September light

The world around us feels extremely weird at the moment: people wandering around in masks, unreliable information buzzing about our ears, uncertainty about the future. Political leadership is underwhelming, to say the least, and crime has increased, sometimes taking on strange manifestations: all over France, horses are being maimed and killed in their fields, for no discernible reason; in Canada, a cable was cut, sending numerous gondolas plunging into the forest below. What can possibly possess people to think of doing such things? 

The news in general makes for uncomfortable reading.


Due to the circumstances, I have not been gadding about to art shows or going on road trips—thus I have been uninspired to write. I took a break and just enjoyed other people’s posts; lazy, I know—but, after all, it’s not homework!


My refuge, as always, is nature. In Greece the light has subtly changed, heralding the coming of autumn, although the temperature is still high: it’s yellow and mellow. The pomegranates are ripening on the trees, so are the olives. The bougainvillea is blazing.  The house is full of baby geckos. I will try to capture some of this with paint and paper
; meanwhile, enjoy these few photos.

 

Listening to bees buzzing around I thought what fascinating creatures they are: I recently read an article describing how scientists are “scent training” honeybees like search dogs. They believe establishing long-term memory scents in bees could help boost crops like almonds, pears and apples.

Honeybees were given food scented with odours that mimicked sunflowers which then altered their choices about which plants to visit. Isn’t that amazing?


Also, I find the scent of jasmine irresistible—so subtle but bewitching. I’m digressing, I know, but I just wanted to reconnect: a few people have told me off for the radio silence. I’ve got a couple more interesting posts on the boil, so stay tuned! 

Liminal time

Here’s a wonderful post from my friend Anne Lawson, about the strange times we live in. Anne is an artist so have a look at the work on her blog, too!

Anne Lawson Art

Melbourne has been in Stage 4 lockdown for a few weeks now. Exercise once a day for a maximum of an hour; shopping for essentials once a day and only one person; only within a 5 km radius. And a curfew from 8:00 at night to 5:00 in the morning. Businesses have been severely curtailed, with only essential work to be carried out and workers needing a permit to show they are essential.

Mask-wearing has been mandatory for about a month, and most people are complying.

Our borders with NSW and South Australia are closed.

Fortunately these very strict measures seem to be bringing the numbers down, although our elderly in residential care have had a very tragic time. You might like to read my last post about our Elders.

And me? Thank you for asking! I feel that I have been doing this for ever, and indeed it has…

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Wednesday Wander Revisited – Panathenaic Olympic Stadium, Greece

You might like to read about this wonderful stadium, made out of white marble and blessed with great acoustics. At the 2004 Olympics, I went there to watch the archery competition.

Helen Glynn Jones

I originally posted this Wander almost exactly four years ago, when the Olympics were in full swing in Rio, the world celebrating together as it usually does. However, although the 2020 Olympics were scheduled to take place this month, things are much different. The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until next year, but even that hasn’t been confirmed, as we live in such uncertain times. It’s such a shame, and I really feel for the athletes who have been working towards this for so long. I’m not much of a watcher of sport, but there is something about the Olympic Games that captures my imagination, and I find myself caught up in the atmosphere and excitement of it all. Therefore, as we have no Olympics to celebrate this year, I thought I might revisit a Wander that takes us to where the modern Olympics began…

Olympic Stadium 2I thought it might be…

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Drawings

Despite the lockdown we’ve been having quite a busy time what with one thing and another, and I’ve found it difficult in the last few weeks to work on any larger paintings. Especially since my studio is in the kitchen, and larger paintings have to go on the kitchen table, then the lot must be cleared away before meals if we are to be more than two using it. Is it any wonder that I work with water-based media? Oils would be impossible, what with the smell of turpentine and the permanent drips everywhere.

I’m not complaining, though, because I do love to work on paper. Often I just make a series of drawings.

Can you see the lovely deckled edges?

I treated myself to a bunch of sheets of handmade paper from Nepal, Bhutan and India. I found it on Etsy, at a marvelous shop called TornEdgePaper, which has a huge selection at very reasonable prices, should anyone be interested. They’re all different shades, and thicknesses and surfaces, and, although some are so thin and delicate as to be almost transparent, they are impressively strong.

I’ve been using ink, pencil, graphite, gesso, watercolor and collage.

Trying out different effects.

The one below is a floral study on tinted paper, using aquarelle pencils. Irises make such weird and wonderful shapes.

