The Strays

08/27/2015 at 10:19 AM (Books) (, , , , , , , , , )

Although fictional, the debut novel and Stella Prize winner The Strays by Emily Bitto is somewhat influenced by the story of the Heide Circle of Melbourne and is a fascinating narrative of idealised dreams, emotional sacrifices and conflicted loyalties mostly set in the atmosphere of 1930s depression-era Melbourne.

The Strays Book Cover

Source: Goodreads

Only child Lily makes a connection with Eva, the middle daughter of the Evan and Helena Trentham, on her first day at school that evolves into a complex and deep friendship. When tragedy befalls her family, Lily takes the opportunity to stay with Eva and the community of bohemian artists who are given residence to pursue their creative passions at the Trentham home. It becomes obvious this is not an appropriate environment for children as the artists are far too engrossed in their work to do any thing as mundane as looking after the kids, who need a responsible adult in charge. As they navigate their teenage years, Eva starts to keep things from Lily until she realises things have gone too far when she finds out Eva has been having a sexual relationship with an older resident artist who she had thought was interested in her and that starts the cracks in their trust. Upon being exposed, the artist who has also been upstaging Eva’s father leaves but not alone (he leaves with not one but two girls) leaving a scandal in his wake.

What stood out the most to me was how much power author Emily Bitto’s prose gave to the mediums of art and literature, also my passions. The descriptive passages were not too long-winded and the characters were of sufficient interest to keep reading The Strays until I found out how Lily responded to the invitation she received at the beginning.

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Sand Sculptures – Storyland

08/02/2014 at 4:58 PM (Art, Books, Photography) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I attended the annual sand sculpture exhibition in Frankston this year too which was themed after Penguin book titles for kids.

The sculpture below greeted me at the entrance letting me know I was entering Storyland.

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As I walked around, I saw the sculpture below of Postman Pat and his van. Although Postman Pat started as a British animated television series for children, over 12 million books about him have been sold. Postman Pat is about the adventures of the postie as he goes about delivering mail.

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Next there was a sculpture of Charlotte’s Web. It is a novel for children written by E.B. Williams and illustrated by Garth Williams. It is a story about a pig called Wilbur and his friendship with an intelligent spider called Charlotte.

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Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The sculpture below was unfamiliar to me but I thought the design was spectacular. It depicts the Flower Fairies, based on the books and illustrations of Cicely Mary Barker. The children in her illustrations are modeled on students who attended her sister’s kindergarten.

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Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

I was familiar with the below sculpture as I had previously owned a Little Miss Sunshine T-shirt. The sculpture is a tower of Mr. Men and Little Miss characters. All of them have self-descriptive personality traits.

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Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Below is a sculpture of Where the Wild Things Are which was originally written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. If you’ve not yet read the book or seen the movie, it is about a boy called Max who retreats into a world of imagination after he creates havoc at home and is sent to bed.

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The sculpture below is of Ferdinand, the bull. This bull prefers to smell flowers rather than fight. The children’s novel about him was written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson.

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Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The next sculpture made me feel sentimental because I used to watch Angelina Ballerina cartoons having once been a ballet kid. Angelina Ballerina was created by writer Katherine Holabird and is illustrated by Helen Craig. It is about the adventures of a mouse who dreams about becoming a prima ballerina.

AngelinaBallerina

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The interesting sculpture below pays tribute to The Discovery of Dragons which is authored and illustrated by Graeme Base. It is written as a series of tongue-in-cheek letters from “discoverers” of dragon species in the world and features European, Asiatic and Tropical dragons.

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Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The picture below features several characters you might recognise from the books of Beatrix Potter including Peter Rabbit. He was named after a pet she used to have called Peter Piper.

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Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The quality of the picture below is not up to par so I apologise. It features the story written and illustrated by Eric Carle, about The Very Hungry Caterpillar who ate his way into becoming a beautiful butterfly.

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Next we see homage has been paid to the tales of Pippi Longstocking, the children’s series by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Pippi is a feisty nine-year-old girl with unconventional ideas and superhuman strength who takes her neighbours on adventures.

