Thursday, 27 October 2011


So we reached a complete and total Ware Nirvana when we finally hit the fabled old Izmailovsky flea market in Moscow's north eastern suburbs. Having wandering aimlessly for a good three hours after a bum steer from the famously incomprehensible Moscow underground system (or was it me?), we finally followed a trickle of colourful local folk sniffin' bargains heading towards the market through the spectacular entrance gate below.

Izmailovsky seemed predominantly a tourist trap, every second stall flogging colourful nesting dolls and tacky souvenirs. We stumbled upon a fantastic old nut scratcher driving a very hard bargain at the rear however, selling row upon row of original Commie propaganda posters. After much energetic banter and theatrical disappearances we finally settled on a price for two beautiful posters - the piece de resistance of our Russian wares haul. I chose the one below for its pretty femininity (there was no way I was putting an enormous red Stalin on me wall) and its significant date as an International Womens' Day celebration in eastern Europe. The fact that I then went and left it on the overnight train from Petersburg to Tula is neither here nor there...merely another illustration of my numbskullery.

The market also sold an array of typically Russki fayre such as the authentic furs below. Vegetarian? Animal rights activist? I'm so sorry. In this country computer says no.


Sunday, 9 October 2011


Russian ladies...a peculiar breed...each and every one of them got serious swag and rocking their own particular sartorial vibe. We were astounded by the preponderance of young ones who truly were blessed with supermodel genetics and the older ones that were styling it up on a babushka/gypsy/Rocky Horror Transylvanian tip. Young or old...they all very clearly knew their way around the local cosmetics counter, hairdresser, beauty parlour and discount clothing emporium. Hooray for Capitalism!

Friday, 7 October 2011


A definite highlight of our Far Eastern European extravaganza was discovering the quirky work of Mikhail Karasik in the Avant-Garde Museum, St. Petersburg. Karasik is a leading exponent of the Russian 'artist book' movement - creating unique handmade books that combine literature, art and design in low print runs (usually less than 20). Karasik utilises graphic imagery and pop-style colours often fused with lithographs created in his own studio. The books are pieces of unique, idiosyncratic art (each edition slightly varied) yet also literary texts to be read. 

The Avant-Garde show featured large prints of the artist's work, each piece immediately suggesting a recognisably 'Russian' aesthetic. Karasik's early 20th c constructivist and futurist influences are obvious, however his treatment is far more humorous, the colour palette softer and lighter. His sepia and pastel tones modernise the stark, aggressive gravity of the communist reds and blacks of Constructivist Alexander Rodchenko's style. Karasik uses iconic Russian imagery in a playful, absurd way - Red Square's creepy Lenin Mausoleum given a vibrant pink sky, while Lenin and a bearded crony are given a summer holiday vibe as they chillax in a beautiful garden.

See more of Karasik's brilliant work here.

Monday, 3 October 2011


The streets of Russia seemed to be perversely awash with fresh meat in uniform. Sailor boys a dime a dozen sauntered around the waterfront streets of Petersburg while surly-looking army types paraded manfully across Red Square. Even Police Academy boys roamed the streets in packs sporting fetching double-denim Canadian Tuxedoes* and saucy baseball caps. Eminating that sexy yet mildly intimidating whiff of authority, these young bucks ruled the streets knowing they come from a country where the men are real men and the women are glad about it. Judging by the numerous, sweet and feverish public displays of affection we witnessed from the young men toward their birds...maybe thats not a bad thing.

* Canadian Tuxedo (c) Mal Saymontry 2008...revolting double demin ensemble often sported by redneck North Americans

Friday, 23 September 2011


Summer holiday this year starred the intriguing and often outright bizarre land of Russia. Moscow's Red Square was semi-closed on account of intense preparations for some grandiose Muscovite celebration (much to my travelling companion's ire)...resulting in our immediate retirement to the closest bar to sink a number of commiserating vodkas. Harsh. Very harsh indeed.

Ironically enough, Red Square's St. Basil's Cathedral was rather aesthetically unappealing - all liver reds, lime greens and blues, the building's clashing exterior textures and shapes leaving your humble correspondent with nothing short of a bastard behind the eyes. However, the Russkies certainly let rip with the razzamattazz after dark via a series of vibrant, stunning light projections...utterly transforming the cathedral into the impressive beauty you see below. The locals sucked it up and poured it out, beaming faces basking in the evening glow...when they weren't directing the famous Moscovite Inscrutable Stare* toward the only two Filthy Gaijin* in (what seemed like) the entire city...

