Monday, March 31, 2008

in which the fish hatches a seaguardian and forgets her correct attire

As of Sunday, there's a new Lifesaver round here,
She's the youngest one, she tells me.

So if there's to be any drowning, she will be having very terse and surly words.
You've been warned.
NO drowning.

In other news, I have a very nice nightie. Coffee coloured satin, with pale blue lace trim and thin straps.

When I took off my hoodie yesterday morning at the beach, to go for a swim,
I still had it on, instead of my swimming costume.

Monday, March 24, 2008

In which the fish tries to think of one hundred thousand words for blue and green

The aquatic topography is different at eye-level, when you are far out at sea.
Mountains and valleys all shifting, rising to peaks and dropping down. It’s surprising, once you get out here how vertical it all gets.

It is late morning:
Not the brilliant silverness of dawn, but the time when the sea starts with a base note of indigo and works it way to a robust middle passage of emerald, a melody of cerulean blue. Perhaps a major seventh, and an erratic little melody because there is one moment silence and then the roaring avalanche of overbalanced wave, right next to you. Silence and screaming both, out here.A roar next to me when the peak rolls away, and yet I am on a dark glassy face.

I kick, with fins, in big arcs, I am a selkie, having found my sealskin; in the greendark I rush silently. My fingers waver and trail tears of air like pearl earrings, thrust out front of me.
One for every finger. If I raise my thumbs, I have ten.

Pearls the size of pigeons’ eggs, like a fairytale.

That cracking noise? I listen carefully, ask the sea:
I thought you weren’t speaking to me? I have swam lone and in silence all summer. Surely you heard my weeping, silent as it was.

Who said I was speaking? It’s your own head, all that talk, all that noise,
I thought I hard the sea say to me.


My fishspawn sits silver on a surfboard, among a crowd of others. She looks at me and then away. Her look says, please, don’t dive over here and be weird: I am sitting with boys.
And indeed I look and wonder, who it might be that catches her eye: Adam, Ben? Sam or Tom? They are all hunched in formation, watching the horizon. She like a white bird among them,I think to myself. The sea tilts up, they all paddle in unison, all looking east.
I wave and swim on, further further, until I am by myself and my legs ache and I lie under a rolling bowl of cerulean blue decorated by a rim of swollen nimbus cloud. The skin of the sea is slippery , it shines bright cobalt and passes between my fingers like oil.

There are colours rising in walls: not even my pencil box comes close, not even the Sennelier inks in Parker’s, the inks like gems in all colours, all, but these don’t have names enough, the greens of forest, emerald, jasper, the blue from Persia and the sky:
I imagine myself looking for these colours, my pencil box is inadequate, no Derwents can match! Inks, perhaps, I imagine running my finger along the paper labels,
azure cerulean prussian cobalt viridian olive sap meadow chrome
Perhaps if I were to tip the inks onto the floor, perhaps then that might be language enough for the blue and green that is out here,
Navy ultramarine, turquoise pthalocyanine hookers emerald sapphire jade

Today it is Easter Sunday.

I lie on the surface of the sea and stretch out my arms in the shape of a crucifix and think about resurrection.
Perhaps one could drown of love,
They say you can drown two ways, the first by passing out from lack of oxygen, the second from taking that huge involuntary inward breath and swallowing the sea.
I am sure the sea would rush in, were I to find myself far from air at any given point.
I wonder, staring up from my bed on the surface of the sea, when love will come and rescue me, from here, where it left me. I am rocking to and fro, my toes are higher than my head, then not.
That’s what love is.
Love will resurrect me.

I am being dragged by the toes towards New Zealand and my hair hangs in a cloud: I feel it tug softly as I am caught in a current.

I know what you’re doing, I say to the sea,
I can feel you.

That is your own body, not me, says the tide.

No. You are sending me out to the deep. So be it, I’ll go.
Out with the bluefin tuna and the tiger sharks and the kingfish, in wait for the first of the southern rights to head up north, the humpbacks spouting on their way.

I love you anyway, I tell the sea, knowing the lack of sense in saying this.
I have given everything I could to you. I still do, I can’t help that.

I lie a while. I swim. I spear myself through walls of water and come out the other side into air, and down I go. I say to the sea, I know you are with me, by that sharp pain inside the cage of my ribs.
The sea replies by seizing my hair with a muscular watery fist , backwards, pulling me down over the falls , I inscribe a curved line before I fiercely kick my finfeet and come back up:
I smell the breath of the deep.

That wasn’t very nice, I say. Are you trying to make me dislike you?
My hair is matted now, and I have hurt feelings.

Shitty stinky bugger, sea.

