Tag Archives: landscape

“Have You Been to New Zealand?”

I have just listened to Marc Maron interview Sir Ian McKellen on Maron’s podcast “WTF”(Episode 621, 20th July 2015).  Here is a snippet of their conversation which I faithfully wrote down in my journal.

Sir Ian McKellen: “Have you been to New Zealand?”

Marc Maron:   “No.”

Sir Ian McKellen: “Oh.  Well if you like living where you do, surrounded by sky and weather, go to New Zealand – because they have more of it.”

Marc Maron:   “It’s beautiful, right?”

Sir Ian McKellen:  “Overwhelmingly beautiful!  As you drive down some of those empty roads and surrounded by rapidly changing scenery; mountains and glaciers and volcanoes, you hear yourself saying I believe in God because this couldn’t just have happened.”

Marc Maron:  “Wow”

Sir Ian McKellen:  “Yes, wonderful!”

This post illustrates Sir Ian McKellen’s point.  I have just returned from New Zealand and here is a selection of photos – all taken on my I-Phone.  Here goes…

View from our apartment in Christchurch. Fresh snow on the Southern Alps.

View from our apartment in Christchurch.  Beyond the Canterbury plains there is fresh snow on the Southern Alps.

A hill in the suburb of Cashmere, Christchurch, with the Alps in the distance.

A hill in the suburb of Cashmere, Christchurch, with the Alps in the distance.

New Brighton beach, Christchurch just before dusk.

New Brighton beach, Christchurch just before dusk.

A selfie of my shadow in the grasses of New Brighton. (Don't I look nice!?)

A selfie of my shadow in the grasses of New Brighton. (Don’t I look nice!?)

Matt and I took two separate trips into the mountains. Here he is at Arthur's Pass.

Matt and I took two separate trips into the mountains. Here he is at Arthur’s Pass.

New Zealand's mountain parrot, the kea, at the viaduct lookout above Otira.

New Zealand’s mountain parrot, the kea, at the viaduct lookout above Otira…not minding at all the gales and horizontal snow.

Otira township. This is a railway junction between Christchurch and the West Coast town of Greymouth. It is rather forbidding but I love it.

Otira township. This is a railway junction between Christchurch and the West Coast town of Greymouth. It is rather forbidding but I love it.

These engines are waiting for the Transalpine train to arrive from Greymouth. They are needed to haul the train up the steep incline to Arthur's Pass.

These engines are waiting for the Transalpine Express train to arrive from Greymouth. They are needed to haul the train up the steep incline to Arthur’s Pass.  (The train goes through a 20 minute tunnel under the mountain – which I always find a bit daunting.)

We stayed at Bealy. Here it was at sunset.

We stayed at Bealy. Here was the landscape at sunset.

Signpost in the mountains. The river is the Waimakariri which flows to Christchurch.

Signpost in the mountains. The river is the Waimakariri which flows to Christchurch.

View from the balcony of our cabin at Bealy.

View from the balcony of our cabin at Bealy.

In the morning Matt and I wandered beside Waimakariri river just below our cabin.

In the morning Matt and I wandered beside Waimakariri river just below our cabin.  The air and waters were freezing and pristine.

Gazing into the still waters of the Waimakariri river.

Gazing into a still pool of the Waimakariri river.

Going off road up to Mount White. I do enjoy the exclamation traffic signs in New Zealand. They seem to me to exclaim at the views. "Look at this!" they say.

Going off road up to Mount White. I do enjoy the exclamation traffic signs in New Zealand. They seem to me to exclaim at the views. “Look at this!” they say.  “Awesome”.

Selfie at Mount White. The Waimakariri is a perfect example of a 'braided river'. Most of it runs underground.

Selfie at Mount White. The Waimakariri is a perfect example of a ‘braided river’. Most of it runs underground.

Cass station - made famous (at least in New Zealand) by our iconic artist, Rita Angus.

Cass station – made famous (at least in New Zealand) in a painting called “Cass” by our iconic artist, Rita Angus.

I flew from Christchurch to Wellington and back. This photo illustrates why the Maori called New Zealand Aotearoa - which means land of the long white cloud. Note the alps poking up through the clouds.

I flew from Christchurch to Wellington and back. This photo illustrates why the Maori called New Zealand Aotearoa – which means land of the long white cloud. Note the alps poking up through the clouds.

A closer view of the Southern Alps as we flew north.

A closer view of the Southern Alps as we flew north.

Beautiful blues of Tasman ocean and sky on the return flight.

Beautiful blues of Tasman ocean and sky on the return flight.

The township of Kaikoura is below. (The plane was an ATR 72.)

The township of Kaikoura is below. (The plane was an ATR 72.)

Kaikoura mountains and gorgeous colours in the sea.

Kaikoura mountains and gorgeous colours in the sea.

Matthew picked me up from Christchurch airport and we drove straight out to Lake Coleridge where we stayed overnight. View from Harper Road. Good old New Zealand SHEEP! (Their coats are much cleaner than Australian sheep.)

Matthew picked me up from Christchurch airport and we drove straight out to Lake Coleridge where we stayed overnight. View from Harper Road. Good old New Zealand SHEEP! (Their coats are much cleaner than Australian sheep.)

