News & Events

Second home

Posted by on Mar 17, 2011 in Blog, Life, News & Events, Philanthropy, Travel | One Comment

My family considers Japan our second home.

We named our son Akira after a close friend we made while staying there a while back. We’ve visited many times and try and get back there as often as possible.

Akira studies Japanese for 80 minutes every day at school, in the hope that he forms a similar connection to a country his parents love. We perhaps went overboard as he has wanted to live there instead of Australia since the age of 5.

Akira’s best friend at school is Japanese, along with many other friends at his international school. He not only learns the language every day but delves deeply into the culture, environment, systems, flora, fauna, landscape, food and way of life in his ‘favourite place in the world’. Dan and I fight over who gets to help Akira with his Japanese homework to test our own flimsy grip on the language.

My first photographic exhibition was images from Japan and my hard drive is clogged with thousands of others from this wonderful country. The numerous artworks on our walls at home are a testament to our Japanophilic obsession.

My travel file is filled with details of our next planned journey to Japan, strangely enough to the north-east of the main island. Our close friend Noriko was due to travel back to her homeland last week but instead we sat with her at their table watching horror upon horror unfold.

I was about to sit down to a Chinese dinner with family when I first noticed the newsflash about the quake and tsunami. I honestly felt sick to the stomach and sat with my eyes glued to the corner TV instead of downing my roast duck.

Things of course haven’t improved much since then in terms of feeling any better about Japan’s devastation. I turn to the news frequently for updates but I’m a sensitive person and don’t last long when the human face of the tragedy is shown.

These are the most extraordinary people who have welcomed me into their country warmly and graciously over and over again.

One man drove his car 200km to return a bag I stupidly left on a bus and then apologised to me and gave me a gift. A waitress in a country town offered Dan and I a place to stay at her grandmothers house when we were cycling around the country. A bus load of elderly Japanese women bought Dan and I drinks after we cycled to the top of a particularly steep hill. Another lady drove around to every hostel in Nara throughout the night until she found the one we were staying at to return Dan’s jacket he had left at her restaurant.

These are extraordinary people. They are warm, gracious and welcoming. They are humble and stoic. They are also hilarious, fun and optimistic. They’re intelligent, talented and courageous. Many of them are our friends. All of them are our brothers and sisters. And I can’t begin to express how upset I am.

The world seems a little too fragile at the moment, doesn’t it? But we all have to remain positive, strong and kind-hearted. Please, do what you can to help. Trust me, the Japanese would give all they had if the situation was reversed.

x Andy

Girl in the Window

Best laid plans

Posted by on Feb 22, 2011 in Blog, Goals, Life, News & Events, Plans | 2 Comments

So, I quit my day job yesterday.

I know, I know. It was only a few posts ago that I was sprouting off about preparing, planning and timelines. Being smart about things. Being patient.

But sometimes you have to know when to quit. Dan and I weighed up finances against sanity, budgets against bullshit and, simply, if I could continue at my day job for the rest of the year without going slowly mad laying awake at night, without more tears, high emotion and stress.

And the answer was no. Dan and I don’t really waste life on situations that are negatively charged. I’ve stuck it out for as long as I can, to a point where there is now someone can take over my role and I can finally be free and start concentrating on me and by Big Plans.

The emotionally drain at work was sapping my passion, dampening my dreams. Taking up too much precious time. I’m going to have to seriously re-work the home budget and get some plans in place for income streams but, for now, I’m free!

I would be happier if I wasn’t writing this before ‘the big moment’. It’s all good and well handing over the sealed envelope to your immediate boss but telling your colleagues is a whole different ball game. And today is the day, mere hours away. The worst bit is having to explain why you are leaving to people who are staying. You can’t just say “because this place drives me nuts”, “due to the corporate culture crap” or, my personal favourite “because I have better things to do with my life. You can all suck it up and stay here. Wa Ha HA!”

Because I actually really like all of the people I work with. I spend most of my days with them and have learned to love them all, despite their differences. I feel sorry that I’m leaving them. I’ll miss them. I’ll miss my work (won’t I?). But there is a whole world of pain that I’ll be leaving behind too. And that’s what’s going to get me dancing around my living room celebrating in just 10 days time!!

And then, the following week, I’m going hell for leather on my own business. Sheesh, I’m excited. Finally, the time and space I’ve been craving to get my passions flowering, my career into gear. Yeeha!