Just then a wall of water, the green of which might be somewhere between Aztec Jade and Viridian (dark), rushes at me and I stretch out my hands. For a second I am balanced high above the earth, in sea and sky both. I have to kick hard with both feet and pulse my whole body: my shape is fish, my dive is deep. I am far, far, far: There is no reason for such mountains out here, yet here one is. A piece of kelp like a huge bracelet is wrapped around my wrist, pale olive and spiny, I am a warrior.
Blackfish pace below me: I can see the pale ebb of their striped flanks, their anxious movements.

When the next one comes I take off with both arms stretched out and my head down, I launch myself down and the sea tries to pin me, by the spine, to itself, but I am stretched out strong and my chest is full of pale blue air and when I touch the sand my hair is woven up into knots, but I have ridden all the way in a silver streak and the kelp is still on me.
Easter is about rebirth: I feel I am scrambling into the light. I have been sent back to shore.
I smile.

My child takes off like a bird and arrives nearby, whereupon she stalks up the sand, beak in the air, the sun reflected from her shiny head.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


is Venus,I believe.

(Make it bigger, you will see.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Light, Space and Democracy

Mischa Kuball, Refraction House 1994
© Photo:
Hubertus Birkner, Köln

Space, Light and Democracy, COFA UNSW
On Friday, I attended a Symposium at the College of Fine Arts entitled “Space, Light, and Democracy”, in which three artists spoke on their work, and notions of, public and private light. It was hosted by the CCAP and Artspace.

Mischa Kuball, a German artist from Koln, discussed his light pieces, which included the manipulations of lighting in a riverside officeblock, and the illumination which emanated from a refurbished synagogue in Germany. It was interesting to note the ways in which light was able to engage the public with the work themselves, until they became part of the piece. For example, the neighbours living around the synagogue were themselves illuminated by the bright incandescent light, becoming exposed by it, and gradually entering into a kind of protective role of both the building and the lightpiece.
The image of the small synagogue ablaze with light was compelling, both visually and conceptually.

The other speakers, Merilyn Fairskye and Ashok Sukumaran
both use light to engage with the urban public. Merilyn’s work can be seen around Sydney in the Devonshire St Tunnel and at Sydney Airport. Ashok used strings of interactive lighting in the streets of Mumbai to create feelings of elsewhere.
I can relate to that.

Archibald Prize Opening

Del Kathryn Barton
"Self Portait with Kell and Arella"
Archibald Prize Winner 2008

I received, later that afternoon, an invitation to the Archibald Prize opening Party.
Managing to extricate myself from witching hour Chez Fifi was no mean feat, but I managed it, liking a party and all.
I was wearing a black bond's tshirt, a skirt made of upholstery fabric and workshoes-a-la-studio. Across the road from The College of Fine Arts in a shop window was a dress calling my name and I walked out of the shop wearing it. (The girl said I looked nice, the dress matched my eyes, can you believe. I believed her when thousands wouldn’t have)

I sat at the entrance of the Art Gallery of NSW between the sandstone columns,watching the crowds roll in. I must say, it struck me how rather badly dressed everyone was. Lots of immensely high heels supporting bare tottering legs.. It was certainly an odd crowd, not what I would call an art crowd, mind you. Nothing like Barry keldoulis’ openings with the cheese biscuits and interesting looking persons. I honestly don’t know where half this lot came from. Perhaps they had all received text messages late in the day, like me? Perhaps they were all remarking on that woman at the entrance with the bad hair and dirty mary-janes?

Inside, we could barely hear above the noise of the crowd, I just make out Del Kathryn Barton’s name during the speeches. Figures. I had been teaching about her a few days ago. I have liked her work when she still exhibited at Ray Hughes, when it was dark and scary and fetishist. Since then she has burst into colour and bloom: good on her. Its a very engaging painting, and with no loss of integrity. Everybody loved it.

I liked this one. It seemed to be made of little teardrops.
James Cochrane

Moving around the show I felt she was possibly one of the few artists who hadn’t sacrificed their own integrity in making a portrait. Portraiture brings out the worst in people. And a lot of the works seemed muddy: all the usual suspects were there in a festival of snotty boogerishness: Nicholas Harding, in a typical painter/subject repartee, produced a scumbly dull piece. As did Ben Quilty. It seemed as if everyone has developed eye problems in the last year. Perhaps I have developed eye problems and evrything was in fact bright and clear: who knows?

