My Sydney visit could not have started better than it has. I actually came up early for a girlfriend’s birthday drinks. That was so fun. While I stayed in the Campari lane (Negroni much as I love it, is too strong for me), I was also introduced to the pretty amazing flavour of an Australian “smoked gin”. Does anyone know about this? I will make efforts to penetrate the local gin distilling scene and report back.
This evening I’ve done one of my favourite things – walking at night. I can’t really walk at night in the country (a) because it is too dark (b) it puts the farm dogs into a frantic (c) walking at night is really a city thing anyway. It’s all about the quiet lights radiating from houses, glimpses of people at home in their rooms with books and paintings or in their kitchens, or watching the tv, still city gardens – intimate landscapes, the harbour, city lights, the racket of occasional flying foxes.
This is a slice of my night walk, coming back over Darling Point, looking through the terraces toward Elizabeth Bay.
The best of all, is coming down the hill to Rushcutters Bay to hear one of my favourite sounds, rope gently thumping against the mast. And once there are a few boats rolling gently it’s like a gamelan orchestra. You never hear them tolling so clearly and gently during daytime.
I made a lovely little clip of the full moon and the gentle sound of rope against mast.
I went to the Banksy exhibition at the Entertainment Quarter. If you go, it’s better not to buy tickets online – they are a much better price at the door. Also, to avoid walking around looking for the exhibition hall, go straight to the end of the main entrance road off Lang Road (I walked all around the place before I figured it out :-)).
Even though the Banksy images are such well known street art there was nothing “old” about the look of the show – mostly original stencils and various prints. Here are some of the street images from Google:
The organiser of the exhibition was manager/accomplice to Banksy for many years, Steve Lazarides. Banksy himself is still unidentified.
One of the best things about the exhibition was the use of videos – streaming on loop around the hall between the exhibits. They told the story of the extraordinary rise of the guerilla grafitti artist with his witty, anti-consumerist themes. It was a very well done story and made the exhibition a really coherent experience.
There was film called “Exit Through the Gift Shop” mentioned in some of the commentary of the exhibition, a film I’d never heard of. In the evening when I was home I looked it up and found a copy on youtube to watch.
The film was an extended commentary on the consumerist art market hype that Banksy parodies (and was itself a clever hoax). It started out purporting to be a documentary on Banksy, being made by a dotty French American amateur photographer/film maker. This character had, according to the film, doggedly followed Banksy for years on his secret missions trespassing at night to plaster his distinctive stencil posters and do his grafitti on buildings and signs all round the UK and both sides of the US. When it becomes apparent about half way through the film, that the quality of the documentary is hopeless, Banksy enters stage left (appearing simply as a dark hooded figure – no face – being interviewed) and persuades the film maker to become the subject of the narrative. So he does, and somehow sets about to transform himself into a grafitti and print artist (like Banksy) with a huge output (none of it displaying any talent or skill whatsoever). The reconfigured “documentary” then follows the film maker’s hugely successful first exhibition in Los Angeles (playing to the cynical undiscriminating art market hungry for the next “thing”). It’s done with a light enough touch though, to make it excellent fun to watch.
It reminded me of a documentary (but not a parody “documentary” at all), about Andy Warhol’s protegee, David Basquiat, who perished very young, apparently a victim of his own success. From the wrong side of the tracks, with no training, he suffered trying to cope with the hype of his spectacular conquest of the contemporary art market at a very young age. His tragic fate perhaps an outcome, at least in part, of the social realities that are the focus of Banksy’s work. Here are some images of Basquiat’s pictures – in a heavily worked totemic grafitti style.
And here is a link to the documentary film about Basquiat, which turned up in my internet searches when I was getting these images of his paintings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6ibOFlSM6o I think the film features (the real) Andy Warhol and (the real) David Bowie.
The lovely thing about Sydney, well there are many but this is also one of them, is that even when it is overcast it can be very pretty.
I was at Mosman last week during the week, a bit of an event because I don’t go over the Bridge so much these days. Afterward I dropped down from the steep ridge that Military Road follows, to the pretty harbour beach, Balmoral (surf beach for the under threes). I had a nostalgic and quality fish and chips from the Bottom of the Harbour fish and chip shop, which I think has been there about 20 years, loyally taking cash only and reminding some of us of scandalous tax avoidance schemes from the days of when…
It was an overcast day. A steady number of citizens walked their dogs along the foreshore. I have always liked the somewhat art deco style of the concrete foreshore walkway, complemented by the little bridge across the isthmus which you can just see at the end of the beach here in one of my afternoon snaps.
