Saturday, 15 September 2018

2018 Archibald Prize Exhibition

I haven't visited the Art Gallery since The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries earlier in the year.
And I only just managed to fit in a visit to this year's Archibald Prize for Portrait Painting.
It finished last week.

Arriving at the Art Gallery of NSW always feels like an event in itself.
It's such a beautiful, grand structure, especially on a lovely Spring morning.

I felt rather underwhelmed by many of this year's entrants, so I only have a few pics to share this year of my favourites.

Nicholas Harding - self portrait - Treatment, day 49 (sorbolene soak)

Julian Meagher - portrait of Richard Flanagan - Herb and Flan

James Powditch - self portrait - Narcissist, the anatomy of melancholy

Kathrin Longhurst - portrait of her daughter, Maia - Self: past, present and future

Paul Jackson - Alison Whyte, a mother of the renaissance

Anne Middleton - Guy

The exhibition also includes the Wynne Prize for Landscape Painting.

Yalanba Wanambi - Trial Bay (detail)

Sylvia Ken - Kungkarangkalpa tjukurpa (Seven Sisters story)

John Olsen - The Tree of Life

Wawiriya Burton - Ngayuku ngura (my country)

Nellie Coulthard - Tjuntala ngurangka (country with acacia wattle)

Robert Malherbe - Arcadia Road, Blackheath

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Spring in Sydney

Last weekend I visited the David Jones Flower see an indoor display of natives and exotics.

And this weekend I strolled through the Royal Botanic Gardens, taking oodles of photos while trying not to sneeze!

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

The Australian Women's Weekly Basics - Paella

In the two years since The Australian Women's Weekly Basics: Simple Easy to Follow Recipes with Step-By-Step Photos (2016) found it's way into my kitchen, I've been wishing it had happened much sooner. It's the perfect book for working parents, trying to find quick, easy but interesting meals to feed the family. It would also be a great gift to that young adult in your life when they finally leave home for the first time.

All the meals are tasty and easy to make with regular ingredients. Substitute ingredients are provided and various sauces, sides or toppings are provided so that you change up your favourite meal every so often. We regularly make the burritos, san choy bow and the paella.

Last night, though, we nearly had a rice crisis with the paella, which I thought might be worth documenting.

The recipe clearly asks for Calasparra rice (with a possible substitute option of arborio rice). Previously I had been able to source the real deal from the David Jones food hall in the city, but when I went in yesterday morning they were out of stock...and not expecting more for another month!

A quick google showed that it wold be very difficult for me to find another nearby source for Calasparra rice. The next best option was a Sollana rice from Harris Farm. Fortunately, Mr Seasons was out doing his President of the Football Association thing, which meant driving by a Harris Farm on his way home. Crisis averted!

But what was it about this rice that made it so hard to come by and so precious for paella?

The back of the linen bag that the Calasparra is packaged in tells us that,
The fresh mountain water around the town of Calasparra in Murcia provides the perfect environment for paella rice. The rice planted in the area takes 30% longer to mature because it is grown in cool flowing water. A denser, more absorbent grain is the result, perfect for absorbing the flavourful broth of paella and other dishes. For this reason, Calasparra rice has Denomination of Origin status, acknowledging and protecting its unique qualities.

A bit more research told me that Calasparra is situated in a mountainous area surrounded by four rivers, including the Segura and Argos. The rice has been grown in 'arrozales' since the 14th century.

The paddies are small and the production of rice is also small compared to other rice growing regions around the world. But Calasparra rice is of a superior quality with an unequalled absorption capacity. The farmers use the Roman aquaducts to irrigate their paddies. They also rotate crops each year and sometimes let a field lie fallow. The seeds are hand-sown and then thinned by hand as well. The rice is hand packed, then 'about six women in blue uniforms and hairnets sew shut the individual white cloth sacks.' *

The rice varieties that are currently grown in the Calasparra region are:

• Arroz Balillax x Sollana or Arroz Sollana (sometimes simply called Arroz Calasparra & suitable for paella)
Arroz Bomba (the very best rice for paella)

Bomba and Sollana rice are the only ones in Spain awarded the Denomination of Origin distinction.

Spanish rice is also grown in the neighbouring region of Valencia.

The rice varieties of Valencia are:

Arroz Fonsa (very suitable for paella)
Arroz Gleva (very suitable for paella)
Arroz Bahia (very suitable for paella)
Arroz Senia (very suitable for paella)
Arroz Bomba (the best rice for paella)

Last night's chicken and chorizo paella recipe looked a little like this:

Lots of yummy tomato, chicken and chorizo...

...and lots of yummy prawns and mussels to top it all off!

Buon appetito!
* La Tienda website

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Lady and the Unicorn

During the first half of 2018, The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries were on loan from the Musée de Cluny - Musée national du Moyen Åge to the Art Gallery of NSW. I bought a multi-pass ticket so that I could return as many times as I liked. I managed to fit in three visits in five months.

Little is known about their provenance, which simply adds to the mystique and intrigue surrounding these splendid tapestries.

