3 aussie artists

As if my obsession with Australia weren’t enough, I have gone and fallen in love with several of the country’s artists as well. I think one of the things that attracts me to Australia is the abundance of creative energy. Having first gone down under when I was 19 to find a country pretty far behind, with the advent of the computer this far-removed country has more than caught up. It’s like an explosion of creativity at every turn from the arts, to the food, to the architecture, fashions and more that just won’t quit. There’s a modern sensibility I find extremely attractive and these artists each capture it in their own way . . .

Artist 1:  Caroline Walls

With a focus on the female form, Ms. Walls is an artist after my own heart. Melbourne based with a history in fashion and lifestyle brands, her artworks are bold, minimal and sensuous all at once. She recently burst upon the scene with a solo show that garnered world wide attention. I long to acquire one of her pieces before prices go through the roof and am oh so sorry I missed out on the one above.

Artist 2: Hilarie Mais

British by birth but working in Australia since 1980, Hillarie Mais is an abstract artist working in Sydney and currently on exhibit at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art in conjunction with the Australian Museum of Contemporary Art that has several of her pieces in their permanent collection.

Highly architectural and abstract, with a strong emphasis on the grid, the works are seemingly simple yet highly complex all at once. The detail and construction alone are enough to take your breath away. But they go much deeper than that. The above detail is taken from the below pair of sculptures that are portraits (2015) of the artist and her deceased partner. Simply stunning.

Artost 3: William Rhodes

There are a series of tiny landscape paintings that hang in a resort in William Rhodes native Tasmania that I covet. Perfectly curated by designers Hecker Guthrie. At once reminiscent of European masters and yet somehow capturing a modern simplicity, I long to commission a piece so I can have my own tiny piece of the Tassie landscape in my midst. You can bet, next trip to Hobart, I will be making a b-line for the artist’s gallery.

dandy dandenongs

Looking for a place to escape to outside Melbourne — within an easy drive or train ride? The Dandenong Ranges offer lush hills, giant forests and quaint country town experiences. Perhaps a few too many bugs but that’s a small price to pay for a 1+ hour escape that’s a world away. And don’t think you need to leave your sophisticated sensibility behind either.  You can have it all and a little romance too!

Where to Stay:

If Mid-Century Modern, approachable artwork and peace and quiet are your thing, may I suggest a stay at Jacky Winter Garden — the most charming cabin in the woods you could ever imagine. Just a hop, skip and jump away from downtown Belgrave, Victoria.

JWG Interiors.pngThe charming little house sits at the bottom of a steep gully along a winding creek, surrounded by lush gardens of the overgrown variety full of fruits, flowers, herbs, trees and more…

If that weren’t enough, each guest is gifted this wonderful screen print of the property as a keepsake. (Bring a carrying tube as I had to leave mine behind for fear it would be a wrinkled mess by the time I reached home.) And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the art treasuresThe entrance has a hand painted, gold leaf glass panel in the door. Framed artworks by artists from around the world abound. Hand blocked wallpaper carries on the garden theme inside. And a plethora of other artworks are to be found at every turn. As are well curated furnishings, lighting, details, etc . . . Don’t miss the antique bird towel hooks in the bathroom as those were my favorite touch!  The entire place from the penny tiled bathroom complete with soaking tub, to the cloud-like king sized bed, to the fancy coffee in the kitchen is thought through down to the tiniest detail.

If you, yourself are an artist, consider applying for their artist in residence program. I can’t think of a better place to escape to and create. But if you’re just looking for either a solo quiet getaway or romantic hideaway for 2, it can be booked at an affordable rate.

What To Do:

Belgrave itself is home to your typical small tourist town restaurants, shops, galleries, movie theater (a good size multi-plex at that) and the famous Puffing Billy steam powered railway that is stationed right in town. Carrying nearly half a million passengers a year (mostly tourists from China) it is a fully restored treasure that puffs it’s way several times a day for a 3 hour Dandenong tour. Once upon a time, you could dangle your legs out the windows as you watched the countryside whizz by but an accident with a passing vehicle recently (nobody was hurt) put an end to that. Kids and dare I say men, are intrigued by the historic feat of engineering. It’s a bit pricey to ride but you can just check it out in the station too. The sweetest and most knowledgeable conductors are happy to share the history, take photos or simply chat about their storied career on the railroad.

About 40 minutes away by car and you are in the Yarra Valley wine country.  Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Tarrawarra where you can view more art in the lovely modern art museum, sip wine and nibble on cheese while overlooking the spectacular valley views or simply relax the day away perched in a bean bag chair on the hillside. How’s that for a calming afternoon out?

