When joy leaves

A few years back I experienced an extraordinary sensation.  I was in a yoga class and at some stage I had a powerful feeling of joy leaving me. I could feel it and almost see it, watch it leaving the room. I felt bereft.  It’s not unusual to have strong emotional experiences in yoga; some poses, especially deep back bends, open the heart, others open the hips, where lots of emotions are stored. In ancient Indian philosophy  (especially Kundalini and Ayurveda) there is a belief that there are energy centers within the human body – chakras – that help to regulate all its processes, from organ function to the immune system and emotions.  There are yoga poses associated with these chakras and many yoga teachers use these poses to work with chakras: to balance and align.

I haven’t been a believer in chakras.  I’m not a spiritual person.  Yoga was for me a form of physical exercise which eventually became something more powerful; I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it was spiritual, but it certainly made me feel much better –  less anxious, calmer, happier, better.  I always marvelled (and still do) that no matter how I felt and what my intention was for going to a yoga class, somehow I always came out feeling like I got exactly what I needed – and this is contrary to what I thought I was after. I would always walk out more energised, smiling, grateful for the class.  

So having this experience of being abandoned by joy has felt devastating.  This was some 2 years ago and I still have this sensation that joy got up and left and hasn’t yet returned.  I miss joy.

 

A note on chakras:
There are 7 chakras positioned throughout the body, from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Each chakra has its own vibrational frequency, that is depicted through a specific chakra color, and governs specific functions:

  • Red is the color of the root chakra (first chakra); it’s located at the perineum, the base of your spine.  It symbolises safety, survival, grounding, nourishment from the Earth energy. Its function is concerned with earthly grounding and physical survival. 
  • Orange is the color of the sacral chakra (second chakra); it carries meanings associated with emotions, creativity, sexuality, and is associated with water, flow.
  • Yellow is the color of the solar plexus chakra (third chakra) and symbolises mental activities, intellect, personal power, will.
  • Green is the color of the heart chakra (fourth chakra) which is connected with love, relating, integration, compassion.
  •  Blue is the color of the throat chakra (fifth chakra); it symbolises self expression, expression of truth, creative expression, communication, perfect form and patterns.
  • Purple (or deep indigo blue) is the color of the third eye chakra (sixth chakra) which evokes intuition, extrasensory perception, inner wisdom.
  •  White is the color of the crown chakra (seventh chakra) and is associated with the universal, connection with spirituality, consciousness.

 

Gerhard Richter: The Life of Images

If you don’t know who Gerhard Richter is, you’re probably not alone.  He is considered to be one of the greatest artists of out time, having had extensive exhibitions at both the Tate and the Pompidou yet he has been glaringly absent from any collections in Australia.  This exhibition at QAGOMA is a first for Australia, and a real coup.

Richters oeuvre is prolific and stylistically varied: “I like everything that has no style: dictionaries, photographs, nature, myself and my paintings,” he says.  His artwork references other historical images and he often makes use of photographs, distorting them to create something entirely new. Birkenau (2014) consists of 4 large panels which seem to be completely abstract – black, white, green and red paint over a grey background.  But in fact these are based on photographs taken in secret by a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in August 1944. Richter took copies of the photos, blew them up and painted over them again and again until they appeared to be monumental abstracts.  

Elsewhere, Richter creates works of art using the twin mediums of photograph and paint to present the viewer with a conundrum:  deliberate defacing of photographs or a merging of visual forms to create a new way image? In the “Overpainted Photographs”, Richter smears oil paint over commercially printed post-card sized photographs. The paint is then pressed or scraped or lifted to give various effects. The photographs are just legible beyond the paint. You can just make out the scene below the paint: a beach, a new mother,  a familiar landmark or monument.  It’s an interesting artistic device: we peer to identify what’s below the paint and once having identified the image we return to regard the paint and the image as a whole.  An entirely other work of art.

His work is both illusory and painterly. Richter is a master painter – his still-life paintings are almost photographic – photo-realist – but what I found more interesting are the photographic-like portraits that he then blurrs, sometimes only slightly, other times more severely.  He uses a kitchen squeegee to move the paint over the canvas once its almost dry, thereby keeping the image intact.

Among the artworks on show at QAGOMA are the iconic portraits Reader (804) 1994 and Ella (903-1) 2007, still-life paintings including Two candles (499-4) 1982 and Orchid (848-9) 1997, and the evocative landscapes such as Meadowland (572-4) 1985 that evokes German Romantic painting. 

