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Bell Book Candle

Europe Sketches: Cover page

San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Lamp Detail

The Lonely Bride of Winter

I wish to be in Italy again
To marvel at the mighty sea
Taste the wine of Summer
Savour the fresh fish from the sea

Time shall change the pathways there for all
Taking refuge from the hand of Winter
Knocking on the door of Venice

So cast over the lonely bride of Winter
The reason you love must truly fail
Counting the stars on a night
Shines too brightly on the Grand Canal

Europe Sketches - 1

Chapter I: the ghosts of Venice 
Figure 1.1. Isola Tiberina Source: Europe Sketches 

n a chance conversation on my mobile phone, with Keith Hansen about how there was a new publication entitled, Brett Whiteley: Art and the Other Thing, by Ashleigh Wilson which was due to be released in 2016. Keith always feels overlooked, within the daunting shadow, of his second cousin Brett, who was extremely gifted, but cursed genius, afflicted with too many daemons and addictions. I decided on an impulse, to request the loan of one of Keith's art dairies, such as Europe Sketches, circa 1975. This artistic rendition of an ancient Roman bridge over the river Tiber, leading onto the 'Isola Tiberina;' an island shaped like a boat is just the foretaste of one sample of this said art diary: please refer to figure 1.1., above. My intention is to extract the life-force of an artist embedded within the retained memories of Keith's text and imagery on the individual pages of his art diary. I also wish to relish the unexpected fillip of the accessibility of his European portfolio of artwork consisting of other sketches and paintings such as the example of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Dusk - Venice: please refer to figure 1.2., below.
Figure 1.2. San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Dusk - Venice Source: Keith Hansen

The Catalina seaplane, creamy white, thus being the main focus of attention, in this painting, taking off from the orange reddish-hued water of the Grand Canal - Venice. The application of the dusk-like shades of reddish-orange to almost everything on the canvas, highlights the subtle blending of the twilight just before the sunset. One can almost imagine the rocking motion of the gondola on this watery space as the attention is drawn to the mermaid figurehead lurking in the corner of this painting. There is the creepy aspect of carving the life-force of the feminine siren into the ancient wood with the end-result of predatory features and wiles. This mascot of protection derived from a mythical creature supposedly offered up to the gods of the ocean as tribute for a safe journey for all-male crew of sea-farers. In the background the San Giorgio Maggiore Church stands as the majestic statement of an iconic landmark of the Roman Catholic religion. Although for Keith Hansen as the artist, he does seem to be somewhat obsessed, with this particular church built on an island as a source of inspiration? Various paintings and sketches of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church will be showcased throughout this creative project yet to be defined. This church has also been extensively painted by a diverse palette of artists such as the following; Claude Monet, Canaletto, Joseph Mallord William Turner and Raoul Dufy. Therefore, I have explained to Keith, that I intend to create the sense of the Gothic-like atmosphere of the floating city of Venice within the uncanny themes of mythology, history, architecture and art - so Sigmund Freud. There should be just the creepy hint of the macabre within the recreation of the haunted text on the page - the ghosts of Venice thus released for the imagined audience.
Figure 1.3. Europe Sketches front / back covers Source: Keith Hansen

There was an element of the cloak and dagger as I stepped down from the train onto the railway platform of Circular Quay in search of this overly cautious man who regards himself as a real artist in the twenty-first century. Today, he was in possession of a treasured personal artifact over forty-one-years-old such as the example of the Europe Sketches: please refer to figure 1.3., above.  This art diary is filled to the brim with the tantalizing promise of artwork hand-drawn which is sometimes splashed with pen ink, Conte crayons, charcoal, watercolour and gouache paints. There is also the intriguing text hinting at the poetic and the very personal reflections yet to be transcribed as this artist's handwriting is somewhat difficult to decipher.  The premise here is the still living artist will be able to behold, my unbiased interpretation of both the text and the imagery pertaining to Europe Sketches. His teacher's quotation was that: "the greatest compliment to any artist is the re-interpretation of the concepts of genius belonging to another." This was the advice of Brett Whiteley regarding his student Keith Hansen, 'the Sorcerer's Apprentice of Art." The ability to turn magic into art and poetic prose is indeed the craft of alchemy for the artist.  One has to be gifted, in the arts', to be able to call on, the magical elements of fire, air, earth and water from the inkwell of creation. Such as the example of the black ink drawing of Keith's angelic muse materializing out of the ink-bottle and old-fashioned ink pen with metal nib: please refer to figure 1.4., below.
Figure 1.4. Keith's muse of the ink-bottle Source: Europe Sketches
Figure 1.5. Two photographs of Keith Hansen Source: Keith Hansen

