Covering Ground

'I found a line and I followed it a little'- Sam Holt

I found a line and I followed it a little  
Sam Holt

Spring has well and truly sprung here in Sydney.  Things are starting to thaw out slowly in my head and limbs after a long winter!  It started with a slow trickle- I realised I didn’t have to don a heavy coat in the mornings anymore to walk Chilli and the sun has started to burst in the windows with more gusto.  This trickle will soon louden to a rush that I’m sure will carry me in a current quicker then I would have liked to Summer, Christmas and the conclusion of another year.  Last week was a special one not only because it was the first week of Spring.  I got to catch up with some dear friends and family, see some sights in and out of Sydney and spend quality time with Grace who is going over to China with her grandfather at the end of this week.


Lonsdale Street Traders


Lonsdale Street Art Posters

My mate Sam and I made a pilgrimage down to our Nation’s capital to catch the J.M.W Turner exhibition before it closes up this week on Sunday 15th.  We did it all in one day, which was a bit of an undertaking especially considering I can’t drive a stick so certainly couldn’t help out driving Sam’s trusty hilux ute.  Several Maccas hashbrown stops & photo taking stops and we made it.  It was well worth it- Turner’s paintings are luminous, broiling, heaving things painted in pursuit of the sublime, which in aesthetic theory is understood as some elusive element of greatness in art, music and literature.  Turner’s works have the power to draw you in- squinting to make out the finer details of figures and movements- and then expel you back out again, like the ocean, to reconsider his whole composition, how the multitude of oil paint strokes make the ships in the harbour shimmer, or the Venetian turrets gleam.


The Harbour of Brest


Disaster at Sea




View from St Peter’s Basilica

Sam is a painter himself.  He works with large oil canvases in an abstract expressionist style and recently has started branching into some more landscape style painting.  He was looking at Turner’s skies and clouds, his brush strokes and use of blissful pastel colour combinations.  I was looking at his people, the way three or four crude marks could suddenly form the face of an adoring mother or squalling infant.  The ease with which the emotion is rendered.  Sam is planning a solo art show for later in the year, I’ll keep you posted on that.  His paintings in this post are from an earlier exhibition at Janet Clayton Gallery in Waterloo. You can follow him on insty (@samholtart) or read a bio on him here.

'Immersed in the unfamiliar'- Sam Holt

Immersed in the unfamiliar Sam Holt

'Release' - Sam Holt

Release Sam Holt


From Sam’s sketchbook

The next day Grace and I ventured over to the north side of Sydney to visit our friend Davina who is home from NZ for a short break from skiing.  Davina is a very busy girl training for something really exciting and you can follow her journey here.  We had lunch at the Boathouse, Palm Beach and I was expecting it to be super posh and la-dee-dah.  But it was the most perfect, chillaxed spot to have a mid week lunch.  We want to go back soon and do the walk up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse which you can see from the Boathouse back deck- more info about that here if you are interested.

Lunch at the Boathouse with Davina

Lunch at the Boathouse with Davina

On our drive back Dav took us on the scenic route around all the beautiful Northen Beaches viewpoints- at one point you can see all the way up to the central coast!  After we dropped Dav off I jumped into the sea pool at Dee Why.  Grace said I was crazy but the water was actually warm (ish) and the car heater afterwards was even warmer 😀

Dee Why at Dusk

Dee Why at Dusk

In amongst all of this I also squeezed in (in no particular order):

  1. Late afternoon sun and a strolls in beautiful Centennial Park.
  2. Working at the Apple Spiral Stall for Real Food Projects at Dress Up Attack kids fest in Marrickville.
  3. Delicious dinner at Hartsyard, Enmore Road.
  4. A bit of spring cleaning, clothes chucking & spring cleansing.
  5. Getting really behind in all of my uni work.
  6. Reading
  7. Watching Julia Child make croissants and hollandaise and cracking up laughing doing impressions of her (bless!)
  8. Making said hollandaise and consuming on top of Eggs Benedict for a lazy sunday brunch- scrumptious.