Yours in freedom (nearly) and excitement (real soon)…

x Andy

Peace & Freedom

Art Support

Posted by on Feb 8, 2011 in Art, Blog, Goals, Life, News & Events | No Comments

Tonight I’m going to a gig at The Basement. To see a guy who’s been around since the 70′s singing the blues with dark humour. With a penchant for 90′s acid jazz, techno house, sweet girly folksongs and a decent dose of black funk, it doesn’t really seem like my thing.

I’m also getting up at 5.25am in the mornings to jog so the thought of staying up until the wee hours to see a gig is a bit beyond my level of circadian-rhythm coping. And how do I make my way into the heart of Sydney city and back from Bondi at that hour on my own?

There are many barriers to my going but I’m going anyway. And I’m excited. Because I have a good friend who is in the band and I’m going to see him doing his thing. He’s an exceptionally talented musician and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He has a day job but he’s stuck with his passion of music with regular gigs throughout his life and that’s something to cherish and applaud.

I have many friends who are singers, musicians, writers, painters, jewellers and true artists of varying kinds who have let their talents and passions fall by the wayside due to the pull of regular life. I don’t blame them, it’s hard. But in some cases it is just a plain tragedy.

One has a voice that’s pure and strong and joyous that I rarely get to hear; there’s one who brightens my day, every day, with her beautiful, colourful painting hanging on my wall (but oh to have another!). There’s another multi-talented fellow who can bring me to tears with a song but its always way too long between such moments of sweet surrender. I only have to spend half an hour with another gal who constantly inspires me but I don’t own any of art to marvel at. Another should be writing novels, the stories only she can tell with such depth and beauty but she’s so busy with life  (but at least she’s writing).

But my friend Phil is getting out there, again. Banding together with a bunch of no-doubt wonderfully talented musicians. Getting on a stage and performing with all his might. He’ll be smiling gently, as he always does, and pounding away on the keys with his usual flare. And I’ll be positively bursting at the seams if he pulls out his accordion!

So, if you’re out there and have a talent, a passion, please find the time to indulge in it, to keep it alive. There’s an audience out here who wants it. Who needs it in this life of routine and rigmarole.

x Andy

Ready to Shine

Giving

Posted by on Feb 3, 2011 in Blog, Life, News & Events, Philanthropy | No Comments

Australia has awoken this morning to see the results of a Category 5 Cyclone that hit northern Queensland in the dark stormy depths of the night.

As we wait for word on the extent of the disaster many of us are wondering how we can help those affected. Again. All this after we have been giving to those affected by the devastating Queensland and Victorian floods of the past weeks. And then informed of the tax we will all be contributing to rebuild the areas in need.

This on top of the other ways we give. Our family supports a young disadvantaged girl in Sri Lanka and regularly support various causes via Get Up (an awesome activist group keeping the people and politicians honest). We’ve been involved in Movember (to the best of Dan’s follicly-challenged abilities) and I’ve been donating to AAPEC since the birth of Akira (after I nearly lost my life to the disease Pre-Eclampsia during Akira’s birth). We buy the Big Issue. We hit the streets to protest against war. We happily give a few bucks to the guys at the lights to wash our windows.

We’ve volunteered for various things, helped friends and family in need and take all our unwanted goods to those less fortunate than ourselves. Being a paramedic, you can imagine how many people Dan has helped whilst off-duty in our block of units, at car accidents and for strangers in street who have collapsed, fallen or hurt themselves in a myriad of ways.

Akira has been born into an environment of giving and is surprisingly generous for a child. He gives all unwanted toys to disadvantaged kids instead of selling them on ebay, he donates used books to Indigenous kids through his school and contributes to Christmas hampers for the needy. He loves his ‘Sri Lankan sister’ and hopes to go and visit her one day and give her as much as we can afford.

We are probably no more or less generous than other people in the country in terms of giving, though unfortunately Australia rates very poorly compared to other well-off countries (besides volunteering efforts, interestingly). Different states also have very different cultures of giving with NSW pathetically tight-pursed and Victoria leading the way by a country mile.

I know all this because I have worked for years in the philanthropic industry, administering and distributing funds from the generously wealthy to the not-for-profits across the country. What a fascinating world…full of ethical challenges, heart-wrenching need and tear-jerking generosity.

What would you do if a rich, powerful person gave you $1,000,000 to distribute to society? Would you go down the obvious roads of children’s cancer foundations, finding a cure for AIDS or crisis organisations such as the Red Cross? Would you neglect the arts as our government does? Would you direct funds to far-reaching issues such as childhood obesity? Work on saving the environment perhaps?

Would 1 mill even scratch the surface of these various needs? Would you give the whole lot to one organisation to try and make the greatest impact or give less to many organisations to try and spread the benefit? Would you give it all at once or funnel it over a few years to make sure the money was spent wisely? Do you put your trust in the organisation’s mission statement, the people in charge or the accountant?

