Zwischen zwei Städte

Wanderlust © Samantha Groenestyn (oil on linen)

Wanderlust © Samantha Groenestyn (oil on linen)

Suddenly Rosita comes in with breakfast and brings me a piece of news that throws me into a joyous ecstasy. Tomorrow will be the 19th of July, and that is the date on which Monsieur and Madame arrived from Paris last year. I give an hysterical yell:

‘So I haven’t arrived yet! I haven’t arrived. Not before tomorrow will I come to Port Lligat. This time last year, I hadn’t even started my Christ! And now before I’ve so much as come here, my Assumption is almost on its feet, pointing to heaven!’

I run straight to my studio and work till I am ready to drop, cheating and taking advantage of not being there yet so as to have as much as possible already done at the moment of my arrival. …

In spite of all my stratagems to savour the last moments of my absence with an intoxicating intensity, here I am, finally home in Port Lligat. And so happy!

(Salvador Dali, p. 55)

Life drawing 0

It seems inevitable that I will live between two cities, and the pendulum has swung me back to Wien, sparkling Vienna, where I am taking time to breathe the fresh, cool air, savour the creamy coffee and gorge my hungry eyes on art. Most importantly, I’m setting up here with the primary aim of painting. My little Dachgeschoss studio is set up, my Dutch paints bursting from their tubes, a big, fresh roll of Belgian linen that I rolled home on my bike shivers in anticipation, and I have christened the floor with turpentine that I kicked over in my painterly haste. And I have cheated time, starting a little interior days before my arrival in Vienna! Yes, it’s not until tomorrow that I arrive!

Life drawing

Already I’ve met with my old friends in the galleries—Rubens, Van Dyck, Klimt and Rodin—and already I’ve fallen for many more, my sketchbook always in tow. Sketch clubs are sprouting like tulips all over the city, and I’m managing to satiate my drawing habit with more success than last year. And best of all, the ever-optimistic Jacques is a winning sidekick, ever adept at simplifying life and focusing on the work that really matters. As ever, we are scheming, and bursting with ideas, and trying to merge our art and science worlds that we see as springing from the same impulse, the same curiosity and wonder of the physical world.

Because, in the words of Editors, ‘If something has to give then it always does,’ and when life is crowding out the important things you have to put life firmly in its place, and regroup.

Straße

 

Dali, Salvador. 1966 [1964]. Salvador Dali: Diary of a genius, an autobiography. Trans. Michel Déon. Picador: London.

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Holidaying

Snowy cardiIt being summer and all, I’m working on a couple of light cotton knitted things which I certainly won’t be able to wear for several months unless I put the air-conditioning on full blast in the car and drive around for at least an hour. But that doesn’t detract from the fun of the actual knitting! The above is a little short-sleeved cardi I am making up as I go, which has a rounded lower edge and some traditional Scandinavian textured patterns around the top. This textured knitting initially thrived in Denmark (says Sheila McGregor*, p. 13) and can be created from any two-colour chart by using knit and purl stitches with only one colour. The cotton is originally from a sweet little shop in Paris I visited several years ago, which I had knit into a polo-like cabled shirt which was so bulky and not at all the sort of thing I’d ever wear, I don’t know what I was thinking. I never wore it, so I unravelled the entire thing and set about making something better suited to my wardrobe. Unable to find a pattern, I made some hasty sketches and set to work.

Then a fortuitous visit to the glorious Woolloongabba Antique Centre found me in the possession of a gorgeous little knitting booklet from what appears to be the forties, boasting designs called ‘Paris,’ ‘Vienna’ and ‘Sydney,’ among others. Realising I had plenty of cotton to spare, thanks to all those ridiculous cables and collars and rubbish, I cast on a sweet little design called ‘Naples,’ which is sure to keep my shoulders snug in any air-conditioned environments I find myself in.

NaplesInspired by some voluminous skirts I spied at a market in Sydney, and by the classy ladies in Isabel Bishop’s paintings, I picked up a large bundle of mustard-coloured fabric to make the biggest swishy skirt I could imagine, and played around with double box-pleats until I’d come up with this:

Mustard

Unfortunately, three metres of fabric means there is a lot of unwieldy drapery hanging about one’s back tyre when bike-riding–so I learned when I biked to the pub last night. If it’s not speckled with paint, it’s dusted with brake-dust!

Christmas picnic

Christmas was, for me, a lovely bike ride with J down to a sprawling park in the city, where we picnicked and ran through sprinklers and climbed trees and read books and dozed a little. Our families live a couple of thousand kilometres north and south of us, so we enjoyed our first Christmas in Brisbane without too much fuss. I’m surprised to learn how little is open at this time of year–it feels like we are so culturally introverted, hiding away in our homes. A couple of cafes are still pouring coffee, so I can live a reasonably normal existence! And in the meantime, I’ve been getting out and doing some painting with Ryan and with a new toy I picked up in Sydney:

Mabef

 

*McGregor, Sheila. 1984. Traditional Scandinavian knitting. Dover Publications: New York.

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Tweed

Tweed sketches

And now for some textile / bicycle eye candy.

J, Nathan and I spent all Sunday afternoon gadding about on our bicycles in some fine specimens of tweed, as part of a mob / organised social event.

Plenty of pants tucked into argyle socks.

Time traveller.

No really. This guy built his penny-farthing. You can take courses and build your own if you live in Brisbane!

After a minor altercation with the police, we picnicked. (The police suspected us of protesting, and were anxious to ascertain whether or not we had a permit to do so. ‘No, officer, we are but an oversized group of people enjoying the sunshine together.’ ‘Nonetheless, I shall fine you, sir, for not wearing a helmet, and thus make an example out of you.’ A collection was taken–in a tweed hat–and the fine was paid and a profit was made and no one learned anything.)

