Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nettle Soup and Cloudberries

While we have been in Sweden we have been so well looked after by Michael and Carina.  Michael is Craig's colleague from the University of Gothenburg.  They have taken us to some great places and we have had some wonderful meals.  They are great foodies and even better company.  One such wonderful meal was had at their place on the Thursday of Easter, which for the uninitiated, should be called Maundy Thursday.  The meal was prepared in their new kitchen.  For those of you who are trendies - including my amazing children and their partners, balck and white kitchens are the rage here in the country of design. 
Carina is a keen and very good gardener.  Here she shows us her garden and you can see the glass conservatory at the back of the house.  Not a great garden photo as it was the beginning of Spring and nothing much had grown yet.

Before dinner we took a walk in the nearby forest where Michael and Carina go foraging for ingredients and, in this case for the nettle leaves for our first course, nettle soup.  They also pick lingonberries which are really lovely and used in a whole lot of sauces, both sweet and savoury.

In the woods, you sometimes see these little fellows, squirrels, with interesting haircuts.  This guy was actually snapped by Craig in our backyard at Konstepidemin

To make the nettle soup you pick the very tender top leaves off the nettle plants.  They become the green part of the soup, which is made with chicken stock. 
Michael is about to eat his soup.

He told us that after Chernobyl, for ten years they could not pick the nettles.  The funny thing was that the government told people this the day after Michael and his mother had eaten a big bowl of the soup.  "But I am still here" he said with his usual wry grin.

The next course was pickled herring.  Three kinds.  We have become great fans of this staple Swedish dish.  The pickling is quite sweet and you must always eat pickled herring with boiled potatoes while drinking schnapps.  Several varieties.  Here is Craig with pickled herring, boiled potatoes and a glass of schnapps, looking very rosy faced.  Because we were leaving for Sotckholm the next morning, I had to give him a haircut for the first time ever so he is looking quite shorn.

The schnapps is shown above at the end of the table, including two of Michael's own concotions in the blue topped bottles.  Michael makes everything from scratch if he can and makes the best biskvit, which are biscuits filled with chocolate mousse and covered in dark chocolate.
Next was smoked salmon - again with boiled potatoes.  Michael and Carina are great at making sure we can try traditional dishes. Michael always tells us about a dish and says - "and it must be eaten with potatoes".  There are a lot of different varieties of potatoes in the supermarket and, tradtionally, each one must be eaten with certain meats.

We finished off the meal with the most amazing sauce on ice cream.  The sauce was made from cloudberries which only grow in the wild in northern Sweden.  They have a wonderful flavour which is hard to compare with anything we know.  Unfortunately, the schnapps must have caught up with us by this stage because I forgot to photograph the ice cream and cloudberry sauce - and I had two servings!

We have, as I said, shared many wonderful meals with our friends.  One of the more memorable was in a Gothenburg restaurant called Linne, which is decorated with Kosta Boda glass.  I have mentioned before that we are devotees of Kosta Boda glass, so this was a special treat.  And the food was great as well.

Here is a pic of Michael and Carina in front of an assemblage of faces by one of our favourite artists, Khell Engman.  (more about him in a later blog)

Adn some of the glass pieces.  Most did not photograph well on the I Phone.

When Craig's sister, Sue and her husband Colin visited us recently here in Sweden, we had yet another great Axelsson meal.  But I can't find the photos.

More meals and travels coming up as I attempt to catch up with the blogging in the next few days.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Residency Report 2

Back with more paintings.

As I said in my last blog of my work, I have been using various forms of inspiration in an attempt to learn as much as I can about the different ways I can use the wax/resin medium.  This has continued.  I have again used the Swedish glass artists in some pieces.  This was one piece I painted where I started to create my own marks instead of trying to mimic the glass textures.

You will see that some of the photos are a little blurred because I only have a point and shoot camera with me and the texture of some pieces confuses the focus mechanism... .....that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

I wanted to see how I could go in taking this technique into portraits.  So the first attempt was this, which I admit was from a photo of Phoebe but, as you can see, I got caught up in technique and forgot about some of the proportion.  Still, I rather like the painting itself. Quite quirky.  Sorry, Phoeb.  Better one to come.

Then went on to paint the immediate family.  Let's conitnue with the Phoeb

A better likeness but still not quite there.  Dom was next.  This painting is the right way up.  And it looks like him this way as well

Next was the Professor.  You know it's him but only because of the (receding) hairline I think.  Struggled with this and decided to let it be. I liked the colour combination. I have to remember these are only studies.  I get quite anal sometimes.

The most successful ones, besides the second Phoebe, were Stef and Dylan. 

And they both liked their own portraits as well which is great.  My kids are used to being used as models in all sorts of styles but this is a first for Stef and Dylan.

I have yesterday started to paint some pieces just, hopefully to sell. I have a small exhibition planned here in the studio for the 27th of this month.  The following day is a huge open day here at Konstepidemin and I will have an open studio that day.  Lots of people.  So am hoping to sell off as much as possible to cover some of my costs and save transporting home.  These pieces are similar to one I have already sold and based on the glass artist style. 

I am also doing some landscapes inspired by travels in Sweden.  You may remember the winter pieces from the last art blog.  These pieces are either 20x20cms or 40x40cms.  I am using supports for the painting made out of either plywood or perspex.  On some of the ply pieces, I allow the grain of the wood to show through, as in this one.  Canvas can't be used for the hot wax process as it may crack due to movement of the canvas.