You can see why I called this post covering ground 🙂 This week is shaping up very differently with a multitude of deadlines and tasks and plenty of prep to be done for Gracie before she jets off to China.

Til next time kiddos!

Em x

Po Boys at Hartsyard, Enmore Road- delicious

Po Boys at Hartsyard, Enmore Road- delicious

Organic Blood Orange Cordial from Real Food Projects

Organic Blood Orange Cordial from Real Food Projects

Free Range Eggs

Free Range Eggs

Iced VoVo Pie @ Hartsyard- ridiculous !

Iced VoVo Pie @ Hartsyard- ridiculous !


Nothing says spring like strawberries

Afternoon in Centennial Park

Afternoon in Centennial Park

Centennial Park with Federation Pavilion in  the background

Centennial Park with Federation Pavilion in the background

Pathways in Centennial

Pathways in Centennial

Light in Centennial Park

Light in Centennial Park

Fresh Lemonade at the Dress Up Attack Festival

Fresh Lemonade at the Dress Up Attack Festival

Apple Spirals- whodathunkit

Apple Spirals- whodathunkit

Kids Parade at Dress Up Attack

Kids Parade at Dress Up Attack- too much cuteness



Cartel Culture Club 02- Laura Ives Solo Show


A couple of weeks ago we ventured by ferry across to Manly for Laura’s first solo art show.  I mentioned Laura in the last post, she is my mate that lives in the Fonzie Flat and takes the task of being artistically awesome fairly seriously, all the time, sometimes to the point where I have to forcibly remove paint brushes from her hand and carefully broach the topic of sleep, or better still coffee.

The result of this little adventure?  Instant Manly crush. It’s no secret that Manly is on the up and up, Broadsheet is onto it and have given a good lowdown on what’s what and who’s who in this trendy little seaside corner of Sydney (good if you are from the ‘other side’ like me).  Personally I love Manly for its Muscle Beach style long public promenade where fit types get to strut their stuff.  And for its pine trees.  And for the feeling of instant relaxation that hits you as soon as you step off the ferry.  The beer-ologist in me is yearning to go back and check out the 4 Pines Brewery, in every way that a brewery can be checked out.

hjh Belgrave

But the show! Laura’s show is part of a series events called Cartel Culture Club hosted at cafe/bar Belgrave Cartel and organised by Cha-Ching Art.  Bryan Dalli (grinning below) is one of the faces behind Cha-Ching Art and was the key facilitator in making it all happen.


Cha-Ching Art are an arts collective who also make heaps of other art events and exhibitions happen, keep an eye on their facebook page for news.  What I like about Cha-Ching is they are not permanently placed at any one gallery, so each event or exhibition has a unique and exciting feel- which keeps both artists and audiences on their toes!

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In terms of the work itself, ‘Cartel’ was definitely appropriate because Laura’s subject matter all of a sudden got attitude! In the past she has painted more whimsically and mythologically but in this show gangsters rule the roost.  There were still some Adonis types haunting the back room in with their sculptural poses but I think everyone really loved the swagger that shows in this new direction.

If Laura’s paintings were the star of the show, the Cartel as a venue wins best supporting artist.  I was told the owner’s family is Sicilian, so they wanted the place to feel like a WWII Italian bunker.  With its textured walls, marble tables and lead-pressed ceilings  it does feel Roman and with the string lights & al fresco drinking corridor it even reminded me of some of the bars I visited whilst in Barcelona last year.  But the food is definitely Italian- meatballs in sauce, crunchy polenta chips, calamari, bruschetta (plus really good strong coffee) – perfect drinking and sharing food brought out speedily with a smile.





The good news is the show is on until August 14, the bad (but good for Laura!) news is that a lot of the work has already sold out.  Check out this little reel Bryan made of the night:

And for more Ives related visual feasting go to:

All photos in this post are by Sarah Christensen, Culture Club partner in crime and courtesy of Cha-Ching Art.

Till next time !


