Thursday, June 19, 2014

from a piece of blue

I've never even been to Big Sur, nor have I read Jack Kerouac's novel, nor have I watched the film adaptation of said book, in the light of which it seems downright bizarre to spend an afternoon making a paper collage that says Big Sur under a big blue wave.

Except, of course, it's such a delicious combination of words, I love how it feels when I say it my head and although I have to admit I have never explicitly articulated the fantasy of going there, I guess it is one of those places that capture my (cinematically indoctrinated) imagination.( Like Baja, maybe, which makes me wonder, did they talk a lot about Big Sur on Beverly Hills, 90210?)

Truth be told, I've also been thinking of Hokusai's waves (right now, I imagine Hokusai is all, "damn girl, why you dragging me into this?!" - except in 19th century Japanese, of course), which I finally got around to process into something.

By the way, I cut this from a piece of glossy, blue paper, and except for the G and two blue space gaps between the letters S U and R, it's all in one piece.

Insert applause.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A photographic tour of the neighborhood in which I was left behind as a human security deposit

Johan and I spent our first day in Cape Town wandering about a semi-gentrified neighborhood called Woodstock, which, I guess, one always feels like an ass for doing, because gentrification really is a two-cheeked thing.

One minute you feel kind of rugged and good taking the unbeaten path and investing your tourist-$$$ in a hitherto neglected part of town. The other minute, you feel like such a predictable doofus for spending time in a shop selling owl-printed ceramics and artisan nougat.

But hey, since this is not a particularly socially conscious blog, let's just go for it and take a culturally insensitive stroll through this really lovely and colorful neighborhood.

Misstep #1: First stop we made was in a discount grocery store where we admired the design of the generic brand Ritterbrand and bought a few samples of pineapple jello to bring back home. Buying food solely because of their aesthetic properties has to be pretty much THE most asshole-y thing to do. Especially if you document the process with your huge D-SLR.  

Incidentally, Woodstock is also the home of The Test Kitchen - the sole African restaurant that has made it onto the list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants. As luck would have it, we managed to bypass their 3-month wait and do a walk-in for lunch on account of someone just having cancelled their reservation.

Now, eating in a place like this is usually completely out of my price range, but thanks to a world economy and an exchange rate that are completely in our favor, we had the privilege of of experiencing a 5-course lunch with wine for two people for an indecently fair price. (Less than $100.)

And, as we were sitting there, savoring our luck for getting a table at this amazing place, who do we bump into but one of Johan's friends! (Seriously, what are the odds of meeting a fellow dane sitting down to lunch in the the exact same restaurant? Well, considering the guy is living in Pretoria, I guess the odds are greater than I make them out to be, but still!)

And, as we were sitting there feeling on top of the world for bumping into familiar faces in a fancy restaurant, God said from above: "Hey you two, don't be so cocky and full of yo'self. Have you even checked to see if you brought your credit card to pay for all this nonsense food, which honestly looks a little like cat barf?"

Of course we hadn't. And so Johan had to leave me behind in the restaurant as a human security deposit, while he drove back to the hotel to get money.

And that, my friends, was the end of our first day in Cape Town.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

For us, the anxiety-ridden

Via Monkino. One of those blogs that makes me high five myself every time a post pops up in my reader :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The things you do on a morphine high

A woman, who prefers to stay anonymous, but who may or may not have given birth to me, called me yesterday with an unexpected confession.

Said women recently had knee surgery, and while she's up and walking during the day, come night time, her knee hurts like a bitch. And so she has resorted to popping an occasional morphine pill when the pain gets unbearable.

"You know", she said. "I don't think I'll ever become a drug addict, but if I do, I bet I would grow obese in no time."

"Oh", I said, "why's that?"

"I get the munchies when I'm on drugs," she said matter-of-factly. "And. it. is. not. pretty."

The night before she had taken a pill, gone to bed and next thing she remembers was the feeling of toppling over. Turns out she had sleepwalked into the kitchen in her morphine haze, where she suddenly snapped out of it and found herself standing by the sink.

