Swaying stalks of light

The Vessel of Horticultural Plenty looks brilliant at night, but Tilly and I aren’t allowed out then – it’s way past our bedtime. Needless to say, it’s still striking during the daytime.

Funded by ArtsACT in 2009, the artist is Warren Langley.

Light sculpture 2  Light sculpture Tilly

The sculpture is made of galvanised steel, polycarbonate and coloured LED lights. The strips of lighting sway in the breeze, casting a colourful swathe through the night sky. Here’s a picture of what it looks like at night.

It’s located in Childers Street, in Canberra as part of the new ANU precinct (at the Barry Drive end).

There is another Warren Langley glass and light sculpture at the Canberra Glassworks. Will have to ask for a pass out to see that one evening.

Wooden smiles

This time last year I was embarking on a three week trip in the US and Canada with my mum.  It was an amazing experience, and we managed to visit quite a few cultural and historical sites.

The scenery was awesome in the true sense of the word, not just some overused adjective.  But the reason I started thinking about the trip was in relation to the word “face” for a photography challenge; and these images popped instantly into my head.

Oar face Horse head Face 1

I was completely captivated by the various masks I saw throughout the journey; some are from the north west coast of British Columbia, near the town of Prince Rupert.  The museum there was small, but very interesting with lots of statues, masks, and tools.

Red mask

And the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver was overwhelming, with a comprehensive collection of artefacts from indigenous communities all over the world.

Totem 3 Totem 2 Totem 1 Totem 4

But the faces on the totems are in many ways the most striking, particularly the brightly painted ones.  I wonder what the originals were like as the artists surely didn’t have access to such strong colours.  I wish I had taken more notice of their stories, but as usual, I was more interested in framing the shot and getting to the next spot.

A dog walk to A Short Walk

I visit Weston Creek (ACT) shops several times a week – they’re my “local” shops – and I see this delightful sculpture pretty much every time, driving in from the western end of Hindmarsh Drive.

Weston 3

It reminds me of going regularly to the shops with our two children – although we rarely skip through them (any more).  The notes in ArtsACT’s guide to ACT public art say that Mathew Calvert’s statue, A Short Walk, is of three siblings and is derived from the iconic pedestrian crossing sign.

To me, it’s a joyful representation and I am very fond of it.  However, the artist has a more serious message about road safety, and I suspect the statues’ placement so close to the busy Hindmarsh Drive is purposeful, to remind us of pedestrians as we whizz past in our cars.

Weston Tilly 1 Weston taillights

The statues are about three times the size of an average person and are made from steel and highly polished concrete. The artist has hand rendered pieces of broken vehicle tail lights into the surfaces of the statues.  It’s confronting when you get up close – there’s so much of it, and I guess that is part of his statement about road safety.

Further information about Mathew Calvert, who is based in Tasmania, is here.

Takes the cake – the parent as baker

Our youngest child is turning 12.  What a landmark.  And because of different commitments (read netball weekends) the celebrations will be slightly delayed.  So I am not madly scrambling around trying to tidy the house, juggling visiting family and baking cakes.  And it feels all wrong.

Over the years, Rod and I have made many birthday cakes together for both of our children.  Starting off in our old house, the first birthday for our elder daughter was a very simple orange cake. So healthy. No icing.  One candle.  It didn’t last long.

Hannah's 1st birthday cake Cait's 1st birthday

By the time she was two, the Australian Women’s Weekly children’s birthday cake book had been found, and we were off and running.

Requests for butterflies, lolly shops, paint boxes, number cakes and tigers ensued from both children at birthday time.

IMG_1025  IMG_0011

Surprisingly for two people without a crafty bone in their body, Rod and I were able to fashion something that looked like the cakes in the book every time. Shows how well tested they are.  This was despite having a dud oven for at least six of those years, until we could stand it no longer.  I think Rod made at least two different late night trips to the supermarket to get more supplies when the cakes died in the oven. And we were usually making them at 10pm on a Friday night, after a week’s work, so I think we did ok.  Certainly, they all were eaten, so we musta done good! Right? (well, the butterfly looks a bit dodgy, I admit.)

Still, it’s made me curious about all of those cakes.  What were they again?  Who had what?

This is a selection of just some of the birthday cakes over the years.

IMG_1017 hannah's birthday Sep 06 016 Hannah's 6 cake caitlin's 7th  birthday 08 009  Tiger two years Caitlin Caitlin's fifth birthday 017 IMG_6248

Who knows what we’ll try and do next?

Relic marks the spot

Relic stands at the end of University Avenue, at the beginning of the Australian National University Campus. Winner of the McClelland Sculpture Prize (2007), the artist is an Australian, Rick Amor, who is also a painter and has been an official Australian war artist. The original sculpture of Relic is in the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park  in Langwarrin, Victoria.  Through ArtsACT, the ACT Government commissioned this version of Relic in 2007.