(Frilly blouse, knitted cape and bifurcated tweed skirt, ftw.)

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Heavy with history

Reading Nozick © Samantha Groenestyn

Sometimes it feels good to clear out a bunch of old things—it’s refreshing to remove the weight of things that hang on you, and which you must carry around with you. I’ve been culling my collection of earthly possessions which, while not especially extravagant, seems to consist in a lot of things I don’t want (old paperwork, anyone?). Sometimes, though, those things are imbued with so much history that it’s hard to let them go.

Winter sunrise, Brisbane–biking to work at 6am

I sometimes speculate whether this is a function of having little money. The value of each item, when finally attained, is vastly inflated. Old, stretching clothes don’t seem like they are at the end of their useful lives. Dresses from the markets that I lusted over for weeks and finally bought though they never quite fit. Old, broken jewellery of my mum’s from the eighties. Then there are the cherished things that I have made. The first skirt I sewed, and the many dresses since, faded from ceaseless wear, or in an impossibly beautiful shade of green.

J hates missing out on a good sunrise, especially from the bridge.

I’m going to part with them, because they are old and heavy with history, and in spite of that. When I visited the national museum in Denmark, I spent a whole day tracing the chronology of Danish history, and at the end I sat down, exhausted at the heaviness we human beings create and leave behind us. The world is riddled with our artefacts, and they collect dust and smell musty and leave historic dirt on our hands. Yes, they mean something, but they also mean nothing. And when I remember the things already parted with—impossibly green knit shirts stretched out of shape, and carefully constructed homemade skirts with diamond panels in retro fabric—I feel a fondness but not a sadness. Those things had their day, and I loved them dearly while I used them, and I used them until they were beyond use.

Playing in the fog

It’s good to remember that even the most precious things are still things, and whether they live on in someone else’s possession, like my treasured old rustbucket car, or meet their end, our lives are still rich and our histories remain in our memories.

I was reading Reading Nozick in Edinburgh, and am now reading my own secondhand copy of Anarchy, State and Utopia. In the painting I’m wearing a treasured $5 skirt which flounced over woollen tights in Edinburgh winter, and brushed my bare legs in Italian summer, and visited Einstein’s birthplace of Ulm, and never came home. Which is to say nothing of my green army seconds satchel that saw me through my entire university career before meeting its demise!

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Discipline

Ready or not © Samantha Groenestyn

What’s been on your mind lately? I’ve been thinking about poverty, and whether it has any intrinsic morality. I haven’t been reading anything that overtly argues as much, only old French novels (by Simone de Beauvoir) populated with guilty petit bourgeois intellectuals and tough millionaires imposing their will on the former, and environmental science flavoured books (by Jared Diamond) that posit the correct functioning of business as to make a profit and not to hinder itself with social concerns. Those with money look out for their own interests, and take care to ensure that their money achieves what they desire. It’s therefore easy to paint them as the bad guys, forgetting about the rest of us, forgetting that they are acting rationally given their position. This realisation that it’s perfectly rational to act in certain ways when one has money—most notably, in one’s own interest—leads me to wonder whether having money is somehow connected to one’s moral downfall.

I’ve always viewed money as an enabler. I’m absolutely not the kind of person to argue that money is the root of all evil. But perhaps, money being the enabler that it is, once you have it you are able to act as yourself, unimpeded by poverty or lack of access to resources. And in so acting, you reveal your true nature. Some people will help others with their money. Some will spend it selfishly—not in itself a bad thing. I’ve seen plenty of others feel uncomfortable with it.

Testing out J’s new picnic blanket today at New Farm Park. Yep, you can sit on it. It also buckles onto his bike in a tidy little package, and it’s also homemade by me!

I started to wonder if my personality is best suited to poverty. Can such a notion make sense in the modern world, in which everyone is aspiring to earn and multiply their wealth? When I was on a salary, I could and did buy many things. I could eat more meals out, drink fancier wine and travel, and I picked up some very nice shoes. But I did these things haphazardly, and in something of a fog of not being sure what I liked or wanted. I had the means to do things, so I did them and thought about them later. Now I’m in no such position, I do all the thinking beforehand and make carefully calculated decisions and finally, when I’ve saved up enough, execute them. Is this a virtue—being discerning in your decision-making? Lack of money somehow clears my head and enables me to see straight. It imposes discipline.

Discipline in itself may not be virtuous, but it works for me—I can better order my life and achieve what I want to achieve, resources be damned.

Freight train sunset

I recently knit these Scandinavian mittens with some tweedy Harris wool sent over from Scotland from my dear friend Anna. Brisbane doesn’t get much of a winter, but fortunately I get up at 5am a couple of times a week to go open a cafe, and I open my eyes in the dark and hope that it’s freezing, and am often rewarded with 8 or 9 degree mornings, which warm up to well above 20 C. These mittens keep my hands toasty on the longish bike-ride down.

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Clementine

Early in the year I sent away some designs to Avant Cards, and my ‘portrait’ of Clementine was selected as postcard-worthy material. (She’s chuffed). They’ll start popping up in shops and cafes all over Australia pretty soon, so make sure you grab one, because they’re free!

Clementine now sports a basket on back, a big one with a handle that probably held someone’s nanna’s toilet rolls for the last decade. She recently had a flat tyre, but I learned to replace an inner tube on the weekend and she was raring to go at six this morning, and so was I, with some cosy new mittens (details forthcoming)!

I love going on bike adventures. If you want to see your bike immortalised in a painting, send me a photo of your bikeventure to samantha dot groenestyn at uqconnect dot edu dot au. I’ll paint my favourite ones and post them here as part of a bike series. And if you send me your postal address as well, I’ll send you a Clementine postcard!

Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, where J and I spent a quiet Saturday.

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