"And you know, what I was doing?", she asked.

"No, tell me", I said, although I didn't expect whatever she'd done to be half as good as it turned out to be.

"I was spreading butter on a piece of toast", she said. "With a dish washing brush. There was butter on the bristles and all."

 Apparently she had found slices of toast on the floor too, but no word if and how they'd been buttered.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Basically the best meal of your life (for a total for 600 Rand)

As I mentioned the other day, Johan and I lived and breathed by Miss Moss' guide to Cape Town, so when we decided to head out to vineland, we once again resorted to following her recommendation. (I feel I should write her a nice thank you note, but then again will such a super star blogger really appreciate hearing from a lowly blogger such as myself? Nah, right?)

Anyway, Miss Moss suggested that one head out to the restaurant The Table at the winery De Meye where one would have, quote unquote (I like saying that instead of adding actual quotation marks), basically the best meal of your life.

That's good enough for me, so off we went, to Stellenbosch, which is just so beautiful you wanna scream. Looks like something straight out of Lord of the Rings. (Which, I guess, is pretty much the same as saying that Stellenbosch looks like New Zealand?)
I snapped this from the window of our car, so I suspect that's why the clouds look a little dramatic. 

De Meye is the name of the winery and Johan swears he's seen the logo/bottles before, either in a restaurant or a store, in some country, which is either Kenya, Denmark, Sweden or the US, so I guess that narrows it down.

Everything was beautiful and in bloom, for but some reason this exact picture of the restaurant looks so fall-like. Makes me want to move to France, get myself a small chateau and wear clothes made out of high quality linen every day.

When we arrived, they had set up tables all around the garden, offering that you go choose the table where you wanted to sit. "We'll take this table!", we said and pointed to the one above and they were like "well, when we said choose any table, we meant any of the two-tops". And we were like "Fine, we'll take that beautiful one over there below the tree".
Then we went for a walk on the grounds, and seeing I had put on my best lady dress, I asked Johan to take a picture of me flanked by an avenue of beautiful trees. Here I am practicing my first lady pose and my WHATAREYOUSAYINGYOUSLEPTWITHTHEINTERN?-pose.

Is the divorce rate among bloggers conspicuously high? I sometimes wonder this when I ask Johan to pose for me, say if it's just occurred to me that his shorts match a field of blooming flowers and I think it will make a nice picture for this blog. And I mean, so often I look at family photos on other people's blogs and you can just feel the pain and emasculation the husband feels when he's forced to hold a bouquet of colorful balloons while looking dreamily at his pregnant wife while their kids throw popcorn and confetti into the air. But then after a while, I tend to remember how much mediocre sports my fellow sisters have been forced to watch since the dawn of time, and then I'm like screw it, this is OUR moment!
They also had a lazy, cuddly dog, who came running to our table as soon as they served our duck rillette. (Love how dogs have their life priorities straight. Imagine all these puppies lying in god's lap before being sent down to earth and they're like: "So, I'd like to grow up on a vineyard in South Africa, and there I shall bask in the shade of large trees and have my belly rubbed by strangers before they hand feed me farm-raised poultry, please". And all the ducks are like: "I'd like to grow up on a vineyard in South Africa, where I shall be slaughtered when I reach 12 weeks of age and then be cooked slowly in my own fat before people from Europe spread me on toast, please".

Before lunch, we sat down for a wine tasting, where honestly, I felt we were shamed a little for our lacking knowledge of wine by a lady wearing a neon lycra dress. But I can kind of sympathize with that, because honestly, if you do know a lot about wine, it must feel downright painful to pour your finest grape juice into a guest's glass, ask what said guest thinks about it and said guest goes: "Uhm? It's red...I guess?".

After our wine tasting, we sat down for lunch, and had an appetizer of creamy yet light cauliflower soup, duck rillette with leafy greens and fig marmalade, fresh farm butter and country bread - all sourced locally. (I feel this is kind of like dirty/scintillating talk for foodies, right? ).