These rare sepia-toned photographs of Keith Hansen show the other side of his creative psyche as the musician in possession of his fiery passion for life like a true Spaniard of times past. Therefore, the creative process of writing the musical notes and poetic prose was for Keith a further extension of his artistic expression. It appears that in both photographs of Keith as a much younger man in the 1970s - there are variations of mood of either being pensive or happy.  In both photographs he is also posing with his vintage Maton Guitar which brought second-hand in the 1960s with the sunburst logo on the head-stock: please refer to figure 1.5., above. Keith's alter ego namely his guitar travelled all over Europe with him and this finely tuned instrument of Australian design was left behind in Berlin. This guitar was named Brumby - definitely a free spirit with a taste for the exotic.  There is however, an interesting twist to this story, as another musician now resides in Morocco with somewhat preloved guitar still fondly remembered by Keith.  The overly sensitive artist who still feels his emotions too deeply as he embraced the concepts of his European experience within the culinary delights, the wine and other things too naughty to mention here.
Figure 1.6. the nude and the dolphin Source: Keith Hansen 

I would like to draw attention to an amazing sensual visual of the female nude riding the dolphin executed within the minimalists' approach: please refer to figure 1.6., above. Just, the unfussed simplicity of a few lines of black ink on the whiteness of the paper, as this is the succinct outcome of how the female form can be so uncomplicated and yet still respected as artwork. An ancient Grecian Urn - Keith Hansen was inspired by the imagery of the young naked man Phalanthos riding the dolphin holding out in his outstretched hand a phiale (shallow saucer) - at the Sydney University Nicolson Museum - in creating this artistic interpretation. This type of painting on the Grecian Urn is attributed to the Athena-Bowdoin painters dated from 500 - 475 B.C., showcasing the artwork of the past. The reconstruction of this particular Grecian Urn from the fragments of pottery are somewhat flawed because of two uncanny facts relating to the back of this Grecian Urn. Firstly, the head is missing from the head of the older man and secondly some of the drapery of his flowing robes appears to be missing.  I have taken two photographs of this Grecian Urn displayed with the skull of a saw-toothed dolphin which should further enhance the narratives attached to the imagery on the front and back of this Grecian Urn: please refer to figure 1.6., below. What is the significance of the phiale (shallow saucer), as yet there is no answer forthcoming, yes I do know that this item is a drinking vessel. There are many tales relating to Greek mythology about the gods, dolphins' and mortal men with the main emphasis in this case on the Sun God Apollo. This Olympian deity was able to shape-shift into the nature of either the dolphin or the wolf. 
Figure 1.7. Grecian Urn: front and back view Source: Marjorie Savill Linthwaite

And, yet in another conversation on my mobile phone, about my research, with Keith Hansen, who is the still breathing research subject of my archival interest, in regard to my creative project? I asked his permission to re-invent one of his poetic songs with a light touch ever so respectfully, The Lonely Bride of Winter,
from one of the pages of his art diary into a poem. Keith very graciously granted permission in regard to my request. The following two pages Europe Sketches consist of The Lonely Bride of Winter and a sketch of Sienna - Italy inked in the colours of black and blue: please refer to figure 1.8., below. There is yet another example of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church - lamp detail crafted in the hues of salmon-pink watercolours and black ink. I decided to use the sketch as a watermark for the page of the poem and for the cover page. My interpretation of his poetic intent: please refer to figure 1.8., below.  I am endeavouring to; "offer us the possibility of sensing the other through the enduring fabric of their material."  Doing justice to the recall of the nostalgia of the 1970s and always respecting the experience too precious, too personal as an artifact of memory for Keith. He was quite obviously in a melancholy mood when penning this piece of disjointed lines of prose which may be inspired by love misplace but never forgotten.  Perhaps, Keith was still trying to recapture the naivety of his first love affair as a teenager - the object of his obsession a mature woman of twenty-plus. Sienna proved to be an interesting experience for Keith because of the mythology of the Capitoline Wolf.      
Figure 1.8. The Lonely Bride of Winter / Sienna - Italy Source: Europe Sketches

The she-wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus whose mother was the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia - quite weird when you consider the visual, which is stranger still considering the original artifact was purloined from the temple of Apollo. I made the decision not to include the sketch of the she-wolf suckling the twins from Keith Hansen's art diary as the example was not up his usual standard of artistic expertise.  However, Keith was extremely disappointed, so he decided to locate the replacement for the she-wolf: please refer to figure 1.9., below. Although, I was not expecting the daemonisation of this ancient artifact of the she-wolf represented with bat-like wings. Why were the male twins remophed into naked female winged nymphs? Two questions which deserve answering from the artist, methinks.  Apparently, this illustration outlined in black and splashed with various  shades ranging from blue to green watercolour from the portfolio of drawing for a children's book - quite bizarre as I think this is decidedly creepy considering the image.  There appears that the fragmented mythology relating to the winged-wolf in German, Russian and Hungarian folklore, unfortunately I have not been able to find any written material about this subject in the English language. There is however gargoyles in the shape of winged-wolf but here also the history is obscure with very little information available at this moment in time.  
Figure 1.9. Winged She-Wolf Source: Keith Hansen

Europe Sketches - 2

Chapter II: the Bridge of Sighs
Figure 2.1. the nude and the Bridge of Sighs Source: Europe Sketches: 1975


ord Byron was fundamental, in renaming this architectural marvel of white limestone, 'the Bridge of Sighs,' in his poem, 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage - Canto the fourth which appears to have too many stanzas and just the first one will be selected.

