We holidayed in Adelaide this week, and enjoyed the glittering gems at Australian Minerals (Hahndorf) and the collection of twinkling treasures in South Australian Museum’s Iridescence exhibition. I could happily spend all day looking at the luminous stones, butterflies, shells and birds – but I do feel conflicted about looking at stuffed creatures. I thought about the museum context of mounted insects and how they would have informed Hirst’s capture of the seductive colours of butterflies in an exhibition I saw a few years ago.
As a child, I was enraptured to learn that the word “iridescence” could describe the elusive shine on bubbles and the flickering colours in oil spills on the road. I had only noticed oil colours after reading a version of The Colony of Cats, where a girl asked to be dipped in oil (rather than gold) in the hope of capturing a rainbow in her pocket. Similarly I was recently delighted to learn the word “petrichor”, even though a word can only hint at the corners of capturing an experience.
Today I had my first acupuncture session, and I was saddened for the butterflies pinned to their boards. I hope they get to fly around the exhibition at night-time, feeding on iridescence to top up their own meters.
This is my favourite image (of all time) from the National Library’s search discovery experience, Trove. At first glance it’s natural to assume that the butterflies are a print on her dress, but the truth is so much more exciting. The photo is from a 1928 newspaper article.
The caption states:
– A girl visitor in the Butterfly House at the London Zoo, covered with butterflies, which were attracted by the white frock she was wearing.”
The picture inspired me to visit the Butterfly House at the London Zoo, there are more pictures and words about this in my post from last year. Seeing butterflies in real life (rather than as representations) is a great reminder of why we strive to imitate them in art and design in the first place – it’s a lot like seeing a picture of coral, and really bridging the gap when you see it below the water’s surface. Having butterflies land on you is a wonderful experience, except when they try to eat your hair.
NATURAL DECORATION. (1928, October 20). The Argus(Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 6 Supplement: The Argus. Saturday Camera Supplement.. Retrieved June 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3964087
blogjune – it’s the third of June so here is a three day wrap-up! Changing from monthly to daily posts for this month was possibly a little ambitious, but maybe this will further focus my time management.
I was unwell on Saturday so I was sad to miss the opening of Blaide Lallemand’s painting exhibition at CraftACT’s pod, Lonsdale Street Traders. Make sure you head along! If you’re not based in Canberra, there’s also a video of the interactive paintings.
To console myself, I watched lots of episodes of Dawson’s Creek, I’m now up to Season 5, episode 4. There are only six seasons so there’s not long to go (then I’ll be beyond consolation). Perhaps I should frame this as a sociological study of the 90s, but my viewing is mostly for nostalgic reasons (and as background refamiliarisation before I watch Apartment 23). It also means that the cats get to hear their favourite sitcom intro song, in addition to increased lap time and being harassed by toy dinosaurs.
I spent Sunday cooking minestrone soup, chocolate coconut cake and spaghetti veganaise. The vegan chocolate coconut cake was very successful – I adapted a Taste recipe by replacing the butter with cocoa butter (expensive but the value is in the flavour) and milk with soy milk, and flour with hazelnut meal. I also added cocoa nibs. I guess I just can’t follow recipe instructions. Verdict from Mr. Sonja was “delicious”. It’s a lot better feedback than “What happened?” or “Very rustic” (hmm).
I reduced my tyre changing rookie status, but the bolts were so tight that I had to stand on the wrench. It was like the fairytale where the princess wishes she was heavier (the princesses received their weight in gold as a reward, another variation was choosing between being dipped in oil or gold). It was unpleasant but not as bad as last week when I almost crashed because the tyre burst. Drama, excitement! The biggest reward in changing the tyre was finding a lovely butterfly on the ground, I was sad it had gone to the great nectar in the sky but I do secretly enjoy collecting them.
Today (Monday) I planned lots of library tweets for the @aliangac account (ALIA New Generation Advisory Committee) and culled a swarm of emails (it’s good to know that cialis is still popular!). While I was at work today there were lots of lovely sunbeams coming in through the windows and I managed to catch all of them around the building with my feline hunting skills.
The caterpillar makes an ideal pet, this year I had the short-lived joy of being a caterpillar’s friend.
At first I couldn’t work out what was diminishing my vase of mint cuttings. Gradually, Mr. Caterpillar betrayed his presence with fragrant faeces sprinkled on the bench like poppy seed confetti. It was a blissful honeymoon for us as I looted the garden for succulent mint and watched Mr. Caterpillar skeletise the vulnerable leaves. Some days Mr. Caterpillar would be crawling about like a hinge and I would make encouraging sound effects. I told him that when he grew up we could go for walks (I would be skipping, he would be flying with his new gossamer wings) and if the sky was too scary he could go on a lead like a biological kite so that we were safely attached by an umbilical cord.
