Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Dinosaurs and Exhibitions Part 3 of 3

Ben's Ceratopsian beanie. I finished one ball and had to continue with another in a different colorway but I think it worked well. (See where the bright blue-teal turns dark?)  I started another with the rest of the second ball and need a third one, and they have a beautiful mostly-blues colorway so a good excuse to get that.

We were in Welly for one night and came home late last night and I've been exhausted. Lots of folks are in this unusual heat. I was supposed to meet with Kath Bee for the first time in a long while tomorrow morning,  until I heard a knock on my door this morning; turns out I proposed meeting today, and all this time I thought our date was tomorrow. Anyway, we had a good catch up. Me in my not-for-public-viewing T shirt, she in a cute dress and makeup on. I missed her while she lived in Auckland, such a genuine person.

* * * * *

Back in New Zealand; at Dunedin Art Gallery, we caught an intriguing, and slightly spooky, sculpture exhibition by Frances Upritchard, and the fabulous Gordon Walters retrospective. The former was slightly spooky but irresistible in the piece's hard-to-interpret (or blank) expressions. Her few paintings were attractive in their simplicity, the style hard for me to emulate because I keep adding until it's too late.
Upridchard uses a lot of textiles in her sculptures beyond just garments but I wasn't able to find their origins; perhaps I'm reading too much into it as many could have been attic/charity store finds.
See what I mean?

The second exhibition was fascinating and rewarding to us, puzzling and unsatisfying to the Cadys, making all of us realize backgrounds of artist/works/society can enhance viewing experience. In some cases.

Though I've never read up on the man or the era so this is all conjecture but Gordon Walters' paintings are, to use a much-overused term, iconic in, and of, New Zealand. His work is so widely circulated one often encounters them on the walls of many/most New Zealand art institutions. And they are painted done by hand, often with gouache, and not created mechanically. But I think his importance comes from being a Pakeha who looked around him back in the 1950's, (when I suspect the umbilical cord was still firmly attached to England,) and found his identity in the flora of this land, in the koru.

I can hear uproar for/against a Pakeha using New Zealand's nature as his motif, from both sides; this might have been the start of open discussion/argument over cultural appropriation. But he kept churning paintings, modifying and improving, and collectively helped form New Zealand identity to New Zealanders of all ilk. Just look at the long-list for the 2916 NZ Flag (change) referendum submitted by professionals and amateurs. (Note: again, I haven't read enough to know of others who have contributed to this ingrained NZ visual identity.) If that doesn't make his work iconic, hum...

Here is his Wiki entry. The Cadys thought the paintings were of dots and stripes, which is exactly what I used to think; I never understood the significance of Waters' work over any other modern/abstracts with dots and stripes. I was confident, and ignorant, I dated them to the 1980's, and decided they were computer-generated prints. Live and learn. I'm glad we took our time at this exhibition; now when I see his work, I get a tad teary.
I was busy reading panels, watching videos and admiring the paintings I didn't get good shots so this is the only one I saved. But there were a few I found of textile interest; most of these were smaller and, ahem, not famous. I found myself more drawn to the wobblier paintings, i.e. not straight lines and perfect circles.

Ever since we decided to go to Dunedin I looked forward to Otago Museum's Pacific Cultures rooms where I first encountered Torres Strait Islands artefacts 16 years ago; they and Auckland museum have more than I've ever been able to find in Australia so far. This time around, however, I couldn't decipher their display logic/scheme and found fewer items from Torres Strait. There were more Pacific combs and their Tangata Whenua display was much more exciting than I remembered so they more than made up for it.
Also on this trip Ben and I also found strangely drawn to dinosaurs after seeing a "film" in their planetarium, and rushed to get tickets to see the exhibition 45 minutes before closing. The exhibition itself was OK, mainly geared for kids, I think, but we had an interesting discussion with one of the staff who was a humanities specialist, not dinosaurs, about convergent evolution.

Then we went to the town of Oamaru, but this post is long enough I'll make it a separate one. Here's a cute write-up in the Guardian a while back as a teaser.

