Weiwei Out


Just squeezing in a last Aussie post:

Can Art change the world? Can it be an effective form of protest? After seeing the Warhol and Ai Weiwei exhibition in the National Gallery of Victoria I would have to say yes! That’s not to say I liked everything I saw, but can understand why China may consider Weiwei their most dangerous man – putting him in jail, shutting down his blog and still making him get official permission to travel. Yet his Art installations and sculptures are on show globally and he continues to be in the news for various protests on human rights and freedom of speech and more recently refugees.

SacredLiving in a world exposed to a thousand images  each day, it is easy to become desensitized, and the exhibition helped me to slow down and think about his message. Ai’s work is provocative, confronting, stimulating and ‘way out’, yet a refreshing approach to current issues.

It is an absolute mammoth exhibition and with both artists work, it really needs more than one visit. His video on the making of ‘Straight’ would have to be what impacted most. I was mesmerised by the massive preparation of 200 tons of steel rods taken from the schools crushed in the devastating earthquake of 2008 that left 87,000 dead or missing and nearly 5million people homeless. Ai’s workers pounding endlessly on those rods, a symbol of the endless frustration and anger at such poor constructions that collapsed on the heads of innocent children in class. The completed installation ripples across the pavement with an eerie silence.

Leg gun

Ai’s utilization of social media creates images that go viral worldwide – ‘Leg gun’ conceived on the Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, was a protest in defiance of internet censorship and  taken up globally.Leg gun




Antique urns shockingly breathe new life with modern logos of mass consumption or are carelessly doused with paint.Neolithic pot

Weiwei and warhol




StoolsPillar through Round Table





Profile Duchamp

Ancient furniture is reconstructed into ‘new and often confounding arrangements.’








‘Like Marcel Duchamp, he sees art as a playing field with no rules.’ 


Tiananmen square


Brash and irreverent are the photos of his wife in Tiananmen square and his giving the finger to various establishment buildings all over the world.Individual and State




Always controversial, with both his message and materials to portray it.Lego political statements




Lego changed their policy after initially refusing to supply the bulk order of Lego pieces for Ai’s political project. ‘Lego’s decision to stop asking bulk customers what they want to do with the bricks is a “victory for freedom of speech“, said Ai Weiwei

Caonima balloons


Kids dance amongst Caonima balloons, again a cheeky play on words  between a common Chinese profanity/ alpaca/ twitter symbol?!

So much of what Ai does is mega, employing hundreds of expert artisans to produce the most exquisite porcelain flowers, or reproduce the common Forever bicycles.

Porcelain flowers



Porcelain flowers



FlowersFlowers in a bicycle basket recall Ai’s 600 days waiting for his passport to be returned, as each day he placed a bouquet in a bicycle in front of his studio.


Recently he decided to suspend his exhibitions in Denmark in protest at the Danish Parliament authorizing the seizure of assets of asylum seekers and migrants and retarding the immigrants family reunification. It is not the only issue that the artist has had with Denmark.Forever Bicycles

The Melbourne exhibition is impressive and thought provoking, weird and wonderful, and Ai Weiwei will certainly continue to have a major impact, challenging China and the rest of the globe to look at the current issues of our changing world.


I hope I have not spoiled it for any of you still to see the show. I promise there is far more than I have touched on here, so prepare yourselves for a long day!

Ai Weiwei exhibition

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

And if you are in Florence, Ai Weiwei will be at Palazzo Strozzi from the 23 Sept 2016 – 22 Jan 2017



Winter withdrawal and renewal in the Cinque Terre

View on CornigliaEven winter in the Cinque Terre is fabulous! How many times have I written that in previous blogs. Yet it is worth repeating and a wonderful way of settling back into life in Italy. All it needed was mild weather and some sunshine to have me out walking those same old trails that I have hiked so many times before.


I never tire of the views, knowing Towards Monterossoevery nook and cranny so well; my favourite photo spots (not only mine!), my much loved rest points to breathe it all in and let a smile out.

The wild boar had been busy snuffling up their precious roots, berries, mushrooms and whatever else they could find under the olives and vines.

wildboar devastation

So the Park rangers were out, rifles on the ready, walkie talkies in hand trying desperately to find the boar….that got away! Most visitors are not aware of how much damage the boar do to the vineyards and the Park territory, rooting around at the base of the dry stone walls, often destabilising the wall.

The hunt is controlled but as the Ranger said ” they are sly and hardy beasts”  that slideVernazza- Corniglia down effortlessly from one terrace to another and easily outsmart the hunters.  While I heard no shots, the Rangers were on the run along the trail and through the undergrowth much to the surprise of the odd tourist. They ducked as the armed rangers rushed past and were quite shocked and keen to be reassured that it was safe to continue!

In Corniglia, there was hardly a soul and while the gelati billboard was out the shop was closed, probably in waiting for the weekend trade. The village returns to being a local village, washing being hung out, and grandmas sitting in the sun chatting as they crochet.

