The good, the bad, and Barcelona – Gaudi on Sunday (Catalonia, Spain)

June 15, 2015

In the crowded hotel lobby, my daypack zipper sounds conspicuously loud. I poke a hand inside: a woollen vest, an apple and a light rain jacket – nothing more. I rummage about. Still nothing. Everyone looks when I tip the contents out. A euro coin rolls across the tiled floor, hits the dark timber architrave […]

A Darkside Downunder – MONA magic (Hobart, Australia)

February 1, 2015

I’m in Tasmania drinking with Dave; a giant of a man with broad shoulders and no neck. He’s lived alone all his adult life, and sits at his normal spot at the bar, in  brown flannelette shirt and singlet, jeans and mudcaked Blundy boots. “Changed? Yeah, sure has mate.” He looks around. “Mmm…not sure what […]

Calling on Kittelsen – demons, ghosts and ghouls (Norway)

February 16, 2014

4m waves batter our ferry on the fiercest piece of water in the world. We’re 100km west of the Norwegian mainland and this is the Maelstrom, first mentioned by the Greeks 3000 years ago and immortalized in the iconic writings of Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne. But it’s the artist and poet Theodor Severin […]

Clarisse of Arabia – teaching the children (Helsinki, Finland)

January 19, 2014

Outside the station I squint in late summer sun, a grand entrance clad in grey Finnish granite and guarded by lamp-holding titans: stern-faced stone men far too serious to be the animated rap stars of railway advertising campaigns. At their feet, there’s a kid busker with peaked cap and grandmother’s clarinet. With a population of […]

Something from Nothing – mystic gifts (New York, USA)

November 10, 2013

There’s something about these multi-coloured cocoons, the plaque on the wall `Judith Scott: 1943-2005’. I adjust my glasses and lean closer, scratching my head and struggling with the notion of an artist not only deaf and mute, but also stricken with the effects of Down Syndrome. I’m in the New Museum of Modern Art (or […]

Red Desert Dreaming – modern times, ancient magic (The Kimberley, Western Australia)

March 19, 2013

Strange figures are painted in broad strokes of red ochre – Wandjina spirit-men – eerie round faces with big pools for eyes. I stand next to Maurice, “a Worara blackfella” and a driver at local mines. I ask him why they have no mouths. His voice is hushed, as he points at the staring spaceman […]

Fabled Gates – Aesop in the big Apple (New York, USA)

January 11, 2013

A small green plaque reads `Ancient Playground’, the entrance a pair of black cast-bronze gates  set between tall rectangular pillars of polished pink granite; topped by bears on the left – one upright – three deer on the other. The pillars are engraved in gold letters, dedicated to William Church Osborn – `PRESIDENT THE CHILDREN’S […]