I made an effort to actually enter the Wynne Prize this year, but as I left things to my usual last minute panic, I was unable to frame my watercolour. Well, actually, I didn’t have the money for a new frame, so I was meant to swap it with an already framed one. Naturally, I missed the deadline, as I so often do.
There was only one other watercolour in it, so it won the watercolour prize. It was also a HUGE piece, and just happened to be John Wolseley.
The party was fun. Lucy Culliton was racing around in a state of excitement: "I love this party!" she shouted.

Since I have just had business cards printed, featuring said watercolour, I stood for a while with my tiny business card positioned on the wall next to the Wolseley. It looked so very funny, but at least there I was in the show, making myself laugh till no sound came out. Which is my usual habit at openings. All the high-heeled girls just didn’t get the joke.

Surf Club Nipper Presentation Day
Sundays cultural offering? Ian McEwan at the Sydney Opera House. However...a far more cultural event preceded this:
the Surf Club Nipper Presentation day which involved about one hundred and fifty children wearing funny coloured swim hats all performing their version of a rescue and then squashing themselves in to the e clubhouse to hear the champions called out. Bedlam. Oh, a baby lifeguard is called a Little Nipper.
A spectacular blue day, not a breath of wind. Barbecue, rolling sea. Even skinny little Tilly managed to rescue her patient.

Ian McEwan at the Sydney Opera House
I take my leave from this bucolic scene, and head for the ferry.
There is a powerboat race on Sydney harbour, and ferries will only run till 3pm. Hmm. Millionaire motorboats have hijacked my route to the city.

I cross the Harbour, meeting my friends when I get there. It is surreal, that in the bright glare I will be listening to Ian mcewan perhaps talk about the darkness of the human psyche.
It’s sold out, he place is packed. I run into a whole heap of people, gallery directors and art lecturers I wasn’t expecting to see, My old bookshop friend John. I strike up a conversation with a lady eating chocolate. Outside the sky is th most hard and brilliant cerulean blue.

I was a bit disappointed with the talk. McEwan read excerpts from his books, following each reading with letters he had received from people pointing out his mistakes. For example, that Orion is not visible from Venice in summer(Comfort of Strangers), that the Mercedes driven in Saturday would never have a clutch because those models are all automatic. What he was alluding to, I gather, am how the actual intrudes ion the imaginary, and how the imaginary intrudes on the real, and they pass backwards and forwards. I was waiting for this great marvel of words, and I felt it was "light entertainment" in a way. I mean, it was still good, just not what I expected. It seemed so surreal, the setting, the people, the light of the day.
I realised this week that I have read every Ian McEwan book, and I read the first one in 1990. What drove me to choose it? It was "The Child in Time". I would have bought it in Ariel at paddington, probably because I liked the cover. I know I chose "Enduring Love" entirely because of the Odilon Redon etching on the front.
I think, of all his novels, Black Dogs is the one I felt most resonated with me. Although I probably enjoyed Atonement and On Chesil Beach more, Black Dogs articulated something serpentine in my own nature that I possibly would never had identified.

Outside, the surface of the the Harbour sliced by the bow waves of the nasty powerboats. The noise was terrible, the spectacle ugly, and the boats huge, hunched and monstrous. Why on earth such a thing was held in the middle of the Harbour is beyond me, worlds were colliding all around. Not to mention that these screeching creatures were standing between myself and home.

On the other side, in Circular Quay was moored a ship which in size completely dwarfed the Museum of Contemporary Art, named the Albatross of Nassau. Its white bulk filled the landscape, and I wished it away. We drank champagne and looked at the harbour in its haze of heat. Below the sails of the Opera House people crowded to watch the gargantuan monsterboats roaring around and I wondered what Ian McEwan thought of all this as he sat signing books in the foyer (no dedications, please!) Folks wandered around looking comparatively civilised.

On the left is the MCA. On the right is The Albatros

It is interesting to consider all this in terms of light, private and public. We do here have a very democratic sharing of light, in fact, one can scarcely avoid it, both natural and artificial. Here in the glare, are we illumined? This apportioning of rights to the harbour, I felt, was very elitist. Most undemocratic...

Monday, March 3, 2008

in which the fish keeps its distance

Here are waves that arrived here this morning,
in formation: great, long curling lines.
They roared in from the southern seas with a deep rumbling and rolling growl.

Just the look of them, just the smell of them, their exhaled breath straight from the deepest secret seabed
was enough to send that thrill of adrenaline through ones bones.

But not even this fish would have attempted to surf them. Even had someone not stolen my fishes-eye goggles.

But, look, in the centre there, in the distance, there was someone, way out , braver than this fish...

maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

in which the fish greets autumn

It's the first day of autumn.

Everyone round here going about, doing all the stuff that folks here do.

But it seems even that

Is too much for some.