Swimming with the yawkyawk

By Vita Forest

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Sketch of Lena Yarinkura’s Yawkyawk 2002

It’s a wet day so the others think it’s too hard, they’ll come another day when the weather’s perfect, when the trains are running, when they feel… inspired.  But Fiorella comes to sketch, rain speckling her glasses, and so do I.

We’re at the MCA and there’s a giant cruise ship blocking the view of the opera house.  But you can still see the harbour bridge.

If you want to draw it.

There’s a sculpture on the terrace outside the café and we sit at a table out of the rain but still in the wind and Fiorella pulls out her sketchbook as I sip my chai and eat chunks of warm banana bread.

We laugh.  It’s not only a sculpture it’s a weather vane.  It’s not only a weather vane it has two moving parts which move two different ways – a giant windmill that lazily spins, a horizontal female form which rotates as the wind blows.  This doesn’t matter unless you are trying to draw it.  Unless you are trying to commit to one angle, one view.  Fiorella persists valiantly while I go in search of another subject.

I trail down the stairs and notice vistas of rooftops and historic façades out the windows.  I enter another level and pass through rooms of paintings and installations, none of which suit my purpose.  I notice an artwork by Fiona Hall, pieces of driftwood, twisted and bone-like.  I earmark it but continue on.

Behind a strangely out of synch clock sculpture, is a small room off the main gallery.  It’s a room focusing on the work of Indigenous artist Lena Yarinkura.

I have found my subject.

There’s wonderful woven sculptures – a yawkyawk, a rainbow serpent, a selection of camp dogs and even a bronze echidna with sticks for spines.  I’m attracted to textures, to natural elements, to objects that are organic and surprising.  Yarinkura’s sculptures are perfect.

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Echidna by Lena Yarinkura

I sit down cross-legged on the concrete floor in front of the Yawkyawk, a kind of female water spirit similar to a mermaid.  As I sketch it out, I remember seeing a puppet show years ago at the Maritime Museum with yawkyawks floating and diving through dark space, a hint of menace despite their gracefulness.  I map out the bands of colour that circle the body and realise the white ochre pattern suggests fish scales.

You never see what is right in front of you until you draw it.

Patrons drift in and out of the little room and I wonder if they see the scales?  If they know the masked figure is drifting in water, not air?  I am on display and used to it now.  I think back to long ago sketching days when I used to hide away.  Perch out of sight.  Now if I want to draw something I do.  Even if I have to sit right in front of it.  Even if I become something of a novelty, another exhibit in the museum to inspect.  People talk to you when you draw.  Or peer over your shoulder.  Or think you’re an expert on yawkyawks (I did pass on a few facts).  And then there is the crazy English woman who leaps in front of the yawkyawk, arms outstretched, shielding it from my view.

You thought you were nearly finished but now you have to add in this feature! she cackles.

But she moves on too, so I don’t have to alter my composition after all.

I can hear the clock in the other room ticking to a strange rhythm, striking every now and then.  It’s keeping a different time, a faster time, cycling to another heartbeat.  It’s a little intense and disturbing, a steady grind just beneath my consciousness.  I drift in and out of the present, in and out of the room, between the dark still waters of a billabong and the white walls of the gallery.  The pressure of my pencil changes as the colours deepen as the body swells and narrows.  At last the drawing is finished and I blink and shift my buttocks on the hard ground.

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The Rainbow serpent

I stand and notice Fiorella on the other side of the room drawing a kooky camp dog.  I give her a wave and stand to peer at the rainbow serpent hanging from the ceiling.  Its body is a tight woven tube with a mane of feathers and antlers of sticks.  I stand and draw its portrait.  Its face like a dragon, its downy pelt.  My lines are looser now.  Quicker.  I finish and start on the echidna, noticing how each stick making up the spines has been sharpened to a point, you can see the strokes of the knife.  And later, I capture the camp dog as Fiorella moves on to the rainbow serpent.  We circle each other in the small room and meet up again at the echidna to look at our work.

Look at all we’ve done!  says Fiorella.  The others will wonder how many sketchers came today when they see the album on the internet with all these drawings in it!

We collect our bags and jackets and say goodbye.  Head back out into the world.

I pull up my hood.  It’s raining outside.

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My sketch of the rainbow serpent

 

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This week

By Vita Forest 

From the Sydney Opera House

This week I have been

CELEBRATING Lucy’s birthday with dinner and gelato out, a party at home and a family afternoon tea

READING

  • Everless by Sara Holland
  • The Fast Diet by Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer

TAKING our school performance group to the Sydney Opera House

SEWING last minute fixes to costumes

PAINTING makeup onto eighteen faces

ENJOYING the excitement and adrenalin of the students

HAVING a champagne afterwards with my colleagues

DECORATING our flat with a The Night Circus theme for Lucy’s birthday party


MARVELLING at the fairy lights over the dining table (I can feel a Christabel story coming on…)

This week

By Vita Forest

Silky Oak

This week I have been

WRITING

READING The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal (not much time for reading at the moment).

