Category Archives: 3 3 and 3 (creative people)

3, 3 and 3: Tony Durant, musician

542235_690145301014683_97668222_nIt’s been a while since I’ve posted in the 3, 3 and 3 series, which features creative people talking about the things they love. I’m delighted to break that drought by introducing Tony Durant, who I first met in the late 1970s when he came to Perth from the UK to produce an album for ‘suburban boy’ rocker Dave Warner—and ended up staying. Ric, my husband, recorded and mixed that album, Correct Weight, and we have been friends with Tony and his wife, Pauline, ever since.

Tony had a fascinating career in London before arriving in Australia. He describes how he abandoned the expectations that his upper middle-class family had for their privately educated boy, and instead plunged into the psychedelic London music scene of the late 1960s. His art psych bank Louise played alongside Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd. ‘They went on to greatness. We missed it by that much, as Max Smart would say!’

1. Tony. Psychedelia verite 1968 !

In the early 1970s he recorded an album, Fuchsia (Pegasus/B&C Records), which he describes as ‘a weird art rock thing with string quartet’. At the time, he says, ‘it did nothing’.

Fuchsia face orig. Album cover

After a decade or so of making music in Perth and touring with Dave Warner, Tony moved to Sydney with his family in 1990, drawn there by a publishing deal with Polygram. He spent a number of years as a hands-on parent—something he describes as a ‘great privilege’—and made documentaries about vintage speedway motorcycle racing and the legends of the 1930s who had raced alongside his father, a top West Ham rider.

And it’s around this point in Tony’s career that we have to backtrack to that 1970s album, Fuchsia. It’s a story best told in his own words:

Life can present some surprises. About 10 years ago, Fuchsia became a cult album on the net, totally unknown to me. Mojo magazine ran a story, and an Italian label contacted me about a re-issue. A Melbourne film company did a short doco on the story. I tried writing in the same vein, and soon a new album was written, which received great reviews. A young Swedish band, Me and My Kites (a song title from Fuchsia I), contacted me. They’d grown up on Fuchsia music and had recorded one of my old songs. They asked me to sing on it, released it through a European label, and last July I toured UK, Holland and Scandinavia with them. Between gigs with the Australian Fuchsia band, I went back to Europe in July this year, having been invited to play at a couple of festivals in Denmark and Sweden. And I continue to work regularly with Dave Warner from the Suburbs. Life just could not be better!

Fuchsia II: From Psychedelia to a Distant Place (2013)

Fuchsia II: From Psychedelia to a Distant Place (2013)

And now, over to Tony again for his 3, 3 and 3 responses…

3 things I love about what I do

1. The satisfaction of taking a blank sheet of paper and creating something you, and hopefully others, see artistic value in. Fascination with the creative process, in both personal and universal terms, and in my case, with ideas which appear meaningless, coming from the subconscious, and are then forged into some meaning through the conscious thought process. Meaningless lyrics slowly metamorphosing into a song with purpose. And it’s interesting, going back on half-finished works from years ago, and finding all those years of experience have given you skills you never realised you had, to complete these abandoned works, sometimes with surprisingly good results.

2. Meeting and working with wonderful people who become part of your music world. As we grow older we have less baggage, less to prove, and music takes on a really fun aspect, as well as a quality to it (I like to think!). I get contacted by people from all over the world, telling me how much those idiosyncratic little songs I wrote all those years ago mean to them. Some of these people I have a drink with when they visit Sydney.

3. I love that unexpected things/coincidences continually happen. The unexpected seems to follow me. Finding myself in positions that scare me; challenges and situations that a few years back I would not believe I could have attempted. On stage, talking to an audience and leading a band again. I could never have imagined this would happen.

3 places you’d like to visit, or revisit

I have many beautiful memories of places such as Greece, Bali and South Africa, where I grew up. But I feel it’s probably best not to return, as many times places you love change for the worse, and those beautiful memories are jaded.

1. I loved the USA, which I visited for the first time about five ago. We had an amazing road trip: LA to Austin (Texas) to New Orleans and back. The history that I had read so much about came to life. There is so much there to see, and so yes, several return visits could be on the cards.

At the Grand Canyon with ‘the girls’

At the Grand Canyon with ‘the girls’

2. And of course Sweden, where a group of young people have made me feel so welcome, and have been instrumental (excuse the pun!) in the continuation of the amazing Fuchsia journey. Louis, my son, joined me on bass this trip, which has been a beautiful experience I will always treasure. Fano Island Festival, Denmark, was special, as I met and played with local musicians there for the first time.

Fano Island Festival, Denmark, 2015

Fano Island Festival, Denmark, 2015

3. We plan to visit Cuba and Alaska, which I’ve heard a lot about.

3 favourite things in life

1. Top of the list is family. My wife is a very special person, and I’ve loved being part of the process of our children’s growing up to be such different and loving individuals. And, with them, their cohort of friends has kept me in touch with my youth, an experience where I feel I can re-live every precious minute. We only grow old on the outside! Yes, to me, family is the basis of everything.

