Monday, May 26, 2014

‘George, I thought you’d never ask’

Succulent envy: continuing Alice Jean’s occasional series of guest blogs from garden historian Richard Aitken
‘George, I thought you’d never ask’


I gave a lecture in Adelaide recently to accompany the opening of two shows I have curated as part of the AustralianGarden History Society touring exhibition Cultivating Modernism. There was a terrific response, with standing room only at the Bradley Forum of the University of South Australia’s Hawke Centre, so much so that Gloria couldn’t get in.
Gloria is one of my funkiest colleagues and the ‘full house’ sign suggested to me that garden history is alive and well in South Australia, and that a renewed appreciation of modernist gardens and design landscapes is in the ascendant. Gloria has form in this field as the author of two terrific monographs on modernist Australian artists, KathleenSauerbier and Jacqueline Hick, so I was sorry not to have her there.
But I had the pleasure recently of working with Gloria on an article for Australian Garden History on succulent envy (amongst other things). My co-editor Christina Dyson and I had selected Gloria to participate in the Australian Garden History Society’s editorial mentoring scheme, to work up for publication a lecture originally given to The Johnston Collection as part of TheGarden of Ideas exhibition and lecture series.
Gloria’s topic was the modernist interior, with a focus on the fascination for cacti and other succulents. ‘Make friends with the cactus’ she reminded us in the title of her article (quoting another unsung Australian modernist, Adrian Feint, writing in The Home magazine in 1928). Flower painting and interior arrangements allowed experimentation in the modernist interior, noted Gloria, and the spare crystalline forms of cacti were particularly appealing to interwar and postwar generations of floral artists.

The stark forms of these plants looked back to a primitive past, one that resonated with modernists keen to airbrush out any link with ‘decadent’ stylistic precedents. The same spare, primeval quality of many Australian plants also pervaded a modernist appreciation of local flora, especially the geometric beauty of banksias and bottlebrushes with their strong cylindrical shape and severe leaves: think Margaret Preston.
And so Gloria continued, linking the paintings of Thea Proctor and Adrian Feint (in contrast to acknowledged traditionalists such as Hans Heysen) with advances in floral art, led on one hand by British florist Constance Spry, and the adoption of a diluted orientalism on the other. It’s all fascinating stuff and these impulses have governed the ongoing floral festival at Adelaide’s Carrick Hill, Looking Glorious. Now I wonder if Gloria had anything to do with that?
Richard Aitken
(guest blogger)


Friday, May 9, 2014

The Sex Kitten Stroll

A couple of months ago I took my children along to the local rock n roll dance lessons (I thought it would be a good 'family' thing to do together.) Well, the kids enjoyed it, but an hour was about as much as they could concentrate on and I ended up coming home a bit more frazzled than energised.
So, I think I will leave it for a little while longer - just till they get a wee bit older.
So, while I await that time, its great to know I can still strut my stuff - keeping myself fit and my skills honed (!) - in my kitchen each night doing the Sex Kitten Stroll.
I'm not exactly sure where this dance evolved from (if anyone knows, please post in a comment below), but it is certainly big at all the massive Rockabilly festivals here in Australia, and also in the US and Europe. A bit of an eye candy fest for the guys who get to watch all the hot chickie babes shaking their booty together, line dance fashion but with a hell of a lot more wiggle !
So, just to make sure I don't forget any of the moves, I have put together a little youtube snippet on how to execute The Sex Kitten Stroll..... if the scene is new to you, this might prove handy to begin with.
Best of luck my friends, and I look forward to seeing you on the dance floor in the not too distant future !
PS This was filmed on my HTC phone - hence the dodgy quality, and the fact that my jumper is aqua in the picture, and emerald green like my shoes in real life!!! Humph!!
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