Geneva, 26 October 2013. The happy couple was happy. For starters, they stuck a few red hearts and pieces of sheet music onto a 150cm x 250cm piece of paper. The guests arrived and immediately got into the spirit of the event. Champagne flowed. Everybody added to the Happy Couple Big Love-Picture with neocolour, ink and paint spray. Then 13cm x 18cm rectangles were cut out and framed. Cool! Beautiful stuff falling out of a seemingly random process! The guests were happy: they all had so much fun and took home a little part of the creation. This photographer was happy! The happy couple was even happier!
It is the heat-wave of 2013: idyllic, deepest Switzerland. After the formalities, the chilled champagne is dangerously refreshing. The Irish poet, Cathal O’Searcaigh, gets to his feet to read some of his own work that, unusually, has been translated into English. A polite silence settles over the other wedding guests. They sense something unusual is coming.
Gluttony (Craos) by Cathal O’Searcaigh (Translated by Denise Blake & Cathal O’Searcaigh)
I would drink the milk that spills
from the bright jugs of your laughter.
I would eat the speckled trout that swims
in the full pools of your pupils.
From the silken flour of your skin
I would bake a white batch loaf.
From the ripened fruit of your haunch
I would create a summer sweet.
I would feast in your bones, my love.
I would sate my hunger on the honeycomb
of your thighs; your chest’s sugared flesh,
your throat’s luscious apple.
Beware! The delicacies of your body
make me so ravenous.
Each bite of calf, each slice of sinew,
each mouthful of cheek, every tasty nibble
of loin, of shoulder, of plump limb.
I’d swallow you whole, I’d eat you alive.
I’d make you my dawn banquet, my dusk feast.
You’re the sweetmeat of my hunger. I drool for you.
The happy couple applauds with enthusiasm. Singles laugh but shift a little nervously in their seats. Do I see tears in the eyes of some older couples? Like a firework, this perfect and dazzling wedding moment fades abruptly. A perplexed Swiss friend asks me what “drool” means.
This is a guest post by Angela Onikepe.
So let’s talk about beauty. What is it? Straight lines? Symmetry? Perfectly round circles? Something that matches the societal standard of beauty?
I think beauty is more a case of square pegs. The fact that square pegs never fit into round holes (as the saying goes) or any other shape for that matter, is what makes them beautiful. Square pegs give us the image of messiness, disorder and chaos but that’s the fun of it. The same can be said for life and what is all around us.
Take the city of Frankfurt for instance. It’s the financial capital of Germany and although it is quite well known, it does not necessarily get the same courtesy as some of its sister cities. Berlin is always described as “dynamic”, “cosmopolitan” and “exciting”. Munich gets even better treatment since it’s known as being the most “beautiful” and “green” German city. Dresden is known as the “Florence at the Elbe.” How can you beat being Florence?
Call me superficial but the term “financial center” does not exactly make you daydream or think of a city with personality. It certainly does not make you want to go and immediately buy a ticket to see what it’s all about. Being known as the “financial center” does not elicit thoughts of idyllic settings and relaxation (okay, maybe some of you are more imaginative than I am).
Even so, on a recent visit, I found Frankfurt to be full of square pegs; I had the sensation of slowly unwrapping a present with each peek getting better and better. It was an explosion and fusion of shapes; all sorts of mixtures of lines, patterns and styles that made me positively giddy. Circles mashed in with squares and squiggly lines; spirals twirling around with straight lines and odd-shaped holes. The combination of the old and the new, which to some might seem messy (read → ugly), was seamless.
There was a whimsical feeling to the city, almost as if it was reminding me of what it means to be human – a disastrous but yet fascinating mix of all kinds of things. Now, that’s my kind of beauty in an idyllic setting, a place that reminds me not to take myself too seriously; there’s nothing more beautiful or freeing than that.
*Folks, thanks for coming along with me on the ride; I would also like to thank head-honcho Talkers, Isaac and Robin, for allowing me to play in their world. That’s beautiful too.*
Katka Pruskova is a Czech-born computer scientist and photographer. On her quest to show us the amazing colorful world we live in, Katka has made an absolutely spellbinding video of blooming Amaryllis, Lilies, Zygocactus, Rose, Gladiolus, Tulip and Gardenia. I wish my countryman Carl Linnaeus could have watched this masterpiece with us. He would have been supercalifragilisticexpialidocious excited. Sit back, enjoy.
To make this masterpiece, Katka has used a technique called “time-lapse photography.” In a homemade studio (a cabinet, black cloth and two LED lamps), Katka placed her flowers (carefully picked in her mother’s garden) in front of a Canon 5D Mark II and shot 7,100 photos over 730 hours. Once converted into a video, played back at 30 frames (photos) per second, time appears to be moving faster. This is not an exercise for the wilting weeds of the photography world! It takes serious planning and after the hours of shooting there are days of post-production. Bravo!
French dramatist Jean Giraudoux once said: “The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.” I’m sure Katka would not disagree but with her time-lapse photography, she makes the flower luscious and sexy as well. Thank you, Katka!
It is raining and I am cold when I meet Mireille Zagolin at her studio in Nyon near Geneva. Her warm welcome includes a huge mug of hot tea. We chat. She is at once effervescent and charming.
She tells me how, already a wife and mother, she took up painting more than twenty years ago. Sculpting began ten years ago. However, working with oil on canvas is her primary passion. In this medium she can let her imagination fly. Her spirits range far and wide on a hunt for inspiration. By contrast, she has found working with clay appeals to a much more personal, inner part of her being. I see she has difficulty putting this into words. To change the subject: whose work does she admire most? No surprises: Nicolas de Staël and Camille Claudel.
Amazingly, Mireille has taught herself to paint and to sculpt. It is obvious that she has talent in abundance. I ask about her best creative moment. “My first exhibition!” She says without hesitation. “It was a great success… and a huge adrenalin rush!” She sold everything bar one silk painting which she shows me. It is delicate, feminine and floral. It heralds her beautiful stuff to come.
Inevitably, I ask about her worst creative moment. This is the only time during my visit that she is not smiling and laughing. She admits that she has never been asked this. She is silent for a minute. Her face clouds over. Eventually she says “It is when I lose that intimate connection with a clay I am working on; I can’t move forward.” There is the key word: “intimate.” Everything that she creates has a profound air of intimacy together with a distinct femininity. Whatever the medium, her work exudes sensuality and is suffused with love.
To visit Mireille’s studio is to be dazzled by striking passages of colour and seduced by beautiful bronze curves. I leave with two of her stunning new canvases in mind as I head out into the rain. But I won’t be cold. I have had a wonderful and warming afternoon. Thank you, Mireille.