It’s a very odd looking sculpture, although seemingly much loved by students, as it is often clothed with a hat or a scarf in winter to keep away the Canberra chill. I am not sure whether the empty bottles (in the picture) are a relic of past fun or an artistic statement.  I didn’t want to move them for my photo.

SKinny statue 2

Despite this bit of humour, though, when I see it, I am always confronted by the muscularity of the body, the definition and power of the muscle and sinew, and the absent arms.  Its shadow is very sinister and the statue towers over you when you get close, marking its spot.

Made in bronze, it matches another large bronze statue, The Dog (2002), located at the National Gallery of Australia. Further information here .

Skinny statue with dog

And here’s Tilly pretending to be a dog in a statue.

Do the sins of the fathers revisit the sons?

The Place Beyond the Pines is a mesmerising film; a long, convoluted story of cross generational responsibility, corruption, the break down of moral codes, the value of an education and the connections it can offer, and the importance of both apology and absolution before things can move on.

Told in two parts over a 17 year period, the credibility of the story line is sometimes stretched.  But mostly, this saga of the impact of fathers’ behaviour on their children’s lives is moving and powerful.

Ryan Gosling plays a heavily tattooed, carny motor bike rider, Luke, a drifter and a grifter, who is surprised when he learns that he is the father of a one year old son, conceived a year earlier when the carnival had been in Schenectady (New York State).  Wanting to do the right thing by the baby’s mother, Romina (Eva Mendes) and possibly yearning for some kind of stability himself, the almost illiterate “Handsome Luke” decides to stay in town to get to know his son and to try to provide for him and his mother.

Gosling Mendes

But in the year gone by, Romina has taken up with Kofi, and she lives with the baby and her own mother in Kofi’s house.  Luke is not welcome, despite Romina’s feelings for him, and his best efforts fall short of his aim of providing a stable income that can buy things for the baby.

Luke comes across the greasiest of grease monkeys, Robin, played by Ben Mendelsohn.  They meet after Robin sees Luke riding his motorcycle at breakneck speed through the pine forest.  They race along together, reminiscent of the forest chase scenes in The Empire Strikes Back, with branches and leaves thwacking the cameras as they speed by.  But there are no special effects here.  Just full throttle speed, dare devil moves and a recklessness born from a tough-arsed attitude to life. Needless to say, Robin soon develops plans for Luke’s riding skills and those plans are on the wrong side of the law.

The subsequent story arc leads us to newby beat cop, Avery Cross, played by Bradley Cooper.  Handsome, clean, fit, Avery is injured in the line of duty and called a hero, then learns first hand how easily others’ corruption can trick you, catch you off guard, and reel you in.  Avery turns to his judge father for advice, for whom he has previously expressed some disdain.  Together they plot a way for Avery to take on the corruption head first, and he goes on to build a political career that leads in time all the way to the top.

The compare and contrast of the two story lines is simple – Avery has privilege and education versus Luke has poverty and homelessness, and all of the attendant social and emotional baggage in both stories is played out.  But when the two sons of these men meet up at school, the third act of the film (in itself a free-standing story) seems to be showing us just how the sins of the fathers and mothers are visited on their children, despite their best efforts for this not to be the case.

Avery’s son, AJ is a selfish, manipulative thug, who only knows how to have a good time.  Jason, the son of Luke, has grown up without knowledge of his father (although Kofi does a good Darth Vader impression – “I am your father” – and it’s true – he was there when Jason was born and has stayed with Romina, and had another child with her).  Regardless, Jason goes looking for answers about his father, and after learning the story, the denouement sees him swapping his pushbike for a new motorbike. Although he’s never been on one before, his natural, inherited talent sees him through.  He heads off beyond the pines.

The establishing shots of Schenectady’s town hall clock surrounded by pine forests place the story and are used several times.  The pines are shown surrounding the town, and bad things happen in that pine forest – it’s almost primordial, reminiscent of when “monsters” lived in the deep, dark woods.  Avery refuses to go deep into the forest with a colleague due to his fear of what might happen to him in there. And later on he again ends up in the forest, in danger.

On taking responsibility for his actions, though, he is able to escape, and to move on in his life, both in terms of his relationship with AJ, in which is he absent much of the time, and also in relation to the actions that affected Luke.  This seems to break the nexus, and allows Jason to move on, beyond the pines.

The acting is strong in this film, and it’s possible to believe in the characters and their motivations, despite the convoluted storyline. The women’s roles are minor – this is about boys and their dads, is blood thicker than water, what do we inherit and what do we learn, what makes a good dad, and ultimately, at what time do we take responsibility for our actions, accept the past, shake off its consequences, and move on to the next phase.  Avery tries to protect Jason, but is the apology he offers the key that unlocks Jason’s future? Will it be bright and shiny beyond the pines?

Further info: http://focusfeatures.com/the_place_beyond_the_pines