Pippi

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The sculpture I came to next brought Narnia to life through the medium of sand.  Here we see a representation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the fantasy novel by C.S. Lewis.

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The next exhibit had me puzzled until the display informed me this showed Hairy Maclary. So it turns out New Zealand author Dane Lynley Dodd writes a children’s series about a fictional dog and his exploits against an opponent cat.

Hairymclary

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The sculpture below portrays Jumanji. Before the movie, there was a book which was written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. For those not in the know, it is about a magical board game.

Jumanji

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The sculpture below should be easily recognisable to anyone who watched the cartoons about him. It shows Spot the Dog and his friends. The books about Spot were written by Eric Hill.

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I loved the next sculpture because it showed a book I loved and adored as a child, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was written by Roald Dahl. The story was inspired by the writer’s experience of chocolate companies during his schooldays.

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Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The next sculpture was interesting as it was based on a video-game rather than a book. I guess Angry Birds represents the childhood of the present.

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Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Fortunately the next sculpture was more in my element as it was based on a fantasy book loved by children and adults, the story of the bespectacled boy wizard, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. The level of detail in the caricature of the characters was amazing.

HarryPotter

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Harry Potter

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Harry Potter

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Having seen the exhibitions for Toytopia, Creepy Crawlies and now Storyland, I can’t wait for the upcoming theme for the sand sculptures next April: Friends, Foes and Superheroes.

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Creepy Crawlies – Sand Sculpting Australia : Part 2

02/28/2011 at 5:28 AM (Art, Sculpture) (, , , , , , )

13. Little Miss Muffet was cool on top of a spider:

 

Little Miss Muffet exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The sculpture is based on the nursery rhyme of the same name. It was first printed in 1805 in a book called ‘Songs for the Nursery.’ The sculpted Miss Muffet however is sitting on a Jumping Spider and not on a tuffet. Did you know it can jump up to 40 times its own body length? To identify them, pay attention to the eye pattern. They have four pairs of eyes with large pair of eyes in the middle.

14. Alice and the Caterpillar were chilling with the Cheshire Cat:

Alice and the Caterpillar at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Well, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland won an Academy Award in art direction during its 83rd Anniversary – just saw it on TV about two hours ago. There is a hookah smoking caterpillar here with Alice and the Cheshire Cat nearby.

Caterpillars are the larvae of the Lepidoptera family of insects such as butterflies and moths. Because caterpillars are soft-bodied, slow movers, predators find them to be an easy target. To protect themselves, caterpillars use several methods like eyespots, poison, foul odours and camouflage. Despite being puny creatures, these guys have 4000 muscles while we humans only have 629.

15. Roach Motel was a literal translation – just made from sand:

Roach Motel exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Cockroaches usually are disliked by most people because of their preference for scurrying around in and consuming rotten food and other garbage. But these fellows can actually go without food for a month and hold their breath for up to 40 minutes. Kind of impressive. Because its brain is scattered throughout its body rather than being in the head is why cockroaches can run around for a week before thirstiness kills them.

16. Ant Farm based on a recreation of the Farmville game from Facebook:

Ant Farm exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

Have you watched Antz or A Bug’s Life? Those are some cute movies featuring ant colonies. Large colonies mostly consist of  sterile, female ‘workers’ and ‘soldiers’, fertile male ‘drones’ and fertile female ‘queens’. They have great organisation skills and are social creatures. The only landmass that has no ants is Antarctica and some remote islands.

17. Frogs Galore was a surprising choice:

Frogs Galore exhibit at Creepy Crawlies

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

They made it into the display of creepy crawlies because their quick movement, the way they can camouflage and the feel of their skin. Besides their diet is on insects such as bugs and flies and sometimes worms. Most frogs evolve after hatching from eggs as tadpoles. When the tadpoles grow, they lose their tails and grow the legs that allow them to perform jumping feats. Find more information on frogs here.

