Sunday 31 December 2023

New works to round out the year

I wanted to put up a few images to show what I've been up to. As many of you know the end of year period is hard for me, and like many people I find myself at a loose end. Perhaps if I'd made better life choices when I was younger things might've worked out differently. Or perhaps there were other factors, factors outside my control. I sometimes question myself. 

In any case i like to keep busy.. A few days ago I was doing so on social media when I entered a parallel universe that I normally stay away from, the universe in question being a flame war zone. Normally I steer clear of such controversy but because I was bored and because I assumed that people would exercise their imaginations with me (they didn't, it needs to be said at the outset) I posted something that was taken badly by several people.

This was a shock to the system but I did what I normally do in such situations, I stepped away and entered my own universe, the one circumscribed (or, rather, not circumscribed) by art. The first image I will  share was the result of this contretemps. I won't need to add any commentary I think, the gist is pretty obvious, especially as you've read already the chronicle of the period of gestation.

'Looking up at the helicopter the thought police', 2023.

Having done this I naturally felt pretty pleased with myself. How might I react to having made such a fetching object? It was easy. And because it was easy I got to making more.

'Bright yellow stripe (Automotive fabrication)', 2023.

The last time I had made such things was in October 2022. In November I started making watercolours so sort of overnight abandoned making my paramontages (see link above for more details abot this word). I started making paramontages in April that year but before that the last time I'd used graphical manipulation software to make images was in about 2014. I actually made others in 2008, and some of the photos that I'm now using to make combines date from that era.

The main reason for posting about these things now is that the blog is like evidence. It's proof of practice. So I can say to someone who asks when i started making the combines, "Take a look at the blog for details." I can easily just tell them to Google the blog name and they're set. In fact we're both set. They get the reassurance they were after and I get peace of mind.

Another reason is that I just like to share.

Sharing was, after all, the thing that led me to make this series of works. Since we're on this track I'lkl share something else as well. The following combine was made using images I captured with my camera (not phone) in the period from July 2016 to June 2017. My mother died in July 2016 so I know now why I took the shots. In the middle of 2017 I started to come back to life, and I began to make myself busy, for example my homelessness series of posts dated from the second half of 2017, as does my series of posts on brutalism. So the period matching the financial year 16-17 was a period of mourning, and I titled the series I'm going to give you a sample of, accordingly.

'Mourning raiments XI', 2023.

There are 14 panels in the series, each of which has six selfies. I gathered 84 such images early this morning and made the entire et overnight, finally getting around to the business of tidying up late this afternoon. Each panel uses different colours, red blue yellow teal, and I sort of like the fact that when I took the photos I had no notion that I would one day use them in this way.

Friday 29 December 2023

End of year memorial: December

At the beginning of Dec I ran a stall at Hopsters Xmas Market which was useful as it taught me what works and what doesn’t in terms of display. I also applied to a couple of other markets and also to some galleries. Getting to Hopsters in Enmore was a trial as my train line wasn’t running and after the bus to Redfern I had to catch another bus to get to Newtown. I arrived early before the Hopsters doors had opened and was the first seller inside. 

One thing I would do differently (and I write about all this on the Esag blog) is carry less stuff. Because signage is key and my signage was terrible, there was anyway no reason to carry so much because most people never got to see it, they didn’t even know the bulk of the paintings were there. If I do another market, for example in The Rocks, I will be better prepared.

Coming up to the end of the year I did a series of all-nighters, staying up late watching Netflix. This allowed me to think outside the box and I rehung the flags, putting two of them upstairs in the studio (see pic below). The new arrangement allowed me to hang other things in the first floor hallway that are more suited to a confined space.

I kept on making art even though I was spending so much time watching TV. The TV jag was a remnant from my youth, I remember sometimes in Vaucluse staying up all night to watch the crap TV on at 2am but making it right through til dawn, and because I had consequently fond memories of this way of spending time it was easy in 2023 to do the same thing but this time with the more entertaining Netflix. I caught a series of great shows and discarded a whole lot of other stuff that didn’t suit me at 3am 4am 5am. At 6am I tended to tune into the ABC News channel.

On 4 December Think Renewables called me briefly to set a day for the installation, and this was organised to be done on 2 January. By the middle of the month I was optimistic the installation would go ahead due to the generally dry weather we’d been having. 

It’s not going to cost me anything at the outset. What happens is that the government pays a subsidy to them on my behalf and then I pay a monthly fee to a money handler named Plenti by putting money in my transaction account, which they debit. The guy who came around to get the sale is named Charlie, a Brit. He described how my quarterly electricity bill could be reduced after installing solar panels. He also said it would be double the cost if I got a battery, so I’m not getting it.

My quarterly electricity bill has gone up 100 percent in the last two years – even though the government said that electricity bills would go DOWN if they were elected – so it’s now worthwhile getting panels put in. 