"Bread with lettuce! Yum!" 

For our main course, we had that beautifully caramelized Tarte Tatin. We didn't finish it, because there was just so much food, and I sometimes lay awake at night thinking about that buttery crust and those sweet carrots, which we just left sitting there on a very pretty piece of butcher's block. Le sigh, as the fancy girls say.

Meals like this resonate with me. Simple, pimple yet so well-prepared and with such good ingredients it makes your stomach sing :) 

And then we finished off with a sorbet of something, preserved quince and a baked custard (I think). 

Look, so cute right? They put out blankets so you could lay down on the grass after your meal and unbutton the top button of your pants.

There's something very poetic about an abandoned dining table, don't you think? It's like you can still hear the chatter of the people who sat there. 

I know I mentioned it before, and I know I mentioned it in the headline, but people, I have to mention it again: All of this deliciousness including wine and coffee came to a total of 600 Rand, which is the equivalent of something like $50. Honestly, I think I'd return to Cape Town just to lunch here again :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fangirling (and massive link dump....and lots of words that I suspect I'm writing mainly for my future self :O)

"So, what have you been doing in Kenya for all this time," asked no one, and so I thought I'd go on and tell you:

I've been painting! I've done actual work too and and a whole lot of house work, but mostly I've just been painting and indulging in other forms of art work.

This isn't exactly news, because I've been painting more of less regularly since I was 15, but for some reason I was always too impatient and insecure to try my hand at any straight up figurative work, because, honestly, I didn't think I knew how to.

Then a few years ago, on a whim, I started painting a portrait of David Hockney. Then followed a portrait of Jean-Paul Belmondo i Pierot Le Fou. And that's about when I started letting my mind go, forgetting all about painting something "smart" and basically just copying images I really like.

I've been listening to a whole lot of radio while painting, and incidentally came upon an interview with Tavi Gevinson (editor of Rookie and all around smart woman) on the show Nerdette, during which she discussed her take on fangirling.

During the show, she argues that there can be a lot of pressure associated with the idea of making good art, and translating the things you experience into original art. Instead she proposes that fangirling and nerding out can be just as creatively satisfying. That it can be just as rewarding to copy someone else's work rather than make your own.

I don't speak much ancient Greek, but after listening to that I was like: "Eureka! This is exactly how I feel".

David Hockney is by far the painter I'm fangirling the most on? at? (I'm sure you can use it as a verb, I clearly just don't know how to.), and hence I've been copying a lot of his pieces in somewhat meticulous detail.
Sadly, I didn't get around to finishing this one before leaving, but it's a copy of Hockney's "American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman) from 1968. I've just been oo'ing and aa'ing endlessly at how he translates different objects and textures into painterly shapes and colors. 
This here is a copy of Hockney's "Peter Getting Out of Nick's Pool" (1966), which I didn't get around to finishing either, so there are still a lot of details missing. The format of the canvas isn't right either, so next time I'm in Nairobi, I'm gonna add some hypothetical exhibition poster-wording on the dark blue patch - just like I did in the painting below.
And this, as I've posted about before, is a copy of "A Bigger Splash" (1967). And this, at least, I got around to finishing :) (sorry for the lopsided iPhone image, btw.)

I've also been nerding out a bit to Picasso, specifically his Harlequin/Commedia dell'arte work, which I just love to pieces.

This is a copy with a twist of Picasso's "Seated Harlequin" (1901), which I didn't get around to finishing either. I started out by meticulously painting a Florida Dolphins cap on his head, but found it got a bit too colorful, especially with my rendering of the Lotus patterned wallpaper in the background.
This too, I have posted before. Also a copy of one of Picasso's Harlequins, namely "Harlequin sitting on a red couch" (1905). I think I might have flashed the hell out of this bad boy, because really it's a much more sombre blue.
In general, I think I've kind of been turned on again by my old high school crushes. You know, stuff I used to like before I studied art history and suddenly the only thing worth your while was minimalism and conceptualism, and in a pinch postmodernism, provided you could apply some fancy-pants philosophical take on it.

