An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of art & life ...

An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of life ... or just ramblings from the mind of a working Mum with far too little time to think!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Enduring Friendship

I caught up with a wonderful friend today who I have not seen for at least eight years. We met when our children were just babies and we accompanied each other through the highs and lows of young mums juggling marriages, careers and youngsters. Then our journeys took different paths and we lost touch for a long time, re-establishing contact by email a few months ago, finally managing to connect in person today. As soon as we hugged, the years melted away and it was as if we had never been apart!

I love the way true friendship manages to survive so much neglect and then like a flower, with the first drop of water, it blooms again in all it's many-hued splendour!
Having said that, true friendship is rare, and we need to hold tight onto our special friends with all our might.

I am so blessed and so grateful to have several very special friends who continually enrich my life in so many ways. Someone once said to me that good friends are the family members you choose for yourself, the ones who know all your faults and yet still love you!

A few years ago, one of my cherished friends passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. I was shocked to discover just how big the hole was that her absence created in my life. I remember a few days before she died, I woke up in the middle of the night with a sinking, heavy feeling of loss deep within and so many words and thoughts tumbling around in my head, and I just could not imagine never being able to see her again.

Just last week, whilst clearing out the drawers in my desk, I came across the words I wrote down that night when I finally realised that she would leave.

I find myself contemplating life without you
And I wonder how I will talk to you
Will I find a way across this immense space
That separates our different worlds?
Will I pick up my silent mobile phone
And somehow know the numbers to dial?
Will I hear your voice in the cafe where we used to meet
And look up to find you sitting right there?
Or will I continue to see at the very edges of my vision
Your red hair glowing in the invisible air between us?

As I lean out into the void of sorrow
Looking for a sign of where you might be
I feel your hand, rock solid on my arm
Pushing me back into the world where I belong.

From time to time I still feel her presence in my life and remember her red hair and all the things she used to say, the things that made me laugh so loud and so long.
Good friends are never forgotten and I treasure the times we spent together - the heartfelt advice, the joy of watching our children play, the meals we shared, the countless coffees and wines we consumed together, the sometimes heated discussions when our opinions differed, the gossip, the ten years of conversation on every topic under the sun!
And I know I was extremely blessed to know her and to count her as a friend.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, "A true friend is the best possession."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Centre of Life

'Jewel Colours' ~ Centre of a Leucadendron flower

I never stop being fascinated by the interior of flowers, especially their intricate centres where the all important process of pollination takes place.

'Candy' ~ Orange Pincushion Protea

It is like entering an alien world, filled with incredible colours, unusual textures and amazing shapes and forms. Physicists say that the colours of flowers are very highly saturated and biologists have long believed that flowers use their colours as "living billboards" to advertise their presence to passing pollinating insects.

'Fairy Floss' ~ Centre of a pale pink Geranium

German Biologist, CK Sprengel, famous for his research into plant sexuality, discovered the secrets of flowers as a result of a recommendation by his physician to study botany as a way to overcome his depression. Sprengel was fascinated with floral biology, and published his popular treatise on flower morphology in 1793.

'Purple Silk' ~ Centre of a Jacaranda flower

Photographing flowers with a macro lens has given me a whole new insight into the world of colour, light and texture and a quest to show others what I see.

'Oddball' ~ Detail of a tiny grass weed

American painter, Georgia O'Keefe, who vividly portrayed the power and emotion of nature, said "Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time and to see takes time." 

Peruvian Lily up close

She believed her purpose was to convey the beauty of nature to her audience. "When you take a flower in your hand, and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else..."

'Pink Jellyfish' ~ Bottlebrush flower

"...Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it, whether they want to or not."

