Thursday, 26 February 2009

Beautiful nature photographs

BBC Nature photographer William A. Bolton is featured in the Guardian with some recent works. They're all very striking, but this one is my favourite.
Thanks to Tom for the link.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

You *shall* be a mermaid!

If anyone remembers this story, about the double amputee who made a flippant remark at the beach:

"A little boy came up and started asking all the `why' questions about my legs (she was removing her prosthetic legs)," she says.

Rather than having to go through the logistics of amputation with a four-year-old, Vessey said: "Do you know about the Little Mermaid?

"He said he did, so I told him: `Well I'm a mermaid'."

(full story here)

Weta Workshop has actually made it happen. Nadya Vessey *is* a mermaid, look at that! A fully-functioning mermaid tail. Wow!

And the Close-Up video (interview and demonstration) is here.

Hello again

Yes, gentle readers, I have been away. While I work on some more meaningful content, here is something awesome to listen to:

Friday, 13 February 2009

Nice Terry Pratchett interview

Thanks to Jana, again, for pointing me to this interesting Times interview, in which Terry Pratchett talks about his writing and his Alzheimer's.

I thought his main reaction had been anger? He has to correct me again. “This wasn't anger. This was rage. You can smoulder with anger. I could weld with this rage. Actually, that's quite good, I should write that down.” Did he take it out on his wife? “No! That's the whole point, you save it up.

He wrote somewhere that his last book, Nation, a brilliant parable about reinventing civilisation after a tsunami, had been written with “filtered rage”. “Look, I'll own up, OK? Authors are good at this sort of thing. I've got some rage here. It is bloody good rage. It's like an artist finding a bloody good blue pigment, what can I paint with it? So this book is about a boy raging at the gods.”

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Fiona Hall - Force Field

I can't remember when I last saw such a stunning sculpture show. Fiona Hall's retrospective at the Christchurch City Gallery is large, rich, and varied, almost too much to take in in one visit. It closes this Sunday, the 15th, so if you haven't already seen it, get down there. More information is here.

I'm going to list some of my favourite pieces to give you a taste:

Cell Culture

These familiar-looking Tupperware pottles have sprouted delicate limbs, claws, fins. They have morphed into new and alien forms of life.

Castles in the air of the Cave Dwellers

Models of insect colonies are attached, like outgrowths, to model human brains. A colony of social insects, which to humans seems like a utopia, a model world, is contrasted with the brain, a colony of cells that houses only one isolated individual.

Paradisus Terrestris

These exquisite sculptures are partly-open tins revealing depictions of human bodies, and each one is surmounted by a plant motif which echoes the human form within.

Syntax of flowers

Flowers are the reproductive parts of plants, and their beauty and their scent are designed to attract pollinators. This work plays with the idea that humans use flower perfumes to attract each other: The bottles of flower essences are decorated with paintings of naked women in frankly suggestive poses.

Scar Tissue

This work is housed in a cross-shaped display case, and consists of videos of war movies, with the videotape unspooling from the cassette and knitted into glittering, dark, frightening forms which hover above them. The forms appear to emanate from the video cassettes, like horrifying afterimages that cannot be erased from the memory.

When My Boat Comes In

In this work Hall explores the economics of plants, how the import, export, and exploitation of particular species, such as sugar, tea, coffee, and rubber have influenced the world economy and created huge imbalances of wealth. Hall has gathered banknotes from many different currencies, all depicting boats or ships, and on the banknotes painted the leaf of a plant native to each particular country.


In this work Hall has meticulously copied the forms of various types of birds' nests, using hand-shredded banknotes as her raw material. As the names of the bird species face off against the serial numbers of the banknotes, we are left to contemplate the consequences of commercial exploitation of natural resources.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Online newspapers in 1981

What a crazy idea! Thanks Jana for the link.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Mixed mediums = roomful of clairvoyants

My philosophy about this blog is that I write about things that I love, find awesome, that are amazing, mindblowing, or cool. I only review or link to things that excite me. I *do not* whinge, moan or lambast, at least not here. ;-)

OK, permit me one small moan.

