Sat 14th. 'The Case of the Dead Adventuress' and 'The Musgrave Ritual' are 40's style Sherlock Holmes radio plays performed with style and enthusiasm by the local talent.
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Garden Matters

It's been a while since the garden had a bit of attention so it's getting an early Spring clean in this unseasonal bout of warm weather.The vege garden has been restyled and lettuce, beets,marigolds and alyssum planted, the beans and peas under a frame made from an old Futon base.

The entire crop of NZ Yams (Oca) was put back in the ground although I was sorely tempted to roast them in the oven. They are not a pretty vegetable, looking like fat pink grubs, but they have that special sharp nutty flavour. I'm a bit concerned this Summer is going to be very hot but the Mandarin tree may give them some shade.

After all the hard labour is done for the day the workers relax in the hammock under the giant River Peppermint gum and read Dirk Gently.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Snack Attack

Over the past few years the variety of birds in our backyard has increased; Bowerbirds, Crimson Rosellas, Wattlebirds, Honeyeaters, Butcher birds, and Cockatoos are common visitors. Last weekend we had a new visitor and it wasn't interested in seeds.

This is the atermath of a Collared Sparrowhawk swooping upon a poor King Parrot. It was a swift attack with a very efficient dispatch. The Hawk then dragged the remains onto the gravel and consumed it leaving only a few pin feathers. It wasn't phased by the close proximity of humans and only huddled over its meal when we ventured into view.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Federation Square
I like Melbourne - a lot.
It's like a rich chocolate cake compared to a Sydney Sorbet. The past 5 days have been spent exploring the laneways and tramways of the Melbourne CBD. We visited Salvador Dali, Pompei, the wonderful Melboune Museum, penguins at the Aquarium, the Bendigo Wool and Sheep show, the Yarra river, the Docklands and Pelligrinis - several times, the State Library and lots of restaurants and eateries.
As soon as we went it seemed to be over - it was only a 56 minutes flight from Mascot to Tullamarine but it was enough to give the lad an experience of flying in a jetplane - a compact little 737, and for us to experience living with Room Service for a week.

I came back with lots of photos, very sore feet from all the walking, several skeins of wonderful yarn and a desire to go back - maybe next year.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


I think I've mentioned before there are some shows that are a chore to work on and there are others that are a delight. Pericles is in the latter case and makes up for the nights of angst I had to endure on my last season in the Drama Theatre.

This Shakespearean play performed by the Bell Shakespeare Company is big, loud, melodramatic and as convoluted as a soap opera.

It has a lot of energy and is obviously fun for the cast. There's drumming and singing and dancing and a big Bollywood style scene that only needs a shower of rose petals to finish it off.

The reviews have been varied because it's not the type of play that can be rationally analysed - the plot-twists and coincidences are worthy of any modern day melodrama and the actors are sometimes required to switch from serious, heart-wrenching soliloquies to mundane and seemingly trivial statements - all in the same breath.

The one scene that stands out for me is at the end when poor old King Pericles, after enduring countless shipwrecks (that man should not get in a boat), the loss of his beloved wife and then his daughter, finds them again. He has aged 20 years since his first appearance and so is required to portray a degree of pathos suitable for the occasion.

Marcus Graham does this well I think, and is a very appropriate hero for the occasion but... why is it that every single time he says these lines;

Now, blessing on thee! rise; thou art my child. Give me fresh garments; the audience cacks itself?
No matter if it's a matinee , a school audience, an evening blue-rinse set - they all spontaneously laugh.
I have a theory that it is a combination of comic relief from the seriousness of his reunification with his daughter (who is so virtuous and pure she transforms rapist to saints) and the slight embarrassment at the out of place request. Deep Drama and Emotional Outpouring interrupted with a request for his laundry. Strange.