* Muscovite Inscrutable Stare (c) JA 2011 - the glowering, thunderous glare directed towards foreigners, usually by heavy set, middle-aged women...aka..."cronks".
* Filthy Gaijin - from the Japanese, literally an 'outside person' or foreigner.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Amazed to hear along the local grapevine today that my little home village of Leura has hit the headlines on account of some twisted firestarter going apeshit down in the bush, deliberately starting fires with 'incendary devices' (whatever they are). Ok its no London riots, but two of the eight fires started were uncomfortably close to the Robert Smiths Tears childhood compound and let me tell you the bush is terrifying enough as a kid - harbouring axe murderers, paedophiles, flashers and other itinerant bogeymen - let alone deranged firebugs stalking the forest canopies armed with gasoline and matches.

Having been distracted these last few weeks poncing through elegant English country estates and the wild badlands of rural Russia, I was reminded today of just how brutal the Australian landscape can be. Australia is renowned at the best of times for being an unforgiving land of barbarity due to extreme weather conditions. If entire rural towns aren't disappearing up in smoke during the devilishly hot summers (Victoria, 2009) then its the capital cities finding themselves submerged under putrid flood waters (Brisbane, 2011).

In 1957, large parts of Leura were destroyed after a bushfire swept up through the surrounding valley engulfing the modest row of village shops in less than an hour. Vintage pics below from Naomi Bulger's blog. Luckily the village has escaped the grapes of wrath of wild bushfires since then, however each summer feels like a lottery when a collective sigh of relief is felt when your number hasn't come up for another year.

The local fire brigades are a vital part of the Blue Mountains community and as the threat of bushfire destruction re-emerges each summer, controlled burning performed by (often volunteer) fire-fighters minimises the risk. The distinctive aroma of bushfires are an evocative memory of many a bogan Aussie childhood as well as the 'get down low, go go go!' government school fire advice dished out to doe-eyed young primary schoolers back in the 80s. Fire kills, peeps. Don't be a dick'ead with matches!! 

Thanks to Nick Moir, smh, Sky News and flickr for all other images. 

Thursday, 25 August 2011


At my workstation last week, Inspector Google and I came across this beautiful painting above of Frida Kahlo. On a whim I decided to email artist and illustrator Martyna Zoltaszek to sniff out the possibility of a sale. After some (thankfully) not-very-heavy-duty negotiating we agreed on a price and I visited Martyna tonight at Hackney's Absorb Art studios off the Kingsland Road to collect the work.

Martyna (below) welcomed me at the door like an old friend and immediately began entertaining me with funny stories like her escape from conventional marriage in her Polish hometown of Wroclaw. Other vignettes of her interesting last decade included a scholarship to study art in the US, a bohemian few months spent painting in Australia with a minted boyfriend and his artist mother and her tale of woe when a London gallery went bust without paying her a pound. The evil shysters. 

Martyna's delicate, naive-influenced paintings feature wild colourful tigers, roaring Communist bears and other animal motifs such as the minimalist, almost monochrome, stark-eyed canine pictured above. The Frida painting was the first portrait Martyna had completed and the counter offers she received over the weekend to buy the piece at the Absorb Arts open studios are a testament to her very significant talent. 

Ms Zoltazsek's little studio space in east London seemed a perfect cross-section of the creativity, passion, determination and success thriving in the city today - and an inspiring antidote to the orgy of political, financial and actual violence we have been reading about in the (Murdoch owned) newspapers over The Summer Of Shit 2011. Martyna is represented by the Enid Lawson Gallery in London. View more of her work here.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Sticking with the seaside theme...tonight I managed to catch poet Owen Sheers examine Britain's changing relationship with the sea and its reflection in art on BBC4's 'Art Of the Sea'. I was reminded of this beautiful image (above) I had captured a few months ago, heading across the Millennium pedestrian bridge connecting the south bank's Tate Modern with the north side's imposing St Pauls Cathedral. 

Earlier in the day I had been to the Tate Britain in Pimlico to see their Turner and the Masters exhibition - comparing British Romantic painter JMW Turner's ethereal seascapes with the work of some of Italy's finest old masters. I realised that day that I hadn't truly appreciated the immense drama and passionate colour of Turner's canvases, presuming them all to be very dreary, grey and miserable seascapes. I had yet to experience the artist's utilisation of vibrant warm yellows and golds (pictured below) - as evocative and shimmering as Van Gogh's brightest paintings from his sunflower series. Capturing the photograph above, of the Thames in 2011, and seeing how successfully Turner was able to encapsulate its essence in his paintings reinforces my belief in the transformative power of art and the powerful, almost narcotic effect a striking visual image can convey. 

Above 3 images courtesy of Google.