I applied to a New York art show on about 9 Dec and was accepted so on 11 Dec paid the fee. I was busy around this time applying for space in galleries. The Holy Art show would be in March so I’ll write about it later once it gets closer to the time. On 15 Dec I contacted George Yuan a photographer I know and organised to go out to Ryde to pick him up so that I could get him to make better photos of paintings I wanted to show overseas. I later changed the plan and said I’d pick him up in Redfern, which is closer to my place.

The Holy Art show is one show but I also was accepted to have a poster put up in London on the Underground and for this purpose needed a good quality photo of a different painting. I got accepted by London gallery Boomer Gallery and they’d put up framed prints of works of mine in a show they are holding in January.

On 16 Dec I went to the opening of Tiliqua Tiliqua’s Christmas Small Works show where I had two works. It was a good crowd tho I arrived too early because I noted the wrong time when I saw the mention on social media. Plenty of people turned up and I had some good conversations with other artists including one young man who is also interested in brutalism. I showed him my website where I have a series of posts on brutalist buildings in Sydney but he didn’t get in touch after.

Around this time I updated my Bluethumb page and added a page with an outfit called Arte Laguna which is based in Venice. Bluethumb charges nothing for listings but takes a cut of sales, Arte Laguna charges for listing but … doesn’t take a cut of sales? I’m not sure but in any case it felt good to know that I had my work out there especially as I’d had such bad experiences getting help updating my name domain in previous years. I also set up an Etsy page.

I had a hilarious tragic experience on 18 Dec because I had to get bank statements so that my accountant could do my tax return for me. I’d shut the account in question in Sep ’22 but he needed to know transactions prior to that point in time. I offered to send him the statement for the bank account to which the proceeds were sent but he said “No” that wouldn’t be enough.

I knew that my online banking interface had no information in it so I took advantage of the fact that I was going out to drop by at the bank branch locally. I waited on a seat for 40 minutes then the woman who’d come to help me made a fuss about authorising me to even receive said statements. My mobile app didn’t work when she pinged it from the computer on her desk in the customer service area so I grabbed my trusty driver’s licence and waved it around long enough for her to snatch it out of the air. She scanned it in the keyboard, making a very nice swishing sound, then did not reject me, on account of which circumstance I was relieved. She finally did some tapping and typing mousing etcetera after which (and it took a good two to three minutes with me waiting literally with baited breath for her to say “No”; I’d already been refused by my accountant why not her as well, I thought to myself as I sat there trembling) she asked me straight-faced if I wanted the last statement – the one that would say merely “Account closed” – and I almost swallowed my tongue I was so dumbfounded, then managed to restrain myself enough to say “No”. In the end she printed out two pieces of paper with the requisite information. When I got home I emailed them to Woinarski, the accountants, feeling as though I’d just broken into Fort Knox.

On the same day I applied to another gallery for 2024 making Dec the busiest month for admin work since I’d started painting. I shouldn’t be down on Hopsters Market but it was so funny standing there watching people at Kath Harding’s stall across the aisle turn, look at my mess, and immediately turn back to look at her superbly presented works. I took important idea away from it, especially one tip: BE OBVIOUS. Signage is key, and in big letters so people don’t have to squint. 

The gallery I applied to on 18 Dec is Tiliqua where I was in the Small Works show they’d been mentioned to me by DRAW Space in Newtown, an outfit who’d refused my approach three days earlier. DRAW Space is artist-run but they seem more cliquey than welcoming of new talent, more like Articulate Project Space in Leichhardt, with whom I’d also been in touch. Commercial galleries can get a bad rap but at least they don’t have this closed-off feel about them sure they might reject you but at least you don’t feel like you’re taking a liberty by emailing. 

With all this admin work creative practice took a back seat, so it was a good time I think to take stock. I took stock at the end of the previous year and put making art on pause for weeks. It looks like it’s becoming a tradition because as I write my creative output has entered a hiatus. Instead I’m promoting what I’ve already made. I even sat down with an agent and though he didn’t say anything about my work specifically – he said it was good when prompted at Tiliqua Small Works opening – during a conversation with a mutual friend I was able to “feel” how my work had impacted him. I added this “feeling” to my other recent interactions and let it settle. I’ll let these intimations stew in company for a while, then maybe ask our mutual friend to solicit some more explicit feedback from this charming New Yorker with his poetry friends.

On 18 Dec I got good news having again been accepted to do a solo show at Tiliqua. I spoke with Basia about it and she kept on referring to the framing, I wanted to talk about the art but I guess I brought it upon myself when I answered “More framing gah” in response to her first clarion of congratulation. It costs money to exhibit, and this is especially difficult for emerging artists like me who might not sell as readily as prominent artists.

I’d actually been at the framers there on the same day as news came through because one of the items I’d reserved for son Vivian hadn’t survived being placed on the floor upside down. In fact one panel slipped off the hinge. As it was destined to jostle around in shipping I asked the framer to work out a way to make sure it arrived in Yokohama intact.

