Friday, February 21, 2020

What Malnutrition Looks Like



A few days ago, the first Friday in February to be precise, I was banged up in a building dedicated to my survival. The day had barely begun, and I was already feeling the fickle fingers of boredom flit lightly across my mind. The previous afternoon had been spent in painless slumber, awaking long enough for a bite of dinner before dozing through the evening’s entertainment. It was the bewitching hour, and much to the dismay of the night nurse, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed.

After having waded to page 166, my growing indifference with the book I had brought with me to while away the hours reached a critical mass that saw Mr Brand abandoned to the “who cares” pile. I’d had enough fairy floss, I needed some meat and potatoes. That, and our three-ring circus of the absurd was also back in town. Could Aunty, as she had done on past occasions, come riding to my rescue?

I ponied up my 13 bucks and got the telly turned on. The Royal Perth is a venerable teaching hospital and patient internet is a mostly un-needed luxury. With my phone reduced to on-board games, I ruefully contemplated last century’s technology. I scrolled through the 1300 infomercials and product placements of early morning network scheduling in search of the facts that can and often do trump fiction.

I was eventually rewarded with a reference to the put down of the week, politics is, after all, a blood sport. A rambunctious general turned politician had been put in his box a couple of days before by a scientist who had had a gut full. And as the repetition of the 24-hour news channel began to pall, ABC Breakfast, from another stall in the informed Aunt’s stable, arrived with a little bit more variety in her saddle bags.

Not being a regular viewer, the comfort of a studio just ten paces from a coffee machine voiced several times by the live cross reporter in the wind and rain was an irony that almost matched General George Custer’s speed fetish at Little Big Horn. A running jest that only became apparent during the closing credits.

For, you see, the aforementioned coffee machine is located in the foyer of our sometimes-cavalier Aunt’s Southbank home. The studio coach was just those 10 referenced paces from the machine now basking in its 15 minutes.  And when the symphony of reversing trucks and passing trams reached a crescendo, pre-recorded packages were dispatched post-haste forcing mine hosts to play catch-up on live TV. A game they had been playing for two months as they awaited a purpose-built facility.

It is to the presenters’ credit that their skills in dancing to this improvised melody were such that they could serenely maintain a professional façade.

For it is those who can perform under duress, be it a bushfire, a dissembling politician or just turning over rocks, some of which often require serious digging, that Aunty respects and nurtures. It is little wonder that some of the industry’s most talented are joining the regiment.  And those who have successfully ridden with her for some time can easily find a ride at other stations, should they so choose. 

It is these skills that make Aunty not only a national treasure but an essential service. Aunty is there when your phone is not. She can fight on foot as well as on horseback, which she so ably displayed during the east coast’s recent conflagration. When the environment punches back, it is good to know we have her in our corner.

That we allow our politicians ignore this evidence, is at our own peril. Be it through the blindness, the pettiness or the avarice of these elected leaders, we will be the losers if we allow it to continue. It is the ABC who should be gold plated not the poles and wires. Not only do we need our best people in the saddle, we need the best horses to carry them into battle.  Be it television, radio, or the internet, the infrastructure they require must be given to them in a timely manner.

This lack of resources became apparent at the close of that Friday morning broadcast. A panoramic view of the make-shift studio was followed by a shot of the six-member cast wandered down a corridor leading into the bowels of the building, one hoped to their dressing rooms. Michael Rowland’s wave goodbye underscored the poignancy of the moment. It was a powerful piece of television that the old girl does so well.

We cannot afford to repeat General Custer’s mistake and leave the artillery in a field far away. Nor should we underestimate the ruthless determination of our current foe.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

The Time to Act is Upon Us



In amongst the sleaze and the glitter of his second memoir, the self- obsessed jester, Russell Brand, drops the observation; “Do we humans yet properly understand the notion of the future? It doesn’t seem that we do.”  Whilst written with a British tabloid audience in mind it is an equally pertinent character trait applicable to those of us who qualify as Scott Morrison’s “Quiet Australians.”