Anyway, before that, I was really into pop artists, among them Roy Lichtenstein.
Roy Lichtenstein, as you may already know, was a major fangirl himself, making lots of gorgeous and quite amusing homages to Picasso. Here I've mashed up Lichtenstein's entablatures, specifically this one from 1974, with a "Picassoesque" take (how much do you wanna kill me right now?) on Lichtenstein's famous "Girl With Ball" from 1961, which, it should be noted, he did a Picassoesque take on himself in 1977.  I've also sponged off Lichtenstein's brushstroke series, his reflection seriesthis photo of a seated Picasso in front of a painting in his signature striped shirt, and finally those famous bread hands of his. Phew!
What else. Yes, I've also had a moment with The Case Study Houses.
That painting up there on the top left is based on one of Julius Shulman's photos from the interior of The Stahl House. It goes with saying that the seated woman was not actually wearing a paper bag on her head. I just got so fed up with not being able to get her face right, and eventually a brown paper bag seemed like a welcome solution.

And here, on the left, a collage rendering of the one section of The Eames House, and on the right a paper collage of a Japanese milk carton, which has absolutely nothing to do with post World War II architecture. But they're a good match none the less. 

And while, we're on architecture, I also did a rendering of a photo I took in Meguro in Tokyo.
It's based on this photo, and that's about all I have to say about it. 
Moving on. To collage work.
I love the copywriting of the American ad industry in the 60s and 70s. Pure art is what it is, and it made me so happy recently when we had one of Johan's friends from work over for dinner and he flat out laughed at the pieces of writing I've amassed in this one. I mean "How to look for mortgage money and not find it" :O)
And here the Guggenheim, cut in paper from old magazines. 

And now to something entirely else. Dead pan commercial food images suddenly struck me like such an interesting trope.
So here's a burger meal with a Chinese Coke cup, which I resorted to painting in lieu of a western Coca-Cola cup, because yo, those curlicue letters are a difficult to copy. I kind of regret I didn't do a graded background cause it kind of makes the food look like an epiphany of sorts, but on the upside here's a turtle dressed as a burger!

And here, aged steak. I now completely get why artists have taken to painting raw meat throughout art history, because it's kind of the BOMB.

Here I am copying Felix Valotton's painting of a steak, which reminds me that this post was all about fangirling and on that note I recommend you look at Valotton's work, because it is just booootiful
So, has it been all fun, asked no one still? Nope! In fact there's this one canvas I've been struggling with, which has eventually forced me to conclude that it's doomed. The canvas I mean. I started out painting a vista from a park in Japan, which was just a catastrophe. Then I took to painting a photo of James Dean playing table tennis, which annoyed me super much.
FAIL!!! If anything, this taught me that just because whatever you painted actually looks somewhat like the thing you set out to portray, it doesn't per se mean it's gonna turn out a great painting. I know duh! right? But whatever, sometimes you just have to go through that process yourself before you really learn.

I then rotated the canvas 90 degrees and painted a gentleman in a blue linen suit instead.
Johan is being really nice about this one, complimenting the brushwork and the details all the time, whereas I feel kind of meh about it. Can't put my finger on it, but I guess it looks a little too na├»ve for me and not in that cool, intentional way I had hoped for. 
Actually, when I look at that painting I keep thinking of what Ira Glass discusses in the video below, namely about the gap between your taste and the quality of your work. How you can just tell that what you're doing is just not quite good enough.

But here's the thing: I kind of feel really fine being mediocre. Throughout my life I've had this kind of blessing slash curse in disguise of being fairly good at a lot of little things, which has meant that I haven't really bothered practicing and trying harder at the things I wasn't so good at or the things that didn't seem intuitive to me.

Do I sound like an ass for saying that? If so, I'm sorry. Because all I really want to say is that being a fangirl and amateur painter in the process of learning kind of...ROCKS! :)

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.