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A Cultural Centre for the Blue Mountains


I grew up in the Blue Mountains, a well known National Park and World Heritage Area approximately two hours west of Sydney. My Mum and Dad still live there and I often visit, so be prepared for quite a few posts about mountain folk, mountain issues and mountain trail fables as my Dad and I make attempts at traversing the wilds together in an effort to work our way through his bible Blue Mountains Best Bushwalks by Veechi Stuart.


But last week it was Mum and I who ventured out together on a journey of the more cultural persuasion. Last year Katoomba enjoyed the Sydney arts and culture spotlight for a brief stint after the official opening of the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre. The centre has been on the drawing board for over 10 years and as the Blue Mountains has a long history of being a creative hub and arts refuge many stakeholders and locals considered the addition long overdue.

Interestingly the project was jointly funded by the Blue Mountains City Council, the NSW Government and the Coles Group which explains why the gallery sits on top of the smallish shopping centre and parking lot to form a mixed use development that also includes a state of the art new library- which I’m told attracts a queue of boisterous high school students around 4pm everyday.

Whilst the location on top of a shopping centre isn’t going to seem ideal for arts purists the involvement of the Coles Group would have been key to the realisation of the project. Gone are the days of full-scale public investment in cultural infrastructure and with over 70% of the Blue Mountains Local Government Area comprising National Park revenue sourcing is an ongoing issue, as it is for many regional local councils.


The architecture by Hassel is clever, simple and successful. The barrel roofs give a spacious and light feel and establish continuity between the library and the centre successfully. Notably the centre incorporates a large amount of public open space, helping it to double as a performance space and music venue for the town. The vistas out over the surrounding township from the ‘viewing platform’ are beautiful but it is the view looking up towards the heritage facade of the Carrington Hotel which really struck me as special. Framed by the large arch windows of the centre a different, less well known view of the iconic Hotel is opened up to the public, with the raw brick wall and famous chimney emphasising the gritty, utilitarian side of the otherwise luxe building.

My friend Nicole who was in my year at high school is working as Front of House and Memberships facilitator for the Centre and as we chatted Nicole informed us that in her experience visitors were engaged and interested in the architecture and not in any way shy in expressing their opinions on what they perceived to be the centre’s design strengths and weaknesses. Thinking back now, Nicole’s observation is completely consistent with my experience of the Blue Mountains community- very hardy, down to earth, full of pride for their environment and heritage and definitely not afraid to be critical of the new.

In terms of the exhibitions themselves, Into the Blue is a transportative, interactive and multimedia exhibition celebrating the addition of the Blue Mountains to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. Featuring over 45 minutes of stunning footage, surround sound, interactive historic maps and activities as well as in depth interviews with conservationists, indigenous elders, writers and historians the exhibition appeals to all ages and categories of viewers, both tourist and local.

The National Photographic Prize 2013 is a touring exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra showcasing excellence in contemporary Australian photographic portraiture. The chosen subjects and their stories are captivating, some of them very familiar (Chris Lilley, David Stratton, Reg Mombassa etc) and others intriguing in their normality (a girl from the artist’s local cafe, Granny’s 90th etc). We concluded our visit with the Goya etchings which are on loan from Albury City Art Museum and are a disquieting introduction to enlightenment morality (and a bit too dark and gory for Mum!).

As a new institution the coming years will be challenging for the Centre as it tries to keep both the local community and the more occasional visitors as a captive and involved audience. Membership with its many perks and the diverse public program will become key, with a local poet already taking up residence in the cafe to conduct workshops. With arts in the regions flourishing as creatives are priced out of the city, venues like this also become important purchasing entities as they build up collections representative of the local artistic talent and culture.

For more information on the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre and for a cute promo video starring Lisa Mitchell visit their website:

Entry is $5 for Adults, $3 for students and free for kids under 18 and the centre is open everyday. Membership is even more reasonable, especially if (like me) you visit the mountains frequently and are a sucker for all things arts and culture.

Big Bonus = Lunch at Leura Garage on the way back down the mountain. Hello rosemary salted fries with Aioli!


Til next time culture vulturers!