The Enmore show would be 30 Jan to 5 Feb so I didn’t have oodles of time to get everything ready, but I wasn’t really pinched either. In any event I didn’t need to get much framed for this show because Tiliqua has metal walls so a lot of what you hang can be hung with magnets. I wanted to do another stickering program as well, so made a mental note to make a design for the sticker. My friend Paul who did the bulk of the previous stickering was still out of town but would be back by the beginning of the year so I could ask him for help.

I got a shock early in the morning on 19 Dec when a WhatsApp message came from Arte Laguna prompting me to apply for prizes. I’d paid the fee after all. Unfortunately what I had not done was read the fine print. I answered the message saying that I didn’t want residencies, without being aware that more than residencies was on offer. I went to the relevant web page and quickly sketched out two applications for monetary prizes for projects that could be completed with the assistance of companies. It took 15 minutes and I sent a quick “Thank you” to Sara who’d sent me the text resuscitating my chances. I thought it would be wonderful to be paid for making the kind of art I like doing, at least an amount of money equal to the amount I had been spending. Early on 21 Dec Sara sent me another SMS and I went to the website and started a chat with an operative about my application, being now sure it was done properly. The hidden person told me that “Yes” it was all good so I rested easy once more.
I made a design on MS-Word for a sticker for the Tiliqua show using the same template as the one used for the show in November. I wanted to change the colours but also keep some elements of the design so that if people saw the sticker they might react positively on the back of the success of the Laerk Space show. Well, it was successful for me in any case, especially since I had capitalised on it to make winning pitches to The Holy Art in London, Gallery 59 in Goulburn, Tiliqua Tiliqua in Enmore, and Boomer Gallery in London. 

Small steps. I told Annie from Laerk about this and she asked for me to send the details in an email. At the time of writing this chronicle I hadn’t done that. I was so busy. I had to look after a friend’s Airbnb, I had been brought onboard as an admin for a Facebook group, and I was trying to organise a creative meetup for Eastern Suburbs Art Group. This last item was proving especially hard as I am a man and most of the people who want to make art are women. The idea of going to an unknown man’s house – convenient for me because then we didn’t have to worry about space, tables, parking etcetera – seemed like a major hurdle for the people who might benefit from the idea of doing art. I’d found someone with a group of acquaintances but she was busy over Christmas and wanted to meet before asking her friends to come to a meetup, even making an appointment for coffee was complicated.

As for me I was staying up all night doing admin work. On the night of 19 Dec I was emailing at 3am with Boomer Gallery who accepted two of my paintings for their ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ show. The next night at 2am I was again in conversation with their rep on the subject of framing, I decided to send digital images which they would then print and frame.  On the night of 21 Dec I was again in communication with Boomer re the transmission of images for the show (see below).

Social animals VIII, 2023.

Social animals III, 2023.

Wind chimes, 2023.

On the night of 20 Dec I found out I had been accepted by Artistcloseup magazine to feature, again with an associated upfront cost to me. I paid and then decided that the next day when Henry came over as well as getting photos of artworks (already shown) I’d ask him to get a photo portrait I could use for the magazine and the blog, which he did.

They’re gorgeous, he’s so talented. The man is a genius, managing to take a whole series of portrait photos each of which looks different. It’s incredible how much knowledge went into making the photos. 

Including the portrait photos the whole exercise only took about an hour. I picked Henry up from Redfern Station and dropped him back off there so he could get home. He sent me the photos via zip file from his computer.

I completed the Artistcloseup application this evening after getting home from a poetry reading. It took less time than I thought it would but then again I thought I did a poor job. They ask you to choose one of two templates with questions. You then answer the questions and submit the answers along with photos and links to portfolio shots. The final question is a section where you can write notes for the editors and I filled this out almost apologising for my efforts. I looked forward to getting back the first draft.

I also signed a second contract on this day for the solar power installation because they decided that they couldn’t do the job for the cost initially proposed. It was a difference of about $50 a week so I didn’t make a fuss about it. I thought if I did then the project would be unnecessarily delayed though I didn’t much like being asked to pay more money.

On 22 Dec I went out to Tiliqua to talk about the solo show and found out I wouldn’t have to get lots of paintings framed as they have some walls with metal backing. This allows you to use tape and magnets to hang unframed works, you attach little bits of tape to the tops of each panel and then when it’s dry apply a magnet to hold the panel in place.

I also discussed the World Pride show they’re having in Feb, which I’ll be in as well, happy about this news I hadn’t known before this day. When I got home I prepared more material for them, including photos of marriage equality rallies I’d been at in Sydney leading up to the 2017plebiscite. Later I dropped off boxes full of groceries to friends as I had too much following my trip to Ingleburn. In the afternoon of 23 Dec I went to the framers as a painting they’d rehinged was ready to pick up. I wished them a happy Xmas and brought ‘CAPitalism’ home, planning to send it to my son as it has an automotive theme. In the evening I did laundry.

