Dragonfly - DNA

Cover Page


Europe Sketches: 1

Chapter I: Introduction
Figure 1.1. The Bride of Autumn - Revised Source: Europe Sketches

How to best explain, to the imagined audience, why this creative project came about is the question I may never be able to answer fully. There is the theory be it non-academic that the true creative is truly inspired by the muse. Strangely, in my case, I acquired my fountainhead of creativity, purely by accident, at an event at the University of Technology Sydney several years ago, in this the twenty-first century. The first example of the visual of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Lamp Detail in the Grand Canal of Venice, crafted within the hues of salmon-pink watercolours and black ink from one of the pages of Europe Sketches. This is the sketch, I intend to use either for the cover page, as well as in combination with the first dropcap for the opening paragraph of the Introduction Chapter and the watermark for the poem The Bride of Autumn: please refer to Figure 1.1., above. Quite perfect, be it ever so creepy, one can always hope for the macabre outcome be ever so ghoulish in regard to the retelling of this Gothic tale of an artist's life. To begin with, I never expected to acquire six chapters of text and imagery. Even though in my wildest expectations, as the postgraduate, of this research masters in creative writing which are always fraught with my misgivings about what to write about. The subject ENGL6913: Critical Contexts to Creative Writing was paramount to the creation of my assessment Europe Sketches: The Ghosts of Venice at the University of Sydney in 2016. I was given complete freedom of expression by my lecturer Dr. Fiona McFarlane with my choice of research of how to deconstruct the subject namely Keith Hansen and his artist's diary. There was also the inclusion of his European portfolio of artwork inspired by his Venetian experience in 1975. Although, his poetic prose has  also been re-interpreted by yours truly into this Gothic-like poem to mirror the ghostly vibes of Venice. In my email to Keith the contents are thus: You have been taught by the master Brett Whiteley and therefore you must embrace the legacy of knowing that you can extend his infinity by improving on his craft of genius. So, let us start with just one of your artist's diaries, which I will return when I have extracted the text and the sketches paramount to the creation of the uncanny themes - so Sigmund Freud. The German philosopher F.W.J. Schelling's definition of how the "Uncanny is what one calls everything that was meant to remain secret and hidden, and has come into open"(Ebenstein, J. 2006. page 202).


Ebenstein, J. 2006. the Anatomical Venus. 1st Edition. the United Kingdom. Thames & Hudson Ltd.

Europe Sketches - 2

Chapter II: the ghosts of Venice 
Figure 2.1. Isola Tiberina Source: Europe Sketches 

In 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 artist's diary: please refer to Figure 2.1., 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 2.2., below.
Figure 2.2. San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Dusk 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 within the watery locality of Venice. 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, J. M. W. 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 to either to enlighten or to be frightened beyond their wits.
Figure 2.3. 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 Europe Sketches: please refer to Figure 2.3., above. This artist's diary is filled to the brim with the tantalizing promise of artwork hand-drawn which is sometimes splashed with pen inks, Conte crayons, charcoal, watercolours 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, in 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 materialising out of the ink-bottle and old-fashioned ink pen with metal nib: please refer to Figure 2.4., below.
Figure 2.4. Keith's muse of the ink-bottle Source: Europe Sketches
Figure 2.5. 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 2.5., 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 2.6. the nude and the dolphin Source: Keith Hansen 
Figure 2.7. Grecian Urn: front / back view Source: Marjorie Savill Linthwaite

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.  I have taken two photographs of this Grecian Urn displayed with the skull of the saw-toothed dolphin which should further enhance the narrative of the front and the back of this pottery vessel. 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 the head of the older man is missing and some of the drapery of the robes are missing from the back view. I would like to draw attention to an amazing visual of the female nude riding the dolphin executed within the minimalists' approach: please refer to Figure 2.6., above.  Keith 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 Nicholson Museum - in recreating his artistic interpretation: please refer to Figure 2.7., above.
  Figure 2.8. The Lonely Bride of Winter / Sienna_Italy Source: Europe Sketches