Deep South has many more art places of interest; Gore's "Goreggenheim", the East Southland Gallery, (Hotere, Hotere, Hotere; where is the museum website;) Dunedin's Hocken Library and many, many more; Oamaru has a few, but the one I completely forgot on the day was Janet Frame's childhood home.

But this concludes my exhibitions spiel for for the last six weeks. And now for a few pics:
We had to zip through Gore because I wanted to shoot one of these signs; find my hellebore grower east of Clinton, (we drove on dirt roads bearing parts of his business name for an hour but not the one bearing his family name because it looked like a private driveway, which turned out to be the right one; oh, dear; oh well;) and had to get to Dunedin while we still had daylight so we can find the tricky driveway to the AirBnB.
Ben's new mate Matthew at The New Zealand Whiskey Company, part of the reason I forgot about Janet Frame.
After much museum-ing, I discovered this dinosaur head with manmade marks near Mt Cook. :-D

Friday, December 8, 2017

Old New Project and Exhibitions Part 2 of 3

The first warp I put (back) on the loom Tuesday was the tapestry technique project I was working on a while back. I hung the samples and the one finished piece in front of me for reference.
One of the factors I like about the first piece is the draft pattern is square-y and regular while the color transition organic. For comparison, or because I'm contrary, I wanted to try something curvier, and since I'm working on the four shaft, I tried a few undulation on my computer first, then made up the threading as I worked. I wanted to see/learn the threading before I began weaving, and I slept on it, but I think I'm good to go. The treadling in the sample turned at 1 or 4, but for the real piece/s I'll turn whenever, wherever.
My choice of colors for weft, in 20/2 100% cashmere, are dwindling, but there is enough; I want to include the few cooler colors I have.

* * * * *

Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris is said to have been the catalyst in bringing Japanese prints and aesthetics to the attention of Western artists. You can see how many of the exhibition I went to cluster around fin de siècle and relate to each other. The Machida ukiyoe exhibition covered how Japan was influenced by the West roughly around the same time, in addition to being the very media/technique that made Japanese art most available, I suspect, in Europe. The 1930 Association was, of course, all about the influence of Paris and Europe then, and how the ideas were iterpreted in Japan.

Hard to believe this was exactly a month ago, but having spent a lovely day with Kaz and Dave, (and making them hike miles and miles in midday Tokyo traffic,) I bade a fond farewell and trotted off to Paris Graphics -  Prints and Poster that Became Art at a newish (est. 2010) Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum.

This was a good-sized exhibition, consisting mostly/entirely (?) of Mitsubishi's own collection, and well-curated. The blurbs tended to focus on the individual artists and their work rather than the era, (the latter being more of interest to me,) and the star artist was Toulouse-Lautrec, one of the era's darlings in Japan, but there was a lovely flow in the show's design, making the experience so enjoyable rather than academic.

In fact, although this was the first time I went to an exhibition at Mitsubishi, I had the impression from reading about their exhibitions in the past that their approach to art is light-hearted, less pedantic, but showy/fancy, as if to give the visitor a momentary feel of entitled privilege of prancing through good art. Goodness, that's a lot of conjecture on my part, and it could be because of my prejudice for fin de siècle, although Mitsubishi's admission has been, from memory, always slightly higher than other exhibitions. I'd be interested in going there again if they host an equally interesting show.

They showed a few Japanese prints the van Gogh brothers owned, (on loan from the van Gogh Museum,) but my best findd were Valotton's black and white prints, and Bonnard's La petite blanchisseuse. I've liked Bonnard's paintings for decades and read a few book on him, but funny I don't remember seeing/reading about his prints.
Two days later I trotted off to Tokyo again to what would have been one of the highlights of my trip; the Van Gogh and Japan and Hokusai and Impressionism.

Let me tell you what were wrong with these two; 1) they were dreadfully crowded; at times entry was restricted, which I had heard of but never expected to happen when I was there all the way from New Zealand; 2) even though both Metropolitan and National Western Art are large, neither show was in their main exhibition spaces but in smaller weird spaces in spite of expected crowd size; in fact the Hokusai exhibition made us descend into the bowels of the institution, the basement, as in B2F and possibly B3F; and 3) photography were prohibited, including the very works we saw/shot in Melbourne. Many prints appeared in multiple exhibitions because prints can be duplicated/triplicated/etc; this is not a bad thing, but I hadn't anticipated it, and one's appreciation diminishes somewhat after seeing the same Toulous-Lautrec poster in three places. It was however nice to see paintings by artists pop up in multiple exhibitions, not just the post-Impressionist notables but also Maeta. 