Take my mate Joe’s eldest son, a millennial father of three, all under 10, for example. Gifted a solar roof installation by an indulgent parent instead of doubled down of his good fortune, Joe’s son has elected to install a swimming pool in his postage stamp outer suburban backyard. This $30 thousand home improvement is justified by a) ensuring his offspring’s aquatic enjoyment is enhanced at this early age and b) how it will increase the resale value of his property. Consideration of the future advantages of electric power security is relegated to an afterthought that vies with dreams of being a contestant on a televised gymnastic game show.

This exhibit A in the Morrison catalogue holds its future in their own hands. Not so much at the voting booth but in their willingness to turn the ubiquitous they into a personal us. Like the pundits and the government there seems to be a reluctance to embrace this level of responsibility.

As the father of the Goons, Spike Milligan, wrote almost 50 years ago.

They chop down 100ft trees
To make chairs
I bought one
I am six-foot one inch
When I sit in the chair
I'm four foot two.
Did they really chop down a 100ft tree
To make me look shorter?

Yes Spike, I’m afraid they did. So, sit back, relax, put your feet up. Turn on the tennis. Oh, a politician has been caught with their fingers in till. Or as Mr Eliot so eloquently wrote a hundred years ago “another bank defaulter has confessed.” That will give the pundits something to jaw about. And a pandemic, well that’s not our fault. Fortunately, our world class medical profession is up to the task, they’ve won that match before and for the most part they’re steeped in integrity. So, “Don’t you worry about that.” BTW, who is this week’s winner of Australian Ninja Worrier?

Australia is a relaxed country, an indulgent country, we take great pride in our comfortable, laid-back reputation. Even a lucky country, if the success that’s been under pinned by the husbandry of our indigenous forebears can be called luck. Very few countries can boast the luxury of an honest low-level public servant bothering to contemplate the merits of personal battery storage or an inground swimming pool. Let alone purchase their considered preference secure in the knowledge that if they go with the luxury item the they will provide an uninterrupted power supply.

Well that is all about to change courtesy of global warming. And we must convince the they to adapt to climate friendly processes and products.

Our governments are struggling, they are not up to the job. For the most part their indulgence is just ours writ large. So, with the situation demanding we change our world, we must first change ourselves. Fortunately, that is something of which we are personally capable, should we so choose. 

Not only must we stand up, we must also dismantle the chair. It is very close to its use by date. If we continue as we are, it will collapse with us sitting in it and that is going to hurt big time. If the current bushfires are any indication, we are even in grave danger of self-immolation. But for the they, if there is a profit to be made, making these chairs will continue to be their raison d’être. We need to tell them to stop.

And we must do it in a language they understand. From the homeless dole bludger begging in the street to the chairman of the mob who run the banks, our choices are either to forgo or become DIY experts. To move beyond fossil fuels, we must stop using petrol and become energy independent. If we do that, they will notice, and they will act.

The technology exists to do the latter, if not individually then in concert with our local neighbours. The first is the big ask. We need a transport system that matches our health system. A pedestrian lifestyle is possible in 21st Century Australia, especially in urban Australia, but it’s not all that easy. Although the more people who adopt walking as their primary mode of transport the easier it will become. The joy ride is over, it’s time to put away the toys and become serious.

Climate change has moved in and is here to stay. The future is today on steroids. And like all drugs it has side effects, some of which are deadly. And a tip for Joe’s son, when the time comes to upgrade your accommodation, a house independent of the grid will trump a swimming pool by noticeable order of magnitude. Don’t take my word for it, check out the man with the leather jacket’s response.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

What are they Thinking



To say that a problem is a challenge wearing a hi-vis vest maybe glib, but it does contain an element of truth. One that our governments, both state and federal, would be well advised to investigate as they contemplate the infrastructure needs arising from our spate of climate fires.

At 19,000 and counting, bushfire damaged and destroyed power poles are starting to litter the affected areas of NSW countryside. About which the state government owned electric power distributor, Essential Energy has said “it was looking at replacing destroyed power poles with composite poles, which could withstand high temperatures, and employ other new technology to improve its network.”