Commissioned by an unknown member of the Le Viste family around 1500, the tapestries were rediscovered in 1841 in the Château de Boussac, a small castle in Creuse in central France. Their condition had deteriorated, and it was recommended that they be purchased by the state.

The Art Gallery of NSW produced a booklet for the exhibition. It states that
the tapestries were made at the very moment of transition from the Medieval period to the Renaissance, but they continue to reveal a poetic medieval world of the senses, the spirit, romance, chivalry and morality.

The tapestries have inspired artists, writers and poets down through the ages, including novelist George Sand who contributed to their fame by writing about the ‘curious enigmatic tapestries’ in her 1844 novel Jeanne.

The tapestries were also described in detail by the narrator of Rainer Maria Rilke's novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Quotes from the book lined the entrance to the exhibition space.

The tapestries also inspired Rilke’s famous unicorn sonnet -

O dieses ist das Tier das es nicht gibt

This is the animal that doesn’t exist.
But they didn’t know it and dared nonetheless
to love its transformations, its bearing, its gait
so much that in the tranquil gaze of light, it lived.

Really it never was. Out of their love they made it,
this pure creature. They always saved a space.
And in that place, empty and set aside,
it lightly raised its head and scarcely

needed to be. They fed it no corn,
only the possibility that it might exist –
which gave the beast such strength, it bore

a horn upon his forehead. Just one horn.
It came to a virgin, all white,
and was in the silver mirror and in her.

- Unknown translator -

...there are six tapestries; come, let us pass slowly
in front of then. But first of all take a step
back and look at them, all together.
Are they not tranquil? There is little variety
in them. See that blue, oval island in
all of them, floating over the soft red
background, which is filled with flowers and 
inhabited by little animals busying about...

-Rainer Maria Rilke -
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, 1910

No one really knows what the meaning or intent was behind the tapestry design. Were the women based on real people? The Le Viste family coat of arms features in each one and the choice of animals was probably very symbolic. 

One of the widely accepted interpretations involves the use of  the five senses as an allegory with the sixth frame representing the soul and morality.

My Sole Desire

A tent has been erected. Blue damask flashed with gold.
The animals open it and she advances, simply, in her
princely garment. For what are those pearls by her side?
The maidservant has opened a small casket, and the
lady now takes from it a chain, a marvellous, heavy piece
of jewellery, which has been always locked away...
And have you read the inscription at the top of the tent?
You can see it says 'A mon seul desir'.

-Rainer Maria Rilke -
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, 1910


She is weaving a crown, a small round wreath of flowers.
Thoughtfully she chooses the colour of the next carnation
in the shallow dish held out to her by the maidservant, while
threading in the previous one. Behind her, on a bench, there
is a basket of roses that a monkey has found. But it is of
no use; this time, it's carnations she needs. The lion has no part
here; but on the right, the unicorn understands.

-Rainer Maria Rilke -
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, 1910


What has happened? Why does the little rabbit leap about
at the bottom, why can we immediately see that he is leaping?
All is so disquieted. The lion has nothing to do. She herself
is holding the banner, or is she holding on to it?
With her other hand she touches the horn of the unicorn.

-Rainer Maria Rilke -
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, 1910


She's feeding a falcon. See her magnificent garment!
The bird is perched on her gloved hand, and is moving.
She's watching it while putting her hand into a cup...
On the right, at the bottom, sitting on her train,
is a little silky haired dog, raising its head and hoping
there'll be something for him. And - can you see? - a low
rose-covered trellis closes off the island at the back...

-Rainer Maria Rilke -
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, 1910


Shouldn't there be music in this stillness? Or was it not
already there, restrained? Her heavy adornments make
no sound as she progresses (how slowly, do you see?) to the
portable organ and, standing plays...She has never
been so beautiful...The lion, disgruntled, unwillingly endures
the sounds, biting back its howl. But the unicorn is beautiful,
as if caught in the rolling waves of music.

-Rainer Maria Rilke -
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, 1910


The lion turns, almost threatening nobody is permitted 
to approach...she extends her other arm towards
the unicorn and the animal rears up, flattered, and
leans on her lap. It is a mirror she is holding. Do you see?
She is showing the unicorn its reflection.

-Rainer Maria Rilke -
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, 1910

Two more recent novels referenced the tapestries, Rumer Godden's 1938 novel The Lady and the Unicorn and The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier (2003). Chevalier's story is a fictionalised account of the making of the tapestries. 

Between my second and third visit, I read Tracy Chevalier's The Lady and the Unicorn. It inspired me to focus more on the smaller details within each frame. According to Chevalier, the background detail was most likely designed by the weavers themselves; only the main picture would have been created by a commissioned artist.

Zooming in on individual creatures and plants only increased my appreciation and admiration for the work.

I felt so sorry for the woman in this particular tapestry.
She looks so sad - resigned with a sense of hopelessness.
While the unicorn looks smug and self-satisfied!

And one curious little titbit I picked up along the way was that several of the tapestries can be seen hanging on the walls in the Gryffindor Common Room in the Harry Potter movies (below).

This is my creative, artsy post for Paris in July.
I've also created a French Spotify play list. It's called Brona's Paris in July if you'd like to follow or make suggestions.