At the end of Victoria Street, where the road ends and becomes a paved pathway a little lane way joins up with the path. It’s a dead end that meets the last apartment blocks on St Neot’s Avenue (which you can get to only by sandstone stairway). It’s a charming part of the Potts Point neighbourhood. A local wit has added some cats to the traffic sign in the lane way.
And this is a view of the lane way with the sign in place (well it’s a bit obscured in the hedge), looking across to the City. It’s not the best photo of all time but it’s still a lovely evening outlook.
There is a street tree that I like very much called Brush Box. It is originally a rainforest tree but it is planted a lot by local councils and so now it flourishes in the suburbs. This is a photo I pinched from Google and I think it’s a street somewhere in the inner West.
The Brush Box trees are in flower now. Here is a close up I took of the blossom. There are five rounded petals similar to a tea tree blossom and then there are five delicate fronds for stamens that extend out way beyond the petals like starfish arms.
One of my routine evening walks involves a circuit of the area down by the Finger Wharf at Woolloomooloo. At the moment it’s especially nice because summer has brought out the jasmine. There is a great hedge of it running down one side of the McElhone Stairs at the end of Victoria Street and it’s a heavy summery scent which is just beautiful.
There is a always a set of sculptures on display along the boardwalk adjacent to the Finger Wharf. According to the labels next to them they come from a commercial “art bank”. The display changes every six months or so. There is one new I like especially. It reminds me of the symetry in a shell or the inside of a flower.
Then sometimes, just when you are minding your own business on your evening walk, a huge floating resort rounds the point in front of you and cruises down the harbour, towering over everything.
There is a gecko that lives somewhere on the south side of my balcony. It must hibernate over winter. Come October November evenings I can hear it start to make the little series of chk chk chk chk sounds that are so reminiscent of warm happy times. It still amazes me that the gecko comes every year twelve floors up to my highrise home.
Another favourite sign of summer is the appearance of great quantities of mangoes at the local shops – flavour, fragrance and texture are all summer.
Following a recommendation I braved windy William Street Darlinghurst and went down to the Australian Design Centre where I saw a remarkable collection of miniature streetscapes made by Joshua Smith. They were fine works of craftsmanship recreating the patina of urban decay in the shopfronts of poorer neighbourhoods. Here is a photo of one of them:
It reminded me of the dioramas that used to be in the War Memorial in Canberra, which were battlefields recreated in miniature – tiny toylike scenes made for adults.
I have a couple of favourite walks I do between commitments and just to unwind. Because I am so central in Kings Cross I am spoilt for choice. Yesterday I took two photographs: one of the foreshore walk that I take down to the Opera House, and the other of a typical back street walk I do through Paddington.
Lots of tourists enjoying themselves! Even more of them I think, because it’s school holidays. I am regularly asked to take photos for visitors, not everyone has a selfie stick.
And a somewhat wintery vibe in my typical back street Paddington walk – which is generally quite a deserted walk save for the odd dog walking local.
Sometimes I get the luxury of a little fireworks fatigue. I see a lot of fireworks from the balcony. There would not be a week that goes by without some fireworks near the City. So would it be possible to have anticpatory Vivid fatigue? I don’t even get to see much Vivid detail – the projections onto the Opera House are on to the West facing sails. But I do see some of the sky lit up by the Vivid festival lights, and then there is the Bridge which gets heavy neon treatment, such as this aqua tone for example:
And this year, trying to avoid being a bit grouchy about the ever present bread and circuses feel of the Vivid festival, I took myself off to see some of the sights including a visit to Luna Park at Milson’s Point, where the ferris wheel was looking exceptionally pretty.
And visiting Luna Park reminded me of the short time I worked there – a while ago now – an impoverished student bravely manning the fairy floss cart in my little french navy uniform in all weather. I didn’t do that job for long, but long enough to remember being reprimanded by management for wearing glasses (it was pre laser surgery so I was stilling wearing bookish specs), and for being too generous with the serves!