As Kingfishers Catch Fire: Birds and books by Alex Preston
Having kept notebooks over many, many years, Preston has collected the words of dozens of writers. Each chapter is arranged around a bird, each bird illustrated by Neil Gower. The Guardian gives this book a rave review:
Memoir, or rather memory, gilds the narrative. The most moving chapter describes Preston’s father, bedbound with lymphoma, as he watches a family of collared doves on the rooftop opposite his window. He is woken by a fledgling dove on the windowsill inside the bedroom and tries to rescue the bird. Describing himself in the third person, Preston’s father writes: “Placid and accepting, she allows his right hand to embrace her body… while he emanates all he can in telepathic sedation. It, or something like it, must be working, for her wings remain static and spread, her breast neither heaving nor fluttering … How warm to the touch. He wants to stretch the moment to eternity.” This, perhaps, is the essence of the book, this longing for communion, for connection with things other than ourselves.
Basic Mathematics: An Introduction by Alan Graham
I reserved this book on a whim…I am not known for my mathematical ability and thought that it was about time I tackled what could almost be called a phobia. I must confess to scanning this book and promptly returned it, obviously I will need some more indepth counselling before I can tackle my “issues”. However, in the brief time that this book held my attention I did think it was very user-friendly, tackled basic concepts, and would be especially useful if you were struggling with keeping up with your school age children’s maths.
Honar: The Arkhami Collection of Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art A very disappointing cover hides a luscious book documenting the Afkhami collection of Iranian art. The art in the collection is incredibly varied and at times surprising. Each artist has their own essay, plus there are well written and interesting chapters devoted to the collection itself and to Iranian art history.
What’s Your Bias? The Surprising science of why we vote the way we do by Lee De-Wit
We may think that we make rational decisions when it comes to voting but apparently we are just as much affected by our personality traits and unconscious biases as we are by what the news media and political debates are telling us. Perhaps you want to know more about why you think Jacinda is just the ticket or what it is about Bill that makes him irresistible? Apparently you will get to know more about yourself and the bigger political picture!
Congratulations to our two Highly Commended entries who will each receive a library goody bag.
Congratulations to our talented finalists! We have certificates for our finalists; they are ready for you to pick up at Papanui Library after 9am on Saturday 22 July – please contact us at LibraryEvents@ccc.govt.nz to organise delivery if you are unable to pick-up.
Congratulations to our talented finalists! We have certificates for all our finalists; they are ready for you to pick up at Papanui Library after 9am on Monday 17 July – please contact us at LibraryEvents@ccc.govt.nz to organise pickup or delivery.
These entries are on display at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre during the July school holidays as part of KidsFest.
A group of community-minded men had an initial meeting in late June 1880 to discuss how to organise and promote art within Canterbury.
They felt that the rapidly growing centre of Christchurch needed some form of cultural organisation, and Auckland and Dunedin already had Art Societies.
A sub-committee of three was elected to draft up the proposed rules for a Canterbury Society of Arts. On the 8th of July a General meeting was held at the Christchurch Public Library and the Rules of the Canterbury Society of Arts were approved. The Society had the aim of “…spreading a love of artistic work through the community” and the first exhibition was organised and held in early 1881.
The Annual Exhibition opening nights soon became the highlight of the social calendar which included music and entertainment. You can view some of the early Canterbury Society of Arts catalogues that we have digitised.
Over the years the Society developed and built a permanent collection, held regular programmes and events, faced social and financial difficulties, courted controversy, expanded their mandate from just fine art to include arts and crafts and (eventually) accepted contemporary styles. They acquired permanent space and moved, and completely re-invented themselves.
1980 marked the 100th anniversary of the Canterbury Society of Arts which resulted in an exhibition at the Christchurch Art Gallery and a catalogue with a history of the society. The catalogue for the 100th anniversary exhibition of the Society in 1980 can be accessed online.
Life dealt me the recessive gene MC1R (only achievable through both sides of the family) and I arrived with a ‘reddish’ hue to my hair – together with the obligatory pale skin and, a few years later, a mass of freckles. I managed to avoid the ‘Tudor’ blue eyes so I actually have discernible eyebrows. Phew…
When I found this book on the shelf recently it screamed ‘Read Me, Read Me’. So I did.
What a revelation! Little did I know about my heritage and what different cultures felt about my red/auburn/ginger ancestors and modern-day counterparts.
Stereotypes of redheaded women range from the fun-loving scatterbrain to the fiery-tempered vixen or the penitent prostitute. Red-haired men are often associated with either the savage barbarian or the redheaded clown.