2. Playing songs I wrote and arranged 40 years ago—and that still work.

3. Coming home with full anticipation to see what Pompey the dog has destroyed in our absence this time!

 

More at the Fuchsia website and Facebook page

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3, 3 and 3: Patricia Kennan, artist

pat3, 3 and 3 is an occasional series featuring creative people and the things that inspire them. My first guest of 2015 is artist Patricia Kennan. I met Pat in 2011, when we were both in residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland. She is well known among her many friends there—not only for her exquisite work but for her habit of plunging into the lake early every morning come rain, shine, sleet or snow! Alas, she could not convince me to join her. Pat was born in Dublin but has lived for much of her adult life in the United States, and her accent is a delightful melding of both ‘homes’. While she loves her adopted country, she says she feels ‘mostly Irish’, and this is evident in her work as an artist. When I visited her studio at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, she was working on a series of paintings drawn from her memories of Donegal, and I was deeply moved by the sense of longing and belonging I sensed in them. Pat has Masters degrees (Fine Arts and Art) from the University of Iowa, and has taught in a private school in Spain. She has been exhibiting solo and in group shows at galleries in the US and Ireland since 1979, and her many residencies have included Cill Rialaigh (Ireland), the Julia and David White Colony for Artists (Costa Rica), Pouch Cove (Canada), and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (US). Over to Pat…

3 things I love about what I do

1. When I was four, I stumbled across the colour green by overlapping blue and yellow. It seemed like magic to me, surprising, exciting. Colour and the power of paint to get me back to that place of wonder are what I love about being a painter.

I would be nowhere else

I would be nowhere else

2. I love having the time to look at and feel landscape before I try to put it down on paper, which is freeing. I work from memory on any image until I recognise it.

The road

The road

3. I love reading poetry and fiction and listening to music, and using these as vehicles to take me to that place where process and image come together suddenly in the work. And I love the solitude of working in the studio, not having to deal with people, just the image and the quiet.

3 places I’d like to visit or revisit

1. Donegal, Ireland—wild, wonderful, full of childhood memories. When I’m there, I’m haunted by its history, the weight and beauty of the sea and sky and the ancient land.

Sunset, Donegal

Sunset, Donegal

2. Annaghmakerrig in Newbliss, Ireland—a place that gives me the time and solitude and affirmation and protection to create. 3. Vinalhaven, Maine, an island in Penobscot Bay—the place I have lived longest anywhere in North America, an island where people take care of each other. It has a great library run by two women who love books, and the New Era Gallery, run by Elaine Crossman, where I show work.

3 favourite things

1. Arriving in Maine, seeing the sea come right up to the house in a 10-feet high tide—and jumping in.

vinal]

Vinalhaven, my jumping off point

2. Spending the day at the Art Institute in Chicago alone and feeling I’m among friends. 3. Finding a book that will take me to a different land, culture or time and filling my heart with images.

Manly beach

Manly beach

You can view more of Patricia’s work at the New Era Gallery’s website

Previous 3, 3 and 3 guests: Miles Lowry, visual and sound artist, writer, director Michael McCall, director/actor/writer/teaching artist Pearse Buchanan, marine scientist Debi O’Hehir, visual artist Emily Mann, Perth Writers Festival program manager Ian Parmenter, TV cook/writer/broadcaster Ash Gibson Greig, music composer Amy Wiseman, dancer

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3, 3 and 3: Miles Lowry, visual and sound artist, writer, director

UnknownThis month’s 3, 3 and 3 guest is one of the most abundantly creative people I know. Miles Lowry lives and works in Victoria BC, Canada, but I met him in Ireland, where we were both in residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. I vividly remember the day I had the privilege of visiting his studio. Swallows flew around the walls from painting to painting, or so it seemed to me, so beautifully had Miles captured their mercurial essence.

Miles has been exhibiting paintings and sculptures since 1981. His exhibitions Two Tribes and Rites and Passages and his series of cast fibre figures, Crucial Fragments, have established him as one of Western Canada’s most versatile contemporary artists. After receiving the People’s Choice Award at Artropolis in Vancouver, his work received national television coverage on CBC Artspots. He has been creating a collection of paintings based on travel and sanctuary and specifically his residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig.

He wrote and co-directed Opium, for Bravo! CHUM Television, inspired by French poet Jean Cocteau, and in 2007 introduced the film at the Lincoln Centre, New York. His Bravo!FACT dance film Aisling: We Saw A Vision is based on an award-winning poem by Irish poet Liam Mac Uistin, and he is currently preparing Saint Cloud, a multimedia collection of his works on Cocteau.