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 transforming, The Lonely Bride of Winter, (Autumnfrom one of the pages of his artist's diary into a poem. Keith very graciously granted permission in regard to my request. The following two pages of Europe Sketches consist of The Lonely Bride of Winter and the sketch of Sienna - Italy inked in the colours of black and blue: please refer to Figure 2.8., above. I am trying to endeavour so as to "render the intangible tangible; 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 I am 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 poetic prose which may be inspired by love misplaced 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. However, for Keith Sienna proved to be an interesting experience because of the mythology of the Capitoline Wolf.
 Figure 2.9. Winged - She - Wolf Source: Keith Hansen

The somewhat intriguing concept of the  she-wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus - whose mother was one of the Vestal Virgins' namely Rhea Silvia. Quite surreal when you consider the visual, which is weirder still when 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 artist's diary as the example was not up to his usual standard of artistic expertise.  However, Keith was extremely disappointed, so he decided to locate the replacement for the she-wolf ans male twins: please refer to Figure 2.9., below. Although, I was not expecting the daemonization of this ancient artifact of the she-wolf represented with bat-like wings. Why were the male twins' re-imagined into naked female winged nymphs? Two questions which deserve answering from Keith the artist, methinks. Apparently, this illustration outlined in black and splashed with various  shades ranging from blue to green watercolour from his portfolio of drawings from 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 concept of the winged-wolf in German, Russian and Hungarian folklore is somewhat sparse, regrettably. I have not been able to find any written research material about this subject of mythology 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. 

Ashleigh Wilson. 2016. Bret Whiteley: Art and the Other Thing. [Online] Available at: <https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/brett-whiteley.> [Accessed 7th November 2016].

Dudley, S, H. 2010. Editor Museum Materialities: Objects, Engagements, Interpretations. 1st Edition. London and New York: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.
Nicholson Museum. 2009. Collection search - Museums - The University of Sydney, Detailed Object Record: Attic red figure neck amphora [Online] Available at: <https://sydney.edu.au.museums/collections_search/?record=ecatalogue.38804>[Accessed 26th October 2016].

Europe Sketches - 3

Chapter III: the Bridge of Sighs
Figure 3.1. Canto the fourth Source: Lord George Gordon Byron

ord Byron was fundamental, in renaming this architectural marvel of white limestone, 'the Bride of Sighs,' in his poem: Childe Harold's Pilgrimage - Canto the fourth has too many stanzas and just the first one selected: please refer to 3.1., above. There is also the mythology about how eternal love can be forthcoming for couples who wish to kiss each other under 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 his cherished memento of the female form.  The sketch of the Bridge of Sighs - is also constructed with just enough inked detail and smudged with crayon of a similar hue of pink so as to perk one's interest in regarding both pages of Europe Sketches: please refer to Figure 3.2., below. Keith inferred that walking over the bridge was indeed a very creepy experience.  The reason being the claustrophobic nature of the passageway and after he tried 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 inmates, namely Casanova, who was imprisoned in one of the cells, within the Doges Palace, for his "public outrages against the holy religion"(Walks of Italy, 2016).  Sometimes, women were burned alive, because of being judged to be witches' so-called, who had supposedly signed the pact with the devil - their master, as "witchcraft becomes a common scapegoat for explaining the plague." If you are curious, in the rare books' section of the Fisher Library - there is the 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 representation of the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth in medieval times.      
Figure 3.2. the nude and the Bridge of Sighs Source: Europe Sketches

It seems to me as the researcher to be a weird happenstance that this image of this horned winged daemon signified as the devil in the woodblock print dating back to the 1600s within the pages of the Compendium Maleficarum, bears an uncanny likeness to some stone gargoyles.  The second painting about the San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Gargoyle in Venice is quite a spooky example of a somewhat pensive daemon (guardian angel), appears unable to fly because of wings too small, perhaps: please refer to Figure 2.3., below. The execution of the oils on the canvas have indeed produced an unearthly tone of this sinister intent within the stone-like grey of this gargoyle-like creature designed as the medieval decorative expression of the protection against the perceived forces of evil. Too many storm clouds obscure the midnight-blue blue of the dying night. The third painting of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Griffin in Venice yet again is the quaint rendition of this stone griffin which was considered to be the guardian of anything too precious to lose: Please refer to Figure 2.4., 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 gondolas' cast a sinister vibe of the uncanny theme of the macabre.  
 Figure 3.3. San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Gargoyle Source: Keith Hansen
Figure 3.4. San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Griffin Source: Keith Hansen