While you’re out and about, stop for a meal at the newish and unexpected restaurant BamBam Italian, located through the windy roads in the small hamlet of Avonsleigh. Unexpected because it’s attached to a convenience store and sports a McDonalds style kiddie play park. But despite the family friendly atmosphere, the food is quite good, moderately priced and the staff super friendly. Open for brekkie, lunch and dinner. An Italian feast awaits!

Also in the area are plenty of nature walks, gardens, markets and even a day spa. Truly a relaxing time to be had. There is full dossier of local haunts on the Jacky Winter Garden website for your planning pleasure. All in all, a highly recommended place to get away and be a slug or a tourist for a few days.

let’s talk lisbon

An absolutely beautiful city — Lisboa, Portugal. That is without doubt. Viewpoints galore overlooking red roofed buildings, the Tagus River — a river so wide it feels more like a lake or even the sea — hills and more hills, ancient architecture, cobblestone streets, tiled buildings, old fashion street cars . . . everything you would expect from a picturesque European city. And it’s small — just 800,000 population (similar to San Francisco) in it’s city center so easy to absorb. It’s for now, affordable as far as European cities go which makes it a hot destination. And that is where the city lost me just a bit. Even in late October, it was full of tourists. And when i say full — I mean everywhere, tourists walking without regard, back pack laden, down every street, every alley, speaking every language. I began to wonder if it was possible to have an authentic Lisboan experience. And I wondered even more what it must be like at the height of summer tourism season — my guess is a place i wouldn’t enjoy very much.

Not to say that I didn’t partake in tourist activities. Of course I did. The first thing I did after a quick shower was hop a Tuk Tuk for a tour around the old part of the city to get acclimated to the area where I was staying. Tuk Tuks are an easy way to get around the most hilly parts of the city and the drivers are well versed in history. So a quick hour or two gives you the basics. I did learn from my driver that what started as a single company with 9 Tuk Tuks a few years back, is now a competitive business of hundreds of Tuks Tuks vying for parking spots at all the best viewpoints and jamming the narrow streets all over the city. I even witnessed a Tuk Tuk robbery where a motorcycle wizzed between lanes of stopped traffic reaching into Tuk Tuks taking driver’s money as they went. When tourism is high so, unfortunately, is theft.

I also scheduled a food tour for my first afternoon. Often one of my favorite type of tours in any city, this one did not disappoint. And to be honest, I would never have known where to go in this city for authentic food just walking up and down the streets. To me, everything looked touristy in Alfama, a neighborhood where throngs of tourists were wandering the streets, souvenir shops abound and little old ladies sell low quality Cherry Liqueur (Ginja) off card tables down every alley. But Ruthy (pictured above) and her husband, guides extraordinaire, took our small group of six to a series of tiny little, family owned businesses tucked away in places I never would have found where we tasted cod delights, sardines, olive oils, cheese, sausage, desserts, coffee, beer, wine, quality cherry liqueur — I was happy, full and drunk for most of the afternoon. I promised Ruthy I wouldn’t share her secrets but I will say this — take the tour and indulge your inner tourist in a good way. You’ll also get a healthy dose of sights and history along the way.

I was in Lisbon for a conference and so happened upon my most favorite of places by happenstance — The Foundation Champalimaud. I liken it to the Portuguese Salk Institute. A biomedical research facility, housed in a modern architectural setting along the river at the far end of Belem where most tourists don’t venture. Not only is the building beautiful, with a stunning central water feature, there is a nearly hidden, small amphitheater overlooking the river that is as spiritual a space as I have come across in quite some time. I could have sat in that amphitheater for hours (and very nearly did), soaking up the sun, taking in the view and contemplating life. Bring a picnic or enjoy lunch next door on the balcony of the center’s cafeteria which is open to the public.

From here you are well poised to take in the Belem sights with the rest of the tourists — a jaunty walk along the river back towards town and away from the sun thankfully, takes you past the Belem Tower, The Monument to the Discoveries, The Maat (another stunning piece of modern architecture with a roof viewpoint not to be missed), The 25th of April Bridge, The Jerónimos Monastery. Then cross over the roadway to the center of Belem where there is an odd collection of museums on various subjects and the famous Pasteis de Belem — the original home of  Portuguese egg tarts which are honestly, worth the hype and the wait in line!

And you never know when you might look down an alley along the way and see a fun, modern take on tile art.