A founding Artistic Co-Director for Suddenly Dance Theatre, Miles works in digital arts, sound design and new media. His second Bravo!FACT short, Guthrie Swims the Lake, based on famed theatre director Tyrone Guthrie, premiered on Canadian Television in 2010, and he is currently creating sound and visual design for Suddenly Dance Theatre’s Art of War.

As a painter, Miles recently presented Marks of Devotion, a collaboration of painting and text with calligrapher Georgia Angelopolous, and Saints of Circumstance, an ongoing collection of cryptic portraits.

DSCN5430Miles’s book Blood Orange (2008), based on the life of writer Paul Bowles, sits on my desk with a clutch of poetry collections that I love and dip in to from time time.

And now, over to Miles…

3 things you love about your work

1. I love how my artworks travel over time into people’s lives and hold meanings that I will never know. Occasionally I receive messages from people who have acquired my work. I also get emails with photos of my paintings over fireplaces, sculptures in specially built niches, and sometimes in isolation as the sole artwork in a room. These photos sent from afar connect me to the new world my pieces now inhabit. I imagine how the light may travel over their surfaces. I am reminded by these messages of how some works come back after a long absence and I have to get to know them again.

Mojique

Mojique

2. I love to experience the process of transforming materials into something surprising. My new series of painted sculptural figures are covered in tiny optical beads highly sensitive to variant angles of light. This allows for both a reflective and transparent surface, where the painting beneath becomes illuminated. The effect is transformational and suggests to me an alternative dream-body. There is no subject more significant for me because we have no other way to exist than through our bodies. We embody ourselves. I learned that we average about 2000 dreams a year. In dreams we rarely see ourselves but we recognise the presence of ourselves in others. Sometimes we experience  the dream-body as ourselves. We are free to become both object and idea. With this new work I am considering the human body as a vehicle for dreams and as a potent symbol of our times, reminding us that our bodies are the vulnerable housing we are given.

Dream-body

Dream-body

3. I love to challenge the idea that an artist must be exclusive to a particular medium. I once thought I wanted to be a stone sculptor. I experienced the satisfaction the sculptor has of picking away at something until it is revealed. However, I have made only a half a dozen stone sculptures. Upon calculating the time, energy and risk of working in such a way, I then expanded into the world of clay—the giving and receiving medium that helps shape our functional lives and lends itself so well to the sculptor’s hand. Later I found the simple versatility of casting paper as both a painting and a sculptural medium. Now I am creating three-dimensional paintings. I change licence. I create in new ways. I feel free to create in any medium including ones yet to be discovered.

3 journeys you would like to make

1. I have always wanted to journey to Skellig Michael in Ireland because it sounds terrifying and beautiful—an island of stone rising straight out of the Atlantic, 630 rough-hewn steps climbing from the sea, a cluster of ancient dwellings at the top. It is terrifying because I fear heights but I long for the beauty of its isolation.
2. I hope to visit Morocco to experience now the world I wrote about in Blood Orange, my book about writer Paul Bowles. I wrote about Morocco as I experienced it through the lens of his writings and not my own experiences. Now I would like to experience the reverse. I want to walk where I imagined.
3. I would like to visit Rome, as I have only been there in the movies.

Above and below

Above and below

3 favourite places

1. Gustave Moreau Museum Paris, France
2. Dali’s house at Port Lligat on the Costa Brava, Catalonia
3. Annaghmakerrig at Newbliss, County Monaghan, Ireland

To see more of Miles’s work, go to his website

Previous 3, 3 and 3 guests:
Michael McCall, director/actor/writer/teaching artist
Pearse Buchanan, marine scientist
Debi O’Hehir, visual artist
Emily Mann, Perth Writers Festival program manager
Ian Parmenter, TV cook/writer/broadcaster
Ash Gibson Greig, music composer
Amy Wiseman, dancer

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3, 3 and 3: Michael McCall, director/actor/writer/teaching artist

photo3, 3 and 3 features creative people doing creative things, and my June guest, Michael McCall, has done—and continues to do—many.

Is the face familiar? You may have seen Michael in theatre productions (What the Butler Saw, Macbeth, Ghost Train, A Midsummer Night’s Dream), or a short film (he was nominated for Best Actor at the 2013 WA Screen Awards for One Night Only), or on television (Three Acts of Murder, Roll, The Shark Net). And he will soon be on screen in the feature film These Final Hours, which has just premiered at Cannes.

Behind the scenes, he has a long list of theatre directing credits, including two nominations for Best Director in the Equity Awards (The Deep Blue Sea and Missing), and has recently directed several short films (Tartan, a short film he also produced, was recently screened on ABC2).

Michael is also a writer and an educator in theatre and film, and is in the final stages of a PhD in Performing Arts at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).

In other words, he’s a busy man, and I’m delighted that he has found time to talk about some of the things he loves.