I used to have to make these decisions. It’s not easy, let me tell you. Even if you were responsible for giving more like 10million it never feels like its enough. But its always worth it, no matter how small the amount.

In fact just one person can make a difference. And they don’t have to spend a cent. My son read about Rosa Parks yesterday, the woman largely responsible for abolishing racial segregation laws in America by making a simple stand against discriminatory laws. Akira also turns off the light every time he leaves a room. And he plans to invent the solar-power car (I can’t bring myself to tell him its already been done, I can only hope he takes it one step further and makes it a viable option for everybody).

And, yes, we can give more. Always. To those in Queensland. To our little friend in Sri Lanka. To an elderly aunt who spends her week longing for her regular visit to keep her heart strong. The great news is, its good for everybody. When we give, the physiological and emotional benefits are extraordinary (lucky we gave money to the boffins who researched this!) and the recipient obviously gains even more than us.

Really, if you travel the world you will realise how revoltingly well off we are in this country. Dan earns in one single day the entire amount our Sri Lankan daughter’s father earns in a year for toiling the fields every day, 14 hours a day, in the searing sun. We are lucky. Very lucky.

So go on people, give in. Keep on giving.

x Andy

Double Need

Hitting reset

Posted by on Jan 27, 2011 in Blog, Goals, Life, News & Events, Photography | No Comments

Phew. My god, it’s been a big few days!

Yes, the exhibition all came together well. I think I had a bit of a moment the night before when I was really tired and stressing over last minute necessities but mostly it all went relatively smoothly in the lead up.

I had about half an hour of nothing to do before the opening started – unfortunately not quite enough time for a sneaky scotch across the road at the Cat & Fiddle to calm me down but enough time to cruise the space and take a few pics of the gallery all good to go, waiting for the first visitors.

It was a gorgeous balmy Sydney night with a great vibe in the air, being Australia Day Eve. There was a steady stream of arrivals and I mostly had enough time to greet everyone and offer a refreshing glass of vino.

About 50 people came through (not including the 6 or so kids) and it seemed everybody had a lovely time. They were all certainly very kind about my work and I truly appreciated every one of them turning up in support. There was a spattering of strangers too which was great and apparently there was some strong interest in the exhibition during the day.

So, yes, it was a huge success. Dan and I were pretty chuffed with what we’d achieved and celebrated with some close friends and family across the road afterwards…the perfect way to end the day.

I was pretty shattered yesterday and took it easy, spending day with my son and gorgeous mum on her birthday and just cruising through the day. And today I’ve been enjoying some time to myself. Reflecting on the exhibition and ruminating on the rampage of mess throughout our house. It’s time to clean. Time to cleanse.

Though it’s been wonderful, I’m relieved the exhibition is nearly at an end. I’m desperate for some down time. Hankering for some habitual normality. But having said that, my mind is still whirring. I’m already off on my next project. I’m trying to be still and calm but I’m still feeling so inspired!

For my health and sanity I will force myself to rest though. I need to hit the reset button. I have some catching up to do with friends and family. I want to spend some quality time with Akira before he starts back at school next week. I need to get my exercise back to a daily routine. I really need to buy some toilet paper.

A huge thank you to all those who have supported me leading up to the exhibition, on the night and beyond. I have a perfect partner, wonderful family and some incredible friends. I look forward to spending more time with you all soon…

x Andy

Flash Life: New York

Hard day’s work

Posted by on Jan 24, 2011 in Blog, Goals, Life, News & Events, Photography | No Comments

So, no more time for introspection. No more indulgence in swirling thoughts or soul-searching. I have an exhibition to pull together by tomorrow night.

Anyway, the answer to all my endless questions became apparent yesterday. In eight long hours spent with 3 awesome, creative, lateral thinking, inspiring artists it all became blatantly clear why I do what I do. It’s just art. I just love doing it. And I feel compelled to share it, otherwise what is it for?

I take photos because it’s my passion. Sometimes I frame them and hang them on walls, not because I think my work is fabulous, not for fame, not for recognition, not for attention and certainly not for money! Occasionally I carefully and lovingly place these photos in books, not with any audience in mind. Just because I love doing it.

Sometimes I get all old school and invite friends around for a bit of a slideshow – sharing holiday pics and the like. Just because its fun.

If the occasion calls for it, I’ll pop some prints in frames, wrap them in gorgeous recycled papers and share them with friends, family or colleagues as gifts. Just in the hope that it will bring a bit of joy to them.

