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An out of the blue staycation, muses, bathing & other musings of the week that was.

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

Our love for each other transcends our understanding. Every day we expressed our gratitude for this love that could be so deep, so real, so natural. We never had to ‘work’ on it. We were in awe of this great mystery and accepted the experience of our love as past, present and forever……and

Even now as her soul soars, the pain and holes in my heart are healed with the joy of her love and the light that shines forward.

What beautiful and inspiring words expressed by John Easterling after the passing this week of his darling wife and soulmate, Olivia Newton John. To find a love so deep is a wonderful gift.

The Fullerton Hotel, Sydney

Let’s go on a date he said, you will have to pack your toothbrush! And before I knew it he was whisking me away on a ferry and we were travelling across the harbour to explore our beautiful city. After dropping our bags at our suite in the historic Fullerton Hotel in Martin Place we had clasped our hands and were skipping through the pathways of the Sydney Botanical Gardens towards the Art Gallery Of New South Wales. We were on our way to catch the Archibald Exhibition before it was due to head off around the country. It had been on my list of things to do for a couple of months, however family had kept us out of town and we hadn’t had a chance to fit it in. I was brimming with anticipation to see the fine artwork and excited to be sharing the experience with my life’s soulmate. John Easterling's poignant words had been a reminder of how lucky I am to have experienced such pure love in my life with my significant other. We were on a journey together until death did us part, however today it was just about spending unhurried time together with carefree abandon. It would be fun.

When we arrived at the Art Gallery, first we would view the Archibald’s two sibling exhibitions the Wynne and Sulman Prizes, the Wynne showcasing the best landscape painting or sculpture, and the Sulman, the best genre or subject painting or mural project.

Wandering through a selection of contenders for the Sulman Prize, I was captivated in particular by three works of art. First was a bold red artwork of a human heart 🫀 with the words ‘nothing a human heart has loved will ever be lost’ emblazoned upon it. These words written by writer HG Wells in his book The happy turning were captured by Neil Haddon to express Wells’ sentiment about the human heart which he confessed to understanding and not understanding, in equal measure.

Nothing a human heart has loved (for HG Wells) by Neil Haddon

The second artwork that I was drawn to The Spectacle by Sophie Victoria was a play on light, the painting wrapped in iridescent materials, the surface reflecting the movement of people around it and the colours changing as you shift from side to side.

The Spectacle, by Sophie Victoria

The final work that captured my attention and also the winner of the Sulman Prize in 2022, Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro artwork titled Raiko and Shuten-doji, a Japanese folk design of a warrior and a demon fighting with the scene depicted on the fuselage of a Vietnam War era helicopter.

Raiko and Shuten-doji, by Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro , Sulman Prize Winner 2022

The standout and winner of the Wynne Prize, Eora, a large landscape painting, the canvas filled with a cornucopia of lush green scenes of palms, ferns and dense bush, the artist Nicholas Harding applying thick strokes of oil paint with a palette knife which truly made us feel as if we were walking through the bush canopy. A little bit of nature therapy without having to worry about what might be camouflaged beneath the canopy that could potentially kill me.

Eora, by Nicholas Harding, Wynne Prize Recipient, 2022

It is always so interesting each year to see what famous faces, celebrities or artists have made it into the mix for the granddaddy of all portraiture prizes, The Archibald.

Some notable portraits this year included a life size painting of Hugh Jackman and his wife Deborra-Lee Furness, a viewer commenting that this should be hung in the hallowed halls of Knox, an up close portrait of Midnight Oil guitarist Peter Garrett, a dignified portrait of last year’s Archibald winner, Peter Wegner, and a cheeky lounging nude of writer and journalist Benjamin Law.

It was hard for me to pick a favourite between the winner of the People's Choice Award, Jeremy Eden for his portrayal of Samuel Johnson OAM, the founder of the ‘Love your Sister’ charity that raises money for cancer research, or the overall winner of the 2022 Archibald Prize, Blak Douglas for his portrait of Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens, titled Moby Dickens, a metaphor for the disastrous floods that hit northern NSW earlier this year. Both of these sentiments being dear to my heart I was drawn to the narrative behind both of them. Which begs the question, what is it that leads the judges each year to choose one portrait over another, are they given a brief to convey the message represented in the portrait before choosing a winner, or is there choice made solely by the way the subject is captured by the artist?

I ask myself the same questions, however in both portraits the narrative was important to me. Just as Samuel Johnson OAM lost his sister to cancer and the photograph he is holding in the portrait commemorates the artist's mother, who also passed away from cancer, this resonated strongly with my own experiences, of first losing my younger brother to kidney cancer, and later being touched by my own close call with cancer, not to mention the challenging experiences of many of my close friends; it’s hard not to be drawn to the narrative attached to this portrait. For me it is a sentimental choice, painted with such depth and raw emotion, and I am grateful for the work being done by Samuel Johnson OAM in raising awareness and money for funding cancer research.

The Archibald winner, Moby Dickens is a portrait with a narrative that is also near to me. Having myself grown up in Lismore, the hometown of Karla Dickens, this portrait is like a snapshot of a historic moment in time early in 2022, the subject looking grumpy and holding leaking buckets as she stands in muddy water during the devastating floods. The fourteen flat bottomed clouds not only represent the ‘false ceiling of government’ they also represent the number of consecutive days and nights the deluge of rain lasted. This painting reflects the sentiments of many thousands of people whose lives were impacted by this natural disaster.