 

There is also a long gallery devoted to  ATLAS Overview, an extensive 400-panel extract from Richter’s encyclopaedic archival project ATLAS 1962 –  an ongoing collection of photographs, sketches, collages and cuttings that he has drawn on for his paintings throughout his career.  Richter personally nominated and arranged the selection of these images on display at GOMA.

It is a show that needs multiple viewings.  Fortunately it runs through till 4 February 2018.  I highly recommend spending some hours with these incredibly fascinating works.

 

My mini break – indulging the day away

The other day I accompanied my husband on his business trip to Brisbane – the big city for us these days.  It was just an overnight trip but it provided the opportunity to get to all those shops that were no longer available to me – the Fabric Shop, Lulu Lemon, Mecca, etc.

Although the experience began a bit wobbly – we turned up to check in at the hotel only to find our booking had been made for the previous week – the hotel staff very efficiently righted wrongs and turned things around. Checkout was at 11am – not really a problem but I wanted to go to the gym in the morning and didn’t want to get up very early or rush so asked if a later check out was possible.  No problem – 1pm!  Our room was on the 18th floor with city views, large and spacious and well appointed with a comfortable king-size bed and lots of comfy pillows.  I’m a real pillow fanatic and can’t sleep if the pillow isn’t right.  These ones were perfect.

The bathroom was also nice and big and even better – had a big bath.  Ah, I thought:  gym followed by a luxurious soak.  But meantime, having unpacked it was definitely time to have a drink in the bar downstairs.  We were staying at the Marriott and although it’s a bit staid, the service is impeccable.  The bar downstairs felt like something out of a 50’s movie – all dim lights and small tables – perfect setting for a dirty martini.  Don’t know why but I was surprised at how good it was.  I suppose it’s not a drink that’s commonly called for but then again, in the service/hospitality industry, isn’t that what a good bar tender should do: mix the perfect martini?  So, another tick for this hotel’s staff.  Excellent service all round.

I had planned to sleep in the next morning but woke early (why is it that men can’t move about quietly?) and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Not wanting to get up and start my day I switched on the tv, made myself a cup of tea, got out my knitting and hopped back into bed. I spent the next hour or so knitting in bed and watching tv.  Not something I’ve ever done before.  Not something I imagine anyone has done before. It felt very indulgent.

Eventually I’d had enough knitting – and was ready for a coffee – so it was time to get to the gym.  An hour later I was back in my room and running the bath.  There’s something rather decadent about having a morning bath.  Pure luxury.  The only thing that was missing was a glass of champagne and while I did (briefly) consider calling down for one, I thought this might be a bit impractical having already submerged myself in a bath full of bubbles.

Bathed and dressed I sought out a good coffee and then sat and attended to emails and other business before packing up and calling down to request my car.  12.45pm.  A very nice start to the day.  It felt like I was on holidays.  Had I been staying longer I would have indulged in a spa session and then had a glass of wine in the bar. And then perhaps gone to see a movie.  As it was, I ran my errands and had a leisurely lunch before picking up my husband and driving back home.

I realised that it’s that easy to give yourself a treat – a day off.  Make use of all the facilities in the hotel and pamper yourself.  A real ‘go slow’ day.  It was the best mini break I’ve had in a long long time.

Remember when?

I’ve been having conversations recently about favourite old time things: movies, television series, games – childhood really – and one thing leads to another.    It’s the “remember x?” conversation.  Which led me to thinking about all the things we used to do in our childhood that kids no longer do; they’re either no longer acceptable or kids aren’t interested in them in this new technology-driven digital era.

Some of the activities we indulged in:

  • – riding bicycles without helmets around the neighbourhood;
  • – in summertime, taking off in the morning and not returning till dinner time;
  • – hanging out with kids in the neighbourhood, going from house to house;
  • – going to the local swimming pool on our own;
  • – sunbaking: slathering on baby oil to tan – it wasn’t a day out in the sun unless you came back red and burnt and then experienced the joys of peeling long strips of skin off your body;
  • – staying in the water in the pool even when there were thunderstorms;
  • – travelling in cars without seatbelts;
  • – riding in the back of station wagons and utes;
  • – climbing trees and roof tops;
  • – setting off crackers. My husband tells tales of lighting crackers and throwing them through the letter slots of people’s front doors!!;
  • – creating our own “see-saw” out of planks of wood precariously perched on a tree stump;
  • – making our own billy-carts which had steering but no brakes;
  • – playing with cap guns and air rifles.
  • – playing jacks with either plastic jacks or improvising with apricot stones;
  • – playing elastics, skipping rope, hopscotch and hoola hoops;
  • – gutterball, which consisted of bouncing a tennis ball off the side of the gutter and catching it – you kept going until you missed and made up fancier and more daring throws;
  • – marbles – anywhere there was a flat surface, usually the pavement;
  • – on long car journeys, we amused ourselves with “eye spy” and “hangman” and “noughts & crosses”;