Then there is the reputation these necklaces that stretch from town to town are gaining for the part they play in generating bushfires. As reported by the American Electrical Contractor magazine “During the summer of 2018, the Department (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) reported at least 17 more major wildfires that were triggered by power lines.”

In the West examples are emerging of these other new technologies that should become the replacement for the poles and wires that decorate our highways and byways. Utilising solar, batteries and generators, Western Power, the Western Australian State Government owned electrical distribution corporation has started creating micro electrical grids. A 2016 trial of six stand-alone power systems on remote farms in the state’s southwest region has grown to 57 such installations today. And the corporation is currently trialling community sized batteries in a metropolitan setting in Perth’s southern suburb of Mandurah.

Meanwhile further up the coast, 10 hours’ drive from Perth, is Denham, the tourist town and administrative centre for the Shire of Shark Bay. Horizon Power, the State Governments regional electrical power enterprise, is installing a 500w solar farm to power a hydrogen electrolyser to back up the four wind turbines that currently supply 60% of the town’s electricity.  It is hoped that this micro power grid will replace the town’s old diesel generators and supply all the town’s electrical needs.

And in the last six years over three million solar-battery storage systems, that have had a positive effect on 16 million people, have been installed in rural Bangladesh. A pioneer in the micro finance movement, micro solar systems are a natural fit. And the combination of these two systems has seen the creation of nano and micro grids. Utilising peer-2-peer networks Bangladeshis trade electricity, each according to their needs.

With these baby steps in the First world and toddling ones in the Third, one cannot help but wonder what our Federal Government is thinking. Encouraging investment in coal assets will see them become at best stranded, as feared by the ANZ bank amongst others, or at worst a major contributor in our impending suicide. And the high temperature resistant composite power poles are just a continuation of the short sighted, business as usual mindset that saw firefighting experts ignored by the Federal Government.

One can only hope that NSW will in its turn ignore their big brother and embrace the adoption of the small-scale other technology that improves its network rather than more of the same poles and wires technology fed by fossil fuel behemoths.

Friday, January 31, 2020

An Incident at the Share House



Yesterday, my house mates finally caught the mouse who had been joining them for meals. Being humane and from overseas, (he is from France and she is from Austria) they are foreign to our ways. So they decided to drop their prisoner in a land far away. They were planning to go shopping in the adjacent suburb anyway. They could drop the felon off close to their destination. Lisa did it all the time with field mice back home. Little did they realise they had condemned the rascal to death.

Disregarding the different skill sets of house and field mice along with our rodent housemate’s ignorance of frequent flier points they were happy to relocate the miscreant on the other side of his world. They reasoned that mice were mice and being wild all the great outdoors was a home away from home. Mickey or Minnie would easily fit in.

Older hands at the casa were not so sure. They reasoned there may lions and/or tigers in that land on the other side of the mouse world. For Mickey or Minnie it was “there be dragons.” And then there were the locals. Walt's alta-ego knew family safety was a paramount concern for their cousins, be they agrarian or otherwise, and even though Mickey or Minnie looked familiar, they is a rodent of a different colour.

Our EU backpackers were dismayed by these revelations and further embarrassed by the realisation that Micky or Minnie’s cousins were Australian. For the whole world knows how Australians treat refugees.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Digging Holes After the Bushfires



It is a truism that the best advice when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. The past four and a half months of bushfires indicate that we are in carbon induced climate change hole. And nearly a quarter of the world’s and a third of Australia’s carbon emissions are generated by transport. But our shakers and movers, from the grassroots to Canberra’s hallow halls of government, seem intent upon ignoring the application of this extractive advice in their rush back to economic normality.

For the third year running, with over 47 thousand sales last year according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the Toyota Hilux was Australia’s most popular motor vehicle. Another dual cab ute, the Ford Ranger, came in at number two. Both these vehicles have carbon emissions of around one kilogram for every four and a quarter kilometres driven.