I’ve also been known to send complete strangers a series of images. For example there was a ridiculously cool skateboard shop in New York’s East Village that provided such a bounty of great, edgy pics for my exhibition I’m going to send through the entire collection for them to use as they wish. Just as thanks.

I love doing all this. It makes me feel rich, alive and engaged. And very happy. But there’s another reason for all this. It is all to do with sharing. Sharing my passions, yes, but also sharing my time with amazing people.

I had to work for 8 hours on a Sunday yesterday, without pay, and in fact I had paid someone to do the very job I was helping with. But, it was spent with really lovely, artistically inspiring, clever clever people and it was a joy. And at the end of the day, all my artworks were hanging on the walls of a gallery. And it made me really happy. And all I hope is that, tomorrow night, it makes other people happy too.

x Andy

Kinda cruising

Posted by on Jan 21, 2011 in Blog, Health, Life, News & Events, Photography | One Comment

Well, I’m heading to the pointy end of preparations for the exhibition and, amazingly, all is well.

I’ve spent the greater part of the last 8 years (when motherhood was thrown into the mix) chasing my tail all day then falling into bed exhausted every night. This year I’ve been determined to be different: organised and focused, calm and centred, happy, healthy and seriously self satisfied.

I think I’ve discovered the secret. Planning and preparation! I know I know. It sounds so dull. But when you’re cruising instead of crazily flapping through each hour of every day, swallowing the boringly bitter pill of preparation becomes a happy habit.

Consider this. My son is on school holidays, I’m back at work, exercising every day (usually twice), eating well, sleeping the required number of hours and doing all the usual time-sucking chores of every day life. And on top of it all I’ve managed to pull together a massive solo photographic exhibition – without too much stress.

I’m ahead of schedule people. AHEAD of schedule. The artworks were meant to be delivered to the gallery on Saturday but they already have them in their hot little hands. I went out and saw a movie last night with my hubby, for crying out loud, instead of staying up frantic until 2am. (The Green Hornet, FYI, longish but fun).

Ok, there are a number of things on my To Do list but I have them covered. In fact I’m going to kick back with good friends and some fine wine tonight before getting stuck back into it tomorrow. And Sunday. But whatever – I’m working all weekend doing what I love. Happy days people. Happy days.

x Andy

Just Relax

The cover up

I’m really disappointed folks. But also incredibly inspired by the very same event.

I know a lot of art is ephemeral. Some of it involves risk. But all of it involves putting a little bit of yourself into it…your thoughts, efforts, emotion and artistic expression. So when I see a 20 metre stretch of art get covered up with stinking, stark white paint it bites a bit.

As I think I’ve mentioned, I live in Bondi Beach. It is my home in every way and will be for life, no matter how far afield I travel and for how long. I’m centred here and inspired, happy, healthy and grounded. I’m at home.

And one of my favourite places in Bondi is the graffiti wall along the beach promenade. I jog along it most mornings at an ungodly hour and it greets me like an old friend, the various artworks encouraging me along from end to end. Some mornings there is no change, some mornings I’m met, wonderfully, by a new piece of graffiti art and some mornings there is horror.

By way of background, art on the wall must be sanctioned by Waverley Council. God knows what you have to do to be allowed to make your mark. I do know that you have to sell your soul (plus a buckload of cash) to get granted a resident parking permit so I dread to think what red tape faces artists in this situation.

A few months back there was a new piece painted up that was kinda nice but also made me a bit sick to the stomach. I’m guessing (but really happy to be proven wrong) that the Council organised an artist to throw up a ‘bin your butts’ message. While I’m all in support of no ciggie butts on the beach, it made me a little queasy that this gorgeous space for artists had become advertising space for Waverley Council. Unless some totally independent street artist had really strong anti-butt feelings they wanted to express through art? I’m guessing probably not.

Aaaanyway, this ‘sanctioned’ message along with a couple of others (one stencil work I loved, one I was far less enamoured by) were painted over by some truly fabulous, almost old-school, vibrant, colourful graffiti work on a striking black background. I loved it! It made me want to jog back home and grab my camera but, alas, I had to scuttle off to work like any other day.

Unfortunately I left it too late to head back and shoot the piece as it was this fine new work that was whitewashed by Council and plastered with warning signs. Seemingly they didn’t fill out the necessary forms.

I admit I’m conflicted over it. I’m bitterly disappointed by the loss but inspired by their courage. I’m sad for my previously-admired sunny stencil piece but grinning naughtily on the inside, encouraged by these colourful covert creatives. I really do like to mostly abide by the rules and I understand their importance in the case of Bondi’s public art space but I also feel like rebelling against it. Maybe it’s just my Libran nature. Perhaps part of the whole ‘conflicted artist’ thing. I don’t know. But I find it fascinating.

