Monday, 3 January 2022

A year in review: Furniture and fittings, part three

This memorial contains almost a month’s worth of parts – though not all of ‘em are about my house! – and the post you’re reading is the tenth in the series. 

A drum sounded, one I’d never heard before, when, on 23 January at about 8.30pm, the bathroom door exploded in the front bedroom on the first floor. I was sitting at the computer in my bedroom on the second floor when I heard a crash rising out of the depths below. The sound made me get up from my seat and walk through to the study as my mind conjured up reasons for the ruckus – might it’ve been a picture rail falling and glazing shattering on the floor? – so I looked through to the green wall of the light well and saw a strange, pale, rod-like reflection. But, I quickly thought to myself, the problem wasn’t outside: it had been just a trick of the light that caught my eye for a second. Obeying instinct I turned through 180 degrees and went into the bedroom facing the street where glass had been strewn thick on the bathroom floor and had spread also into the bedroom, which is what I first saw that and led me to venture deeper inside the room. I returned upstairs and called Joe but he was busy so said he’d come over in the morning. He and I cleaned up the mess on the 25th, the job being finished by his son Tony and another young person.

On 26 January I vacuumed up the last shards of glass and on the week of 8 February Adam and his offsider and the tilers put back the bathroom on the first floor. It had been taken out of the middle bedroom to satisfy the certifier but now that that process was wrapped up it could be reinstalled. 

Three days later the two tradesmen delivered a desk Joe’d promised me after I’d gone upstairs in his house to have a look. It’d been surplus to his requirements and the men now carried it upstairs. I’d get into the habit of using it to sort my laundry before putting clothes away. I’d ordered more hooks and got additional family photos hung – see below photo of my bedroom wall – with a special place for a photo of mum kissing dad’s face on the morning he finally succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease (small photo, bottom right). Above it is a floral monotype by Pixie O’Harris, then above that a photo of granny – dad’s mother – as a child. 

To the left of these is a 90-year-old painting – by Poul Friis Nybo – of a house located somewhere in the Danish countryside and it hangs above an oil painting – 2008’s ‘Tom Price dusty sunset’ – by Australian artist Neridah Stockley (that had been in the living room). To the left of these is the David Moore reproduction I brought inside from the staircase. To the left of that sits a painting I picked up at the Sydney Art Fair. It’s by Australian artist Kate Smith, is titled ‘Natives’ that and had been in the living room downstairs. 

To the left of this is part of a series of photos (see above) taken from the balcony of mum and dad’s Sunshine Coast flat. When they lived there and when inspiration compelled they’d go out on the balcony at the front of their living room and snap photos. Some such images are, for me, redolent with meaning, showing smoke from a bushfire or a dramatic sunset, and they have the ability to create feelings resembling comfort but due to things that happened in my childhood, these feelings are somewhat complex.

It’s a sentimental hang that might suggest peace and repose, the delicate yellow and olive green in the Nybo and the Stockley complementing what’s in the O’Harris monotype. Once everything had been put in position on my white walls, it seemed as though the items had just been waiting for a chance to exhibit a pale refulgence evident in the sad, vivid yellow of the Smith, which picks up colours from the other pictures and transmits them to a viewer on the floorboards, but in fact this wall would, within a few months, change in many respects. 

The following appears elsewhere in the bedroom, near the entrance where they can be seen from inside the bathroom and comprises nine items with, at top right, Simon Collins’ 2008 ‘From Morts Road driveway #2’ and his 2007 ‘FS 101 No. 2 Oatley’ with, below them, an old photo of Vivian, my son, as a teenager. 

At bottom there’s a photo of Adelaide when she was five years old and wearing a decorative kimono. A Danish painting – to the left of it – of a sylvan scene sits under a photo taken by my great-aunt Madge showing painters working on the hull of a ship. At bottom left is a monotype-and-ink drawing I did when I was about 20. Above it is a 1977 Pixie O’Harris painting titled – with dad in mind – ‘Just Flowers’. At top left there’s a photo of Madge in a stylish coat for Japan’s winter. 

I returned to that section of wall – again, using my ladder – at the end of February to put up the photos shown below. The two at the top are by mum’s uncle Noel Kewish, with a photo of Noel and his wife underneath the image of surf. Below them, to leverage the photographs’ maritime theme, sits a photo of dad taken in his retirement in front of a body of water. Putting all these items up and making sure they hung straight was difficult, as it required careful balancing on a rung since you have to use two hands to position hooks – one to grab the drop and the other to squeeze the hook in order to manoeuvre it into place along the drop – and turning to do this without toppling off and falling to the floor is a trick I had to master.

For the past six years most of the photos – like the ones of Madge, dad and Noel Kewish and his wife – had been stuffed uselessly in a cupboard, the last time they’d been on display being in Queensland where mum had them on her walls so bringing them out now was a great opportunity although it was only possibly due to the size of the house – about three times larger than where I’d previously lived – and also due to the metal rails of the picture-hanging system I’d had installed, which provide flexibility so that, even when you are alone, with freedom you can design a make a space express something about you that can only be done visually. Words have a place – to be sure – but when a visitor walks through your front door you don’t immediately confront them with poetry. It takes time and effort to tell a story to a casual acquaintance, but with pictures it’s all done in a rush and it seemed that everyone who came into my lobby would say something nice. Without rails you have to do hangs all at once as moving things once points have been put into walls is almost impossible. Rails allow you with convenience to change arrangements. On a step ladder you can take down the pictures you want to move elsewhere, and with your hand snap their drops off the rails. Putting up new pictures is, likewise, relatively easy. To make space, slide over drops-with-attached-hooks to desired locations (you might, for bigger items, need someone to take the weight off the drop by lifting a picture at its base) then snap on new drops with hooks attached (putting hooks on a drop is a bit fiddly, but with practise it takes no time), and position the picture frames so that their D-rings hang off the hooks. Once pictures are up you can adjust their height – the distance they are situated from the ceiling or the floor – by squeezing the hooks and sliding them along their drops. 

To make a salon hang like the ones you can see in any of these images takes about 15 minutes, even including the time needed to carry pictures and paintings from other parts of the house. 

And even if you think you have finished a hang you can quickly change it tomorrow.

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