I was still staying up late but not all night like before, I went to bed on 24 Dec at about 3am and got up at 9am the same day. I had an appointment to meet another friend in the city to drop off cucumbers – I had more than I could possibly eat – and saw someone reply to a comment of mine implying that I should lean into Christmas. The ghosts of the dead are with us, she sort of said, I don’t remember exactly what she said, oh here it is, she said, “we can feel the presence of those we’ve lost, reminding us that love transcends time and space” there was even an emoji in there. I took it on-board and promised myself to increase my follower count on X by one over the “festive” season, at least then I’d have something to show for myself.

When I was in the city I also stopped off at Central Station to check the ticket situation for my trip to Goulburn and found there’s a train on 4 Jan leaving at 7.15am with the trip taking about 2.5 hours. I was less optimistic about the weather for the solar install however as it rained heavily on Xmas Eve so I didn’t buy a train ticket.

Christmas Day I felt like an atom bomb had gone off in my soul. People were sending wishes and I didn’t know what to think. One guy I know put up a poem he’d written and it was so nice but I just didn’t accept its premise, the world was so riven by conflict and it was impossible to see a way to resolve everything. I was the little boy who put things away in the kitchen while mum was cooking when they were still needed, I had an inveterate need to tidy up, to put things in their places. I waited for the feeling to arrive, the one everyone needs on Christmas Day, I waited and waited unwashed my teeth uncleaned my belly empty. At least I had a cup of instant coffee I’d started drinking the instant left over from 2022 when a friend had organised a film shoot at my place, I didn’t want to spend money on fresh-ground coffee until January when I had more money in my cheque account. I was a wreck, but maybe this is what Christmas is about, a time not of plenty but of scarcity, when circumstances bring home the reality of life.

I thought of how Christmas reminds us of family. We might have lost family. We might be separated from them. But at this time of year we remember those times when it was together, the shared moments, the rubbing up against someone familiar. Like Mary and Joseph in the barn, a family together in a strange place, surrounded by unfamiliar things. They say that religion was once made up of a family, the head of the family, the wife, the son, the daughter, all being with each other in their own ways, the old animosities flaring up the silences the quiet remonstrances the messages sent without words I think of my daughter and her son their relationship she dotes on him he relies on her for everything even for comfort when he gets scared like when he saw my face and started crying. Family means something even hatred can give comfort when the alternative is just absence of feeling, I remember the cluttered kitchen bench where the telephone sat at home in Vaucluse where mum did her shop books, what kinds of things were on that bench behind the telephone recipe books, bits of wrapping paper maybe, receipts perhaps who knows all that junk.

These are the memories.

This is reality.

Now. Until the end.

I contemplate watching Netflix to distract myself something French Brazilian American people walking through rooms to meetings purposeful driven they have a reason to walk through those rooms I wander downstairs to get another cup of coffee I just happen to be in this room because this is where the kettle is the jar of instant the milk in the fridge. I make a cup of coffee and drag myself without purpose upstairs to my desk and write about sitting in front of the TV like a zombie because 2023 was the year I gave up reading I enjoy watching a political thriller from France especially because the French didn’t like it on Christmas Day I talk to no one entirely alone by myself sustaining myself on fragments of meaning little pieces of a puzzle I’m trying to solve what does it mean to be human how should I live where why celebrate what exactly in this world of punishment constant bombing shells whistling out of the air missiles whoosh what’s the point of religion if it can’t save us from this punishment we remember past punishment and yet repeat it love the crime scene shots in police procedurals the cop cars driving up beacons flashing the tape the pathologist coming over to the body talks with the inspector some sense finally after all the violence when will it ever stop.

On Boxing Day I got to see a photo of myself by artist agent David Hochberg (below) that he’d taken at my place before Xmas. It had been around the time of the Tiliqua Small Works Show as I’d first met David there.

In his Facebook caption he said it was a “recent” work but in fact – and I mentioned this at the time the photo was taken – the screenprint above my head was made in 1981. Not recent at all, very ancient indeed, dating to the time when I was still young and gorgeous. Never mind I do like the way my shirt agrees with the print. I still had to go to Tiliqua to pick up the artworks that hadn’t been sold, but first on 27 Dec I was going out to Bondi Junction to meet Suzanna Kertesz about a creative day we were thinking to organise.

I mentioned the visit to Simon Kahn who called me on Boxing Day at my suggestion, I desperately wanted to tell him everything that’d happened in the past few weeks because since he’s not on any social media I feel entirely cut off from him and he was the reason I got into painting in the first place. He was at work when he called but kindly listened while I listed events, then I asked him about his January show. The gallery had mucked up the tile for promotion, spelling his name wrong on the JPG, but he said they wouldn’t fix the problem until a week before the show on 10 Jan. If you’re in Sydney at that time the opening is at 5pm at Level 1, 115 Regent St Chippendale, a nice central location. One day only for the show so that’s the day you have to be there if you want to see Simon’s wonderful things. I felt sort of relieved once I’d spoken with Simon as I’d wanted to do so for a while and I’d been promoting my work for most of the month. I had done some painting in Dec but not much, most of my time had been spent on social media watching for leads and then responding to them. Should I have communicated with Simon more and if I had would he also have applied to some of the same things I applied for? I couldn’t know.