The van Gogh exhibition was small and academic. Had I been more patient, I might have learned more about Japanese prints, the technique and how specifically they influenced Vincent. But that was the problem; there were so many Japanese prints, presumably collected by the brothers, but not enough paintings, and disappointingly, (because the simpleton that I am, I lump together Japanese prints and European etchings as, well, prints,) none of Vincent's etchings. And I had seen more than a dozen of the paintings in Hiroshima and Melbourne. Sadly, at this moment I can't remember paintings, but recall the small, dark catacomb-like spaces crammed with breathless Japanese fans' backs of heads; a slightly alarming picture, don't you think? I can't remember if I bought the catalogue.

The Hokusai exhibition is/was the most touted exhibition in Japan in 2017 according to Mom, and it spawned numerous smaller exhibitions of his work due to the handy multiplicity of prints. (Do you think I'm getting overly sarcastic? Not necessarily; read on.) In spite of it being shown "underground" it was a huge exhibition, organized by simple themes, (landscape, flora, fauna, people, etc,) with numerous Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, not only paintings but furniture, glass, and jewelry from memory, adjacent to Hokusai's inspiring pieces. 

My gripe with this exhibition was their claim Hokusai almost single-handedly instigated Japonism in Europe. (I couldn't see the details of why this was because it was one of the more popular panels and the website doesn't say.) Sure, they recognized he was among many printmakers of the Edo period, but for the purposes of this exhibition he was it. I know he was prolific, I like some of his work, but this was hard to buy, because, just think, what's the first print that comes to mind when you think of Japanese prints? Unless you've taken interest and read up on them, isn't it one of Hiroshige's Mt Fujis and his many, shocking compositions?? To me, the premise was akin to saying Monet alone defined Impressionist landscapes. (And by the way, they had too many Monets, if I never see one again in my life I'll be fine.)

This was an educational exhibition; it was like a 3D lecture with real life examples rather than slides.  It was informative and plentiful, but not designed well. Works and folks were crammed and there might have even been too many of the former. After the first round I was sufficiently impressed and slightly overwhelmed; after the second, still not buying the premise, I was a hostage dragged through an ordeal and couldn't wait to get out. I knew the catalogue would have plenty of educational tidbits, but I couldn't be bothered. I may regret this, or I may not. 
And yet, and yet, as exhausted as I was, I've become curious again of printmaking, my favorite technique learned in school art class. And I came home with a few blocks of wood from the art supply shop.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hot Beanies and Exhibitions Part 1 of 3

Tuesday turned out to be a good day. It was slightly breezier, and the temps stayed lower, (up to around 22C,) into the early afternoon, so I got some housework done, blogged, had a slow lunch, and went downstairs and wound two warps on two looms, though I haven't been able to settle on threading for either. And I knitted some more.

Yes, I'm knitting. I needed a reason to buy a few balls in interesting colorways while in Dunedin with Sandy, Mrs Cady, and Ben suggested he could always use another beanie. But because I don't do due diligence with knitting, I had six false starts where either the thing was too small or I didn't like the number/placement of the cables. (??) Not sure if this is big enough; the circumference is about half of one previous, way-too-big beanie.

Yesterday was hot and still again, and although I managed some ironing in the morning, the rest of the day I spent on the stairway, the coolest part of "upstairs", trying to figure out interesting threadings/patterns, in vein, and knit some more. I started on the top step, then descended one step at a time in search of coolness, then finally realized I'd be happier knitting in the basement, so I went down at 6PM. Talk about brain meltdown.
It might turn into an experimental 3D piece in which art critics of the future will claim to see something vaguely connected to my weaving, etc. LOL.

Without further ado, and no doubt, it is hoped, reflections/thoughts will come later, but here is the start of the list of exhibitions I've seen.  I'm pleased a whole lot of what I saw in Japan were interconnected.