If you are in Melbourne and are interested in going, you are in luck. It’s open until April 2011 near Frankston pier.

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Dreams Come True: The Art of Disney’s Classic Fairy Tales – Part II

12/08/2010 at 10:34 AM (Art, Fairy Tales, Movies) (, , , , , , , )

So as I was saying ….

4. Beauty and the Beast.

In this tale of Beauty and the Beast , the narrative deviates from the usual damsel in distress stereotype since Beauty in effect tames the Beast and that distances her from the women who need rescuing from heroes. Belle is actually one of the foremost independent, wilful and resourceful Disney characters. Notice that she is not a princess – she comes from a working class background.  Sometimes I feel this is one reason for the universal appeal of this story and as it is so adaptable to numerous situations , it has spawned into other manisfestations in several guises.

Within the exhibition, it was interesting to note the designs the artists originally created to portray the Beast. The first resembled a wildebeest/warthog/swine-like combination or a bigger, nastier looking version of Pumbaa from The Lion King. It had protrudring tusks and long teeth with furrowed bases. Even I felt inclined to agree when my friend commented, “Kids wouldn’t have liked that one. He’s too ugly looking. ”

The second illustration was based on an orangutan and possessed distinctive simian features. But the monkey like appearance made it difficult to conceive the creature in a non-humorous, brooding aspect. It just felt too much like he should have belonged in the accumulations of Dr. Doolittle.

The third beast was the one they went with. He was actually an assortment of animals but the big mane of hair, in my view, gives him a lion-like aspect. All the designs however had stuck to the ponytail with the bow. The fact he looks like a big cat  with soft, haunting eyes I feel contributes to make him an appealing beast.

6.  The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid, another perennial favourite of many, was in the adjacent exhibit. A video installation consisting of the scene where Ursula forces to Ariel to sign a contract which states she will exchange her melodious voice for the ability to be human played interchanging with the tunnel scene where human Ariel and Prince Eric enjoyed their boat ride to the accompaniment of Kiss the Girl by Peter Andre.

The artist who designed Ariel’s hair which moved and flowed along with her in the water modeled it on the view of a female astronaut’s hair in space.

7. The Princess and The Frog

This was a fim that was mired in controversy as soon as Disney thought it would be nice to have an African-American princess. Even though it bears little relation to the princess who lost her golden ball in the original story, it is an interesting take on an old classic. Then there’s the issue of Tiana tying the knot with Latin American prince Naveen and the outcry about her not doing so with someone of the same race.

But then if you consider the union in the Little Mermaid , Prince Eric was a far cry away from Ariel’s species! So I  fail to understand what this hullaballoo regarding interracial marriage is about …

The artwork of New Orleans and Louisiana bayou is beautifully done and the vibrant colours have a decidedly different aesthetic from other Disney films. Perhaps it is a result of the new territory they explore with this feature.

8. Tangled

I cannot pass any judgement on the film’s merit as it is not yet released but I have heard awestruck exclamations about the painstaking artwork required Rapunzel’s 3D hair for which they assigned an artist singularly responsible for that particular part of her anatomy. Her  hair  movement was based on the gliding mechanism of a slithering snake which seems to have made it easier for looping, coiling and tying actions.

Rapunzel and Flynn in Tangled

It was with delight I noted her rescue in Tangled would steer away from the tried and tested forms by Disney. The hero Flynn seems to possess a lot of the features of John Smith from Pocohontas although he’s a brunette rather than a blonde. It is probably for the best since who would want to compete with Rapunzel’s locks?

By its conclusion, I realised strangely a lot of my favourite members of the Disney canon were missing. Esmeralda, Mulan, Pocohontas – these ladies did not make an appearance which was disappointing. Is it something to do with race? One is most likely Eastern European since she is a Gypsy, the next is from the Far East and  from an oriental background while the last is a Native American.

Nevertheless for an exhibition titled Dreams Come True, it  did a unique job of transporting me into Disney’s classic art.

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