3 things you love about what you do

1. Working in the arts has glamorous moments, but it’s still a tough old business, not for the faint-hearted. What keeps me hanging in there isn’t the tantalising idea of fame and fortune but the colleagues I am surrounded by every day. Film and theatre involve a high level of collaboration in what is oftentimes a Sisyphean journey, and this ensures that life is much less solitary. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a good stories and witty anecdotes.

Being surrounded by individuals with broad talent and eclectic lived experiences has to be one of the major upsides to this bizarre and tumultuous artistic existence. So many of the people involved have depth; perhaps it’s their ability to share and imperative to communicate thoughts and ideas that create the space for this to happen. I love being around these people whenever I can.

2. Anyone who understands teaching will know that teachers are often born, not made, and I’ve been, according to my now thousands of students in Australia and America, fortunate enough to be one of the former. Of course, they could be lying. They are storytellers, after all.

My teaching came about because of the need to earn a living in some other fashion than barwork—an artistic cliché and my stock in trade, along with labouring, during the lean years of my early career. But over the years it has developed into a craft, and then into something more important. It has forced me to articulate what I believe I know about my craft and has demanded of me the continual elaboration and dedication and discipline needed to be relevant as a tutor. It is a natural part of the artistic experience, to pass on what you know. It’s provided me so much pleasure. It’s kept me warm on cold nights. It’s an incredible honour.

3. I love storytelling. I suspect it’s inherent in me—I’m a Scotsman of Southern Irish descent. My greatest creative pleasure is the imaginative exploration that occurs early in the process. The problem solving. The new life that is being produced. Imaginative exploration—yes, that’s the key for me. That’s not to say that my own life is boring. I jumped out of a plane last year, so I’m not lacking stimulation—some might say hyperstimulation. But the chance to watch the formation of a story taking place gives me utter delight. It’s particularly the case with work where I follow the process through from conception to presentation. We’re very lucky in Australia that we have such a long tradition of storytelling, reinventing and innovating over tens of thousands of years. Storytelling, then, could be said to be evolutionary—I think that’s as important as landing on a far-flung planet.

Skydiving reminded me of going on stage—the build-up, the door opening, the exit from the plane and then just being in the moment because you can’t go back, you can only go forward.

Skydiving reminds me of going on stage—the build-up, the door opening, the exit from the plane and then just being in the moment because you can’t go back, you can only go forward.

3 places you’d like to visit, or revisit

1. I love New York. I suppose that’s where the T-shirt comes from. New York captures the best and worst of the modern world—it’s an artist’s conundrum and paradise. It offers dreams and nightmares, but it is what it is and refuses to be defined. The energy is palpable. It actually takes a while to walk around Manhattan, not because it’s a big city—it’s really not—but because there is so much to take in. And every borough offers so much diversity.

I took this picture from a New York cab on the way to Brooklyn to see Steve Buscemi reading the poetry of William S. Burroughs, which one of my students got for me. It is an image of New York City you don’t often see.

I took this picture from a New York cab on the way to Brooklyn to see Steve Buscemi reading the poetry of William S. Burroughs, which one of my students got for me. It’s an image of New York City you don’t often see.

However, I also love to drive around upstate New York. Twenty minutes out of the city you hit the most wondrous mountain country along the two-lane blacktop. Immense rivers, wild deer, dense forest embrace you, and you would never believe that NYC was sitting on the edge of it all. New York State offers a feast for the senses.

2. I grew up in a rough working-class suburb of Glasgow during the darker years of Tory social engineering, which indelibly marked me. Perhaps this is the main reason I’m attracted to stories and projects that deal with social inclusiveness and injustice. With Thatcher’s devolutionary cry of ‘There’s no such thing as society’, my father, a fitter in the Glasgow shipyards, would take me with his workmates on the Yarrow Social Club minibus out to the beautiful lochs and deserted pale white beaches of Western Scotland to fish. These men embodied society for me. A close-knit and stoic bunch who wanted their sons and daughters to have an opportunity to take in the natural beauty of Alba each weekend and wanted to show us something special. Memories of fires on stony beaches, of wild deer startled in the undergrowth, of wading in cold dark water, of waves breaking over boats in the Irish Sea—all of these I hold dear to my heart. It was truly a special time, as childhood should be. It would be nice to go back there one day…

3. There’s a lot of the isolated world that I still want to see. Forests down south, savannahs, wastelands, frozen tundra… What concerns me is how much is being destroyed by what we are doing. I just hope that if I ever have kids, there will be some semblance of the world I love to show them. We’re at a crossroads and it can go one of two ways… Let’s hope we come together as a people to work it out. I think there’s a place for art in this task.

3 favourite moments on stage/screen

1. Working on What the Butler Saw at Belvoir Street Theatre as an actor. It was directed by Jim Sharman and starred Max Gillies, a very dear friend. It was probably the pinnacle of my acting career to date, and to be in a dressing room with a living legend like Max was something special. He represents to me the greatness of Australian storytelling. They don’t make them like Max anymore.

