Sunday 9 February 2020

Marco's Fat Girlfriend

Ah, the Suntan. It must be the Olden Days.

It may not have escaped your notice, Dear Reader, that Your Correspondent is rather fond of a bit of nostalgia around these pages, rather than chewing over the Issues of the Day. Although, to be fair, there's been scant enough of that lately to make this connection obvious. But a request from Mr. P the other day for me to make Ye Olde Favourite Tuna Pasta for dinner reminded me that an opportunity lent itself to regale you with a bit of colour and movement from the Olden Days. So do settle down for a little bit while I tell to you a Tale from my Vault.

Mr. P is not the only Italian Gentleman* I've had a romantic attachment to. It was, in fact, my time spent working in London in my 20s that my tastes were cultivated in that particular direction and during that time I had, ahem, a few Italian boyfriends (and I do believe that most women have a "Maurizio" in their past but I'll save him for another day). Eurotrash, the tedious English Gentlemen at the merchant banks I worked for would sneeringly refer to them as. But that did not deter me.

Eventually, my Banking Days were done and some dear friends from Australia and I took ourselves off to holiday in the Mediterranean together. Later, some returned home to Jobs that called, but T (my Cornelia Parker exhibition companion) and I found ourselves washed up on the shores of the Greek island of Patmos for a season. Before we knew what we were doing, jobs came along and life sort of settled down for us, Greek-style.

My expectation is that this place hasn't changed much in twenty-five years but, at least in the 90s, this dusty and rocky, tiny island attracted a rather chic jet-set from even as far away as America. If you've ever been to Greece you notice that each island tends to draw its own distinct holidaymakers and in the main, this particular island was popular with Athenians, with Italians, Germans and French making up the bulk of the European visitors.

Anyhow, before long, T developed a circle of friends drawn mostly from the sophisticated Athenian set, for whom their holiday on the island meant villas and yachts and nightclubs, and found a lovely little apartment in the port town to live in. My circle grew from a more local brew, peopled with the island-born and of the fishermen and goatherd variety, and my job as a Coffee Maker (not barista, please!) provided me with free accommodation in a barn (with a cold-water hose as a shower - Luxurious! - and which I shared with another, ahem, illegal worker, Maria from Bulgaria**) up in the Des-Res village around the island's drawcard monastery.

And so our days passed with work, Greek lessons (for me), chores (a barn is a dusty place), catching up, dancing in the nightclubs after work, gossip and beach***. Yes, there were Greek boyfriends for us to titter over, but this tale does not concern a Manolis or Theologos or such, but a Marco ...

Thanks to the Emperor Augustus, August is the time for Ferragosto in Italy, and when this time rolled around, the population of holidaying Italians exploded on the island. Some came for the entire month and many were revisiting the island year after year. And it was in one such crowd of ragazzi that Marco appeared. A typical Euro-aristocrat -  cash-poor yet with the wherewithal to holiday for a month at a time; titled but with a jaunty job (pilot, of course!) - and who took rather a shine to ol' Pipistrello and her rather excellent coffee-making skills.

Before you could say "But espresso is not my speciality!", the Patmian adventure was over and there was a bit of wooing of Your Correspondent going on in the Eternal City. And whereupon some of Marco's Pasta-Masta-Classes were had (Tip 1: ragù aside, no pasta sauce should take longer to cook than does boiling the water and cooking the pasta) and spaghetti al tonno was born as the Pipistrello go-to pasta recipe.

If you've ever had a meal with a chic Italian, you will discover that although the food is utterly delicious, not much will actually get eaten. The concept of bella figura doesn't necessarily mean keeping your figure Nice & Tidy, rather, among other subtle meanings, it is to do with presenting your best self. The Correct shoe or nonchalantly draped cashmere over the shoulder in the Correct colour is an obvious and easily recognised cultural tic, but I discovered that relishing the delicious and abundant spread of food at table will also make a nostril flare or an eyebrow to arch on the visage of your willowy fellow diners, who are showing the Correct amount of restraint (aided, it was later pointed out to my rather naive self, by a little bit of appetite-suppressing, recreational drug usage).