With so much happening in the first half of 2024 I thought on Boxing Day that maybe I should take a rest with all the promotion and start painting again, but once you get into the groove it’s hard to change. Doing things online becomes sort of enjoyable even with all the daft buggers out there spoiling things for reasonable people. The thing about painting is that even though it’s fun to do you do it alone, whereas with promotion you’ve always coming into contact with different people in one way or another.

I met with Suzanna Kertesz on 27 Dec in Bondi Junction (and got a haircut while I waited for her to arrive). We discussed a creative meetup with her group and made plans for 14 Jan in Newtown. In the evening Tony a friend contacted me and said he’d come over on NY Eve to have something to eat. On the same day I got a rejection from an art gallery I’d made an approach to. I’d had a sort of relationship with them 15 years ago as I’d bought art there, but my approach this time didn’t go well. At this stage in the year I was feeling a bit saturated with all the thinking about 2024 even though one approach wasn’t successful I did have two solo shows lined up, so the sensation of failure that troubled me with my old contact was offset by a sense of purpose. In fact I was having thoughts about making art with a different intention, my plan being that this time I’d have specific exhibiting opportunities in mind, whereas before I’d just been in pursuit of my ideal when I was making art. In the beginning art was something I did when I was alone. Now it had become something that I did with the cooperation of others.

Which method of creation is better is a matter for observation and discussion at a later date, with any luck I’ll address this issue in next year’s memorial. With any luck.

One thing was certain, even if I wasn’t successful every time I approached a gallery or applied for a prize it still felt right. Painting and writing poetry are what I was born to do, and nobody’s opinion of my work was going to change that. If I sold everything put on show or if I sold but one painting each time I opened up my practice to the public, it made little difference. 

I learned something else about myself in these final days of the year, that I am sort of addicted to text, and respond very positively to sustained and long narrative strategies by other writers. I was scrolling through Instagram at one point early in the morning on 28 Dec and I came across an ad for a marketing service that uses “Reels” on the platform, and it struck me that I find nothing less appealing than a movie or video with clips of text over it as subtitles, it’s far too slow I get impatient and want to know what’s to come next, I certainly do not want to watch another damn movie fr Chrissakes. This is just me, I’m entirely different from 95 percent of people who use Tik Tok in preference to Facebook, give me a long textual post to read any day of the week, you can keep your stupid movies thanks very much if I want movies I’ve got Netflix.

Happy New Year. To celebrate I want to reveal a project outline that will accompany me in 2024, it’s a series of paintings of dead family members. I want to exhibit the portraits alongside the photos mum got blown up and framed so that she could hang them on her apartment’s walls. I can also include sonnets I have written about some people who are now dead. I will call the show ‘Baker’s Dozen’, a term that was common when I was young, it belongs to the era of the Depression which is my mother’s era, she was born in 1929 the year of the Crash. 

And here’s something else to make a baker’s dozen (there are 13 blogposts in this annual review): the chart showing in graphical form the pageviews on ‘Happy Antipodean’ for 2019 to 2023. In case you’re wondering Annie from Laerk Space hadn’t got back to me by the afternoon of 28 Dec, but I messaged her in the evening.

As far as you’re concerned, if you’ve read this far, if you’ve read one or more of these End-of-year Memorial posts I sincerely thank you but hope that you’d go so far as to leave a remark, a “Like” or just Something that will tell me that you’ve been here and seen this. And I hope that 2024 is remarkable for you. Not just good. The Best.

Thursday 28 December 2023

End of year memorial: November

The second half of October was so busy getting ready for my first solo show at Laerk Space that I failed to write much for this memorial at all. The following is the chronicle for November. At the beginning of Nov once the show was over I went on to make commemorative works and gave one to the gallerist. The other I got framed using a frame from a work in the show that didn’t sell and put it on my wall above my desk. I recycled a lot of the frames from the show, using ones from works that didn’t sell for other works that I hadn’t yet exhibited.

The above photo shows Adelaide with Henri (not shown by request apart from his hands) in the Yokohama house on 13 Nov but the memorial for November is almost empty. I talk a lot with my daughter when we manage to link up but I don’t remember what we talked about on this day and didn’t make a note of the conversation. We probably talked as usual about little Henri. I talk with them when they’re not too tired, but there’s so much work to do with an infant that it’s not always that they have time to chat.

The following photos show the solo exhibition at Laerk Space. I actually used many of these photos on the Esag blog but decided to add them here additionally for completeness. I’m nothing if not thorough, and I guess I thought that the show warranted more exposure as it was such an important and affirming experience for me.