Ikuo Hirayama is a well-known and well-received Japanese artist, most notably for his West Asian, (regions we call the Orient or Silk Road,) scenery, architecture and artefacts. It was the first exhibition Mom, Sister and I went together. Sister and I were more interested in the artefacts than his painting, and we learned he was sent by the Japanese government as part of archeological/restoration/preservation efforts for decades. He was the recorder, as it turns out, before many of these places/pieces were lost/destroyed. It was also nice to see Mrs Hirayama's ovservations included in the exhibition.

I was fascinated by a Persian artifact of female figures looking surprisingly "Asian", in contrast to another from current West of China looking, goodness, what's the word??, "Aryan". (Although if you think about the origin of the Aryan race, it's hardly surprising.) His paintings were large and moody, but foggy/blurry and we felt ho hum about them; in a large, quiet hall, without too many folks around, where we can stand a distance from the paintings, our reactions might have been more positive.

Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, (commonly referred to the print museum,) is minutes away from the family temple on Dad's side; I'd heard good things about this place but never went because Machida is so far. This time, I was interested in their exhibition of the Bunmei Kaika for Children Depicted in Ukiyoe, (Bunmei Kaika literally meaning "opening/flowering of culture/civilization", but points to a period of rapid Westernization after the opening of the nation and restoration of the imperial power, 1852-1868,) and another further away on the same train line, so I went.

The exhibition was fantastic; they had over 300 exhibits, not just prints but books, picture Japanese/English dictionaries, posters and what you'd call board games, many with pedantic messages more than depictions, all exhaustingly upbeat. Most intended for boys were thoroughly ambitious and encouraging; for girls, although it was nice they made stuff for girls not so much as an afterthought but long the different-but-equal thinking, and some material even encouraged academic and athletic success, the end goal was inevitably domestic success.

The galleries were darker than usual and hard to see, but I ended up going around three times. At first I was taken aback by the vividness of colors, and the frequent appearance of teal in all its variations, (not a color I expected,) and light blues, and blue-reds instead of yellow-reds more frequently seen, at least up to then, in textiles and ceramics.

The museum also had a wee cafe run by "regular grownups" but employed variously handicapped youths, and the controlled chaos of that environment added to the museum's attractiveness. This museum will be on my "regular" list for future visits home.
Waving a fond but quick hello to Dad and ancestors, not only because I want to get to the museum quickly, but also because Dad was never the type to sit quietly in a urn in a graveyard, bones or no bones. 
I know it looks empty, but for an odd hour late in the afternoon on a Saturday, the exhibition was crowded. No photos from the exhibition.

Afterwards, I ran around Machida Station looking for the memorial to our Silk Road, the road from Hachioji to the port of Yokohama. The few folks I asked never heard of it; I thought of asking the policeman in the police box, by which I walked passed several times, but I didn't because I expected my internal radar to tell me. After 45 minutes and some sweating and cutting it way too close to make the next exhibition, I gave up.

(I went home and googled it and, darn it, I found a pic of the little thing standing in the shadows of the police box, and curse the google map who put it to the right, not left, of the police box!! But this morning I'm thoroughly confused because google map is showing me a different location a little way away from the station I ran past, while pics are showing the location in front of the station but none showing the police box. I can only assume Tardis in Japan is red and is a police box!! Even a friend who's lived most of her adult life in Machina had never heard of it. Serious research required before my next trip home.)

Off to Hachioji, where Dad's late aunt's husband's family once traded in silk, but lo, what's this, a Station Road giant annual outdoor ceramics market?? 15 minutes to the museum, 45 minutes before closing, I could sacrifice 10, I guess, time for one stall, it would have to be Tobe-yaki, but no, everything here is too thin/light/cheap for Tobe. Moving on.

The exhibition I really wanted to see was by the 1930 Association, a group of youngish Japanese painters, some of who had spent time in Europe; the group started around 1926; they thought 1830 was an exciting year in Western painting and wanted to make 1930 equally exciting for Western-style painting and other forms of visual art in Japan. The show didn't disappoint.