If you also know me, Dear Reader, you know that my physique tends towards the Olive Oyl and I daresay it was ever thus, and although there were not many photographs taken of me around this time to verify my claim (pshaw ... we have our memories!), overweight was the last adjective I would have been described with ... Except by Marco's aristocratic Italian friends. Pipistrello was known amongst them as Marco's Fat Girlfriend!

It still cracks me up!!

* No, Mr. P does not mind me talking about these Romantic Olden Days. He sits secure in the knowledge that after experimenting with a few dyed-in-the-wool Italians, I realised that what I really wanted in my life was the Italian packaging wrapped around a thoroughly Australian Sensibility and, crucially, Sense of Humour.

** Before she was rounded up in an Illegal Worker Sting, which I luckily eluded owing to a tip-off and some quick thinking by my employer. Yes, it was an action-packed beach holiday!

*** Among other Adventures, T and I both had our portrait painted in a rather Flattering Fashion by a holidaying Greek artist while we were there. T was rather furious to discover her bikinied form ended up miraculously nude, while I don't believe I've ever had such a buxom profile in my life! Suffice to say, these portraits were spirited away to live in his, ahem, personal collection.

Image credit: Flying With Hands

Sunday 2 February 2020

Cornelia Parker

Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon OBE. Edward Snowdon. Germaine Greer. Gary. Julian Assange. Jarvis Cocker. Jeanette Winterson. Jimmy. The Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP. Jon Snow.

It's not often, Dear Reader, that you might encounter such an assortment of personages in the one paragraph. Nor, you would imagine, involved in a common project. But they nestle amongst the credit roll of over 200 law-makers, -breakers and -commentators who contributed to a fifteen-metre long embroidered representation of the Magna Carta's Wikipedia page. (Jon Snow, I'm guessing, is someone's nom de needlepoint.) Magna Carta plus Wikipedia plus Embroidery can only equal one thing: Yes, the brilliant and inventive British artist Cornelia Parker is having an exhibition in Sydney.

Photo detail of artwork by Cornelia Parker, Magna Carter (An Embroidery), 2015, exhibited at the MCA, Sydney, 2019
Topside detail
Magna Carta (An Embroidery), 2015

Photo detail of reflected underside of Cornelia Parker artwork "Magna Carta (An Embroidery), 2015" exhibited at the MCA, Sydney, 2019
Underside detail - in Reflection
Magna Carta (an Embroidery), 2015
Photo detail of Cornelia Parker artwork, Magna Carter (An Embroidery), 2015 exhibited at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Wikipedia Images Captured in Stitch
Magna Carta (An Embroidery), 2015

Photo detail of Cornelia Parker artwork, Magna Carta (An Embroidery), 2015, exhibited at MCA Sydney, 2019
Gilt Thread to Enliven the Black, White & Wiki-Blue
Magna Carter (An Embroidery), 2016

Law-breakers in HM Prisons made further contributions in another series of hand embroidered works, dictionary definitions of oppositional words superimposed on one another in mirrored writing: Inside, Outside 2018; Win, Lose 2019; Pretty, Ugly 2019; Light, Dark 2015, War, Peace 2015 and:

Photo image of Cornelia Parker artwork "Love, Hate 2015", exhibited at the MCA, Sydney, 2019
Collins Dictionary Mined for Art
Love, Hate 2015

Opposing states and unexpected transformations, key to Cornelia Parker's work, were explored in this career-spanning exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The space was filled with rooms of sculpture and installation, and, for me, the unexpected delight of embroidery. It's extremely satisfying to see one's, ahem, old-fashioned interests taken to novel and modern heights by such an interesting artist. A reminder for me that there is fun to be had by taking hobbies off-piste! 

And I had a bonus reminder that my general News Blackout has been worth it when you see this assemblage of news headlines drawn by 5-year olds on a blackboard. I know, it's just gibberish!

