Sunday, 31 March 2013

Another Visit to White Rabbit Gallery

Appeals without Word, 2006 by Jin Feng  Inkjet print

I went to the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney this weekend as the new exhibition is up and running.  As you may remember from  a previous blog post, the White Rabbit is a private gallery of contemporary Chinese and Taiwanese art.  It is free to the public and none of the art is for sale but there is a nice cafĂ© and gift shop if you did want to spend a few coins.  As usual the new show is thought provoking. I enjoyed it very much.

On the ground floor there is a very long print of people standing in line, no one looks happy and they are covered in gold.  This is a piece by Jin Feng (born 1962, Shanghai) and is called Appeals without Words, 2006.  This is about China’s justice system which allows people to make complaints about corruption and injustices but the petitioners often wait for years to be heard. He has covered his line of people in gold as they are waiting so long they might as well be statues.  At the top of this post is a portion of this print.

On the top floor of the gallery there is a weather balloon which is inflating larger and larger, pressing into the ceiling and the material becoming more and more stretched.  I was becoming a little nervous watching it and that was the idea of the artist Zhou Xiaohy (born 1960 in Changzhou, Jiangsu).  He thinks that modern Chinese are increasing anxious as they are driven by the desire for more and more consumer goods.  The balloon makes us worry about how much more it will grow and will it explode.  As in China today, there is no getting away from the worry, when the balloon deflates, our worries reduce but shortly the  balloon grows again.

 I enjoyed the mixed media art work of Bai Yiluo (born 1968) called Recycling 2008.  I think I could relate to this piece (boo hoo) which was in effect a great big heart sitting on the back of a bike with alot of other recycling.  The artists asks “what if someone decides to sell their heart cheap to the first guy who came around collecting rubbish for recycling”.  The information board explains that this artist has been on both sides of the metaphorical transaction, he  has  romantically given his heart away and also as an artist, has used other people’s longings and heart breaks,  turning them into art.


Zhou Jie (born 1986 in Changde, Hunan) has produced a mini city called CBD 2010.  The city is made out of porcelain and it sits on a bed of rice.  The materials used, of course, relate to China’s cultural heritage.  The information board tells us that Jie is concerned about urban development invading nature, upsetting the balance.
 There is many more interesting artworks at The White Rabbit Gallery and I recommend everyone who lives in Sydney, or visits it, to have a look.  There are plenty of very knowledgeable staff there who are happy to explain more about the work but I found the information boards explain the art very well..





Friday, 29 March 2013

Everything has gone pear shaped

Pears... I can related to them cause I am pear shaped.  Like drawing a woman they are also fun to draw, with  bumps in places you don’t expect them.  Irregular and bumpy and yet still recognizable as a pear . In this case I have ripped paper to follow the pear shapes and then added some pen to add the shadows.

Pear Tart is a delicious cake that I was introduced to by a friend whose mother was European.  She would make cakes using ground nuts rather than flour and this is one of her recipes.  Ground nuts make a cake so very, very good..


2-3 tbsp of soft brown sugar

150 g butter

150 g caster sugar (or reg sugar if you don’t have caster)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

150 g almond meal (or a mix of almond and hazelnut)

2 tbsp self rising flour

2 tbsp blanched almonds

2 pears, skin on

Line a circular flan or cake tin 23 cm in diameter with baking paper.  Sprinkle soft brown sugar over the baking paper

In a bowl, cream together butter and caster sugar to create a smooth creamy mixture, making sure all the sugar is dissolved.

Lightly beat the eggs and add them to the creamed mixture.  Add the almond meal and flour and mix well.

Cut the pears vertically, leaving the skin on and the stalk.  Place the pieces decoratively in the flan or cake tin, flat side down.  Fill the gaps with the blanched almonds.

Pour the cake mixture over the pears and almonds and press down.