MAKING up lists and boxes and bags of costumes and other stuff to take to our dress rehearsal at the Sydney Opera House.

REHEARSING at the Opera House on a rare rainy day  (we got soaked walking back to the bus!)

TAKING a moment to enjoy the sight of the kids on stage.  Wow!

FIXING costumes with a makeshift sewing kit when there were the inevitable “wardrobe malfunctions”.

CARRYING bags of shoes when the kids were on stage (they danced barefoot).

MISSING Minna who couldn’t make it to the rehearsal.  Get well soon!

FEELING grateful that Tonya came early to help instead.

MEETING up with Fleur for a indoor French picnic lunch on Saturday and a very good laugh!

WALKING with Briony on Sunday (see link).

ENJOYING the golden Silky Oak tree outside my window.

 

 

12 Things we saw on our walk to the Coal Loader

By Vita Forest

Today I went on a walk with my sister  Briony from Blues Point to Ball’s Head and back again.

These are some of things we saw.

  1. A water dragon (there were two but the other respectfully didn’t want to appear in a photo).

2. A crumbling old wharf at Berry’s Bay (can you spot the gap in the middle of the walkway?)

3.  A tenacious fig tree growing through a vertical stone wall at the BP Parklands.

4.  Jacaranda blooms just starting to flourish.

5. The bigger picture

6.  A very fetching front garden in Blue’s Point (look at that star jasmine!)

7.  A glimpse of the city through a gate in Blue’s Point.

8.  A glimpse of the Sydney Harbour Bridge at a railway bridge.

9.  A beautiful fig tree that we sheltered under in the rain.

10.  Ruins at Sawmillers Reserve.

11. Briony power walking to get out of the rain.

12. Some rather cute chimney pots.

This week

By Vita Forest

Barangaroo, Sydney


This week I have been

WRITING

  • lots more of my novel – I am on a roll!
  • Creep

FALLING over and skinning my knee.  Ironic as I had just written about a character doing something quite similar.

READING

  • The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis with my class.  We particularly focused on the description of Lucy’s first visit to Narnia…

REHEARSING our performance group ready for the big combined schools show on in a couple of weeks

WATCHING

  • Riviera on SBS
  • early morning lorrikeets visiting the bottle brush trees outside my window as I write.

MAKING my kids cook one meal each this week (Max – ramen, Lucy – fish and veggies).  Making sure they have some life skills.

Barangaroo – this week I drew rocks


SKETCHING at Barangaroo – it even rained a bit!  (We are a very intrepid bunch of sketchers).

The different textures of Barangaroo


MEETING with Sui-Sui for a bit of lunch, sharing of books and an intense conversation

Creep

By Vita Forest


I’ve been thinking about Harvey Weinstein.

I’ve been thinking about Donald Trump.

And Noa Jansma from Holland who snaps a selfie with every man that wolf whistles, or cat calls, or propositions her with, “I know what I would do with you baby” “wehee horny girl” “hmmm you wanna kiss?” (She asks permission for the photo, they don’t ask permission to appraise her).  See Dear Catcallers It’s not a compliment (on Instagram)

And thinking about Jane Gilmore “fixing” media reports of male violence against women on #FixedIt  (“A woman is dead.  A man is accused of killing her.  Police allege domestic violence” – not – “Man accused of running over woman at strip club parking lot”.  He’s not a “thwarted lover” he’s a “violent man”).

And this week, in the next suburb, a woman lay dead outside a high-rise building.  Another victim of domestic violence.  Her attacker was known to police.

And I think about my own children and the kids in my class and hope that we’re raising a generation that will not accept the entitlement of bullies, that know they do not always have to keep a secret, that know the right way to treat women – to treat everyone.  That know what consensual means, that don’t abuse their power, that stand up for themselves and others, that treat everyone with respect.

This week

By Vita Forest

From Wendy’s Secret Garden at Lavender Bay

This week I have been

WRITING chapter after chapter of my novel, but nothing for the blog.  Sorry.  I am trying something new where I set a timer and work and work work until the alarm goes off.  It’s really working!

READING

  • Shipwrecks, Sailors and Sixty Thousand Years by Jackie French (in preparation for next term).
  • The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal

PAPERING two huge boards in two classrooms with medieval-style maps of Australia and its surrounds, ready for  Term 4.

From Clarke Park, Lavender Bay

VISITING Lavender Bay with Betty and Diana, then again to do some sketching from a slightly different angle.

 

CATCHING up with two cousins from two different sides of the family on the same day!  Wow!

CELEBRATING my nephew’s third birthday (pirate theme).

WALKING

Berry’s Bay, Waverton

  • around Ball’s Head, Waverton
  • around Curl Curl to try and spot some of the whales that have been passing by Sydney and eventually

On the headland near North Curl Curl

SPOTTING some spray shooting up out of the water off North Curl Curl