Photo of Cornelia Parker artwork "News at Five (Terror-ble Joke) 2017" exhibited at the MCA Sydney,2019
Editorial Pun Alert!
News at Five (Terror-ble Joke), 2017

Some of the artworks proved rather tricky to photograph but were so very conceptually interesting. My conventionality and often-times conservatism about Art makes me really wonder about the workings of a mind like CP's, where she chases such diverse ideas down rabbit holes. For instance, there was a neatly folded pile of sheets starched with chalk from the White Cliffs of Dover (Inhaled Cliffs 1996); a heaped pile of brown particles, the scientifically-precipitated remains of a handgun once used by a criminal (Precipitated Gun 2015) and a doll cut in half by the guillotine that beheaded Marie Antoinette (Shared Fate (Oliver) 1998) - how would you even ask permission to play with such a thing? Her Little Black Book of contacts must make for fascinating reading.

Room-sized installations included The War Room 2014. The atmospheric, tented interior formed from the perforated paper left over from the Remembrance Day poppy factory in England took as inspiration the lavish, red Tudor tent at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the site of the failed peace talks between King Henry VIII and King Francis I of France.

Photo of Cornelia Parker installation "War Room 2018", at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Remembering Wars Past
War Room, 2018

In a published conversation with the MCA Curator Rachel Kent, CP said the desiccated clay rubble excavated from under the Leaning Tower of Pisa by engineers tasked with trying to stabilise it and which forms Subconscious of a Monument, 2001-05 fills the room to a certain height but doesn't go on to say precisely what this is. As I'm a pedant and Need To Know, I've spent some goodly time on the interwebs hunting down this factoid to no avail. I was intrigued by this extra physical dimension and was put in mind of the "simultaneous book" of poetry and painting which delighted me at last year's Hermitage Moderns exhibition, where the proposed lineal print-run of the avant-garde work was to match the height of its inspiration, the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps the height of the Pisa rubble matches the adjustment to the Leaning Tower's lean? Anyway, it reminded me more strongly of the Kuiper Belt, our own Solar System's tidy arrangement of debris, and was very appealing.

Photo of Cornelia Parker installation, "Subconscious of a Monument, 2001-05" exhibited at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Terrestrial Concerns
Subconscious of a Monument, 2001-05

The exhibition's earliest installation, Thirty Pieces of Silver 1988-89, where the steamrollered and suspended silver-plated objects are pooled into thirty coin-shaped groupings, had a dual showing in the form of the metallic thread tapestry of thirty original selves. A very nice revisitation of one of her ideas and another of my favourites. So crafty!

Photo detail of Cornelia Parke installation "Thirty Pieces of Silver, 1988-89", exhibited at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Steamrollered to Best Effect
Thirty Pieces of Silver (detail), 1988-89

Photo detail of Cornelia Parkers installation "Thirty Pieces of Silver, 1988-89", exhibited at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Pools of Squashed Silver
Thirty Pieces of Silver, 1988-89

Photo of Cornelia Parker artwork "Thirty Pieces of Silver (A Tapestry), 2017-19", exhibited at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Wool, Silk and Metal Thread Depiction of the Original Loot
Thirty Pieces of Silver (A Tapestry), 2017-19

Last but not least, T, who was out visiting from London, and I got to put ourselves into one of the artist's most famous installations. A five-minutes of playing around with fame, if you like. Behold, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991, the detonated and resurrected garden shed and its contents with Your Correspondent and her dear friend:

Photo of Cornelia Parker installation "Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991", exhibited in the MCA Sydney, 2019
An Exercise in Patience Putting the Shed Shrapnel Back Together
Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991

Photo detail of hot water bottle in Cornelia Parker installation "Cold, Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991", exhibited in the MCA Sydney, 2019
Household Mundanities Given a Dramatic Twist
Cold, Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991

Me and T

As ever, it was an age ago that T & I had our day out when we met up with Cornelia's extremely likeable exhibition. It's still on at the MCA for a little bit longer (just!), and while the ticket price is a little high, I'm sure it's a justifiable reflection of the enormous task someone has to pack all this stuff up and send it back home. What a job that will be! ... And if you've stuck around thus far, you get a complimentary photo of the rather delicious cocktails which finished our outing.

Cin cin!

Image credits: Flying With Hands

Bats In The Belfry