2. Working as a teaching artist in Leonora over a year and a half back in 2002–03. I was employed along with several others by Barking Gecko Theatre Company to work closely in an artistic capacity with the youth of the town. It was a pivotal experience where I realised that a successful career was about more than just me; it was also about the people I reached out to along the way. We made a difference through storytelling in all our different ways, and we were gifted with many stories, too. I got more from that opportunity than any other. Part of it was timing; part of it was realising what I wanted to do with my life. The audience, in whatever way they manifest, is always the priority for me.

3. Stories that matter are really important to me. Of course, this will always be subjective, but when I finish a book, or writing something, or watching a film, I feel that whatever it is that I’ve been engaged with should have changed me. Hopefully, that’s what happens when someone engages with my own artistic endeavours.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing working in the arts. Then I see pictures of myself like this and I chuckle—it’s so not me. When all’s said and done, my life is just a collage of images and words. And long may it continue.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing working in the arts. Then I see pictures of myself like this and I chuckle—it’s so not me. When all’s said and done, my life is just a collage of images and words. And long may it continue.

For more about Michael McCall, see Actors Now and IMDB.

Previous 3, 3 and 3 guests:
Pearse Buchanan, marine scientist
Debi O’Hehir, visual artist
Emily Mann, Perth Writers Festival program manager
Ian Parmenter, TV cook/writer/broadcaster
Ash Gibson Greig, music composer
Amy Wiseman, dancer

Coming soon: 2, 2 and 2—Writers with New Books

 

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3, 3 and 3: Pearse Buchanan, marine scientist

The traditional divide between the arts and the sciences is, like so many divides, artificial and arbitrary. Many creative artists draw their inspiration from science, and the sciences attract—and produce—creative minds, which is just as well, as it’s going to take unprecedented feats of creativity on the part of scientists if we are to hope for the future of our world.

Photo by Pearse Buchanan

Photo by Pearse Buchanan

Enter this month’s 3, 3 and 3 guest, marine scientist Pearse Buchanan. I first met Pearse some years ago, when he was still studying Marine Science at the University of Tasmania. He has since gained a First-Class Honours degree at Murdoch University, Western Australia, worked as a volunteer in several important environmental studies, undertaken contract projects, and is currently an expeditionary scientist with The Clipperton Project. His present role involves collaborating with research organisations around the world, developing scientific programs for various expeditions in a number of countries, participating in expeditions and contributing through community outreach.

He also (when time allows) plays guitar and writes poetry—no divide there!

Welcome, Pearse.

3 things I love about what I do

1. I love the diversity of projects and science I get to involve myself with. I started out by volunteering (some would call it being exploited) alongside PhD students during my degree in Tasmania, and through this I managed to dive in some of the most beautiful spots around that wonderful island. The seed that was sown then grew into taking on my own projects in third year and in honours, where I took a particular interest in the mysterious microscopic world of plankton. Now, fresh out of university and working with The Clipperton Project, an international non-profit environmental educational initiative, I get to research, plan and undertake marine science in so many different programs and within so many specialties that it makes my head spin!

Some phytoplankton of cool temperate south-east Tasmania. Many of these are warm water species that have been carried south by the ever stronger East Australian Current. (A µg is 1/100th of a millimetre.) Photos by Pearse Buchanan

Some phytoplankton of cool temperate south-east Tasmania. Many of these are warm water species that have been carried south by the ever stronger East Australian Current. (A µg is 1/1000th of a millimetre.) Photos by Pearse Buchanan

2. I said that the diversity of science made my head spin, but the quantity and diversity of travel give me vertigo. I’m currently working and living in Mexico but by the end of the year will have worn my lab coat in Spain, subarctic Scotland, Uruguay, the Falkland Islands, subantarctic South Georgia and Gibraltar, with a little trip to Cuba to add some flavour. But, while this is undoubtedly a privilege, it is the form of travel that really makes it special for me. In all of these places, The Clipperton Project utilises a sailboat to deliver inspiring workshops with an international team of scientists and artists that crew the vessel. The very notion of exploring these environments using the wind in the sails above, with the swell lapping the sleek sides of our floating laboratory beneath, makes both my heart and scientific mind soar.

3. Even more so than the travel, it is the people involved in my job that are the true privilege. In the three months that I have worked for The Clipperton Project, I have met people that I will remember forever. One once said to me that ‘more than just sailors, we are sailors of life’, and this philosophy resonates deeply with me. Spinoza thought that to accumulate friends who share mutual wisdoms represented the highest form of happiness. It could be that he was right.