The coming changes were a bit scary for him though, he’d quote Martin Wesley-Smith’s score, “I’m a caterpillar of society (not a social butterfly).” He was reluctant to think about wings that might detract from his verdant chiselled abs: “See me flex all my splen-did pecs! – What con-di-tion! What de-fi-ni-tion!” (Wesley-Smith, 1999, p. 9). We even considered his celebrity endorsement for some premium abdominal workout machines.
All too soon, it was over. I told a more thoughtful friend at work about My Ideal Pet, and he noted the cruelty involved, even if The Great Outside did possess a gang of wild young magpie hoodlums with a taste for the green worm. So, I released Mr. Caterpillar to The Great Outside in The Mint Garden Bed. A few days later a caterpillar was perched on the wall right next to our doorway – I can’t work out how he got there as it’s quite a distance. I think it was Mr. Caterpillar coming to say goodbye. I guess this is why I wasn’t allowed pets as a child, even ideal ones like caterpillars.
I miss you, Mr. Caterpillar. You were already a swan in my eyes.
Continental butterflies and more!
I returned home this month from a delightful jaunt through England (and a little bit of Scotland).
During the trip, butterflies emerged as a recurring theme.
I’m collecting moths for a collage, but butterflies seem to market themselves more effectively.
Damien Hirst’s butterfly room
Damien Hirst’s show at the Tate Modern had a whole room dedicated to live butterflies. Plastic ribbons cordoned off the doorways, and special assistants removed errant butterflies from hair and clothing. Photography was forbidden, so all my butterfly photographs are from other venues.
The butterflies hatch from pupae on canvases and fly around the room to feast on fruit and a few begonias.
Patrick Barkham has written more about the emotional experience of the butterfly room here.
I walked through the Hirst exhibition in a haphazard way to avoid the crowds.
However, this meant that I saw the butterfly canvases (wings glued to canvases in the style of stained glass windows) prior to the live butterfly room. The butterfly collaged canvases changed and glittered in the light, the blue Morpho wings would briefly have a pearly lustre and change back to a bright blue.
Changing my path through the exhibition meant that the butterfly room seemed unnatural, as though the butterfly paintings were reanimated.
After regaining life, they escape capture only to be sentenced to stay in a very small room.
Butterflies as drawing materials
Closer to home, Genevieve Swifte’s art uses butterflies in a more subtle way, to mimic cloud patterns. Swifte creates her pigment by mixing butterfly wings with silver leaf and binder on paper.
In “A Study of Clouds I-II”, the scales catch the light and simulate the shifting nature of clouds. The drawings make the connection between flight, air, weather and creatures that inhabit parts of the sky.
The drawings are so delicate that the effect is best seen in person, otherwise they may be viewed on Swifte’s site here.
I also saw a giant Atlas moth at the ZSL London Zoo – but the ones that Sloane Crosley found irresistible (mentioned in her book, I was told there’d be cake) were at the Museum of Natural History. There was also a great moth talk in the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Garden.
Butterfly houses and the Morpho “surprise egg”
Butterflies and more is tricky to find, but is worth it for the established banana plants, eager turtles, and multitude of Morpho butterflies.
The Morpho is my favourite butterfly, because their lustrous shimmering wings (as glued on Hirst’s canvases) are like a special surprise present. When closed, the wings mimic a brown owl, and when opened, expose a brilliant blue. It’s the nature equivalent of a surprise egg (bath bomb).
The inner vivid blue is an easier beauty to appreciate than the brooding camouflage variations of the undersides of the wings.
Perhaps a preference for either one could be a personality test!
I think there’s a market for butterfly ecotourism…
Roland Henderson’s exhibition “Been” concludes at 5pm today, 5 May (CCAS – Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Manuka, Canberra).
CCAS explain the work as a response to travelling, belonging and a sense of place.
The photographs in the exhibition each focus on an object or small group of objects including the reverse side of photo frames, toy birds, cabbages, a dandelion in a cup and doll parts. It’s like a collection of memories.
My favourite was an image of a toy Bactrian camel with a cabbage butterfly perched on each hump.
It almost appears like a flying camel, but given the scale it’s more magical to think about giant butterflies.
So now it’s at home with me – I even got 4 nails with my purchase! (plus a fantastic story about cabbage farming).
As CCAS say, “[these]…exquisitely presented black and white photographs brilliantly nailed to the wall suggest that from the right angle – everything is interesting.”
The next event at CCAS Manuka is Cue Funktion, opening at 6pm on Thursday May 10.
This will transform the gallery space into a pop-up venue for live music – combining visual works and musical performances.