With this level of popularity, it is fair to surmise that a goodly number of these tradies best friend were part of the climate change induced bushfire exodus from Batemans Bay just a couple of weeks ago. Now that the rain has come, and the Kings Highway is no longer a raging inferno and has been reopened to the public, the good burgers of the Canberra beachside playground are calling for their return. They have released a video to push home their plea; a parody of the 1977 soft rock song “Baby Come Back.”

While one can appreciate their current economic pain, is more of the same the best way to go? If as suggested by the boffins that carbon in the atmosphere is a major causal factor of this recent existential holocaust surely a rinse and repeat is a very short-sighted response.

The round trip for a Canberran to enjoy a day of surf and sun with a take-a-way lunch is all but 300 kilometres. This equates to an additional 70 odd kilograms of carbon being pushed into the firmament with each trip. This equates to a tonne of carbon being emitted for little bit over 14 such trips. And with 43% of Australian cars being of this type the hopes of Batemans Bay’s tourist orientated businesses will ensure the hole keeps getting deeper.

Living up to his internet meme, our Prime Minister, Scotty from marketing, has implicitly endorsed this activity. Within the Government's national bushfire recovery fund is an allocation of $20 million to market destinations for domestic travellers and $25 million for a global tourism campaign. He wants us and the world to know that Australia is "safe and open for business."

Announcing the package Mr Morrison said "This is about getting more visitors to help keep local businesses alive and protect local jobs right across the country and especially in those areas so directly devastated such as Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills, the Blue Mountains and right along the NSW Coast and East Gippsland in Victoria. "

Tourism Australia figures also show that visitors from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France and China are reluctant to experience our fires and smoke ravaged cities. For the first fortnight of the year international bookings were down by 20 to 30 per cent.

About which Margy Osmond from the Tourism and Transport Forum stated, "People are believing everything they see on social media — the country's on fire, top to bottom, coast to coast, don't go to Uluru because it's on fire, Sydney airport's on fire — crazy stuff."

But not so crazy if our bushfires have shown our potential visitors a deadly cost associated with international air travel. Which the New York Times reported, back in September at the start of our bushfires, accounts for about 2.5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. And at its current growth rate, air travel has a bullet to become a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050 alone.

Perhaps our international visitors, not being so blinkered in their outlook, are prepared to take on board the axiom associated with holes and digging. Whereas our government and those at the coal face seem to be intent on doubling down on the short term, business as usual thinking that's driving the Ardini mining adventure.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Our Survival Depends Upon Us


In this age were future growth is being replaced in the popular lexicon by future survivability and leadership is conspicuous by its abstinence it becomes a necessity to take matters into our own hands.

For the last 15 years I have, in successive stages, been decreasing my carbon footprint. Over this journey I have found my pleasure in life has increased and further forward movement has become easier.

The first was the toughest; abandoning of my beloved Alpha for the inconvenience of a pedestrian lifestyle. When I gave up putting a kilogram of carbon in the atmosphere for every five and a half kilometres travelled my world became a much larger place. There were birds and trees, flowers and shop windows to observe and enjoy in all their complexity rather than them just being a blur on the periphery of my bubble. There was my suburban neighbourhood to discover and it is a wonderous moment indeed to eventually look a magpie in the eye and see the spark of recognition that says, “I know you, you’re not an immediate threat.”

After a decade of living in urban Asia, share accommodation in Australia has a ring of familiarity. After thoughtful consideration of location, my current address affords me the same level of variety I enjoyed in a city ten times the size. I have nine supermarkets within 5 minutes’ walk of my front door. Two Asian, one Korean, two Indian, one West Australian, two National, and one international/German. I also have a daily park vista to entertain me, I can and often do watch dogs chase balls while breakfasting and men doing the same as I sip a relaxing sundowner. The dogs are more elegant and seem to derive greater pleasure from the pastime. Expectations anyone?