I’ve never been a great fan of ‘stereotyping’ and especially not of this negative variety. My only negativity was related to the pitfalls endured on summer holidays where I always ended up swimming in more clothes than I normally wore, in addition to ‘slip, slap & slopping’ in a frenzy and still missing bits that needed TLC in the evening by use of cotton wool balls and calamine lotion. All this angst whilst my so-called friends gambolled and frolicked in the surf like slippery little seals and acquired golden overtones by the minute!
Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables was one of my childhood heroines (for obvious reasons) and when she finally walloped Gilbert Blythe for pulling her pigtail and teasing her mercilessly – OK so she might have been fiery but he certainly had it coming!!
Maureen O’Hara was famous for her fiery nature and red hair in the films but she always had to endure John Wayne – so who wouldn’t want to vent their spleen! Can you see where I am going with this – provocation. Tease a blonde, brunette and any other hair colour under the sun and you would get the same result.
Dwelling in the past isn’t good for you so I quickly read on and sure enough, there were also positives such as redheads being considered the darlings of the Renaissance period. Acclaimed artists such as Degas, Titian and Rossetti couldn’t do without their favourite ‘red-haired’ muses – the first one of note and possibly the first supermodel of her time being Elizabeth Siddal.
I was unaware that many differing cultures to mine (Northern Hemisphere Celt) such as Russian, Italian, Chinese and even some Pacific Islanders also have the recessive gene that sits on Chromosone 16.
But true amazement came in the form of googling – apparently there is Calendar of Redhead Events, Ginger Pride Rallies all over the world and Melbourne has been voted as Host City for the 2017 Ginger Pride Rally which is being held on 29 April – the event raising funds and awareness for, both children’s anti-bullying and skin cancer non-for-profits.
We have just subscribed to a fantastic magazine that is for Kiwi kids and by Kiwi kids. Toitoi is a journal for young writers and artists that gives Kiwi kids the chance to submit their own writing and pieces of art to be included in the journal. There are 100 pages of original stories, poetry and artwork in every issue. Check out these examples from Issue 3 this year:
It looks really fantastic and who wouldn’t want to see their story, poem or artwork published in a magazine! You can brag to all your friends and your family will be super proud of you. It’s a quarterly journal so that means that there four chances throughout the year for you to submit your writing and art and see it published in the magazine.
Anyone aged 5-13 years can submit a piece to Toitoi. To submit a piece all you have to do is go to the Toitoi website, click on ‘Submit’ at the top of the page and email your submission to the editors. The next deadline is 8 July so you’ve still got a few weeks to get your submission in. What are you waiting for?
If you are travelling down the northern motorway into Christchurch in the mornings and spot a person in the car parallel to yours chuckling uncontrollably, you might be looking at a librarian who is listening to an audiobook. Similar unexpected outbursts of laughter can happen at some other times, during lunch breaks in the staff dining room or while strolling along one of the streets in the CBD in bare daylight to name just a few.
It’s Tom Gates books that make me unashamedly snort with laughter in front of people. Sometimes I wish someone would ask me what I am laughing at, just to give me an excuse to share with them the delightfully witty escapades of Tom Gates. Tom is a cheerful, excited, good-hearted boy, who loves doodling, eating caramel wafers and pulling pranks on his sister Delia. Most of the days he is late for school, daydreams through school classes and has his very own band called Dogzombies (because he likes dogs and zombies). There is so much in Tom’s everyday life that I can relate to.
But no one can tell a story better than its author, which in this case is Liz Pichon. Liz is equally artful with words as she is with pencils. She illustrates and writes every single page of Tom Gates books by hand! Her doodles are thoughtfully interwoven with texts and create a joyful reading experience. Last week she published Super good skills (almost), the 10th in a series of books about Tom Gates. Many of them are prizewinners and have been translated into 36 different languages.
Liz is coming to Auckland Writers festival this week. Even though she is very busy, she took some time to answer a few questions exclusively for her fans in Christchurch:
I asked Liz how her working day looks like and if she has a special space where she works. What is it like?
When I am writing at home, if the weather’s NOT too grim, I’ll go to the seafront with my husband, have a run (if I am honest it’s more of a PLOD) followed by a coffee. Which I am sure isn’t part of any fitness manual – but it sort of works for me. Once I’m at my desk I often work quite late, so it’s nice getting out in the morning.
I have a shed in the garden, which is on its last legs now. It used to be my husbands recording studio so it’s nice and warm but I’ve run out of storage space and I’m starting to feel like a hoarder who’s surrounded by all her STUFF. When I start a new book I have lots of notes for ideas that I look back on. Then I draw a kind of story map – like an illustrated flow chart. I put down lots of random ideas, then weave them into some kind of order and that’s what I show my editor. I don’t always stick to it exactly but it’s good to have something to refer to. I draw and write at the same time – then transfer the text to a word document. If I do too much writing on the computer I have to edit like crazy when it comes to drawing the pages up later.
So your books are entirely made by you – you do triple the work: illustrations, text and overall design?
