Saturday, 8 January 2022

A year in review: Furniture and fittings, part eight

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 fifteenth in the series. 

A few days before 12 June I’d organised a hang in my studio (see below). The landscapes are oils bought on Facebook Marketplace, one a view of hills (Robert Simpson’s ‘Secluded Valley, Tilba Tilba’) and the other a view of trees shown in close-up (Edna Burns’ ‘Hills Gums’). Underneath I put a friend’s paired drawings and photos of native Australian flowers – grevillea (left) and banksia (right) – in order to complete an incremental zoom made by increasing the degree of granularity, each item giving a different view of the same thing until you come face to face with the flowers in the artworks Basia’d posted and that I’d had framed using a dusty, pale yellow mat board to complement the photos’ lilac abstraction.

In the first full week of September I contacted Jennifer Loubser in Brisbane, a woman who’d taken custody of dad and mum’s Japanese screen since the beginning of the previous year when couriers visited me in Pyrmont to load it on-board a truck so that it could be shipped north to the Sunshine State. Initially I SMS’d Jennifer at Studio 204 but then I called her and left a message, my recall with regard to this item of furniture piqued by a discussion with Ming about an assignment for which she had to write an essay on Chinese painting. I distinctly remember a thought, in relation to the screen, that came to me as the three of us walked down a Botany street while taking exercise when she and Omer’d stayed overnight at my place (their arrival happening on account of her desire to draw and paint). Jennifer called me back the same day as I contacted her and we discussed the item at length, with her eventually promising to send me photos of the backing cloth she’d ordered from Japan to complete the renovation, a step that had been delayed because of supply problems due to the virus.

On 16 September I added to the studio’s south wall two James Ettelson paintings that had been on the first floor, deploying a broom handle to push two drops along their rails (see below). This turned out to be a tricky operation as the ceiling on the top floor is high, and in order to clip new drops in place I had to balance precariously on my ladder, using a rung far distant from the floor and ignoring a precipitous drop because I’d placed it precisely on the verge of the staircase.

I would’ve added another item – a black-and-white photo of trees taken by great-aunt Madge – but I’d run out of hooks! I resolved this by ordering more, the quote I made sure to get from John Verhoeven (who’d done hanging for me in December) higher than the price for the same thing available on eBay, so I used my credit card again and opted for the web source, buying (from one supplier, people I’d previously used) monofilament hooks as well as (from a different supplier) wire hooks. My monofilament drops had just about run out – at this point in time I had two left in my box of supplies – and some wire drops I’d got in December were tucked away in a box in the closet.

On Friday 17 September I started looking for another small desk to put in a spare room on the first floor. Ming’d requisitioned the one I had in the middle bedroom (that her boyfriend had been using for conference calls) as she now wanted to use it in her studio in front of her Mac; she’d wanted to take calls on her computer (a painting class). So I revisited Facebook Marketplace. Two Kmart Scandi desks (one unassembled) sold quickly so I had to settle on a desk from Malaysia that a woman whose mother-in-law lives in the next street along from me, in Botany, was selling. At 10.01am I’d received notification that a white wooden desk the same woman had offered, and that I’d messaged about, had been claimed, but she notified me about a $30 brown wooden one she also had and as soon as she told me the dimensions I said I’d take it. Her mother-in-law was out of the house when we made the deal but Natalie added her to the group so she could let me know when she returned home, which she did at 11.19am. 

I jumped in the car, turned on satnav, and picked up the desk within five minutes. It’s just the right size to fit in the back of the car: I had to shove it right up inside the space so that the rear hatch could close. I waited until Omer came over on the same day before it was brought upstairs as it was a bit difficult for me to carry though Omer managed it solo. The thing is simple in its design and much lighter than the steel-framed Ikea table I’d bought for Adelaide to use, and which had been in Pyrmont before my move (I’d originally bought it so I could organise my photo albums – a task I never got to). The new table has sides that double as legs and a cross-beam for support and to prevent it from distorting when moved. 