Bake in a preheated 190 degree C oven for 45 min or until the filling feels firm at the centre.  Allow to cool.  Ease the flan away from the edge with a knife.  Place a large serving plate on top and turn it over.  Try putting the cake under the grill to toast the top after it is turned over.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


I can hardly believe that Easter is coming up next weekend.  Seems like 2013 is roaring along much too quickly.  It is coming though so thought I would make some cards/gift tags  which you are welcome to download, print and attach to the gifts that the Easter bunny is giving out..

This is a Bilby, an  Australian marsupial which is endangered.  Here in Australia we enjoy this chocolate variety of marsupial for Easter. 

Have a lovely Easter with your family and friends.  I hope you find as many chocolate eggs as you are happy to eat in the garden or behind the couch or wherever that funny bunny puts them.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Fiddle Leaf Fig

Ink drawing on list of street names by me

I have been seeing Fiddle Leaf figs at Garden centres  and have been very attracted to them.  Those big pear shaped (or fiddle shaped) glossy leaves and curvaceous stems are a knock out.  Then I started seeing them in the decorating magazines.... hmm must get one of these  plants to add oxygen to my room, yes... that is the reason...  The only fly in the ointment is the price, those babies were way too much cash.  Luckily I found my own specimen from a local market, it's over a metre high and was only $10.  I was extremely happy with that and I have been admiring it's dramatic, artistic shape  these past few weeks.

pen drawing of Fiddle leaf Fig, by me

Fiddle Leaf Fig's proper name is Ficus lyrata and it is native to Western Africa.  If planted outdoors it will grow to a huge size but indoors it can be managed.  In Africa it often starts life as a epiphyte high in the crown of another tree.  It sends roots down which slowly strangles the original tree,  That doesn't sound too nice for the original tree but nature can be cruel!  Of course it also grows as a free standing tree, growing to  12-15 metres.

Fiddle Leaf fig in my living room.  Painting by Peter Godwin, teak sideboard by TH Brown, South Australia, 1960s

Friday, 22 March 2013

Berte Jessen-Royal Copenhagen

Candle Holder, Royal Copenhagen

 I have a collection of Royal Copenhagen ceramics from the 1960s and 1970s.  The vase above is one of my favourite pieces.  It was designed by a woman by the name of Berte Jessen.  I love her colourful abstracted designs based on nature and the colours are gorgeous blues and purples.  These pieces are all individual as all are hand painted, each one having slightly different colours and textures.  Royal Copenhagen pieces from this era are made by a number of different artists, Berte being just one of them. I bought this vase at the antique and collectable fair but I have seen similar ones on ebay.  My candle holder (also by B Jessen) is damaged but such a fantastic piece I could not leave it.
It is worth picking up these ceramics if you see them, they are very collectable and really beautiful things.

Ink drawing of part of my Royal Copenhagen collection
this is one of my artworks.  I have cut out the streets on a map to make the design

Wednesday, 20 March 2013



Marimekko is a family company based in Helsinki whose bright floral and geometric designs are synonymous with modern Finnish design.   It began after the original owner’s oil cloth business failed and they converted it to a clothing plant. Original owners, Viljo and Armi Ratia asked their artist friends to apply their graphic designs to textiles.  In order to show how the cloth could be used the company designed and sold a range of simple dresses using the fabric. In the 1960s the brand became famous for it’s bright, bold, roomy comfortable dresses which were an alternative to post war fashion. After Jackie Kennedy wore Marimenkko  dresses  the company was catapulted into the international fashion scene.


The company did well until well into the 1970s  but had fallen into difficult times by the mid 1980s.  Kirsti Paakkanen bought the brand  and put the company back on track by mixing new design with 1960s patterns.  Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City has also helped to promote the company more recently after that character wore a Marimekko dress.


There are Marimekko stores around the world including a new one in Sydney which opened last year.  I love the wonderful designs of this Finnish company and am lucky enough to have 3 pieces of it.  On the weekend  I bought a dress made out of Marimekko fabric and I’m pretty chuffed with it. I also have some cushions which I made from this company's fabric a few years ago.  For Xmas last year I was given a beautiful blue and white Marimekko bowl  which I love.   
I can imagine how different these designs were in the 1950s and 60s, such big prints, so bold and colourful.  How different from, say Laura Ashley cotton from the same period.