'Floral Explosion' ~ Centre of a Delphinium

'Blue skies above' ~ Hibiscus Stamens

Bright Pink Cockscomb

'The world within' ~ Cardi Folium

White Magnolia centre

'Fuzzy Feet' ~ Snapdragon buds

'Inside Story' ~ Tulip stamens

'Ivory Butterflies' ~ intricate design of the simple Grass Clover

'Microworld' ~ Single bud of a Grevillea flower

Inside the crown of a King Protea

Agapanthus Buds

Arum Lily

'New Life' ~ Unfurling Poppy


Images are available from the gallery at and can be ordered as greeting cards, mounted or framed prints, posters and canvases.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to live

The following extract from a speech by Joan Dideon incapsulates everything that I try to impress upon my daughters, and so very eloquently. 
I just had to share it with you ~

“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none do I think there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”

-       Joan Didion. Commencement address at the University of California, 1975

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Indigenous Inspiration

An Aboriginal dot painting from my private collection

I love the exquisite simplicity of Australian indigenous art and the unabashed use of vibrant colour. I love the history, the mystery, the sacred stories, and the secrets that are interwoven into the canvases along with the paint.

Also from my private collection

I especially love the connection indigenous art has with the land, the animals and the people and I am greatly inspired by these artists to try to reflect some of that passion into my own work. Indigenous artworks are suffused with strong swirls of colour or hundreds upon hundreds of vibrant dots, capturing the essence of Australia as seen in the vast red landscapes, the deep blue skies, the stark mangroves, the miles of sandy beaches, the endless turquoise oceans, and the vivid flames of bush fires.

Blooming Kangaroo Paw

Traditionally, Aboriginal people used art as part of their cultural practices and their artworks were created in non-permanent forms such as sand paintings or skin decorations. Their art was based on stories and sacred dreamings that told of the journeys and the actions of the ancestral beings who created the natural world.

Dreaming Skies

The dreamings and sacred stories carried important knowledge, cultural values and belief systems, linking the past and the present, the people and the land, and they were incorporated into the art to prevent them from being lost to future generations. Aboriginal people believe that those who lose the dreaming are themselves lost and they strive to maintain that link from ancient times to today, creating a rich and vibrant cultural heritage for those still to come.

Ghost Gums

Once world interest in Australian indigenous art ignited, aboriginals were encouraged to make their art more permanent by utilising the mediums of canvas, board and bark, and replacing ochres with water-colours and acrylic paints. Traditional artists decorated bodies of dancers with ochre paints at ceremonies and these ancestral markings, together with other symbolic patterns learned from the elders, are strong elements in indigenous art today.

Lily Patterns

Many modern artworks also illuminate contemporary problems and challenges facing the indigenous communities in Australia. Themes such as domestic violence, alcohol abuse, education, justice and the breakdown of traditional value systems are reflected in the art.

Coral Patterns ~ Great Barrier Reef

I purchased my first indigenous painting around 15 years ago while on a holiday in the town of Cairns, almost at the top of Australia. Exploring the town late one Sunday afternoon, we stumbled upon a tiny gallery full of indigenous art and I was blown away by the boldness and the vibrancy of the art.

Dots by Polly Napangardi Watson

The piece that really captivated me was a simple canvas dominated by blue and pink dots, created by an artist whose distinctive paintings have since sold all over the world - Polly Napangardi Watson. It is only a small painting, but it is spectacular! Somehow the dots offer a sense of movement and rhythm that leaps off the canvas with so much energy and life, much like the traditional rituals that that I imagine inspired the piece.

The colours of Australia

Australia is an incredibly beautiful land of rich, vivid colours, amazing animals and spectacular native flora, the essence of which is captured so perfectly in our indigenous art.

Blood Red Kangaroo Paw

Leaf Art

The Yarra River at dusk ~ Melbourne

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Daughter's Mother's Day Poem ~ Sunday 9 May 2010

I received this beautiful poem from my 17 year old daughter this morning. It just makes everything about being a mother so worthwhile!

An ode to my Mum

When the sun finally sets upon days: long and trying
When the moon starts to rise above nights: brightly shining
I know, as I lie in my warm bed; to sleep
That some things I have done make you mad, make you weep
But despite this, and more, as my dreams take control
I know in the morning I've a clean slate as sure 
As the sun rises, blinding, o'er the hills and the streets
'cause you never hold grudges, and you never keep score
And I think if you did, I could never catch up
For I owe you more years than I've even yet lived.