An ink drawing, this time on normal watercolor paper, featuring a raven with a gold leaf background.

Last but not least, a pencil drawing with origami paper collage. It’s titled ‘Boy on horse with birds’, and I imagined him as a kind of young samouraï.

 

Minecraft: the Earth Project

Meanwhile…

Being unable to roam the world due to lockdown, some people, most of whom were probably nerdy loners in the first place—albeit geniuses—have decided to recreate the world indoors on a one to one scale, via Minecraft.
What the hell is Minecraft, I can hear some of you shriek (probably anyone over the age of 13). It is a video game, I answer, where players can build anything their imagination can come up with, using blocks of a variety of materials provided. If you want to find out more, or even learn how to do it, YouTube is full of (FREE!!) videos. There is a small drawback, in that the infant instructors have such boring voices and deliveries that they are guaranteed to send you to sleep in five minutes flat. Trust me, I know. But I have nevertheless seen with my very eyes children of 7 or 8 build the most amazing, if hideous, constructions of every sort: towers, castles, spaceships. Middle Earth. Dragons, and sheep. You get my drift. It is actually very clever and quite educational.

 


Back to the point: one of these gamers, known as PippenFTS, has started the Build The Earth Project, using data from Google Earth to generate the terrain on a 1:1 scale. He has called on other players to join him in constructing all man-made structures in every city, town and village across the world.
The response was astounding: more than 130,000 people have come together online to build a life-size recreation of the earth.

For his part, PippenFTS is kicking off by recreating his home city of Seattle, virtual brick by virtual brick, on the Minecraft map.


The idea is for each Minecraft player to start their own Planet Earth map, pick a city or territory, and work on creating it on a 1:1 scale as true to reality as possible. When the building of all the areas is completed, they will be patched together with map editors to combine everyone’s work into a single Earth.

“Literally a week into the quarantine and we’ve already replaced the outside world,” one supporter noted.

In order to build the Earth to scale, PippenFTS first had to overcome some limitations within the game – most significantly, the inability to build more than 256 blocks high. By using a mod called Cubic Chunks, he was able to bypass the game’s vertical height limit and recreate geological wonders like Mount Everest and the Grand Canyon at their full scale.
“All human made structures – all of our cities, our towers, cathedrals, railroads, museums, theatres, parks and skyscrapers – all of it is built and completed in one map that represents our innate human desire to create, to achieve, to persevere in a single visitable and explorable Minecraft world,” he said.
“This would be the world to end all worlds: the single most greatest collective achievement in Minecraft, and I want to see it done in my lifetime. So I’m starting the first brick.”



Builder evilpauwse, a New York college student who is a moderator in the project, said that people are constantly asking why? Why rebuild the Earth within Minecraft?
“To that I say, ‘why not,’” he said. “Something of this scale has never been done before, and is ready for anyone who wants to take on the challenge of doing it.”


The project’s biggest roadblock is organization: with so many volunteers, it’s hard to keep builders focused and working together. Therefore various committees and systems are being set up. But all the builders love the challenge of capturing the earth in this moment in time, in all its glory.

 

Here’s a short video for anyone interested. Maybe some of you would even like to join in? 

 

Being Naomi Campbell

As we slowly emerge into the world, blinking behind our masks and washing our hands every 17 1/2 minutes, one aspect of life remains, and looks likely to remain, problematic: air travel.
Fantastic, I hear some of you say—it’s a chance to reduce people’s carbon footprints immeasurably and, as such, it can only be a good thing. Undoubtedly, but there still remains the small matter of needing to visit farflung family, wanting to see a little more of the world before we croak, and, dare I say it, having the occasional “vacation”. However, the dangers of recycled air, germs clinging nefariously to every surface, and the impossibility of observing the 2-meter distancing rule makes every flight an obstacle course.

But fear not, Naomi Campbell has already shown us the way. For those of you who’ve been on Mars or somewhere, Naomi Campbell is A Supermodel. A Germophobic Supermodel. She was already photographed years ago, clad in a mask and rubber gloves and thoroughly disinfecting every surface around her seat. Very prescient of her.



Nowadays she travels wearing a full hazmat suit, rendering her totally impervious to nefariously clinging germs of every kind. In case anyone’s wondering, she bought it from Amazon; but I looked, and they’re currently unavailable. However, I’m sure they can be sourced somewhere, making us safe from the above-mentioned germs—and incidentally also ready to assist forensics with any crime happening inflight, from suspicious deaths to thefts of passengers’ packed lunches.