I have been busy during this show and have created one pair of socks already - saturated colour worthy of the richly coloured hues of the lighting, costumes and sets. I think I will be able to get another pair finished before the end of the season.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wee Stig - 15 seconds of fame

Here is the Wee Stig's 15 seconds of Fame, snuggled up with Warren in the back of the luxury car.
I nearly missed this spot on the final episode of the Top Gear Australia season so I was very relieved when eagle-eyed Ravelry members told me he had been on.

Wee Stig has now been retired to live with Jules and Marianne among the lobsters. He travelled a lot further than I ever imagined when I made him so I can say he absolutely fulfilled his potential.
What more can a knitted doll ask for.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Orange Grove

It's been a long week at work seeing out the last few performances of "When the Rain stops Falling" so I needed a bit of time away from the inner city and the dark angst of the theatre.
We went orange picking at Penrith Valley - that's the groves in the distance with the mist-covered Blue Mountains in the background and a very cosy horse on the side.

We picked and ate lots of juicy oranges and took enough home to ward off colds and flu, and to make some Marmalade. I had to return to the city that night unfortunately but I felt a bit refreshed and cheered by the fresh air and green fields.

In the packing shed this object was hanging on the wall and it was immediately labelled as the world's largest Knitting Needle Gauge.
I think we need to get out more.

(It's an Orange Sorter - big to small)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Festival of ...Socks

Last night saw the final of the Vivid Festival at work - the wonderful images that had been projected onto the sails were turned off, the Opera Theatre started resetting for the Opera season and the ambient soundscape in the Studio was silenced.

The entire Opera House had virtually been handed over to Brian Eno to play with and the majority of performance spaces were featuring something he had curated. Normally this period between the Ballet and Opera Season is a quiet time but the past few weeks have seen the Opera Theatre ringing to the sounds of Heavy Metal Rock and esoteric performances. I think quite a bit of dust was shaken out of the fly tower in the process.

One of my favourites was the 77 Million Paintings in the Studio which, I'm afraid, reminded me of 77 Million Quilting Blocks, but it was still soothing and pleasant to look at.

In keeping with this atmosphere of creative energy I've started on my own Festival of Colour and Texture with an unparalleled outburst of Sock Knitting. One pair finished, three more on the needles and a growing queue of potentials.

The recent Darling Harbour Craft show helped fuel this with tempting skeins of Jitterbug in rich gold and deep greens, Noro Sock yarn and Touch Yarns Merino.

I thought I was remarkably restrained in my purchases at the craft fair but that may have been because I was (once again) juggling work and social obligations and as always, had to be somewhere else.

I missed out on the wonderful WWKIP curated by Sally - another Festival of Yarn and Magic attended by numerous devotees and, other than a strange threat from the Darling Harbour Event Organisers to call the Knitting Police if any "teaching of Knitting techniques" occurred, it was a great success.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wee Stig Rules! OK

After his supporting role at the Sydney Easter Show Wee Stig has made it to the top - a feature appearance on Top Gear Australia. His presence there was a very roundabout sequence of events originating from this post and ending up with a request from the production manager of the show. She wanted to know if I could make a few more Wee Stigs as gifts for her hard-working production crew. I explained that if I accurately charged the full amount of time and labour it would cost $300 per doll! To get round this I offered to make some String Dolls - I had never made them before but I decided to give it a go. Two weeks later I travelled to the Bankstown Studios of Top Gear Australia to deliver this:
A dozen Mini Stigs made of string, cotton, glue and felt. They are exclusively unique but I won't be taking orders as I've moved on to my next obsession - Socks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Here be knitting...

A cold concrete Lindsay Lady gets a Scarf

There hasn't been much knitting in these posts lately and that's partly because of my recent increased workload and partly due to a lack of knitting mojo.
I decided that I wouldn't be disheartened by the ever present pile of UFO's and have embarked on a totally new project - Socks!