Saturday, 16 March 2013

Bjorn Wiinblad

This is a metal "postcard" made by Rosenthal company, Germany

I had never seen the work of Bjorn Wiinblad, nor heard of him,  until I came across one of his vases in a charity shop.  The vase had been broken and put back together and even that did not stop me from greatly admiring it and taking it home.  Since then I have collected a number of his ceramics and keep my eyes out for more when I’m out and about.

Wiinblad was born in Copenhagen in 1918, passing away in 2006. He was a painter, a designer and artist in ceramics, silver, bronze, textiles, graphics and furniture.  He worked for the US Embassy in Paris  designing posters, later designing  posters for theatre, ballet and opera. These posters are fantastic and if it wasn’t for some serious competition for wall space I would love one or two. His textile work was used in many ballets and in theatre. He designed ceramics for the Danish company, Nymolle and also for the German ceramic company, Rosenthal.

Much of Wiinblad’s work features  round faced people surrounded by flowers or other natural elements.  His work is based on music and the joy of life.  His motto is said to be “make people happy”.

This is a large charger made by the Rosenthal Company, Wiinblad design

I love it for it’s whimsy  and colour.  Much of my Wiinblad  collection is blue and white but he does love using colour too.  His Christmas plate series is very colourful often with gold drawn into it.

Wiinblad vases by Rosenthal.  The one on the far right is my first vase and it has been broken and repaired.
He seems to have been very romantic and I love his series of plates by Nymolle.  The January plate introduces us to a couple.  Each successive month celebrates their courtship and in December they are married.  When my friend Daniel went to Denmark he brought me back a May plate as that’s my birthday month.  I also found the August plate where the couple are catching butterflies.   They are quite adorable but then I may have quite a number of romantic bones in me.

These are two of the 12 plates in a series celebrating courtship

Keep your eye out for Bjorn Wiinblad design.  It is most easily found in ceramics or posters.  I know it gives me a lot of pleasure.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A True Story about a Man and his Dog


I saw a dog lying on the road a day or two prior to the event I will now relate.  The dog was okay, just having a rest, when I carefully drove by him on the way home from work.  This road was actually my street and it happened at the top of the hill and I live further down.
I was on my morning walk at about 7 AM, climbing the hill that is my street and seeing that dog again, lying on the road.  It was a fair size dog and I wasn’t aware of it’s temperament so moved to the side, giving it plenty of room as I walked further towards it.  Sure enough it got up and ambled toward me, it didn’t appear aggressive so I carried on.  I spoke to the dog in a friendly manner, enquiring on it’s health on such a fine morning.  The dog didn’t answer but as if dropped from the sky it’s owner appeared at the end of his driveway,  three or four metres from the dog and myself.  I’m not sure what he said but it was his appearance which surprised me.....he was buck naked...yep, starkers.  I carried on without missing a beat but didn’t stop to chat.

This week at lunch my lovely co workers and I were telling tales of meeting naked folk in unexpected locales. There weren't any naked women stories but lots about naked men.  This story is one of mine occurring a week or two ago.  I haven't seen the man or the dog since and I am happy about that. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Girrawheen Park

I have been working on drawings of Girrawheen Park, Earlwood this week. Two of the drawings are using maps and black ink, the last one is ink on a brown paper bag.  I did a stop motion film of a drawing of Girrawheen from the last post entitled "Earlwood" but was having troubles downloading. it is now.

Please forgive the ending, still can't get it right.  I will try to figure out the editing for future films over the Easter weekend.