Yes, it is true that no food will be served on flights anymore, perhaps another good thing all around, given the quality of the meals. However, being a dab hand at assembling the most delicious little sandwiches made of crustless, thinly sliced sourdough and delectable fillings (one of my multiple culinary skills, I might add), I can totally understand someone wanting to swap them with their own hastily assembled white-bread-and-processed-cheese+a bag of crisps. But I digress, because we are not to be allowed to use the toilets either (did I mention germs?), thus depriving our seat neighbors of theft opportunities. Anyway, how can one use an airplane toilet while wearing a hazmat suit?



And, while we’re still on the subject of the suits, what about going through security? We already had to almost get naked, having to discard jackets, cardigans, belts and boots. Taking off the whole suit? A nightmare!

To go back to the 2-meter rule, it is impossible to enforce in the air, because planes would have to fly with 6 passengers max per flight. So I foresee we will still be packed like sardines in economy, but in our own individual plexiglass compartment, breathing through those little orange dropdown oxygen masks.


All I can say is, Happy Landings!

 

Photos from Google

Erasing history

The news these days are full of stories of social unrest. Something that has been brewing for a while, as society divides become greater, rather than narrower.
However, I find myself perplexed by the practice of tearing down statues of people who were slave traders or racists, along with their other attributes, for which they were celebrated.

 


History is built in shades of grey: unfortunately human nature is such that the strong often prey on the weak.
Alexander the Great built wondrous libraries in his glorious conquest of the ‘known world’, but also massacred plenty of ‘barbarians’ along the way. In the democracy of classical Athens, there were slaves, who did not have a vote—and neither did women, or foreigners.
The men who hauled blocks of marble to build the Parthenon were not blessed with paid holidays and health care. Should we tear down the Pyramids, because they were built in sweat and blood?
Religions and sects have persecuted, burnt, and tortured people who did not share their beliefs. Should we tear down the churches and temples?
Some of the slave traders were black themselves, preying upon their own kind. And racism is not confined to blacks—many others have borne the brunt of it. Native Americans, Maoris, Armenians, Jews, Tutus, the list is long—anyone who found themselves in the minority in the place they lived in. Human nature.


Here is an anecdote: I recall, when visiting one of the Balkan countries during Communism—I think Bulgaria—being shown around a monument by a local guide. It consisted of a large circle dug into the ground, two stories below. It was open to the sky and, all around the perimeter, stood a row of larger-than-life bronze statues representing workers: one held a scythe, another a plow, a third a hammer, and so on. The whole thing was rather ghastly but, was was weirder still, was that when I asked the guide who was the sculptor who made them, she answered, ‘We don’t know.’
‘How can you not know? This is not antique, it’s recent.’
She hemmed and hawed, then she said: ‘He fell out with the regime, and his name was erased from the books.’
Such a narrow minded way of looking at things.


Things that happened, happened. Should we try to erase the past? I think it’s better to reserve our energies for improving the present—with more efficient laws, and with reform, not destruction. Thousands of people are slaves still, in the 21st century—and they’re not all black. There’s a huge immigration crisis, worldwide. There are people now, today, who have made fortunes exploiting others, but everyone sucks up to them, because their money gives them power, and they also take good care to make large donations to charities and universities. There are huge corporations operating on the returns of sweatshops and the like.

Is it a solution to stop reading Rudyard Kipling, or showing Gone With The Wind?

I’m curious to know what everyone thinks about all this.

The Image of Greece

Fred Boissonnas (18 June 1858 – 17 October 1946), a Swiss photographer from Geneva, made several trips to Greece between 1903 and 1933, documenting all aspects of the country using notes, drawings and especially photographs. He published 14 photo albums dedicated to Greece, many of which belong to the thematic series entitled L’image de la Grèce (The Image of Greece). He travelled around the country, visiting archeological sites as well as remote villages—the first foreign photographer to do so. His aim was to contribute to the identity of Greece in Europe.

Parga, 1913


Boissonnas persuaded the Greek authorities that his photographs would enhance the country’s political, commercial and touristic image abroad.

 

Shepherds on Mount Parnassus, 1903


Looking at these pictures, one can be forgiven for asking, how?