Please, please, if you write about art, remember: you have one artistic medium, but two media.

And if you have an artwork that uses more than one medium, that work is executed in MIXED MEDIA.

The only time you can have mixed mediums is if you have a whole bunch of clairvoyants gathered together.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Bushfire smoke?

Today started out bright and sunny, but there's been a haze creeping across the sky, and the sunlight's become quite dim. The light's also gone a funny colour.

This is sunlight shining in my window onto a sheet of white printer-paper. It shouldn't be that peach colour. It's more than 5 hours before sunset.

Is this smoke from the fires in Victoria, Australia? I remember in the Summer of 2001/2002 we had a noticeable smoke haze from bushfires around Sydney.

Thursday, 5 February 2009


My monarch nursery has produced 2 more butterflies, simultaneously!

I noticed this morning that they were looking almost ready, with their wing-patterns clearly visible...

When I checked them maybe 3/4 hour later, a lot had happened!

Chrysalises seem to have a TARDIS quality, it's hard to credit that a whole butterfly can unfold from such a tiny space...

Images copyright 2009 Grace Dalley. All rights reserved.

Very hungry caterpillars

We thought if we planted swan plants we might attract the monarch butterflies to lay their eggs there. It worked!

Unfortunately, there were far more caterpillars than the plants could support, and after they had devoured all the leaves and flowers, they proceeded to eat the stems:

Some of them tried neighbouring plants, but they didn't seem to like them nearly as much.

Some of them got fat enough to think about building a chrysalis:

Here's a chrysalis (green with gold detailing!)

I picked the stems I could find that had chrysalises on them, and brought them inside. One has hatched so far:

It took a while to dry out its new wings. It trotted up and down the windowsill slowly flapping for a long time.

When it seemed to have got the hang of flying, I took it outside:

So that's one success. There are 2 more chrysalises to hatch, so the ratio of skeleton-ised swan plants to butterflies will probably be 1:1!

Thanks Katie for the plants :-)

Images copyright 2009 Grace Dalley. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Cow Portraits

I've only ever taken one portrait of cattle, and this is it:

This was taken near Ahaura, on the West Coast. They obviously don't get a lot of visitors.

English painter Sue Moffitt has forged an entire career out of portraits of cows, and they are just amazing! Look at this. Or this. Who would have thought you could get so much personality into a picture of a cow? You can check out Sue Moffitt's whole portfolio here.

Image copyright Grace Dalley. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The Moon-Bull

Beautiful O Beautiful
Is the moon-bull
Mild, immense and white
He sniffs the moist night.

He sniffs the black hole
Through which slowly roll
The teeming galaxies.
He is always at ease.

He thinks Night is his cow.
There he stands now
Licking the glossy side
Of his infinite bride.

Ted Hughes, from Moon Whales.

Moon Whales, supposedly for children, is one of Ted Hughes' best and most accessible collections of poems. Sadly, it's out of print, but it's available in libraries, or if you're lucky you can pick it up second-hand.

Images copyright 2009 Grace Dalley. All rights reserved.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Imaging alien worlds

Chesley Bonestell's paintings of space exploration and alien worlds are recognisable to any science fiction fan. (if you don't believe me, look here) He was able to paint such fine details of imaginary things because he made exacting models of many of them first: have a look at the creation of his classic image Saturn as seen from Titan. And here are some other fascinating models. And this group is particularly impressive, although I can't imagine how he found the time to do all that modelling.

A recent panoramic view of Mars taken by the Mars Exploration Rover was named in honour of Bonestell and his work.

On the theme of other worlds, for anyone who missed the amazing photographs of the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus taken by the robotic Cassini spacecraft, look here. And there's a magical view of the dark side of Saturn, also taken by Cassini, here.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Basking bird

When I was in the Botanic Gardens the other day trying to photograph the waterlilies (with only limited success!) I suddenly noticed this sparrow only about a metre away on a gunnera leaf, lying unmoving with his beak open. I thought he might be dead, or dying...

...but of course once he realised I had seen him, he stared paying attention to me...
...and within a few seconds he flew off.

Images copyright 2009 Grace Dalley, all rights reserved.