3 places I’d like to visit or revisit

1. Apparently, as a non-Muslim, I cannot visit Mecca, which is incredibly disappointing. But I have been fascinated by the Islamic faith for some time, probably since 2001. In recent years, though, this has begun to gain traction due to a number of reasons: a trip to northern India in 2011; the simultaneously otherworldly and unmistakably human call to prayer I heard in Kuala Lumpur; and a book of poems given to me by my father by Rumi, a twelfth-century Sufi mystic, poet and philosopher. Pictures of Mecca give me goosebumps. Footage of hundreds of thousands of people kneeling and praying as one never fails to move me. I think I’ll read the Koran next.

2. I was lucky enough to travel to Antarctica in 2012 as a research assistant aboard the Aurora Australis. My job was to study the planktonic community of the sea ice of East Antarctica, and I spent two months living on the ship but working on the sea ice for various stretches of time throughout. Honestly, while I was there I actually felt a little disappointed, or perhaps challenged, in what I found. I had close-up meetings with penguins every other day, witnessed the most beautiful and the longest sunsets and sunrises I have ever seen, and caught snowflakes with friends. But I think the desolation of the place got to me, making the experience uncomfortable. Now, however, with time to digest the journey, it has gotten under my skin, and I catch myself occasionally daydreaming about it, and even sometimes planning how I’m going to get down there again.

Emperor Penguins are fascinated by these strange, colourful beings doing strange things with the ice. I wish my office now was graced by their waddling presence. Photo by Ruhi Humphries

Emperor Penguins are fascinated by these strange, colourful beings doing strange things with the ice. I wish my office now was graced by their waddling presence. Photo by Ruhi Humphries

3. India is another place that I daydream about. In 2011 I travelled to northern India and, unlike my Antarctic experience, loved every minute of it. One particular place I visited was Manali, a small city nestled at the foot of the Himalayas in the province of Himachal Pradesh. The place, dare I say it as a scientist, was magical. My favourite place in the city was a Hindu temple that housed natural hot springs. It was free, so that anyone, rich or poor, religious or non-religious, could benefit from the heat of the springs. This is pretty important throughout the winter and considering that many people don’t have access to running hot water. You could see the positive effect on people as they left. Also, I quite enjoyed the curiosity of the locals, who were unsure what to make of my pale Scottish skin.

3 favourite natural phenomena

1. When I was in Antarctica I came across something I had never heard of before. A parhelion, otherwise known as a Sun Dog (apparently), is a halo that surrounds the sun and is caused by tiny ice crystals that form in cirrus clouds high in the atmosphere. They can be observed anywhere, from tropics to poles, but their prevalence and intensity are certainly greater in the poles. They were very beautiful and form a strong part of the Antarctica I remember.

2. I was introduced to ocean bioluminescence in a truly wonderful way in the temperate waters of Tasmania. I was diving at night in a shallow protected bay and noticed, despite the brightness of my torchlight, the rapid movement of fish in the corner of my eye that caused a bright spark of blue. I moved my hands out of the light and, sure enough, my hands were engulfed in a storm of the same fluorescence. This phenomenon is best articulated in the film Life of Pi, although exaggerated. I strongly recommend that at least once in your life you go for a night dive during a bloom of bioluminescent plankton, turn off all lights, and just flail about in the dark. But you won’t be dark for long. You’ll be engulfed in neon blue!

The beautiful bioluminescence of plankton that never ceases to be special. Photo by Doug Perrine

The beautiful bioluminescence of plankton that never ceases to be special. Photo by Doug Perrine

3. And once again I find myself turning towards the poles! Brinicles are just plain creepy. Sea ice is not solid, but in fact is extremely porous, like a sponge. Within the floating mass of sea ice are many tiny rivers in which brine exists, a fluid super-saturated with salt that is exuded from the ice as it forms (because sea ice is fresh). The higher density of brine caused by its super-salt-saturation makes it sink, and as it comes into contact with the cold water beneath the ice it freezes. This process eventually creates a brinicle, or a brine icicle, that slowly grows towards the sea floor, not unlike the formation of a tornado. Once in contact with the sea floor, the creepy brinicle begins to freeze and kill all living creatures it touches. The ice spreads out in a circle from the touch-down point and, because of its slow formation, first entraps those it touches and then proceeds, ever so slowly, to engulf them. If you want to see it in action, I recommend the BBC series Frozen Planet.

More from Pearse:

If you’d like to hear more about The Clipperton Project or get involved in an expedition, then Pearse would be delighted to hear from you. Contact him directly here

Also, you can follow his page, Pearse at The Clipperton Project, on Facebook

Community outreach at a Mexican primary school

Community outreach at a Mexican primary school

Previous 3, 3 and 3 guests:
Debi O’Hehir, visual artist
Emily Mann, Perth Writers Festival program manager
Ian Parmenter, TV cook/writer/broadcaster
Ash Gibson Greig, music composer
Amy Wiseman, dancer

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3, 3 and 3: Debi O’Hehir, visual artist

IMG_00353, 3 and 3 celebrates and showcases the lives and work of creative people by inviting them to talk about some of the things they love. This month I introduce my first international guest, Irish visual artist Debi O’Hehir.