I LOVE being able to draw and design all the pages, it’s all part of telling the story. Once I have written the story, I draw every page by hand and scan them into the computer where I work on them a bit more. Then I send the pages to the designer who puts in the text and uses my roughs to add the drawings. Making these books is a team effort, there are so many little details that need checking and you only get to see the flow of the story when all the pages are laid out. Scholastic (publisher) have been fantastic to work with. I go into their office to work on the final bits and pieces before it goes to print, which is like having a real job.
What would Delia’s doodles look like?
Delia likes to PAINT. So I would imagine her doodles would look like a Jackson Pollock picture.
Tom’s daily battle is how to fit as much doodling as possible into every class at school. What is your advice to children, who are struggling to juggle between school obligations and passions or hobbies which they love and are good at? Do you have any advice for their parents and teachers?
When I was at school I always got the feeling that drawing and art was never as important as ‘real’ work. It was a ‘fluffy’ subject and not something to be taken that seriously. I loved writing stories as well, but being dyslexic my spelling was shocking (and maths too) so it never crossed my mind that it was something I might be able to do for a living. Caitlin Moran (who’s a writer and journalist in the UK) said you should try and work out what you LOVE doing, then find a way to make a living from it. It took me a while, but that’s what I am doing now. Drawing, writing, painting, meeting kids, doing the events. I have the best job in the WORLD and although I work harder now than I have ever done, I enjoy every moment. I know how lucky I am.
It drives me crazy that creative subjects are being shoved to the sidelines. I heard a talk by Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants) last year and he had a rotten time in school being told all his comic drawings were a waste of time and he’d never amount to much. Well – seventy million book sales world wide later – I think he’s doing okay!
There are plenty of videos on the web with Liz Pichon explaining how to draw.
Is there an author or illustrator that might have been influential (either in your youth or later on) for you? If you could invite her/him to the concert, which concert would you take them to?
Quentin Blake gave a talk at my art college, he was so funny and his drawings are consistently brilliant. He’s quiet elderly now so nothing too LOUD, besides I’d want to be able to chat to him. So maybe one of those concerts where you bring your own picnic. I used to live near Hampstead Heath and there’s a place called Kenwood House that has lots of summer concerts. I think he might enjoy that.
Libraries unfortunately don’t sell caramel wafers, but we do offer books to read for free. Do you have your favourite library?
The original building is closed now, but Willesden Library in North London was a LIFESAVER when my son Zak was little. It was really close by and I used to take Zak there all the time. People forget how important libraries are for meeting other kids and parents and having somewhere to go that’s free too.
If you could choose one talent you would want to be born with (besides the ones you already have) which one would it be?
I’d love to be able to SING really well. I’d be able to sing all the time and drive my family even MORE crazy than I do now.
Is there a skill you always wanted to gain, but never had a chance yet?
I had a go at throwing a POT last year and it was a lot harder than it looks! I’d love to make a few more and learn to use the wheel properly.
If you could travel back in time, which era of the history would you go to and why?
Just occasionally I look at pictures of my kids when they were little and think it would be nice to go back in time and cuddle them at that age again. They’re 25, 21 and 17 now. But other than that I prefer to look forwards not backwards.
Book vs. eBook?
Book – but you can have both.
Cats vs. Dogs?
Cats for independence. Dogs for fun. (I don’t have either!)
Coffee vs. Tea?
I can’t wait to see Liz live – maybe she will share a few more tips on how to live of what you love doing. Or more importantly, how to annoy older siblings, draw funny doodles and incorporate coffee and wafers into your fitness regime.
The Christchurch Art Gallery re-opened on Saturday 19 December 2015, and has had record visit numbers ever since. Their latest publication is 101 works of art, beautifully designed by Aaron Beehre, features texts by Lara Strongman, Ken Hall, Felicity Milburn, Nathan Pohio, Peter Vangioni and Jenny Harper.
Lara Strongman is the senior curator of the Christchurch Art Gallery, and I talked to her about the re-opening.
Now that the Gallery is open again, what’s your feeling as to how people are using and enjoying it?
I’m a little surprised—but very moved—by the deeply emotional response people are having to the re-opening. There have been many people in tears. It’s not just that they are seeing the works they’ve missed over the past five years, it’s what it means to them to be seeing the gallery open again.
There have been many unsolicited hugs for Jenny (the Art Gallery director).
I’ve noticed lots of teenagers coming through, as well as families and international visitors. Wayne Youle’s postcard project has people sending messages all round the world to tell people to come and visit, as well as Christchurch people sending them to other family members.