toy-guns
and then there was a game we played (solo) with a tennis ball in the end of a stocking against a brick wall (go figure!) to the rhyme of: “hello, hello, hello sir, take me to the show sir, yes sir, no sir….” and a similar game called “Oliver Twist” (see below).

As kids my sister and I spent many hours covering the outside of our brick house with chalk, gradually extending around all 3 sides (the front was off-limits!) and up as far as we could reach, either playing ‘school’ or just drawing.  Our dad painted the corridor of the back part of the house with washable paint so we could also draw on that – kept us endlessly amused and occupied during the unheated cold winter.

chalk drawing_web
In summertime we used to get up early and lie on the couch reading books and then drag blankets and cushions outside to lie in the sun reading and looking up at the sky and making pictures out of the clouds. Nothing to do.

We played underneath trees and set up shop, bringing out tins of things from the kitchen and making our own pretend money.  Mum had a set of old fashioned scales with little brass weights which we often brought out so that we could weigh things.

Growing up in Melbourne where we caught trams a lot (mum didn’t drive and so we walked everywhere or caught the tram); one of our favourite past-times was playing “trams” whereby one of us would be the conductor (my grandmother had a belt hole-puncher which was a perfect substitute for the ticket puncher  tram conductors used) and the other one would hang on to the clothes line (a ‘hills hoist’, that iconic Australian backyard staple) as though hanging on to an overhead hand strap.  We would simply walk around in circles.  Sounds pathetic, but it took very little to live in our imagination.

There was a colonnade of plane trees in the grounds of our Primary school and in the autumn as the leaves would fall we would sweep them up to configure them into ‘houses’ – floor plans  – with the aim of playing ‘families’.  But the real joy was just in the physicality of creating the shapes. We were always on the go, playing games, sport, creating things. And when we weren’t on the go we were making things: dolls’ clothes, paper doll outfits, sewing, baking (our poor mothers!) or reading – lost in the realms of fantasy and fiction.

I don’t think we were ever bored.

Oliver Twist Ball game:

Oliver Twist, (Bounce, catch) Can you do this?(Bounce, catch)
If so, (Bounce, catch) Do so.(Bounce, catch)
Number one,(Bounce, catch) Touch your tongue. (Bounce, touch tongue, catch)
Number two,(Bounce, catch) Touch your shoe. (Bounce, touch shoe, catch)
Number three,(Bounce, catch) Touch your knee. (Bounce, touch knee, catch)
Number four,(Bounce, catch) Touch the floor. (Bounce, touch ground, catch)
Number five,(Bounce, catch) Make a hive. (Bounce, crouch with hands touching overhead, catch)
Number six,(Bounce, catch) Touch the bricks. (Bounce, touch wall, catch)
Number seven,(Bounce, catch) Go to heaven. (Bounce, jump in the air with your arms raised, catch)
Number eight,(Bounce, catch)Touch your mate. (Bounce, touch your friend, catch)
Number nine,(Bounce, catch) Touch your spine. (Bounce, touch your spine, catch)
Number ten,(Bounce, catch) Start again. (Bounce, catch the ball and start again)

Hello world!

Welcome to Not a Fashionista where I share random thoughts about all the various aspects of being a woman in the 21st century.  Hope you enjoy, and if you do, please leave a comment.

Those awkward moments….

Oops, just had one of those awkward moments at the yoga centre where I needed to have a shower in the very open communal shower space and realised I only had a small hand towel with me.
My intention was simply to wipe down my sweat with a towel and change back into my clothes to go to my acupuncture appointment. At first I had thought of just going in my yoga clothes but thought better of it – too sweaty. For some reason I hadn’t planned on a sweaty class but by the time it was over I was drenched and a wipe down would not do.
The shower cubicles at my yoga studio are located between the men and women’s changing rooms but they’re right at the end of the corridor for everyone to see. No problem if you have a towel to wrap around yourself. Problematic if you don’t. Reason being is that the cubicles are designed in such a way that there really isn’t anywhere to put stuff so that it remains dry – just one hook on the back of the door. So its not like you can take you clothes in with you.
What to do? Solution: I had worn a dress so I could take that into the cubicle, hang it on the back of the door and hang my very tiny towel on top. Sweaty yoga pants were kicked beneath the door into the communal space. Quick shower, quick dry – amazing how easy it can be to dry yourself with a little rectangle – stop my feet dry on the sweaty 9and now wet) yoga gear outside, and back to the changing rooms. Whew! Just as well I wasn’t wearing anything more complicated (like jeans that would have required somehow drying my feet and holding the jeans up high to step into so they wouldn’t get wet).
So note to self: do take a larger towel. Just in case.
Namaste.