This is a whole new world for me as I have never had any desire to cross to the other side - I've heard that it is totally addictive and once entered you can never leave. Last weekend - just before Mother's day I dug through my pile of yarn and found a ball of Tofutsies I had won at the Sydney Summer WWKIP. Recent experience with the Stig made me very proficient with a set of DPN so the smooth silky Knitpick Harmonies were a joy to hold. I originally had ideas of creating a complex lace pair but the fact that my short term memory is worse than a goldfish meant I wisely opted for a very basic Patons rib pattern. No frills, no challenges - just get the thing finished.
They got their first outing at Lindsay's cafe in Faulconbridge on Saturday morning. We had just finished putting up a small lighting rig at the local High School for a forthcoming dance piece and happened upon this very nice restaurant a the Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum.
It was sort of a pre Mother's day treat and was one of the rare occaisions that we were together as a family so we made the most of it. The food and service were good in parts, the lamb shanks were delicious, the barramundi a bit dry, and the apple and rhubarb crumble didn't live up to its promise but the setting in the little studio cottage was perfect, as was the big bowl of Latte.

The sock has progressed and is almost at the heel - I know that this has been a challenge to sock newbies before but after the Stig - nothing fazes me.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I'm all out of ...

I survived the 11 year old's party and the pack of marauding boys playing guerrilla games in the garden to lurch into this mass display or Adulation and Nostalgia.

I am not a great fan of Air Supply's music - it reminds me too much of angst ridden Teenage years and swelling chorus lines that somehow embed themselves deep in the psyche.

I cannot fault their performance though. For two nights they captivated the 2000+ audience and totally held them in thrall. The two 80's icons gambolled, skipped and posed around the stage and auditorium of the Concert Hall and, despite being accused of having " the faint aroma of Mother's Day music" around them, they gave the audience what they wanted. There was a mosh pit full of arm-waving devotees and a chance to grab a hug or a quick snog as the two stars ventured into the stalls amongst their adoring fans.
Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell seemed pleasantly surprised that the entire audience knew all the words to all of their songs but they should have known better. This was their homeland and they were the local heroes with their easy listening lyrics and repetitious musical phrases.

All of this smooching aside it was a very busy show for me because of the last minute change as baby-sitting the house lights turned into "make the Strand board a Whole Hog so the LD can work her magic". Luckily we had the rare luxury of a six hours of plotting time the day before so I programmed the Concert Hall 500 from its standard static orchestral states into a flashing, pulsing, moving light control console. I knew it could do it and I knew I could do it. I must admit it was a lot of fun rising to the challenge and on the final curtain everyone was happy; 2000 baby boomers, the idolised performers, the LD (who admitted to being a knitter and crocheter!) and me.

Friday, May 01, 2009

End of the Working Week

Dylan Moran in his one and only show in the Concert Hall. Setting the levels for a simple design using one follow spot and 9 lights plotted into a slow colour change over his 2 hour stand-up performance.

He was very true to his Black Books character, grumpy and garrulous in that wonderful Irish brogue. He told the audience off for laughing at him, for clapping, for photographing him and for bothering to come at all. A wine (or two) at Interval made the second half flow much more assuredly than the first  and the entire show was very funny and  true to form. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I was like a 15yr old fan when David Bedella (Satan in Jerry Springer) gave me his autograph.

I found it hard to restrain my enthusiasm and admiration for this very talented singer but I tried my best to retain a professional composure as I proudly told him I was his Follow-Spot Operator for the entire show and how much I liked his singing.
He is a very nice fellow and took my gushing compliments graciously but his wonderful talent really did make working this show a pleasure.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

"The fat lady has sung"

Sunday – six pm in the Opera Theatre Control Room.
This time last week I had just finished working on an interesting lecture by Alain de Botton on his new book “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work”. I was looking forward to having the following week off with maybe one small Duty shift – this was not to be.

Alain said that work was “an impulse to impose order in a Chaotic world” and sitting here once again behind this control desk I can attest to that. The last seven days have been at their most chaotic; fun, demanding, entertaining, at times frustrating but overall very rewarding.