Parents are showing young children works they haven’t seen, but which were very familiar to their parents. (There’s a half generation of kids who’ve never visited the gallery, or who were too young at the time of the earthquakes to remember.) There are loads of old favourites on show, but also works that are new to everyone – Unseen and The Newest new world are examples. People are also discovering unexpected connections between works:
I liked the Hotere room where the sounds of the seal breathing in the next room added something unexpected. pic.twitter.com/Nvp5Ai96v5
When the Gallery was closed, you all branched out – blogging, social media, exhibitions in different places and out on the streets, will these things still play a role? How has being closed changed the Gallery?
Now we’re open again, we’ve brought the Outer Spaces projects back into the proximity of the gallery. While we were shut, we went out into the city, and in the process learned a great deal about putting different kinds of art into public spaces. Now we’re commissioning new works for unexpected spaces around the gallery building and concourse. We’re calling them Other Spaces.
What’s coming up?
Local artist Tony de Lautour is painting a new work on the Bunker building out the front of the gallery that will be open for Waitangi weekend. We’re also opening our final summer exhibition, Op and Pop. There’s a massive interactive work called Tangle on the forecourt, especially for kids and families over the weekend. And I understand there’s going to be free gelato again, courtesy of our friends at NZI.
Over this year, our collection shows will be constantly changing. And I’m really looking forward to A Beautiful Hesitation, the survey exhibition by Ngai Tahu artist Fiona Pardington coming up mid year.
What do you think about libraries?
I love libraries! They’re my second favourite places, after art galleries. Curators spend a lot of time in libraries, doing research. And I really admire Christchurch City Libraries: the way they’re continuously innovative and put people first.
The Gallery’s librarian Tim Jones deals with a lot of research enquiries, including some extremely obscure ones. There is sharing of archival information around the world, which helps fill in gaps in understanding. By putting works online, unknown works start to be identified and our knowledge of the collection is made richer and more complex.
This summer I’m going to do a rewatch of Deadwood (my favourite show). I hear there’s a telemovie coming out that will tie up the loose ends.
Season 2 of Catastrophe: it’s quite rude but very funny.
And I’ve been watching Luther from the beginning — I like watching an episode each evening and becoming immersed in the story, as if you’re reading a chapter each night. It’s a very bookish way of watching telly.
Thanks to Lara, and to the Christchurch Art Gallery.
Illustrated liberally and with short articles this is a great book for the armchair traveller. Chernobyl is of course featured, but there are a surprisingly large amount of places that have been abandoned because of environmental disasters as well as urban migration. Interestingly Waiuta in New Zealand is included, one of the small towns abandoned after the gold rush. With haunting photographs this is an ideal book for flicking through and choosing places that are of interest, and perhaps you might even get some ideas for your next trip overseas!
Featuring artists work from all over the world, this is also an easy book to pick up and flick through to find a piece of work that takes your fancy. The amount of art representing the biological sciences is about as broad and never ending as nature itself. Some are environmental protest pieces, others are representations of science itself. Well illustrated with informative articles on each artist.
The titles says it all! Examples from the 1950s advertising world featuring some nasty advertising for soap (suggesting that a black child needs to wash more), how smoking Camel cigarettes can cure throat irritation, and Valium can restore cheerfulness and optimism alongside plenty of examples of how women can catch a man….
Beautiful but dumb. She has never learnt the first rule of lasting charm. A long lasting deodorant. People on the go use ODO.RO.NO
When I first moved to Christchurch, there were very few wall murals and the outdoor sculptures were just statues of monarchs or founding fathers. For my art fix, I headed off to the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, tucked in behind the museum in the Botanic Gardens. It was a lovely building, full of many wondrous works of art. It was too small and could only have a fraction of its collection on display. I was delighted to visit the new Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu in 2003. My favourite pieces were on display and there were galleries full of paintings I had never seen before.
When the earthquakes struck and the gallery was closed, I thought it would be years before I saw art in Christchurch. I was wrong. It seamed that every smooth wall and every spare space made way for art.
The road to Sumner became an art gallery when all the shipping containers got decorated. When I arrived in Sumner, almost every container, fence and wall had been pimped out.
New Brighton and Lyttelton were the next colourful destinations. What could have been depressing road trips became an adventure. I wanted to see what the locals had in store.
The ruined buildings in the central city became the canvas for many artists, and they made walking through town much more enjoyable that it could have been. The Justice Precinct has copies of works of art on the wall. Copies of paintings are on a wall on Moorhouse Avenue.
Everywhere I looked, there was a mural on a wall. Unfortunately, a mural on Barbadoes Street has almost disappeared because of the construction of a new building. I expect I’ll be waiting a long time to see it in all its glory again.
Re:START Mall is pretty colourful. I think I can count that as a work of art.
Gap Filler created works of art too. They really are almost sculptures. The spaces created were unexpected and made me smile.
I have missed the Art Gallery and I am looking forward to wandering through its rooms again. However, when it was closed, I realised one important thing: Christchurch is an art gallery.