High heels – a woman’s prerogative

Recently a male friend put forward the proposition that high heeled shoes were the equivalent of Chinese foot binding. This is not an uncommon notion generally put forward by men and militant feministas. But it’s not the same at all. Although both have an erotic aspect to them – Chinese men got off on women’s tiny little feet and there’s something very sexy about a pair of high heeled pointy toed stilettos – Chinese girls had no say in the matter. At age 4 they would have their toes broken and forced down to their soles and then tightly bound. A hideous practice to keep women subjugated (they couldn’t walk very far on those little deformed stumps) and marriageable. The smaller the feet the more marriageable the girl. Not until the early 1930s did this practise stop.

High heels on the other hand are entirely optional. Women can choose to wear them or not. They can choose to wear them all the time or some of the time or just occaisionally. I have a huge selection of shoes and boots with varying heel heights, from ballerina flats, flat sandals, loafers, brogues, to boots on low heels, chunky platform shoes, mid- size heel stilettos to high heeled pointy toed Louboutins. Nobody is making me wear these ridiculously high heeled pointy toed shoes. I wear them because I like them and I think they’re sexy.

The other myth perpetuated by men and feministas is that women wear these shoes for men. Also not true. Women wear these shoes for themselves because they feel good in them. And as for the assertion that these foot crippling shoes are designed by men for their own satisfaction,  that might well be true but at least these men have a good sense of style and design. Personally, I think there’s nothing more gorgeous than a well made pair of pointy toed stilettos. We fashionistas do have choices. Oh, and by the way, Jimmy Choo is headed up by Jimmy Choo’s niece, Sandra Choi.

 

The moment I wake up… baring all

One of the things that goes by the wayside when I’m on holidays is makeup. Despite taking a limited range of cosmetics – foundation, tinted moisturiser, blush, eye shadow, eye liner (in 3 different shades), eye brow pencil and lipsticks, I very rarely wear any. Nonetheless I still pack my set of brushes and the basics plus a few extra eye shadows in case we go out somewhere fancy and I need to look good. But mostly, we’re just tramping around or driving in a car or walking and its either too hot or just not necessary. No one sees me and it does seem like a waste of time to put it all on and then have to take it all off at the end of the day. Much easier just to moisturise, sunscreen, apply a slick of lipstick and go.

I usually always wear eye liner (pencil) and mascara, lip liner and lipstick. This time, I’ve only been putting on lipstick – not even lip liner. Have my standards dropped? Or is it that traveling and being anonymous gives you the freedom to go au naturelle. Its liberating in a way. When I was working I spent quite some minutes preening – primer, sunscreen foundation, bronzer, blush, eye primer, shadow, liner, mascara, lip liner, lipstick. And the hair. When I stopped work there seemed no real need to do all that but I nonetheless wore eyeshadow, eye liner and mascara and the lipstick (with requisite liner) and more recently as the weather warmed up tinted moisturiser with a high SPF.

So as I pack my stuff at the end of each leg of our journey and put away the various cosmetic bags I wonder why I bothered taking so much. Its the “what if” factor. What if we go out and I need to look good? The reality is, no one sees me and no one cares. Its been quite liberating to forgo these beauty rituals and just make do with the essentials: moisturiser and eye cream and lipstick. Now if only I could pack this lightly on my next journey.