Ink on brown paper

Friday, 8 March 2013


Girrawheen Park, Earlwood

Earlwood is a sleepy suburb in Sydney's inner west, 12 km from the centre of town.  It lies on a sandstone ridge between the Cooks River valley and  the Wolli Creek.  It became populated after the men returned from WW1, the countryside carved up into 1/4 acre blocks.  I live in a narrow street, one of 5 little streets running up the hill side by side. These streets had very modest homes on little blocks of land for the people who worked in the stone quarry that lay at the end of the streets.  Things are changing in our little part of Earlwood with many the little houses replaced by new ones.  In fact my house is new too which I enjoy after living so long in a 130 year old house.
We are lucky in Earlwood as have the river on one side of our suburb and a secret park called Girrawheen on the other. I assume we have this special place because the side of the ridge was too steep for housing.  It is heritage listed because it is  rare remnant bushland.  It is wonderful to think that this bush is mostly what was there  before white settlement. There is a lovely little creek and there is water running now after all the rain we have had .  These ink drawings are of this park.

Girraween Park, Earlwood

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Eero Saarinen

one of my drawings, interior Stone St including Knoll chairs

Ross gave me a book about the architect/designer, Eero Saarinen as he knows I am very fond of Scandinavian and mid century design.  It is so interesting to learn about one person and find there are many connections between this person and other wonderful designers as well as my own place and life.

Saarinen was born in Finland and immigrated to the US when he was 13.  His father was an architect and his mother a textile designer.  His dad worked at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and  Eero attended this school  studying sculpture and furniture design.  When at this academy he became good friends with a number of people who went on to become very important in the world of design.  Ray and Charles Eames, Hans and Florence Knoll,  Alexander Girard and Saarinen were all great friends from the early days and worked together as well as in competition with each other.
Saarinen studied sculpture in Paris and then went to Yale, receiving a degree in architecture.  He became one of the most important architects and designers in  post WWII world.  He had something to do with Australia too.  Saarinen was on the second jury to decide which design to use for the Sydney Opera House.  The first jury had discarded Jorn Utzon’s design.  He reviewed the discarded designs and recognized it’s quality.  Saarinen’s recognition of Utzon’s clever and beautiful building ideas went on to Utzon winning the commission.  The Opera House is an iconic building on our harbour and we are pretty proud of it.
Saarinen produced many beautiful furniture designs including tulip tables, tulip chairs and womb chairs.  His public buildings are world renown. 

Saarinen’s friend Hans Knoll founded the furniture manufacturing company, Knoll Furniture and this company produced Saarinen furniture.  Friend’s Charles and Ray Eames were extremely well known designers and they worked with Saarinen at times.  Friend Alexander Girard produced  textile designs which were used on Saarinen and Eames furniture. 

Now, for my 2 degrees of separation, not between the man, Eero Saarinen but between the designs/designers.  His friends Ray and Charles Eames produced a huge number of wonderful things.... I have one of their tables.  Saarinen's friends Hans and Florence Knoll had a furniture company... I have two of their chairs.  His friend Alexander Girard, also a designer and maker of neat things...I have one of his dolls.

I hope to one day have a little Saarinen tulip table.........................maybe with a white marble top.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Spinach for dinner


gouache painting in progress

I am making Spinach, Pine Nut and Fetta triangles tonight (recipe below) but first that spinach is too good not to paint.  Thought I would film it (fast forward) so here is a short 40 sec video of the process.     Have a look, it's quite fun.  Click on this:

Spinach, Pine Nut and Fetta Triangles

18 sheets filo pastry
250 g spinach, cooked, chopped and squeezed dry
125 g ricotta cheese
125 g feta cheese
1 shallot or spring onion, finely chopped
1/4 c pine nuts
1/4 c oil or melted butter
pinch ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
Combine spinach, cheeses, shallot, pine nuts and nutmeg
Lightly oil fillo and fold each sheet into thirds lengthwise.  Place a tsp of                          filling at one end of pastry and fold the pastry at right angles to enclose.                                        Brush outer layer lightly with oil.  Repeat with remaining filling and pastry.
Place seam side down on lightly oiled baking tray and bake for 15-20 min                                          or until golden.  Makes 18.

Here is the spinach