What is it about each of these portraits that led to the judges choosing one winner over another when both of them would have been equally worthy winners of the prestigious Archibald Prize?

Moby Dickens, by Blak Douglas, 2022 Archibald Prize winner.

As always, the Young Archie competition was packed with some gorgeous artworks depicting people that were important to the stories of the artist. Whilst there were many portraits of a grandparent or a sibling of the artist, one artwork titled Walking home was particularly poignant, a portrait of sixteen year old artist Jun Qian Lin’s grandfather who had dementia and walked out of home and disappeared. He has still not been found and the young artist lives in hope that one day they will meet again.

Walking home, by Jun Qian Lin, age 16, Blacktown

Whilst we left the art gallery on a dopamine high, the weather outside had turned glum, the sky was brooding as if it might rain. We walked briskly through the park on the way back to our hotel. I was looking forward to warming up in a hot bath before we ventured out again for dinner. After filling the deep tub to the brim (it almost overflowed when I hopped in) I submerged myself beneath the bubbles laying perfectly still as I listened to them pop. Who needed a yoga class to relax when you could float around in the tub feeling as weightless as you do in the Dead Sea. I could have stayed in there all day, however as the melodic sounds of the clock chimed outside my window I knew that it would soon be time for our early dinner sitting. I submerged myself one more time, stealing away a final minute of serenity before releasing the plug, stepping out, and wrapping myself in the fluffy white bathrobe. It was time to spruce myself up for my dinner date.

The restaurant my significant other had chosen was a short walk from the hotel. We gleefully ventured out hand in hand like two little kids sneaking away for some mischief. The novelty of a dinner date was not lost on me. Whilst a Chinese restaurant would not normally be my place of choice for dinner, tonight we were heading to White and Wongs, an Asian fusion restaurant described as being where ‘east meets west’ with dishes that combine flavours from China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thai cuisines. A hidden oasis in the MLC centre, the decor in the restaurant is eclectic and colourful, a sheik bar with big balls of light dangling from the ceiling, alongside cast iron monkeys frolicking on the walls creating a beautiful and buzzing ambience. We were lucky enough to score a table right alongside the action in the kitchen, the chefs clad in black T-shirts with the words ‘just say feed me’ emblazoned on them, cooking up a storm and skilfully tossing food in hot woks, then dispatching it, still sizzling, onto serving plates. We clinked glasses and said chin chin to the weekend with a perfectly made Hendricks gin with tonic and a generous slice of cucumber before devouring a little pocket of flavour, a Gua bao bun filled with a thick slice of Chinese roast pork belly, with chilli jam, red onion and a peanut salad. We knew we were in ‘flavour town’ and were delighted when our next dish, a warm salad of bean sprouts with big chunks of crispy fried soft shell crab, spring onion and Sichuan pepper, promptly arrived at our table. It didn’t disappoint. We rounded out the meal with a wok fried beef fillet with a taste bud tantalising garlic, ginger and soy seasoning, and the most beautifully plated crispy skinned Chinese duck quarters with a mandarin sauce. We left the restaurant having eaten an elegant sufficiency of food and having enjoyed a happy palate of flavours. We vowed to return soon to sample some of the many other enticing dishes on the menu.

A return ferry ride across the harbour the following morning, the warm suns rays glistening off the water and the cloudless blue skies above, capped off a very refreshing and enjoyable stay in our beautiful city.

The next day we ventured out again to Foys Kirribilli for a relaxed lunch with family. Located in the historic Sydney Flying Squadron, Foys is a casual seafood eatery set amongst the ambience of Australia’s oldest open boat sailing club. With a noisy celebration taking place inside we were fortunate enough to be seated at a table outside on the deck, a quintessentially Australian location next to the water where moored boats gently bobbed up and down and a lone swimmer splashed around in the deep blue ocean between them.

On the menu I noticed a dish, rigatoni alla vodka, that I’d recently seen popping up all over the internet. Keen to see what all the fuss was about, I decided to give it a try. Essentially it was rigatoni combined with a vodka infused tomato sauce, the pasta topped with soft stracciatella and crispy bites of prosciutto. Whilst it seems counter-intuitive to put flavourless vodka with tomatoes, the vodka does not add flavour, however as the sauce simmers, the alcohol reduces and unlocks the peppery, herbal flavours already hidden in the tomato and creates a creamy and rich sauce that is luxuriously silky on the tongue. Tempted to give it a go? Feast your eyes on this! It’s a big YUM from me.

Rigatoni alla Vodka, Foy, Kirribilli

Later in the week I was fortunate enough to visit the sleepy little suburb of Church Point, another quintessentially Australian waterside location at the southern end of Pittwater in Sydney’s north. Whilst lunch at the Waterfront Cafe and the company of two friends made for a wonderful outing, the real joy of the experience was the scenic and peaceful trip through the Ku-ring-Gai Chase National Park abundant with blooming yellow wattles and colourful wildflowers dotted along the roadside. Without a doubt, biophilia really is soothing for the senses.

And still on the gut gummy train, today's flavour is a combination of freshly juiced whole blood oranges, a knob of ginger and a touch of raw honey.

Blood orange, honey and ginger gummies

Until next time may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable.



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