And the best I can do, to express how I feel,
can never quite grasp how entirely real
and immense and so vast this emotion can be,
that it sometimes promotes it to obscurity.
And the meaning is lost in an anthill of words
while the thought floats away, untethered, unheard.
Well there's only one word that could even come close,
And while both underused, and yet used far too much
That it's meaning is warped to a crude kind of shrug
It still works quite nicely, when the timing is right
So I say to you Mum, it's entirely true,
That you're awesome, the best, so truly;
Thank you!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Mother's love

"A mother's love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved." ~ Erich Fromm

A mother's love is so unique. It is instinctual, unconditional and everlasting, and its power should not be underestimated in the shaping of a child's life. It is definitely a higher form of love and one that we all need in our lives. A mother's love begins at conception and grows with us through pregnancy, flowering at the first meeting of our newborn infant, and then it is simply there and always will be.

As mothers, we are a mix of strengths and weaknesses, largely a result of our genes, our upbringing, our relationships and life experiences. Our job is primarily to nurture and protect our children. When we speak of our children, our smiles radiate like the sun, our eyes light up with joy, and we 'effervesce'! We delight in proudly and enthusiastically telling anyone who will listen about each amazing achievement of our precious children at each step along their life journey. Life's many turns are navigated together with our children and love colours everything to do with them. 

We learn all the various skills we need in the raising of a new human being on the job. And somehow, we find the strength within ourselves to deal with things we could never have imagined, whether it is a explaining the breakdown of a marriage to a 5 year old, counselling a teenager about being bullied, or picking up the pieces and rejoining life after losing a young child.

A mother's love is the first love we ever know. It teaches us how to love and forms the basis for our emotional connections with others. It teaches us about empathy and respect and is critical to the healthy development of our brains, our central nervous systems, and indeed, our souls. Oliver Wendell Holmes put it so eloquently when he said: "The real religion of the world comes from women more than from men - from mothers most of all, who carry the key to our souls in their bosoms."

The importance of a mother's love was brought home to me so clearly when my close friend passed away after battling breast cancer almost 6 years ago, leaving behind her 9 year old daughter. Due to circumstances at the time, her young daughter came to live with us for just over 12 months. I had known and loved her since before she was born and it was a very easy decision for me. She joined our family and became one of my girls. She fitted in so well but my heart ached for her on occasions such as Mother's Day. She tried really hard and fussed over me like the other girls, but I know it wasn't the same and my love could never compensate for what she had missed out on by losing her mother so early on in her life. One day she gave me a little drawing she had done of an angel with a halo and the word "you" written underneath. It is the most precious thing I have ever received as it came right from her heart.

In the busy lives we lead today, we have many roles to fill - wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, partner, boss, co-worker - but what truly defines us, is our role as a mother. If we, as mothers, can teach our children about love and the respect that love deserves, starting right at the beginning of their lives, the odds are so much greater that love will blossom in our children and be carried through to the next generation and the next. As John Lennon said: "Love is all we need!"

A Mother's Love by Nicholas Gordon
A mother's love determines how

We love ourselves and others.

There is no sky we'll ever see

Not lit by that first love.
Stripped of love, the universe

Would drive us mad with pain;

But we are born into a world

That greets our cries with joy.
How much I owe you for the kiss

That told me who I was!

The greatest gift--a love of life--

Lay laughing in your eyes.
Because of you my world still has

The soft grace of your smile;

And every wind of fortune bears

The scent of your caress.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Great Cathedrals & Angels

I love the rarefied air inside the great cathedrals of the world. I imagine I am breathing in the hopes, dreams and prayers of all those who have come before as I bask in the calm sense of peace and tranquility contained within their ancient walls. It's hard not to believe in something much greater than anything we can conceive that connects us all when standing in such hallowed spaces.

When I was a child, I believed the angels lived in cathedrals and I planned to visit all of the great cathedrals that I read about in books. Since that time I have visited and photographed cathedrals of Rome, Venice, Milan, Spain, Estonia, London and the USA, and each time I am reminded of the angels from my childhood.