Two days before its opening night I was called in to follow-spot “Jerry Springer – The Opera”. It should be noted I haven’t been on a Dome for over 10 years. I knew little about the show other than it had been preoccupying a lot of Opera House people for over six months, had a minimal amount of on-stage production or rehearsal time for such a large scale Musical, that it was controversial and needed more crew.

Despite this I survived – the doming skills were still there – I still knew how to pick-up and follow my target, fade off gently, switch colours and size, change from full-body to pin spot before the next entrance. It was gratifying to find that the muscles remembered the skills required and I could “zone in” to the show amongst all the noise, calls and music that comprised it.

I received the request at 11pm Monday night and haven’t been home since that time. The late finishes and early starts made travel to and from the Mountains an extra trial so our rooms at Bondi came into their own.

Sunday afternoon, after only 6 days and 7 performances Jerry finished. I switched off the Robert Juliat “Cyrano”, said my thanks and farewells to the crew, ran downstairs and across to the Opera Theatre for the totally different show I was operating in a different capacity, that night.

Sitting here at the Control desk after quickly focusing and plotting the small recital and lectern state required for the Corporate Function the sense of Déjà vu is strong, tinged by a growing exhaustion as I start to come down from the rush of the past six days.

In the final paragraphs of his book de Botton says:

“Work does not by its nature permit us to do anything other than take it too seriously. It must destroy our sense of perspective, and we should be grateful to it for precisely that reason, for allowing us to mingle ourselves promiscuously with events, for letting us wear the thoughts of our own death and the destruction of our enterprises with beautiful lightness, as mere intellectual propositions. …We function on the basis of necessary Myopia. Therein is the sheer energy of existence...

“If we could witness the eventual fate of every one of our projects we could have no choice but to succumb to eventual paralysis.”

On the closing night I see” the eventual fate of most of [my] efforts” and are very aware of their transient nature and insignificance in the greater scheme of things. But in my case there is a very small gap between Work and Play and for that I am thankful.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Knitting - the new torture

The last week has only proven to me that people who say that "Knitting is the New Yoga" are vastly deluded. I was up until 2:30 am Saturday morning trying to meet the deadline for the the 2009 Sydney Royal Arts Show aka The Easter Show. I made it but it was not a pleasant experience.

My entry was a version of The Stig base roughly on a Knitty pattern with adaptations for the overalls and helmet. I was knitting in the round with anodised aluminium DPN, acrylic/viscose yarn and slightly damp hands due to the humidity and my stress. It was not a smooth process of repetitious movements generating alpha waves of contentment but a sticky, erratic, jerky process punctuated with muttering, cursing and cries of pain as I jabbed myself.

I made the deadline and Stig is now sharing a display cabinet with cute clowns, fluffy ducks and teddy bears. I trust he will remain unfazed throughout this experience while I, on the other hand am definitely in need of rehabilitation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Timeless and Priceless

Look at what I received in the mail today! Totally unexpected but so, so welcomed.

In my previous post about Cressida Campbell I mentioned she recently had published a limited edition book of her woodblock paintings. By the time I came to her exhibition the first edition was sold out and they were not sure of a second printing.

I put an order in with Readings on the off-chance and thought no more about it.
This afternoon I received a big parcel in the mail and inside was this wonderful, huge, colourful, exquisite book.

Nearly three hundred images have been assembled here, carefully edited into nine distinct sections. It’s a book that displays a sensitive and introspective imagination at work, a book which allows the pictures to speak for themselves.

"It took about three years to put together," Campbell says of the book. "I initially said I couldn't be bothered. I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing rather than endlessly sifting through my old pictures.

"I eventually drove the book's designer completely mad, of course. I treated it like a picture in and of itself."