Hachioji-shi Yume (Dream) Art Gallery was tiny, and the exhibition was tinier still, but they showed energetic/youthful paintings influenced by Impressionism/Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Dada, Cubism, and Cloisonnism that I can remember, possibly as far as Surrealism, and photos, receipts, exhibition chores checklists, postcard sales list, exhibition posters and programs, and good many correspondences. Saeki was the only one I was aware of, (I went to Hokkaido to see a museum dedicated to him once,) but I fell in love with the themes, (labour movement,) and colors, (oh, the reds!) of Maeta Kanji.

Hachioji was the seventh and last museum to host the exhibition, and I was there day before they closed; I will be forever patting myself on the back for not skipping it before I ran off again to meet a friend for supper.

I got the big fat catalogue from Machida, but couldn't fathom carrying another big fat one from 1930, so bought a slim volume from a previous exhibition by Maeta and one other of the group. I may come to regret this.

It's going to be another hot, still day. More to come soonish.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Travels and Such

I came back from Japan on a Friday, unpacked and did laundry; we took off the following Monday to go around the South Island and to listen to Dr Cady's talk, came back Thursday, although we thought it was already Friday. I think it's Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday here today, and for the first time in six weeks I feel I'm back to my usual self.

In retrospect, while in Japan, I chose quantity over quality, going to many exhibitions, seeing as many friends as possible, or walking around the shops in Mom's building. It was in part to satisfy my appetite for big city living and I didn't want to miss out on anything within easy reach. I was there 23 days, and everybody commented on my "short stay this time", while I kept reminding them the last one, (with the exhibition,) was 28 days. In retrospect, 23 days were short, and I packed it too full for my liking. There was no time to doodle, (I brought home six LJs, and even though I didn't expect to finish them all, I did expect to work a little most nights. I barely managed to work in two to send forward.) I've come to really need my doing-nothing time and the unbusy-ness, and without it I can't appreciate the things I have. I'll need some time before I can reflect on and appreciate all that happened in the 23 days, but on the other hand, I've become that person I aspired to be; I'm easily pleased with fewer things/events/people.

Another part of the restlessness was due to tininess of Mom's apartment, and how we were constantly breathing down each other's neck. Because we were, and me more so on hers. In retrospect, though it didn't feel like it back then, our family house was a big one, providing all five of us room to escape from everybody else somehow. The good news is, after nearly three years, Mom is discovering her apartment is not a too-tiny house, but that the whole thing is her room; while Sister and I think she'd be happier if she had less things, especially fewer furnitures, Mom does like her things and as long as it's safe, well, there's isn't much we can do. Mom knows this, too, and she has tried to cull, but she does loves to shop as well. And for a woman in her 80's living alone, shop staff are good company.

Part of the reason it's taking me a while to get back to normal is because we returned to a scorching,  overheated Nelson. Even though it's not anywhere near as bad as many other parts of New Zealand, it makes me hot just to talk about it; last night was so hot, after dinner Ben and I lay down in the hallway near the stairway where the cool air occasionally travelled up, and read. When I stood up to get cold water I actually felt feint because the air "up there" was so hot and muggy. And talk about unseasonable temperatures, I used only a quarter of the light-winter clothes I took home, and lived in my three 3/4-length sleeve cotton shirts, which some days were too much sleeves. This time it wasn't just me, as I saw plenty of others without jackets or in shirt-sleeves in twon.

I came home excited to get back to the loom, also dying to try my hands on print-making, but the last couple of days, (as well as one of the last days before I left), knitting, of all things. Thoughts on these to come, but for now a few pics.
 Chestnut parfait on one of the first days home. Mom just had a coffee.
Lunch with Mom and Sister; everywhere we went we ordered too much food, but this is not all bad news as Mom had lost interest in food when I was home last time, but she'd resumed cooking in the last little while and even cooked some of our old favorites. We walked a whole lot this particular afternoon and skipped dinner.
 Sunset on Hokitika Beach. 
Mt Cook, two active ones taking pics, two tired ones holding back a bit. (I'm not sure if the other three will agree with the adjectives, but heck, I was tired.) And probably the last timie with the Cadys for a while.