I first met Debi in 2011, when she and I were both in residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, a multi-arts residential workplace in County Monaghan, Ireland. Debi’s work—arrestingly beautiful pen and ink drawings, large bronze sculptures, and figures in wire—takes as its principal subject the horse. But, as I soon discovered, the mercurial energy and intense vulnerability evoked in Debi’s horses speak as much of the human subject who creates them as they do of her animal subject. Last year she also produced a beautiful series featuring human figures—swimmers and dancers.

Debi O’Hehir was born in England, grew up in Kinvara, County Galway, and studied at Galway College of Art. Her work is held in collections in Ireland, Europe and the United States, and she exhibits regularly at the Northcote Gallery in London, as well as at various galleries in Ireland. In 2013 she was a featured artist at the Galway Arts Festival, with a solo exhibition at Norman Villa Gallery, and also took part in a group show, Open Ground, at the Clifden Arts Festival.

She currently lives and works in a wild, remote area of County Leitrim, in the west of Ireland, where I had the great pleasure of visiting her in late 2012.

Over to Debi…

3 things I love about what I do

1. I love that I have vistas of time in which to work (years ago, I worked as a chef and had limited hours in my studio). Being a full-time artist is perilous financially, but this is more than compensated for by the lack of workaday concerns and distractions—other than attending to the needs of my beloved dog, Wilco.

Back Camera

2. I love that I am rarely bored. I am fortunate to have some facility in both sculpture and painting, so if I feel myself becoming bored or just bogged down in one medium I can change both pace and discipline. Painting for me is instantaneous; once I put the ink down on paper, it cannot be erased and must be completed in one sitting, akin to what I imagine writing a poem might be like. Sculpture is more methodical and meditative—also more time-consuming—perhaps like writing and plotting a novel. Boredom rarely strikes when you are constantly challenged, and with every painting or sculpture I attempt I am certainly challenged!

All the bright horses (ink on paper)

All the bright horses (ink on paper)

3. Solitude is my other abiding love about being an artist. It suits me well. I feel I need it creatively and, being naturally self-conscious, I never have to worry about feeling exposed or watched until I am ready to exhibit. By that time, I have already let go of the work and also of my need for solitude.

3 places I’d like to visit or revisit

1. I spent four years of my early childhood in East Anglia, England. Four years felt like a lifetime, then. My sister, father and I lived on a remote farm, where my father had found a job as farm manager. To me, it was a magical unexplored wilderness. We children had total freedom to spend all day in nature, and I harboured an ambition (due entirely to a subscription to National Geographic) to be an explorer. It was here that my fascination with horses began. A local horseman kept some of his horses on our land and I spent an enormous amount of time sitting on a fence, just watching them with an attentiveness bordering on the obsessive. My father always said that no passion you have is ever wasted, and I have used the horse as the primary subject in my work. We left East Anglia—that place both my sister and I recall as symbolising the halcyon days of our childhood—more than 40 years ago, and it is a place I long to revisit.

Pushkin (bronze)

Pushkin (bronze)

2. London was the first major city I both loved and lived in. I moved there from the west of Ireland at 25. At the time, it had everything I was excited by—music and art. In contrast to the then slow-paced Ireland, London had an electrifying energy that I found exhilarating. In its galleries I found enormous and much-needed inspiration. I also found, or was found by, a gallery. The Northcote Gallery, which is still my gallery, allowed me to take my first faltering steps towards exhibiting my work professionally. Today it provides a link to London, a place I need to experience at least once a year, travelling from the remoteness where I now live to a metropolis.

3. I would absolutely love to visit Australia. I first became aware of it through avid childhood reading of Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby books, then later through the novels of Patrick White and the paintings of Sydney Nolan, especially his Ned Kelly series. Since then I’ve read many Australian novelists (my recent favourites include Yvette Walker, Stephen Daisley and Amanda Curtin), and feel very drawn to visit, seduced, it seems, by Australia’s amazing literature, both past and present.

3 favourite artists

1. Marlene Dumas is an artist I feel indebted to. Like me, she uses ink and water on paper; unlike me, she makes unfailingly spectacular, seemingly effortless work that is both powerful and beautiful in its rawness and immediacy. She once said in an interview that she became a visual artist because she couldn’t play guitar and be in a rock’n’roll band, a longing I too once had!

2. I also feel indebted to Deborah Butterfield, mainly because she uses the horse as her subject. I love her welded scrap metal horse sculptures for their total lack of sentimentality, and I love that through the material she uses the beauty of the horse is present but never overwhelms the work.

3. I love the American abstract expressionist painters, and if I had to choose one today, it would be Robert Motherwell. As a figurative artist, I feel especially drawn to abstraction and feel that if I had to live with a painting long term, I would choose an abstract.