If you find these issues interesting, you MUST see the Banksy film, Exit Through the Gift Shop – one of the finest films of 2010 (put your hand up if you think he – brilliantly – orchestrated the whole thing?!).

I’ll probably spend a decent amount of time talking street art. I love it. As you’ll see from a large proportion of the work in Flash Life: New York (oh my god, I can’t believe I plugged my own work again!!). Let me know what you think about the whole street art thing and, in particular, the ‘Waverley Council Whitewash’ affair.

Yours in artistic rebellion…

x Andy

On Notice

Fabulous photobooks

Posted by on Jan 18, 2011 in Blog, News & Events, Photography | One Comment

Now as much as I love to hang images on a wall, I have another passion (so many interests and inspirations these days!) and that is making photobooks.

I’ve been doing this for a few years now and I’m getting a great idea of the best ways to do things, depending on what I’m after.

Firstly, Blurb (www.blurb.com) is my favourite. They have a great range of options, are reasonably priced, usually provide a high standard of quality and are fairly user -friendly. The main point-scoring feature though is the ability to sell the books online via their website (via a widget or other on your website, FB page, etc). They have a preview feature where the potential buyer can scroll through each page of the book, add it to their shopping cart then pay directly. You have the option to set your price, thereby determining your margin, and the money is then transferred to you post-sale. Oh, and they have a great community of world-wide users. Attending their annual awards in New York last year was one of the highlights of my time there (think swanky hotel, city-view rooftop, champagne and fabulous, funky people). The Sydney equivalent event was a little different, to say the least. But more on that another time.

Secondly I’m a pretty big fan of the Apple option. They are great for photobooks in a hurry, are a bit cheaper and the software is very straightforward. I’ve found the quality is great when the background is black but a bit hit and miss with a white canvas. In Aperture, I create a new book with 2 clicks of the button and, if I wasn’t so ridiculously particular about where each image is placed, I could use the autofill option and have a book made in about 5 minutes. There are limitations, like all photobook software, but it’s a great, solid and affordable option when you want larger books and ease of use.

There are number of other companies doing the same thing and I’m currently waiting on a book from the Momento Pro crew so stay tuned for the results of that, but I’ve checked most of them out and, for value of money, Blurb and Apple come out ahead so far. I’m sure Asuka Books are gorgeous but I’m not sure anybody I know would be happy to cough up several hundred dollars for a book?? Let me know if you would and I’ll give them a go!

If any of you would like further info of photobooks let me know otherwise, have a crack at it yourself – you’ll find the results are amazing. And if you can’t be bothered, come along to my exhibition opening on Tuesday and buy one of mine (sorry to go on about it but I’m so excited now – only 7 sleeps to go!).

x Andy

Flash Life: New York Book Cover

Photo fascination

Posted by on Jan 17, 2011 in Blog, Life, News & Events, Photography | No Comments

I’ve been asked if the photos included in the posts are all taken by me. Yes, they are except for the very first one (of me), taken by Dan. And hats off to the man for a. getting me in front of the camera and b. making me look not too shabby.

I have quite a selection of pics to choose from after 15-odd years shooting. I don’t know the exact number but I know we’re storing them in Terabytes now instead of Gigabytes (and no doubt edging towards Petabytes and Exabytes in years to come!).

And this weekend I was utterly immersed in a prodigious production of printed paper. I have 120 images of New York included in my upcoming exhibition and most of them were finally mounted in their respective montages. And what a joy it was. These photos become like children with all the associated emotion, attachment and pride. And challenges of course.

A photo is a multi-faceted thing. It’s a dime a dozen these days but also as precious as ever. It’s a snapshot of reality but can also tell a lie. Photos are cherished possessions but can also be deleted on a whim. They are a loved and respected form of portrayal but, I assure you, if you point a camera at a stranger on the street, there is nothing but suspicion.

I love all these layers and contradictions. Photography is fascinating. We are surrounded, almost bombarded with images on a daily basis and how these pictures represent and effect our world, our society, continues to provoke endless analysis, thought and conversation.

At the end of the day though, well, at the end of the week for me, photos mounted and hung on a wall are special. Turning photos into art is exciting, essential. Whether a particular exhibition appeals to an individual or not, adding works to a society’s body of art in any part of the world is a positive, important process. And, hey, it can make for an enjoyable night. Free champagne anyone?!!

Hope to see you all there on the 25th Jan…

x Andy

Hanging Art