Occasionally, you see a collection of arranged man-made spheres of stones that my late mother always referred to as devils' eggs which appear to be deemed to be global peculiarities inspired by civilizations no longer in existence.  Regrettably, there was never any  further 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: please refer to Figure 3.5., below. There are also limestone gargoyles aplenty on the Gothic-like building which was the original Fisher Library which has been renamed the MacLaurin Hall. The only concrete fact of these yet to be defined objects is that the man-made spheres are always made of stone and usually placed at the entrance of the building. In the archaic past-tense the stone spheres were larger and considering the conversation in which I engaged in with a fellow academic. The meaning from the twentieth century may either be a talisman of protection or a statement of empowerment. I have drawn the conclusion that can always be revised in regard to the symbolism. I am in possession of just one tantalising clue, concerning the modern human race (plague species) are just the relatively new construct of evolution.  The truth  if there is such a thing has yet to be revealed about the significance of the gargoyles and the devils' eggs and that will always be open to conjecture. Although - the outcome may unnerve some who are under the delusion that they are the superior (Homo sapiens),so-called. Therefore, one is dealing with the other who biding their time to replace the current occupiers' of the space called Mother Earth, considered to be an eternity whose patience is being sorely tried.

Gibbons, J. 1998. Recent Developments in the Study of the Great European Witch Hunt. The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, [Online]. Issue Number 5, 2 -16. Available at: 
<https://journals-equinoxpub-com.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/index. php/POM/article/view/14443.> [Accessed 10th October 2016].

Walks of Italy. 2016. Who was Casanova? [Online] Available at: <https://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/background/casanova-the-lover-venice-italy> [Accessed 10th October 2016].

Washington and Lee University. 2014. Anabapist and the Plague: A Dangerous Storm. [Online] Available at:<https://witchhunts.academic.wlu.edu/anabapists-and-the-plague-a-dangerous-storm/> [Accessed 10th October 2016].

Europe Sketches - 4

Chapter IV: the Bubonic Plague 

Figure 4.1. Poveglia - the Haunted Island of Venice Source: Keith Hansen 

oveglia is often referred to as the spooky isle of the damned because of the macabre history of the bubonic plague-related deaths' and the inhuman treatment of the mental patients. This sepia-toned sketch of Poveglia from Keith Hansen's European portfolio of artwork has been modified: please refer to figure 4.1., above. There are certain hues of bluish colour tinted with yellow to instil the sense of the creepiness associated with this graveyard of convenience. This island has the reputation of being the most haunted space in the world because of being the quarantine station and the related sinister aspect of the plague pits containing hundreds of thousands of unnamed human skeletal remains. There are also the ghosts of the inner daemons of the minds of this former mental asylum which still linger within the memory of these crumbling walls of the buildings which is often referred to as 'the stone tape theory'. This institution of malpractice was eventually discontinued after either the suicide or murder of this doctor as yet unnamed. The cause of his demise is open to conjecture either  his broken body was dissolved by the white mist with acid-like tendencies or this doctor was walled up alive in the bell tower. This murderous intent by patients unknown, was deemed necessary, to force this doctor to atone for his unnatural appetite for human flesh and his experimental lobotomy surgeries', who had no redress. The topsoil of the island is believed to be at least fifty percent of the ashes of the bubonic plague victims who were burned alive in the cremation pits to help stem the spread of this highly infectious disease. There also the plague pits where everybody including children and babies who showed symptoms associated with the Black Death were just thrown into the pits of decomposing corpses to die alongside with the damned and the indignant. Within the present day of the twenty-first century - most fishermen are somewhat loath to cast their nets or fishing lines anywhere near this cursed space because of the cremated ashes and human bones intermingling together within the waters of the canal.
Figure 4.2. San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Blue Haze Source: Keith Hansen

In the twentieth century, in 1975, Keith Hansen has visited his haunted space of Poveglia in the daylight hours and even he felt the unease and creepy nature of the vibe of the lost souls and utter neglect of the buildings. The lush greenery has reclaimed most of the island with just the rusted remnants of civilization so-called such as an enamel bath exposed to the open air seemingly odd yet quite normal. The surreal visual of the corroded metal fixtures in the crumbling shells of the abandoned buildings were intriguing from a artist's perspective such as the ghostly bluish apparition of Keith's favourite subject of inspiration: refer to figure 4.2., above.  The smell of the dried blood and charred bones will always haunt Keith in unguarded moments of reflection as well as the memory of the unnerving sensation of walking on cremated human remains.  Today, in the twenty-first century, this haunted space is deemed to be extremely toxic to the human psyche and is off-limits to tourists and locals too curious about the paranormal of the ghoulish nature of the history of this island of death. But knowing human nature there will always be the foolhardy that are willing to take risks because of the expected thrill of the forbidden. From my personal perspective this haunted island of lost souls should be respected as the cemetery of the damned and therefore this city of the undead should never be disturbed by the living.
Figure 4.3. San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Rain Source: Keith Hansen