Since I started working in recycling with Save the Kids, I have been able to extensively update my wardrobe and have change from a hundred. I have also decorated the walls of the house with a selection of artworks for less than $50, fortunately my eye is good enough to please both my housemates and my landlord.

Then there is exhilaration of helping to bring the Perth CBD to a standstill for a morning, nonviolent civil disobedience is fun. Shamed by the school kids into joining Extinction Rebellion the opportunity to write a play for the group and being encouraged to produce it has reawakened a somnolent skillset.

And to look to the future without trepidation is to be fool hardy in the extreme. Any fears I have are not for me but for those that follow. When another 30 summers have blazed away it will be a very different world and if we don’t mend our ways, perhaps being trapped on the beach by a bushfire will have become common place? And Jonathan Watts’ bubbles of climate anxiety will not be massing near the surface as he says they are today; they will be exploding upon it with a monotonous regularity. Frogs legs anyone?

Unfortunately, it is you and I, as individuals, who will have to effect any change for it seems to be beyond the skill set of our leaders. And the best way we can do that is by how we conduct our day to day lives.

It's Been a While Since I Last Posted


Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Archibald Finalists

Came across this article on Friday 21st of July and it is one of the best reads about this famous Australian art prize
I have ever seen/read. Enjoy.


The Archibald finalists 
– and why Tony Albert deserves to win
Joanna Mendelssohn Honorary Associate Professor, Art & Design: UNSW Australia.
Editor in Chief, Design and Art of Australia Online, UNSW

The formal announcement of the Packing Room Prize as a preview for the 2017 Archibald is a reminder of how the world has changed. For the last 26 years, Steve Peters and fellow workers in the packing room of the Art Gallery of New South Wales have chosen a favourite painting from the many hundreds of entries for the annual Archibald Prize. Without fail, the painting chosen is realistic in style, with paint applied in smooth layers. More often than not, the subject is either an attractive woman or a media celebrity. This year’s winner, Peter Smeeth’s portrait of Lisa Wilkinson combines both attributes.


Peter Smeeth, Lisa Wilkinson AM, oil on linen, 100x150cm. © the artist Photo: Felicity Jenkins, AGNSW

The aesthetic concerns of those who received the 822 entries in the Archibald are not necessarily the same as those of the Trustees, who by the Will of J.F. Archibald are the only people entitled to judge. The Packing Room Prize came about from the cultural divide between the tastes of the decision makers and the workers who had to carry out their commands. For many years management made it clear that the Packing Room winner was not a finalist, and indeed it was hung just outside the main exhibition.


Lucy Culliton, Finished packing, oil on canvas, 170x145cm. © the artist Photo: Felicity Jenkins, AGNSW
This year, not only is the Packing Room choice placed in the privileged space near the dais where announcements are made, but it hangs next to Finished packing, Lucy Culliton’s portrait of Peters. This embrace of the values of the workers who run the prize was a long time coming, but it can now finally be seen for what it always was – an annual people’s art prize where anyone can enter (though the odds against winning are even worse than Lotto).
Edmund Capon, the previous director of the gallery, very cleverly turned what was seen by the curators as the worst exhibition of the year into a serious fundraiser and marketing exercise. Visitors are now charged a hefty fee to see the once free exhibition. There are extensive public programs, including celebrity talks and live music.
Then there is the art. This year’s curator, Anne Ryan, has integrated the Archibald with the accompanying Wynne and Sulman exhibitions so that they appear less disjointed. This has enabled her to create a dazzling display of Aboriginal works from the Wynne Prize in the central court, traditionally reserved for the Archibald, and to place the Archibald entries in the more intimate spaces around the court.


