19 December 2011

More from the creative frontline

Talking about making things: since my iPad is my new best friend, I am constantly discovering apps that allow me to create in materials I used to use, but haven't for a long time. I used to be hooked on screen printing. Something about the logic of layering inks, the mind twisting required to think back to front and in mirror image, put me in a special frame of mind. The only problem is, screen printing requires a lot of space, inks, tools, drying racks...
Enter LetterMPress. Yes, I know it's a letterpress simulation, and therefore mainly for text-based prints. But the same brain-scrambling effort required to put together a decent print makes it better than any game for me right now. Only $2.99 to the end of the month. 

18 December 2011

Trying a new thing

So what with the house move and travelling and writing the book (more on that later) I find myself short of time to keep up my diary. I have been writing it since I was fourteen, and I am not about to pack it in now, but for the time being I am looking for a quicker outlet. So I came up with keeping a visual diary, a quick drawing of events every day. It also keeps me in sketching mode, something I have neglected criminally in the last few years, and allows me to practice drawing. I focus on three major events of the day (not as easy as it sounds, I've had a lot going on lately) and try to visualise them. My naturalistic drawing of objects has always been quite terrible, ditto faces and bodies, but I am not letting that stop me. Here are more samples. The sketchbook gives me background colours, but I have decided to move on to a daily calendar type book from January 1st.

04 December 2011

It's National day in Dubai. Watch out on the roads!

The 40th anniversary of it's founding is reason for any country to celebrate. Flags, parties, fireworks... And in Dubai it all happens in the middle of the road. Dubai traffic police is trying to reign things in this year, so the following advice appeared in Gulf News

  • Follow traffic rules. 
  • Don't stick posters on car windows that block the view.
  • Don't stick your head out of windows or dance on the bonnets of you car as this could lead to accidents.
  • Do not carry more than the number of people usually allowed in a vehicle.
  • Motorists are strongly urged not to change the colours of their vehicles or tint the windshield beyond the accepted limit.
  • Don't create chaos on the streets.
  • Car number plates should not be concealed with decorations and or be spray-painted over.
  • Motorists should not blow their horns continuously or add devices that increase noise. 
  • Stopping the vehicle in the middle of the road to talk to others creates traffic jams and should be avoided.
  • Don't blockade the road with spontaneous parades or celebrations. 

Reading this on the plane made me think that Dubai traffic police may be a little over cautious and pessimistic regarding people's traffic sense, but judging by the behavious I saw on the road this weekend I am glad that they are on the ball. 

01 December 2011

Apostrophe crime

The only excuse could be that it was committed by a German who didn't know any better.


14 November 2011

What I'll Miss - Germany

It's been almost two years (and too few entries on this blog, alas), so it's about time we moved on from Germany. Packing up our stuff has become a well-rehearsed affair, the only novelty lies in the items we sell off this time and whether everything goes into storage or gets shipped immediately to the new destination.

This is my third attempt at living in Germany, maybe my last. What will I miss when I leave?

  • The bread, dark and heavy with grains, sold by the local baker women who are almost friendly after all this time of me shopping there every day.
  • The eco-greengrocer round the corner and the fresh produce, including the wide variety of cabbage, root vegetables and apples. Despite being open at seemingly random hours and only taking cash, I always look forward to checking out the season's fruit and veg.
  • The Folkwangmuseum. Once dubbed 'The Most Beautiful Museum in the World', it is glamorous, airy, and full of amazing Expressionist art. Shame about the cafe that can only be visited after paying the entrance fee. 
  • Popping in to my mum's on a whim, for a cup of tea and a long chat. Anytime.
  • Trains that run on time. Really, they are! And cheap, clean and stylish to boot. How romantic to know that I can get to Berlin, Moscow, Vienna, without even changing, directly from Essen Hauptbahnhof. Not to forget the iPhone app that let's me look up timetables, the BahnCard that gives me money off the ticket, and the promptly answered phone line with accurate information. Take that, British Rail!
  • Our glorious flat, the big windows with the hot summer view over the forest, the long desk in the office, the projector and screen for watching movies on the squishy sofa. 

05 August 2011

Museum of Islamic Art in Doha

  Stone screen

 The plan had been to spend Friday, our last free day in Doha. visiting the Museum of Islamic Art (Flash), but Ramadan interfered with that idea. Everything is closed during the day right now, the sweltering heat in August combined with the fasting making a ghost town out of Doha, which by all accounts isn’t a hip place at the best of times. I had been expecting a Dubai-esque city and had been disappointed. Our hotel was sumptuous and brilliantly positioned next to the renovated Souk Waqif, but since everywhere was closed all day I felt I was living in a gilded cage for the week.

  Carved water jug filters

 So instead of a long Friday ramble round a museum we took our only chance and visited on Thursday evening, when the museum was open from 8 till 11pm. I was wary, already let down my the fancy websites for Doha’s museum city that turned out to be a front for a group of unfinished projects. In Dubai cultural events organisers also had the tendency to hype a venue where the reality was somewhat less glittery than the brochure.

“Calligraphy is jewellery fashioned by the hand from the pure gold of the intellect.”

  Wooden screen from India 

 The walk to the museum was long and hot, along the busy road that followed the corniche. The palm-lined path up to the museum entrance was worryingly quiet and we were relieved that the lights were on inside the building. Walking into the mercifully cooled atrium, above us a dark dome, a staircase floating in a swirl around the central entrance. A carved copper light ring wreathed the empty air. Pale cream marble and shiny black granite formed geometric patterns on the ground - magnificent, spare and classy.

  The Atrium 

 We had no opportunity to dawdle as the cafe - despite assurance to the contrary - was closed. Just as well, since we needed all the time we had to get through the themed galleries on the first floor: Calligraphy, pattern, animals and people in Islamic art, and the connection of art and science. We never even made it to the second floor, where the displays were organised along a timeline covering the geography of Islam: Iran, Iraq, India, Syria, North Africa, Al-Andalus. The ring of display rooms circling the central stairway was infused with a dim and silent atmosphere. High walls covered in grooved greystone and coarse dark fabric swallowed light and sound, leaving large glass display cases to float serenely along the walls and in the centre of the rooms.
“All Islamic pattern is based on the idea that what we see is always and only part of a whole that extends to infinity.”
  Brass Astrolabe 

 Each invisibly-lit case housed just one or two exquisite items, perfectly displayed to enhance its unique craftsmanship: a stone carving so intricate and fragile that I mistook it for a wooden screen, tiny elaborate patterns disguising the stone’s heaviness; a pure white bowl marked with an off-centre line of black calligraphy, modern and abstract despite its 15th century origin; a seven metre long Hajj certificate depicting the holy places to be visited, with six witness signatures to prove the hajji’s travels; a silver soldier’s helmet seemingly designed by a workshop in Middle Earth, complete with an ivory oliphant, a hunting horn carved from an elephant’s tusk; a set of clay filters delicately carved despite being completely invisible until the water jar they are set into breaks; a line of elegant gold calligraphy, written on the skeleton of a dried leaf. In short, if you are in Doha, you must visit the Islamic Art Museum. More photos here.

31 January 2011

South Africa 2010

Manic WeddingManic WeddingManic WeddingManic WeddingManic WeddingManic Wedding
Manic Weddingbirds in UmtataDurban beachfrontDurban beachfrontDurban beachfrontDurban
ClarensClarensClarensClarensDrakensbergDrakensberg rock art
neon grasshopperClarensClarensA Room With A View, JoburgJoburgA Room With A View, Joburg

South Africa 2010, a set on Flickr.

It was as if we were returning home.