The piece above utilises layers of paint and tissue paper.  I can draw on the paper before I lay it into the painting. Gives another level to the painting.  Am presently working on several more paintings using this technique which are not quite finished.

A couple of weeks ago I came across the work of a well known artist from Sydney, Jenny Sages, who does some work in wax encaustic.  I then also yearned for my Australian palette and started to think about how I might adapt this work to my Australian landscapes.  Here are the results.  The first two, slightly influenced by Swedish winter as well. 

This piece below is actually a piece I showed you last time  - I have painted over it.  My brother made a comment about the previous incarnation looking like a pregnant woman sunbaking nude and every time I looked at it after that it annoyed me because he was right.  So, not my best piece, but I wanted to show it to my brother, Kim.

And below this is an attempt to use the wax to paint the Lake Eyre series I am working on at home for my exhibitions in Surat in August and Brisbane in October.  Anothe one that is a bit blurry, sorry.  Just could not get the camera to focus any better.

And these are probably Craig's favourites.  Hopefully some Swedes will like one or two of them. 

More posts to come.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Window Shopping

There is no doubt that you appreciate the weather more as you come out of a dark winter.  People sit facing the sun with their eyes closed, paying homage and looking very content.  In conditions that we, in Queensland, would be putting on the warm coats, they walk around in short sleeves and there are babies being pushed in prams everywhere. You see a lot of dads pushing prams and I am told it is because the Swedish law says that maternity leave must be shared by the fathers who must do no less than three months of the twelve months leave.

So, in the spirit of my first proper Spring, one sunny day this week, I decided to get out of the studio for the morning and go window shopping for my gorgeous daughter Phoebe and for the beautiful Stef, my son's girlfriend.  You never know when they go from being friend to girlfriend to partner. But I think that Dom and Stef will need to cohabit longer for me to use "Dom's partner".  Phoebe would know the right terminology.

Phoebe and I have shopped together since she was a little girl who loved black dresses - yes, even at the age of 4 she had started dressing for Melbourne. So, I imagined Phoeb was walking around Gothenburg with me looking at the shop windows, with Phoeb giving me the rundown on what was style and what was lacking. Her taste is impeccable.

So I started out quite close to where we are living in an area called Haga.  A very upmarket street

And very understated,  In Gothenburg, the shop signs are quite subtle and rarely hang out across the street especially in old historical areas.  I walked past a group of school children out for a walk in the sun and took this photo without thinking about being a scruffy old man photographing children until the teacher gave me a rather pointed dirty look. 

And on past the many coffee shops which have, in the past week or so set up outside areas to take advantage of the improving weather.

And showing welcoming spring messages

And the only piece of graffiti I saw was this..... I took a photo for Dylan as he is the graffiti expert in the family.

But sorry, Dylan, I have no idea of the story behind it.  And it's not especially creative.

In this street there are lots of children's clothing shops.  There just seem to be so many strollers in the streets that there must be a high proportion of babies.  This is not a comment on grandchildren for the benefit of Dylan, Phoebe, Dom, Stef and especially Craig. I know that Phoebe will enjoy seeing what the well-dressed Gothenburg child is wearing and so will Elsie.

Sorry, some of the pics are marred by reflection but after all, this is a window shopping excursion and most of the shops don't open until eleven am every day.

You will see chickens hanging from the clothes line above.  That is because in Sweden, the chicken brings the Easter eggs.

And saving the best for last, Phoeb, the Marimekko designs.

But not to disappoint, here are the windows of the Marimekko shop in Haga.  There are quite a few Marimekko shops here in Gothenburg and we always look in them to decide what we would take home for Phoeb if there were no luggage restrictions.

 A shopping trolley in Phoebe Green with dots

On to a jewellery store where I thought the statues displaying the beads were really great.

And the Kosta Boda shop - my favourite - before looking at some hand thrown porcelain in a glass/pottery gallery

Decorating style this year in Sweden seems to be either Cape Cod style or French Provincial.  All very boring to me.  You expect to see more scandanavian minimalist.

But the lighting and lamps are wonderful and there is always lots of stylish furniture. 

This shop intirgued me.  They only sell things that are heart-shaped.  From heart-shaped pendant lights to heart shaped lollies.

And then there was more French Provincial

And i saw some hand-made traditional leather boots.  Otherwise, shoes seem to be the same around the world.

And these shoes reminded me of the Phoeb.

Many of the shops selling soft furnishings featured things to brighten up the garden because everyone in Gothenburg is reviving their garden right now.

A great use for billy cans.

And for the ladies in my life, the fashionistas, the stylish ones, here are a few fashion shots, starting with Marimekko and associates and then on to Mango and Zara.  A couple of others in between.  More than likely, things will be the same in the southern hemisphere but I know Europe is often a half year ahead.  So, hope you enjoy them.

And this shop is meant for the Phoeb to walk in and buy everything on the racks.

After my walk I met Craig at a lunch place nearby Konstepidemin.  HIs first remark was that this place was just right for the kids.  50's furniture and an interesting mural.  So will sign off with a couple of photos of Egg and Milk, as it is called.  Where we had the old favourite BLTs.

Next week, we are off by fast train to spend Easter in Stockholm.  Will write to you after that.