Yvette Coppersmith, Professor Gillian Triggs, oil on linen, 137.5 x 110 cm. © the artist Photo: Jenni Carter, AGNSW

Perhaps it is a reflection of the times, but it is now rare to see a politician’s portrait. The best known public figure to make it through to the final 43 is Gillian Triggs, painted by Yvette Coppersmith. The second portrait of a lawyer is Luke William’s study of Remy van de Wiel, the QC who successfully defended those accused of forging work by Brett Whiteley. There is a sense of this lawyer’s flamboyance, not shown in his costume, but in his fly-away hair and prominent spectacles.
These legal portraits join staid studies of prominent men – Robert Hannaford’s portrait of the West Australian businessman Michael Chaney and Paul Newton’s portrait of the philanthropist Rupert Myer. The boys of Sydney Grammar’s Edgecliff Preparatory school have produced what has to be the first entry by school children – as well as the first entry by so many artists – with Goodbye Sir!, a farewell to their headmaster.
Despite the communally created pixelated style, this is nevertheless conceived as a very conservative image. I doubt it will be in the final short-list, but the Archibald is very much an exhibition of social history and it is a great novelty work.
Another “novelty” painting, Sophia Hewson’s Untitled (Richard Bell)places the artist provocateur as Mary Poppins’s chimney sweep in a Walt Disney landscape, complete with Bambi, bluebirds and the hills of the Sound of Music. It’s the kind of painting to bring a smile to even the most jaded visitor.


Sophia Hewson, Untitled (Richard Bell), oil on board, 200x200cm. © the artist Photo: Mim Stirling, AGNSW

The space that holds the dais where speeches are made has Richard Lewer’s Liz Laverty, paying tribute to one of the great patrons of art. The late Colin Laverty and his wife Liz were collectors in the true sense, buying work they admired. They got to know the Indigenous artists whose work they collected, helping remote communities, encouraging others to see what they saw.


Richard Lewer, Liz Laverty, oil on epoxy-coated steel 110 x 110 cm. © the artist Photo: Felicity Jenkins, AGNSW

This is not a “posh” portrait, rather it is painted with a deliberate naivety: just a woman in a black polka dot shirt, looking with love.
Traditionally, Archibald entries (and winners) have been over-large, emphasising the importance of the sitter in the scheme of things. However last year’s winner, Louise Hearman’s intimate portrait, Barry, as well as Sam Leach’s 2010 winner, Tim Minchin, show that size is not necessary for success.
The more intimate spaces of the installation advantage some of the smaller works. Kate Beynon’s self portrait, With amulets and their shadows, references her Chinese heritage with images of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, while her direct gaze quotes Frida Kahlo.


Kate Beynon, With amulets and their shadows, acrylic on wood, 25 x 20 cm. © the artist Photo: Felicity Jenkins, AGNSW

Self portraits are always popular with artists and there are quite a few this year. Madeleine Winch’s Facing the canvas incorporates the artist’s self-examination as a part of her study of her tools of trade. This is appropriate, as Winch often incorporates herself into her work.

My choice for winner

The painting I would like to see win is Tony Albert’s Self-portrait (ash on me). Albert has a long history of re-appropriating kitsch depictions of Aboriginal people, what he calls Aboriginalia. In recent years he has painted studies of ashtrays of kitsch Aboriginal subject matter, complete with stubbed cigarettes. Some of these have been made in collaboration with artists at Hermannsburg, including descendents of Albert Namatjira, whose art was turned to kitsch by commercial exploitation.


Tony Albert Self-portrait (ash on me) acrylic on linen,102 x 102 cm. © the artist Photo: Jenni Carter, AGNSW

The self-portrait is an arrangement of these ashtrays, with his portrait head painted at the top of the arrangement, complete with two stubbed cigarettes. As an extra twist, this ashtray is captioned “Archibald Prize Art Gallery of New South Wales”.
Albert’s work is deceptively innocent. Each ashtray holds a different aspect of Aboriginality – each is shown as being treated with contempt as a receptacle for dead cigarettes. Yet he manages to make an apparently light-hearted portrait. It is such a clever work.
In the next week, the Trustees will come to the gallery to consider which of these finalists will gain the prize. The voting will take place on Friday morning. If they disagree, the final vote might be taken only minutes before the announcement (in 1996, it was delayed by about 30 minutes as some trustees found it hard to vote for Wendy Sharpe’s Diana of Erskinville). Then the circus will begin.
This article was originally published on The Conversation

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Crab Walking to the Future


“I wasn’t breaking rules; I was actually making up my own.
Barbara Kasten

For most of her career the eighty-year-old, Chicago based photographic artist Barbara Kasten has ignored the documentary aspects of her craft, instead the creation of non-representational stand-alone images has been front of mind.