Late afternoon at Lake Coleridge. The winter sun in New Zealand sits low in the sky as we are so far south.

Late afternoon at Lake Coleridge. The winter sun in New Zealand sits low in the sky as we are so far south.

Matt and I pushed ourselves on a big walk up Peak Hill. Gosh it was hard work but worth it for the views. Here is Lake Coleridge.

Matt and I pushed ourselves on a big walk up Peak Hill. Gosh it was hard work but it made us feel that there is life in us yet.  Here is Lake Coleridge.

The Rakaia river from Peak Hill.

The Rakaia river from Peak Hill.

Raikaia River again.

Raikaia River.  (There’s my selfie shadow again.)

Matthew in front of the Wilberforce river. There is that low winter sun again - and it is only around midday.

After our climb, we drove down another gravel road.  Matthew in front of the Wilberforce river. There is that low winter sun again – and it is only around midday.

We took an off-road detour to get back to Christchurch. Lyndon road is unsealed and takes one past the totally frozen Lake Lyndon.

We took an off-road detour to get back to Christchurch. Lyndon road is unsealed and takes one past the totally frozen Lake Lyndon.  The dirt road (which was actually mud and ice in places) takes one between Coleridge and Porters Pass.

Lake Lyndon.

Lake Lyndon.  Actually, Lyndon Road was closed – as it is a ‘fine weather’ road so we shouldn’t have been there at all.

We don't EVER see such a thing as a frozen lake in Western Australia, so this was mesmerizing to us.

We don’t EVER see such a thing as a frozen lake in Western Australia, so this was mesmerizing to us.

As we drive back across the Canterbury plains, the mountains recede in my rear view mirror and the sun sets. Goodbye New Zealand. See you next time!

As we drive back across the Canterbury plains, the mountains receded in my rear view mirror and the sun set behind them. Goodbye New Zealand. See you next time!

Yes.  I have been to New Zealand.

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Faulting and Folding

"Hawkins Hill" oil painting of hills of Wellington.

“Hawkins Hill” oil painting of hills of Wellington. 1991

Wellington had a huge storm this week.  I’m afraid there was a lot of damage.  The sea came in and broke up the roads in front of it.  It even entered the houses.  It smashed the waterfronts around the southern bays.   (It is still raining and freezing today, my sister writes, though the wind has dropped.)  The highest wind gust, I read in the news, had been recorded at Hawkins Hill.  It was 248 km/hour.

When I heard the words ‘Hawkins Hill’ I thought of my 1990 painting of the same name.  The old radar station used to be up there when I was growing up.  As it was a very high peak, you could see the radar station from many points, including from my parents’ bedroom window.  When I think of Hawkins Hill I think of cold southerlies.  On the other side of Hawkins Hill are more hills, undulating until they disappear into the Cook Strait.  Beyond Cook Strait is the South Island.  The South Island was magic because I never got to travel there until I was a teenager.  You could see the snowy Kaikoura mountains of the South Island from Island Bay (one of the bays which got hammered this week) and you got fantastic views of it from ‘up the hills’.

I remembered, when I saw Hawkins Hill mentioned in the news, that I had been meaning to write a post one day on faulting and folding and how my art subject matter went from hills to kimono.  I had learned the term ‘faulting and folding’ in geography class at highschool.  The term describes hills (just as you see in my painting) which are formed and molded by earthquakes; thrust upwards and bent – like solid versions of waves in the ocean.  I grew up in seismic Wellington, surrounded by these hills in all directions.  You see similar shapes in Japan, California and … any place with earthquakes.  They make lovely shapes though my father, who came from a very different landscape in Poland, found them claustrophobic – “like buttocks” he said.  However, as they are what I grew up with, I feel affinity with them and I liked to paint them.  I also enjoyed climbing them, playing childhood imaginary games amongst them, looking at the views from the top, making forts, making out (later on), damming their streams and riding over them on my horse.  “Up the Hills” is part of our family terminology.  “We’re going up the hills today.”

So how do I get to the subject of kimono?  Kimono are simply faulting and folding in material AND in glorious technicolor.   I almost die of pleasure working on the landscape of the kimono.   Mmmm, rich colours melting into shadows or highlighted by sun; ridges and valleys, peaks and troughs of fine design-infused material…what could be lovelier?

Faults and folds in the kimono of Ichifuku san, so much like the hills in my eyes.

Faulting and folding  in the kimono of Ichifuku san, so much like hill shapes in my eyes. 2013

[Note: the above drawing of Ichifuku-san is shown in stages in a work-in-progress page: see it here.]

New Zealand and Japan – not so different.  Both have earthquakes, volcanoes, hot springs, long and thin island shapes, polite people – and faulting and folding.  I live in Australia so I can assign both New Zealand and Japan to magical places.  They are both landscapes across the water just as the South Island once was to a girl who lived at the bottom of the North Island…dream-time places to visit now and then (but not often enough to lose the magic).

"Tourists Southbound" an oil painting showing a view of the Wellington hills from the Interisland ferry which crosses the Cook Strait.

“Tourists Southbound” an oil painting showing a view of the Wellington hills from the Interisland ferry which crosses the Cook Strait. 2000

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