The above photos show the preparation for the hang, Annie quickly sited what she thought should go where and then we got around to the process of hanging. The following photos show the space once the hang was complete.

The next photo shows me sitting at the back of the gallery waiting for people to wander in off the street. I had some ideas about exhibitions because it’s so difficult to get people to do this transition: now I’m in the street, now I’m inside the gallery. They hesitate on the threshold and almost apologise once they manage to get inside it’s almost comical, when all the time you’re sitting there trying to draw them in using your telekinetic brain power. It’s extraordinary and sobering.

I had some people at the opening, it was good to see friends come together and someone even took photos (see below).

I took some of my more recent work along with me in my backpack, so dropped the panels on the floor when everyone was there so that I could show them (see below).

The following photos show the view from the front of the gallery across the street to residential houses on Wilson St. I used this photo when I was making the painting that I eventually gave to Annie.

I also used the following photos to make artworks, they’re taken on the bus when I was travelling one morning from my house to the gallery.

The following photos show Annie and her brother being photographed with the outdoor signage they took down from the holder attached to the side of the building the gallery was located in. I also used these photos in artworks.

Anther thing that happened in November, in fact late in the month so almost in Dec, was my commissioning Think Renewables to put in solar panels. A guy came around canvassing households and rang my doorbell. When I answered I got to talking with him. Later he had another guy come to go through the numbers, explain the process. After that I signed a contract and Think Renewables called me to organise a site visit by an installer. They consulted with Ausgrid about voltage and the technician came on the last day of spring to scope out the installation site, he went up a ladder to peer at the roof, went down to the basement to see where the inverter would go, and went into the light well to check out where the cabling for the electrics would be put to bring the power down from the roof to the garage.

Wednesday 27 December 2023

End of year memorial: October

I went to Pixel Perfect on 3 Oct to pick up prints of photos I’d asked for. The photos that I wanted to put into albums dated back as far as 2007. Once I started doing the work on my dining table having sorted out which packets of prints went together it was a thrill. I felt as if I was seeing the images for the first time, they sprang to life and I got the feeling that I was walking down the street 15 years in the past. These photos are different from TEFA but led into TEFA.

With some of the photos the way I worked with my digital camera was to stroll through town snapping away and trying to get the photos to blur. In fact on a particular day marking one of the batches of photos I started out by going to an art show opening at a commercial space that is now closed called Stills Gallery. I travelled there on the train from where I lived in Campsie. 

I took photos of the crowd listening to the presentation given by staff, standing in a circle of patrons, and because the interior of the building was dark the photos tended to blur. I guess looking back – but I cannot be certain because I made no record of the event – that this functioned as a revelation. Once I got outside to walk back to the train I took more photos but this time I tried to make the photos blur, and I was successful so that now I have hundreds of blurred images taken on my Canon PowerShot A530 showing average Sydneysiders walking down a range of city streets – I couldn’t however reconstruct my itinerary if I wanted to, and I do want to – just minding their business being completely unaware (in most cases) that their image – though blurred often into incoherence – has been captured for all time. Even if they were aware at the time there is almost no chance that a memory of that event has remained in their memory. The photos are the only trace that exists outside my mind and even in my mind there is most of all a blank, hence the lack of a record in memory of the route that I walked to get back to the station.

I completed two albums in two days and ordered more albums online. It felt good handling the photos, hundreds of them, and used my printer upstairs to make labels to go on the fronts of the albums, describing what is inside. 

I also did something different as well, busying myself thinking up new ways to use longer poems in artworks. In the past I’d made “paramontages” – synthetic combines of photos and poems printed at the print shop, all on one sheet – and now I invented a new way, combining photos, poems and watercolours, each panel in A5 size so that they could be framed together as four individual points of reference. I put the panel containing the text at the bottom on the right to make it easier for people standing in the room to read the poem. I thought this would be a good way to get general approval for my longer poems, ones that people who’d seen some of the complex paramontages had rejected. 

It was great to have this epiphany, and to put the relevant files on a thumb drive so that I could take them to the print shop, which I did on 6 Oct, the same day I drove into town to buy ground fresh coffee.

Tuesday 26 December 2023

End of year memorial: September

To make ‘The Enormous Family Album’ (TEFA) I brought down a small desk from the back bedroom on the first floor. I needed the desk to accommodate my computer, on which I had the titled files that had been used to make many TEFA prints. I’d plug my ancient laptop computer into the power and scan through file names looking for the right one, then write up a label on paper and paste it into TEFA because sometimes the only information I had about photos was in the file or folder name. 

I started doing this work on about 3 Sept when I carried down thousands of photos and dumped them on the dining table. I worked every evening doing photos (4 corner sticky tabs each photo) while watching TV, or at least I had the TV on in the background providing noise and company while I worked otherwise in silence. I think that I got the story straight, my aim to help the photos tell the story of the Dean da Silva Kewish Caldicott families – my family names, the ones I grew up with – so that I’d have something to pass onto the Yokotas and Matsumotos.

