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Archive for the ‘Cool Things’ Category

I’m always a bit conflicted when I post photos that I’ve taken at the White Rabbit Gallery.

On the one hand, I really want to encourage everyone in Sydney who has an interest in contemporary Chinese art to visit, and I don’t want my photos to gazump the magic of seeing an incredible piece for the first time. Additionally, many of the artworks are large and immersive, and it’s hard to do them justice in two dimensions. On the other hand, I know many of you don’t live in Sydney and will never get to see these amazing and unique pieces in person.

My compromise is to offer you a taster – a small snippet of what’s on offer over the three gallery floors. And it was hard to pare the photos down for this post, because Ritual Spirit is one of the most beautiful White Rabbit exhibitions ever.

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Farfur the Martyr (2008) by Peng Hung-Chih, a stainless steel creation juxtaposing different religious views on the meaning of martyrdom, stands in the entrance foyer…

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Defence (2014) by Xia Hang is a large stainless steel clockwork construction. Like all things steampunk, I found it hypnotically beautiful and instantly appealing…

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Mr Sea (2014) by Geng Xue combines video with exquisitely expressive porcelain puppets…

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Play 201301 (2013) by Xu Zhen is a tied and suspended cathedral created from leather and BDSM accessories. It fills an entire room…

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100 Years of Repose (2011) by Yu Hong poignantly depicts what the artist refers to as China’s “sleeping sickness”. The pressures of modern Chinese life are so great that people fall asleep anywhere they can – on trains, benches or even under parked trucks…

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Finally, a clip of the ethereally beautiful Scripting (2011) by Luxury Logico of Taiwan. Thirteen suspended fluorescent tubes move in time with John Cage’s haunting music. The artwork is massively enhanced by the clever curatorial decision to place it in a darkened room over a reflective black vinyl floor…

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Every piece comes with its own story, and I’ve included links in the post above so that you can read a bit more about the individual artists.

The White Rabbit Gallery is one of Sydney’s great treasures and I’d urge you to visit if you ever get the opportunity to do so. Focusing on works of contemporary Chinese art made in the 21st century, the gallery continues to share these with the public completely for free. Their exhibitions are always brilliantly curated, thought-provoking and often very poignant.

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White Rabbit Gallery
30 Balfour Street
Chippendale NSW 2008

RITUAL SPIRIT is open 10am to 5pm, Wed-Sun.
The exhibition runs until 28 January 2018

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On our last weekend in California, Pete and I found ourselves at Big Bounce America, the world’s largest bounce house (aka jumping castle). We were, without doubt, the oldest people in there…

After an hour of vigorous exercise (for some, Pete and I mostly sat and watched the kids break out their dance moves), we grabbed a quick bite of lunch at Bibi’s Burgers in Santa Rosa. I had the chili, which was served with Saltine crackers…

Then we headed off to visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

For this lifelong fan, happiness was…spending an afternoon exploring all things Peanuts…

We began at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena

Built and owned by Schulz and his then wife Joyce in 1969, it’s a scene straight out of the Snoopy and Peppermint Patty strips…

Charlie Brown stands outside the entrance…

A newly created “Abbey Road” features provides a fun photo opportunity…

The museum is a short walk from the ice rink…

The space is a loving, elegant, and beautifully curated tribute to the life and work of Charles “Sparky” Schulz (1922 – 2000)…

There are scores of original strips on rotating display…

This huge seven metre high mural was created by Japanese artist Yoshiteru Otani. It’s impossible to see from the photo below, but the 3,588 ceramic tile creation of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown contains ten years’ worth of carefully selected comic strips…

Here’s a close-up…

Sparky’s work area from his studio at One Snoopy Place, Santa Rosa has been lovingly recreated on the second floor. It includes his original desk and drawing board…

Aside from cartooning, ice hockey was his other great passion…

A fan of the art of Christo and Jean-Claude, Schulz paid tribute to them in one of his strips in the late 1970s…

Twenty-five years later, Christo created and gifted his Wrapped Snoopy House to the museum…

One of our favourite items was this bedroom wall painted by Schulz for his daughter Meredith in 1951. After their house in Colorado Springs was sold the following year, the wall was painted over at least four times until it was purchased by Polly and Stanley Travnicek. Over the course of three months, Polly carefully stripped back the top layers of paint, revealing the original artwork underneath. In 2001, the Travniceks donated the entire wall to the museum…

On our way back to the car, we stopped at the Warm Puppy Cafe for a cold drink…

Situated inside the Ice Arena, Sparky Schulz’s table is permanently reserved. He ate there most days…

I toyed with the idea of bringing these lemonade cups home, but decided it wasn’t wise to pack sticky paper in our luggage…

A final photo before heading back to San Francisco – I couldn’t resist the opportunity to be Lucy! ♥

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Pete and I have been in San Francisco for most of September.

We’ve had the best time, staying with our beloved friends Danielle, Patrick, their wonderful children, and Obi Dog Kenobi.

A week before we left Sydney, Dan phoned us at home.

She knew we were keen to visit Yosemite National Park and had been scouting out accommodation for us. We had the option of checking into a motel outside and driving in, or renting a “tent cabin” in Half Dome Valley. Staying right in the middle of the national park was very appealing, but the downside was that we’d have to share the public amenities – there were no bathrooms in the tents.