As she told Bomb Magazine’s Leslie Hewitt “My introduction to photography was not an academic one. I took one class to learn the basics; after that, it was more of a hands-on relationship. To push the boundary of photography has never been my motivation; I am interested in how it can be united with other disciplines... I had no restrictions on how to approach photography. I felt free to incorporate any of these concepts into my thinking.

In fact, Kasten has turned the traditional concepts behind photography on their head in the pursuit of her own vision.

As she explained to ArtForum’s Andrianna Campbell “Light is the essence of photography, but it is not what I am after. The important thing about light, to me, is not how it falls on an object, but how the shadow is created. I am photographing the shadow, and not the object that is creating the shadow. I am after another form—one that defines reality, but it is not reality.”

It is the principle that has driven Kasten’s work.

“In the 1980s and ’90s, when I showed at the John Weber Gallery in New York, I wasn’t looking at photography for inspiration. I wasn’t trying to break any of the “rules” of photography. I was just looking for a way to combine my interests in sculpture and photography—photography not as way of documenting sculpture but as a way to make a new work. For me, these media function side by side, not as cause and effect.

And today in the digital age the octogenarian photographer is heartened that her baton is being picked up others as they pursue their dreams of what the medium can be.

About which she has said “My work is being discovered by a group of people who are half my age and are looking at photography in a much more open-minded manner. It doesn’t all have to be done through the camera. I think the creative spirit of the day is more toward individualism, and that fuels younger people to see how they can put their own twist into this medium. We are looking at the essentials and not looking at traditional prescriptions… The Internet and digital technologies are providing fertile ground for artists today. Photography is now an even broader category, and whether or not these practitioners are photographers is an open question.

A major survey of Kasten’s work Stages is currently on show at Los Angeles' MOCA Pacific Design Center until the 14th of August.




Monday, May 23, 2016

Painting as Haiku


“Paintings can convey an immense significance with few colors and details.”
Nguyen Than Binh

The frugal simplicity that is one of the hallmarks of much Asian art is a predominant characteristic of the paintings of the Vietnamese artist Nguyen Than Binh. Using Western materials, Nguyen employs a palette restricted to subdued hues of creams, browns and whites punctuated occasionally with reds and blacks to create his almost impressionistic works that evoke the strains of classical music and Japanese Haiku poetry.

As he told Toriizaka Art “I use oils and canvas originated in the west and combine them with my easter eyes, hands and mind to create my paintings. My pieces may appear to be simple but my mind is brimming with memories, feelings and passion and each of them quietly resonates from my soul.”

A point he elaborated upon at Tanya Baxter Contemporary stating “I like minimal subject and a maximum idea just like Japanese Haiku or Tang dynasty poetry. I like Haiku very much because it is very simple and contains many ideas. I have no difficulty with simplicity but I need a lot of time for a painting. Sometimes I work on a painting for a few days, a few weeks, or even years.”

Nguyen also gains inspiration for his work from western ballet and classical music.

About which he told the Thavibu Art Advisory “Fine Art is not about philosophy or literature, but about music”.

But overall it is the juxtaposition of the two ideas inherent in the 5-7-5 syllable constructed Japanese poetic form that underpins Nguyen’s work.

As he told Tutt’art “I’m not trying to follow any trends, I’m just searching for beauty as I see it, a beauty for everyone. The structure in my paintings tells the viewer many things beyond the surface. The aim in my work is to condense the narrative. I like minimal subject and a maximum idea just like Japanese Hiaku.”


Nguyen’s current exhibition Hometown is on show at Ho Chi Minh City’s Craig Thomas Gallery from the 27th of May.