Rain stopped and all’s right with the world

At last the rains have stopped and we’re enjoying a balmy evening with a warm breeze. Sitting in the Le Meridien lobby overlooking the lush gardens enjoying a post dinner drink. There’s nothing to do here. That’s the point of one of these holidays – an opportunity to just switch off, put your brain on hold and just relax. For some, that’s easy to do. For others – me – it poses a challenge. But after all the rain and feeling a bit stir crazy its a welcome respite to feel that this is what holidays are all about. I could do with another Fra Angelico on ice but maybe that’s a bit excessive. Then again, it’s holiday time. Which means indulgence. We had a wonderful massage tonight in the resort. The other day we ventured into the centre of Khao Lak and had a massage at one of the local places. Enjoyable it was not. It was one of those places where they just go through the motions and despite saying it was too strong (painful) they continued whilst chatting amongst themselves all the while. It was cheap but I’d rather spend money on a better service. On someone who knows and actually cares. I think I came away bruised. I just wanted it to stop and couldn’t wait to get out of there.

There’s nothing in Khao Lak worth seeing. We found a reasonable little restaurant(!) but it was merely ok. Beer and some local thai food. Shops that sell tourist craap and little else. The little place at the end of the street opposite the resort where we took our washing was friendly and good but it was a far cry from the food stalls in other parts of the country. The market was poor and limited. Hardly worth the excursion and we only went in search of limes. The little supermarkets didn’t really have fruit and veg. I don’t know who they cater for.

The resort is lovely. It’s huge with a number if pools and places to eat though unfortunately because it’s the wet season and few guests a number of the restaurants were closed. And because of the torrential rains even some of these were closed for a couple of days.

No matter.There’s a gym and the spa centre and a huge lobby with a well stocked bar. And the martinis are excellent. Salut!

Processes – a work in progress

i’ve begun a printmaking course. I was inspired by a series of Alan Mitelman prints on my last trip to Melbourne -he’s one of my art heros – and so I thought I would find a printmaking studio in Sydney and start on a series of etchings. I had an idea in mind that I had sketched out and knew how I wanted it to look but was unsure of the process. What eventuated was a double plate image with chine colle (a process whereby you place very fine paper directly into the plate so that it adheres to the paper you’re printing on). One plate was to be a dark drypoint – essentially a heavily cross-hatched plate which would absorb a lot of ink and produce (hopefully) a deep rich velvety colour; the other plate would be an etching of fluid lines. I etched this plate three times so that there were three levels of bite with some of the lines very fine and others much deeper etched and therefore darker.

Printmaking is a slow process. Its a discipline that doesn’t allow shortcuts. First you make marks on your plate – wether drypoint or etched into ground and then dipped into an acid bath – then you print. In order to print you have to do the following: create a registration sheet so you know where to put your plate and paper; soak the paper in water; prepare the ink, ink the plate, rub the plate back (so that the excess ink is removed and you only have ink in the etched surface), then place the registration sheet on the press bed, place the plate in the designated spot, dry the wet paper and place it over the plate and then finally, roll the plate through the press. Only at this stage can you see the results of your effort. And now begins the real work: figuring out where it needs more/less. Oh, and the printed image is the mirror image of the plate which makes for some difficulty in working out where you need to further scratch in or burnish back (particularly when the image isn’t an ‘image’ but abstract lines).

And so you begin again – soak paper, work on plate, ink up, print. And hope that the results are getting you closer to what you had in mind. I was pleased in my second session to have achieved a print that was going in the right direction and thought that week 3 would see me with 3 prints: one with a Prussian blue background and black surface lines, another one the same but with more marks on the background and the final one with chine colle (I was going to use a fine textured bamboo paper to add both colour and texture).

Sadly my printing didn’t go to plan. I couldn’t get my background dark enough (one of the problems of drypoint is that the more times you run it through the press the flatter the marks become and so the ink doesn’t absorb as well) and my first sheet of paper was too wet (adding to the difficulty of absorption) and to top that off, my registration was out.

Printing with two plates imposes another level of difficulty for the novice: you have to be very careful to place the second plate in exactly the same position as the first so that it looks as though it was just one plate. This is something I struggle with – not one of my prints have been spot on in terms of registration. I suspect that this will come with pracitse.

Printmaking can be very frustrating – it takes so long to see how the printed image looks – but its just part of the process. And its something that I really enjoy. Methodical. No shortcuts, just go through the process carefully and meticulously. So very different from the immediacy of painting.

Despite not having achieved my goal (3 prints) I came away from this session feeling OK. I had two bad prints but I knew where I was heading and I knew what I had to do next.

At the start of this course I suspected that it would take me to the end of the year before I had the print I wanted. Along the way I’d try various things – different colours, different papers, different techniques. It is a work in progress. A long steady, meditative process. Its like yoga: some days you can do a pose, other days not. There is no end point. Its just the doing. As they say: sometimes you’re the dog and sometimes you’re the tree.