Posts tagged ‘art ‘

Every day in Tuscany

I wish I wrote like Frances Mayes. More than that; I wish I lived like Frances Mayes – Every Day in Tuscany.

Her ability to observe and describe is unmatched amongst current authors, I think. The way she crafts her sentences, surprising us with the unpredictability of passage. She is a Wordsmith and obviously honours and delights in the images she conjures.

The art, the food, the lifestyle, the landscape, the produce, the community, the history, the language, the trendy Italian flavours of Italian life, are all stamped onto her pages like a three-dimensional collage. It is the now-popular craft-art of scrapbooking minus the glue and scissors.

Her quest for beauty I share. While she succeeds and excels, I fail. The richness of the Italian culture lies to extreme of the sparse Australian life that is mine. I search but cannot find any stone-built monasteries from the 15th Century. There is a notable lack of Renaissance art around me. Deciduous trees dripping harvests of nuts and fruit do not fare well in the Aussie bush. Aussie slang spoken between thin closed unmoving lips is spare with words and emotion, by comparison to the dramatic, curvaceous, embellished opera of the mere Italian “hello”.

Reading Frances Mayes books make me feel like a starving person reading a cook book. Yet to not seem ungrateful for my lot in life; I am far from starving and can read. I am keenly aware of my lucky rich Western educated life in a free land.

Two years ago I was in Italy and did not like what I saw. Fully expecting to love it, I did not. My stay was brief and fleeting. As a passing tourist I saw multitudes of art – some flaking some not. I was often dwarfed inside cathedrals, as I had hoped. I passed by the long queue of people waiting to go inside The Dome in Florence. I saw David – whose hands are too big Michelangelo! I walked around Rome. I know why people there drive mopeds – it is because there is no physical space left to park another car. My heart sank when seeing more and more graffiti, another grey rumpled form of a homeless person lying in the town park, the rubbish strewn everywhere. The Italians appeared to have stepped straight from a catwalk in Milan, into their shiny sports car, then out into a street full of cigarette butts. They live in an ashtray. It was Summer and each day was smog-filled; not one clear day despite the cloudless skies.

Sure I loved Venice. And Burano – is it even real or did I dream it? Who would not love the Isle of Capri? And Sorrento? Assisi? Florence – beautiful Firenze? I have not one bad photo from this trip. The camera lies obviously. Italy was overcrowded everywhere and lost to the hordes of passing onlookers. Queuing for bliss became the appropriate title for my unedited travel diary. Please note that my diary is a record only and not any attempt at creative writing.

Frances Mayes Italy and my Italy are at odds. We cannot compare the experience at all because hers is deep and all-encompassing, while mine was shallow and fleeting. She lives there, I visited. I envy her, that is certain.

She talks about falling in love with a place, or a thing, or a pursuit, such as Art. I understand this and share this idea completely. Art, music, and place have the power to speak to our soul and fill us with…..Love.

I fell in love in France; not Italy. It happened in St. Paul de Vence. This small medieval hill town near Nice is now a thriving artists community and a tourist magnet. We wandered in light rain along cobblestone walkways, too narrow to be streets, looking at art. Who wouldn’t fall for this place? By the time I sat in the town square in Beaune, between Lyon and Paris, I was cocooned and floating in a crystal bubble of LOVE. I floated and smiled like an idiot. I felt at home for the first time in my life. I had found my spiritual home. But not because of the food, language, culture, history or art. Nor because my heart had longed to go to France. Something deeper. Perhaps genetically transferred ancestral cell-memory? Life destiny calling me? Wish fulfilment? Perhaps just my vivid imagination.

Back home in Australia, Frances Mayes reminds me of my heart-ache; of my parallel-life in France. The view from my window across the roof tops towards the church spire in the town somehow reminds me of Nice. There really is no similarity.

Yet my sensible self reminds me of the crowds, the traffic, and the reality-check of what daily life in Europe in the 21st Century is in actuality. Frances, please cast your observant eye towards downtown Rome, or Naples. Can you edit out the grime?

Pursuing a life of “beauty” in the harsh Australian environment and lifestyle is a challenge. But I must try harder. This is my real home and I must face the fact that life in France, for me, is not for this lifetime. My task is to focus, and bring into my days, the art, language, music, literature, good food, and beauty that I crave and miss.