Nonetheless, Campbell is happy with the result. "We chose thick, high-quality paper because we wanted the book to have a real tactile element to it," Campbell says, handing me the weighty tome. "There's nothing glossy about my work and we wanted that lithographic feel to the pages."

It's heavy and smooth and has a lovely new smell to it - I'll have to make a slip cover to protect it and keep it away from the bookshelves that have paperbacks and coffee cups deposited on them.

This has been one of the nicest surprise I've received in the mail for a while.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Slums of Glebe

I've been doing some digging in the photo vaults because a friend is retiring and I wanted to make up a record of images from his time at The House. In the process I have been uncovering a lot of interesting and sometimes poignant photos of long ago. I'm going to post some over a period of time just to get them out there in the ether. My ultimate ambition would be to have an official site for the social and working history of the Opera House that would add a human dimension to the iconic architectural and political story.

This clump of ramshackle huts is located on canal banks on the west side of Jubilee Park in Glebe. It is supposed to represent a slum in Djakarta and was built for Peter Weir's film "The Year of Living Dangerously" after they had to leave the Phillipines because of death threats. The final scenes were digitally altered to remove the viaduct and add a city skyline.

I lived in Northcote Rd on the opposite side of the park at the time and it was my first experience of a location shoot. Because of the last minute decision to relocate the shoot it all seemed to happen overnight. I came home from work late to find the walls of the street lined with political posters denouncing Sukarno and a lot of trucks with noisy generators parked everywhere. It was fascinating to watch a suburban Sydney park be transformed into an Asian slum with soldiers and street hawkers. I never saw Mel Gibson or Sigourney Weaver or the Oscar winning performance of Linda Hunt as the Cameraman Billy Kwan.

It was all over within a week but the sheds and the posters stayed around. The area has now been transformed into Bicentennial Park and the buildings, posters, walls and even the roads are long gone.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Jazz and the Bayou Teche

What's Nice: listening to The Mingus Big Band performing jazz in the Concert Hall, knitting the finishing rows of the Linen Mode Jacket while reading James Lee Burke .

I came to this author via the First Tuesday Night Book Club on the ABC and am fascinated by his descriptions of the life and land of Southwest Louisiana; places like New Iberia, the Atachafalaya River, antebellum mansions and the Gulf coast.

..the light was never harsh, never superheated or smelling of tar roads and dust as it was in other neighborhoods. Instead it filtered through Spanish moss and bamboo and philodendron that dripped with beads of moisture as big as marbles, so that even in the midst of summer the morning came to those who lived here with a blue softness that daily told them the earth was a grand place, its design vouchsafed in heaven and not to be questioned.

His language adds a poetry to the hard, brutal, subject matter of his crime stories and makes me want to find more about this French-settled part of America - it fills out the stereotypes and corrects misconceptions, even though his characters may not seem the best choice to promote safe travel.What's not Nice:

At the end of the Mingus Big Band the Big Bump Out; derigging all the box truss, the tri truss, the moving lights, cables, shackles, slings and bolts; packing it all up to leave a clear stage for the SSO performance the next morning; taking it all down to an already packed Central Passage and squeezing road cases and lead trolleys into tiny spaces; driving the long road home after midnight, feeling desperately in need of a shower and another cup of coffee to stay awake.

Apparently the name "Teche" is "a French word meaning "snake" based on a story about a large snake told by the Chitimacha Indians to the settlers in the area." It refers to a tributary of the Mississippi.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The common Koel

This noisy raucous creature spent all morning yelling at whoever would listen from the Blueberry Ash in the backyard. I had seen her at the birdbath a few times but didn't realise what a big noisy presence she had.
It's an Australian cuckoo or Koel and in the background is the little wattlebird that has been raising this impostor ever since it forced the other eggs and hatchings out of the nest. The demand for food is constant so the poor surrogate parent doesn't get much of a break. I don't know if its a male or female as the stripey yellow plumage is juvenile but I hope it gives us all a break soon.