If only the sun weren’t cutting the artwork in half for better viewing. But if you like what you see, these tiles are part of a collection available for sale at a little family run shop whose grandfather bought out stock of closing tile factories in the 1960’s giving them a collection of locally made tiles that are simply beautiful and a far cry from the typical reproductions sold in every souvenir and antique shop in the city.

Like always, I try to find the things that are a bit more unique in a city as I am not a good or typical tourist by nature. I don’t know if I succeeded in Lisbon or if it’s even possible. But I’m happy to share more about my finds in this beautiful city here and in subsequent posts.

Helpful Links:

Eco Tuck Tours, Lisboa
Several standard 2-3 hour tours available or custom tours for $60/hr
Easy to book online in advance (recommended) or hire a Tuk Tuk in any major tourist venue

Treasures of Lisboa, Food Tours
Book through Ruthy’s website directly (link above) or on Air BnB Experiences
Twice Daily, Mon-Sat $67 US

Champalimaud Foundation/Center for the Unknown
Avenida Brasília,1400-038 Belem, Lisbon

MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology)
Av. Brasília, Central Tejo 1300-598 Belém, Lisboa
11-7 PM except Tuesday

Cortico & Netos, Tile Store
Calçada de Santo André 66, 1100-022 Alfama, Lisboa,
Monday to Saturday from 10h-13h / 14h-19h

Tile Rooster Artwork: Down a little alley about a block east of Pasteis De Belem

Pasteis De Belem
Rua de Belém, 1300 – 085 Belem, Lisboa
Open Daily from 8-11

funny face

plates-stackA funny little collaboration between Case Studio and artist Jean Jullian. An assortment of porcelain plates equally suited for eating as objects of decor. Six different sizes and assorted retro colors in each set. Certain to make you smile!

plates-asstdAvailable here in limited edition only.  Apprx US $260

packaged-plates

nine things i can’t live without

must have list

Row 1 (left to right):  Aesop products & the lovely stores they sell them in   natural light flooding into my home   a Duxiana mattress

Row 2:  my favorite piece of art — a printed mailer received from a vendor in the early 90’s floating in a frame. it makes me smile to this day  |  ice cream in any form but especially one of the crazy flavors from Gelato Messina  |  Vogue Living Australia magazine —  i have a 20+ year collection!

Row 3:  morning hikes in the Santa Monica mountains  |  a good mid-century modern staple like this Saarinen dining table  |  Australia — just 19 when I first visited, my heart has belonged to the land down under ever since  ♥♥♥

weekend agenda — rain room LA

Rain RoomNow open for viewing at LACMA, the famous Rain Room exhibit by London based artist collective Random International. Walk through a perpetual downpour without getting wet! This amazing technology senses the body and stops the rain from falling in your vicinity while it continues to pour all around you. People have stood in line for hours to experience the exhibit in other cities.You can see it with timed tickets now through March 16, 2016 here in LA — but still expect a wait. $30 includes general admission to the museum. Buy tickets here.

image: Jane Hu

here hear detroit

This is just plain cool. And Detroit, is kinda the last place I would expect to find cool to be honest. But when a guy like Nick Cave attends The Cranbrook Academy of Art in white suburbia and looks to the city to connect with “his people” as he says, amazing things happen. In between, Detroit has deteriorated beyond belief while Nick Cave has risen to great heights. Bring the two back together at the perfect moment in time and WOW!

The exhibition actually started back in April with a performance series of Nick Cave in his monumental Sound Suits in and around the city. Videos of these performances make up just part of the gallery exhibition. In addition you’ll find 30 of Cave’s sound suits on display, new sculpture works, recent murals, and more . . . But that’s not all — there are dance labs, educational components, performances and community events taking place between now and October to round out the happening.

I’m feeling a trip home a comin’ . . . (see more on my last trip to Cranbrook here)

Nick Cave Here Hear now through October 11, 2015  Cranbrook Museum of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

would you pay good money for this?

Splash

Seems sexy doesn’t it? The perfect perfume for your designer friends. Ahhhh, but in reality it’s only water. Pure distilled water bottled and branded with the purest, most recognizable font in all of font history. Pure for pure. An “objet d’art” and the ultimate marketing ploy you could say. I think the perfect desk tchotchke for any graphic designer. So yes, I would pay money for this. $28 for a limited edition bottle with 24kt gold printing. Available here.

take me away

jon rou 1Jon Rou 2Jon Rou 3Jon Rou 4Jon Rou 5LA based photographer Jon Rou captures the most mesmerizing landscapes. Printed large scale with his special post production diorama effect techniques, you can’t help but be transported into another world. His work is simply magical.

Available through Zoe Bios Creative

All Images courtesy Jon Rou