1 comment June 8, 2010

Inspired by mountains

This isn’t really French at all, but it could be!! I recently had the pleasure of being served an amazing dessert that could rival the desserts of the best chefs of the world. It was a sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce; but it was more than that.

The Highland Restaurant is the main dining room of Cradle Mountain Lodge in the beautiful world heritage wilderness area of Tasmania Australia.

The dessert arrived and I paused to appreciate the beautiful artistic arrangement eventually realising that it was a representation of Cradle Mountain itself and the surrounding Dove Lake and Crater Lake. Three round dark brown date puddings represented the mountains. Each topped with some custard snow cover. A pastry swirl formed the clouds as they swept up and over the rocky mountain crags. Two lakes swirled perfectly in unison; a sweet toffee Dove Lake and a lighter tangy Crater Lake. A tangle of lemon zest represented the dark yellow alpine grasses. Each flavour of the dessert stood out separately and yet contrasted perfectly.


Earlier that day we had trudged through 30 centimetre snow around the walking track that loops around Dove Lake. We had seen the snow capped mountains through the parted veils of cloud as they swirled off the tops of the crags. We enjoyed the colours of this wild alpine scene. To see this landscape cleverly recreated in a dessert was an unexpected surprise.


1 comment September 26, 2009


I had a “Frenchish” day recently in Melbourne. It began with a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria.


National Gallery of Victoria

We joined the queue to see the Dali exhibition Liquid Desire. Once inside we followed the art trail, studying his works, and then shared our thoughts about our favourite pieces, discussing why we liked them. I love Galatea of the Spheres.

Galatea of the spheres by Salvador Dali

Galatea of the spheres by Salvador Dali

 It is difficult enough to paint a portrait, but to do this superimposed over an arrangement of painted spheres is astounding. At this time he was intrigued with atomic physics and this portrait illustrates his thinking.


We had lunch at the gallery bistro called Persimmon. We enjoyed an entrée of Baked scallops, fennel escabeche, mushroom cream, gruyere, and then for the main course we had Potato & herb gnocchi, brussel sprouts, cauliflower & pecorino crumble, all washed down with a lovely glass of Astrolabe Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The meal was beautiful and the service was impeccable.


Scallop entree


It was a perfect way to spend a lazy winter’s Sunday in Melbourne, and we were not the only people thinking that as the gallery was extremely busy. It certainly goes against the common image that Australians lack culture. It seems we do enjoy other activities besides football and drinking beer – not that there’s anything wrong with that. So I suppose the “French” aspect of this day was visiting a gallery, looking at art, enjoying a lovely lunch, and generally feeling sophisticated. And Dali, although not a French artist, did fulfil the typical life of an artist and he created those weird, surreal creations that the French appreciate so well.


The next week I visited the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery to see the Brett Whiteley exhibition 9 shades of Whiteley. Brett Whiteley’s art is my absolute favourite. I love his colour and shapes and compositions and the size of his work. There seems to be a reoccurring curved shape that often appears in his work. I thought I was familiar with all of his work, but to my delight I found a painting that was new to me.


Far North Queensland by Brett Whiteley

Far North Queensland by Brett Whiteley

Port Douglas Far North Queensland is one of his last works before his death in 1992. It is full of colour, vibrancy, and movement. From this painting you would think he was at a happy place in his life, and perhaps he was. It is different from his gorgeous “blue” works of Sydney Harbour like his 1976 Archibald Prize winning Self Portrait in the studio. I never pass up an opportunity to see his work “in the flesh”.

Add a comment July 22, 2009

Art and French Cafe

Today I took myself on a little “artist date” to borrow a term from Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way. I visited the local regional gallery to see an exhibition of the works of the Australian contemporary artist Jeffrey Smart.

I have always loved his art and I appreciate the bold colours, the graphical compositions, the realism of the renderings, and the little quirky improbabilities he adds. His portraits of Margaret Olley at Le Louvre, Clive James, and Germaine Greer are fabulous. Just what does the huge graffiti “R” represent?

cafe_gourmand_mt_eliza_24mar09Afterwards I visited Cafe Gourmand in Mount Eliza. The strong coffee was perfect and the Blueberry Amandine lovely and I sat at an outside table enjoying the surroundings and pondering the art I had seen. Cafe Gourmand is trying hard to be “French” as are so many others these days.

Add a comment March 24, 2009






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