Dry stone wallsIt’s always heartening to see the work being done on restoring properties and dry stone walls so critical to the maintenance of the terraces.restoration work







Park signs have been renewed and hopefully hikers will heed the advice. View of VernazzaCinque terre park sign


Vernazza has the same tranquil atmosphere, with many of the touristy shops still closed and the main street deserted.Vernazza main street

Quite a contrast to the Summer crowds!Crowds Cinque Terre





Children have reclaimed the main square as their playground, under the watchful eye of grandparents, and the medieval features of the  buildings are more noticeable.

Vernazza palazzo










The sea laps idly over the rocks, as a fisherman tries his luck. Vernazza fishermanAnd there is an air of peace; time to catch our breath and rest up in readiness for the season to come.Cactus flower




Cinque Terre- Vernazza




If you are thinking of coming over and would like a ‘detour’  don’t hesitate to get in touch, I would be more than happy to show you round!





An Aussie in Oz

Melbourne Portsea beachAs an Aussie back in Australia, I was delighted and surprised by so many things that are still so peculiarly Aussie. Even kangaroos grazing just outside Tullamarine airport on arrival!

It was hard not to make comparisons at what some locals take for granted.

First day on the tram to the city, I Public transport staffwas confronted by a large roadworks sign and three (not one!) transport staff eager to explain the problem and the proposed bus alternative which for the inconvenience would be free of charge for the entire week to 10 days. Free!!?

“Good morning, how are we all? Good? And who’s wearing that lovely coconut perfume? Is it you dear? I’d keep using it, ’cause it smells just lovely. My name’s  George and I apologize for the roadworks and will get you into the city as soon as I can…….” That was the banter the bus driver greeted us with….can you believe it?

In Melbourne there are groups of volunteer tourist information staff in booths or literally on the street corners, with engaging smiles and ever so keen to be helpful.Tourist Information staff Even more delighted to pose for a  photo for an ‘International blog!’

While it’s hard to identify tourists as no one is traipsing around behind a guide’s flag, some tell-tale signs did appear with the queue outside the Hopetoun Tea rooms….that must be in a Lonely Planet guide book.

Kangaroo road signRoaming the countryside I relished the road signs and even saw a kangaroo near one but not in time to catch him on film.  Did manage to catch what looked like multi coloured kangaroos crouched grazing, only to find they were ‘pick your own strawberry people’ munching into scrumptious strawbs. Strawberry pickers




I overdid photos of local flora and fauna – galahs, cockatoos, kangaroos, kookaburras laughing, Flowering gumand oodles of gorgeous flowering gums.



Will WolseleyWineries with fantastic views, layback music from Disco Rockers, great wine and even pizza made by an Italian! Wineries with the quirkiest names – Jack Rabbit, Ten minutes by Tractor or named after the owner, Will Wolseley Winery, or simply Italian at T’Gallant so I didn’t get homesick!

T'Gallant winery

T’Gallant winery



T'Gallant winery






Wolseley winery

Empty beer cans being put to good use on the vine posts so the anti-bird netting doesn’t tear. A rather nifty idea. Fortunately Italy has no need for the nets or the beer cans and dare I add screw tops!


Australia’s equivalent of the Nike slogan ‘ you can do it! ‘ encompassed in Blundstone boots tagged ‘Let nothing hold you back’  still a great Aussie icon produced in Tasmania!  Blundstone boots

Endless beaches, magic white sand, surf  tossing kids about and tugging at my bikini as even I braved the cold water to take an exhilarating tumble. Beach umbrellas serve as cover to the hoards that spilled out of the Portsea pub on Saturday afternoon, not as a line over sun lounges on a typical Italian beach scene.Portsea pub






Aireys Inlet

Aireys Inlet







Night markets boasted food stalls from the world over and International buskers crooning and swooning onlookers.Sth Melb night market

Even one of my favourite buskers Matsumoto Zoku were entertaining Melbourne yet Matsumoto Zokuagain in Bourke St.





Aussie laments of too much traffic ( 3 cars in a queue is too much??) and no place to park (there’s space for at least two Fiat 500’s and a Vespa in there!) fell on my deaf ears. Still a worry the road rage, and somewhat pig headed determination to not budge an inch, makes me feel Melbourne drivers could learn a lot from Italian drivers …..except for George!

Hiking in the wilds around the Great Ocean Road I felt very pampered by the superb designer wooden benches and eloquent wildlife information plaques, orderly paths and well equipped look out points. The so Aussie sounds of the bird life woke me in the mornings and the crashing of waves rocked me to sleep.Sorrento Surf Life savers clubAireys Inlet surfer






I enjoyed many of the Tennis cup matches, if only on Tv; loved to see the surfers out or at least studying the waves, and abseilers scooting across the bay or hovering above the water (was I seeing things?) on the new Flyboards.

Cricket coolerBowled over to see a great Aussie combo of cricket stumps and cooler in Bunnings. Only Aussies couldVegemite think that up!  And comforted to see Vegemite is still Australian made and bought a big jar  to take home.


Luna ParkAussies, lap up your good life, you have it made!

What did this Aussie miss from Italy ?…..slow dining, a  good extra virgin olive oil and a bidet!!?

Melbourne city

Melbourne sunset