“Oh well, so long as the toilets are clean and there aren’t any bed bugs, I guess I can manage”, I told her reluctantly.

My friend snorted with laughter.

“Bed bugs! You should be worried about the BEARS, not bed bugs!”

Err…right. Ten minutes and several expletives later, I rang her back.

“Dan, I’m 52. If I need to get up and pee in the middle of the night, a bear will EAT me. I can do public toilets OR bears, but not both together. We need another option…”

Bless her, after she stopped laughing, our darling friend managed to get us a proper cabin with a bathroom, but it meant making the four hour drive from San Francisco to the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges the day after we arrived. Thankfully, Yosemite was so mindblowingly awesome that we didn’t even notice the jetlag.

As we entered the park, we passed El Capitan, a giant 900m tall granite monolith. The striking sheer cliff faces of Yosemite, carved by glacial action over a million years ago, were completely different to anything Pete and I had seen before…

Our cabin was in Half Dome Valley, with trees and mountains all around…

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The following morning, we woke early to watch the sun rise over the mountains. The moon shone brightly in the sky, which was hazy from wildfires in other parts of the park…

The smoky haze wasn’t too bad in the morning, but it muted the blue of the sky and resulted in some hauntingly beautiful photos…

As the sun rose, Half Dome cast a shadow on the smoke particles, resulting in a clear line of light in the sky…

The meadows in the valley are a wealth of diverse plant life, bordered by ancient tree forests. Boardwalks are in place to protect them from tourist traffic. As we walked through, we could see small wallows of flattened grass where deer had bedded down for the night…

We explored the Merced River…

…and hiked the short distance to Lower Yosemite Falls…

Ansel Adams, the American photographer and environmentalist whose advocacy and black and white photos of Yosemite helped to expand the National Park service, has a gallery in Yosemite Village…

As we drove out of the park, we stopped at Tunnel View for one parting glimpse…

Sometimes, life gives us opportunities to do things that we never dreamed possible. Visiting Yosemite National Park was definitely one of those moments! ♥

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Chrysanthemum Stone

I was sitting at the dining room table, singing to myself.

“You don’t bring me flowers…anymore..”

Pete interrupted me.

“I think you mean…’at all’. I never bring you flowers.”

Sigh. Such is life when you’re married to an engineer.

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Shortly after this conversation, it was Small Man’s 21st birthday. I pointed out that it was technically my “birth day” as well, so that wonderful husband of mine bought me the most amazing thing.

It’s a chrysanthemum stone, a quite rare and unique piece from Hunan, China. Formed during the Permian period (248 – 290 million years ago), the unusual floral shape was created by celestite and calcite crystals growing in a radial “petal” formation in between layers of mud. The stone was then carved to emphasise the natural flower-like shape of the white crystals.

It’s a substantial piece, weighing over 5kg and standing nearly 30cm tall. Intriguingly, the flower formation goes right through to the back of the rock…

I’ve read that the chrysanthemum stone was the official symbol of the Chinese imperial family. It is still highly prized in China, where it is believed to promote harmony and change. Here’s a photo taken from the side – you can see the thick layer of white crystals over the black matrix…

The stone was purchased from RocksnCrystals in Paddington, a wonderful store run by the lovely Stu and Sarah. It’s definitely worth popping in if you’re in the area, as they have some beautiful specimens on offer.

The chrysanthemum stone has found a perfect home on our living room corner shelves…

Pete refers to his gift as the “eternal bloom” and claims that he never has to buy me flowers again. I think he’s probably right! ♥

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There are many different furoshiki wrapping techniques, but I only seem to use three on a regular basis – two for carrying goods and one to BYO wine to restaurants.

It’s great fun to have an instruction book open and practise the fancier folds, but when I’m out and about, it’s only the basic ones I can remember. Along with the simple bag (tutorial here), this library bag is my other go-to wrap.

It’s perfect for books, tablets, laptops, slabs of focaccia or boxes of Lego – anything with a roughly rectangular shape. You only need to know how to tie a square knot, which is definitely worth mastering, as it’s strong and won’t slip undone (instructions below from the excellent Pixieladies’ Furoshiki Fabric Wraps)…

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Start by laying a large furoshiki face down in a diamond shape. Place your book with the spine at the halfway mark…

Fold the bottom corner up to enclose the book…

Fold the two side corners in and tie a square (reef) knot…

Now tie a square (reef) knot at the top and your bag is finished!

It has a much more elegant look than the simple bag and sits comfortably in your hand or on your elbow…

I use a smaller square to wrap loaves of sourdough for delivery to the neighbours. If they’re not home, the bag sits flat on a doorknob…

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Here’s a quick way to make a furoshiki by sewing two tea towels together. The ones from Daiso (called Tenugui) are cute, made in Japan and cheap ($2.80 each)…

It takes just minutes to machine two together, then to trim and hem one edge to form  a square…

The smaller size is ideal for my iPad, or for wrapping up loaves of sourdough or plates of food…

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I’m having enormous fun with this new hobby! If you’d like to know more about furoshiki and the ancient art of Japanese fabric wrapping, you might enjoy this earlier post, or our tutorial on how to tie a simple shopping bag.

With the large supermarkets phasing out single-use plastic bags from June next year, there’s never been a better time to get knotting!

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