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RIP my dear friend Debi O’Hehir, d. 1 October 2015
RIP Wilco, d. 28 June 2014
For enquiries about Debi’s beautiful work, contact Gavin Lavelle, Lavelle Art Gallery, Clifden, Eire. Proceeds from sales benefit the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig,
in accordance with Debi’s wishes

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3, 3 and 3: Emily Mann, PWF program manager

This month’s 3, 3 and 3 guest is one of the busiest people in Perth right now.

Emily Mann (c) Scott Weir

Photograph © Scott Weir

Emily Mann is program manager of the Perth Writers Festival, which will be launched on 20 February, followed by a packed three-day program running through to 23 February. She has been hard at work since early 2013, developing a vibrant, exciting, thought-provoking program of writers with stories to tell and ideas to share. More than 100 local writers will be joined by some of the finest from elsewhere in Australia, among them Richard Flanagan, Anne Summers, Chris Womersley, Alexis Wright, Hannah Kent and Thomas Keneally. Overseas guests include Lionel Shriver,  Margaret Drabble, Martin Amis and this year’s Man Booker Prize winner, Eleanor Catton.

Emily worked at Sydney Writers’ Festival from 2008 to 2012, and she holds an MA Writing (Research) from the University of Technology, Sydney.

I’m thrilled that Emily was able to find time in her schedule to tell us about some of the things she loves.

3 things I love about what I do

1. The exposure to new books and authors
It goes without saying that I have a fantastic job for a booklover. It is a pleasure to read new works and to read beyond my usual tastes to find new and interesting authors and books. It is an even greater pleasure to be able to share new finds with others.

2. The audience
I enjoy watching people engage with writers’ festivals. I love to see friends sit down together and pore over a program, circling events and comparing their schedules. It is heartening to sit in audiences and see people deep in concentration or writing furiously in notebooks. There is nothing like the excited chatter of an audience coming out from a dark auditorium into the daylight after a major session. The audience lies at the heart of what we do.

3. The intensity of festival life
Working on literary festivals is quite unlike any other work cycle. Every month of the programming and planning process is another season, with the pressure building until the event. When the actual festival occurs it often feels like the eye of a hurricane passing over you. Then, once it has ended, the clean-up efforts begin and eventually you are back at square one, wondering if you could ever find the stamina to repeat the cycle. You always do.

3 places I’d like to visit or revisit

1. Paris
I once spent a hardscrabble year living in Paris about ten years ago. It was a brilliant, enervating and dramatic existence. I haven’t returned to Paris since, and I would like to return again soon—this time with money.

2. New Zealand
I am currently planning a trip to New Zealand following this festival. I would like to lose myself somewhere cool, green and damp for a while. I’ll be taking Karl Ove Knausgaard’s A Death in the Family and A Man in Love, both of which I have been holding off reading until I have an uninterrupted stretch of time available.

3. Sea
I love seagoing narratives, both fictional and factual. I am equally enamoured by Melville’s Moby Dick as I am by Junger’s The Perfect Storm, Shackleton’s South and Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki. I have often wondered what kind of hold these tales of man versus sea have over me. Perhaps it’s the overcoming of adversity, the testing of the self against the elements. I do wonder if I am an armchair adventurer: I guess I should take myself to sea to find out.

3 favourite festival experiences

1. My first writers’ festival event
My first experience of a writers’ festival remains one of my strongest memories. I snuck out of work one day and went down to Walsh Bay in Sydney to see a session in a very early Sydney Writers’ Festival. Michelle de Kretser was speaking on The Rose Grower. I took a seat in a crowded room and listened to a novelist talk at length about her work. She was not talking through a journalist or writing about her own work in a stylised and edited article. She was revealing her thoughts and experiences of writing a novel, live and unadulterated on a stage. It was exhilarating and I was hooked.

2. Shaking James Wood’s hand
I rarely ask for an autograph from authors; however, this year at a festival I had the opportunity to meet a man who is like a god to me: the critic James Wood. Not only did he sign my battered and dog-eared copy of How Fiction Works, he also shook my hand. I confess to being completely star-struck by authors whose work I have held on to closely over the years.

3. Freedom of speech
For me, a personal favourite festival experience is people exercising their right to freedom of speech. It could be an audience member querying a panellist, or two artists challenging one another in conversation. Opinions obviously differ and writers’ festivals are a democratic space where people can voice their opinions constructively, hopefully without lapsing into offence. I relish these moments because they actively demonstrate the importance and the need for writers’ festivals today, and show how keen people are to engage with the larger conversations about our lives.

Browse or download the Perth Writers Festival program and the list of authors here.

The festival program runs 20–23 February 2014,
on the grounds of UWA.

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Previous 3, 3 and 3 guests:
Amy Wiseman, dancer

Ash Gibson Greig, music composer
Ian Parmenter, TV cook/writer/broadcaster

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