I recently visited Rome and was dazzled and inspired by the timeless beauty of that vibrant city's ancient monuments, art treasures and timeless architecture. Genius and inspired design was evident everywhere and I could not get enough of it. The Basilica of St Peter's draws pilgrims from all over the christian world and is the most famous of all catholic cathedrals.

On first walking into the interior of the immensely beautiful basilica, I was totally overwhelmed with emotion and had to consciously pause to take it all in and recompose myself. I remember looking down the long nave to the elaborate golden altar and bronze baldachin created by Bernini, and just at that moment, the sun's rays touched the gilded glass window behind the altar and shone down through the symbol of the dove, creating a pathway of light from the heavens. I was transfixed!

Michelangelo's masterpiece, 'Pieta', the graceful and sensitive marble sculpture of Mary and Jesus, is prominently displayed in the first chapel and is easily the most beautiful work of art I have ever gazed upon. Mary's beautiful face expresses her love for her son and her submission to destiny. This amazing work was created in 1499 when the artist was only 24 years old.

The interior of the magestic dome, designed and constructed by Michelangelo, is magnificently painted by Guiseppe Cesari and bears the inscription in latin, which reads: "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and I will give you the keys to heaven." 

There are so many extraordinary works of art and every bit of the immense space is filled with renaissance monuments and decorations, far too much for the eye to take in. Charles Dickens visited the Basilica of St Peter's in 1846 and described his first impressions. "The first burst of the interior, in all its expansive majesty and glory: and, most of all, the looking up into the dome; is a sensation never to be forgotton."

The Basilica of San Marco in the floating city of Venice is at once a remarkable place of worship for Venetians and a declaration of immense power. This dazzling cathedral, adorned with an amazing array of treasures plundered from places such as Constantinople during the Crusades, is a unique blend of architectural and decorative styles, from Byzantine and Gothic to Renaissance, and is an extremely popular tourist destination.

It is only at dawn, or late at night after all the restaurants have closed and the piazza is almost deserted, that you are really able to appreciate the structure in all its beauty, majesty and mystique.

The enormous gothic cathedral with its rose windows and flying buttresses, in the southern Spanish city of Seville, can only be described in superlatives. It was built on the site of a grand mosque, constructed to show off the city's wealth and power after the Reconquista and is truly a symbol of Spain's faith and identity after centuries of moorish domination.

At the end of a long day exploring Seville in the rain, we visited the magnificent stone cathedral, entering through the intricate Puerta de San Cristobel to the noisy clanging of the Giralda Tower bells. Stepping gratefully into the dimly illuminated sanctuary of the massive interior, we were met with soaring gothic ceilings, beautiful stained glass panels, ornate baroque decorations, and a very real sense of being in an immense space filled with incredible treasures.

When visiting Milan, you cannot miss the Duomo di Milano, one of the most famous cathedrals in Europe. This exceptionally large and elaborate gothic building, constructed in brick and elegantly faced in white candoglia marble, sits in the very heart of the city. Inside, the sunlight streams in through many extraordinary stained glass panels, casting a rainbow-like glow over the interior.

Mark Twain described its beauty best: "What a wonder it is! So good, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful!  A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems ... a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath! ..."

New York City's St Patrick's cathedral is the largest and most beautiful gothic-style Catholic cathedral in the USA. Filled with all the mystery and power of the great medieval cathedrals, it represents a place of peace and tranquility in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps.

It is an elegant and symmetrical creation of considerable beauty and grace, and its soaring spires still inspire, despite being crowded by modern skyscrapers.

Photographing the interiors of these great cathedrals always represents a challenge for me as the light within is low and atmospheric and I am very conscious of not being intrusive with my camera. I usually take my fastest, quietest lens, definitely no flash or tripod, and shoot just a few images. I know, from the observation of other, less considerate photographers, how the sound of a badly timed click of the shutter and firing of the flashgun can ruin the divine atmosphere of peace and meditation in these most tranquil of spaces. ...besides I would not want to frighten the resident angels!

St Paul's Cathedral, London

Angel of Venice

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral - Tallin, Estonia

Intricate architecture of the Seville Cathedral

Basilica of San Marco, Venice

Spires of Il Duomo, Milan