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying glory smiles
O'er the far times when many a subject land
Looked to the winged Lion's marble piles
Where Venice sat in state, throned on her hundred isles!

There is also mythology about how eternal love can be forthcoming for couples who kiss underneath the Bridge Of Sighs at midnight; the witching hour. Keith Hansen also attended art classes in Venice and the nude sketch skilfully rendered in salmon-pinkish crayon and charcoal is a cherished memento of a beautiful example of the female form.  The sketch of the Bridge of Sighs - is also constructed with just enough inked detail to perk one's interest, in regard to both pages, of the Europe Sketches: 1975: please refer to figure 2,1,, above. Keith inferred that walking over the Bridge of Sighs was indeed a creepy experience. The reason being the claustrophobic nature of the passageway and trying to see through the stone lattice windows is somewhat problematic because of the smallness of the design.  The Bridge of Sighs, has an interesting and macabre history concerning prisoners, witches and the most famous of all the inmates, namely Casanova, who was imprisoned in one of the cells within the Doges Palace, for his "public outrages against the holy religion." Sometimes, women were burned alive, because of being judged to be witches, supposedly signed a pact with the Devil - their master as the concept of "witchcraft becomes a common scapegoat for explaining the plague." If you are curious, in the rare books' section of the Fisher Library - there is a woodblock print on page fourteen of the Compendium Maleficarum (Book of Witches). The imagery showing the Devil bearing witness to the unholy actions of two witches of both genders defiling the cross deemed to be the sacred presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth in medieval times.  

Figure 2.2. San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Gargoyle - Venice Source: Keith Hansen

The image of this horned winged daemon in this woodblock print dating back to the 1600s bears an uncanny likeness to some stone gargoyles. The first painting about the San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Gargoyle in Venice depicting quite a spooky example of a somewhat pensive daemon (guardian angel), unable to fly because of wings too small, perhaps: please refer to figure 2.2., above.  The execution of the oils on the canvas have indeed produced an unearthly tone of this sinister intent within in the stone-like grey of this gargoyle-like creature designed as a medieval decorative expression of the pretection against the forces of evil. Too many storm clouds obscure the midnight blue of the dying night.  The second painting of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Griffin is quite quaint rendition of this stone griffin which was considered to be the guardian of anything too precious to lose: please refer to figure 2.3., below. The religious landmark of Venice in the background of the painting is dabbed with the creamy brushstrokes of an overcast day within the strange aspect of the unoccupied gondolas', decidedly creepy.  So Gothic, also in the way the black painted gondolas' cast a sinister vibe of  the uncanny theme of the macabre.

Figure 2.3. San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Griffin Source: Keith Hansen

Occasionally, you will see a collection of arranged man-made spheres of stones that my late mother always referred to as devils' eggs. Regrettably, there was never any clarification about this taboo subject of the occult. There is a concrete example of devils' eggs on the campus at the Sydney University - quite unnerving and yes there are also limestone gargoyles aplenty on the Gothic-like building which was the original Fisher library which has been renamed the MacLaurin Hall. In the rare books' section of the Fisher library, there are several photographs of gargoyles from Australia's first: a pictorial history of the University of Sydney 1850 - 1990. Strangely, enough one photograph has a gargoyle and griffin on page eighteen in the collective of carved items of the stonemasons' craft inspired by mythology supposedly, circa 1907. The only concrete fact of these yet to be defined objects is the man-made spheres are always made of stone and usually placed at the entrance of the building. In the past the spheres were larger and considering the conversation I engaged with a fellow academic that the meaning from the twentieth century may either be considered to be a talisman of protection or a statement of power. I have drawn the conclusion that can always be revised in regard to the  devil's eggs appears to be obscure and hidden and thus I am denied the true meaning of the symbolism of the stone spheres. I am in possession of just one tantalizing clue, concerning that the modern human race (plague species) are just a relatively new construct of evolution. The truth has yet to be revealed about the significance of the gargoyles and the devils' eggs and that will always be open to interpretation - although the outcome may unnerve some who are under the delusion that they are a superior species.