 

 

Boissonnas being pulled up to a monastery in Meteora, by net.


Certainly, they are wonderful and picturesque daguerreotypes, but they portray a poor though beautiful country, where the traveler could hardly expect to find many comforts.

 

A street in Plaka, Athens
Market street, Andritsaina, 1903



Cities with roads still unpaved.

 

Metsovo, 1913

Barefoot village children.

 

View of the Parthenon, 1908



Unrestored antiquities.

Interior in Lakkoi, 1911

 

Village street in Elassona, 1903



Mostly small and unprepossessing houses.

The 17th-century bridge of Arta, to which an ancient legend is attached.



Because the photos are in black and white, they cannot show the pure blue skies, the sunny landscapes.

 

A courtyard in Akrata, 1903


The people in the photographs are unsmiling, being unused to posing, so the natural friendliness and hospitality of the Greeks is difficult to discern.

 

A wealthy man’s house in Kastoria, 1911


Also at the time people did not lounge on beaches in bikinis, getting a tan, so these are as far from contemporary travel photography as one can imagine.

Interior with loom, Andritsaina, 1903
A A celebration in Corfu, 1903


However, they are a document of those years, and as such fascinating. The clothes, the landscapes with few signs of human intervention, the simplicity of life.

 

Ermou Street, 1920. This is now one of the busiest shopping streets in downtown Athens. Note the Byzantine church of Kapnikarea at the end of the street.
A view of the Acropolis, with grazing sheep, 1903


At the time the photos did serve the purpose of promoting Greece to foreigners, and Boissonnas was financially aided and personally supported by prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos, to whom his publications were dedicated. These were sent to all Greek embassies and the prominent political personalities of the era.

 

 

Day trip to Mycenae

Greece is now opening up its borders to travelers, so if any of you are thinking of taking the plunge, here’s another wonderful place to visit. For the rest, a little more armchair traveling on a ThrowbackThursday, from a trip taken in 2016

Letters from Athens

In the Iliad, Homer described Mycenae as ‘a city rich in gold.’ It was the legendary home of King Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks who went to Troy to fight the Trojan War. The Greeks of classical antiquity idealized the Mycenaean period as a glorious period of heroes, closeness of the gods and material wealth, as described in the Trojan Epic cycle.
In 1876, amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann set out to prove the historical accuracy of the Iliad by identifying the places described by Homer. Using the text of Pausanias, the second-century A.D. traveller, as his guide, he excavated the site at Mycenae, discovering the deep shaft graves where bodies were buried dressed in lavishly decorated shrouds adorned with gold items and diadems and with their faces covered by masks of gold or electrum (such as the Mask of Agamemnon, below).

Copy of the mask of Agamemenon Copy of the mask of Agamemenon

However…

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A bridge wrapped up.

Paris, 1985: I will never forget walking by the Seine with my French cousins on a moonlit night to see the Pont Neuf wrapped up like a parcel. Built in 1606, the Pont-Neuf has joined the left and right banks and the Île de la Cité, the heart of Paris, for over 400 years.

 



The temporary installation (lasting for 14 days) was completed by 300 workers who deployed 450,000 square feet (41,800 square meters) of woven polyamide fabric, silky in appearance and golden sandstone in color. The fabric was restrained by 8 miles (13 kilometers) of rope and secured by 12.1 tons of steel chains encircling the base of each tower underwater.

 


The artwork was the brainchild of the artists Christo, who has sadly just died, and his wife Jeanne-Claude, who passed away in 2009.

All expenses for The Pont Neuf Wrapped were borne by the artists (as in all their other projects) through the sale of preparatory drawings and collages as well as earlier works. The artists did not accept sponsorship of any kind.

 



Christo and Jeanne-Claude were known for their large-scale site-specific installations wrapped in fabric. Their work took years of careful preparation, involving technical solutions, political negotiation, permitting and environmental approval, hearings and public persuasion. Their purpose: the immediate aesthetic impact; joy, beauty, and new ways of seeing the familiar.

The Pont Neuf was their only work I had the chance to see live, and it left an indelible impression. Reading of Christo’s death brought it all back as if it was yesterday, so I felt like talking about it, even though I’ve just said I wouldn’t keep writing obituaries.

 


Anyone interested in photos of their other works (which included the Reichstag in Berlin, Running Fence in California, Surrounded Islands in Miami and The Gates in New York City’s Central Park ) you can click .here.