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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Melbourne's Merry lanes

On a recent trip to Melbourne I decided to explore its tiny lanes and arcades and it was the perfect time to do this as there was a festive spirit everywhere with the lanes beautifully decorated for Christmas and with happy patrons finding the ideal gifts or taking time off from the shopping to have a great coffee or snack. I started from Federation square and I made my way up Flinders Street to the first laneway which is called Degraves St, once William Desgrave's flour mill, now buzzing, almost bursting with little restaurants, the cafes doing a roaring trade and the shops welcoming you in to browse.

From there onto the beautifully preserved Block Arcade, where Melbournians were known to take a walk or do the block around the fashionable streets of Collins and Elizabeth. This is not far from the Royal Arcade the Oldest arcade in Australia dating back to the 1869.

 The iconic trams on Flinders street with the horse drawn carriages taking tourists.
The Block arcade with its mosaic tiled floors  
The Royal Arcade  
 Baubles and wooden dolls
 A fashionable number in one of the shops
 One of the many hip little bars and eateries
 The wonderful intricate paving in the Block Arcade
 I loved the Cut throat shaves on Degraves !
The lovely Christmas wreath and a message to say Merry Merry Xmas everyone ! 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Eucalyptus gold

After seeing Cai's wonderful exhibition, in particular his exhibit of the eucalyptus tree, it had the effect  on me he wanted - it sparked my interest - to find out more about them, to notice them and appreciate them. I grew up with eucalyptus trees, they were brought to Cyprus to fight off the swamps and the malaria and they did very well in that dry mediterranean climate. They have a distinct smell and I always associated them with the ancient ruins of Salamis and areas around Famagusta where they grew in prolific numbers. Having moved to Australia now I find them again here, and whereas in Cyprus I knew of one species here I need to acquaint myself with 700 ! 
They are thought to be 35 to 50 million year old trees. Their oils make them inflammable but their barks make them hardy so amazingly while fires spread horribly with them, they are also the reason for quick reforestation. There are so many varieties here it is actually fascinating to find out all about them. Colloquially they are called "gum trees" because of the sap they produce, but there are spotted gums and red gums, grey gums and black gum, not to mention scribbly gum. The barks can be dark and rough, smooth like silk, greenish, pink, cream, or grey. The leaves have that characteristic oval shape and are silvery green for the most part. Of course their name is from the Greek which means well covered. This refers to how the flower is concealed. Their wood makes exquisite flooring. 

They have been used by the aboriginals to make their didgeridoos, by others to extract oil for medicinal purposes. The oil acts as a natural insecticide and last but not least it is the favourite tree and food for koalas. These are ones we saw in the wild in Great Otway National park at the weekend.We spotted them high up on the trees eating and sleeping the two things they do best. One walked across the road so we stopped to look and he/ she looked back at us with a sweet welcoming face.

 A family, mum and baby above and dad snoring away below.
And the curious one in the wild looking at the wild things in front of it.
Perhaps the most interesting fact of all is that eucalyptus trees draw up gold through their roots and deposit them as tiny particles on their leaves. It is certainly a new way to check the gold deposits of the earth. These trees are golden in every which way and Cai saw exactly that when he chose to exhibit a eucalyptus tree in his magnificent exhibition. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Cai Guo Qiang- "Falling back to Earth"

Contemporary art and I often struggle and it is a toss up of whether I view it and go away a little disillusioned and disappointed or really fired up and challenged.More often then not it is the former that wins out.

I have never been so fired up and challenged as when I walked into a conversation with this artist who for ease of purpose I will call Cai - (pronounced as in sigh ). My sister and I were lucky enough to go to the opening weekend of this massive seminal exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art ( GOMA) in Brisbane which is on until May of 2014. Don't miss it.
It is difficult to convey the beauty of it, but also the special angle given to it by having the artist there. The conversation was conducted in Mandarin with an able translator and watching Cai answer the incisive and probing questions was music in itself as he related to us how he had rebelled against his father but also took from him the fact that he decorated small match boxes. Perhaps a lot to do with his decision to use gunpowder in a few of his works, one of which, some years ago in Brisbane ended in disaster with the gunpowder blowing up. He spoke eloquently of his development and his creations all over the world and one can truly call him an international artist. He was gracious and humble in a way which resonated with the audience and the use of his hands to add emphasis to what he was saying was not lost on us. His red socks lighted up his dark suit but his face said it all. Radiant, open, smiling and able to listen and take in everything anyone had to offer.  I suppose what really impressed me is that he travels to countries with an open mind and then uses the people and the places, in Queensland its unparalleled nature, to create the amazing works he exhibits. He connects with the people and the places and his art is relevant to each. 
He has returned to explore the beauty of Queensland and to bring to GOMA his unique style and probing mind. One of the exhibits of this exhibition is so magnificent in its simplicity that I will write a separate blog about it.
A little about him. He was born in 1957 in Quanzhou in China and studied stage design in Japan. He lived there from 1986 to 1995. Since 1995 he has been based in New York. He has had a number of solo exhibitions but this is his first one in Australia. He was responsible for the Visual and Special effects in the Beijing Olympics and has won numerous awards for his works and creations.

He created three works in three of the main exhibition galleries: 

"Eucalyptus 2013" 

A massive eucalyptus tree, such a symbol of Australian nature, one that was earmarked for removal. He placed it in the gallery - a massive reclining tree, taking the whole length of the gallery, with small tree trunks that you can sit on and contemplate it. Its beautiful bark and shape, its size, its meaning for Queensland and for its people, its planting, growing and its demise and perhaps its future too. A symbol of this landscape and of its resilience and a way to connect us to nature and all it has to offer.

The next gallery is entitled "Heritage 2013" and again the work takes it over completely with the installation of 99 replicas of animlas from all over the world drinking form a Blue lake which is the image he took away with him from visiting North Stradbroke Island off the coast of Queensland. He is recreating a pristine place, almost in the form of a lost paradise where animals and people can come together to share the same tranquil space. 99 is symbolic - it represents long lasting in Chinese numerology but also leaves room for completing. A single drip into the recreated lake sets out a ripple from the centre to the edges of the lake and is the only noise that disturbs that tranquility. Predators and prey congregate to enjoy this and take sustenance from it. 

In the last gallery is "Head on 2006" which was inspired in part by Berlin's turbulent history. The Berlin wall is depicted through the glass panel in the gallery and the wolves leap into the unknown only to fall back, as they encounter obstacles, ideological blind spots and moral dilemmas. Some survive and carry on, others do not.

Finally through a tea ceremony we were invited to taste the wonderful teas coming from his home state and to contemplate our own harmony with nature and our ability to relate to others. This was followed by the Sounds of the Earth through the collective and incredible harmonies of William Buxton on dideridgoo, the Taiwan born musician Wang Xinxin on her flute and other Chinese instruments and the Voices of Birralee, a childrens choir emulating the sounds of the forest. 

Here he is with the performers.An absolute must see whether here or anywhere else in the world you might be lucky enough to come across his work.