Yokota is my son’s last name, Matsumoto is my daughter’s last name.

I am the last of the da Silvas in Australia, the name subsuming Dean, Caldicott and Kewish. But Australia rejected us and we went elsewhere to establish families, me in Japan my brother in the US. The album is a chronicle of disaster stemming from my father, a malignant narcissist who, when he realised that both his children had run away out of sheer terror, went back to Portugal to find a replacement family there, even though growing up he had NEVER said a single word about any of them out there in a homeland he always seemed to despise because he seemed to hate his father. Dad used to make fun of my grandfather on account of Joao Luis’ bad English and he ridiculed things like temper tantrums not making any effort to understand “why”. Things like racism.

My Japanese family calls my father “P-chan” with “P” standing for “Peter” and “chan” being a familiar diminutive used noncommittally in Japan to refer for example to children or boyfriends. There’s nothing else to do, he’s part of our lives forever or at least for as long as anyone gives face to his memory but he NEVER once in the nine years that I lived in Japan made the effort to visit us where we lived. He could go to Portugal to stay for months to meet with family there but his own grandchildren didn’t get to see him unless WE travelled to a place that was convenient for HIM.

A sick joke.

Not a father.

The problem that P-chan offers is that everything had to be on his terms, he never met you even half-way. It was “my way or the highway” with P-chan, he was right and everyone else could go to hell. No wonder we left him alone. 

When I was working at Yamatake one time I was sent to the CEO’s office to do an interview and Ido-san was brusque if not dismissive. I slated this down to office politics because my work unit had sort of fallen into the class of being sponsored by a man in the company at a senior rank who’d been a competitor of Ido-san’s before Ido-san became CEO, and old animosities die hard I understand that. At the end of our ten minutes together he said that I should go back to Australia so my father could see his grandchildren. Ido-san knew my father they’d done business together. But though I would eventually go back it wasn’t voluntarily. 

I have spent most of my life trying to maintain a sense of agency.

TEFA started in late May and finished in early September but in reality because of the triggering nature of the exercise it’d been going on since 2019, when I went out of my way to buy dry-mount photo albums and sticky corners. I’d had them gathering dust in a cupboard.

On 8 Sept the day after sending TEFA to Japan I had regrets and wished I could’ve spent more time making it because I felt like an opportunity had been lost. My purpose in making TEFA had all along been – like with ‘Reminiscences’ – to capture and preserve. It seemed important to me because once a person is dead their memories are also lost unless they have first been captured somewhere in some recorded form, like a family photo album or a memoir, or else handed down via spoken stories. I’d lost so much when mum died, every week there were things I wanted to ask her but couldn’t. I didn’t want other people to feel my loss.

I missed my mother.

I was hard on dad in TEFA.

I miss my mother.

On 8 Sept I wrote a poem about memory, by this time in my life I had lived so long and had done so many things that it felt natural to talk about driving in the car in the mid-80s. I put nothing about that Ford Laser in TEFA, there were many things that I had left out. I comforted myself with the knowledge that my family would at least look through the album and discuss it, perhaps, among themselves. It seemed like the appropriate way to deal with life.

On 7 Sept I went to Sydney Contemporary and met with Mark Ferguson, who I knew from back in the 1980s, he was a friend of a work colleague. Nowadays he’s like me much involved in the art world, perhaps more than me. I got my invitation to the show from a northern rivers artist I bought collages from in about 2013. I don’t know where he got his invite from he told me but I forgot. On the way back home I caught the bus on Regent Street, here’s the cars streaming down the road from the CBD with their lights on, as they come over the rise their lights shine in your eyes momentarily until they pass by and go on toward Henderson Rd.

A busy stretch of road the council has just improved by inserting into it a new set of traffic lights for a pedestrian crossing south of where the photo stabs. The photo was taken looking north, the bus comes up the hill and pauses taking on passengers ready to progress down the road, I get on  the bus and ride it all the way to Botany and then get off it at my street, I’m usually the only person to get off there. Regent Street is quite another kettle of fish there are usually dozens of passengers waiting to get onto any number of different buses but I wish they’d put in a train line.

On 20 Sept I subscribed to X (formerly Twitter) it’s a bit of a process you have to add a form of ID, I used my diver’s license. The camera on the PC tries to take snapshots of the back and front of the card, it takes a bit of time to get things aligned properly. The reason I did this is because I saw a news item on the Guardian website saying that Musk would make all users subscribe and since I knew someone else badly wanted my handle I got in before it could be taken away. 

On this day Adelaide held her 100 days’ celebration at a restaurant in Yokohama (see photo below). I didn’t have any new videos to share so sent snapshots to some people instead. One friend said that Henri will be a chick magnet when he’s bigger.

I started ‘Dark alphabet’ on 22 Sept and finished the watercolour part two days later, thinking to add collage. I asked for advice on Instagram but got no response. By the end of the month I’d finished the entire thing and had it laid out on the floor for contemplation it was a mammoth task but I pulled through, the Posca marks I did in one session one after the other all 24 panels.