Another example of the painting of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Rain - Venice is somewhat morbid damp day with just the outline of the blueish reflections with the street lamp illuminated within the gloom. The blurred figures with umbrella appear furtive as if hiding from the gaze of the imagined audience. This history of the plague doctors of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is indeed intriguing judging from this story told to me as a young child by a relative namely the late Mister John McVitty. He was widely known for his expertise as 'the repair doctor,' in the medical profession in the twentieth century in Melbourne Australia. The problem here was that the bubonic plague was out of control when the decision was made to hire these medieval equivalent of medical practitioners' who on the whole were considered to be the scapegoats for the blame game for the deaths of the citizens of Venice and Rome. Most of these men were apothecaries - the forerunner of the chemist. They knew how to protect the own health against infection with an ancient recipe of distilled herbs which eventually acquired the name of 'four thieves' vinegar.' This medical remedy of alchemy dating back to the times of ancient Egypt and Thoth. The beak of the mask was padded with a sponge soaked in this antiseptic vinegar of distilled herbs which was used as a throat gargle and body wash.  This anti-plague remedy's main ingredients were garlic and lavender with variations on the theme depending on the availability of the other herbs also needed for this concoction. The shape of the bird-of-prey mask represents the combined symbolism of the Ibis and the raven.
  Figure 4.4. San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Overcast - Venice Source: Keith Hansen

Yet, another example of the painting of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Overcast with the muted shades of blue and the clouds swirling around the sky. Firstly the Ibis is also representative of Thoth who was considered to be the patron god of medicine. Secondly, the raven is considered to be the messenger of the ancient Egyptian gods and the black feathers of this bird-of-prey were considered to be the omen of death. Therefore the plague doctors' outfit became the unwilling symbols of 'the harbingers of death.' The waxed garment consisting of a coat, the wide brimmed hat, the tight fitting gloves, and the shoes had to be black in colour to discourage the ghosts of the bubonic plague dead from the haunting the doctors' at least. The wearing of the non-black renders one invisible to the newly departed as this is a long-held belief going back centuries, in European and English-based culture and that is why the mourners' at the funeral service always wore black. There is also an Oriental mythology that there was the plague daemon who originated in China which is mentioned at great length in quite a creepy novel, The Plague Lord, penned by the lecturer and historian Paul Doherty. This reference reminds me of a quotation regarding my late mother's wisdom, "Mythology is based on a kernel of truth misplaced." This is in reference to the Oriental rat flea who is deemed the carrier of the rod-shaped bacterium - Yersinia pestis - which was responsible for all the plagues past in Venice, Rome and elsewhere. Although, for the journalist Edward Marriott in regard to his quotation: "Plague. The very word carries an unholy resonance. No other disease can claim its apocalyptic power: it can lie dormant for centuries, only to resurface with nation-killing force." 
Figure 4.5. Santa Maria della Salute Church Source: Keith Hansen

In an attempt to appease for the sins of too many - several plague churches were built in honour of the Virgin Mary such as the example of the Santa Maria Della Salute Church: please refer to Figure 4.5., above. The whole structure of this particular church seems bathed  in pastel blue shades of night with sailing boats of wood outlined with sharp dabs of amber. The dome-like roof is representative of the crown of stars and the interior of the church is the womb of creation. A pledge was made  to this sainted mother that if the population of Venice were spared from any further outbreaks of 'the Bubonic Plague,' (the Black Death) - the church would be erected as the place of sacred worship of the mother of Jesus Christ - the son of God. Every year on the anniversary of the completion of this religious tribute - there is the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, to give thanks for the holy deliverance from the pestilence that claimed too many lives. This is an interesting take on how faith can be the most powerful of all medicine if you have the courage to believe in the Almighty God.