On 23 September I drove out to Broadway Shopping Centre to pick up some of the latest batch of hooks I’d ordered but when I got home found that the packet only contained 39 of the metal fittings – out of 40 (20 pairs) ordered – so I messaged the seller asking for a refund or else for him to send another hook. He replied saying that he’d give me a refund but I then left a negative review as without a new hook I’d be left with one spare – which is suboptimal as they’re normally used in pairs – and he messaged me almost straight away because he was now unhappy. He called me directly on the phone and we discussed the transaction, in the end agreeing that he’d send an extra hook. In the end he sent an extra three hooks (presumably in order to apologise for the inconvenience he’d exposed me to) and I picked them up on 13 October.

David, the online seller, also sent me a message asking me to revise my review, which I did on the morning of 24 September after waking up and having my coffee. John Verhoeven’d wanted to charge $20 each hook and David charged a quarter of that and also refunded me the price of a hook (I found on Saturday when checking my bank balance) though his hooks aren’t of the same manufacture as John’s. This aroused my concern. I wondered if they’d be as strong as the ones I’d already been using; when you’re putting up a painting worth hundreds of dollars you should spend as much as necessary to ensure its safety ... you hardly want it falling to the floor. John promised that his’d bear a 15kg load and David 10kg, but they looked almost the same and I figured they were the same thing as just a trademark moulding was missing on David’s.

I convinced myself of their utility and privately mused as I got used to the transaction as a fact in my life. An option existed in my mind to use the new ones for lighter paintings while reserving the old lot for bigger pictures. This would allow me to get value without risking my possessions and I thought about it with such determination that it became a memory that would persist despite intervening thoughts and experiences.

On 29 September I reorganised my pictures in the bedroom, which unhomed the David Moore reproduction that’d been located above my desk. To settle things I used David’s hooks and because of the switch now had to find a place to put the Moore, deciding, because it has a nautical subject, to locate it on the edge of the staircase (see below) among similarly-themed objects. Above is a painting, bought from Arthouse Gallery, by Zuza Zochowski titled ‘Connecticut, Nov 05 #2’, a dark utterance in purple and blue. Below the Moore is a 1921 painting by Elias Petersen showing in the distance a ship with waves rolling (to a beach?) in a stiff breeze. Some of the waves are slightly brown as though rendering in colour the fact of riverine runoff.

Nearby on the same day I did a new hang in a bedroom using two paintings formerly situated one-up on the same wall and adding two landscapes that’d been up in the master bedroom (displaced by a painting otherwise poorly accommodated). See below.

The three photos hanging on the left-hand side in this layout are by my former father-in-law (still alive when this memorial was being written) and show Japanese scenes. There’s ‘Stradbroke silence (Stradbroke Island from Russell Island)’ by Ian Keats (in January hanging downstairs) above an op-shop purchase titled ‘Lake Cathie at Noon’ by Audrey Hogg that had originally been purchased by someone at the Harrington Street Gallery, a social enterprise established in the 70s (according to the website) that is now located in Chippendale. Lake Cathie is near Port Macquarie on the New South Wales North Coast and to the right of Hogg’s work hangs a rendering of Mount Tom Price (in Western Australia) by Neridah Stockley. Above this is the Danish landscape (top right in photo above) by Poul Friis Nybo that would later move to the kitchen. 

Both of the two smaller paintings’d previously been above my desk. I thought an all-landscape wall’d do well in the guest room, windowless due to its location in the centre of the first floor, but, deciding that the gaps between the pictures was too large and that the hang was too monolithic and, consequently, ponderous, added a drop of family photos on 3 October (see below). 

It’s remarkable on thinking about the assembly how landscapes predominate on the democratic source of novelty that Facebook Marketplace surely constitutes for young and old, a cornucopia, a treasure trove of bric-a-brac available sometimes for ludicrous prices. In late September when this hang was made I was reading the correspondence of the late Judith Wright, and it occurred to me how similar must’ve been the impulse that compelled the poet to spend so much of her time and patience on ecological conservation, something that she started doing in the 60s. By the same token the landscape is so compelling in our country, drawing the gaze of rapt painters looking for inspiration and novelty. One watercolour I bought online features a mountain in Wales but most of the works acquired this way, either ones done in oils or with watercolour, feature places in Australia. Wright’s poetry also contains nature, especially animals, and it struck me that since the countryside is habitat for creatures other than humankind it was fitting that the new house was filling up with landscapes. 

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