On 26 Sept I went to the framers to specify the items for the exhibition, there were 13 of them and I paid a deposit. The exhibition would be held in early Nov, with the opening party on the 2nd. 

My visit to the framers was to pick up some things I’d specified for my own use, and included things mum had drawn in the 50s and 60s. One of these things is a set of evening party cartoons that I got framed 4-up (four in one frame) and sent to Japan. Another was a set of drawings as photocopies for a fashion designer named Chris Jacovides (see pic below).

I chose a pink fillet for this item to add a feminine refinement, and a gold-and-black frame to give it distinction. Mum was a reader of fashion magazines all her life, I grew up with copies of Vogue hanging around the house (as well as House & Garden), and she sold fashion in her shop. I remember vacuuming the change room which was surrounded by dresses, not a curtain (the dresses were the curtain), the soft drapery of the garments adding mystique to a daily chore during school holidays. Mum was an inveterate communicator and had been the school magazine editor in her final year, she had also worked as a commercial artist for some time after matriculating. I do wonder if she was paid for her drawings or if she did it as a favour to a friend.

There were other items including a drawing of my brother when he was about 3 years old, and a photo of mum aged about 18. I have these in the hallway on the first floor where there were spaces. Another item still to pick up as the month turned over was a photo of P-chan as a small boy (see photo below).

Monday 25 December 2023

End of year memorial: August

On 1 Aug I bought an Elanor chair from Plush because Ming said I needed an armchair in the living room downstairs, and Simon from the art group worked in a furniture store. Simon helpfully made up a quote and emailed it to the Esag account so I paid a deposit. Much cheaper than the place I’d been used to getting furniture from and from whom I’d bought my couch, plus with only a deposit needed on order I didn’t do too much immediate damage to my credit card. I’d just gotten a refund because the night before I orchestrated a purchase of clothes for Adelaide. One of her retailers had a sale but stupidly I picked the wrong colour for one item – a top – so had to cancel the order as international orders with Lucy & Yak cannot be changed. This is what the chair looked like when it was delivered (not in Aug) after a time lag of about 12 weeks. I put it here in Aug because I didn’t make a note of it when it arrived. You can see it looks a bit like a bear (Ming’s description).

The art show came together and on 2 Aug I paid the rental fee to Annie the gallerist. Simon organised for us to go to the gallery the following week to discuss preparations, and I asked Simon when Billy Lake’s works could be collected (she planned to go away). I did some weeding on 4 Aug because the yellow nutgrass threatened to spread in my lawn which had grown ragged with lack of care. On 1 Aug I’d also picked up the Etch-A-Sketch I’d purchased on Amazon for Henri, this was a request from his mother, who remembered using one of these toys when she was small, and on the 5th I realised I’d need to go and buy more coffee. I still hadn’t heard from the print shop or from the framers (both of them) but on two days around this time I had a couple of conversations with Adelaide and her mother about where Ada and Ryo and Henri should move to to be closer to Yukiko, who was providing critical support for the family. They canvassed possibilities including renting or buying an apartment.

On 8 Aug I went with Graeme Cordiner of Sydney Friends of Myall Creek to visit the shadow minister for Aboriginal affairs at Parliament House, which was interesting. It was a bit stressful getting through the security apparatus but I survived unmolested. The building is under renovation so I entered through underground and walked upstairs to get to the lobby where I waited. After leaving Graeme on Elizabeth Street following the meeting I caught the bus to Newtown to get my coffee, then on the way back home went to Broadway Shopping Centre to pick up mail. I also bought some low-carb snacks there. The letter in the mail when I got home was a nice surprise because it seems that the insurance company under which I’d cashed in my life insurance policy had decided to change the way they calculate the value of policies so I would receive extra money.

I spoke with Ada and her mother on 9 Aug and saw the activity gym I’d sent for Henri on 24 Jul. When it had initially arrived in Japan the bolts for putting it together had been missing so I’d been forced to go to Kmart again, contacting the service desk in person and asking, with the help of a photo of the receipt Ada sent, for what I needed, which the clerk behind the counter kindly supplied. I picked out some more soft toys with attachment rings and mailed them off. When they arrived in Yokohama Ada put the thing together and I saw a video of Henri playing with it. It’s hard to classify the feelings I have when looking at my grandson, he seems sort of unreal possibly because I don’t have to look after him, though when Yukiko and I do Zoom convos with Ada and Henri it can go on for a long time; luckily Ada has a Zoom account.

I got so busy for the rest of Aug what with the art show (see pics below) and making a family photo album that I called ‘The Enormous Family Album’. The art show ran from 17 to 20 Aug inclusive and I was in the gallery each day giving out room sheets to potential customers. We had one woman who showed an interest in Simon’s work but though she came in twice and sent her husband once the transaction never materialised.